By: Samantha Slaughter, Psy.D. WSPA Federal Advocacy Coordinator
As your Federal Advocacy Coordinator, I am privileged to be a part of the team representing you at the American Psychological Association Practice Organization’s annual Practice Leadership Conference. For those of you unfamiliar with the APAPO (PO stands for Practice Organization), it was established in 2001 to work alongside the American Psychological Association (APA) with the distinct focus of advocacy for the practice community. APA currently cannot participate in advocacy work due to rules set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for 501(c)(3) organizations. This makes the Practice Organization, a 501(c)(6) organization, a valuable ally to psychologists who are practicing clinicians. The APA focuses on the subject of psychology while the Practice Organization focuses on the practice of psychologists. To do this, the Practice Organization stays informed about national issues affecting the practice of psychologists and helps states in state-specific advocacy issues. However, if you are a member of either organization, you are likely aware that changes are coming. APA and the Practice Organization are merging to improve advocacy efforts. APA members will be able to log in and view workgroup updates of the expanded APA Advocacy Model.
For this year’s Practice Leadership Conference, the theme was “Advancing Practice Together.” Topics included, but were not limited to, the current political climate, clinical practice guidelines, the opioid crisis, outcome measures, prescribing authority, working with military and veteran populations, collaborating with other organizations, and more. In addition to presentations and workshops, the Practice Leadership Conference culminates in visits with our Senators and Representatives in Congress. This year’s focus was prevention of changes to Medicaid that would reduce coverage, TRICARE, and bills in the House and Senate that would include psychologists in the “physician” definition used by Medicare. We visited all offices and spoke with various legislative assistants (LAs) about these topics.
As of the writing of this article, we have two Representative cosponsoring the bill to add psychologists to the group of practitioners included in the definition of “physician” by Medicare (HR 1173). Representative Derek Kilmer, D-6th District, continues his cosponsorship of this bill, and we added Representative Pramila Jayapal, D-7th District, after our lobbying effort. Advocacy works! We have lobbied about this issue every year of my participation in PLC. It is important for our psychologist colleagues in hospitals and other medical institutions because not being a part of the definition means they must be supervised by a physician, resulting in notes needing to be signed by a physician and being unable to work independently even though our license allows us to do so. In addition, not being included in the definition means that our jobs at such facilities are unprotected and are therefore some of the first on the chopping block when cuts have to be made. Many of our colleagues in our state hospitals have lost their jobs because of this. Also, and most importantly, no state hospital psychologists equals no one providing behavioral health treatment to patients with dementia who make up the largest number of residents in our state hospitals.
You can read more and see the progress on all these bills by searching for them at https://www.congress.gov/. Want to let your Congressperson know your thoughts or that you want her or him to support these bills? Find your Congressperson’s contact information here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members.
Overall, and as usual, PLC left me exhausted and energized at the same time. It has been a pleasure serving as your Federal Advocacy Coordinator for the last seven years. As always, please feel free to email me any questions you may have about the conference or our advocacy efforts at the national level – SamanthaSlaughterPsyD@gmail.com.
Samantha Slaughter, Psy.D.
WSPA Federal Advocacy Coordinator