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This community blog is written by the current OPA Board of Directors' President.


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President's Message: October 2019

Posted By Erich Merkle, PhD, EdS, NCSP - OPA President, Thursday, October 17, 2019

October is here, and at least in Ohio, means that the days are getting darker and shorter, leaves are turning their vibrant hues before their deciduous flora to transition into a winter slumber, and our thoughts start turning towards spooky hobgoblins as we approach Halloween. Children may be excited for the anticipatory sugary richness of trick-or-treating while some adults equally celebrate the arrival of Oktoberfest and its Bacchanalian array of beverages and foodie indulgences.

Fall is also a time of celebrations in the Ohio Psychological Association. During this past week, members of your Board of Directors held its October Board meeting and commemorated our future leadership pipeline members in the Leadership Development Academy (LDA). This year, 9 LDA fellows participated in a 10-month leadership experience, overseen by a cohort of OPA faculty, representing a diverse collection of our Association’s preeminent leaders, who met with these fellows on a regular basis towards development of a capstone project that supports Ohio psychology. Several of these LDA fellows shared their remarkable projects during the Board meeting, with topics ranging from substance use disorders, eye-opening Ohio psychological practitioner demographics, to development of a mentorship program for state and regional psychological associations among so many others. OPA envisions these LDA experiences to offer value to our membership towards cultivating leadership opportunities while helping us identify future Association leaders. Our next LDA cohort will be beginning in Fall 2020, and we cordially invite you to contact Dr. Wanda McEntyre, Dr. Jim Broyles, or Dr. Peg Mosher if you would like to become involved in this symbiotic and remarkable leadership exchange opportunity!

On October 26, 2019, OPA will be hosting its annual Fall Virtual Assembly, lead by President-Elect, Dr. Cynthia VanKeuren. The Annual Assemblies, which occur during fall and spring of each year, are a part of the Association’s new governance model we began several years ago. These assemblies are opportunities for you to discuss current challenges in psychological practice while informing your OPA leadership about topical trajectories we should pursue. This year’s Fall Assembly will focus on “Despair Deaths,” recognizing the societal and psychopolitical impacts of mass violence, suicidality, and trajectory so many of our clients and patients have experienced. Please accept this outreach as my warm welcome to have you join us for a dynamic and didactic professional experience this coming October 26. You can learn more about registering on the OPA website.

Finally, in reviewing the past year of fiscal and Association activities, we discovered there has been a shortage of standalone workshops offered through our Association’s professional development programming compared to prior years. We know our OPA membership represents a diverse and incredibly talented pool of myriad practice specialties, with so many of our members able to contribute outstanding learning opportunities for all of us. As the licensure renewal biennium comes upon us in 2020, we are hopeful to see many new workshop opportunities come to be offered. As someone who has presented in many of these workshops, I can tell you the process is very simple to propose such a workshop through our Association’s Education Committee, which carefully guides your proposal into a successfully scheduled workshop. From there, our dutiful OPA professional staff, led by Karen Hardin, organizes all of the logistics in consultation with you, allowing you to simply focus on preparing and delivering the training experience. If you would like to learn more about proposing and offering a future standalone workshop, please contact Karen Hardin in the OPA office at khardin@ohpsych.org. I look forward to learning from many of you in the coming year’s time.

As always, please do feel welcome to reach out to me if you have any comments, questions, or concerns. I continue to look forward to hearing from our members and offering any support I can throughout my presidential year.

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President's Message: September 2019

Posted By Erich Merkle, PhD, EdS, NCSP - OPA President, Thursday, September 26, 2019

With both K-12 and higher education returning to another academic year, the days starting to lose previous midsummer sunshine, and the ever-joyous return to football season, fall appears to have officially come upon us. This is an opportunity as our outside flora begins to transition into the quiescence of the looming winter months to think about preparing ourselves for important professional fall preparatory tasks too – namely, renewing your annual OPA membership. Each year, your generous membership helps to fund the overall operations of our Association, its staff, and the countless benefits offered to its members. In addition, with two legislative bills representing prescriptive authority for psychology and the inter-state PsyPACT practice compact needing our advocacy, your membership funding is working harder than ever for Ohio psychology. If you have already renewed your OPA, thank you kindly for your support and welcome to the new 2019-20 membership cycle! If not, here is your not-so-subtle reminder to support your Ohio Psychological Association and either become or renew your membership.

Aside from starting a new membership year, your OPA Board of Directors have been assiduously working on behalf of you and leading the Association for another dynamic year. On Friday, September 13 and Saturday, September 14, 2019, the OPA Board of Directors convened for their annual day and half Leadership Retreat. Specific content areas included orienting the Association’s leadership teams towards their efforts on each foci of the Strategic Plan, creating specific action plans to advance the Plan over the coming year, and engaging in team building to help the leadership further their professional relationships towards transacting the affairs of the Association. This year’s Retreat was further benefited through the participation of Dr. Steve Gravenkemper, an organizational psychologist who recently relocated from “that state up north,” and whose efforts facilitated the Board to learn about aspects of a “Psychologically Healthy” Board and Association. At the conclusion of the Retreat, each Board member had gained further clarity on their respective leadership expectations, a decisive action plan, and considerable knowledge about navigating the challenging dualities of Association leadership and everything else our Association leaders have within their spheres of life.

Several days after the OPA Annual Retreat, OPA hosted its annual Legislative Day at the State Capitol in Columbus, OH. While usually held in the spring, this year the Legislative Day was moved to the fall and September 18, 2019 to better match the legislative activity cycles and be ahead of their efforts. This year’s participants were able to receive professional development from Dr. Amber Hewitt, a counseling psychologist and manager of advocacy for a national children’s healthcare system, on how to engage in legislative grassroots advocacy and lobbying, an essential but sometimes misunderstood part of our psychology work. From there, participants met with their state representatives to discuss our Association’s legislative platform for the coming year, particularly around RxP and PsyPACT. The day concluded with a reception in the Capitol to convene with Ohio’s lawmakers and support staff in a relaxed atmosphere.

Finally, as your new OPA President, I would be remiss if I did not offer a lens into my leadership priorities for the coming year. As a school psychologist who has been in social service and psychologist leadership for 20 years, becoming your Association president has been a humbling and outstanding learning experience for me to support each of you and our Association. Over the coming year, I am striving to navigate three priorities throughout my leadership tenure: (1) Facilitate action on the Association’s Strategic Plan elements; (2) Address and resolve barriers to successful implementation of the Plan’s workflow; and (3), Promote interconnectivity and shared interdisciplinary collaboration across Ohio’s social and mental/behavioral health entities, which further aligns with our Strategic Plan. If I can make fractional inroads to each of these, I will conclude my presidential term as having some modicum of success.

Until then, please accept our best wishes for a new wonderful start of fall and we look forward to supporting each of you as our membership. As always, I remain at your service and welcome hearing from you if you have thoughts, ideas, or actionable items how to improve your OPA membership experience.

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President's Message: June 2019

Posted By Katharine Hahn Oh, PhD - OPA President, Tuesday, September 3, 2019

We are taught that self-care is an ethical responsibility, but recently the idea of “community care” has become popular. What does it mean to care for each other as colleagues to ensure that we are maintaining our own well-being as we help our clients? In my training with feminist psychologist Dr. Pamela Remer, we were taught to critique notions that are overly individualistic or de-contextualized, and self-care may be one of these. If self-care is meant to help us maintain our well-being, it may be inadequate at times. When we have severe or acute health concerns, have intense care giving roles, or experience grief or depression, self-care is not enough. Rather, we need others to support us. 

Johnson et al. suggest that we develop “competency constellations” to help us stay accountable and well. Their idea is that competency can be reduced at different times throughout our careers as we face health problems, overwhelming stressors, or fail to maintain up-to-date knowledge. If we accept this as normal, then we can talk openly with trusted others about our concerns and let them help us to (a) maintain our competency through additional learning, treatment, or expert support, or (b) know when to take a break from our practice for more intensive treatment. 

I have a few people who are part of my own constellation. Across my professional organizations, these are people I call to ask about challenges I’m facing for the first time. As I’ve been leading the OPA Board this year, I’ve asked for feedback about how I’m doing as a leader. At work where I direct our Counseling Center, I get advice and feedback from trusted colleagues and my staff to help improve my work. In the Counseling Center, we recently read Robin DiAngelo’s article on White Fragility, discussed it among White staff and then all together as a diverse group. We agreed to call each other out when we hear a racial microaggression so that we can each improve our own work toward dismantling racism. So in this way we are pushing and supporting each other to enhance our competencies with implicit bias. 

Finally, I have had the privilege to have supervisors who helped me think about my own mental health and how it can be managed while helping others. During my doctoral program, my depression kept me from going to my practicum site a few times: if I couldn’t stop crying to get ready, I didn’t go. With treatment, I was able to work every day and be present with clients. My supervisors helped me explore how the depression impacted my work and how I could increase my treatment to recover from it. After multiple major depressive episodes my psychiatrist recommended staying on medication indefinitely, and colleagues helped me adjust to this reality. Now I see a therapist every two weeks and continue medication. I’ve been depression-free for four years, the longest in my adult life! As I’ve supervised practicum counselors and interns over the years, a number of them have let me know about their own depression or anxiety symptoms. We are not immune to mental health concerns because we practice in the field, but we can support each other and make it okay to talk about. 

OPA is an organization that cares about us as people. The Colleague Assistance Program is one way to connect with others for support. As I’ve been involved with OPA, I’ve met mentors and friends who are part of my trusted community. Whether your community is with colleagues or family and friends, I hope you have a constellation of people looking out for you as you do the important work of healing, teaching, consulting, or researching. 

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President's Message: May 2019

Posted By Katharine Hahn Oh, PhD - OPA President, Thursday, May 30, 2019

How do we begin to make an impact on state legislation that impacts our practice, our clients, and the public? Two easy ways to make a difference are to 1) give to the PAC, and 2) get to know your own legislators. OPA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) collects donations and then supports legislators who can help improve access to care, reduce violence, and improve educational opportunities. So far in 2019, we have provided funding to several legislators by giving to their campaigns. Usually, we also then have time with the candidate at a fundraising event. These contacts help us to form relationships and provide needed information that can inform their committee work as policies and laws are shaped. 

We are able to give about $500 to each candidate. Over the course of a year, we typically receive about $10,000 in donations which are then given to candidates. In contrast to these numbers, other health professions have much more robust Political Action Committees, sometimes giving $10,000 to each candidate with over $100,000 annually to spend. Ohio is not unique in this regard. Psychologists give less to PACs than psychiatrists, physicians, and social workers. I wonder if we are less aware of how interconnected we are with those making laws and shaping policies? Or if we think we are somehow getting our hands dirty by contributing to politicians’ campaign funds. What might prevent you from giving to our PAC? 

Both OPA and APA give in a bipartisan manner, seeking out legislators who care about health care and the social determinants of health. Here are some of the legislators the OPA PAC has given to so far this year (with relevant quotes from their official online bios): 

  • Rep. Beth Liston of Dublin is a physician and faculty at OSU. “A passionate advocate for affordable, high quality healthcare, State Rep. Beth Liston ran for office to bring her knowledge about health and the health impacts of policy to our state government.”
  • Rep. Derrick Merrin represents portions of Fulton and Lucas counties. “As Chairman of Health Committee, he has advocated for policies to reduce health care costs, promote price transparency, and better patient access.”
  • Rep. Bill Seitz is from Cincinnati. “Throughout his legislative career, Rep. Seitz has been at the forefront of criminal and civil justice issues, leading the effort to reform Ohio’s criminal sentencing laws and eliminate the barriers to employment many nonviolence offenders face following their release from prison.”
  • Senator Kenny Yuko is from Cuyahoga and Lake Counties. He previously served as a Representative. “Yuko ran for State Representative in 2004 with the goals of protecting working families, promoting health care access, and improving Ohio’s economic climate. Served on the Committee on Health and Aging and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.”
  • Senator Cecil Thomas of Cincinnati previously served on Cincinnati’s City Council. “His most notable success is the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). This program provided direct resources and outreach services to at risk youth/young adults in Cincinnati’s most troubled neighborhoods addressing the critical problem of violence and crime. The implementation of the CIRV program resulted in a significant reduction of crime and improved community and police relations to which is now being modeled nationally and internationally.” He currently serves on the Education, Civil Justice, and Insurance Committees. 

So, I want to encourage you to give to the PAC. Even $20 can make a difference in communicating that we care about these issues. 

What are your own legislators doing about issues you care about? Check out their bios and view these Tips for Effective Communication with Legislators! Our Advocacy Committee, led by Dr. Brad Potts, has created these great resources for finding out who your legislators are, establishing a relationship, writing a letter, etc. The first step is just learning about them, and the next step is reaching out. This fall, OPA will have a Legislative Day at the Capitol when you can learn more about how to advocate with your legislators, then visit their offices and attend a social hour. But I encourage you not to wait but to become an active citizen now. 

A third strategy for making a difference would be to run for office yourself! I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Amber Hewitt recently. She was faculty at U of Akron, then had a year-long legislative fellowship through APA and is now looking to run for office herself in the D.C. area. What could we do if we had more psychologists in the State House here in Ohio? One of the goals for our Strategic Plan is to get more psychologists involved in committees or task forces for the state. If you are currently serving on a task force or committee for the state government or if you are serving in a public office (City Council, etc.), please let me know so that we can reach out to you and help others get involved too! You can email me at: k.j.hahn@csuohio.edu

I look forward to seeing what more we can do for psychology and the public as we contribute, reach out to our legislators, or run for office ourselves! 

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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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