On Your Behalf
• Thanks to its strong advocacy, APA and the APA Practice Organization (APAPO) have secured psychology-friendly funding in President Barack Obama's stimulus package, as detailed in this month's "From the CEO," page 9. Among the most important wins is funding for a national electronic health-records network that will help improve patient care, secure the privacy of health information and save money. In addition, the stimulus includes $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $1 billion for a new prevention and wellness initiative, $1.5 billion in assistance for families who may become homeless due to the economic crisis, and $300 million for National Health Service Corps recruitment and field activities that will benefit all the eligible health professions, including psychology.
• In a Feb. 27 letter to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, APA voiced support for the newly formed White House Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families and discussed APA's work in the area. In particular, said the letter, APA is seeking to alleviate disparities through the work of its Committee on Socioeconomic Status and its longtime focus on the link among work, stress and health. APA called for more research on the effects that the stress of today's economy is having on America's working poor and middle class. For more information, contact Krysta Jones by e-mail.
• Legislation long sought by APA to stop child abuse has gained more support in Congress. The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee approved the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009 (H.R. 911), which would require new standards and enforcement provisions to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect at teen residential treatment facilities. A federal investigation of these facilities uncovered thousands of allegations and cases of child abuse and neglect since the early 1990s. The bill, among other improvements, requires these facilities to have a Web site that documents how they comply with the new requirements; a national toll-free hot line to report suspected child abuse and neglect; mandatory telephone access for each child; and unannounced site inspections. For more information on the legislation, contact APA's Annie Toro by email.
Psychologists help map out plan for U.S. disasters
A team of 13 mental health experts, including seven APA member psychologists, has developed recommendations for meeting the public's behavioral health needs in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Known as the Disaster Mental Health Subcommittee, the group delivered its recommendations to the National Biodefense Science Board, which reviewed the findings and concurred with them unanimously. If the new Health and Human Services secretary adopts the recommendations, they will become federal policy—and will represent a step forward for disaster preparedness, says committee member Stevan Hobfoll, PhD, chair of the behavioral sciences department at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago.
"Our nation's preparedness to date has been almost entirely technological," he notes. "It's time we catch up on the behavioral side of things."
Disaster response programs all too often focus on meeting only the physical health needs of disaster survivors, says Lisa M. Brown, PhD, a subcommittee member and psychology professor at the University of South Florida. "Recent disasters in particular have highlighted the fact that psychological effects of a disaster last longer than previously thought," she says.
The recommendations provide "a clear agreement on the direction to proceed, to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies and terrorist attacks against the United States," says committee member Gerard Jacobs, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of South Dakota and director of the university's Disaster Mental Health Institute.
Under the leadership of Executive Director and APA member Daniel Dodgen, PhD, the subcommittee has recommended:
• Ensuring that government agencies provide accurate and trustworthy information to the public.
• Developing a plan for providing psychological first aid to communities in distress.
• Creating a task force to provide real-time advice to disaster-response agencies.
• Preparing decision-makers to make solid choices in times of crisis and not be unduly affected by stress.
• Making sure that the special needs of elderly, young, disabled and economically disadvantaged disaster survivors are met.
The subcommittee is now working to ensure the recommendations are implemented, says Brown. "Not only were we able to bring together the best of the current thinking regarding disaster response efforts, but we also have the opportunity to implement the recommendations over time," she says.
Read the full report at www.hhs.gov/aspr/conferences/nbsb/081118meeting.html.