The American Red Cross awarded APA a 2005–2006 Circle of Humanitarians award, accepted by APA Past-president Gerald P. Koocher, PhD, during APA's December Board of Directors meeting. The Red Cross award, presented by Cheryl Wilmer, gift officer with the Red Cross national headquarters, and Napoleon Braganza and Debbie Vanderbeek from the organization's National Capital Area chapter, recognizes APA's support of humanitarian efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In September of 2005, APA donated $50,000 to the Red Cross for Katrina recovery, and encouraged APA members to make their own contributions to relief efforts.
Another meeting highlight was the first-ever gathering of the boards of APA and the American Psychiatric Association. At the invitation of Koocher, the boards, both in Washington, D.C., for respective board meetings, assembled for a cocktail reception at APA headquarters.
The two organizations rightly acknowledge a history of differing opinions on particular issues in the mental health field, most notably the issue of awarding prescriptive authority to psychologists, but have recently found some common ground, says Koocher. During a joint observation visit to Guantanamo Bay in the fall of 2006, Koocher and American Psychiatric Association President Pedro Ruiz, MD, identified a number of matters the two groups agree on, such as improving access to mental health services and securing sufficient reimbursement rates for health practitioners-goals that would benefit from joint organizational alignment.
"This [reception] was sort of a 'seize the moment' opportunity, allowing us to spend some time together, get to know each other and start talking about potential collaborative efforts," says Koocher. "Although we've agreed to disagree on the prescription privileges issue, there are just so many other interests we have in common, and it seems foolish not to try and work on them together."
The event also spurred the creation of a joint task force of three board members from each association that will consider prospective partnership opportunities to benefit the field of mental health.