Public Policy Update

Since World War II, psychologists have been called on to address the increased psychological needs that surround times of war. However, meeting these demands requires funding to train psychologists and other health professionals to adequately work with service members and families.

The federally funded Defense Graduate Psychology Education (D-GPE) training program supports the training of military and civilian psychologists as well as other health professionals to meet the increasing needs of U.S. soldiers and their families.

"This is a program in which the scientific knowledge base from deployment psychology can be disseminated to both military and civilian health-care providers in many disciplines to facilitate high-quality services that address national needs," says Cynthia Belar, PhD, APA's executive director for education.

The D-GPE program increases the military's capability to meet the psychological needs of service members returning from war, including National Guard and Reservists and their families. Widespread training of military and civilian psychologists is especially important today, experts note, because many veterans are returning to communities without the military installations where they can more readily receive care.

The D-GPE program was developed by the APA Education Directorate in consultation with several of the nation's leading military psychologists, including Maj. M. Victoria Ingram, PsyD, Col. Bruce Crow, PsyD, Lt. Col. Rick Campise, PhD, Lt. Col. James Favret, PhD, and Cmdr. Morgan Sammons, PhD. Former Chairman of the House of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), provided funding at the request of constituent and psychologist Herb Goldstein, PhD, and the program was implemented in fiscal year 2006.

Update on D-GPE

D-GPE funded a new Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP) to serve as the primary training facility in conjunction with the 10 established Army, Navy and Air Force APA-accredited psychology internship sites to provide training to both military and civilian psychologists and psychology trainees.

CDP will be conducting its first two-week training for psychology trainees and military and civilian psychologists this month and will continue to offer these trainings throughout the year. The trainings will focus on four areas: basics of deployment, mental health care for the severely medically injured, the psychology of trauma and resilience, and how these issues affect families of military personnel. CDP is also developing continuing-education opportunities for military and civilian psychologists working with service personnel and their families. These workshops particularly aim to increase access to services by targeting mental health providers in communities without military medical facilities.

"The reception to the program by mental health professionals inside and outside of the military has been overwhelmingly positive," says CDP Director David Riggs, PhD. "There is a recognized need for an educational effort in this area now and in the future."

The fiscal year 2007 Defense Appropriations Bill passed by Congress is set to provide $2.9 million to continue this program-a reduction from the original $3.4 million granted to initiate the program and substantially less than the $6 million that was requested to continue and enhance D-GPE. The reduced amount will prevent the program from expanding it services, and without continued funding the program will end in 2008.

An increased need

The war in Iraq continues to call on psychologists to address the needs of service members and their families. Past research has shown that stressors related to deployment and exposure to combat result in considerable risks of mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, substance abuse, impairment in social functioning and in the ability to work, and the increased use of health-care services.

Military medical facilities are facing a potential significant increase of returning military personnel coping with disabilities, readjustment issues and serious mental health illnesses. These facilities are already struggling to meet increased demands from military personnel being deployed, as well as returning from war in Iraq. The D-GPE program directly helps address this difficulty by providing increased training opportunities and psychologists to work with service members. In addition to treating psychological disorders such as PTSD, psychologists are trained through the D-GPE program to address a range of other psychological problems, including coping with serious injuries, such as amputation, disfigurement or traumatic brain injury.

How APA members can help

The Education Public Policy Office (PPO) will continue to advocate for funding for the D-GPE program, but needs the support of APA members. For example, members can help PPO find a sponsor in the Senate by contacting their state senators and explaining the significance of the program. For additional information on how to get involved, visit the Education PPO's guide to federal advocacy at www.apa.org/ppo/ppan/advocacyguide.html or contact Nina Levitt, EdD, associate executive director for education policy, via e-mail.

Further Reading

For more information on this or other Education Directorate legislative initiatives, visit www.apa.org/ppo/edppo.html.

Samantha Gaiber-Matlin is the graduate intern in APA's Education Public Policy Office.