On Your Behalf
• APA continues to advocate strongly for psychology's vital interests and concerns related to the health-care reform proposals being considered by Congress, the White House and key federal agencies. APA has helped to ensure that the plans include coverage for mental health and substance abuse disorders. In addition, APA has redoubled its efforts to enhance psychology's role in what will hopefully become a health-care system that is more integrated, accessible, affordable and equitable. APA is amplifying its message through grassroots appeals to its members and by working with groups including Divided We Fail and a coalition led by Families USA, among others. For up-to-the-minute information on APA's health-care reform advocacy, visit the new APA Health Care Reform Web site, where you'll also find information on APA's priorities and initiatives, as well as ways you can get involved.
• A key Senate health-care reform bill includes psychology's top Medicare priority—a two-year extension of the 5 percent psychology payment restoration previously passed as part of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act in 2008. The provision was included in an outline of the long-awaited health-care reform proposal from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). This victory follows action in the House earlier this summer, where three committees passed bills that also included the provision. The extension would ensure that about $60 million will continue to support Medicare psychotherapy services that would otherwise have been cut as a result of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services five-year review rule. APA's Practice Organization and members were central to achieving this success.
• APA's Science Government Relations Office staff attended a town hall meeting hosted by new NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, where he emphasized the need for behavioral and social science research to build understanding of health disparities, among other priorities. Collins also said he will be a strong proponent of the individual investigator and the R01 grant as the icon of NIH's scientific success. Among his other top concerns are translating basic science discoveries into new and better treatments; putting science to work for health-care reform; global health; and reinvigorating and empowering the biomedical research community. Collins asked each attending organization to send him a summary of its top issues. APA is now preparing that summary. Three items on APA's list will be a call for additional resources for NIH's new initiative on basic behavioral and social sciences research; a recommendation that all Clinical Translational Science Awards include behavioral science components; and a request for enhanced investment in research on gene-environment interactions.
• APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office continues to collaborate with family advocacy organizations, such as PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), in support of family acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. APA distributed its fact sheet, "Marriage Equality and LGBT Health" to PFLAG's 500 chapter leaders across the United States and Puerto Rico. The sheet offers research-based information on the harmful psychological effects of policies restricting marriage rights for same-sex couples. It will be used by PFLAG's members who are active in state-level legislative advocacy.
• Testifying before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Sept. 10, APA member Dolores Subia BigFoot, PhD, called for more comprehensive health and behavioral services for American Indian and Alaska Native youth. The statistics on suicide in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities are astonishing, she said. Research indicates that suicide is the second leading cause of death for American Indian and Alaska Native people age 10 to 34. (See "Native healing") While thanking the committee for its work to address the suicide crisis among this population, BigFoot also called for increasing trauma services in rural areas, boosting the number of culturally and linguistically competent mental health-care providers within the American Indian community and improving access to health-care providers.
• APA's priorities for the reauthorization of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) include determining how best to address the mental health needs of youth in juvenile justice facilities and the need for a stronger emphasis on community-based alternatives to incarceration. APA submitted testimony for a hearing Sept. 15 on the issue, held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. The JJDPA, passed 35 years ago, is the nation's most important law pertaining to the treatment of juvenile offenders and the prevention of delinquency among at-risk youth. APA released several documents to commemorate the law's anniversary, including a press release, background information and legislative priorities related to developmental and neuroscientific perspectives and mental health issues. Information is available online.
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