Morgan T. Sammons, PhD, ABPP

sammons-website-125x157It’s been an odd spring in our nation’s capital. Following a very mild winter, our only significant snowstorm bore down upon us in early March, bringing drifts and several days of freezing temperatures. Unfortunately, our famous cherry blossoms had been encouraged by the abnormally warm winter to pop out a bit early and were literally nipped in the bud, disappointing those who make the annual pilgrimage to the Tidal Basin. But we’ve had lots of other things going on to keep us busy.

For example, last week the state of Idaho became the fifth state to allow appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medication. The signing into law of HO 592 represents the culmination of years of advocacy initiatives by Idaho psychologists, led by Drs. Sue Farber and Page Haviland. Mental health provider shortages are endemic. A glance at the mental health provider shortage area map provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration shows that much of the United States is challenged by such shortages. These deficiencies are particularly acute in rural states like Idaho. The hardships in accessing quality care faced by Idaho residents who require psychotropic medication will be considerably eased by signing the bill into law—an explicit recognition of the capability of the profession to ameliorate mental health provider shortages.

Idaho now joins New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois and Iowa, alongside the territory of Guam, the Department of Defense and the Indian Health Service in allowing appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe. As an Oregon licensed psychologist and former military prescriber, I was recently invited to testify on behalf of the Oregon Psychological Association, whose initiatives to pursue prescriptive authority legislation are being spearheaded by Drs. Lynnea Pingelly, Robin Henderson, Ryan Dix and their team. Particularly moving was testimony submitted by Dr. Caroline Ellis, a psychologist in a small coastal town of 2,000. Her patients must travel long distances to seek psychiatric consultation, a burden that would be significantly ameliorated if she were able to judiciously employ psychotropic medications. As one who has been actively involved in the prescriptive authority movement for many years, I can personally attest to the level of dedication, perseverance and commitment required to successfully pass legislation. Some psychologists may have mixed feelings about prescriptive authority. It is very hard, however, to deny that successful advocacy initiatives leading to an expansion of psychologists’ scope of practice is a great benefit to the entire profession, not just for those who are trained to administer psychotropic medications.

I have also had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Arthur Evans, the incoming CEO of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Evans comes to APA after directing all mental health services for the city of Philadelphia. Prior to that, he was deputy director of mental health for the state of Connecticut. His vision of an engaged, outward focused practice association that is firmly rooted in science is sound. His mission of expanding awareness of APA with both policymakers and the public is equally worthwhile, and will serve as a welcome direction for an association that has recently become over-preoccupied with internal struggles. Dr. Evans has already gained the respect of APA insiders and the reputation as a take-charge leader. The Register welcomes the opportunity to assist Dr. Evans in achieving his goals for APA and the profession.

Speaking of APA, the Register is pleased to serve as a sponsor of the upcoming annual APA convention here in Washington, DC. Due to our work with the Committee on Early Career Psychologists (CECP), under the leadership of immediate past chair Registrant Dr. Julie Radico, we are able to fund six travel scholarships for ECPs to attend the annual convention. CECP has also agreed to formalize a liaison relationship with us, and will be sending a representative, Registrant Dr. Robyn Gobin, to our upcoming Board of Directors meeting in June. We thank the Committee, Dr. Radico, and APA staff member Dr. Eddy Ameen for including us in their planning. ECPs are by definition the future of the profession, and we are proud to support their initiatives.

In other arenas, Registrants continue to make news. Registrant Dr. Neftali Serrano, a renowned expert on integrated care and a featured presenter in the Register’s recent Integrated Healthcare Training Series, has been named the Executive Director of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association (CFHA). Nef brings tremendous expertise to CFHA, an interdisciplinary organization that provides a home for psychologists, physicians, and other healthcare providers interested in furthering integrated care initiatives. Although the American Health Care Act did not advance in the Congress (see last month’s column), I will predict that many of its components, such as substantial cuts to the Medicaid budget, will shortly be resurrected. How we will address the increasing demand for mental health services in the face of funding and infrastructure cuts will become an increasingly urgent problem. Entities such as CFHA that push to advance integrated care solutions are likely to be key players in helping to address this problem, so Nef’s leadership at this time is particularly welcome. Health service psychologists have vital roles to play in integrated care.

On this note, please be on the lookout for the spring issue of the Register Report, which will be arriving in your mailbox soon. Although the new issue of the Report will look like the periodical you all know and love, I am very pleased to announce that we’ve made some substantial changes. First of all, we have a new title, The Register Report: The Journal of Health Service Psychology. This title change reflects the increasing importance of health service psychologists in delivering care to our population. It also signifies a major shift in the Report—it will now be a peer-reviewed publication. This will expand the reach of the Report, along with the quality of the articles it contains. Fear not: the Report will, as always, continue to publish only applied articles of interest to our Registrants, and you will continue to be able to gain free CE credits by reading the included articles. The Journal of Health Service Psychology will be unique among psychology journals in that our focus will be exclusively on translational clinical research of immediate pertinence to practitioners. In other words, if the reader cannot immediately apply what they’ve read directly into an assessment or therapy session, we will not publish it. Our lineup of articles is strong, and includes a piece on the ethics of consultation as well as several articles on providing assessments in high risk situations.

Those psychologists who are located in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area (the “DMV” to us locals), are invited to join the Register as we participate in this year’s March for Science, which will kick off at 10:00am on Saturday, April 22, on the grounds of the Washington Monument. APA is participating, as is the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in whose building the Register is conveniently located. Those driving to the march can park at RFK Stadium, where transportation will be provided to the Washington Monument grounds. If you are coming to Washington, DC, for the march, for convention, or just for a visit, please let me know and we will arrange for a tour of our offices and the opportunity to meet our hardworking staff. We would love to see you, so please drop in.