2002 Safety Net Legislation

In late October 2002, President Bush signed the Safety Net legislation into law. It took two Congresses (four years) to reach fruition but APA is very pleased with the results. APA Education lobbyists accomplished most of the goals sought for psychology and a great deal of credit goes to Kris Hagglund, PhD, with whom APA collaborated. Dr. Hagglund is the Associate Dean of the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri-Columbia, an APA member and former Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow with Senator Tom Harkin, Member of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Dr. Hagglund advocated on behalf of psychology and other behavioral and mental health professions, with the support of Senator Harkin, with other Committee staff to ensure that APA’s recommendations were included in the Senate bill.  APA recommended the following:

  • National Health Service Corps (NHSC) - Add behavioral and mental health professionals to the list of “primary care providers” eligible for the NHSC programs including the scholarship and loan repayment programs.

  • Community Health Centers (CHC) - List behavioral and mental health services among those services that may be provided by the Community Health Centers Program.

  • Health Service Psychologist Technical Amendment - A technical amendment was included to change the term “clinical psychologist” to “health service psychologist.

There is also a provision that requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to assess the mental and behavioral health needs along with physical and oral health needs of underserved communities. [The House Commerce Committee staff accepted these provisions and included them in their draft bill.]

The Committee Report, that accompanies the Senate bill, includes strong language in the title for Community Health Centers to include mental and behavioral health services in all the start-up Community Health Centers.  Furthermore, considering that the President has pledged to double this program in five years from the current level of  $1.2 billion to $2.3 billion, there will be many more Community Health Centers – thus creating new jobs opportunities for health service psychologists.

APA Education lobbyist, Nina Levitt, led the rejuvenated NSHC coalition, composed of associations representing the range of eligible health professions, including the medical, dental and mental and behavioral health communities.  The coalition focused on both the NHSC reauthorization, as well as FY 2002 appropriations, and sent letters to the Hill with its (authorizing and appropriations) recommendations for improving the Corps.  This two-pronged approach helped to advance the participation of psychologists in the NHSC.

Finally, Education Advocacy staff was instrumental in gaining the opportunity for an APA member to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Health, which was overseeing the reauthorization of the NHSC.  Speaking on behalf of APA, Dennis Freeman, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer for the Cherokee Health Systems in Tennessee, provided testimony regarding the critical need to increase the number of psychologists participating in NHSC programs.  Dr. Freeman also spoke to the need to continue and expand the community health center program with an interdisciplinary approach nation-wide.