5 psychologists returned to Congress

By John Thomas Associate Editor
November 1, 2004 - Last updated: May 31, 2011

For the second straight time, five psychologists will sit in Congress when the body convenes in January.

Tim Murphy, Ph.D., a Republican, of suburban Pittsburgh, was elected to a second term in a bowtie-shaped district in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Murphy, who started the Mental Health Caucus during his first term in office, handily defeated Democratic challenger Pittsburgh emergency room physician Mark Boles.

In addition to advocating for mental health issues in Congress, Murphy has been active in advancing legislation to help veterans. As the only member of the Pennsylvania delegation to serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Murphy has been instrumental in winning passage of an act that will for the first time provide concurrent receipt of retired military pay and VA disability compensation for combat-disabled veterans.

He has also supported legislation that increased monthly educational benefits for spouses and dependents of disabled veterans and sets aside $9 million for major medical projects in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

Brian Baird, Ph.D., was elected to his fourth term representing Southwest Washington. He bested his Republican opponent, retired Olympia firefighter and builder Tom Crowson.

While keeping an eye on Mt. Saint Helens, which is in his 3rd Congressional District, Baird has continued to obtain funding to halt the spread of methamphetamine throughout Southwest Washington. He announced in early October the award of $150,000 to train officers, improve communication technology and purchase new equipment in three counties in his district.

Baird is co-founder of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine.

Baird has also led measures to clarify congressional succession in the event of a terrorist attack incapacitating large number of U.S. representatives and more recently joined with others in an attempt to abolish the Electoral College. He has also worked to increase services to veterans in the Vancouver area.

He and U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, recently hosted a forum to educate members of Congress and their staffs about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other psychological and social challenges faced by many service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dianne Watson, Ed.D., of Los Angeles, was elected to her second full term, winning more than 90 percent of the vote against Libertarian Robert G. Weber. Watson was originally elected to Congress in a special election in 2001. She is a former school psychologist and state senator. During her three years in Congress, Watson has advocated several mental health initiatives and is a member of the Mental Health Caucus.

Earlier this year, she announced a $1 million Department of Justice grant to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, which is located in her 33rd Congressional District. She said the money will be used to provide comprehensive services to victims of trafficking in Los Angeles County.

“Trafficking of women and children is a growing problem throughout the world, and Los Angeles is the hub for these kinds of activities,” Watson said. “Despite the growing volume of trafficked persons in the United States, there is not one shelter for trafficked persons in the U.S. The grant money will be used to provide intensive case management to 30 new trafficked persons and to expand legal, housing, medical and social service programs.”

She has also fought to force the Department of Defense to increase its efforts to care for servicewomen and men who have been sexually assaulted.

Tom Osborne, Ph.D., of Lincoln, was elected to his third term in the sprawling 3rd Nebraska Congressional District, easily defeating Columbus hairdresser Donna Anderson, a Democrat.

Osborne gained attention of mental health advocates in September when he took a lead in advocating for legislation to build a comprehensive strategy addressing suicide, suicide prevention and mental and behavioral health problems in high schools and colleges.

The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act was introduced by Osborne this summer. The act, among other things, provides funding to colleges and universities to establish or enhance their focus on mental and behavioral health issues, such as suicide, depression and drug and alcohol abuse.

“Sadly,” Osborne told his Congressional colleagues, “suicide ranks as the third overall cause of death among youth between the ages of 10 and 24 and takes the lives of 4,000 children nationwide every years.”

The bill also established a federal Suicide Prevention Technical Assistance Center and screening programs to identify mental health and behavioral conditions that place youths at risk for suicide.

Ted Strickland, Ph.D., the first psychologist elected to Congress 12 years ago, was unopposed in his banana-shaped district that runs along the Ohio River from Portsmouth to Youngstown, Ohio.

Strickland has been the moving force in Congress to have federal funds allocated to create mental health courts established in many location throughout the United States. His most recent mental health courts bill contained $50 million for the next two years.

During his last four terms in Congress, Strickland has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he has fought to secure a meaningful prescription drug benefit under Medicare and to reform the managed care industry. He has also been an active member of the Congressional Steel Caucus and has fought to protect American industry and jobs from unfair competition.

During the current term, Strickland joined the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and as a member of that committee has advocated for full funding of promised veterans’ health programs.

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