Articles, Leading Stories

April 10th, 2018

In law and language, gun control talk raises red flags

By Janine Weisman

“This was a person who was sick, very sick,” President Donald Trump said at a Feb. 21 White House forum. Trump was referring to the 19-year-old shooter who used an AR-15 style assault rifle to gun down teachers and students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. The mass shooting left 17 dead. Calls for limiting the right to bear arms for people with mental health issues increased after the Parkland shooting, especially for red flag laws that would allow police to take firearms away from people suspected of being a danger to themselves or others. But [More]

April 9th, 2018

Helping to manage fear and anxiety

By Phyllis Hanlon

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida rocked the country and launched calls for stricter gun laws and better security measures in the nation’s schools. While such events are rare, all schools experience their share of crises on a smaller scale that challenge students’ well-being. To address a spectrum of situations, schools should implement a comprehensive plan that engages students, teachers and parents, and creates an environment of trust in partnership with community agencies. Arlene Silva, Ph.D, NCSP, chair in the school psychology department at William James College, emphasized that proactive measures are the best practice. “Number one is preparation,” [More]

April 9th, 2018

Lawsuit challenges unlimited civil commitments in Connecticut

By Janine Weisman

A Google search of Gloria Drummer’s name explains what led her to be involuntarily committed at Dutcher Hall in the Whiting Forensic Hospital in Middletown, Connecticut, after being found not competent to stand trial. On Sept. 25, 2015, Drummer, then aged either 57 or 58 according to news accounts, attacked a 27-year-old woman at random with a large knife outside a West Hartford CVS. The woman was treated at a hospital for multiple stab wounds to her head that were deemed non-life threatening. Two psychiatrists testified last fall that Drummer is no longer a danger to herself or others. Yet [More]

April 8th, 2018

Record keeping, licensing issues among legal concerns

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In general, people hire a lawyer only as a last resort. For a psychologist, that may mean a subpoena for a patient’s records has arrived, a contentious situation has arisen with an employee who needs to be let go, or the state licensing board has sent a notification of a disciplinary hearing. Legal issues can be overwhelming for anyone without a law degree but they can’t always be avoided. Questions that need to be answered correctly may include: When do confidentiality laws apply? How should a contract be terminated? What happens when one partner in a practice retires or dies? [More]

April 6th, 2018

Proposal to tax video games dropped by legislator

By Eileen Weber

With every school shooting, the conversation linking violence and video games resurfaces. The latest incident in Parkland, Florida was no exception. In some circles, video games were once again the suspected culprit. But, are they inextricably intertwined with violent crime? Shortly after the Florida shooting, Rhode Island Representative Robert Nardolillo (R-Coventry) proposed legislation taxing violent video games that are rated “mature” or higher using the subsequent revenue to fund school mental health counseling. He cited evidence that exposure to violence in young children indicates a likelier tendency toward aggressive behavior. Congressman Tom MacArthur (R) of New Jersey agreed with Nardolillo’s [More]

April 6th, 2018

Violence and Video Games: Are They Linked?

By Eileen Weber

Contentious debate continues over whether video games and other forms of media promote violent behavior, particularly in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Games like “Resident Evil,” “Manhunt,” and “Mortal Kombat” top the list. But, is there a one-size-fits-all answer to the question? “I don’t think you are going to find any media effects researchers willing to suggest that violent video games lead to school shootings,” said Kirstie Farrar, Ph.D, associate professor of communications at the University of Connecticut. “However, most media effects researchers agree there is a small but significant relationship between violent media exposure and outcome [More]

March 7th, 2018

Vermont prison complex meant to accommodate multiple populations

By Janine Weisman

Fixing the mental health system is a key part of a plan Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s administration introduced to the State Legislature in January to build a 925-bed prison complex in northwest part of the state over 10 years. Fifty forensic beds — 20 reserved for hospital level care and 30 for outpatient or residential level care — are part of the $150 million corrections campus outlined in the Agency of Human Services (AHS) Report on Major Facilities. AHS oversees both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health. The plan to create the large complex in Franklin [More]

March 7th, 2018

Report: Massachusetts is healthiest state

By Susan Gonsalves

Massachusetts jumped up a spot and is now designated as the healthiest state, according to a report from America’s Health Rankings. The 171-page report from the United Health Foundation and American Public Health Association takes into consideration 35 measures for policy, clinical care, behaviors, community and environment. The overall rankings for the other New England states are as follows: Vermont, third; Connecticut, fifth; New Hampshire, eighth; Rhode Island, eleventh; and Maine, twenty-third. Massachusetts achieved the slot based on high marks for having the highest concentration of mental health providers (547.3 per 100,000 population), more than 200 primary care physicians and [More]

March 6th, 2018

In-service training to focus on police officers’ mental health

By Catherine Robertson Souter

There were 19 deaths of police officers by suicide in Massachusetts in 2016 and 2017, the fourth highest number of suicides in the country. That is not fourth highest rate per 1,000 but fourth highest total number overall. The state is the 15th largest by population. According to Blue H.E.L.P., a non-profit law enforcement mental health awareness group based in Auburn, Mass., there were 286 deaths nationwide. A bill currently before the state’s legislature looks to address the issue by mandating in-service training on mental health as well as annual mental wellness and suicide prevention courses for all current officers. [More]

March 5th, 2018

DMH initiative aims to expedite psychiatric inpatient admissions

By Phyllis Hanlon

People with mental health conditions routinely experience long wait times in hospital emergency departments. Acknowledging this problem, Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders convened a task force last spring to develop appropriate interventions. EOHHS, together with the Department of Mental Health (DMH), MassHealth and the Department of Public Health (DPH) created the Expedited Psychiatric Inpatient Admission Policy, a multi-pronged approach that launched on February 1. Daniela Trammel, DMH director of communication and community engagement, explained that the EOHHS chaired and partnered with the Division of Insurance (DOI) in convening a task force comprised of insurance carriers, psychiatric [More]

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