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Letters to the Editor
Roving Ambassador Needed?
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 21 page 42-42

I had the privilege of meeting with several high-ranking administrators of APA to discuss issues with regard to psychologist-prescribing bills. I spelled out my perceptions of APA's involvement, or lack of involvement, and noted that my perceptions may not reflect APA activities relevant to this national problem.

The APA leaders listened carefully and then described actions they had undertaken over the past years on psychologist-prescribing legislation, including the provision of financial and staff support to the district branches affected by the bills.

Since then I have spoken with a number of colleagues, and they share the perception about APA that I originally had had. What is clearly needed is a means to reflect the APA response on a more frequent and consistent basis. There is also a need for what I would call a "roving APA ambassador" whereby a psychiatrist designated as APA's representative travels around the country and speaks with district branches and state associations, psychiatry residents, and possibly medical students in a town-meeting setting. The person could provide updates from APA and invite input from members to take back to the Association.

As president of the Washington Psychiatric Society, I have had the opportunity to talk more fully with psychiatry residents in this region. They feel that APA has no relevance for them, and they do not feel district branch involvement affords them any advantages. These feelings continue as they move forward in their careers, and a serious apathy develops.

I believe that vigorous exchanges between district branches and residents could help turn their perception around, but doing so requires real, sustained commitment from the top. One meeting a year is meaningless, but two to three meetings a year might have a positive impact.

I welcome any feedback on this idea.

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I'd like to thank Dr. Drake for his thoughtful and constructive comments. It's good to know that he had a very positive interaction with APA. As he notes, the Board of Trustees has provided very substantial financial support—in the seven figures—to our district branches and state associations to help them with their own efforts to respond to the scope-of-practice crisis. Likewise, our dedicated national staff has worked to provide resources to our members to assist them in these efforts.

In the next few weeks, APA will again mail out to all district branches the latest version of a comprehensive, four-part resource packet on psychologist prescribing. Our national staff stand ready to help at any time.

I'm also committed to providing our members with the skills they need to be their own most effective advocates in Washington and at home. This March, for example, we revived our Advocacy Day, bringing 40 APA local leaders to Washington for grass-roots advocacy skill building and lobbying. In September we provided an intensive skill-building seminar to more than 80 APA fellows—tomorrow's leaders. And next year, we plan to bring some 100 APA leaders back to Washington for training and lobbying. We've also hired Lydia Sermons-Ward, our capable new director of communications and public affairs. One of Lydia's priorities is the rebuilding of our APA member public affairs infrastructure.

Dr. Drake's suggestion of a national "roving scope of practice ambassador" is worth considering. APA's Department of Government Relations also has a staffer dedicated expressly to the purpose of traveling on invitation to district branch meetings to provide hands-on advocacy training. In the next few weeks, he will be in Ohio, Arkansas, and Minnesota.

Finally, I've also made it a priority to reconnect APA national staff to our Area Council meetings, something that was curtailed for budget reasons in recent years.

Again, Dr. Drake's helpful comments and thoughtful suggestions are most welcome. I agree we need to do more to improve awareness of APA's role among psychiatrists, especially residents. APA is not the staff at headquarters—APA is more than 36,000 psychiatrists working to improve the care of persons with mental illness. Staff are here to help!

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