Education Leadership Conference
APA Education Public Policy Associate Director Nina Levitt, EdD, asked 2005 ELC attendees to urge the preservation of the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program's $4.5 million budget during their Sept. 19 visits with congressional staff.
GPE provides federal grants to graduate psychology programs and internship sites for the interdisciplinary training of students to work with underserved rural and urban communities.
In the 2006 fiscal year budget, the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved $4.5 million in funding for the Bureau of Health Professions-administered program, but the House of Representatives zeroed out the funding. The final decision on GPE funding will be made when the House and Senate conference committees meet to iron out their budget and appropriations differences.
To ensure the program receives 2006 funding, psychologists must emphasize that it provides immediate health-care services, as well as trains psychologists to work with underserved populations, Levitt said.
"Let your legislator understand the contributions of the GPE program," she advised. "They need to be able to justify its value."
She suggested, for example, that during their Hill visits the psychologists point out how the 52 GPE grant recipients since the program's 2002 inception have provided valuable services to the chronically ill, victims of abuse and trauma, older adults and other such underserved groups.
At the same meeting, Jennifer Smulson, senior legislative and federal affairs officer in APA's Public Policy Office, urged psychology educators to advocate for the House's Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to consider the Child Health Care Crisis Relief Act of 2005 (H.R.1106/S. 537).
While Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the bill in the House, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-Minn.) introduced it in the Senate, neither congressional body has scheduled further consideration of the bill.
The bill would increase the number of mental health professionals trained to provide mental health services to children and adolescents, Smulson said, by providing loan forgiveness, scholarships and grants to higher-education institutions and state-licensed mental health organizations.
In the process, the bill would address the Center for Mental Health Services report stating that two-thirds of the 13.7 million children and adolescents in the United States with a diagnosable mental health disorder do not receive mental health care.
"Congress is looking for bills to meet the needs of those most affected by [Hurricane Katrina]," Smulson said. "So we want to show them how this bill can make that happen."