Association News
 DOI: 10.1176/appi.pn.2014.6a20
Lieberman Sees Promising Future for Psychiatrists, Patients
Psychiatric News
Volume 49 Number 11 page 1


The outgoing APA president cites 10 goals as landmarks that APA will achieve in the future, including the end of the ambivalent relationship society has traditionally had with psychiatry.

Abstract Teaser

The future is now, outgoing APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., told APA members during his presidential address at APA’s annual meeting in New York in May.

He began by citing recent APA successes including the publication of DSM-5; effective lobbying involving the Affordable Care Act, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and the Excellence in Mental Health Act; reversal of the proposal by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to restrict medication formularies for antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs; securing an increase in reimbursement values for Medicare coverage of psychiatric services; and serving a watchdog role to protect patients and psychiatrists from insurance companies that were not complying with the parity law.

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In his presidential address at the Opening Session of APA’s annual meeting in New York last month, Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., recounted recent successes for APA and confidently predicted new ones in the future.

Ellen Dallager

And he urged members to look toward a bright and promising future. “I believe we are fortunate that the convergence of scientific progress and the government’s focus on health care reform has put psychiatry in a unique position,” he said. “Add to this the increased public attention to mental health care, and you will agree that psychiatry has reached a point of a distinctive opportunity.

“But if we want to take advantage of the biggest scientific, economic, and legislative changes in mental health care in our lifetime, then we need to seize this opportunity. . . . Our future is now. We have been waiting, many of us our whole lives, for the chance to change the way the world thinks of psychiatry and the way we think of ourselves as psychiatrists. Let’s use the momentum we have to plunge ahead into the next year with our confidence brimming, our energy renewed, and our sights set high.”

He cited 10 goals, which he described as landmarks that APA will achieve. They are

  • Public perception of mental illness and psychiatry will change. “We will better educate the public and the media about what mental illness is, what psychiatry does, and what our role in the future of health care in the U.S. will be. As a result, the public will gain a more accurate and respectful understanding of mental illness and psychiatry.”

  • Psychiatry will return to its rightful place in the house of medicine. “Driven by scientific advances and economic forces, psychiatry will increasingly become a scientifically based discipline, achieve capabilities to diagnose and treat patients with mental disorders that previously would have been unimaginable, and in doing so rejoin the family of medicine.”

  • APA will be a strong voice and respected presence in the political arena. Lieberman said APA, with the leadership of CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., and through its Division of Advocacy, will proactively develop productive relationships with the White House and Congress. “This will foster constructive legislation and policies favorable to psychiatry and people with mental illness,” he said. “Simply put, to win the game, we must be in the game.”

  • Psychiatry will benefit from biomedical research. “Mental illness is right in the sweet spot of the Human Brain Initiative that President Obama announced this year, which will support the development of new, powerful forms of neurotechnology.”

  • DSM will be a living instrument. “As the caretaker of the DSM, APA will ensure that it is managed responsibly and by the most rigorous scientific and ethical standards. Toward this end, we have convened a DSM Steering Committee, chaired by Paul Appelbaum and co-chaired by Ken Kendler and Ellen Liebenluft, composed of elite clinicians and top researchers to iteratively revise DSM-5 following nosologically significant scientific breakthroughs rather than at decades-long intervals.”

  • APA will work with a coalition of mental health organizations to ensure that health care legislation is implemented properly so that mental health care providers and patients receive all the benefits to which they are entitled. “The goals of providing quality mental health care and eliminating stigma are too important to allow parochial interests to limit progress,” he said.

  • Training programs will change to reflect the impact of health care reform and scientific progress. “APA, working with AADPRT and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology will revise and update training programs to prepare future generations of psychiatrists for the roles and services they will be called upon to provide in the brave new world of 21st-century health care,” he said.

  • Governments, health care policy makers, and nonpsychiatric medical colleagues will finally understand that “there is no health without mental health.” Lieberman said that as a result, mental health care will be integrated into diverse care settings with an emphasis on primary care, and the changes that will occur in mental health as a result of scientific advances and health care reform will lead to improved quality of care. “As Patrick Kennedy is fond of saying, ‘everyone deserves a checkup from the neck up!’ ” he said.

  • Under the leadership of APA’s new CEO/medical director and continued strong elected leadership, APA will more effectively represent the interests of psychiatry and people with mental illness.

  • We will dispel the ambivalent relationship that our society has historically had with psychiatry. “Most people, at some point in their life, will need a psychiatrist, although they may not know it or will not admit it,” he said. “Yet psychiatry is a mystery to most people, and many are ambivalent about its value.”

Lieberman concluded by saying that he believes psychiatry has reached a point in its evolution where “it can break free of the ignorance, mystery, and stigma with which it has been historically associated.” He added, “APA must lead the way. Today we celebrate the progress we’ve made as an organization, as a field of medicine, and the prospect of a better future. This is our opportunity to change the practice and perception of psychiatry for the better and as never before. Last year, standing on the stage in San Francisco, I told you that `our time has come.’ Today I say to you that our future is now!” ■

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In his presidential address at the Opening Session of APA’s annual meeting in New York last month, Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., recounted recent successes for APA and confidently predicted new ones in the future.

Ellen Dallager

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