Planning for the Future: Protecting Psychology and the Public Welfare

On September 27, MPA will hold its annual Strategic Planning Retreat, bringing together all members of MPA’s Governing Council (which is our board of directors) and all committee chairs.  This is the occasion for reviewing our organization’s long-range strategic plan, the progress on the actions planned for 2014, and developing the action items for 2015.  It is pretty easy to become skeptical about such planning processes because the work to actually implement action steps can be significant, and keeping track of the progress made requires attention to detail, which is time consuming and requires some discipline.  It is not unusual for plans to be created, given little attention, and then new plans made while starting from scratch.

A Significant Success

Thus, it is a noteworthy accomplishment that MPA has stayed focused on our plan and action steps for the past two years, and has continued to “work the plan.”  Our current plan was adopted at the 2012 planning retreat, and has four pillars on which MPA’s strength is based:  leadership and governance; operations and organizational structure; member engagement; and fiscal solvency.  Many, many accomplishments in support of each pillar have been made in the last two years, but perhaps the most measureable has been the improvement in MPA’s financial position, which has improved by approximately $100,000 and moved from a state of significant indebtedness to a positive bottom line.  This was accomplished by lots of attention and hard work from many people leading and following the strategic plan.

At the 2014 Strategic Planning Retreat, the participants will be considering how to use the financial improvement to make MPA even stronger and even more useful to our members.  At the 2012 Planning Retreat that we identified “connection, protection and growth” as the elements through which MPA brings value to its members.   These value elements will remain central to our planning efforts for 2015, and our action steps will be oriented toward fulfilling those values for members while also fulfilling MPA’s mission:  “To serve the science of psychology and its applications throughout Minnesota so the interests of public welfare and psychologists are mutually enhanced.”

How does MPA Protect Psychologists?

At the July 26 meeting of the Governing Council, there was lively discussion about the element of protection—how important and valuable it is to MPA members, and what protection actually means.  That is, how do we operationally define “protection?”  Without doubt, this discussion will continue at the 2014 planning retreat, and it is likely that action plans will include steps to protect psychologists, MPA and the public welfare.

So, what might this look like?  MPA has been active on the “protection” element for years, and this activity will certainly continue.  One avenue of protection has been MPA’s work on legislative and regulatory initiatives within Minnesota.  These actions have protected psychologists from being undervalued in payment structures and health care reform, and from being limited in the services we provide and our value to the public.  MPA has protected psychologists not only by defending our science and profession from threats, but also by proactively ensuring that MPA is represented on State of Minnesota task forces and work groups.  Protection means both defending psychology and advancing psychology by taking active roles in health care reform.  For example, the state of Minnesota is working on criteria for Behavioral Health Homes—medical homes for people with serious mental illness.  Psychologists must be included among the groups of professionals who can direct such homes, and MPA is working diligently to ensure that rules are written to include psychologists.

Improving Population Health While Reducing Health Care Costs

Protection also means working with payers to ensure that psychologists are valued, included and reimbursed appropriately for the broad array of health services we provide.  As health care reform progresses, we will see increasing emphasis on the dual goals of decreasing costs and improving the overall health of the population.   The data from the last 20 years showing the health impacts of psychological stress, (especially the stress experienced by children who are exposed to abuse, neglect and family dysfunction), is strongly supportive of the powerful role psychologists can play in achieving the goals of decreased cost and improved population health.  But we cannot assume that payers and regulators will see this connection, and MPA is working, and will continue to work, to ensure that psychologists are recognized as crucial to these goals.  MPA, through its Legislative Committee and Payer Committee, is the organized voice for psychologists in Minnesota—the voice that protects by advancing as well as defending.

You Can Make the Difference

MPA protects psychologists and the public welfare in Minnesota, and the stronger MPA is, the more effective it can be.  The fact that MPA is financially stronger now than when we adopted our current long range strategic plan is a great accomplishment and will allow us to be more effective.  Money, however, is not what makes MPA most effective.  Members are what make MPA effective, and an effective MPA is what protects psychologists.  There is a nice circularity here—by being a MPA member you can advance and defend your own protection while also enhancing the public welfare.   If you are an MPA member, thanks, and please do whatever you can to encourage others to join MPA.  If you are not a member, please join us, because you can make a positive difference for yourself and your community by membership.  Thanks.

Steven M. Vincent, Ph.D., L.P., recently retired as Director of Behavioral Health Services, CentraCare Health System.  Dr. Vincent is the current President of MPA, having served two terms on the Governing Council from 2003 to 2009, and as Legislative Committee Chair from 2004-2012.  Steve was also on the Governing Council of the American Hospital Association Section on Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services from 2010 through 2012.  He was the founding chair of the Minnesota Hospital Association’s Mental Health Task Force.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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