Besides being your Association President, I have been continuing to act as your Federal Advocacy Coordinator (FAC), connecting APA’s federal legislative advocacy efforts to you. Each March, a major undertaking for FACs is to coordinate and lead the state’s delegation to PLC during their legislative advocacy visits to legislators’ offices on Capitol Hill – a typical high moment of each Practice Leadership Conference. I wanted to share with you the WSPA legislative advocacy experiences during APA’s 2021 Practice Leadership Conference.
Due to COVID, this PLC was somewhat different than past years – but had many of the same learning and advocacy opportunities.
All of PLC was done virtually, so Hill visits this year were done via videoconferencing.
To combat Zoom fatigue, the 4-5 days conference was split into two; the first weekend focused on practice information, while the second weekend concentrated of legislative advocacy.
Being virtual, there were less costs – so we were able to have more people participate.
During the Advocacy Weekend, one day was designed to prepare advocates for their legislative office visits; while the second day was dedicated to the actual visits.
Often many of our office visits are with the legislator’s staff; and occasionally with the actual legislator. This year we met with staff from both of our senators, as well as 7 House of Representatives offices – including 2 House members; Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-06).
Phoukham Kelly Bounkeua, Ph.D. - Diversity Delegate
Julie Johnson-Sharrette, Psy.D. – LAC Co-Chair
Casey Ward, Psy.D. – LAC Chair
Samantha Slaughter, Psy.D. – DPA
Preparations for our Meetings:
A full day of training and preparation included: advocacy skills training, a briefing on the bills/issues we are advocating for, a presentation from retired legislators (past Senate Majority Leaders Trent Lott and Tom Daschle) concerning the current political climate and what makes an effective constituent office visit, viewing a role play of a Capitol Hill visit, and a time for our delegation to learn some specifics about the legislators we plan to visit.
Our Advocacy Areas:
APA prepared us to advocate in three areas having to do with health inequities and effects on psychological service delivery post-pandemic. The three advocacy areas were:
Asking to support the permanent expansion of audio-only services in Medicare; post-pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Medicare had many rules which limited Medicare recipients from access to telehealth services (had to live in “underserved” geographic areas, had to use telehealth services from a facility and have a provider at a facility, had to use audio and video synchronous technologies). During the pandemic, all of these rules were waived, and most, legislatively, permanently removed – all except the audio-only (telephone) services. We were asking legislators to support future legislation that would allow Medicare recipients (mostly seniors and children with disabilities) to have access to behavioral healthcare over the phone – as they are able to do now.
Asking to support or co-sponsor the Tele-Health Improvement Act (SB-660) which will require all insurers to continue to cover telehealth services for 90 days post-pandemic. Although Washington State has many laws supportive of telehealth; 64% of all WA health insurance plans are not regulated by Washington’s Insurance Commissioner. Once the U.S. President and Governor Inslee end the Public Health Emergency, insurers could immediately no longer offer telehealth coverage (WA laws state that if a health plan offers telehealth coverage it must pay at parity with in-person services but it can opt to not offer telehealth coverage). The Tele-Health Improvement Act ensures that all healthcare plans will continue telehealth coverage 90 days post-pandemic to allow providers to make referrals or arrangements for continuity of care if transitioning to in-person services are not feasible.
Asking to include $23 million in appropriations bills for the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program and $20.2 million for the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP). This is asking for a $4 million increase in each program to increase the diversity in the psychology workforce. The GPE program is the nation’s primary federal program dedicated to the interprofessional education and training of doctoral-level health service psychologists. Our state has one GPE grant at UW which is supporting integrated training for psychology doctoral students and expanding access to mental and behavioral health services for underserved populations in WA. The MFP aims to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health care outcomes for racial and ethnic populations. MFP supports training, mentoring, and career development for psychologists and other mental health professionals to provide culturally competent, mental and behavioral health services to diverse populations.
APA gathered about 400 advocates to participate in the Advocacy weekend. Over 250 Capitol Hill appointments were conducted. Many first time legislative advocates received advocacy training and valuable experiences with more seasoned advocates. Many new legislative advocates started the day anxious – unsure what to expect; but left confident and excited. Legislators and their staff heard from psychology.
Concerning our legislative areas – we were met with positive, pleasant staffers; but what has become of your legislative asks? That is yet to be seen. This is a start.
As your FAC I will be continuing to make contact with these offices. APA’s lobbyists will be coordinating with me as we continue to make contact, develop working relationships, and move forward for Psychology, and for the consumers of psychological services. That’s what legislative advocacy is all about.
I am pleased to provide you with my first report as your WSPA’s Council Representative to APA. To provide a bit more context to those of you who might be less familiar with this role, the Council of Representatives (COR) is the APA’s supreme legislative and oversight body. It speaks for APA’s members and affiliates on matters advancing psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting health, education, and human welfare. The Council is a large body with many other members, including 60 representatives from the State, Provincial, and Territorial Psychological Associations (SPTAs), as well as WSPA. I was appointed by WSPA’s Board of Trustees (BOT) to serve as WSPA’s APA Council Representative as of 1/1/21. My appointment replaced WSPA’s previously elected two-term Council Representative, Dr. Marta Miranda. There are no words to describe the depth, dedication, and impeccable quality of service that Dr. Miranda contributed during her tenure to this role. I am humbled to follow into her accomplished footsteps (and I owe her so much gratitude for the invaluable teaching and mentoring extended to me for the past 1.5 years in preparation for this role. Thank you!).
This past February was my first COR meeting representing WSPA/APA members. The following is a brief report of some of the most influential decisions that were voted on by Council. During the two-day meeting, Moving Psychology Forward, held virtually on February 26-27th, the Council voted to approve several important resolutions, including opposing gender identity change efforts (GICE), and another updated resolution on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), which reaffirmed APA’s opposition to using non-scientific approaches to portray same-gender and multiple-gender orientations as unhealthy. The COR also voted to approve two additional resolutions that reiterated APA’s condemnation of racism in all forms and reaffirmed the association’s commitment to work that protects human rights.
In another important milestone for the profession, the Council approved APA’s standards for accrediting master’s-level programs in health service psychology. This vote was preceded by several years of work, study, and public comment. It also provides an essential step toward ultimately responding to the public’s need for the highest-quality trained behavioral health providers in psychology at the master’s level. Next, the APA’s Commission on Accreditation (CoA) will work on developing specific procedures and regulations that will define what programs will be required to deliver in order to secure their APA accreditation.
I found my first COR experience to be energizing and thought-provoking. I appreciated the collegial atmosphere and all the efforts the more seasoned Council members extended to me as a new member to make me feel welcomed and well-informed about the Council’s procedures (which are understandably quite complex). I am proud to represent all of you in this role and look forward to another member report following the Council’s next meeting in August 2021.
APA Council Representative Dominika Breedlove, Psy.D.
2021 Practice Leadership Conference
Notes for the Practice of Psychology
This year, I attended the Practice Leadership Conference (PLC) virtually. While there were technical glitches, as you might expect when something is launched virtually for the first time, overall, the presentations and networking opportunities ran smoothly and efficiently. I did miss seeing my colleagues in person (as well as my family that I typically visit while I’m in DC), and also found the conference to be as enriching as ever.
Some of the presentations this year matched the events that have greatly impacted so many of us and our clients over the last 12 to 14 months. We learned about building and maintaining our cultural competence and the importance of paying attention now and in the future to the barriers to health equity brought to light by the pandemic. Telehealth was a large topic as well given how many of us are now practicing virtually, and it is seen as one of the ways to lower barriers to access to mental health care for underserved communities. Advocacy related to Medicare was also encouraged as Medicare policy and reimbursement rate changes often directly impact those of private payers and Medicaid. We saw this during the pandemic as private payers shifted to match Medicare policies around allowing for telehealth, especially audio-only services, and parity in rates to equal those of in-person services. Finally, there was also a presentation on digital mental health technology and the role the pandemic played as a catalyst in this emerging field. I learned a new term – “digital therapeutics” – and how they may increase in utilization as we move beyond the pandemic.
Other presentations focused less on current events and more on the future of practice. APA continues to stress ways to differentiate the doctoral degree in psychology from our colleagues with master’s degrees. The speakers emphasized the importance of psychologists defining the value and vision of psychology as a profession and working at the top of our scope of practice. While there are many among us who entered the field to become clinicians, I believe that 20 years from now, this will not be the primary role of psychologists. It is likely that we will be more focused on leadership and problem solving at the population level. In fact, when Arthur Evans, PhD (APA’s CEO) was asked about the future of psychology, he identified public policy, organizational leadership, and “work beyond the traditional” as roles psychologists can play. My interpretation of “work beyond the traditional” is a move away from direct clinical care provided in solo private practices.
I cannot predict what the future will bring any better than the Magic 8 Ball, but I can say that staying informed will help us be prepared for it. I am grateful for the opportunity to attend PLC every year and pass the information on to you.