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


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President's Message: September 2020

Posted By Cindy Van Keuren, PsyD | OPA President 2020-2021, Wednesday, September 16, 2020
I am so honored to have the opportunity to serve the psychologists of Ohio in my role as OPA president.  In the past year, I have witnessed psychologists take on so many extraordinary roles through these challenging times.  On a daily basis, we continue to find that balance of bringing comfort and support to others while wrestling with many of the same societal and personal struggles ourselves.  OPA’s leadership and staff throughout the past year have risen to the task of supporting our members through uncertainty and transition.  This year’s leadership team is no less resilient, talented, or committed to helping our members. 

As is true every September, OPA leaders and staff kick off the new year with a retreat to discuss, strategize, and plan for the coming year.  As is true with so many other things in 2020, this year’s retreat was converted to a virtual format.  This year’s retreat was divided into three components.  The first meeting was a fireside chat that provided an informal setting to talk about the roles and responsibilities of the new and returning leaders.  This served as being both informative while allowing for an element of socializing.  The second part of the retreat was a virtual happy hour in which we spent time socializing in our skype rooms.  All attendees were instructed to share their original link to OPA leadership (the most common answer being that they were dragged into it be a respected colleague) and an uninteresting fact about themselves.  Let me just say that even when they are deliberately trying to do so, OPA’s staff and leadership simply can not be dull!

Finally, we had the business aspect of the retreat on Saturday the 12th.  This allowed for our leaders to learn about the fiduciary responsibilities of OPA, participate in a wellness exercise, and discuss some of the goals for the year.  We spent time celebrating our award winners and the numerous successes of the year to include many town halls, self care assemblies, insurance updates, and telehealth support.  There was general agreement these events reached a broader audience and formed greater connections among our members. 

The afternoon session of the retreat was spent developing projects and ideas to support the strategic plan.  This really gave OPA leaders and staff the opportunity to freely propose ideas for the coming year.  We are fortunate as an organization to have so much expertise and experience on our board; I am really looking forward to seeing these projects come to fruition in the coming year. 

My hope for this year is that members continue to reach out and let us know how to best support our members, mission, and vision.  If you are not able to commit the time to one of our many committees, please consider reaching out to the chairs to let them know how you would like to help. Perhaps you would like to serve as the occasional consultant or facilitate a town hall on a topic of interest to you.  If you prefer being part of the creative process, please do join a committee and help us continue growing and evolving as an organization.  However you may choose to be involved, OPA has a place for you and you are always welcome. 

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President's Message: August 2020

Posted By Erich Merkle, PhD, EdS, NCSP - OPA President, Friday, August 21, 2020

Traditionally, the month of August represents a few weeks where the OPA leadership takes time away from monthly Board and other governance meeting efforts. This freedom affords our OPA staff and Association leaders to attend the American Psychological Association Annual August Convention. This year’s APA Convention, similar to OPA and most other large professional associations, had to pivot towards a virtual experience to maintain social distancing and avoid an overabundance of individuals within a shared convention area.

Despite the expected quiescence around OPA, your Association continues to work on behalf of you, our members, and Ohio psychology! August is the final month of our Association’s administrative and membership year, which means putting closure to the past year’s financial experience. While OPA lost the benefit of having its Annual Spring Convention, our commitment to professional development continued to shine and many of our scheduled convention sessions were converted into virtual webinars through the tireless efforts of Mrs. Karen Hardin, OPA’s Director of Communication and Education. Our membership has also continued to embrace the value of our Association, allowing us to exceed membership projections and expectations both in the present and into the 2020-21 new administrative year. OPA CEO, Mr. Michael Ranney, OPA Director of Operations and Finance, Mr. David Savoia, and OPA Finance Officer, Dr. Brandon Kozar, each should be complimented towards their astute financial stewardship throughout the spring pandemic restrictions that allowed OPA to remain financially strong relative to the limited viability so many other State and Territorial Psychological Associations, and many others within the non-profit world, sadly experienced. Our appreciation to our financial leadership for employing the necessary austerity measures and planning to navigate those treacherous stormy seas. Of course, the fall and winter months within the new administrative year will be equally as challenging and we will need to continue our lean budgets to weather the next round of the pandemic.

As we look ahead to the new 2020-21 year, this is also a period of transition. My leadership time as your Association President will officially come to an end on August 31, 2020. Certainly, when I was encouraged to run for OPA President-Elect two years ago, I never would have anticipated what my presidential year might involve or the challenges psychology, our membership, and communities would have faced. Despite over 20 years of non-profit leadership experiences, learning how to navigate a pandemic, the necessary practice evolutions towards telepsychology, the strain and stress our membership endured, and the compounded challenges from further racial injustice, murder of several Black and Brown individuals, and social unrest made the final 8 months a time of growth, reflection, and perhaps just some fatigue too as I tried to lead our Association. I will always be indebted to our CEO, Mr. Michael Ranney, our OPA Staff, and the entire OPA Board of Directors for their patience, commitment, and tireless contributions throughout this time. A special note of appreciate to former OPA Presidents, Drs. Katharine Hahn Oh and Mary Lewis for their mentorship, and our OPA President-Elect, Dr. Cynthia VanKeuren, for hundreds of hours of collaborative problem solving, discussion, and action that allowed our Association to nimbly address these shared challenges. I have humorously suggested that Michael, Cindy, and I felt as though we were in an awkward shared marriage across several of those months given the incredible number of emails, video conference calls, and other communications we shared in our efforts to lead OPA, oftentimes spending more time together than we did with our actual families. Although I would hope they have better tastes in marital partners than me moving forward, I celebrate and deeply cherish both of them for their time, boundless energy, and consistently high commitment to OPA. 

While I would not suggest this was the Presidential Experience I wanted to have, it was the experience I was afforded, and we built the plane as we flew it. With this message, I begin the process of becoming your OPA Immediate Past President, although I will continue beyond the presidential roles, maintaining my leadership work as the shared liaison between OPA and the Ohio School Psychologists Association (OSPA) hereafter. Thank you for allowing me to serve and support you, Ohio psychology, and our numerous constituents. OPA has a bright future ahead and outstanding leadership to begin the 2020-21 administrative year in Dr. Cythia VanKeuren and President Elect, Dr. Cathy McDaniels Wilson, whom I will be humbled to support take this year and advance us farther ahead.

In your service, one last time,
Erich R. Merkle, PhD, EdS, NCSP
President, Ohio Psychological Association, 2019-20

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President's Message: July 2020

Posted By Erich Merkle, PhD, EdS, NCSP - OPA President, Monday, July 20, 2020

Since our June, 2020 update, the Ohio Psychological Association has begun to restart a number of our efforts related to the Association’s Strategic Plan. This guidance document organizes the entire structural and workflow efforts of OPA, from its office staff through our various committees. While we had made significant progress in bringing elements to action throughout the 2019-20 membership year, regrettably, the arrival of Ohio’s March COVID-19 shutdown required our Association to pivot towards supporting immediacy needs of our membership and constituents. As a reminder, the three priority foci of OPA’s Strategic Plan include the following:

  • Priority 1: Help Bring the Opioid Crisis to an End
  • Priority 2: Support the Development of Professional Psychology in Ohio
  • Priority 3: Ally with Communities and Systems

In restarting our Association efforts towards the Strategic Plan, we have asked our Priority Team leaders to schedule reset meetings throughout July to begin reorienting our leadership towards the work. In reviewing the Strategic Plan, we also are readily aware that we need to further address racial equity, racism, and social justice beyond our original design to ensure we capturing and fulfilling the vital needs of our communities in this period of powerful social activism.

During the coming new 2020-21 administrative year, OPA will be developing many new virtual professional development, assembly, town hall, and other outreach activities for our membership. Throughout this recent spring, our membership has embraced our supportive sessions towards transitioning into telepsychology, the various logistical and practice elements of such work, as well as broader topics of race, self-care, and even technology considerations. While our spring efforts were quickly organized to meet immediacy concerns, our hope is to be more intentional and planful in the coming year’s efforts. We readily recognize the need to further our social justice programming, supporting general societal challenges from the pandemic, substance use, PreK-12 educational environments, higher education staff and students, and the lifespan needs that result from intersecting all of the above. If you have any interest in volunteering your time towards our Strategic Plan, virtual sessions, or have content you would like to share as a presenter, feel welcome to contact me or our 2020-21 President-Elect, Dr. Cindy Van Keuren. We would be delighted to have you join our efforts!

Early July also brought the conclusion of our annual OPA elections. While we lost the opportunity to have our candidates outreach during the 2020 Spring OPA Convention due to its cancellation, we were able to promote the election experience virtually. Please join me in recognizing the following newly elected officers of the Ohio Psychological Association for 2020-21:

  • President Elect: Dr. Cathy McDaniels-Wilson
  • Vice President of Diversity: Dr. Chiathong Yong
  • Vice President of Science and Education: Dr. Laura Burns
  • APA Council Representative: Dr. Mary Lewis
  • OPAGS President: Ms. Stacy Henry

We would also like to recognize those Association leaders who are stepping down after one of the most unprecedented and involved years of psychology leadership:

  • Immediate Past President: Dr. Kathryn Hahn-Oh
  • Vice President of Diversity: Dr. Elizabeth Harris
  • Vice President of Science and Education: Dr. Rosemary Shaw
  • Acting Vice President of Science and Education: Dr. Kimberly Burkhart
  • APA Council Representative: Dr. Cathy McDaniels-Wilson
  • OPAGS President: Ms. Lexi Smith

And, finally, we are delighted to recognize those Association leaders who will be continuing their leadership efforts on the Board of Directors during the new year:

  • Vice President of Membership: Dr. Cathy Gaw
  • Vice President of Professional Practice: Dr. Virginia Clark
  • Vice President of Communications: Dr. Marc Dielman

Despite the considerable disruptions to OPA during the spring 2020 pandemic closures, loss of our annual Convention, and limitations of virtual professional development, the Association has weathered these uncertain times with stability and better than anticipated success. We are all indebted to the remarkable financial stewardship and sound decision making by our OPA CEO, Mr. Michael Ranney, OPA Director of Operations and Finance, Mr. David Savoia, OPA Finance Officer, Dr. Brandon Kozar, and the OPA Finance Committee. While balancing the proverbial financial books during this crisis required our financial team to have ingenuity and many difficult conversations, your statewide psychological association remains solvent, potent, and energized going into the forthcoming 2020-21 new administrative year!

Finally, as we reach the end of July, we recognize that there many uncertainties remaining in how each of us will practice and life in coming months as our COVID-19 numbers continue to escalate. We need your help in joining our OPA leadership committees to ensure we continue to remain responsive to our membership, support Ohio psychology, and our statewide community. If you have the ability to volunteer some discretionary time, please consider sharing your expertise by contacting me or our 2020-21 President-Elect, Dr. Cindy Van Keuren. The next OPA Board activity will be our forthcoming annual OPA Board Retreat in September 11-12, 2020. As we would anticipate, this experience will be virtually to maintain appropriate social distance and avoid larger group gatherings. We would love to see you participate in our leadership work.

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President's Message: June 2020

Posted By Erich Merkle, PhD, EdS, NCSP - OPA President, Tuesday, June 16, 2020

As if the challenges of living within our COVID-19 pandemic society were not painful enough in its life disruptions, we once again were shown the ongoing historic racism, oppression, and marginalization Black and Brown Americans continuously face after we witnessed the senseless murders of several Black Americans through the hands of law enforcement action within the past month. Our communities have been struggling with discord and unrest as they remind us Black Lives Matter in hopes of evoking change to shift these patterns of ingrained structural racism. Within our shared work, these are dynamic sociopolitical times that call all of us to action within our ethical duties as psychologists to promote equity, social justice, and systemic change.

The Ohio Psychological Association (OPA) continues to advance our duty towards supporting our membership in these perilous times. Since the past month, OPA has hosted several virtual assemblies and town hall sessions towards advancing our understanding and essential conversations about race. At the end of May, we engaged in a thoughtful dialogue about race and COVID-19 that explored the disparities in health care and differential challenges faced by People of Color and Indigenous Individuals, hosted by Drs. Elizabeth Harris and Kia-Rai Prewitt. Our graduate students through OPAGS also had a poignant town hall experience that further explored their responsibilities within social justice as training psychologists, expertly curated by Drs. Cathy McDaniels Wilson and Chikako Inoue Cox. Our Committee on Social Responsibility (CoSR) has developed both responses to these horrific deaths and provided numerous resources for both our membership and Ohio community through the OPA website (https://ohpsych.org/page/allypsychologistresources). If you are interested in supporting this critical work and our Association as we advance calls for law enforcement training, community and legislative outreach, and ongoing professional development for us all, please email me or contact the OPA office at 614-224-0034.

Separate, but interrelated to our Association’s advocacy on race, we continue to provide resources to our membership on navigating practice complexities within COVID-19. A multidisciplinary virtual panel was convened on Friday, June 5 that afforded practice information from a public health physician, several large practice owners, OPA’s Director of Professional Affairs, and legal-ethical guidance. In addition, our Prevention and Wellness Program (PWP) continues to offer biweekly self-care and wellness sessions, led by Dr. Howard Fradkin and his PWP team. In case you missed either the informative and well attended reopening practice session, or our ongoing PWP self-care forums, recordings are available as a benefit of your OPA membership on the OPA site at https://ohpsych.org/page/PandemicResources.

Finally, as we approach the beginning of a new fiscal year, please remember to renew your dues.  As the past few months of ongoing virtual training and community sessions have reminded us, OPA continues to be a responsive, nimble, and member focused Association that is here to support all of your practice and professional development needs. Thank you for your generous support and we look forward to being here for you moving forward.

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President's Message: May 2020

Posted By Erich Merkle, PhD, EdS, NCSP - OPA President, Friday, May 22, 2020

Since our last monthly OPA newsletter, all of us have seen our lives continuously change in unforeseen ways with each week seemingly different than the previous. Within the past week, Public Health officials and the Governor’s Office have begun to slowly lift many of the quarantine demands, shelter-in-place directives, and restrictions on business operations.

Hearing from many of our membership, OPA is pleased to announce a Virtual Town Hall Forum entitled, “Unlocking the Lockdown: Keying into Reopening Your Psychological Practice Virtual Town Hall” on Friday, June 5, 2020 at 7-830pm. This unique and unparalleled community experience for our membership will feature a comprehensive panel of varied experts to help you towards restarting and reopening your practices. Panelists will include Cuyahoga County Public Health Medical Director and Case Western Medical School Professor, Dr. Heidi Gullett, Attorney and Forensic Psychologist, Dr. Bob Stinson, Practice Owners, Drs. Matt Capezzuto and Virginia Clark, OPA’s Director of Professional Affairs, Dr. Jim Broyles, and event MC, Dr. Richard Ashbook. The Town Hall topics will range from sanitation and social distancing considerations, insurance and billing issues, legal and ethical concerns, and learning about steps you can take to ensure you are both successfully able to reopen to see clients in person while ensuring everyone’s wellness. Please watch your email for an invitation for this free event, provided as a service to all of our OPA membership. Registration will be limited to the first 100, so be sure to register quickly before this event “sells out!” In case you miss the event, be sure to visit the OPA website afterwards where a recording the session will be available on our COVID-19 resources page (https://ohpsych.org/page/PandemicResources).

Similar to the forthcoming OPA Virtual Town Hall, OPA continues to support its membership during these precarious, uncertain, and involved times through numerous virtual assemblies, town halls, and consultation team meetings. Over the past month alone, OPA has hosted over 11 free events that ranged from prevention and wellness, information for Directors of Clinical Training, supporting our graduate students in OPAGS, to specialty areas like geropsychology and BWC. OPA continues to work on behalf of its membership and strives to maximize the value of your membership by offering these sessions. Within the community of professional psychology and state associations, OPA remains a national leader in its outreach, high quality professional development, and primacy placed on valuing each of you as our Association members.

Your OPA Board continues to meet monthly for virtual meetings and to transact the Association’s administrative affairs. The Board of Directors celebrates the leadership of our entire OPA staff during these tenuous times, being responsible financial stewards and fiduciaries of our limited resources. Please be sure to reach out to any of our OPA staff or me if there is something further we can do to support you as our valued member. We are in this together and strong as a community of Ohio psychology!

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