A growing number of partnerships between APA and psychological associations in the states, Canadian provinces and U.S. territories is making a positive impact on the changing health-care system. Leaders of all of these groups are meeting in Washington, D.C., this month to expand the ways in which their organizations can improve the health of their communities through psychologists' contributions.
More than 450 psychologists from every state and most Canadian provinces and U.S. territories have been invited to the APA Practice Directorate's 2000 State Leadership Conference (SLC), March 1114.
This year's conference theme is "Partnerships for power: states, provinces and APA working together."
"The strategic partnerships between APA and the states have made possible a greater contribution to the profession and to the public good than each of our organizations working alone could achieve," says Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice.
At this month's meeting, leaders and executive directors of APA's 59 affiliated state and provincial psychological associations (SPPAs) will share success stories, and build advocacy strategies for the coming year.
The most visible recent success story, says Newman, has been the work of APA and SPPAs with MTV in creating the "Warning Signs" youth violence prevention program. This partnership is helping to educate the nation's youth on effective ways of coping with anger and frustration. It is a major part of APA's public education campaign, "Talk to Someone Who Can Help."
"The 'Warning Signs' program has enabled psychologists throughout the country to assume leadership positions in helping their communities respond to a major societal need," says Newman.
More than 500 antiviolence forums have been conducted by psychologists who talked with students after they watched the APA-MTV "Warning Signs" video. Many forums have had the support of state education leaders and local parents groups.
There are plans for the network of state public education campaign coordinators participating in the SLC to assist in developing a second phase of the antiviolence program that will be geared towards parents.
Conference participants also will visit Capitol Hill to urge congressional representatives to pass HMO legal accountability provisions. These visits are an annual part of an extensive APA-state association networking partnership for organized federal grassroots advocacy.
The effectiveness of this partnership was evident last year when other groups that support managed-care reform acknowledged psychology for its influential role in passage of the Norwood-Dingell bill. This bill, which permits injured health consumers to sue their HMOs, passed in defiance of the House leadership. The rare degree of bipartisan backing reflected widespread grassroots support for psychology's top legislative issue.
Yet HMO liability is an uphill battle in Congress, and the resources to carry out these and other advocacy initiatives are scarce. APA and its affiliated groups in the states, provinces and territories depend on a strong membership base for support. But some state associations have been losing members in recent years, and APA's own membership growth has leveled off. The SLC participants will tackle the membership issue head on since it affects the resources that organized psychology organizations bring to their partnership agenda.
Psychology leaders observe that, with many practitioners feeling economically pressed, some feel it sufficient to keep up membership in one organization, rather than in both the national and their state association. A group of state and APA leaders will present a number of proposals at the conference to promote joint membership. Electronic polling technology will enable the participants to indicate their opinions on these proposals, and to generate new ones.
"Sometimes it is hard for our members to appreciate how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," says Lorryn Wahler, executive director of the New Jersey Psychological Association (NJPA), who represents state executive directors on the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice.
She said a key message to convey to psychologists is that "keeping up membership in your state association as well as APA is critical to the work we do on your behalf."
Wahler cited the favorable media coverage and corporate response that NJPA has received for its new "Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award." "This whole concept came right out of our work with the APA public education campaign," she said.
Other psychology leaders also value what the profession has gained by state and national organizations' collaboration.
For example, Dan Abrahamson, PhD, a Connecticut psychologist and chair of the Committee of State Leaders, noted the recent victory in Connecticut of becoming the first state in the nation to expand from biologically based parity to full parity for all mental health diagnoses. "This might not have happened if it weren't for the ongoing and interactive advocacy efforts of APA and our state association," he said.
"It may be a cliché, but it is penny-wise and pound-foolish not to join your state and national associations," Abrahamson added. "Do you, in order to save a few hundred dollars, risk eroding the strength of those groups that are trying to help you maintain your viability?"
If APA and state leaders have any say, psychologists will answer "no" that question.
Michael Sullivan is assistant executive director for state advocacy in APA's Practice Directorate.