Though some changes to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) affect practitioners and their clients, one change lawmakers didn't make to the bill may affect psychologists and their clients the most.
During a "Sense of Congress" discussion on IDEA in the House of Representatives last year, one congressional member lobbied to add language that stipulated only physicians or people licensed through their state's health board would be eligible to assess children for learning disabilities for IDEA.
APA's Practice Organization determined that the language could have restricted the ability of many psychologists to provide services to children, since many psychologists are not licensed or certified through state health boards, but rather through state departments of education.
Unlike actual legislative language, Sense of Congress proposals are not legally binding. Psychologists would still have performed assessments even if IDEA passed with that language included in the House's sense. However, the "Sense of the Congress" does express Congress's opinion, and agencies such as the Department of Education could have elected to adopt the suggested policy as its own.
The Practice Organization worked closely with Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a psychologist himself, to secure the removal of this provision. The second-term congressman argued for a rethinking of the definition during discussions on the House floor. He also spoke with key representatives, urging them to remove the language during a conference committee with the Senate. The final Sense of Congress, which included the views of both the House and Senate, did not contain the House's previous suggestion, and the current IDEA law that passed in December made no changes to the rights of psychologists to perform assessments.
"Rep. Murphy was very helpful and responsive to us and was instrumental in removing from the bill this item that would have negatively affected a large number of psychologists and their clients throughout the country," says Elizabeth Cullen, JD, director of congressional affairs for the APA Practice Organization. "This is a prime example of why it is so important to have mental health professionals, particularly psychologists, serve in Congress."