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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why I Contributed to New York's Psychology PAC

In advocating for psychology, a quote I have often passed on to colleagues is that “if you are not at the table then you will be on the menu.” This quote has been around since about 2000 as a Washington D.C. political saying. From a professional perspective, being on the menu in psychology is analogous to having something adverse occur to our profession on a state or national level resulting from a legal or regulatory action.

The more I become involved in professional advocacy/lobbying efforts, the more I have realized that being at the table is necessary but not sufficient to avoid being placed on the menu. You must also have strength when you are at the table.

There are four main ways to obtain this strength. One way is having a strong argument – but that is not enough. The strong argument has to deal with an issue that is publicly and politically beneficial for a politician or political appointee to support and ideally should have some type of emotional appeal. The second way is to have friends in powerful places – those who are closest to making the important decisions. An example of this that has nothing to do with psychology draws on my love of cinema. When Paramount chief Bob Evans was making the film “The Italian Job” he needed to film in Turin, Italy, and have the city shut down. He happened to know the most powerful man in the city who had the police and other government officials give Paramount everything they need to make the picture. Evans has remarked how that connection enabled him to do in one day what the President of the United States could not have done in one year.  The third way to obtain strength, at least with politicians, is by making a financial contribution to their political campaigns. This is how you maintain existing political friendships and make new ones.  Lastly, another way to gain strength at the table is to move yourself into a position where you play a major role in the important legal and regulatory decisions that are made.

In an ideal world, strength of argument alone would be enough to allow psychologists to obtain successful professional advocacy results. However, the real world simply does not work that way. We have already seen in New York where state regulators banned the use of psychology technicians and where legislators limited return to play decisions in concussion management to physicians only (thus no longer allowing psychologists with expertise in this area to perform this function). State regulators then followed this up by only naming school nurses as health care professionals who could perform cognitive testing in concussed athletes. Psychologists in New York were caught off guard in the former circumstance but were at the table for the latter. The problem is that we did not have enough strength at the table. Other professions did.

So, what can you do about it? One of the most important things you can do is to make a donation (however small) to PLANY, which is New York’s political action committee (PAC) for psychologists.  The PAC is expressly designed to allow special interest groups access to legislators so we can have a meaningful say in proposed legislation.  Politicians love donations from PACs because they do not need to spend any money soliciting the donation. The larger the PAC, the more influential it is. The PAC becomes larger and more influential with more donations. 

This is where YOU come in, if you are a psychologist reading this. For example, if you want the limited liability company laws (LLC) in New York State amended so that psychologists could be authorized to form LLC partnerships and corporations with physicians on a co-ownership basis, you should donate to PLANY to help get this done. This change is very important because it aligns what we know about best practices and would enable for the first time the creation of corporate partnerships between psychologists and physicians, putting psychology on an equal footing with medicine in our state. With health care reform here, this is something we cannot miss out on.

I want to challenge every psychologist reading this to donate to the psychology PAC in your state, even if it is a small amount.  Doing so would be a great way to help advocate for your profession. To donate to PLANY, please go to this link above for more information.

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