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President's Message: April 2019

Posted By Katharine Hahn Oh, PhD - OPA President, Thursday, April 11, 2019

How can we promote Psychology to the public in Ohio? In a marketplace with many other mental healthcare providers, how do we distinguish ourselves? This will be the topic of our Spring Assembly at Convention: Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 8:00! Grab your coffee and join us to brainstorm some action steps for this strategic plan goal. We’ll hear what the OPA Marketing committee is already doing and discuss further ideas. As APA gets into the business of establishing criteria for Master’s programs in Psychology, some have worried that our distinction as doctoral-level psychologists could be further eroded. This Assembly will give us the chance to develop ideas about how to clarify the differences between master’s level and the doctoral training so that clients know what to ask for and what to expect.

While psychologists manage some sense of fear that we could lose clients to master’s level clinicians, we know that there is a shortage of mental health care (plenty of clients for everyone). As I think about the larger perspective, my sense is that the underlying problem is access to healthcare, rather than not enough clients for all of us. In my work at CSU’s Counseling Center, we are able to provide short-term therapy for free to students, but then we have to refer out for continued longer-term work. This allows us to provide some care for all students who want it. Our clients sometimes have good insurance, but even then, the deductibles can be prohibitive! For people with really good health insurance and plenty of income, mental health care is accessible. But for those without extra funds to pay deductibles and co-pays, significant barriers exist. We also see a lot of students who have no insurance. If they are eligible for Medicaid, the process of signing up is bewildering and long.

For decades, young adults have been at higher risk for suicide, and the trend for college students over the last five years is increased suicide risk and self-harm. When these students go without treatment, we risk seeing more deaths by suicide. So, the barriers to long-term therapy create heightened risk. I see this problem as both ethical and related to diversity. How can we ethically allow people at risk to go without treatment, knowing that their lives may then be in danger? While we know that those with money and privilege have access to care (hence well-being and safety) while those without do not, how can we do nothing?

As I enter my last year as an Early Career Psychologist (10 years since doctorate), I see more and more how our work is affected by the social and political context of healthcare and access to mental health treatment. My first four years at Cleveland State University, working with a diverse urban student body, have coincided with my greater involvement in OPA where I’ve learned more about Advocacy. Together these experiences have given me a passion to try to change the system that leaves some people well and others at risk.

If Advocacy is something that interests you, I encourage you to get connected with one of OPA’s committees. Some committees actively engaged in advocacy are the Diversity Committee, the LGBT Sub-committee, and the Advocacy Committee. As we start to implement our Strategic Plan goals, (1) we will be helping psychologists understand how national advocacy for Medicare changes impacts Medicaid and private insurance reimbursement, (2) we will be developing strategies to hold insurance companies accountable for mental health parity, (3) we will be supporting legislation that addresses issues of diversity and cultural competency, and (4) we will work to get the RxP bill passed and begin working to get PsychPact on the legislative agenda in Ohio. These concerns impact both psychologists and the public, allowing us to provide much-needed services and opening up greater access to treatment.

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