APA State Leadership Conference (SLC) Recap

I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend the annual APA State Leadership Conference (SLC) in Washington, D.C. as the Early Career Psychologist (ECP) delegate from Minnesota March 14-17, 2015. The theme this year was “Practice Innovation.” The keynote speaker, Jason Hwang, MC, described his idea of disruptive innovation and its impact on the health care field. He provided a different perspective on the changes we have been, and will continue to, experience.

As the ECP delegate, I attended programs that focused on increasing the participation of early career psychologists in their State, Provincial and Territorial Associations (SPTA), particularly in leadership roles. I was able to exchange ideas with other ECP delegates from other states that have experienced similar difficulties.

Recap of the Conference:

I arrived early Friday morning and had the opportunity to explore D.C., as it was my first time visiting. After touring the National Mall, my conference experience began with dinner with the other ECP delegates.

Beginning bright and early on Saturday morning, I attended an orientation for all of the SPTA president-elects and the ECP and Diversity delegates which explained the various levels of the organization. Next, I attended the ECP delegate orientation which included engaging discussions about the importance of ECP involvement in both their SPTAs and APA.

Suggestions for recruiting more ECPs into MPA included:

  • Create a licensure manual to help guide ECPs through the licensure process and answer frequently asked questions.
  • Create a mentorship program.
    • Including “low maintenance” mentoring in which ECPs can contact mentors via email or text messages with questions.
  • Provide more opportunities for involvement.
  • Host informal social gatherings.
  • Provide opportunities to engage in community service projects.

On Saturday evening I attended a keynote address by Betsy Myers, a leadership expert and former executive director of Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. She engaged the audience with a discussion about the changing nature of leadership and the characteristics that enable individuals to motivate, inspire, and guide others. The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award (PWHA) ceremony followed her dynamic presentation. A Minnesota company, Beehive PR, was awarded the PHWA for the Small For-Profit Business category. It was wonderful to hear about work environments that go above and beyond to provide employees with a psychologically healthy workplace, especially one right here in Minnesota!

On Sunday morning, Ann Compton, former White House correspondent for ABC News, talked about the current political landscape and its implications for advocacy and policymaking to energize the audience for their upcoming visits to Capitol Hill. This was followed by break-out sessions in which I attended presentations about integrated primary care and methods of recruiting and retaining new members to SPTAs. Both sessions were provided by knowledgeable and engaged presenters.

Monday morning, we were entertained with Andy Goodman’s plenary presentation about how the emotional connection made through storytelling helps others connect with you and remember what you were trying to say. He provided us with examples and strategies to help with our visits to Capitol Hill! The American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) presented the Outstanding Leadership Award at a banquet that evening. This year they honored Senator Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota, in recognition of her continuous support for psychologists.

Tuesday was the day for which we had been preparing! Bright and early, we headed to Capitol Hill to meet with various senate representatives from Minnesota to discuss four keys issues:

  1. Repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Formula. The SGR will result in a 21% reduction in payment from Medicare for psychologists starting on 4/1/15. Over the past two years, APA’s lobbying efforts have generated the votes to stop this bill.
  2. The Medicare Mental Health Access Act. Right now psychologists must be supervised by a “Physician” in medical facilities which restricts client access to care. We proposed to include psychologists in the definition of “Physician” so that psychologists could provide care without burdening physicians and provide more access to care.
  3. Electronic Health Records Initiatives. The HITECH bill offers financial incentives for the implementation of EHR for physicians. We proposed that psychologists are added to receive financial incentives as well.
  4. The Medicare Payment Formula. Payments to psychologists have been decreasing over the past 23 years. The reimbursement formula must be redesigned to stop the reimbursement decline. This creates an access to care issue and, furthermore, many providers are refusing to see Medicare clients due to the low reimbursement rates.

The representatives and representative assistants we were able to meet with appeared to be open and receptive to what we wanted to discuss; many of them indicating they would like to see resolutions to these issues as well. On April 14 the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Repeal of the SGR formula! It was re-energizing to see a positive response from our lobbying.

Takeaways from the Conference:

  1. One of the main highlights from the SLC was the fact that APA altered the definition of an ECP to include professionals up to ten years post graduation.
  2. We need to listen to what ECPs are looking to get from MPA.
  3. ECPs should be more involved in MPA activities and committees.
  4. Although it may take time, lobbying efforts are needed and can actually make a difference!

Heidi Woodland, Psy.D., is a Psychology Resident and has a therapy practice at River City Clinic in St. Paul, MN. Heidi specializes in working with adolescents and adults coping with difficult life transitions.

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