On Your Behalf

APA advocacy helped to ensure that key provisions favorable to psychology remained in the health-care reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 24. Efforts included targeted communications to Senate offices and sending a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) expressing support for the bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). The letter highlighted the bill’s most significant psychology-related provisions, including integrated health care, mental health benefits at parity with medical and surgical benefits, psychology work force development, health disparities, comparative effectiveness research, prevention and wellness, and long-term care. APA also commended the Medicare provision that extends the 5 percent increase in reimbursement for psychotherapy, thereby increasing access to needed services.

APA also offered support for about a dozen of the amendments to the bill that the Senate had been considering, including those related to women’s and children’s health and preventive care, tobacco cessation, mental and behavioral health of American Indians and Alaska Natives, geriatric health-care work force development, comparative effectiveness research and the establishment of national centers of excellence for treating depression and bipolar disorder.

See APA's Health-Care Reform for the latest information on APA’s health-care reform initiatives.

APA’s Science Government Relations Office led more than 100 psychologists to Capitol Hill to advocate for more psychological research funding as part of the fifth annual Science Leadership Conference (see page 20 for related coverage). APA members reached out to the offices of nearly 160 members of Congress from 31 states. Their advocacy focused on increasing behavioral research funding for the National Institutes of Health, protecting the peer-review process from political interference, and including behavioral interventions in health-care reform legislation aimed at increasing comparative effectiveness research.

APA joined with the Coalition to Protect Research and more than 80 other scientific organizations to emphasize support for the NIH peer-review process and its ability to judge the quality and relevance of research proposals when the agency allocates its $10.4 billion in stimulus funding. In letters to Congress, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and other Obama administration leaders, the coalition stressed the need for scientists to examine HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and addiction, all of which that take a tremendous toll on our nation and the rest of the world.

In an effort to decrease childhood hunger and improve the health and development of children, APA submitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging passage of the Measuring American Poverty Act (H.R. 2909/S. 1625). Research shows that 12.4 million children do not have access to enough healthy food to thrive, and in 2006, children living in poverty were six times as likely to live in homes with a scarce food supply. Sponsored by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the legislation would review the calculation of federal poverty levels, thereby increasing benefit levels for current federal assistance. The bill’s passage would also increase access to food programs, including the Child and Adult Food Care Program, due to be reauthorized by Congress this year. Despite the 2.9 million children and 86,000 adults served each day through the program, 10 million eligible children do not receive a free or reduced price school breakfast and 16.3 million children qualified for summer meals do not receive them.

Thanks to more than a decade of advocacy efforts by APA staff and its members and a broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement and civic organizations, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law on Oct. 28. This new law will strengthen the nation’s response to bias-motivated crimes by:

  • Expanding current law to recognize crimes motivated by actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person.

  • Enabling the federal government to address cases that other jurisdictions are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute, while retaining primary responsibility for hate crime prosecution at the state and local level.

  • Expanding the scope of data collection and reporting requirements regarding hate crime.

Due in part to APA outreach, Congress passed the omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 3288) on Dec. 13. The bill included $12 million for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), a $2 million increase from last year. Reauthorized in 2008, MIOTCRA supports programs to improve inmates’ mental health treatment, train law enforcement personnel to respond to incidents involving people with mental disorders and facilitate mental health courts. Thanks to advocacy efforts by APA members, including grassroots communications and focus on the issue during past State Leadership Conferences, MIOTCRA and the mental health courts programs have received increased federal support.

On Dec. 14, employers, employees and union representatives participated in a congressional briefing highlighting the ways flexible work arrangements help employers attract and retain employees, reduce absenteeism and turnover and improve productivity. Speakers, including Gwendolyn P. Keita, PhD, APA’s executive director for the public interest, also discussed how flexible work arrangements have enabled many hourly and salaried workers to hold down jobs while caring for family members, addressing their own health conditions, pursuing job training and addressing other life circumstances that may arise, including military deployment and domestic violence.

As a first step toward securing more funding for research and to address infrastructure needs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), APA and the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research Coalition met with the VA’s chief research and development officer, Joel Kupersmith, MD, in November. Kupersmith presented an overview of the VA’s research program, including priority areas such as mental health, physical and psychosocial rehabilitation, genomics and prosthetics. He said the VA is well-positioned to capitalize on decades of research trials and analyses to provide comparative effectiveness data on the success of interventions in these areas.