Leaders of the two "APAs" came together in March to discuss
plans for future collaboration on a number of mental health issues and to
release a joint statement on mental health parity legislation.
"Despite our differences on some basic issues, there are quite a few
areas in which we share common interests and ideas related to patient
care," APA President Pedro Ruiz, M.D., told Psychiatric News."
There are issues in the field of psychiatry that transcend our
individual organizational priorities and boundaries."
Among these issues, he noted, are improving access to psychiatric care and
parity for Americans with mental health problems. "In these key areas,
it is important to join organizational forces in order to advance and/or
secure benefits for our patients, especially the chronically mentally ill
patients, as well as disadvantaged and disenfranchised patients," Ruiz
The American Psychological Association, headquartered in Washington, D.C.,
has more than 145,000 members.
"I'm delighted that the leadership of the American Psychological
Association and the American Psychiatric Association have been discussing
items of considerable interest to both associations," American
Psychological Association President Sharon Stephens Brehm, Ph.D., told
Psychiatric News. "These joint endeavors will help strengthen
both associations and, most of all, will increase our overall effectiveness in
providing mental health care to all Americans."
On March 5, a small group of leaders from both organizations met for lunch
at a restaurant in Washington, D.C., to discuss areas for collaboration.
Participants considered several goals they would like to achieve together,
including improving mental health services for returning veterans, improving
access to and quality of care for geriatric patients, and increasing access to
mental health care for underserved populations.
Out of the meeting came a joint statement from the two organizations
calling on Congress to pass mental health parity legislation. A joint press
release on March 15 announced that "psychiatrists and psychologists are
joining forces to call on Congress to pass a mental health parity bill that
would end insurance discrimination against persons with mental health
According to meeting attendee Nada Stotland, M.D., M.P.H., APA vice
president and incoming president-elect, everyone at the March 5 meeting"
agreed strongly that there were many things upon which we could work
collaboratively and that this collaboration would work to everyone's
advantage, especially the public and our patients."
Stotland has been working closely with APA Board members and leaders from
the American Psychological Association to discuss future topics and strategies
for collaboration between the two organizations.
For instance, psychiatrists and psychologists representing each
organization may lead programs at each of the organization's annual meeting.
Other options include forming joint task forces to issue reports,
recommendations, and policy statements, Stotland noted.
She acknowledged that there are some in APA who "feel as if we are
treading on dangerous ground" by collaborating with the American
Psychological Association because of the differences between the two
organizations regarding prescriptive authority for psychologists and the
patient safety issues it raises. Nonetheless, she said, "I think we can
maintain an unchanged determination that psychologists should not prescribe
medications and yet still work on other issues together," adding that
psychiatrists should not let one area of disagreement impede "the
tremendous power that results from working together."
One of the next issues that leaders may tackle jointly is expanding access
to mental health care for geriatric patients, she said.
Frank Brown, M.D., head of APA's Council on Aging, told Psychiatric
News that he believes that having APA and the psychological association
work toward some of the same goals, especially regarding improving the mental
health of geriatric patients, "shows a very consistent message to
Congress. In the long run, this will be helpful to our patients."
He pointed out that psychologists have expertise in neuropsychological
testing and certain areas of research, as well as information about
interactions with Medicare involving reimbursement that may be informative for
"Anytime there is an opportunity for APA to collaborate with other
organizations, we should take advantage of it," Brown remarked.
One of the participants in the March meeting, Dauda Griffin, M.D., chair of
the APA/SAMHSA and APA/AstraZeneca Minority Fellowships Program and a
first-year child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at Emory University,
remarked that it was a "privilege and an honor" to attend.
Although he said going into the meeting that he "did not know what to
expect, as there are clear differences between the groups," Griffin
noted that "our similarities in striving to provide the best care for
patients suffering with mental illness proved strong enough to make the
meeting a success."
He added that he hopes that the fields of psychiatry and psychology"
can come together in a way that we never have before to provide the
best possible care for our patients and to elevate our two fields in the
public domain." ▪