Public Policy Update
APA's Public Policy Office (PPO) uses a variety of strategies to engage psychologists in federal advocacy. Some are indirect, such as the Public Policy Advocacy Network--an e-mail distribution list with more than 19,000 members--and some are up close and personal, such as our Advocacy Training Workshops. Tailored to the unique circumstances of the groups we aim to serve, PPO sometimes goes to the advocates and sometimes brings the advocates to PPO. Below we provide a sampling of the workshops we have conducted this spring on behalf of APA's Education, Public Interest and Science directorates.
Education and public interest
This spring, PPO's education policy staff took their show on the road to the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) in New Orleans, where members participated in an interactive advocacy workshop "Taking advantage of the powers that be." The workshop provided an introduction to federal, state and local advocacy and demonstrated skills that each participant could use to become a more effective advocate. APPIC participants learned how to gain support from the "powers that be" in any setting and at any level--whether those powers are university presidents, hospital vice presidents or members of Congress. Through the use of videotape, role-playing and other interactive exercises, APPIC members learned the importance of getting involved in grassroots activities. Participants also learned the value of two-way communication, and how to develop an advocacy strategy that uses a targeted approach, seeks "champions" for support, and considers timing and other situational factors. Finally, whether the goal is gaining federal support for psychology internship and postdoctoral training opportunities, or pursuing other personal or professional goals, participants learned that a successful advocate never overlooks nor underestimates the power of personal contacts.
PPO's public interest policy staff also conducted an advocacy training workshop at APA's Central Office here on Capitol Hill for members of APA's Committee on Psychology and AIDS (COPA). Participants included COPA members Isiaah Crawford, PhD, Loyola University; Deborah Haller, PhD, Medical College of Virginia; Gary Harper, PhD, DePaul University; Irma Serrano-Garcia, PhD, University of Puerto Rico; and Frank Wong, PhD, George Washington University; along with John Anderson, PhD, director of APA's Office on AIDS. The purpose of the workshop was to establish relationships between COPA members and members of Congress. Over the course of two days, participants learned about everything from the basics of the legislative process to the upcoming congressional appropriations battles on HIV/AIDS programs. In addition to PPO staff presentations, participants heard from a key federal agency staffer, as well as a leading advocate for minority HIV/AIDS issues. Melvyn Haas, MD, director for medical affairs at the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), discussed federal mental health-related HIV/AIDS initiatives sponsored by CMHS, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Health Resources and Services Administration. Miguelina Ileana Leon, director of government relations and public policy at the National Minority AIDS Council, discussed the status of federal appropriations for HIV/AIDS programs at the Department of Health and Human Services. With their newly honed skills, participants visited House and Senate offices on the second day of the workshop to lobby their members of Congress for increased funding for HIV/AIDS programs. Advocacy efforts on the part of psychologists are critical during this Congress to elevate the low profile of HIV/AIDS initiatives on Capitol Hill and within the Bush administration.
In May, 11 researchers on learning in education came to APA headquarters for the ninth in a series of semiannual PPO-Science Advocacy Training Workshops. The science workshops play to a slightly different audience, training academic scientists to capitalize on their expertise in support of psychological research on Capitol Hill. Although the theme of the workshop was designed to complement the strong interest in K--12 science and math education issues outlined by both the Bush administration and Congress, the timing was especially fortuitous as key legislation involving education research was under consideration in both the House and Senate. Bills in both chambers incorporated elements of the President's Math and Science Partnership program, directing the U.S. Department of Education to fund competitively reviewed, innovative partnerships between K--12 teachers and institutions of higher learning. The goal of these partnerships is to improve K--12 science and math education in measurable ways. In addition to briefings by PPO staff, participants discussed current education legislation with Jim Griffin, PhD, assistant director for social and behavioral sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Judith Sunley, PhD, interim associate director for education and human resources, at the National Science Foundation. As a group, the researchers developed a briefing sheet that provided an eloquent justification for more research, which they put to good use on Monday afternoon when they headed up to Capitol Hill to meet with their legislators' staff and with Sharon Hays, PhD, staff director of the Research Subcommittee of the House Science Committee.
Regardless of whether issues of importance to you fall within or across the domains of education, public interest, practice and science, it is critical that members of Congress and their staff view their constituents as vital resources. Constituents are the most important influence on the voting decision of a member of Congress. Throughout the 107th Congress, PPO staff will be calling on APA members to testify at congressional hearings, participate in congressional briefings and/or contact their members of Congress. Through these hands-on advocacy training workshops, articles in APA's publications, Web site and e-mail alerts, PPO hopes to demystify the process and encourage psychologists to establish relationships with their congressional representatives.
For additional advocacy resources, please see our PPO Web site: www.apa.org/ppo.
--APA'S PUBLIC POLICY OFFICE