Year in Review: Looking at the Past Year and Ahead Towards 2017/2018 at OAPA
On behalf of OAPA I would like to welcome our members to the 2017-2018 membership year. We are happy to announce that early renewal is available now for those who find the August-September renewal challenging given that many of our members are returning to a busy work schedule at that time. This does, however, mean I am writing this “Year in Review” a bit early and I do hope to have some additional announcements for the membership over the summer months.
As I move towards the end of my second term as President of OAPA, I wanted to take the opportunity to share what a “year in the life” of the OAPA Board looks like. As you know, we are a non-profit association and our Board is entirely volunteer-based. This can make for a busy schedule at times and requires great flexibility with our work, but it is a very rewarding experience and I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to serve as your President over the last four years. My hope is that a look at our activities will inspire you to get involved with the association as a future Board member or volunteer. Alternatively, why not consider taking a role in grassroots advocacy within your organization and with your peers? Your Board is here to support you in any endeavours that further the important role Master’s-prepared members of the College of Psychologists have in this province. Our competent and professional members support thousands of clients each year and are key players in keeping Ontarians successful and healthy.
Lots and Lots of Meetings. OAPA Board members regularly liaise with a wide variety of individuals and organizations in order to make sure our voices are heard on the key issues that impact you and your clients. Our lobby team meets with key decision makers in the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) on nearly a monthly basis to discuss issues ranging from access to services, to maintaining Masters-plus-experience registration, to shared access to the title of Psychologist. This has been a positive and encouraging relationship for many years and one that we are confident will lead to the abandonment of the College’s closure proposals in the near future.
While the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care (MOHLTC) is a key connection influencing the regulation of our profession, our membership has a significant impact on several other ministries. To support all that our members do, our team also meets routinely the ministries supporting education, child and youth, corrections, and colleges and universities. At several of these tables it has been made clear that we have been the exclusive voice of psychology. If your work is influenced by one of these organizations and you have a message to convey, make sure you reach out to the Board. We are at these tables and we are your voice.
OAPA Board members are also active at the table of the Coalition of Ontario Regulated Health Professions Association (CORHPA). This association includes members of all regulated health professions within the province and is where we are able to keep an ear to the ground about changes in health care and health care regulation within the province. Many of our “calls for action” are spawned by, discussions at CORHPA, and it has also proved to be a key source of allies for our own professional causes. Again, we are often the lone voice for the profession at this table and it has been a pleasure to experience how well-received and respected our voice has been in this context.
Monitoring Regulatory Changes and Advocating for Your Needs. It is not feasible for most members to attend CPO Council meetings, and keeping up with the minutes and many consultations that occur throughout the year can be daunting. Your Board works hard to make sure you are promptly informed about the goings-on at the College, and to guide you in any immediate actions necessary. OAPA Board members are generally the only observers present at the CPO council and this has placed us in a unique position of also having to engage with our Doctoral peers on key issues that impact us all. The proposed changes to Supervision regulations was one such area of concern and resulted in in-person and electronic meetings between our Board and well over a hundred Psychologists and Psychological Associates at all degree levels. These actions resulted in a strong response from the profession, and key changes to the proposed Supervision amendments were made. We saw this as a clear victory for the profession and a key change to some, perhaps unintentionally, misdirected regulatory proposals.
Responding to Urgent Issues as they Arise. Members come to the Board both privately and in more public forums to raise issues regarding their practice or the profession as a whole. While much of our time is focused on major issues that clearly impact all of us, being alerted by our members about potential emerging issues has always been a key guide to our action and advocacy plans. It became apparent at our most recent AGM that several members are finding troubling obstacles to coverage by their clients’ extended health plans. Those obstacles often undermined the profession or risked the health and safety of the clients we serve. Your Board initiated an immediate action plan in this regard and began seeking methods of engaging with the insurers. It has been a challenging industry to tackle, but we have made significant in-roads lately and hope to announce more in this regard soon.
Looking Ahead at the 2017-2018 Year
While all of the activities highlighted above will continue into the new membership year for OAPA, it is never business as usual for the Association and its Board. We have several new endeavours in the works, some of which include:
* HOLD THE DATE: November 17th OAPA Conference and AGM. I am excited to announce that we are busy organizing a high-profile conference along with our yearly AGM. We have an exciting line-up this year targeting youth from an educational, mental health, and organizational standpoint. Watch for an announcement soon regarding our new venue and our speaker list. This is going to be a big one and you are not going to want to miss it.
* Engaging with New Organizations to Create Bridges between our Members and the Clients We Serve. We have been speaking with key organizations, such as Special Olympics Ontario, to better understand how our members can meet the needs of a diverse Ontario population. Your Board played a role in informing the current Federal Budget regarding the new Provincial psychotherapy funds. Ontario is the first province in Canada to move towards publically-funded options for psychotherapy. There has been no breakdown at the Provincial level and discussions are underway to further the initial proposal. We hope to have new announcements in this regard and are exciting about what this means for the future of our organization.
* Extending Your Voice. We have been working hard over the years to be at the tables that mean the most to you. While this means even more meetings for your Board members, it is clear that the best way to communicate your message is to be involved in the key conversations. This has been an important role for our contracted lobbyists, as they have been essential in opening doors for our Board members to be in positions of influence throughout the province. While I am hopeful that we will no longer need our lobbyists for engaging us with government regarding closure, it is clear that they have played a key role in expanding OAPA’s influence and allowing us to become one of the key voices for the profession.
* Increasing Your Opportunity to Participate. The return of the OAPA Listserve has been a resounding success. It is clear that we are a more powerful organization when all of our members have an opportunity to voice and discuss their concerns. We hope to extend that voice by facilitating participation in our AGM and voting on key issues. This year we intend to introduce several bylaw amendments that will permit our members to engage in voting and discussion on key issues outside of the AGM process itself. We will have more to share in this regard in the months ahead, so keep an eye out on how to be heard and to guide your organization to meet your needs and those of the clients you serve.
A Call For Action
I would like to encourage our Membership to consider renewing early. Your membership funds allow the day to day operations of OAPA to go forward. AGM costs, software subscriptions (e.g. the listserve and website), expense reimbursement, and administrative and business fees are all covered by your annual dues. Our contract lobbyists are paid through our legal/action reserve fund, which has unfortunately been greatly depleted by the College’s years-long efforts to push closure. While we hope that issue is coming to a close, we cannot guarantee that delay tactics will cease. It has also been clear that our lobbyists have been key to the growth of our organization and will be an important asset as we expand our organizational scope to further the profession and better meet your needs. I hope that those of you who are unable to donate time to the efforts will consider giving additional donations to our advocacy fund. This opportunity is available with your renewal. Even prior to my tenure with the Board I generally matched my dues with an additional donation. Once I became a Board member I was thrilled to see several other members providing similar support. Honestly, however, many smaller donations will also provide a welcome boost to our reserves and allow us to move the organization forward. If you feel you are able to provide advocacy support of any kind, this will be greatly appreciated.
I would like to thank each and every one of you for the support I have observed over my tenure as President of OAPA. I look forward to working alongside each of you in the year ahead and into the future.
Michael Decaire, M.A., C.Psych.