Public Policy

APA Public Interest Government Relations Office update

Updates on recent legislative action regarding youth violence prevention, K-12 education, juvenile justice and delinquency and immigrant children and their families.

By Amalia Corby-Edwards
APA and Partners Advocate for Comprehensive Youth Violence Prevention

In March, the APA Public Interest Government Relations Office (PI-GRO) hosted key violence prevention partners and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials for the annual in-person meeting of the STRYVE Action Council. STRYVE (Strategies to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere) provides a forum for national organizations to network and share their violence prevention priorities. PI-GRO staff also facilitated the first STRYVE Action Council Hill Day, taking members to Capitol Hill to educate congressional staff on the different federal programs funding this work and to showcase the positive results they have seen.

K-12 Education

In December, Congress passed comprehensive education legislation, replacing the controversial No Child Left Behind law. First authored in 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was designed to address educational equity in K-12 school districts. The APA Education Government Relations Office was engaged in this discussion and provided recommendations to both the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions as well as the House Education and the Workforce Committee. APA's recommendations draw on psychological science research to inform education policy with the goal of creating better opportunities for learning and achievement for all students.

Juvenile Justice

Advocates continue to work to secure a vote on the Senate floor for S. 1169, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2015. This bill would reauthorize the main law guiding the federal investment in the nation's juvenile justice systems, which officially expired in 2007 and has been extended in its current form since that time. The legislation includes an APA priority to help ensure professionals providing mental health assessments to justice-involved youth are licensed or certified in the applicable state. APA will continue to work with partner organizations and coalitions to advance S. 1169 through the Senate.

APA has continued its efforts to reduce or eliminate juvenile solitary confinement in federal facilities. Juvenile solitary confinement is a practice in which juveniles are isolated in a cell, sometimes for days or even weeks, associated with harmful consequences for both mental and physical health. PI-GRO sent a letter of support for the Maintaining Dignity and Eliminating Unnecessary Restrictive Confinement of Youths (MERCY) Act (S. 1965) in the Senate and for the Protecting Youth From Solitary Confinement Act (H.R. 4124) in the House of Representatives. The MERCY Act was incorporated into the Senate's prison reform bill, which passed the Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support.

Immigration and Native American Health Disparities

In January, APA sent a letter to President Obama expressing concerns about the Department of Homeland Security's recent deportations of Central American children and their parents. Deportation of Central American children and families can have an adverse impact on the mental health of immigrants. Additionally, PI-GRO held two briefings on Capitol Hill in March. One briefing addressed the issues of prejudice and fear as it relates to immigration reform and the impact on children and families. The other briefing, sponsored by Congressman Ben Lujan, addressed Native American youth suicide prevention.