The Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program

U.S. Department of Health Resources & Services Administration Bureau of Health Professions 

The Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program is the only federal program dedicated solely to psychology education and training. An exemplary two-for-one program established in 2002, the GPE Program provides grants through a competitive process to accredited doctoral, internship and postdoctoral programs in support of interdisciplinary training of psychology students for the provision of psychological services primarily in integrated health care settings to underserved populations (i.e., older adults, children, chronically ill, and victims of abuse and trauma including veterans and their families), especially in rural and urban underserved communities.  Psychology trainees are trained with two or more other health professions, (e.g., medicine, nursing, allied health and pharmacy). Funds may be used to cover costs for student stipends, curriculum development, model demonstration programs, faculty and psychologists as mentors, and technical assistance. There are approximately 900 eligible universities, professional schools and hospitals nation wide. Since 2002, there have been 89 grants in 32 states, including the District of Columbia, totaling nearly $27 million.

Currently authorized under a general authority in the Public Health Service Act [P.L. 105-392 Section 755 (b)(1)(J)]  that allows for federal funding for behavioral and mental health training and funded in the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill under the “Allied Health and Other Disciplines” account, the GPE Program is a proven effective program for meeting the growing mental and behavioral health needs of our nation’s least served communities.  For the first time, the GPE Program was included in the President’s budget for FY 2010 and FY 2011 underscoring the intent of the Executive Branch to continue the program. Also, in April 2009 specific authorizing legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. 811) by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2066) by Congressmen Gene Green (D-TX) and Tim Murphy (R-PA). Passage of S.811 and H.R. 2066 would enact into law the establishment of the GPE Program and provide a line to facilitate funding for the program during the appropriations process.

Despite modest funding for most of the past eight years – approximately $2 million a year except for $4.5 million a year from 2003-2005 that allowed for a set-aside for geropsychology training – the GPE Program has supported the training of at least 100 graduate psychology students annually with at least 30 other health professionals, including physicians (e.g., pediatricians, neurologists, oncologists, surgeons and psychiatrists), nurses, dentists, pharmacists, occupational therapists and social workers. Furthermore, upon graduation a majority of these GPE trained students have remained in underserved communities.

Psychologists are trained to diagnose and treat depression and other mental disorders for all persons across the life span.  Moreover, a high priority for psychologists is the prevention of suicide, which is often associated with depression and is exceptionally high among veterans, college students, and older adults. Also psychologists play a critical role in preventing and treating chronic illnesses (e.g., heart disease, diabetes and cancer) by focusing on risky or unhealthy behaviors and promoting behaviors that facilitate healing and recovery.

Bottom Line

Through the GPE Program, the nation has a critical mechanism to ensure the interdisciplinary training and placement of psychologists who specialize in underserved populations and work in communities with shortages of mental and behavioral health providers. Moreover, given that most of the leading health indicators according to the Centers for Disease Control have a behavioral component, the training of psychologists must be protected and play a major role in the national discussion regarding health care reform and improvement.