Fired up about mental health parity? Anxious to share your thoughts on graduate medical education funding or the need for managed-care reform with your congressional representative? Wondering how your senator has voted on important mental health issues? A new, real-time advocacy tool--APA Practice--can help. Members can log on and find information on political processes, legislative proceedings and the players involved, as well as make an instant impact on public policy. "This is one of the many tools that practicing psychologists will find at APAPractice.org," says David Nickelson, PsyD, JD, director of technology policy and projects for APA's Practice Directorate.
The advocacy features "make it easy for psychologists to contact legislators on critical issues," says Hrant Jamgochian, director of field and state operations in the Practice Directorate. "It's more than just letters to representatives. There's information about elected officials--including multiple contact information, key votes, staff members and contacts, biographical information, and direct e-mail communication with members of Congress and the administration."
Larry Curl, PsyD, federal advocacy coordinator for the Kentucky Psychological Association, agrees. "It's a wonderful tool for psychologists. The links are intuitive and easy to use." He plans to use the portal to increase grassroots activities in Kentucky. "I communicate most often with the psychologists in our network by e-mail. This is a great help for advocacy."
The portal's advocacy section includes several features, such as:
Action alerts. This section lets psychologists know what issues Congress is considering and how they can make a difference. Members can click on the alert, then type in their ZIP code, and a pre-written letter will appear. The letter can be personalized and is automatically addressed to the Member's senator or congressional representative. The pro-gram knows whether to send the letter to both houses, depending on the issue.
Guide to Congress. Here, psychologists can look up their federal legislators, find out who key staff members are and check voting records and committee assignments.
Issues and legislation. Users can find detailed information about legislative issues the Practice Directorate is working on. They can also look up individual bills, find a bill's status and learn how it might affect their practices.
Capitol Hill basics. This link provides Members with tips on how to communicate with elected officials and how to plan visits to Capitol Hill. It also offers information about congressional staff and a summary of the legislative process.
Media guide. Psychologists can look up all national and local media organizations, newspapers, political publications, online services, columnists, magazines, television networks and stations, and radio stations by zip code. Users can find information about each media outlet and can compose messages to send to as many outlets as they choose. "All the contact information for various publications, including the names, the contacts, bios and e-mails is there," says Jamgochian. "It's a great way to send letters to editors"--and for state advocacy coordinators to generate letter campaigns. "Sometimes the sheer quantity gets [media] to pick up the letters," he adds.
Elections and candidates. Through this section, psychologists can learn about every candidate running for state and local offices. The section even includes links to candidates' Web sites, voter registration forms and polling information.
Congress today. Policy wonks and others can keep up with the daily activities on the hill by checking committee meeting and hearing times and locations.
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