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Becoming a Psychology Advocate!

Becoming a Psychology Advocate

Submitted by Melanie Arpaio, Eastern Region VP

     As a member of the national council for Psi Beta, I was privileged to be chosen as our delegate to attend the 2011 session of an annual conference sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA). The Education Directorate of APA held its 10th anniversary meeting of the Education Leadership Conference at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC from September 10th to 13th, 2011. The theme of this year’s conference was Interdisciplinary and Interprofessional Practice: Teaching, Research and Practice.

     The first two days included session from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. on a variety of topics involving interdisciplinary research (team science) and interprofessional practice. With speakers from the medical, legal, educational, and clinical psychology fields of practice, we openly discussed the concept of team science – collaborative research and educational partnerships with behavioral science and our history of research as the cornerstone. Participants were reminded of what we often seem to forget, that no scientific endeavor would be complete without the input of trained psychologists to work on handling those sometimes messy, but always-rewarding “human factors.”

     The second day closed with a focus on how psychologists can help in community health centers, providing well-rounded care for medical patients. Did you know that when a depressed patient with heart disease is seeking treatment for their heart condition, the cost is cut in half if they are also being treated for their depression? We did not all realize this important link between treating the mind and treating the body. Holistic care, especially in federally funded community health centers where the clientele often does not have transportation or financial resources to seek out several types of treatment modalities in separate locations, is of vast importance.

As we rounded into the third day, we received training as Psychology Advocates, made ready to face our Senators and Representatives with confidence. We all attended for the purpose of going to “the hill” to advocate for the federally funded Graduate Psychology Education Program (GPE). GPE is the primary mechanism by which graduate clinical psychology students are provided with stipends so that they can do their supervised training in places that represent underserved populations, such as community health centers. GPE grants are a necessary part of the process in order to give the community health center patients the level of care they deserve.

I quote from a handout given at the conference:

Currently there are around 360 psychologists working in approximately 8,000 health center sites, treating approximately 404,989 of the almost 20 million patients seen annually. With approximately 3,471 psychology doctorates awarded in 2009, there are insufficient numbers of psychologists available to meet the growing needs in these underserved communities. Our nation must prepare a workforce that is competent to address the behavioral and mental health problems in these underserved communities.

Our group concluded on our last day with visits to our own state senators and representatives in Congress. We met with staffers, legal counsel, and the members of Congress themselves. Our mission was to advocate for the protection of GPE funding in the next budget, and to ask for funding at the highest level possible. On both sides of the aisle we were met with positive feedback and enthusiasm. With our current budget debacle in our nation and with severe cutbacks imminent, it is our role as professional educational psychologists to advocate for those we serve.

If any Psi Beta advisors or members would like information about collaborative team science or instructions on how to effectively advocate for this funding, please feel free to contact me at 973-300-2146 or by e-mail to marpaio@sussex.edu [1]. It is my fond hope to be allowed to attend the ELC again soon, if not next year, to continue with my newly found advocacy efforts!

by Melanie Arpaio, Eastern Region VP


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[1] marpaio@sussex.edu: mailto:marpaio@sussex.edu

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