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President's Message: December 2017

Posted By Mary Lewis, PhD, ABPP - OPA President, Tuesday, December 19, 2017

One of the requirements of the new OPA governance model is a twice-yearly all member assembly, one to be held virtually and the other to be held in person at the OPA convention. The first virtual assembly was held on Saturday, November 18th from 10 a.m. until noon, and approximately twenty participants were on the virtual call. A broad call for topics was sent out to all OPA members, I am grateful to Elizabeth Harris, PhD, who submitted the topic chosen for the assembly. The topic was “How do psychologists help the public who have been victims of or witnesses to gun violence?” Specifically, the goal was to not discuss the issue of whether civilians should have access to guns but rather, what we can do to help those who have experienced negative outcomes and the scientific evidence that supports our efforts.

Katharine Hahn Oh, PhD, and Michael Ranney, MPA, compiled a list of resources from external sources, and posed these four questions to guide the discussion: 

  • How can we improve mental health care providers’ response to victims and witnesses of gun violence?
  • What systems-level interventions might be helpful (at the community/neighborhood level, in healthcare, in training/continuing education, legal or policy changes)?
  • How does culture influence our interventions, and how can we create culturally-appropriate responses?
  • What action steps does our group suggest for OPA and for our members?

The two-hour assembly generated a rich and deep discussion around these questions, and posed some challenging discussions about how OPA can be a source of information and support for mental health providers and individuals who have been impacted by gun violence. Some notable suggestions included preparing an op-ed piece about the role of language used in the mass media around incidents of gun violence, increasing awareness of alternative and effective practice models, continuing education and trainings on trauma-informed care, training on how to engage with communities impacted by gun violence, especially communities of color, workshops on cultural competence for other healthcare professionals, and expanding our relationships with legislators to educate and become resources on supporting those impacted by gun violence. 

Each time I have the privilege of sitting down with a group of psychologists to work on a broad topic, such as the one presented at the assembly, I am humbled by the vast knowledge and compassion demonstrated by the participants in the group. The diversity of ideas represented in the assembly was inspiring! I truly feel that OPA can be guided by the group’s recommendations, and that the nature of the “next steps” given were supportive of collaboration – not only among the OPA committees and leadership teams, but also among other healthcare professionals and community stakeholders. 

The next OPA Assembly will be held Thursday, April 26th and Friday, April 27th of the 2018 convention, at 8 a.m. both mornings. It is likely the assembly topic will be a spin-off of this fall topic, although the assembly planning team is open to other suggestions. When you register for the convention this fall, please plan on coming to one of the morning assemblies! I look forward to your feedback and suggestions, especially as OPA moves forward with our new governance model and updating our strategic plan. 

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