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Cherish your human connections

Practice Leadership Conference a highlight of DeLeon's year

By Patrick H. DeLeon, PhD

Patrick DeLeonThe APA Practice Organization Annual State Leadership Conference – this year renamed the Practice Leadership Conference (PLC) – is always one of the highlights of my year. Dan Abrahamson and Susie Lazaroff did an outstanding job. Over 400 enthusiastic colleagues convened in our nation's capital for the 34th conference; highlighted by the Monday evening recognition of Congressman Tim Murphy's landmark efforts on behalf of our nation's mental health and substance abuse initiatives. APA President Tony Puente and President-Elect Jessica Henderson Daniel were ever-present, with Tony envisioning the rebirth of APA as he actively engaged with numerous graduate students and early career psychologists (ECP). The plenary session, featuring former congressional and administration operatives, entitled, “Inside the White House and the 2017 Political Landscape” provided fascinating insights into the current political dynamics and an intimate sense of the perhaps unprecedented changes evolving.

The landscape for professional practice is definitely changing: How one will get reimbursed for providing care; the challenges and opportunities of integrated health care; the advent of technology – social media and telehealth – with the need for licensure mobility; and addressing the culture of business, law and medicine. Katherine Nordal's challenge for psychology, “to appreciate the importance of being at the table” was most timely. She conceptualized promoting psychologists by advancing the trade of professional psychology – truly a new message for a number of our colleagues – and by contributing to our political action committee (PAC). Today, the psychology PAC ranks 44th among 129 health professional PACs, with dentistry, medicine, optometry, nursing, physical therapy, podiatry, social work, and psychiatry significantly ahead of us. The key to our long-term survival as an autonomous profession is – and always has been – visionary leadership within our state associations.

During President Donald Trump's inaugural address at the joint session of Congress, he offered a vision for America in which, “the time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines – creating a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring cost way down and provide for better care.” Those who have been involved in earlier state association legislation will recall the heroic efforts of former APA Presidents Nick Cummings and Jack Wiggins in the 1970s and ‘80s to enact “Freedom of Choice” legislation that ensured that psychological services would be readily available to patients. President Trump further noted: “We should help Americans purchase their own coverage…but it must be the plan they want, not the plan forced on them by the government. We should give our great state governors the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid to make sure no one is left out.”

With flexibility comes the potential for eliminating a wide range of previously mandated health benefits, including those for mental health and substance abuse. Not surprisingly, the GOP-crafted health care legislation to “repeal and replace Obamacare” proposed that beginning in 2020, their plan would eliminate the mandate that Medicaid cover basic mental health and addiction services in those states that expanded their plan – adversely impacting 1.3 million Americans. Their initial effort begins with Medicaid with further legislative proposals anticipated later on this Congress. Theoretically, as psychology becomes more intimately integrated within the nation's overall health care system – as has been increasing the case within the public sector especially within the U. S. Departments of veterans affairs and defense – there will be little need for mandating our services. However, if psychology is not at the table as Katherine urges, “we may be on the menu.”

“Your relationships with friends and family.”