Psychology board survives another Schwarzenegger assault

By Richard E. Gill Assistant Editor
March 1, 2009



Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried once again to eliminate the independent California Board of Psychology (BOP) in his 2009 budget proposal by combining it with a generic mental health board.

But when negotiations with the legislature ended in Schwarzenegger’s signing a bundle of 34 money-saving bills in February, the psychology board remained intact.

“At this point in time we are still an independent board,” Jeffrey Thomas, assistant executive officer of the board, told The National Psychologist. “That is not to say that some other legislation might not come along and change that.”

Thomas said the board had been watching the legislation and there was nothing in the budget package by late February that would change the way the board operates.

The governor earlier argued that doing away with the board would save money in the general fund toward offsetting a projected $16 billion budget deficit.

“That’s simply not true,” said Jo Linder-Crow, executive director of the California Psychological Association (CPA). “The board is fully funded through a special fund collected from license applications and examination fees, which come from psychologists. There is no taxpayer money involved,” she insisted.

“Apparently the governor is unaware the board does not cost any state funds.” Linder-Crow said the attempt did not seem to be directed at the BOP alone because a host of other boards would have been lumped under the Board of Behavioral Science (BBS) that would eventually become part of an umbrella organization called the Mental Health Board.

She said Schwarzenegger called it “blowing up the boxes” in combining the boards, but all he would have accomplished is placing psychologists under a board that knows little about the needs or qualifications of doctoral-level psychologists.

The governor made a similar proposal four years ago but relented under intense pressure.

Linder-Crow said the CPA again is throwing the full weight of it membership against the move this year. She hopes all of California’s 17,000 psychologists will join CPA in a united front, if for no other reason than the efforts CPA undertakes on their behalf. “Numbers mean power,” she said.

The issue, she said, was time sensitive. The budget had been presented to the legislature and could have been voted on anytime. It was approved Feb. 19.

“We were really serious about this,” she said. “We didn’t want to be lumped into a board that knows very little about psychology. We just became part of the governor’s proposal to save money.”

The three main reasons for not joining a conglomerate of boards are:

  1. It would not save the state any money;
  2. The move would have confused consumers; and
  3. It would erode the distinction between psychology and other mental health counselors.

At this point, the BBS grants licenses to marriage and family therapists, social workers and educational psychologists but has no power to regulate practicing psychologists.

“The basic argument is that we do not want the licensing authority for doctoral-level psychologists to be merged with a generic health board that will include psychiatric technicians, an entry level profession,” she said.

“That was the most important thing in our perspective because psychologists are different, they are trained differently and we need to maintain an independent Board of Psychology in order to protect the discipline of psychology.”

The CPA sent out 17,000 pink postcards that outlined the issue and asked psychologists to join in the battle. Postcards also were sent to graduate student members.

The CPA wanted to make it clear that not all psychologists provide direct mental health services. Some work with businesses and corporations. They are licensed as psychologists and want to keep that distinction. The CPA said psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses were excluded from the proposition.

Linder-Crow said she thinks the governor is unaware of the distinction and significance of psychology, but if not, he should be.

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