The first-ever federal program dedicated to supporting psychology education and training might not have received a second year of funding from Congress in December without support from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.).
The Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program supports programs that train health-service psychologists to work with underserved populations, such as the elderly, children, chronically ill persons and victims of terror and abuse, especially in rural communities. Rep. Young's support of the program is part of a consistent effort he has made during his 17-term career to support comprehensive health services, including improved public health programs nationwide, biomedical research and a national registry for bone marrow donors.
The 72-year-old Harmarville, Pa. native moved to Florida at age 15. After serving 10 years in the Florida Senate, he was elected to Congress in 1970 and is now the senior member of the Florida congressional delegation. His interest in health care long-standing, he has served on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education since 1981.
"To have someone like Bill Young recognize the value of psychology and its contributions to our nation's health care is of tremendous benefit to us," says APA Executive Director for Education Cynthia Belar, PhD. "Most importantly, Chairman Young's support of GPE will provide immediate and significant benefits for underserved people in Florida and across the country."
Funds from the program, which is housed in the Bureau of Health Professions, are awarded through competitive grants to APA-accredited doctoral, internship or postdoctoral programs for trainee stipends, faculty and curriculum development, demonstration programs and technical assistance. Besides initial funding of $2 million for fiscal year 2002, GPE received $4.5 million for fiscal year 2003, of which $1.5 million will be dedicated to geropsychology training. The program's support on Capitol Hill lends new federal credence to psychology, say APA education policy staffers.
"If it were not for Chairman Young, psychology would not have the first and only federal program dedicated to psychology education and training," says Nina Levitt, EdD, APA's director for education policy.
Young's interest in the GPE program stemmed from conversations with Florida psychologists, most notably psychologist Herb Goldstein, PhD, of St. Petersburg, who convinced Young that better access to psychological care could drastically improve the well-being of people in underserved areas. "I knew his view of psychology was a very positive one," says Goldstein, "so I knew supporting the GPE program would be a natural coming together of recognizing psychology's mission and the needs of underprivileged populations."
The mental health of individuals is reflected in the well-being of communities, Goldstein says, and the costs of providing psychological care to communities are easily recouped through the overall positive impact. "[Young] is very aware that well-trained psychologists can have a profound, positive effect on an individual, a family and our society," Goldstein adds.
Young took the urging of Goldstein and other psychologists back to the House Appropriations Committee and, in every legislative stage, pushed for funding for psychology training, even as Congress was faced with severe domestic budget shortfalls.
"Behavior and health are intertwined, and we have a critical need for more integrated health care in general," Young says. "Federal support for graduate education in psychology and geropsychology should be an important step toward improving prevention, diagnosis and treatment in this important field."