Public Policy Update
The legislation to fund federal programs for fiscal year 2000--including appropriations bills for cabinet-level departments that support programs essential to psychology--hung in the balance at press time.
Part of the difficulty in passing this year's appropriations bills stemmed from the insistence of Congress to hold caps in place on domestic discretionary spending. Pending was a package of legislation that included a 0.38 percent across-the-board cut in all discretionary programs. It would, however, allow flexibility to agencies to tailor the cuts within their budgets.
APA's Public Policy Office (PPO) contributed to the appropriation process by arranging for APA testimony on Capitol Hill and by recommending funding levels and report language, which provides congressional direction to federal agencies.
The staff fought for funding increases in programs that support the education and training of psychologists. Congress was poised to adopt a Department of Education plan that increases spending by almost $3 billion. These funds would be in the form of direct aid, grants to training institutions and research funding.
- Higher Education. As a member of the Student Aid Alliance, the Education advocacy staff worked for funding increases for graduate education, the Federal College Work Study program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program. The greatest increases were to be reserved for the Pell Grant Program. Federal College Work Study funding would rise by 7 percent to $934 million. In graduate education, both the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program and Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need together are expected to increase from $31 million to $51 million.
- School Mental Health Services. Within the Fund for Innovation in Education, a competitive K through 12 grant program, $20 million was reserved to hire school-based counselors.
- National Health Service Corps. Funding is likely to increase by a modest 2 percent, although education advocacy staff recommendations reserved $1 million for mental health professionals. The health professions need-based grant and scholarship programs were to get a 7 percent increase in funding over the 1999 level.
Public interest advocacy
Public interest policy staff worked to secure funding for federal programs that provide mental health, substance-abuse and related social services for special populations--including low-income children and adults, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The agency is expected to receive $2.65 billion, a 6.79 percent increase over last year. One SAMHSA agency, the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), is likely to receive $21 million above the 1999 appropriation. This includes the additional $70 million requested by the Administration for the Mental Health Partnership Block Grant, to aid individuals with serious psychological disorders.
- Title XX, the Social Services Block Grant. Cuts here in the last four years (from $2.8 billion to $1.9 billion) were set to continue in 2000, with the loss of another $125 million. And $425 million of the new budget will not be available until the 2001 fiscal year--bad news for low-income children and families, people with disabilities and older Americans.
- Head Start. Funding is expected to rise by more than $500 million to nearly $5.3 billion to serve an additional 44,000 children.
- The Indian Health Service. The spending bill provides an increase of $155.6 million to $2.3 billion.
- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. PPO staff successfully advocated for language focusing attention on behavioral, social and developmental factors that contribute to sexual decision-making among women, especially young women and women of color.
Public policy staff worked with the Senate subcommittee on Labor/Health and Human Services (L/HHS) to craft language on behavioral research and services for inclusion in final appropriation reports. What follows are highlights of that new language.
- National Cancer Institute (NCI). The language encourages NCI to expand research on the impact of mental health services on cancer treatment and adjustment to cancer survivorship, to collaborate with the National Institute on Drug Abuse concerning nicotine addiction, and to increase behavioral research on minority women's cancers.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The report highlights the need to support behavioral cardiology research, especially in understudied populations. NHLBI is also encouraged to expand research on adherence, and to request more behavioral research on lung and blood diseases.
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The institute was encouraged to increase its behavioral research portfolio, including behavioral and social science factors related to adherence to medical recovery regimens, exercise and weight-reduction programs. In addition, NIAID is encouraged to make HIV-related prevention, treatment and care needs of women, particularly minority women, a top priority.
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). The report praises several initiatives undertaken by the NIH Office of the Director/Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and encourages a budget increase. It also requests a detailed description of NIH's ongoing work in behavioral sciences, including a breakdown by institute, and information about training.