President’s Message: April 2014

Ohio Leaders Take Psychology’s Message to Washington

AshtonBy: Kathleen Ashton, PhD, OPA President

Every March, leaders in psychology from around the U.S. converge in Washington, D.C. to make their voices heard and represent the interests of psychology at the American Psychological Association State Leadership Conference (APA SLC). APA SLC is a rich and exciting yet exhausting experience where leaders from around the country share ideas, stay up to date, and advocate for psychology with our nation’s leaders. I thought I’d share just a fraction of the many experiences to give our members a taste of what it’s like and input on how valuable of an investment the conference is for our association.

First of all, we had a terrific delegation this year. Delegates include our Executive Director, Michael Ranney; Director of Professional Affairs, Dr. Bobbie Celeste; Early Career Delegate, Dr. Katie Golden; Diversity Delegate, Dr. Wanda McEntyre; President, Dr. Kathleen Ashton; Presidents Elect, Dr. Peg Mosher; Federal Advocacy Coordinator, Dr. David Hayes; Public Education Campaign Coordinator: Dr. Todd Finnerty; Division FACs, Dr. Vanessa Jensen and Dr. Jim Mulick, and other APA office holders such as Dr. Louise Douce. The delegates are funded by APA, OPA, and their own personal funds. APA and the Committee of State Leaders organize programs to help state psychological associations bring back crucial information for their members, run their organizations better, and share information among the states. There is also a significant emphasis on federal advocacy.

The programs are really spot on and valuable. For example, I went to a program on alternative practice models that had great information about options from co-location to forming group practices to become preferred provider for ACOs that I will be able to pass on at the 2014 Convention. In addition, I went to a program on APA’s Governance Restructuring and was able to sit down with some of the major players at APA and ask for advice. Michael Ranney organized a schedule for us to make sure we covered all the different programs. This is no joke, I heard a few Ohio delegates note that they didn’t leave the hotel for 24 hours because the schedule was so packed! The information gathered will be disseminated in OPA publications, at Convention, and will help to inform strategic planning and programming for future OPA events.

One of the other great things about APA SLC is the ability to network with leaders from other states. For example, I had the opportunity to talk in depth to leaders from Washington and Georgia who have implemented structural change. I also heard some great ideas from other states; for example, Oklahoma has a “Psychologist of the Day” in their state legislature. The psychologist sits in and is available for questions; they also can keep their state psych association up to date on any interesting happenings.

There were many highlights from the meeting for Ohio. Certified Angus Beef, one of our state award winners, won one of the APA Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards. Senator Sherrod Brown was honored as a champion of psychology at the Awards Dinner. He gave a terrific speech, and we all got a chance to take a picture with him and chat. His health aide, Val, is a psychologist! Michael Ranney, David Hayes, and I got to sit on the dais at the head table with Norm Anderson, APA CEO, Katherine Nordal, and the APA President Nadine Kaslow. I was also honored to be elected to the Committee of State Leaders who helps to plan SLC (which I couldn’t have done without the support of our OPA delegation!).

Another highlight was representing Ohio at a black tie dinner for Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming. Senator Enzi is a mental health advocate. Many colleagues helped contribute funds to allow me to attend this event, where Senator Enzi sat down with each table to talk about our concerns as psychologists personally. Sen. Enzi sat next to me during dessert and I was able to discuss how helpful electronic records are to me in integrating with a medical staff and why they might be even more important to rural or small practices. He was charming and we also discussed the beautiful Jenny Lake in Wyoming that I remember from my childhood.

But the real highlight of APA SLC is when our state delegation takes our message to the Hill. We met with 19 Representatives and Senators’ offices and talked to them about why psychology matters in healthcare. The focus this year was on Medicare issues including reimbursement, physician definition, and incentives for medical health records. As we all know, even if you don’t work with Medicare patients, many private payors follow their lead and practices from all areas of psychology are affected by their policies. I personally met with my Representative’s health aide (Rep. David Joyce) along with Rep. Renacci’s, Rep. Boehner’s, and Sen. Brown’s offices. I think we made real progress on issues and there was a positive feel to all my visits.

I would like to also highlight how well Ohio is respected nationally at this meeting. Mentioning Ohio is like a magic button that opens doors for you among APA and other state leaders. I can’t tell you how many people said, “Of course I know Michael Ranney” or “We borrowed our policies from Ohio.” Sherrod Brown led off with noting our own Director of Professional Affairs, Dr. Bobbie Celeste! We are very lucky to have had strong leaders before us, but especially to have such strong leadership with our staff such as Michael and Bobbie.

Overall, State Leadership Conference was a great experience for me to meet other state association and APA leaders, share what we are doing in Ohio, and learn what others are doing to help the profession of psychology thrive. I left feeling energized (and exhausted), hopeful (and realistic that lots of work needs to be done), and proud (of the entire OPA delegation!). I hope we represented you and other psychologists well, and I hope we will be able to continue to send a strong delegation each year. I am grateful to all participants who gave up time with their family and from their work to be able to attend.

I hope we will be able to infuse the same excitement into our state advocacy work at the upcoming Legislative Day on May 21, and inspire each of you to develop relationships with your state and federal legislators to help influence change to support psychology.

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