Activate your advocacy: Federal advocacy coordinator report

Practice models and advocacy were highlighted at the State Leadership Conference.

By Cynthia Sturm, PhD

“Expanding the Practice Spectrum” was the theme of the 2016 State Leadership Conference (SLC) held Feb.27-March 1 in Washington, D.C. The conference was attended by more than 400 state, provincial and territorial leaders. APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine Nordal, PhD, and invited speakers addressed innovative practice models as well as how traditional models of practice can adapt to changes in the health care marketplace. On SLC Capitol Hill Day, psychologists met with more than 300 congressional offices to ask for support regarding the following legislation:

Bipartisan Mental Health Reform Legislation: Two bills introduced in 2015, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717) sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, among others, and the Mental Health Reform Act (S. 1945) introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., include many provisions to increase access to mental health care for individuals with serious mental illness, strengthen programs and add support resources for families. It is hoped that these ideas and other important reforms can be enacted this year in consensus bipartisan legislation.

Medicare Mental Health Access Act: (H.R. 4277/S. 2597) Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., is co-sponsoring H.R. 4277 with Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. This bill would add psychologists to the Medicare physician definition so that psychologists could treat patients without unnecessary physician supervision in all treatment centers. This change would improve access to care for the growing number of Medicare beneficiaries, especially those that have comorbid mental disorders and chronic medical conditions. The companion Senate bill is sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Rep. Kristi Noem was recognized Monday night at SLC with the 2016 Outstanding Leadership Award, given by the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) each year to a member of Congress who has worked to benefit professional psychology.

Do you know a member of Congress? Psychologists can advocate for our profession by building relationships with our legislators and telling our story. Do you have contact with your members of Congress? The APAPO key contact initiative seeks to identify these important relationships. If you have a connection and would be willing to contact him or her to advocate for psychology, please contact me or Chad Appel, JD, director of field and state operations. You also may call Appel at (202) 336-5620.

Use the Legislative Action Center: Through the Legislative Action Center, you can advocate for legislation that improves care for patients and promotes psychological services. Show colleagues how easy it is to send a message to their congressional representatives and encourage them to support mental health policy reform.