APsaA on Capitol Hill

Bob Pyles, Warren Procci and Mark Smaller (current, past and incoming presidents) visited with staff for Senators Toomey (R-PA), Manchin (D-WV) and Blunt (R-MO) on Friday, June 7 and presented APsaA’s recommendations regarding the mental health portion of the gun control legislation, S. 689. That legislation failed to pass the Senate by a close vote on April 17, but is likely to come before the Senate again before the end of the year, after the senate decides what to do  on immigration reform.  All three visits were extremely successful with the staff members welcoming APsaA’s recommendations and indicating that no other group had made such recommendations. They also expressed appreciation that we were focusing on the mental health part of the bill where we have the most expertise.

APsaA's recommendations essentially were (a) provide parents and teachers with a set of danger signs to be used to identify young people who might be suffering from a mental illness and are a threat for violence, (b) provide licensed mental health practitioners with a set of criteria to guide their evaluations of young people who are referred to them, (c) revise the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system so that only the mentally ill who are determined to be a threat for violence have their names included in that data base, and (d) change the name of the data base so that the mentally ill do not have their names sent to a “criminal” background database.

We met first with Ben Kochman of Senator Toomey’s staff, and he was very receptive to our comments and recommendations and said he wished we had come in sooner so that our recommendations could have been incorporated into the bill initially. He was not sure that the bill would be brought up again but indicated that the Senator would likely incorporate our recommendations if it did.

We next met with Kimberly Waller on Senator Joe Manchin’s staff, and she was also very receptive to our recommendations. She indicated that she is a social worker by training and was impressed that social workers could be analysts. She confirmed that the Senator will make another attempt this year to pass S. 689 and that our ideas would be an improvement in the bill. We know that Senator Manchin has been talking to Senator Blunt about changing his “no” vote on S. 689. I promised to send her legislative language.

Finally, we met with Courtney Houston-Carter of Senator Blunt’s staff. He was initially unresponsive to our presentation but he said that the Senator was very interested in passing some type of legislation and was reading about mass shootings to educate himself. I promised to send him our background paper. Then he asked us to review an amendment that senate republicans are putting together.  He said he would give our recommendations to Senator Blunt and that he might want to include them in the Republican amendment. He said if I sent him our background paper, he would send us their amendment for comment.

The response to ApsaA's visity was uniformly positive. Bob, Mark and Warren were terrific and immediately established strong credibility with staff in all three offices. APsaA now has an excellent chance to materially influence the final legislation. One never gets everything that one wants in legislation passed by Congress, but APsaA has a good opportunity to make this legislation better.

Recommendations for Preventing Gun Violence

APsaA recommends these five concrete steps designed to reduce the likelihood of mass murder and suicides like we saw in Connecticut. They are preliminary and were developed by experts in the field who are members of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Those experts include Douglas Jacobs, M.D. President and Medical Director, Screening for Mental Health Inc., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Jonathan Monahan, Ph.D., University of Virginia, Director MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study; and Robert L. Pyles, M.D., Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry Harvard Medical School, President American Psychoanalytic Association. Continue reading...



APsaA makes sure that the voices of its members are heard both on Capitol Hill as well as at various state levels. This section features letters sent to legislators as well as to federal and state administrators conveying the points of view of the Association.3

Medical Privacy

APsaA is hard at work advocating for the protection of patients' right to privacy.

Mental Health Parity

APsaA works closely with its partner associations to ensure ongoing compliance within Medicare and private insurers regarding the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.

Mental Health Governance

APsaA advocates for favorable rulemaking and criteria across all federal agencies to properly classify and evaluate mental health disorders.

Health Care Reform

Numerous bills are pending in Congress, with complex provisions that could lead to dramatic changes in the economics of health care and other aspects of health care policy.

Landmark Cases

These landmark cases are pivotal to issues of particular concern to APsaA members such as medical privacy which impacts their clinical practices as well as issues of broad social concern such as gay rights and same-sex marriage. Often, landmark cases are the outcome of a legal case that establishes a precedent that either substantially changes the interpretation of the law or that simply establishes new case law on a particular issue.

Federal Budget

Visit this section to be kept apprised on policy and debate on budget issues that may affect psychoanalysis.

Reports from Washington, D.C.

APsaA's federal legislative counsel provides timely and informative summaries on public policy matters that affect the psychoanalytic profession and the greater mental health community. Read the latest reports here.