From The Field

Veterans Affairs Psychology Leadership Conference focuses on patient care

The 2010 conference attracted yet another record crowd to this annual keystone event in public sector psychology

by Communications Staff

June 30, 2010 — The 13th annual Veterans Affairs (VA) Psychology Leadership Conference attracted yet another record turnout this year, with 190 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) psychology leaders convening last month in San Antonio, Texas. This keystone event in public sector psychology is co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Directorate, Association of VA Psychologist Leaders (AVAPL) and APA Division 18 (Psychologists in Public Service).

The VA is the largest single employer of psychologists in the United States and the largest integrated care system in the country. Founded in 1998, the yearly conference showcases the highest quality of patient care to U.S. veterans while addressing the professional needs and concerns of VA psychologists. This conference both provides an opportunity for participants to network and encourages support for growing numbers of psychology leaders to move into key leadership positions in the VA health care system.

Among the invited speakers at the May 12-15 event, Randy Phelps, PhD, APA Deputy Executive Director for Professional Practice, spoke about challenges and opportunities for psychologists in the coming years. With economics as the driver, Dr. Phelps said, “the future for professional psychology lies in redefining our profession as health care versus simply mental health care.”

APA President Carol Goodheart, EdD, spoke on evidence-based practice. Noting that health care reform will require that both behavioral health care and medical care providers provide evidence of quality care and cost-effective treatment, Dr. Goodheart detailed the objectives and findings of her Presidential Task Force on Advancing Practice.

Stating that “evidence-based practice has profound implications for practice, training and policy,” Goodheart stressed the imperative of developing an “influential strategy for outcome and quality monitoring that is clinically relevant and useful to practitioners.”

Keynote presenter Antonette Zeiss, PhD, Acting Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Officer for Mental Health, Department Of Veterans Affairs, spoke on the Obama administration’s vision for the future of the VA. Resources will be focused on three concerns of importance to veterans, according to Zeiss: easier access to benefits and services; reducing the disability claims backlog and eliminating veteran homelessness. Zeiss also discussed the current status and future of mental health services in the VA. Its budget request of $125 billion for 2011 “supports the transformation of the VA into a twenty-first century organization,” she said.

The conference agenda and slides that accompanied presentations are available on the AVAPL website.