Federal policy activities addressing issues important to children, youth and families

Includes the National Convening on Fair Sentencing of Youth, Federal Partners in Bullying Summit and other highlights

By Kerry Bolger, PhD

APA participates in 2012 National Convening on Fair Sentencing of Youth

APA’s Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) participated in a panel at the 2012 National Convening of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth on Nov. 15 at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. Kerry Bolger, PhD, senior legislative & federal affairs officer, described APA’s contributions to the fair sentencing of youth, including APA’s influential amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in cases on capital punishment and sentences of life without parole for juveniles. The National Convening, co-sponsored by the Georgetown University Law Center Juvenile Justice Clinic, provided an opportunity for partners from around the country to build relationships and share strategies in response to the recent Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, abolishing mandatory life without parole sentences for children.

APA provides expertise to policymakers on use of psychotropic medications for children in foster care

Over the past year, both Congress and the Executive Branch have called for better oversight of the use of psychotropic medications for children in foster care. APA has been involved in providing expertise to federal policymakers on this issue. On Aug. 28-29, APA participated in “Because Minds Matter: Collaborating to Strengthen Management of Psychotropic Medications for Children and Youth in Foster Care,” an invitation-only meeting in Washington, sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Ronald T. Brown, PhD, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Wayne State University, represented APA at this meeting. Dr. Brown chaired APA’s Working Group on Psychotropic Medications for Children and Adolescents, which reviewed the literature and prepared a comprehensive report (PDF, 1.24MB) (released by APA in 2006) on the current state of knowledge concerning the effective use, sequencing and integration of psychotropic medications and psychosocial interventions for children and adolescents. The APA Working Group report describes how “the safest treatments with demonstrated efficacy should be considered first before considering other treatments with less favorable profiles.” APA continues to provide expertise to both the Department of Health and Human Services and congressional offices on this important topic.

Psychologists share expertise at Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit

Psychologists shared their expertise at the third annual Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit on Aug. 6-7 in Washington. The Summit, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, brought together researchers, educators, parents, students and organization leaders to discuss taking action against bullying. The Summit underscored the importance of using the best available evidence to prevent bullying.

Dewey Cornell, PhD, University of Virginia, represented APA at the Summit. Dorothy Espelage, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, presented research on the link between bullying and homophobic teasing. Keynote speakers included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West, and Congressman Honda (D-Calif.), Chair of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus.

APA experts advise federal policymakers on mental health services for children

On April 8, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) consulted with APA member experts for a study on the use of psychotropic drugs and mental health services for children, particularly children in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or foster care.

APA members Ronald T. Brown, PhD, Wayne State University, Michael Southam-Gerow, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Laura Nabors, PhD, University of Cincinnati, provided expertise to GAO investigators on topics including unmet need for mental health services; barriers to receiving appropriate care; and the current state of research on children’s mental health. The GAO study was requested by Senator Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representatives Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) and DeLauro (D-Conn.) to inform federal policymaking on children’s mental health services.

APA warns against automatic across-the-board funding cuts

APA and its coalition partners are calling for Congress and the President to work together to prevent cuts to programs that help millions of Americans. For example, unless Congress acts, the Budget Control Act of 2011 will trigger major across-the-board federal spending cuts in January 2013. These automatic cuts, called “sequestration,” would cut $55 billion from defense programs and $54 billion from non-defense discretionary programs in Fiscal Year 2013. The non-defense program funding cuts would include social services; housing; education and job training; scientific research; infrastructure; public safety and law enforcement; public health; weather monitoring and environmental protection; natural and cultural resources; and international relations. In July, APA and some 2,800 other organizations signed onto a letter (PDF, 270KB) asking Congress and the president to work together to prevent further cuts to these programs. APA continues to educate policymakers about the importance of protecting funding for these critical programs.