Upfront

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus package, provides about $40 billion for psychologically relevant health-care and scientific research. What does that mean for you as a psychologist? Hopefully, says APA senior staff, it will create more jobs, more research opportunities and improved access to psychological services for patients.

The biggest psychology recipients of stimulus money will probably be researchers, says Ellen Garrison, PhD, APA's senior policy advisor. Among other federal agency recipients, the stimulus gives $10 billion to the National Institutes of Health and $3 billion to the National Science Foundation, the two largest funders of psychological research in the country. (For a more detailed breakdown of stimulus funds, see APA CEO Norman Anderson's April column.)

While that's a large influx of money, Steven Breckler, PhD, APA's executive director for science, says psychologists should keep in mind the Obama administration's intent for it: economic stimulation. That means funding priority is likely to go to programs and initiatives that will create or retain jobs. Breckler suggests psychologists who want to apply for grant money from NIH or NSF should watch for those agencies' program announcements that hint at where their priorities lie. There might be special challenges for psychologists who aren't used to submitting for initiatives where job creation and retention is an important goal, he says, so researchers may want to get some additional perspective from economists or related professionals when preparing their proposals.

Another challenge, Breckler says, is the stimulus money's built-in expiration date. While typical NIH grants, for example, might last for three to five years, he says, the stimulus money is structured in a way that may translate into projects of shorter duration. That means psychologists may need to focus on research projects with narrowly focused goals rather than expansive ones. For example, "researchers could propose to study a self-contained part of a larger, established research program," Breckler suggests.

In addition to research funding, $21.4 billion will subsidize the COBRA health insurance program, which allows employees to extend their insurance if they lose or leave their jobs. That means more patients will be able to keep seeing their psychologists, Garrison says.

Also, the stimulus package gives $300 million to the National Health Service Corps, which provides health services, including psychological care, in underserved areas. Of that, $200 million will be used for loan repayment awards for new applications and renewals, says APA's associate executive director of government relations, Nina G. Levitt, EdD. This money could potentially fund 4,000 new loan repayment awards, which psychologists are eligible to receive.

Also, the Community Health Center Program—under the Department of Health and Human Services—received $338 million, which will go toward increasing services for the uninsured and could possibly create 6,400 job openings for health professionals.

Right now, psychologists are underutilized in NHSC because many underserved areas opt for psychiatrists or social workers instead, Levitt adds.

For more information on the stimulus and psychology, visit APA's Government Relations Office Web site. In addition, NIH's main page for stimulus-related information is at www.nih.gov/recovery; NSF's is at www.nsf.gov/recovery.

—M. Price