While its vote to approve the diagnostic categories and criteria for the next edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was the most newsworthy action the Board of Trustees took at its meeting last month (Psychiatric News, December 21, 2012), Board members voted on several other issues as well.
Among the proposals that won Board approval at the December meeting was one from a group of members-in-training (MITs) who are active in APA urging formation of a caucus that would make it easier and more efficient for them to organize and conduct their business. As their proposal stated, “Our efforts to advocate within APA, to raise policy issues, and to promote APA to nonmembers [are] fragmented and sometimes are not well-coordinated. . . . We believe that it is appropriate to bring these activities formally under APA’s umbrella” through establishment of a caucus. The new Caucus of Members-in-Training will be placed under the auspices of the Council on Medical Education and Lifelong Learning.
The Board also agreed to the formation of a second new caucus, this one composed of members who are interested in issues related to mental health on college and university campuses. The College Mental Health Caucus will be a component of the Council on Children, Adolescents, and Their Families.
The Trustees also voted to approve dividing the Council on Research and Quality Care into separate councils to deal with the current council’s complex agenda in which issues fall into one of its two primary focuses. Separate councils were combined into one several years ago during a major restructuring of APA’s components. Council Chair Joel Yager, M.D., pointed out that it is difficult to manage “the many important areas under the limited time and resources of a single council.” The new Council on Research will focus on areas such as clinical diagnosis and assessment, treatment research, prevention research, and ECT, as well other electromagnetic therapies. Among issues under the purview of the new Council on Quality Care will be quality indicators and the federal program promoting their use, standards and survey procedures, psychotherapy by psychiatrists, HIV/AIDS, practice-guideline development, and electronic health records.
In addition, the Board voted to change the name of the Caucus of Psychiatrists Treating Persons With Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities to the Caucus of Psychiatrists Treating Persons With Intellectual Disabilities. The proposal for the name change noted that “the term mental retardation has taken on negative connotations and is demeaning, hurtful, and humiliating. Since the term was coined years ago, attitudes about people with disabilities have changed to focus on abilities, personal growth and independence.”
Two psychiatric workforce issues also garnered endorsements from the Board. In one of these the Board agreed to have APA go on record supporting the Veterans Psychiatric and Mental Health Care Enhancement Act, which would establish 50 new psychiatry residencies that are specifically oriented to addressing the mental health care needs of U.S. military veterans and would be fully funded by the federal government. On completing their residencies, trainees in these programs would have all medical-school debt forgiven once they gave at least six years of full-time service to the Veterans Health Administration.
The second workforce-related proposal that won APA Board backing called on APA to support the Native-American Psychiatric and Mental Health Care Improvement Act. This bill would establish a five-year demonstration project at “a psychiatry department at an accredited medical school or affiliated nonprofit organization with demonstrated experience in recruiting, training, and deploying physicians for work in American-Indian, Alaska-Native, and Native-Hawaiian communities.” A key provision is that the act would provide funding for up to one year of “supplemental clinical and cultural competency training to not less than five psychiatric physicians and/or residents to enable them to practice successfully in Native-American population groups.” ■