Speaking of Education
Although I often hear initiatives or groups within APA categorized as science, practice or public interest, I have repeatedly noted how that model does not fit what we do in the APA Education Directorate. Educators in all disciplines are regarded as "custodians" of their field, and education provides infrastructure for the growth of a discipline and profession. Thus, our efforts serve the breadth of psychology across science, practice and public interest. This has been especially obvious in our recent advocacy efforts in the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization process.
During the past year, APA was the initiator and architect of two bills introduced in Congress. In November, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) and Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) introduced H.R. 3593, the Campus Care and Counseling Act, an APA-recommended piece of legislation to serve as a basis for an amendment to HEA. In March, the Senate version was introduced by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y).
This is the first time ever, according to consultations with former APA CEO Ray Fowler and APA Archivist Wade Pickren, that APA has been the initiator of legislation introduced in both houses of Congress with bipartisan support! Congratulations to the directorate's public policy team, under the leadership of Nina Levitt, who worked tirelessly, inviting the collaboration of each of the other directorates. Special kudos to Jenny Smulson, our lead on higher education issues. But we are most indebted to the APA members whose expertise and grassroots advocacy were absolutely critical. (See the January Monitor for a description of our members in action on this initiative.)
Relevance for psychology
The Campus Care and Counseling Act supports education and training, research and practice in psychology. Its stated purpose clearly recognizes that psychological health and psychological interventions are important to success in college. Given the importance of higher education to our knowledge society, this is indeed in the public interest.
Authorized under this act would be grant funds to create or expand mental and behavioral health services, improve access and develop best practices in service delivery. Funds could be used for prevention, early intervention, assessment, treatment, education and programs for family involvement. They could be used to hire professional staff, to strengthen and expand training opportunities in internship and residency programs and to evaluate and disseminate outcomes of mental and behavioral health services. That is, if passed, federal funds could be made available to hire practitioners, conduct outcomes research and support training programs.
With respect to training, it is noteworthy that there are more APA-accredited internship programs in college counseling centers than in any other type of setting. Yet with the budget cuts in higher education, centers are even more stressed to fulfill increasing service demands on campus--a trend that threatens training. The Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies (ACCTA), under the leadership of Jenny Cornish, invited me to their meeting last fall, where I heard about their innovations in training and we discussed our needs for advocacy in psychology.
AACTA members have been actively involved in promoting this legislation, as have members of the Association of Directors of Psychology Training Clinics and members of the National Council of Schools and Programs in Professional Psychology, whose president, Cynthia Baum, brought its annual meeting to Washington, D.C., where we could provide advocacy training and arrange visits to legislators on Capitol Hill in support of APA initiatives. (See the April Monitor article.) Moreover, it was a participant in the 2003 Education Leadership Conference, Harvette Grey of DePaul University, who first gained the attention of Rep. Davis, who later agreed to sponsor our proposal in the House.
It is especially important to highlight that eligible entities for funding under these bills include not only college counseling centers, but also psychology training clinics, mental health centers and any other entity that provides mental and behavioral health services to students at an institution of higher education. We are aware that services are organized in diverse administrative structures across campuses, and that many psychology departments, whose clinics serve students as well as the community, are in need of support. This is the time for psychology to pull together across settings and interest areas to demonstrate how we can improve training and opportunities for ourselves--and contribute to the health and success of our nation's next generation of leaders.
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