From the CEO
Our work in the policy arena is one of the most important and most visible aspects of what APA does. It is indeed one of our "signature" activities and contributes to our very positive public image. At APA, we are fortunate to have a very strong and highly regarded policy staff in each of our four directorates-Education, Practice, Public Interest and Science.
Federal advocacy goals
The overriding goal of APA's federal advocacy efforts is to inform Congress and federal agencies about psychology and its potential contribution to the shaping and implementation of federal policy. Our policy staff effectively advocates with key policy-makers on Capitol Hill for increased federal support for psychological research, mental and behavioral health services, and education and training opportunities for psychologists, and to promote human welfare based on the application of sound psychological research. The day-to-day activities of our policy staff include assisting in the drafting of legislation and federal regulations, garnering federal appropriations for programs relevant to psychology, recommending psychologists to testify at congressional hearings, sponsoring congressional briefings to highlight the work of our members, and nominating psychologists to represent APA at White House and other executive branch initiatives.
And perhaps most importantly, our staff coordinates our "grassroots outreach" to ensure that the voices of APA members are heard directly by their members of Congress on critical policy issues. Over the past year, these have included opposition to Medicare reimbursement cuts and support for mental health parity, the Graduate Psychology Education Program, the peer-review system at the National Institutes of Health and mental health services for underserved populations, including older adults and persons with HIV/AIDS.
Taking policy to the next level
As strong as our policy efforts are, I believe that it is essential to put into place measures that would help the association move to the next level of effectiveness. At present, our policy activities are divided among the four directorates (with practice-related policy activities handled primarily by the APA Practice Organization). This structure enables policy staff to remain closely connected to their content areas and constituencies. Yet it does not provide the association with a single, unified voice on policy matters, and it does not adequately facilitate coordinated or synergistic functioning across directorates. And, unlike for other significant activities of the association, it does not provide me as CEO with a single source of information to integrate our multiple policy strands.
Based on conversations with my colleagues at APA, as well as with those outside of APA with expertise in how associations address government relations matters, I recently created the position of senior policy adviser (SPA) to the CEO in the Executive Office. I envisioned this person as a seasoned government affairs professional with both significant Capitol Hill experience and senior management expertise. Ideally, this person would also have some familiarity with the work of associations and the wider world beyond government relations.
The four primary duties of the SPA are broadly defined as: 1) serving as the CEO's chief adviser and representative and facilitating the CEO's involvement in policy issues, government relations and inter-organizational affairs; 2) working closely with the policy directors across directorates to coordinate, facilitate and enhance their efforts; 3) assisting the four executive directors and their respective governance boards with the shaping of policy agendas to add value in the form of an integrated APA-wide perspective; and 4) serving as the APA point person on policy matters. This means that the SPA would be a highly visible presence in all government-related matters and would be the entry point into APA for entities unfamiliar with our staffing structure.
Our first SPA
With all of this as background, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Ellen Garrison has recently been hired as APA's first senior policy adviser. For 12 years, Dr. Garrison has held senior policy positions in three of APA's four directorates (Public Interest, Practice and Science) and APA's former Office of Legislative Affairs. She also previously worked as a consultant for both the Public Policy Office and Science Directorate, and as a Congressional Science Fellow and professional staff member on Capitol Hill. She has also created and directed new interdisciplinary programs in local government, academic and private practice settings. Dr. Garrison received her doctorate in psychology (with a minor in law) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and now aptly describes herself as a "clinical-turned-political psychologist." Given her qualifications and her experience with and knowledge of APA, I am delighted that Dr. Garrison is now in a position to help guide APA as we develop and implement our federal policy agenda for the new 110th Congress.