American Psychological Association Urges Congress to Reject President’s Proposed Budget

Mick Mulvaney defending Trump budget cuts.

The American Psychological Association expressed serious concerns regarding deep cuts in the president’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget that the organization says will curtail advances in research and education while threatening the health, well-being and competitiveness of our nation.

“The APA is strongly opposed to the harsh cuts to vital domestic programs in the administration’s budget blueprint,” said APA President Antonio Puente, PhD. “These proposed cuts would severely limit the federal investment in science, health, education and human service programs. We urge Congress to reject the administration’s budget.”

The proposed budget calls for a $54 billion increase in defense and homeland security spending (approximately 10 percent) for fiscal year 2018 with corresponding cuts to domestic programs. With a few exceptions, like veterans’ health care, most domestic programs would be cut substantially. These drastic cuts to education, health, safety net programs and science would undermine the research pipeline, workforce and supports for underserved populations and communities that are most at risk, according to the APA.

If enacted, the Trump administration’s “skinny budget” released yesterday would cut research at the National Institutes of Health by a historically unprecedented 18 percent ($6 billion), slash health professions funding by 77 percent ($403 million) and reduce programs at the Department of Education by 14 percent and the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 13.2 percent.

“Behavioral research is critical to NIH’s mission. For example, the National Academy of Medicine recently reaffirmed that over 50 percent of premature mortality in the U.S. is due to behaviors such as smoking, sedentary lifestyle and alcohol and other drug consumption,” said Puente. “Understanding how best to encourage behavior change and maintaining that change over time is at the heart of much research on diabetes, cancer prevention, healthy aging and addiction. If our nation is to continue to accelerate the development of life-changing cures, pioneering treatments and innovative prevention strategies, it is essential to sustain predictable increases in the NIH budget.”

The APA also expressed its opposition to the devastating 77 percent cut in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s health professions training programs, which could jeopardize funding for the Graduate Psychology Education Program that is vital to developing a competent psychology workforce and improving access to integrated care for those in rural and underserved areas.

Health and safety net programs would also be harmed by the cuts in this budget, according to the APA. The 18.9 percent cut in the Department of Health and Human Services would put at risk the Title X family planning program, support for caregivers, Minority Fellowship Program, Head Start and other programs. The proposed $200 million reduction in the Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children would deprive low-income pregnant or breastfeeding women and infants of desperately needed food and health care referrals.

Cuts to the Department of Education target needed programs including afterschool, academic and cultural enrichment programs and reduce support for programs designed to increase access to higher education for low-income, first-generation students, according to the APA.

Additionally, the 13.2 percent cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development would likely restrict services for homeless persons, many of whom suffer from untreated mental disorders.

“The extreme positions advocated in this budget should serve as an impetus for psychologists and everyone concerned about science, health, education and human welfare to weigh in now with their members of Congress to oppose the large domestic cuts that would adversely impact the ability of scientists, educators and clinicians to create and communicate knowledge and improve people’s lives” said Puente.

Trump Administration’s Orders Pose Harm to Refugees, Immigrants, Academic Research and International Exchange, According to Psychologists

Iranian psychologists in American Psychological Association (APA) Convention From left to right: Sheava Rahimi, Dr. Mehrpouyan, Dr. Fakhrabadi, Dr. Modarressi, Dr. Pakdaman, Peyman Raoofi

WASHINGTON – While safeguarding the nation from terrorist entry is of critical national importance, the Trump administration’s proposed restrictions on refugees and other visitors are likely to compound the stress and trauma already experienced by populations at risk for discrimination, limit scientific progress and increase stigma, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

APA voiced concern regarding the executive order issued Jan. 27 that suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, more than halves to 50,000 the number of refugees to be admitted in 2017, indefinitely blocks all refugees from Syria, and bars entry for 90 days to individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“Refugees, particularly those displaced from war zones, experience stress, trauma and other serious mental health problems,” said APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD. “Denying them entry to the United States, particularly those who have already been vetted, is inhumane and likely to worsen their suffering. This conclusion is based on extensive research and clinical experience, as well as my own personal past.”

Such policies can lead to a perception of reduced freedom, safety and social connection for those directly affected, as well as for society at large. APA urged the administration also to consider the importance of allowing international students and psychologists with proper documentation to enter the United States. The restrictions to entry will prevent many international students and scientists from studying, working or attending conferences in the United States, curbing the nation’s ability to benefit from global scientific talent, according to APA. They will also impede the international engagement of scientists living in this country who are not U.S. citizens.

APA also took exception to an executive order issued on Jan. 25 that would make it easier to deport immigrants. Research has documented serious mental health consequences for immigrant children and/or their parents who have been forced to leave the United States, which may magnify earlier trauma experienced in or upon fleeing their country of origin. Sudden and unexpected family separation is associated with negative outcomes on child well-being that can last well into adulthood.

The president’s executive order on immigration could lead to expanding family detention centers, according to APA. Immigration detainees are more vulnerable to psychological stress, compared to those in the community. The longer the detention period, the greater the risk of depression and other mental health symptoms for immigrants who were previously exposed to interpersonal trauma.

“The United States has historically served as a safe haven for the world’s refugees and a destination for those interested in the educational and employment opportunities that our nation offers, as it did for me,” Puente said. “We must strive to develop ways to secure our borders from those very few who wish to harm us while continuing to welcome others who come to our shores in peace.”

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

Solitary Confinement is a Whole Other Monster Especially for Juvenile Offenders

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A correctional facility is a difficult situation to be in, but solitary confinement is a whole other monster.  There’s no getting away from the pounding sounds resonating endlessly, the animalistic cries coming from all ends of the unit, and the pained screams of frustration gone ignored by the correctional officers.

Granted, solitary confinement was created for a reason. However, if a juvenile offender was deemed a risk to the safety of other inmates or prison staff, the corrections officers were instructed to use all force necessary to stop whatever dangerous behavior the juvenile offender was engaging in and place them in solitary confinement. To be surrounded by those sounds for 22 hours or more a day, locked in a small cell with little to no light of day behind a steel door, and for months or years at a time is cruel and inhumane.

Isolation can cause serious psychological, physical and developmental harm  to these young offenders, often times leading to the development of serious mental health issues and attempts of suicide. The psychological impact of solitary confinement is so great, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry even published a policy statement on the topic, saying that the consequences of solitary confinement on juvenile offenders, due to their developmental vulnerability, include depression, anxiety and psychosis and put them at risk of adverse reactions.

The American Psychological Association adds that additional reported mental health problems as a result of being in solitary confinement include panic, insomnia, paranoia and aggression. The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty & the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry both agree that the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities for juveniles should not be an option.

With all these well-respected organizations clearly stating how detrimental solitary confinement is to the psychological development of a youth, why is there nothing being done to enforce a change in the current solitary confinement policies?

Like any great social movement, change takes time. California Senator Mark Leno (D) introduced Senate Bill 124, which, if passed, will impose stricter restrictions on the use of solitary confinement as punishment in juvenile correctional facilities. SB 124 would only allow the use of solitary confinement if the juvenile offender poses an immediate and substantial risk of harm to themselves, others or the facility security, not as a result of a mental disorder, and other less restrictive options have been used and proven ineffective.

The bill would also ban the use of consecutive periods of solitary confinement, restricting it to the minimum required time, but no longer than 4 hours, to address the threat without putting the mental and physical well-being of the juvenile offender at risk. Additionally, it restricts the use of solitary confinement entirely with juvenile offenders who are a danger to themselves or others as a result of a mental disorder or who are gravely disabled.

Juvenile offenders who fall in this category will be transferred to a designated mental health facility for evaluation. Correctional officers will be prohibited to use solitary confinement as a form of punishment, intimidation, convenience or retaliation if the bill is passed. Finally, the bill would also mandate each state and local juvenile facility to document the usage of solitary confinement to prevent it from being misused.

Although solitary confinement is not being completely eliminated, Senate Bill 124 is a fair compromise by allowing it to still be used, but with humane restrictions and in a way that will not hurt the juveniles psychologically or developmentally.

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