From the Speaker
Assembly Meets Challenges of Trying Times
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 24 page 23-37

At the Assembly meeting that took place in Washington, D.C., November 20 to 22, we succeeded in trimming the cost of running the Assembly by over $200,000 while preserving its essential functioning. We did this by changing the allocation of representatives from a district branch (DB) model to a statewide one by readjusting the ratio of how many members elect each representative and deputy representative and by eliminating the funding for deputy reps to attend the November meeting. (The deputy reps will continue to serve on committees and work groups, meet with their Area Councils, and attend the May Assembly meeting.)

The change to a statewide representation model affects New York, California, and Missouri, the only states with multiple DBs (13, 5, and 3, respectively).

Additional cost-cutting eliminates the receptions that have been held in conjunction with the meetings, does away with the position of most distant past speaker (the immediate past speaker and his or her predecsssor will still be Assembly members), and discontinues Assembly funding of travel expenses for most APA officers to attend Assembly meetings.

These changes allow the Assembly to play an important part in linking our local psychiatric societies with our national organization, while keeping with its democratic tradition—and to do it in a more cost-effective way.

We could not have succeeded in making these changes without the help of many people. APA President Dr. Alan Schatzberg and President-elect Dr. Carol Bernstein attended the November meeting and worked with us to help us achieve our goals. The Assembly Executive Committee, building on ideas formulated by a committee headed by Dr. Clarence Chou, worked for months to come up with a template for change that could be accepted by members from different parts of the country. Drs. Glenn Martin, Scott Benson, and Dan Anzia developed a focused model, and Dr. John Gaston devoted many hours to chairing the special reference committee that wrote the final version of what the Assembly eventually passed. The New York State Psychiatric Association deserves special thanks for its creativeness and for its devotion to getting the job done.

In other business, the Assembly passed action papers that will shape future APA operations, reviewed and approved position statements created by APA councils and committees, and heard its first reports from the work groups created last spring. These speaker-appointed work groups, which focus on selected tasks for the Assembly between the twice-yearly meetings, are are as follows:

In addition, our energized Committee on Public and Community Psychiatry, chaired by Dr. Larry Miller, is focusing on public needs locally and systemwide. In particular the needs of children and adolescents will be their first priority at the DB level.

We also had the honor of awarding the Profile in Courage Award posthumously to Dr. Wayne Fenton of the Washington Psychiatric Society, who was killed in 2006 by a patient he was treating (see Wayne Fenton, M.D., Wins Profile of Courage Award).

We particularly want to acknowledge the exceptional efforts made by so many psychiatrists in the Assembly whose work is vital to our mission. They have been working in difficult times to try to make our profession a better one and to improve the lives of our patients and our communities. Finally, we want to express special thanks to our medical director, Dr. Jay Scully, and to his staff, who have worked hard to help us to adapt and to improve during these times of crisis and challenge.

The Assembly can often be slow and deliberate in its proceedings, with heated exchanges interspersed among ideas on which there is major consensus. The ideas come from a wide range of APA members from every DB, and the Assembly provides a forum in which they can express those ideas openly and have them debated. This is the only forum in APA governance that allows for this and provides a voice for membership that would otherwise not exist. Our partnership with the APA Board of Trustees makes our organization healthier and more responsive. blacksquare

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