On Your Behalf
- Helping congressional staff cope with disaster
Disaster Response Network member Sandra G. Wartski, PsyD, gave tips on strengthening emotional well-being and personal safety in the aftermath of a disaster to congressional staff managers, state and district directors and Capitol Hill chiefs of staff following the Tucson, Ariz., shootings. The Congressional Management Foundation asked the APA Practice Organization (APAPO) to identify a psychologist with a disaster preparedness background for the Jan. 19 webinar.
- Ensuring the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
Years of collaborative work by APA’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns Office and the Public Interest and Science Government Relations offices contributed to congressional action in December 2010 aimed at overturning the Department of Defense’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bans openly gay people from serving in the military. Through APA’s advocacy network, thousands of messages were sent to members of Congress urging them to vote for repeal, and APA’s LGBT Concerns Office contributed to a Pentagon report that surveyed service members’ attitudes. Now, APA is urging the Pentagon to ensure the quick implementation of the administrative changes needed to completely end the policy.
- Enhancing collaboration with fellow health-care professionals
APA is cultivating stronger links with associations that represent professionals working in primary health care to help advance the implementation of health-care reform and advocate for better health care overall. Most recently, APA and American Nurses Association leaders agreed to further their ongoing collaboration on such common advocacy goals as promoting integrated health-care models, ensuring adequate Medicare reimbursement levels, reducing disparities in health outcomes and improving prevention efforts.
- Addiction research needs more funding
Citing research showing that more than one in five of all deaths between 1990 and 2000 were caused by alcohol, tobacco or illicit substance use, APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, urged National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, to maintain and consider increasing funding allocations for substance use, abuse and addiction research during a planned NIH reorganization this year. In a December letter to Collins endorsed by nearly 50 scientific and professional organizations, Anderson pointed out that, weighed against the public health and safety impact of alcohol, tobacco and illicit substance use, research on substance use is significantly underfunded. (See "A reorganization at NIH".)
- Speaking up for mental health, addiction and behavioral health professionals
Responding to a call for action led by APA, the Mental Health Liaison Group, a large coalition of national organizations representing consumers, family members, advocates, professionals and providers called for including a mental and behavioral health professional as a member of the National Health Care Workforce Commission. A 15-member advisory body created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the commission will play a critical role in influencing national policy on the development of the nation’s health-care work force.
The group’s Dec. 2 letter to the Government Accountability Office pointed out that policymakers need to determine whether the demand for mental health, addiction and behavioral health professionals is being met, and identify barriers that may be preventing these professionals from fully participating in the interdisciplinary health-care teams envisioned in health-care reform.
- Seeking more help for military families
APA’s Science and Public Interest Government Relations staff met with the office of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) to discuss support for military families. Pryor, a member of the influential Committee on Appropriations, wants to ensure that children of active duty, National Guard and Reserve families have support in schools, particularly in civilian public schools less familiar with military culture and deployment issues.
During the meeting, APA staff described association priorities focused on assisting military personnel and their families, including the Center for Deployment Psychology (an organization created with significant input from APA), the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and a legislative proposal focused on dual military couples with children.
- Increasing older Americans’ access to psychologists’ services
APAPO is renewing its push to add psychologists to Medicare’s definition of “physician,” a change that would enable more seniors to get the psychological care they need. APAPO is supporting bills from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that call for removing unnecessary physician supervision of psychologists’ services. Striking the requirement would be consistent with state law that allows licensed psychologists to practice independent of physician supervision — and provide the services for which they’re trained and licensed — in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- Arguing against Medicare payment cuts
APAPO advocacy prompted Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) to urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services not to lower payments for services provided by mental health professionals this year. The representatives argue that lower payments for mental health services would decrease access for Medicare patients.
- Boosting funding for psychology education
Legislation that would more than double Graduate Psychology Education program funding from $3 million to $7 million didn’t advance in Congress in December, but APA continues to advocate for the nation’s only federal program dedicated solely to the education and training of psychologists.
The GPE program provides grants to accredited doctoral, internship and postdoctoral programs that support interdisciplinary training of psychology students. (See the January Monitor for more information.)