APA Convention – Budget woes occupy Council deliberations

By Josephine D. Johnson, Ph.D.
September 1, 2009



Toronto – Tight budget considerations prompted by recession-related reductions in investment income prompted the APA’s Council of Representatives to spend much of its time in August sessions addressing dollar-and-cents issues.

According to an article in ModernHealthcare.com posted May 4, 2009, after piloting the RAC program in several states, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) believes it will cut down on fraud and save the government money.

Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., chief executive officer of APA, described the August 2009 Council meeting in Toronto as one of the three “most important Council meetings in the history of APA.”

Indeed there were decisions of note ranging from global climate change to sexual orientation change; from preserving the past to underwriting the future of psychology. But much of the angst for both governance and staff members was associated with the ongoing financial crisis.

Efforts to balance the budget have included reductions in staff and cancellation of governance meetings. Some programs are being eliminated, including funding for the Commission on Ethnic Minority Recruitment Retention and Training Implementation Grant Fund in the amount of $100,000. Fall 2009 Consolidated Meetings have been called off and the same is projected for 2010. Cancellation of the fall consolidated meetings will pause governance activities that would have taken place to prepare for, hold and follow up on the fall meetings.

The budget was handled in a novel manner. APA bylaws do not require that a projected budget be approved at the August meeting. Chief Finance Officer Archie Turner proposed a new reporting process calling for presentation of the 2010 budget at the February 2010 meeting because important data affecting the budget are not available until the fall.

The focus is on creating a balanced budget for 2009 as required by debt covenants. Council voted to approve new spending reductions totaling $70,800 for 2009 and $148,800 for 2010. Prior cuts carried forward to 2010 total $1,346,000. The 2010 revenue projection is $111.1 million.

Budget considerations also figured into the item proposing a reduction in the number of years for which new members can benefit from additional levels in the dues step-up program. The current plan extends the ramp up over an eight-year period. The proposal is to shorten that to six years by making smaller increases early and larger increases in the fifth and sixth year.

Several groups opposed the item, particularly the Committee on Early Career psychologists, who expressed concerns that the change might have a chilling effect on retention. The vote was postponed until February since the change would not become effective until 2011 and to allow time to determine the effect on the budget.

In August 2008, a new business item called for the establishment of a task force to study whether APA should continue as a 501(c)3, change to a 501(c)6 or a combination of both. A change in status would reduce the tax benefits but give the association greater flexibility on advocacy, lobbying and other political activities.

The Policy and Planning Board and the Finance Committee reviewed the item and recommended substitute motions calling for the CEO to explore alternative legal and financial models in the context of the ongoing strategic planning. The mover and only speaker to the issue, Ron Fox, Ph.D., representing Div. 42, Psychologists in Independent Practice, stated that the item had not had any input from Practice. Council approved his motion that the item be referred to a time certain for review and input from the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Psychology (CAPP) before the February meeting.

In another matter, the Council overwhelmingly approved a proposal authorizing the APA to designate approved postdoctoral education and training programs in Psychopharmacology under guidelines developed by a joint task force of the Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) and CAPP. The measure outlines policies, procedures, criteria and the application process.

The fee for application/renewal is $1,500 followed by annual fees of $250. Supporters are eager to move forward on an accreditation process to recognize psychopharmacology as a specialization, but that remains a goal in the stepwise process.

No action was taken to further address the petition resolution prohibiting psychologists from working in national security detention centers but the Ethics Committee was directed to complete a review of problematic phrasing in the Ethics Code – “in keeping with principles of basic human rights” – which is in the introduction but absent from Standards 1.02 and 1.03.

The committee is directed to propose language for adoption at the February meeting of Council to assure that the standards can never be used as justification or defense for violating human rights.

The action was approved nearly unanimously with the support of the board of directors, military psychologists and peace psychologists, among others. APA’s record on condemning torture dating from 1985 through the present can be found at www.apa.org/releases/timeline.html.

The budget crisis has evoked both denials and accusations of protecting “sacred cows,” but perhaps none as surprisingly passionate as the discussion around funding for the Archives of the History of American Psychology at Akron University in Ohio.

Those speaking against cutting the archives’ funding cited concern about psychology’s commitment to preserving its own history. Supporters of the cuts expressed the need to be even-handed in wielding the budget ax.

A motion ultimately was approved to reduce annual funding from $60,000 to $20,000 beginning in 2010. Council must re-authorize the continuation and the amount of the annual contributions every three years beginning with 2011.

The APA Task Force on the Revision of the Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists submitted an update. The task force solicited a second round of public comment from March 5 to June 5 and reviews by boards and committees and the March Consolidated Meetings.

More than 20,000 comments were received, most related to the primary point of controversy – the proposal to eliminate the exemption to licensure of the title “school psychologist.” The task force continues to seek resolution of the controversial issues and hopes to finalize the revision and return to Council in February.

Psychology has taken advantage of an unprecedented opportunity to contribute to the revision of the Mental Health chapter of the International Classification of Disease and Related Disorders (ICD). For the first time, a psychologist, Geoffrey Reed, Ph.D., is the World Health Organization’s senior project officer overseeing the revision of Chapter V: Mental and Behavioral Disorders of the ICD. Reed also coordinates and directs the work of the Advisory Group and is seeking APA’s input in identifying psychologists (especially from regions other than Europe and North America) to serve on technical groups.

He presented a program on the research to investigate potential changes to the ICD to determine whether they lead to improvements in access to care and clinical outcomes. APA continues to support psychology’s involvement through a contractual agreement with the International Union of Psychological Science through 2012 with annual reviews by APA’s board of directors..

During a council lunch and later in a workshop, APA President, James Bray, Ph.D., gave an update on his “Future of Psychology Practice Summit” held in San Antonio in May. The Summit’s goal was to engage the broader practice community (along with futurists, health economists, experts in marketing and others) in dialogues to inform the work of the APA Practice Directorate and Practice Organization.

The Summit concluded that to thrive in the future, psychologists will need to redefine training and take advantage of new, non-traditional psychotherapy practice opportunities, partner with primary care physicians and nurses, demonstrate accountability and highlight expertise in health promotion and prevention of chronic health problems. The next steps will address change from within APA via the strategic planning process.

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Josephine D. Johnson, Ph.D., is a council representative from Division. 42, a member of the APA Membership Board and Michigan’s Federal Advocacy Coordinator. She has a full-time independent practice in Livonia, Mich., is a consultant to community mental health and residential treatment facilities and provides clinical supervision. Her e-mail is: drjojohnson@earthlink.net.

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