In this issue

Advocacy Update

Highlights include the 7th Annual Science Leadership Conference and suicide prevention in military events

By Mark Greenwald and V. Vatsalya

From October 22-24, APA held its 7th Annual Science Leadership Conference (SciLC) in Washington, D.C. Eighty-three substance abuse research psychologists received training in science advocacy then flocked to Capitol Hill to meet with their home-state delegations of senators, representatives and health legislative staff to focus on substance abuse issues and federal science funding.

Geoff Mumford, Heather Kelly, Karen Studwell, and Pat Kobor of the APA Governmental Relations Office (GRO) led the conference. The theme of substance abuse, “Call to Advocacy: Psychological Science and Substance Abuse”, was carefully developed and was very well organized and executed. Also in attendance were APA’s CEO Norman Anderson, President Melba Vasquez, Executive Director for Science Steve Breckler, and members of the Board of Scientific Affairs. Scientists were selected by GRO based on several factors to represent not only a wide array of research and clinical expertise, but also geography (ranging across 34 states) and bipartisan political representation including key posts (e.g. appropriations).

After receiving background information, and engaging in interactive role-playing, feedback and encouragement, advocates were conditioned to deliver a few key points:

  • Support a 3.3% ($1.06 billion) increase in the FY 2012 NIH budget, consistent with the biomedical inflation rate;
  • Support level funding for FY 2012 budgets for Veterans Affairs research ($581 million) and the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program ($50 million); and
  • Defend peer-reviewed science by voting “no” on any amendment that would attempt to defund grants that have undergone rigorous, multi-stage scientific review.

One of the main take-away messages of the meeting is that advocacy is an important and natural extension of our shared scientific interest in dissemination of our work. Advocacy is part of our responsibility to “get the word out” about the great science that we conduct – not for our own selfish interests; rather, to sustain our profession as a whole and to benefit society.

I strongly encourage you to visit APA’s 2011 SciLC web site for more information, including important background materials that you can use to promote and defend the importance of the work we perform. Keep in mind that the APA GRO team is available to help you prepare for visits to Capitol Hill to meet with your representatives. Contact the department if you are contemplating a trip. As we learned this weekend, it’s not scary and actually pretty fun!

To stay informed of the actions of the Science GRO, visit their website.

To learn more about the history of the Science GRO advocacy efforts, please review their advocacy archive.

For monthly updates on the Science Government Relations Office, subscribe to the Science Policy Insider News (SPIN) newsletter.

Summary of Recent Events

1. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) held its first joint National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)-National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Advisory Council Meeting to discuss issues related to the proposed reorganization of substance use, abuse and addiction research at the NIH. On September 12, NIDA director Dr. Volkow and NIAAA Acting Director, Dr. Ken Warren provided overviews of NIDA and NIAAA research portfolios. The event webcast and achieve can be viewed online. As follow-up to the reorganization discussions from the preceding day, a working group comprised of members from each council is to be selected to begin a dialogue about the strategic planning activities, with the first meeting to take place before the end of the year 2011.

2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced on October 11th that it is awarding up to 29 new grants, totaling up to $25 million over three years, to expand the use of health information technology to increase access to behavioral health services. This program will leverage technology to improve access and coordination of the treatment of mental and substance use disorders especially for Americans in remote areas or in underserved populations. SAMHSA and the Bureau of Justice Assistance at U.S. Department of Justice announced 10 new grant awards on October 12th that address the need for substance abuse treatment services and other objectives, namely enhancing adult drug court services, coordination and treatment. For additional information about these grant mechanisms and other SAMHSA programs, please visit the Grant Announcements and Awards and Health Information Technology websites.

3. APA co-hosted events on suicide prevention in military and vet population in September. APA’s Public Interest (PI)-Government Relations Office’s (GRO) Dr. Elmore, Ben Vonachen and the University of Utah’s Dean for Social and Behavioral Science, Dr. Rudd, organized a working group meeting of a select group of national experts to identify “best practices” for the clinical management of suicide risk with military service members and veterans. The consensus meeting at APA’s headquarters included almost 40 participants from academia, Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs (VA), the NIH and a variety of veterans service organizations. The Science GRO’s Heather Kelly worked with PI-GRO staff on the final events of the week — two Capitol Hill briefings on September 14 designed to educate Members of Congress and their staff about the issue and how researchers and clinicians from government and academia are addressing the concern.

The executive committee of the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) coalition, of which APA is a member, met in September with budget examiners at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to stress the need for funding stability in Presidential budget requests. For Fiscal Year 2012, the President’s budget includes a dramatic cut to the VA research budget (which Congress may or may not restore), and both FOVA and APA are concerned about implications for ongoing research and the Administration’s commitment to the VA mission-focused research program.

As Congressional wrangling on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget continues, the Senate has weighed in with a proposed level of support for the National Science Foundation (NSF) far lower than the “flat” funding (equal to current Fiscal Year 2011) recommended by the House. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee cut NSF’s funding by $161 million for Fiscal Year 2012, to a total of $6.7 billion for NSF overall, compared with a current funding level of $6.9 billion. The APA Science GRO has already begun blogging about the federal budget and most recent activities about the ongoing budget deliberations can be accessed via the website.