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NHPA Leadership Advocating In Washington, DC

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!”

I just completed my first trip to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) newly renamed Practice Leadership Conference (PLC) in Washington, D.C and I am thrilled to report back to Psychologists and mental health providers across the state of New Hampshire.

For newcomers like me who have no idea what this means, this is an annual invited meeting for leadership of our state association, New Hampshire Psychological Association (NHPA). This year the NHPA delegation included: Leisl Bryant, PhD, ABPP (Executive Director), Craig Stenslie, PhD (President), Katie Robbins, PhD (Public Education Coordinator), Steve Atkins, PhD (Federal Advocacy Coordinator), Teresa Johnson, PhD (APA sponsored Early Career Psychologist delegate), and myself as President-Elect. The meeting is sponsored by the Practice Association arm of APA (APAPO) and is an opportunity to learn from other states in addition to focusing on education of upcoming issues related to practice and advocacy. It is a 3 day meeting that culminates in a trip to the Hill on the fourth day to meet with our representative and senators from New Hampshire!

This year we met with the offices of Senator Hassan, Senator Shaheen, Congresswoman Annie Custer, and Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter. Our message to these leaders on the Hill was two part:

• The first request pertains only to Psychologists where we asked them to cosponsor the “Medicare Mental Health Access Act” House bill: H.R. 1173- Noem/Schakowsky and Senate bill: S. 448- Brown/Collins which would include Psychologists in Medicare’s definition of Physician; ultimately removing a barrier to care that exists currently whereby in some settings Psychologists are required to be under the supervision of a physician creating an extra step for initiating care. There seems to be a lot of optimism about bipartisan support for this bill.

• The second part that we asked for affects all mental health providers. We asked that they not repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without replacing it with a law that ensures coverage for mental and behavioral health services (including substance abuse services) at parity.

It was a very inspiring experience to walk around Capitol Hill and see ordinary people like us meeting with their representatives to share their experience and knowledge base about issues that matter to them. I am learning that as the people who take care of patients and see what happens in our state every day, we have a responsibility to share information with our leaders that will prepare them for their advocacy.

At the state level there have already been some meaningful pieces of legislation happening: the bill to ban conversion therapy and the bill to grant transgender people’s rights to name a few, not to mention what will happen at the state level in the event that ACA is repealed. I can now see the critical importance of our attention and advocacy to issues related to our respective practices in the state; not just to protect our professions, but when applicable to protect our patients or to enhance their access to quality mental health care. In this time of uncertainty and likely repeal of ACA, much work will need to be done! My colleagues within our national organization are optimistic that this is a time of opportunity to both protect and promote our practice.

I believe that the easiest way to get involved is through our state association. NHPA is already tracking current legislation, preparing briefs, and sending members to testify. I can assure you that your interests, skill set, and enthusiasm to make a difference will be welcomed and needed in the upcoming year.

Within NHPA I recognize that much of our existing membership is comprised of psychologists in private practice, if this is the case, it is paramount that you recognize that these issues affect all psychologists regardless of your setting. I also want to make an appeal to our more experienced mental health providers, those who may be approaching retirement or are semi-retired. I have heard from these folks, “thank goodness that I am at end the end of my career” in response to the changing healthcare landscape. I assume that they intend to finish out their practice as they always have done, but I appeal to you to become involved, these issues are relevant to you not just as stewards of our professions but as you become new entrants to the Medicare system.

For NHPA members, I look forward to sharing ideas with you about where I would like to focus my energy next year as your President. For non- NHPA members, I strongly encourage you to join us during this year’s membership drive in the Spring.

• We have a new membership committee chair, Rebecca DeHass, PhD who joins us from Colorado and is now practicing in Dover. Some of you may be receiving calls from her or board members inquiring about joining. When you do, ask us questions about NHPA if you are on the fence; and more importantly, ask us about issues that are important to you so that we can work to add these to our agenda.

• We also have a new legislative committee chair this year, Shannon Bader, PhD who joins our state as the NH Chief Forensic Examiner. She is very engaged in and enthusiastic about the legislative process, and is always happy to hear from folks interested in getting involved to make a difference in NH.

• In addition to these new chairs, our board members, special advocate positions, and our executive director are all hard at work on behalf of our members and our profession. It is my extreme pleasure to be able to work with them and for you. I hope more of you will join us!

If you have read this far, thank you! I am definitely learning as I go, but one thing I have learned from this conference is that we need to venture out of our comfort zone and have the courage to speak up. If we don’t, others will, and their message may not be in the best interest of our patients or our practice.

“These are the people we elected and if we are not satisfied we should get new candidates. It is in our hands. It is our country. It is a very simplistic view that politicians are to blame for everything.”
-Robert Stanfield, former Conservative leader and Premier of Nova Scotia

Sincerely,
M. Chase Levesque, PsyD