PCSAS Outreach

As Executive Director of PCSAS (Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System), I have been conducting an active outreach campaign on two main fronts: federal recognition and support of this new accreditation system, and financial development for implementing the system.

The campaign’s debut was an article in the May 27, 2008, issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education announcing the birth of PCSAS. This was followed by an invited article (“Update on the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System”) by Dick Bootzin, PCSAS Board President and former APS Board member, published in the fall issue of Clinical Science, the newsletter of the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (and reprinted here).

In the months since, Alan Kraut, APS Executive Director and Amy Pollick, APS Director of Government Relations, joined me in a series of meetings with top administrators at key government science agencies in the areas of mental and behavioral health care and research — specifically, NIMH, NIDA, NIAAA, OBSSR, and SAMHSA. We introduced “the PCSAS story” and asked the agencies for their support. We explained the new accreditation system’s mission — strengthening science-centered education and training in clinical psychology and behavioral health — and shared our vision of how the educational reforms fostered by PCSAS would contribute to advancing science and improving public health care. The response we received at the agencies was extremely gratifying and encouraging. As one NIH Director put it, “This should have been done years ago!” These health and science policy leaders asked penetrating questions, grasped the rationale behind creation of the new accreditation system, and openly explored ways that they might work with us toward achieving common goals. We are continuing to work with the agencies to explore specific mechanisms for support, and we anticipate a strong partnership on behalf of clinical science training.

Another immediate priority is to gain official recognition of PCSAS as an accreditation organization by key entities. In particular, we intend to seek recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a prominent non-governmental entity that evaluates and recognizes accrediting organizations across a wide range of educational fields. We have met with CHEA officials to learn the details of their processes. Once PCSAS begins processing accreditation applications, we will initiate the formal application process for CHEA recognition. We see no serious obstacles to gaining such recognition.

We also have embarked on an effort to gain recognition of PCSAS accreditation by the Veterans Administration, so that students from PCSAS-accredited programs would be eligible for VA internships, and graduates of such programs would be eligible to be hired as VA psychologists. As part of this effort, we met with the office of Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), who sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and is Chair of a House Task Force on Veterans Affairs. Rep. Rodriguez communicated on our behalf with the Department of Veterans Affairs about the VA’s relevant policies, and received assurances that the VA would review these policies once PCSAS earned CHEA recognition. Our efforts with the VA took us to APS Charter Members Robert Zeiss, Director, Associated Health Education Office; and Antonette Zeiss, Deputy Chief Consultant, Office of Mental Health Services, both of whom will be centrally involved in the policy changes we’re seeking. After gaining recognition by CHEA and the VA, we will approach state licensing boards seeking their recognition of PCSAS accreditation.

In parallel to our activities in Washington, we are also building a solid financial base for PCSAS. We’ve approached this from several angles. First, we established the Founders’ Circle for interested universities. To become members of the Founders’ Circle, universities pledge $15,000 per year for five years to help underwrite the start-up costs of PCSAS. Although this underwriting campaign was launched in the midst of the current economic recession, it already has received commitments from three universities, with several other universities actively exploring this opportunity to play a leading role in reforming doctoral education. I have made trips to several universities to tell the PCSAS story and to seek support, and I am looking forward to talking to other interested organizations and individuals — to tell not only what this new venture means for the future of doctoral education in psychological clinical science, but also what it means for the advancement of psychological science and public health. My e-mail address is: mcfall@indiana.edu, if you are interested in learning more.

We also are pursuing financial support from federal agencies and private foundations. In that vein, Kraut, Pollick, and I met with administrators at the Fund for Improvement in Postsecondary Education, a governmental funding agency, to explore possible grant support for PCSAS. We also have been approaching private foundations. To aid in this search, we have formed an Advisory Council of prominent figures in the field. Aaron Beck and David Barlow were the first two appointments to the Council, and they already have pointed us to possible foundation funding. We expect to add other appointments in the near future.

Ultimately, we hope to build an endowment of $5M over the next five years to provide a solid long-term financial foundation for PCSAS. Public and private contributors to this endowment will be the key to ensuring that we are able to achieve and sustain our mission of promoting high-quality science-centered doctoral education and training in clinical and health psychology. In the interim, we are indebted to our parent organization, the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science, and our “grandparent” organization, the Association for Psychological Science, for their invaluable support and assistance in launching PCSAS.

Observer Vol.22, No.3 March, 2009

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