Dear NHPA Members,
I am delighted to assume the role as your President for the 2017-2018 term. For those of you whom I have not met, I completed my training in New Hampshire under the expert guidance of Dr. Cassie Yackley, past program director of the Riverbend Community Mental Health Internship program, and with the mentorship and supervision of Dr. Bill Gunn and Dr. Warren Schwartz. I have been practicing in New Hampshire since 2008, working in primary care settings, and I currently practice within the primary care service line at Dartmouth Hitchcock Health System in Lebanon, NH. I have been a member of the Board of Directors for NHPA since 2012.
Initially, I found my involvement with NHPA to be a way to stay connected to our profession and my peers, which was of particular importance given that my work is so integrated into the medical culture. Over time, it has come to mean far more than the collegial relationships I had initially sought. Through my involvement in NHPA, I have come to appreciate the necessity of an overarching state organization in a number of issues related to our professional affairs; someone to tend the proverbial fire at the homestead while we are all out in our chosen fields of practice.
Through the countless efforts of many members, the work of our past president Dr. Craig Stenslie, and our decision to hire Dr. Leisl Bryant as Executive Director, our organization continues to stoke the home fire in ways that have created very tangible results. I’m happy to announce that our budget remained in the black this year – the first time in many years and no easy feat! There are a multitude of examples where we have been proactive in our efforts to educate and advocate; however, I will just share a few here:
- Many of you have seen the excellent work by the BHAC committee regarding issues related to reimbursement;
- The CE committee has worked to expand the planning cycle to a 2 year cycle, essential to creating more financial stability;
- And most recently, the NHPA statement released about Representative Fisher was an excellent demonstration of the advocacy efforts of our newly developed Women, Minorities, and Diverse Communities committee.
Not only are these very concrete achievements by our members, but they are all examples of the critical roles our organization plays across the state and across settings. The tremendous growth and forward movement we have seen over the past year would not be possible without both financial stability and stable leadership.
For the next year, I intend to set my focus on three broad areas: Education, Advocacy, and Legislation.
Education: This year we completed the enormous undertaking of completely overhauling our website. As a result, many of our internal processes will become easier, but this will also make it easier for us to disseminate information to both the public and to our membership. Our Public Relations committee regularly receives information disseminated from APA that we have yet to develop systems to share effectively. My hope for this year is that we will be able to make information more easily accessible through our website and social media.
Advocacy: Within advocacy there are many avenues. Certainly, I believe we have an ethical and professional responsibility to advocate for issues related to social justice and diversity. I also think it’s imperative that we protect and promote our practice. As the landscape for healthcare delivery changes, I believe that psychologists must support efforts to expand training opportunities across our state, become informed about new models of payment, and work to secure our place within new systems of care, so that we may continue to provide care to our communities rather than contribute further to existing disparities in care.
Legislation: Learning about the legislative process has been a new endeavor for me over the past year. For those of you who may be like me and have little knowledge of this area or feel intimidated by it, let me tell you- this is where the action is! It is amazing to me how one bill, with enough support, could drastically impact rights of entire populations. This is another area where NHPA absolutely needs to be involved. We have been fortunate to send a representative from NHPA to participate in monthly Mental Health Coalition meetings hosted by NASW, which brings together representatives from the five mental health guilds and a lobbyist, to review and discuss current legislation that may impact mental health in our state. I think there is great value in this coordinated approach, and I also think it will be important going forward to create a fund for our own lobbyist, should the need arise. There are many bills currently being brought before the legislature that we have testified on, Medicaid expansion is set to expire in 2018, and most notably, the message from APA during our national practice meeting in the Spring was that they expect much of the “replace” in “repeal and replace ACA” to be pushed down to the state level. If this is the case, we need to be prepared to have a presence, which means we need to start raising money for this now.
At this year’s annual Board of Directors retreat (coming up in September 2017) we will be developing ways to integrate these three themes in ways that are both visible and accessible to NHPA members and the public. Therefore, it is my sincere hope that as you read this, if there is an area that you are curious about, reach out to us and ask how you may become more engaged with our initiatives.
In closing, I was prompted recently by one of my patients to reflect on the importance of incorporating activities into one’s life that are meaningful and purposeful, “I want to leave my mark” he said and shared a recent outing with a volunteer group to repair a bridge for cyclists. He described the rewarding feeling associated with the sense of purpose involved in helping to create a lasting change for others to enjoy. As I reflected more on this sentiment after our session, I thought about the unending hours people pour into the things that they care about the most- taking care of a sick family member, mentoring students, attending rallies- and it occurred to me that most of the meaningful work that we do is not the work we are paid to do, but the work we choose to do because of our values and maybe because of our need to leave a mark in some small way.
So, I hope you will join me in my commitment to engage in the meaningful and purposeful work of NHPA in the coming year!
M. Chase Levesque, Psy.D.