New Legislative Advocacy Committee (LAC) hits the ground running.

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By: Shelley Mackaman, Ph.D. LAC member

Advocating for psychologists and for mental/behavioral health public policy issues in our state has been a primary mission of WSPA.  We work toward these goals in a variety of ways including engaging with partner organizations such as NAMI, contributing to political campaigns through our United Psychologists Political Action Committee (UP-PAC), collaborating with grassroots advocates who deliver the campaign contributions to our local candidates, and employing a professional lobbyist who guides us through state legislation that affects our profession.

These legislative and public policy efforts have historically been made in close consultation with our Director of Professional Affairs (DPA). With the transition in January to our new DPA, Dr. Samantha Slaughter, the WSPA Board felt it would benefit the association to restructure some of our legislative and public policy advocacy procedures so that WSPA members could participate and engage more personally in this important process.   

In late 2018, the Legislative Advocacy Committee (LAC), chaired by Dr. Casey Ward, was formed to allow for increased member involvement in our legislative and advocacy efforts.  With the LAC just days old, the 2019-2020 Washington State legislative session began.  With some guidance from our new Federal Advocacy Coordinator (FAC), Dr. David C. Wiesner, who comes to our state after many years of experience in legislative advocacy in North Carolina, the committee created a new process for identifying and responding to legislation. 

In consultation with our lobbyist, Leslie Emerick and new DPA, the LAC identified new legislation to be reviewed by committee members who then advised the WSPA Trustees to support, oppose, change language, or remain neutral regarding a specific bill.  Often this review had to occur quickly (sometimes by the next day) so that we could indicate our position then have our position heard at the various committees.  At times, LAC members were needed to be present in Olympia to testify in support or opposition to a bill.  So far, committee members Dr. Ward and our DPA, Dr. Slaughter, have testified to House and Senate committees in support or opposition to bills. And Dr. David C. Wiesner has met with his state senator on SB 5660.

Dr. Casey Ward Testifying on HB 1913 to the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee

The LAC has reviewed over 250 bills this legislative session and indicated our position on 176 bills.  Bills that WSPA has supported include increasing the vaping age to twenty-one and modifying the duty to protect/duty to warn requirements. WSPA has contributed to legislation on offering PTSD treatment to first responders and offered input on Governor Inslee’s comprehensive mental health reform recommendations for 2019. 

WSPA DPA Dr. Samantha Slaughter provides testimony
WSPA DPA Dr. Samantha Slaughter provides testimony on HB 1729 – Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Over the next few weeks, the LAC will closely monitor and advocate for the 121 bills the committee has reviewed as they advance from various House and Senate committees to be debated and voted on in the state House and Senate. 

At this brief pause in the process, we would like to invite any WSPA members who have an interest in legislative advocacy and public policy to join the LAC for the remainder of the legislative session that ends in late April. The committee meets weekly for 30-minutes by videoconference on Thursdays from 12:15 to 12:45 to review and discuss bills and consult with our lobbyist.

Our experience so far indicates our advocacy really does make a difference.  The better we are at identifying and supporting legislative issues important to our field, the greater our impact in our state and local communities. As they say, we are stronger together and in this year that has been called “the year of mental health,” joining the LAC can be very rewarding. To join the LAC or for more information please contact the committee chair Dr. Casey Ward at 360-970-5026 or send an email to: drcaseyward@gmail.com.

The LAC Committee currently consists of:

Casey Ward, Psy.D. – Chair
Shelley Mackaman, Ph.D.
David C. Wiesner, Ph.D.
Andy Benjamin,Ph.D., ABPP, J.D.
Julie Johnson Sharette, Psy.D, M.A.
Samantha Slaughter, Psy.D., ex officio