More Important than Unity, Even…

Roderick Shaner, MD
West LA Councilor
Co-chair, Government Affairs Committee

After three long years, it has finally happened. All the California District Branches—CCPS, NCPS, OCPS, SCPS, and SDCPS—are again fully reunited under a powerful statewide organization for psychiatric advocacy in California: The California State Association of Psychiatrists—CSAP! Together, we three thousand APA psychiatrists have the credibility, financial reserves, and highly respected advocacy team through which we effectively communicate a single set of messages to California legislators.

Unity is important, but our new CSAP structure provides us with something even more valuable. This statewide voice of psychiatry is truly our voice.

Our legislative advocacy is now shaped only by us, developing solely from the votes of our APA members. We need no intermediaries giving directions to lobbyists without our explicit direction and beyond our knowledge or control. We have full transparency that ensures that conflicts of interest are fully disclosed. We are again a fully member-driven organization.

Of course, this creates new responsibilities for SCPS. When it comes to advocacy going forward, we can’t rely on others to do the thinking for us. We must stay informed and involved. Advocacy is indeed complicated. Doing it through SCPS and CSAP is by far the best way of insuring that California government accurately hears and responds to the true concerns and requests of our diverse membership.

The SCPS and CSAP Government Affairs Committees provide a wealth of information and regular summary reports about legislative bills and other issues, all on the SCPS website under Advocacy. We solicit determinative membership direction on the actions that we should take, based upon member communication via email to SCPS, letters to SCPS Psychiatrist, direct contact with SCPS Councilors and Officers, and ultimately through our votes at every SCPS election.

Our new strength couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Major issues for psychiatry and medicine in general hang in the balance. Even as this is written, a matrix of bills that can change LPS law and restore the rights of our most severely ill patients to access treatment are making their ways through legislative committees. Actions regarding insurance parity, liability, and scope of practice are also in play. The future is always uncertain. But our newly unified advocacy will undoubtedly make it better, especially when it is, through CSAP, the clear voice of California APA psychiatry.