September 2010 Policy Update

Immigration

On July 15, 2010, APA’s Public Interest Government Relations Office secured the participation of APA Member Carola Suarez-Orozco, PhD, at a congressional ad-hoc hearing entitled, “In the Best Interest of Our Children: Examining Our Immigration Enforcement Policy.” Dr. Suarez-Orozco, a professor of applied psychology and co-director of immigration studies at New York University, testified about the importance of keeping families together in immigration proceedings and enforcing existing laws humanely. In addition, PI-GRO recently added an update on immigration and related activities to its Web page.

Minority Fellowship Program

On July 20 and 22, 2010, PI-GRO staff coordinated an advocacy training and Capitol Hill day for over 25 Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) fellows. Participants received training on the federal legislative process and how to effectively advocate as emerging psychologists and leaders. In addition, MFP fellows were briefed on APA legislative priorities and current activities related to health disparities reduction and elimination.  Participants advocated for increased funding for MFP and full authorization of the program during their Capitol Hill visits coordinated by PI-GRO. In addition, PI-GRO and Education GRO spearhead the Mental Health Workforce Coalition, which is comprised of the interdisciplinary professional organizations that are currently funded to administer the MFP. The Coalition works to achieve common MFP legislative goals and facilitate collaboration with SAMHSA to enhance program effectiveness.

Juvenile Justice

The National Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Coalition (NJJDPC) invited PI-GRO to provide language for the group’s response to a Federal Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (FCCJJDP) request for comments on federal juvenile justice policy.  PI-GRO’s contribution addressed FCCJJDP’s specific request for information on educational settings and at-risk youth. These comments encouraged stronger federal efforts to promote school mental health, address the needs of LGBT youth, and increase school safety while also decreasing schools’ reliance on zero tolerance discipline.

Convention Activities

Congressional Fellowship. As part of the APA-wide Congressional Fellowship Program, PI-GRO staff engaged in a number of activities highlighting this unique opportunity for psychologists. This included a booth in the Convention Center Exhibition Hall and a symposium, during which former and current APA Congressional and Executive Branch Science Fellows talked about their fellowship experiences in government.

Division Meetings. PI-GRO staff met with numerous Division Executive Committees to provide issue updates and seek guidance and input on ongoing and new advocacy activities.

Health Reform. PI-GRO and Education GRO staff coordinated a convention symposium entitled Health Care Reform: Implications for Psychology and Diverse Populations. This session highlighted APA’s advocacy efforts throughout the health reform process, including successful inclusion of provisions in the new law focused on diverse populations such as children, older adults, women and families, ethnic minorities, individuals living with disabilities, individuals living with HIV/AIDS, victims of violence, and those living in poverty. In addition, presenters highlighted key provisions in the new law that were supported and secured by APA related to integrated health care and psychology workforce development. Symposium discussant APA Past-President James H. Bray, PhD, urged psychologists to seize opportunities to get involved in the health reform implementation process and participate in ongoing APA advocacy activities. To learn more about APA supported provisions in the new health reform law, please visit the PI-GRO Health Reform Matrix.

Homelessness. Members of the APA Task Force on Psychology’s Contribution to End Homelessness (TFPCEH) and APA Past-President James H. Bray, PhD, presented a symposium on research, policy, and funding on homelessness issues. Panelists, including Charlene Le Fauve, PhD, Branch Officer, Co-Occurring and Homeless Activities Branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), addressed topics including: the need for more research on families without homes that have children; interventions to help youth aging out of foster care to avoid homelessness; programs showing that symptoms associated with homelessness, including substance abuse, decrease with the provision of housing and services; and how psychologists can help prevent and end homelessness through clinical and assessment services, translating research to policy, advocating for those without homes, and forming alliances and speaking in their own communities.

In addition, on August 13, 2010, Dr. Ellen Bassuk, President of The National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH), received Division 37's Distinguished Contribution to Child Advocacy Award from the APA. Dr. Bassuk is a leading clinician, researcher, and advocate on behalf of homeless families and individuals.  At the forefront of homelessness for three decades, she has pioneered seminal work on understanding violence, trauma, and mental illness in the lives of homeless families and children.

APA works closely with Congress and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness in support of legislation to help people without homes and encourage implementation of the recommendations from the federal strategic plan.

Juvenile Justice. PI-GRO staff chaired a symposium, as part of Division 41’s special Convention programming on juvenile justice. The session, Pressing Policy Issues in Juvenile Justice and APA Federal Advocacy, included remarks from Jim Bogden, MPH, of APA’s Public Interest Directorate, and APA members Elizabeth Cauffman, PhD, of the University of California-Irvine and Thomas Sexton, PhD, of Indiana University-Bloomington. Respectively, their remarks addressed: the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth; recent findings on the mental health impact of parental visitation to newly incarcerated juvenile offenders; and the positive health and financial outcomes of implementing evidence-based practices within juvenile justice systems.

Marriage Equality. As part of the two-day programming focusing on same sex marriage, the APA’s Office of LGBT Concerns, PI-GRO, and the Public Affairs Office collaborated on a grassroots advocacy campaign urging members of Congress to support marriage equality legislation.  The call to action was met with an overwhelming response as APA members and supporters send over 760 messages to Capitol Hill.  It’s not too late to let your voice be heard! To take action on marriage equality, please visit APA’s Public Policy Action Network.

Navy Psychology Day. PI-GRO staff joined APA President Dr. Carol Goodheart and staff from the APA Executive Office and the other APA directorates during a visit to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. During this visit, Dr. Goodheart provided remarks to members of the Navy psychology community highlighting some of APA’s recent and ongoing efforts focused on the health and well-being of service members, veterans, and their families. APA leadership and staff dialogued with Navy psychologists about some of the most pressing issues facing service members and families and discussed the unique role of psychology in addressing some of these challenges. 

PsycAdvocates™ Day 2011 - Save the Date!

On Thursday, August 4, 2011, in conjunction with the 2011 APA Convention in Washington, DC, the APA Education and Public Interest Government Relations Offices will offer an opportunity, PsycAdvocates Day 2011, for psychologists and graduate students to participate in a federal advocacy training followed by visits with Members of Congress (or their staff) on Capitol Hill. For further information please contact Ben Vonachen at (202) 336-6097.