On Your Behalf

Supporting federal funding for psychology research, training and services

In a Feb. 18 letter, APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, thanked President Barack Obama for increasing biomedical and behavioral research funding and supporting psychology training and services in the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget, but also called for restoring funding in several crucial areas.

Obama has called for increasing the budgets for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation by about $1 billion each. Anderson said that increased federal funding would enable psychologist researchers to continue investigating such critical areas as cognition; chronic disease prevention; treatments for mental disorders; and interventions aimed at boosting academic achievement.

APA also commended President Obama’s budget proposals for:

  • Continued funding for the Graduate Psychology Education program, which supports interdisciplinary training for the provision of mental and behavioral health services to underserved populations.
  • Maintaining funding for the Minority Fellowship Program, which provides financial support, professional development and mentoring to psychology doctoral students to deliver mental health services to ethnic minority populations, and psychology postdocs developing careers in mental health services research, services or policy.
  • Renewing the funding for suicide prevention programs on college campuses.
  • Increasing funding for autism research and surveillance, injury control and prevention and HIV/AIDS prevention programs overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In his letter, Anderson also called for:

  • Restoring full funding to the research programs overseen by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Center for Special Education Research.
  • Avoiding deep cuts in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and reversing a decision to terminate the Older Adults program, both overseen by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  • Retaining U.S. Department of Education grants aimed at reducing alcohol abuse, supporting elementary and secondary school counseling, promoting gifted and talented programs for students and making mental health screenings available in schools.

Increasing availability of counseling for college students

With waiting lists for mental health services on college campuses growing longer, APA is building support in Congress for legislation that would allow counseling centers to use federal funding to provide psychological services directly to students and to hire full-time, appropriately trained mental and behavioral health professionals. Currently, colleges and universities use federal grant money from the Campus Suicide Prevention program, a part of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA), to screen for depression, anxiety and other mental health problems, as well as to educate students about ways to get psychological help. APA is advocating for the expansion of a definitional clause to enable the grant program to support psychological services and the hiring of mental and behavioral health professionals.

APA hopes these legislative changes can be made this year through the reauthorization of the GLSMA or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the federal agency that administers the grant program.

Standing up for health-care reform

APA voiced its opposition to a bill introduced in the House of Representatives to repeal the health-care reform law. APA was among 50 organizations representing professionals, consumers, family members and advocates that joined together through the Mental Health Liaison Group and sent a Jan. 13 letter opposing repeal to Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The letter points out the benefits of reform, including mental health and addiction treatment at parity, the ability to get coverage despite pre-existing conditions, and prevention and wellness promotion initiatives. The House voted on Jan. 19 to repeal the health care reform law, while the Senate voted on Feb. 3 against repeal.

Pushing for parity on psychiatric hospitalization

APA is rallying support for S. 374, the Medicare Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act, a bill sponsored by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Introduced on Feb. 17, the bill would remove Medicare’s current 190-day lifetime limit on inpatient psychiatric hospital care. APA was among 55 national organizations that sent a letter to Kerry and Snowe supporting the elimination of the 190-day lifetime limit. The change would equalize Medicare mental health-care coverage with care provided in Medicare specialty inpatient hospital care and private health insurance. It would also offer beneficiaries the choice of inpatient psychiatric care providers, increase access to inpatient care for people with serious mental disorders and improve continuity of care.

Advocating for Medicare reimbursement

The APA Practice Organization successfully advocated for reinstatement of the 5 percent psychotherapy payments for all of 2010, retroactive to Jan. 1. As a result of this change, psychologists who provided psychotherapy services paid for by Medicare during the first six months of 2010 should receive 5 percent restoration payments soon, according to a Feb. 9 announcement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. On average, that works out to an additional $4.50 for each psychotherapy session for each Medicare patient seen by psychologists during the first six months of 2010. Practitioners will probably receive the payment in one lump sum.

An initial restoration payment was part of the Medicare payment changes included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in March 2010. A later law extended the additional 5 percent for Medicare psychotherapy payments through 2011.

Staying on top of CE trends

APA’s Greg J. Neimeyer, PhD, who directs the Office of Continuing Education in Psychology, was among those who discussed new developments in CE before the Bureau of Health Professions in the Health Resources and Services Administration as part of a panel on “Continuing Education, Professional Development, and Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century Health Care Workforce.”

In his presentation, Neimeyer outlined four trends within CE:

  • The role of emerging technologies in CE delivery.
  • Psychology’s growing commitment to documenting CE outcomes and demonstrating professional competence.
  • The importance of interprofessional training in CE.
  • The emergence of alternative models of CE delivery, such as point-of-service learning.

Neimeyer highlighted the role of APA in supporting these developments, and illustrated them with samples of the APA’s new interactive classroom presentations, which provide highly interactive online learning experiences.

The results of the panel will be reported to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, as well as the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

— C. Munsey