Public Policy Update

Annie Toro outlines the APA Public Interest Directorate Government Relations Office (PI-GRO)'s recent successful initiatives in federal advocacy on behalf of ethnic and racial minorities.

Annie Toro, JD
Associate Executive Director
APA Public Interest Government Relations Office

Federal priorities over the last year, especially around health care, military, and veterans issues, presented tremendous opportunities for advocacy on behalf of ethnic and racial minorities. What follows is a summary of some of the APA Public Interest Directorate's Government Relations Office (PI–GRO) recent successes within this critically important policy area.

APA Testimony before U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

On September 10, APA member Dolores Subia BigFoot, PhD, Director of the Indian Country Child Trauma Center and Project Making Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, testified on behalf of APA before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the 7th Generation Promise: Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009. Dr. BigFoot's statement highlighted critical needs, including:

  • committing federal resources to address the devastating problem of suicide among American Indian and Alaska Native youth;

  • increasing trauma services in rural and urban areas;

  • building the pipeline of culturally and linguistically competent psychologists in Indian Country; and

  • developing and supporting innovative resources to improve access to health care, including telehealth. 

Dr. BigFoot's full statement

U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Youth Suicide 

On Thursday, March 25, 2010, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on "The Preventable Epidemic: Youth Suicides and the Urgent Need for Mental Health Care Resources in Indian Country". The written testimonies are available on the United States Senate Committe on Indian Affairs website. 

Health Care Reform (HCR) and Health Disparities oema-annie-toro

Building from the momentum of PI-GRO's work in establishing and leading the efforts of the National Working Group on Health Disparities and Health Reform, the Working Group sent letters to Congress and the Administration on the need to preserve critical health disparities provisions in the final health care reform legislative package. The letter, which urged that the provisions around data collection, health care quality improvements, health workforce investment, language services, and prevention and wellness be given special consideration, garnered the support of more than 250 organizations and coalitions. A copy of this letter appears in this issue of the Communiqué.

PI-GRO also spearheaded a standing room only congressional briefing on September 22, entitled "Cost Savings of Reducing Health Disparities in Health Reform," on behalf of the Working Group. In his remarks, lead presenter and APA CEO, Norman Anderson, PhD, highlighted the importance of defining the nature of health and health care disparities to include all vulnerable populations. Also represented on the panel were the White House, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, The Carter Center, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the New America Foundation, and Adventist HealthCare, as well as the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies and the Urban Institute, both of which unveiled new landmark reports on health disparities at the briefing. Topics discussed included how disparities originate, their direct and indirect costs to society, health care reform proposals and how they would or would not address disparities, and means of ending disparities. 

APA Members Participate in Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust 

On September 25, APA participated in several events hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. and the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust. Specifically, PI-GRO secured the participation of APA member, Kristin Lester, PhD, from the National Center for PTSD, Women's Health Sciences Division, VA Boston Health Care System to speak about the needs of women veterans and veterans of color. 

Get Involved in Advocacy 

We invite you to take part of our Public Policy Advocacy Network (PPAN). Through PPAN, you can sign up for our timely action alerts and you can stay informed about, and involved in, federal policy. In addition, if you are interested in taking a more active role in advancing PI-GRO'S legislative and regulatory priorities, please contact our office at (202) 336-6166.