Public Policy Update

The fiscal year 2006 expenditures for programs in the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education are the largest ever. Yet the overall increase is the result of growth in mandatory spending for Medicare and Medicaid. Congress made significant cuts to the tune of $1.6 billion to discretionary programs, many of them affecting mental and behavioral health and educational services, in these federal agencies. This reduction was then nearly doubled by the loss of an additional $1.4 billion due to a 1 percent across-the-board cut in all discretionary programs.

Consideration of the Labor, HHS and Education appropriations bill spurred one of the more dramatic and surprising debates that Congress had this past year. A modified version of the conference report to accompany this bill was passed on Dec. 14 by a two-vote margin in the U.S. House of Representatives and on Dec. 21 by unanimous consent in the U.S. Senate, after having been rejected about a month earlier by the House.

Even with the austerity and scaling back of spending on many health, education and social safety net programs, the current budget deficit is projected to be $423 billion. President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget, released in early February, calls for reining in entitlements, including Medicare and student aid, but primarily focuses on eliminating or substantially reducing discretionary programs-with many again in health and education. The proposed budget calls for a decrease in discretionary programs of $3.8 billion in health and $3.1 billion in education.

With midterm elections ahead, a shrinking number of legislative business days and a ballooning deficit, there will likely be contentious battles as Congress debates how to divvy up the shrinking domestic spending pie for the 2007 fiscal year. A critical component to safeguarding federal programs of importance to psychology in the 2007 appropriations cycle will be advocacy efforts with members of Congress. For more on how to help, visit APA Government Relations.

Here's a look at the 2006 funding and proposed 2007 funding forecast for federal programs of interest to psychology in the areas of education, science and public interest.

Education

  • The Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program. In the fiscal year 2006 budget, Congress saved but drastically reduced GPE funding from $4.5 million to $2 million, virtually eliminating any new competition for the geropsychology grants (see "Geropsychology grants in peril" ) and reducing funding for the remaining grants. The president's fiscal year 2007 budget again proposes to eliminate the GPE program and all the other health training programs, except nursing.

  • Bureau of Health Professions (BHPr). The budget proposes to deeply cut or eliminate other BHPr health training programs, including Health Education Training Centers, geriatric and rural training, allied health, and work force information and analysis. The president's fiscal year 2007 budget eliminates all Title VII programs except Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students.

  • The National Health Service Corps (NHSC). In the fiscal year 2006 budget, NHSC sustained a modest 3.7 percent cut and is now funded at approximately $126 million. In 2005, there were 325 psychologists participating in NHSC, with approximately 170 unfilled slots open for psychologists. The president's 2007 request for the NHSC is flat funding at $150 million.

  • Mental and behavioral health services on college campuses. Congress gave an extraordinary increase from $10 million to $27 million to the Suicide Prevention Programs included in the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act for 2006, including $5 million to the Campus Suicide Prevention Grant Program. The president requested the same amount for 2007.

  • The Department of Education. Many Department of Education programs remained stagnant in the 2006 education spending bill. The Teacher Quality Assistance, Federal Work Study and Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need programs were either frozen or cut. In addition, the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program, which will receive $35 million in 2006, is slated again for elimination in the president's 2007 budget. The budget also proposes to cut $3.1 billion in education programs and eliminate 42 programs, including the Safe and Drug Free Schools state grants, Even Start and GEAR UP. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides for an array of after-school programs, was slated for level funding. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would receive $10.7 billion, a $1.2 billion decrease from 2006.

  • Defense Graduate Psychology Education. Congress appropriated $3.4 million for 2006 to fund the new Defense Graduate Psychology Education Program, sponsored by Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.). Designed to address the growing mental and behavioral health needs of returning service members and their families, the funds will support a Center for Deployment Psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and satellite sites around the country. The center will offer training for military and civilian interns and psychologists.

Science

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH lost its hard-won 0.9 percent increase for 2006 when a 1 percent across-the-board cut was applied, leaving a final appropriation of $28.6 billion. The cut is deeper when inflation is considered, estimated by the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index to be 3.7 percent for fiscal year 2006 and 3.5 percent for fiscal year 2007. The president's budget proposed no funding increase for 2007.

  • National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF, which had a small increase in its 2006 funding level, fared uncommonly well in the president's budget-a 7.9 percent increase for a total of $6.02 billion-because of its physical sciences portfolio, an area singled out for increased support by the administration this year. For the 2007 budget, the president proposes spreading the increase across directorates, resulting in a 6.9 percent increase to $213.76 million for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate.

  • Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The president proposed $11.08 billion in total support for basic and applied research within the 2007 DoD science and technology account, 16.3 percent less than the amount appropriated in the 2006 budget. However, it is unclear how much support psychological research is slated to receive within this overall account.

Overall funding for DHS research and development increased by 3.1 percent for 2006. Of the 129 new DHS scholars and fellows, 30 percent were psychologists or other social scientists. While Secretary Michael Chertoff is focused on border security and weapons of mass destruction, new behavioral science staff members are committed to involving psychologists in the implementation of DHS's research and development portfolio.

  • Department of Education. Within the Department of Education, the proposed 2007 budget for research, development and dissemination at the Institute of Education Sciences is equal to its 2006 appropriation of $162.6 million. Likewise, the National Center on Special Education Research would receive level funding of $71 million, as would the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, at $106.5 million. The administration proposed a slight increase of $3 million for the National Center for Education Statistics, which would allow for a new longitudinal study of the educational experiences of middle and high school students.

  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). After years of basically flat budgets, the 2006 VA medical and prosthetic research account was increased to $412 million, and Congress dictated that the mental health research budget be doubled within that account. Disappointingly, the president's proposed 2007 budget included only $399 million for VA research.

Public Interest

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The administration requested $3.134 billion for SAMHSA in 2007, a reduction of $72 million from the 2006 level. The Programs of Regional and National Significance initiative faces proposed cuts in the substance abuse area of $36 million and mental health area of $35 million, which will make for cuts totaling 16 percent. The proposed 2007 budget levelly funds most other SAMHSA programs.

  • HIV/AIDS programs. HIV/AIDS programs within SAMHSA will decrease by $1.14 million to $1.12 billion in 2006 and are proposed to be levelly funded in fiscal year 2007. However, the president has proposed a new initiative to focus on HIV testing, health care and outreach. Under the 2007 budget, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would receive an additional $93 million, and the Health Resources and Services Administration would receive an additional $95 million for Ryan White CARE Act programs, which provide care and treatment services for people living with HIV/AIDS.

  • Children's programs. In general, the president's budget proposes cuts or level funding for most children's programs under the Department of Health and Human Services. Basic state grants for improving protective services and discretionary grants for research and demonstrations under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act would receive level funding. In addition, Head Start funding was reduced by $90 million to $6.79 billion. Funding for children's mental health services was levelly funded at $104 million. However, the Administration for Children and Families would receive $46.7 billion in 2007, a $795 million increase.

  • Programs for older adults. The administration's proposed 2007 budget calls for $1.3 billion in funding for the Administration on Aging, a $28 million decrease from 2006. The most significant of these cuts would eliminate Preventive Health Services and Alzheimer's Disease Demonstration Grants. Also proposed are slight decreases to the National Family Caregiver Support Program and the Protection of Vulnerable Older Americans Program. The single proposed increase is $28 million to implement the Choices for Independence Program.

  • Programs for women. The administration's budget for the recently reauthorized Violence Against Women Act programs includes $347 million for Prevention and Prosecution Programs, a decrease of $39.5 million; $125 million for Battered Women's Shelters, a decrease of $1 million; and level funding of $3 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The administration also included cuts to the Public Health Service's Office on Women's Health, the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau and family planning services.

Further Reading

Speak up!

Want to advocate for the funding of vital federal programs? For further information on how to get involved, contact the APA Public Policy Office via e-mail or visit its Web site.