From the CEO

As many of you well know, the legislative process is often complex and unpredictable. Success on Capitol Hill requires months, even years, of building relationships with lawmakers and their staff and educating them about key issues of relevance to psychology. It involves mobilizing APA members to grassroots action. And sometimes, it takes a bit of luck.

All those factors were in play this fall when APA secured another win for psychology education and training, which will benefit the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program. The GPE Program, which was established in 2002, is the only federal program dedicated solely to the education and training of psychologists. It provides grants to accredited doctoral, internship and postdoctoral residency programs to support the interdisciplinary training of health service psychologists to address the needs of underserved populations.

To help safeguard the future of the GPE program, Diane L. Elmore, PhD, MPH, of APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office, successfully worked with staff of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) to include GPE authorizing language in a larger health professions work force bill that was introduced in November 2008. Further advocacy by Nina G. Levitt, EdD, APA director of education policy, with the office of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) in April led to the introduction of the first stand-alone bill to authorize the GPE Program. At the same time, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), at the request of his long-time colleague, APA President James H. Bray, PhD, introduced a similar bill in the House, in collaboration with Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a clinical psychologist.

The timing couldn't have been better. These bills became the basis for APA's efforts to include psychology work force development in the health-care reform legislation making its way through the House and Senate.

On the House side, Dr. Levitt, with the aid of Rep. Green, was successful in securing a favorable psychology work force provision in the health-reform bill. Although other mental and behavioral health professionals are also eligible for work force development funds, psychology came out ahead as the only profession with a specific set-aside—with 15 percent of the $60 million being authorized for psychology education and training.

On the Senate side, the task was even more challenging. Dr. Levitt worked with an expert team of APA government relations staff, which included Dr. Elmore, as well as Doug Walter, JD, and Jeff Cook of the APA Practice Organization, to secure support for a favorable psychology education and training provision in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee bill. APA's Senior Policy Adviser, Ellen Garrison, PhD, helped to coordinate grassroots outreach by APA members to key senators on the HELP Committee—which led to numerous calls to these member offices.

Much back and forth ensued: The staffers needed more information; we got it for them. They needed more senators to support the bills; we secured them. Finally, one night, it came down to the wire. A half an hour before the Senate bill had to be in final form, Dr. Levitt was told she had to secure support from one more senator. In a last-minute plea, she was able to convince another office to sign on. In the end, the Senate bill authorized up to $12 million for interdisciplinary training in psychology, with a set-aside of not less than $10 million for doctoral, postdoctoral and internship training.

In addition, APA was instrumental in securing vital geriatric and child/adolescent health professional education and training, along with the inclusion of psychologists in the definition of "health-care work force" and "health professionals."

At Monitor press time, we do not yet know the final form health-care reform legislation will take; yet, APA staff will continue to advocate tirelessly for psychology and those we serve—with full recognition of, and appreciation for, the vital role our members play.