On Your Behalf
APA and its members have been providing psychological resources to help Haitians and their families in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake. The APA Disaster Response Network and APA staff worked quickly after the earthquake to respond to requests for resources on how to help Haitian communities in the United States that were concerned about family members and other loved ones. APA also donated $10,000 for Haiti earthquake relief to the American Red Cross International Response Fund.
In addition, the association posted information on its Web site about how to cope with disaster from afar and find productive ways to help. APA staff provided news reporters and producers with access to experts on the psychological stress caused by natural disasters and distributed a press release detailing APA’s information on trauma response and recovery. APA also provided guidance materials for members about responding to international disasters.
APA has continued its efforts to ensure that key psychology provisions remain in the health-care reform legislation being negotiated between the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In a Jan. 11 letter to congressional leaders, APA underscored that the final legislation should provide access to mental health and substance use disorder services and behavioral health treatment at parity with medical and surgical services in the new health insurance exchanges. The letter also stressed that the U.S. health-care system should provide integrated health care, promote prevention and wellness initiatives, and invest more in mental and behavioral health work-force development through the Graduate Psychology Education program. The letter lauded both bills for seeking to eliminate health disparities and increasing health-care services for American Indians and Alaska natives, as well as providing more funds for comparative effectiveness research.
APA also voiced support in a letter to Congress from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for a House prevention and wellness provision that would require states to cover the cost of tobacco-cessation programs for Medicaid recipients, not just for pregnant women as is now stipulated in the Senate bill.
For the latest information on APA’s health-care reform initiatives, visit APA's Health-care Reform Web site.
APA Chief Executive Officer Norman B. Anderson, PhD, and other staff attended an invitation-only Capitol Hill symposium on racial disparities in healthcare access and affordable housing policies Jan. 12–13. The Congressional Black Caucus and the American Anthropological Association hosted the panel discussion, which sought to recognize organizations working to reduce health disparities based on socioeconomic status.
“Dora the Explorer’s” sexy makeover and David Letterman’s crude joke about Sarah Palin’s daughter were two topics of discussion at a Jan. 6 APA meeting with advocates from the Parents Television Council, Girl Scouts of the USA and other groups. APA met with the groups to discuss the negative mental health effects of the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising and other media and their potential to inform future policies addressing the negative effects of media on children, particularly girls. From 2002 until 2007, media coverage on the topic of the sexualization of girls was scarce, but that all changed three years ago when the APA issued a task force report on the topic. Since the report’s release, APA’s Public Affairs team has tracked 232 news stories on the topic in all kinds of media, and strong coverage of the issue persists today. In 2009, APA met with several congressional staffers to educate them on the findings of APA’s 2007 task force report on the sexualization of girls, and in June, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced the Ending Health Disparities for LGBT Americans Act (H.R. 3001). The bill supports the prevention of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases through greater efforts to prohibit the sexualization of female children, adolescents and adults.
In 2008, approximately 1.4 million arrests of American youths resulted in their being referred to the juvenile court. Thanks to the advocacy of APA and other groups, the Senate is now considering a bill that reauthorizes federal programs that work to ensure that juvenile justice systems promote positive outcomes for youth and community safety. The Senate Judiciary Committee sent the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (S. 678) to the full Senate for consideration in December. About threequarters of those detained in the juvenile justice system meet the criteria for at least one mental or behavioral health diagnosis. The bill calls for adding mental health experts to each state’s juvenile justice state advisory group and including the administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on the main federal coordinating body for juvenile justice and delinquency prevention issues. The bill also authorizes a national study of disabilities among juvenile offenders.
APA is also calling for the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to devote more attention to evidencebased practice, mental health, youth exposed to violence, school-based prevention and the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and youth with disabilities.
APA is supporting legislation that would expand evidence-based social and emotional learning programming. The Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2009 (H.R. 4223) seeks to increase the federal investment in social and emotional learning programs in elementary and secondary schools by creating a national technical assistance center and providing grants to states and school districts that maintain these programs. Research shows that such programs boost students’ motivation and academic achievement and improve their ability to resolve conflicts and manage complex emotions.