It’s who you know: Dan Abrahamson, PhD

Assistant Executive Director for State Advocacy, Dan Abrahamson, PhD, oversees governance groups, State Leadership Conference and the allocation of support and resources to states

By Communications staff

Dan Abrahamson, PhDFebruary 9, 2012—An early involvement in advocacy at the state level encouraged Dan Abrahamson, PhD, to join the APA Practice Directorate in 2006 as Assistant Executive Director for State Advocacy. “I enjoy the opportunity to make a difference,” says Abrahamson. “In private practice, I helped individuals. Now I’m tackling issues at a larger level.”

Abrahamson received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Albany. For nearly 20 years he was the administrative director of the Traumatic Stress Institute/Center for Adult & Adolescent Psychotherapy in South Windsor, Connecticut.

Abrahamson now oversees all of the advocacy programs and resources provided by the APA Practice Organization (APAPO) to 60 State, Provincial and Territorial Associations (SPTA).

As head of state advocacy, Abrahamson focuses on three main areas: governance, the annual State Leadership Conference (SLC) and the provision of support and resources for the states.

Governance

Abrahamson’s shop provides staffing for governance groups, which do a wide variety of work within APA. State Advocacy organizes and runs meetings, and provides resources and other materials to governance groups.

Among the committees supported by Abrahamson and his staff are: Committee on Rural Health, Task Force on Serious Mental Illness and Severe Emotional Disturbance, prescriptive authority and grants subcommittees of the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), Advisory Committee on Colleague Assistance (ACCA), Committee of State Leaders, and Council of Executives of State, Provincial and Territorial Psychological Associations (CESPPA).

State Leadership Conference

“States will have a major role in implementing legislation related to health care reform, and it’s critical that state leaders are engaged in that process,” says Abrahamson, who organizes the annual State Leadership Conference (SLC) in Washington, DC. The conference is a major advocacy and leadership training event that brings together APA staff and SPTA leaders for workshops, seminars, discussion groups, briefings, keynote and plenary speakers on critical thematic issues, award programs and lobbying visits to Capitol Hill.

This year’s theme, “Bringing Psychology to the Table: State Leadership in Health Care Reform” focuses on the role states will play in the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). “We recognize that there is a critical interface between federal and state initiatives, and we have to constantly work to understand that interplay,” says Abrahamson.

Last year, nearly 500 psychology leaders from across the United States and its territories, and Canada, participated in educational events and networking opportunities at the 28th annual SLC. The conference culminated in more than 300 meetings between SLC participants and their members of Congress and staff to advance professional psychology’s legislative agenda.

Abrahamson believes different components of health care reform, such as Health Insurance Exchanges (HIEs), Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and health care homes will be defined at the state level within the parameters of ACA, which is why it’s so important that state leaders are prepared for the role they will play. Implementation will be an ongoing initiative for several years, says Abrahamson, and it will take place primarily at the state level. “We provide state leaders with tools and resources needed to get psychology firmly engaged in the health care reform process at the state level,” he says.

Support and Resources for States

Beyond SLC, Abrahamson oversees the financial and consultative resources provided to SPTAs. One such financial resource is the APAPO Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP) grant program. CAPP grants are intended to protect, advance and promote the interests of professional practitioner psychologists on the state and national level. Organizational development grants can be used to provide funding for the operations and central offices of small and very small SPTAs, and to support general lobbying activities.

SPTAs of any size can apply for legislative and emergency CAPP grants to pursue or defend legislation that supports or protects the practice of professional psychology and to address unforeseen circumstances. Recent grants include a legislative grant to the West Virginia Psychological Association to support the doctorate as the entry level degree for the independent practice of psychology, and an emergency grant to the South Dakota Psychological Association for administrative support.

Abrahamson’s department also provides consultations to SPTAs for a variety of situations, from hiring new management and leadership to helping with strategic planning or dealing with legislative crises.

Recently, the State Advocacy office unveiled the state implementation of health care reform initiative for APA Practice. This includes an online community that will provide ongoing support for SPTAs in health care reform. This new community platform will allow SPTAs and their members to access documents, videos and other information about health care reform.

The State Health Care Reform online community, which is expected to be available on a pilot-basis in early spring and for broader use by early summer, will allow participants to categorize complex subjects by topic, such as health care financing or ACOs, and further label those issues by state. This will allow users to easily search for resources on a specific topic or for a specific state. Abrahamson hopes this new community will create interaction among state leaders. “We want to enable them to take what we started at SLC and keep it going,” he says.

Abrahamson and his wife Lynn will be celebrating their 30th anniversary this summer. He muses, “I am grateful that the APA Convention will be early in August this year as I have been away for way too many of our anniversaries over the years, including celebrating our 25th by myself in San Francisco in 2007.”