May 1st, 2017

New England battles opioid epidemic

By Phyllis Hanlon

A 2014 Health and Human Services report issued some troubling statistics for four New England states: Massachusetts leads the nation with most opioid-related visits to hospital emergency rooms – 450 for every 100,000 residents – out of 30 states providing data. Rhode Island had 298 visits; Connecticut, 255; and Vermont, 224. Efforts to address the opioid crisis have resulted in the creation of new and enhancement of existing programs at several hospitals across New England. Christopher Cutter, Ph.D., director of the chronic pain and recovery program at Silver Hill Hospital, New Canaan, Conn., reported that this 28-day program treats patients [More]

May 1st, 2017

New England states limit painkiller prescriptions

By Janine Weisman

In March 2016, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to enact a law limiting first-time opioid medication prescriptions for adults and all opioid prescriptions for minors to a maximum of seven days, with certain exceptions. That was the same month the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published national standards recommending doctors write scripts for the “lowest effective dose” of painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. The federal guidelines represented a radical departure from the longstanding practice of prescribing for two weeks or even a month’s worth of pills amid growing alarm over how highly addictive opioids [More]

May 1st, 2017

Bed reduction plan at UMass Memorial Medical Center causes outcry

By Susan Gonsalves

UMass Memorial Medical Center’s plan to convert 13 of 28 psychiatric beds to medical surgery beds has met with widespread opposition. Eric W. Dickson, M.D., president/CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care said that the hospital serves a critical role as a trauma center for patients with life threatening illnesses who are shipped there from “less comprehensive” hospitals. Transitioning the beds for life-saving surgeries is the “right decision,” for the region’s patients, he said, because as a practicing emergency physician, he has personally witnessed the “daily challenge of too few beds for the large number of critically ill people waiting to [More]

May 1st, 2017

Alita Care, LLC acquires Bournewood Health Systems

By Pamela Berard

Bournewood Health Systems of Brookline, Massachusetts, will broaden its continuum of care as a result of its recent acquisition by Alita Care, LLC, of Phoenix, Arizona, a national provider of behavioral health services with 16 differentiated programs across the country. Alita Care announced its acquisition of Bournewood in March. In addition to Bournewood, Alita also serves as the parent holding company for Meadows Behavioral Healthcare – a drug rehab and psychological trauma treatment center with a main campus in Arizona – and Sunspire Health, a national network of addiction recovery providers. Bournewood, Sunspire, and The Meadows all operate as independent [More]

May 1st, 2017

Portsmouth Regional Hospital expands involuntary admissions beds

By Pamela Berard

Responding to a greater need for inpatient services and prolonged wait times for emergency psychiatric care across the state of New Hampshire, Portsmouth Regional Hospital has expanded its number of beds for involuntary admissions. The hospital has a 30-bed Behavioral Health Unit. “About three years ago, we expanded our overall physical beds from 22 to 30,” said Justin Looser, LICSW, director of behavioral health services at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. “We started to see the need increase, both through our Emergency Department and the state. “About a year-and-a-half ago, we really started to see the backup of involuntary patients, both around [More]

May 1st, 2017

State auditor’s office cites issues with MassHealth payments

By Pamela Berard

In April, the Office of the State Auditor (OSA) released a report that evaluated payments MassHealth made for mental health services rendered between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2015. The report cited improper or questionable payments in the amount of $193 million. Mike Wessler, director of communications, Office of Auditor Suzanne Bump, provided a statement, noting, “MassHealth paid doctors directly for providing mental health services that should have been paid for by the Massachusetts Behavior Health Partnership (MBHP),” which is the managed care organization that coordinates mental health care for MassHealth members. The report cited 282,327 claims that were [More]

May 1st, 2017

App designed to predict aggressive behavior

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In 2014, a group of parents in California sued a neighbor over the problem behaviors of their autistic child. According to one report, the plaintiffs claimed that they were “not upset about him being autistic” but about his violence towards other children, claiming it made the neighborhood unsafe and even affected home sales. A lawsuit may not be a common reaction to autism, but any parent with a child who exhibits violent or aggressive behaviors can understand what the parents of the autistic boy must have felt. While experts say that aggressive behaviors are not a part of autism, but [More]

May 1st, 2017

Bill would allow supervision-free practice under Medicare

By Rivkela Brodsky

Federal legislation introduced in the House and Senate in February would allow psychologists to practice independent of physician supervision under Medicare. The bipartisan legislation (S.2597 or H.R. 4277) would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act, treating psychologists as physicians providing clinical psychology services under the Medicare program, the Medicare Mental Health Access Act reads. This year is the third in a row this legislation has been introduced, said Doug Walter, JD, associate executive director for government relations for the APA Practice Organization, a legally separate advocacy arm of the American Psychological Association, which also supports this legislation. The [More]

May 1st, 2017

Study: patients prefer psychotherapy over drugs

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Add one more piece of data to the on-going debate about the efficacy of pharmaceutical medication versus therapy to treat mental illness. In a decision about the best form of treatment, patient compliance should play a role, according to Roger Greenberg, Ph.D, distinguished professor and head of the psychology division at SUNY Upstate Medical University. A major roadblock to the effectiveness of any treatment is the participant’s willingness to engage in and to comply with the full course of treatment. And, according to a review of research done by Greenberg and published by the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychotherapy in [More]

May 1st, 2017

Study: Tablet use reduces agitation in dementia patients

By Susan Gonsalves

The idea of using tablet devices as an intervention for older adults, including those with severe dementia, was partially born at a restaurant dinner table, according to Ipsit Vahia, M.D.. He observed that his friends’ boisterous four-year-old, when handed an iPhone, was able to calm down enough so that everyone could enjoy their meals. Vahia, the medical director of Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services at McLean Hospital, led a pilot study that built upon previous research showing how art, music and other therapies are viable non-pharmaceutical options for reducing dementia symptoms. The study involved using a wide range of free apps [More]

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