On Your Behalf
APA applauds passage of health-care reform act
At Monitor press time, the U.S. House of Representatives had passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) by a vote of 219–212. On March 23, President Barack Obama signed the bill — which also recognizes the important connection between mind and body to overall health and well-being.
A full report on what the new law means for psychologists will appear in the June Monitor.
“We applaud the Obama administration and Congress for persevering in their efforts to improve our nation’s health-care system,” says APA President Carol D. Goodheart, EdD.
Over the past year, APA members and staff conducted hundreds of meetings with congressional offices and administration officials to advocate for APA’s health-care reform priorities. The legislation includes significant provisions related to integrated health care, mental health and substance use benefits at parity with medical/surgical benefits, prevention and wellness, work force development, health disparities, comparative effectiveness research and long-term services and support.
“By integrating psychological services into primary care, preventive services and benefit packages, it recognizes that true health-care reform is not possible unless our system treats the whole person, both mind and body,” Goodheart says.
Thanks in part to advocacy by psychology leaders at the 2010 State Leadership Conference, Congress took steps to enact higher Medicare payments for practicing psychologists. In a bipartisan 62 to 36 vote on March 10, the Senate passed the American Workers, State and Business Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213), which would retroactively extend the 5 percent Medicare psychotherapy payment restoration through the end of fiscal 2010. The measure, which is now being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives, also prevents a 21 percent sustainable growth rate cut to Medicare provider reimbursements through Sept. 30. (See the report on the State Leadership Conference.)
APA member Gail Wyatt, PhD, stressed the importance of culturally competent outreach efforts and HIV screening tools at a congressional briefing recognizing National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 9. Wyatt, associate director of the University of California, Los Angeles, AIDS Institute, joined panelists from academia, government and faith-based organizations to discuss the disproportionately high rate of HIV/AIDS among young black women, the role of violence in the transmission of sexually transmitted infections and the need to involve men in prevention and outreach. The panelists also advocated for increased federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and outreach services.
Mental health disorders affect 75 percent of girls detained in the juvenile justice system, according to testimony APA member Linda Teplin, PhD, presented to the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities on March 11. Teplin, professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University Medical School, based her statement on her study of Chicago youth in the juvenile justice system. She also recommended improving mental health screening of juveniles at intake and detention, providing appropriate treatment in detention, connecting youth to community-based care upon release and ensuring they receive appropriate interventions for co-morbid disorders.
APA went to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to release the government’s latest research priorities on distracted driving. A 2008 study by researchers at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Virginia Tech found that 80 percent of accidents involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the accident. In meetings with the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance on Feb. 19 and officials from NHTSA on March 10, Deborah Boehm-Davis, PhD, a cognitive psychology professor, said a public release of the federal government’s formal agenda for examining gaps in distracted-driving-related research will help guide future efforts by the research community.
Due in part to nominations by APA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration appointed two psychologists — Jack Henningfield, PhD, and Dorothy Hatsukami, PhD — to the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee in February. Henningfield is vice president of research and health policy at Pinney Associates, a consulting firm in Bethesda, Md., that specializes in science policy and regulatory issues concerning public health and behavior-focused disease management. Hatsukami is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota’s Tobacco Use Research Center. The committee, which will advise the FDA on a range of tobacco-related issues, has 12 members, including seven health professionals and representatives from state governments, the general public and industry.
APA’s Education Government Relations Office launched a series of one-on-one meetings with members of Congress and their staff in the first quarter of 2010 to advocate for increased funding for the Graduate Psychology Education program. Twenty-two psychologists have reached out to 33 key members and staff of the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittees, as well as the Office of Management and Budget. APA is emphasizing that more health professionals need training to provide psychological services in underserved communities for older adults, children, chronically ill people, victims of abuse and trauma and the unemployed. Thanks to APA’s advocacy, for the second year President Barack Obama’s budget included the GPE program, demonstrating the administration’s dedication to psychology as a critical health profession. The GPE program is the only federally funded program dedicated solely to psychology education and training.
Experts discuss anti-discrimination adoption bill
The research is clear: Children of same-sex couples are as well-adjusted as those raised by parents of both sexes, APA member Charlotte Patterson, PhD, told attendees of a panel discussion advocating the elimination of adoption discrimination, hosted by U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) on March 11.
The panel discussion, co-sponsored by APA, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the Family Equality Council, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, aimed to build awareness and support for the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (H.R. 4806). Introduced by Stark on March 10, the bill seeks to increase access to permanent homes for children in the foster care system by collaborating with states to eliminate discrimination against potential adoptive and foster parents based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
Patterson, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, shared findings from more than 30 years of research on lesbian, gay male, bisexual, and transgender parenting and adoption.
“A parent’s sexual orientation is unrelated to her or his ability to provide a healthy and nurturing family environment,” Patterson said.