Professional News
APA, AMA Find Common Ground on Crucial Issues
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 1 page 20-20

Parity for mental illness, scope of practice issues, and membership in the AMA: those were the topics on the table at a leadership luncheon meeting between leaders of APA, AMA, and the Section Council on Psychiatry at last month’s interim meeting of the House of Delegates in Honolulu.

Physicians on both sides say the meeting was evidence of the close collaboration between psychiatry and the AMA.

AMA President-elect John Nelson, M.D., emphasized the role psychiatrists have assumed in key leadership positions within the AMA, citing especially Jeremy Lazarus, M.D., who is the AMA House of Delegates’ new vice speaker.

Nelson said that on virtually every issue of common concern—from parity for mental illness to scope of practice—the AMA “stands shoulder to shoulder” with psychiatry. “We feel we are very much in sync with our brothers and sisters in psychiatry,” Nelson said.

He added that the AMA was particularly concerned about the law in New Mexico granting psychologists the right to prescribe, saying the organization would be watching closely how the law is implemented (Psychiatric News, November 7, 2003).

He also said that the New Mexico law establishes a dangerous precedent that threatens all of medicine. “The AMA is terribly concerned about efforts by paraprofessionals to gain prescribing privileges not through education but through legislation,” he said.

Nelson urged psychiatrists to join the AMA, a call that was echoed by leaders of APA and the Section Council on Psychiatry.

He noted that the leadership luncheon meeting with the psychiatry section council and APA leaders was part of a larger effort by the AMA board to be more accountable and to reach out to the specialty societies.

“We are trying to take the door off the board room, so that our members can see inside and understand the processes by which we make decisions,” Nelson said. “Traditionally, we have met with leaders of the state medical societies. Now we want to reach out to the specialty societies.”

John McIntyre, M.D., chair of the Section Council on Psychiatry; Marcia Goin, M.D., APA president; and Michelle Riba, M.D., APA president-elect, emphasized the importance of last month’s meeting and the increasing collaboration between psychiatry and the AMA.

McIntyre said the meeting was an indication of the “effectiveness of psychiatry within the house of medicine.” And he noted that the House of Delegates reaffirmed existing policy calling for parity for mental illness in public and private health plans.

Goin said the occasion was an opportunity to educate AMA board members about the report of President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, as well as APA’s own vision for what a mental health delivery system should look like.

She added that AMA leaders had expressed special interest in data generated by APA’s Business Initiative showing the cost savings derived from treating depression in the workplace.

Riba said that AMA board members expressed enthusiasm about holding a special symposium on depression at a future House of Delegates meeting, much like the symposium held in Honolulu on obesity at this meeting. ▪

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