Articles, Leading Stories

May 1st, 2013

Hospital ER improves psychiatric care

By Janine Weisman

The patient brought to Cape Cod Hospital’s Emergency Center in Feb. 2011 with self-inflicted left wrist lacerations denied being suicidal. But after sutures and a behavioral health assessment, a social worker requested further psychiatric evaluation. Before a doctor or nurse could sign off, the patient fled the Hyannis hospital without anyone noticing. It’s understandable how the case could happen. Cape Cod Hospital sees 92,000 Emergency Center patients a year, making it one of the region’s busiest ERs. In the months of July and August, when the Cape’s summer population triples, the ER averages 350 patients daily. Psychiatric patients can languish [More]

May 1st, 2013

Sequestration: an unknown future for social service agencies

By Phyllis Hanlon

On March 1, the deadlocked debate on the economic future of the country resulted in approximately $85.4 billion in federal spending cuts. Known as the sequester, the funding reductions are part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and have set in motion proactive attempts to reduce budgets, while preserving key programs and services. The federal government is scheduled to apply the spending cuts evenly to domestic and defense programs, although Medicaid, Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), other low-income programs and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) will be spared. State social service agencies across New [More]

May 1st, 2013

Process delayed in Aetna lawsuit settlement

By Catherine Robertson Souter

A class action lawsuit against health insurance company Aetna has apparently been settled out of court. In December, it was announced that Aetna agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed against it in 2009 by a consortium of health and mental health care associations and patients for $120 million. The lawsuit alleged that Aetna relied on a flawed database created by Ingenix, a company owned by UnitedHealth Group, to determine reimbursement rates for health care professionals submitting as “out-of-network providers.” The Aetna lawsuit alleges that the Ingenix Database was, in fact, a conspiracy by most of the country’s largest [More]

May 1st, 2013

ICD-10 code change deadline pushed back

By Catherine Robertson Souter

While some psychologists are still dealing with the aftermath of changes to CPT codes in January, another, and much broader, code change deadline has been pushed back a year. Last summer, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced a one-year delay in a compliance deadline for the conversion to new diagnostic code sets known as ICD-10. While the announcement has largely gone under the radar for the psychological community, it is one that should be taken note of because it will affect the way diagnostic codes are reported to health insurance companies. The ICD-10, or tenth edition of [More]

May 1st, 2013

UnitedHealth Group’s practices challenged in lawsuit

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The New York State Psychiatric Association (NYSPA), along with several patients and their families, has challenged UnitedHealth Group’s (also known as United Healthcare) practices in a class action lawsuit filed in March in the New York courts. The suit, which could take years to be brought to any decision or settlement according to Rachel Fernbach, Esq., associate director of NYSPA, claims that UnitedHealth Group has “systematically implemented unlawful and deceptive practices designed to create the illusion of…fairness…while simultaneously undermining access to treatment for the most vulnerable segment of our society.” The claimants allege violations of both federal and state parity [More]

May 1st, 2013

Citing financial realities, CHA shifts adolescent services

By Jo Kadlecek

In recent years, psychiatric service providers across Massachusetts have struggled with payment issues. The reimbursement problem has forced many to revaluate their programs and in some cases, seek new strategies for maintaining quality care, especially for younger patients. The latest to restructure its services is Cambridge Health Alliance, who on April 3, 2013, announced it would be integrating its child assessment unit with its adolescent assessment unit by the fall. The combined unit comes as a result of both economic realities and on-going societal perceptions. “I think society has always been reluctant to know how to treat mental illnesses,” says [More]

May 1st, 2013

Study documents high cost of keeping Taunton State Hospital open

By Janine Weisman

An independent consultant for the Massachusetts State Legislature estimates it would cost the Department of Mental Health (DMH) $12.77 million to keep 45 beds open at Taunton State Hospital. No such funding is included in the FY2014 state budget, acknowledges Abt Associates in a study for the Mental Health Advisory Committee. Legislators formed the committee last year after voting to override Gov. Deval Patrick’s veto of $5.1 million to fund keeping 45 of Taunton’s 169 beds open, citing concerns the closure jeopardized jobs and posed a hardship for patients and families The committee was tasked with examining the closure’s impact [More]

May 1st, 2013

Hasbro, Bradley collaborate on new program

By Rivkela Brodsky

With a sick child, it’s not always only a medical issue that needs professional attention. Often, there are concurrent psychological issues that warrant treatment. That could be a child undergoing cancer treatment who is actively suicidal, a kid with stomach ailments who also deals with anxiety, and a diabetic who doesn’t maintain personal medical care. Typically, both issues are treated separately. The team of health care professionals at Hasbro Children’s Hospital Medical/Psychiatric Inpatient Program has addressed all of these cases. Rhode Island’s Bradley Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital joined forces last year to open a new medical psychiatric inpatient program [More]

May 1st, 2013

New study links mental disorders to common gene

By Jo Kadlecek

Though a new study links five mental disorders to a common gene, it’s too early to tell whether it could affect how practitioners care for patients. Usually viewed as distinct disorders, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity, bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia actually share a genetic effect, according to a recent National Institutes of Health-funded study published Feb. 28, 2013, in The Lancet. Even so, lead researcher, Jordan Smoller, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that though the long-term effects of the study might influence how psychologists diagnose and treat disorders, any short-term or immediate implications are limited. “The [More]

May 1st, 2013

Telemedicine program launched on Block Island

By Greg Hitchcock

A telemedicine program to help serve people with mental illness was launched on a remote island 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Stephen Hollaway, pastor of Harbor Church on Block Island and chairman of the island’s Mental Health Task Force, says he felt the need to help individuals with mental health conditions when he was called in 2010 by the Block Island Police Department regarding a suicide. According to Hollaway, the suicide victim’s family said it was difficult to get the help needed to prevent the tragedy from occurring. “No one from the mainland would send anyone here [More]

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