Articles, Leading Stories

April 1st, 2013

Bill proposes funding for mental health ‘first aid’ training

By Jo Kadlecek

Kate Roberts, Ph.D., a certified school psychologist who has practices in two Massachusetts towns, has spent more than 25 years in schools and with families helping them navigate difficult behavioral problems. So when she learned that two senators from New Hampshire helped sponsor the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013, a bill that expands mental health care training, Roberts was both relieved and cautious. “For training to be the most useful, it needs to target the specific populations to have the most impact,” she says. “It needs to address stigmatization regarding emotional well being and highlight from the beginning [More]

April 1st, 2013

Task force member discusses health care reform efforts

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Issues with the health care system are coming to a head in this country. As health care delivery evolves in response to calls and mandates for far-reaching reform, concerns of cost and creating a system ready to handle the aging baby boomer and Gen-X populations are taking center stage. To keep pace with the changes and to ensure that psychology plays a role in the evolution, state psychological associations have stepped up more to participate in the discussion. The Rhode Island Psychological Association recently created a task force of members working to have a say in the decision-making process. New [More]

March 1st, 2013

Involuntary outpatient commitment: supporters and critics weigh in

By Phyllis Hanlon

Tragic events like the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and at the theatre in Aurora, Colorado, tend to shine a spotlight on mental illness and effective ways to treat it. At these times, involuntary or assisted commitment is one subject that comes under scrutiny in states where such legislation doesn’t exist. Connecticut and Massachusetts are currently the only New England states that have not approved an involuntary commitment law, although the Bay State does follow the Rogers Order, which allows the courts to mandate medication for an individual unable to make decisions. John Mehm, Ph.D., director [More]

March 1st, 2013

Reimbursement delays, denials prompt outcry

By Catherine Robertson Souter

For many mental health practitioners, January was a stressful month because of delays and denials of reimbursements from some insurance providers. The American Psychological Association was inundated with calls and emails asking about the issue and saw more than 300,000 hits for its CPT page over a one-month period. While Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes are updated every year by the American Medical Association (AMA), the codes, which describe procedures and services by practitioners, had not been updated for psychotherapy services in more than 20 years. Drastic changes, on top of late notification of the new codes and rates, caused [More]

March 1st, 2013

Finding a balance between inpatient and community-based services

By Phyllis Hanlon

The trend toward community-based services versus inpatient treatment continues to prompt state hospital closures/mergers across the country. In New England, the situation reflects the nationwide movement with reportedly few negative repercussions. In Connecticut, for instance, the state’s current bed count remains steady from five years ago, according to James Siemianowski, public information officer for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). “We did close Cedarcrest Hospital several years ago and a portion of those beds went to Connecticut Valley Hospital. We also purchased more beds in the community for intermediate care at St. Vincent Hospital,” he says. “So [More]

March 1st, 2013

DMH receives funding boost for FY2014

By Phyllis Hanlon

In a switch from previous years, Gov. Deval Patrick announced a 3.3 percent increase in the overall budget for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) for FY2014. The extra dollars will enable the department to continue funding existing programs and also tackle new initiatives. Marcia Fowler, DMH commissioner, reports that the extra $5 million will be used to enhance a range of discretionary services, create some new programs and produce a widespread public awareness campaign about mental illness. The budget increase comes at a time when the state continues to reposition its inpatient services, develop programs to ease transition [More]

March 1st, 2013

Vermont grapples with budgetary priorities

By Janine Weisman

The Vermont Department of Mental Health’s current fiscal year $174 million budget represented a 15 percent increase to enhance community services in the only state which until recently had no government-operated psychiatric beds. It wasn’t enough. Developing a strong community mental health system will require another $20 million, Finance and Management Commissioner Jim Reardon informed lawmakers during January mid-year budget adjustment discussions. Expenditures included mobile crisis teams to monitor patients at risk and new beds in transitional housing. Much of that increase is offset by decreases in other departments so the general fund impact is about $4.5 million. “If we [More]

March 1st, 2013

Teen suicide study highlights need for better training

By Janine Weisman

Suicidal thoughts are common among U.S. adolescents, many of whom receive mental health treatment before the onset of suicidal plans or attempts, the first large-scale study on the subject finds. A team led by Harvard University clinical psychologist Matthew K. Nock, Ph.D., found 12.1 percent of teens in a national sample reported thinking about suicide while 4.0 percent made plans and 4.1 percent made attempts. More than 80 percent had received mental health treatment and 55 percent had started treatment before the onset of suicidal behaviors. Data analyzed came from 6,483 adolescents aged 13 to 18 interviewed as part of [More]

March 1st, 2013

Media coverage impacts Asperger’s patients, families

By Susan Gonsalves

Media coverage of the Newtown, Conn. murders did little to dispel the stigma and misunderstanding of people with Asperger’s Disorder. Instead, early reports that the shooter, Adam Lanza, had the condition, created an artificial link between Asperger’s and violence and heightened public fears, according to experts. While advocacy group representatives from Autism Speaks and the National Autism Center said that their agencies did not suffer any direct backlash, mental health professionals said patients and families definitely felt a detrimental impact. Rowland P. Barrett, Ph.D., director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at Rhode Island’s Bradley Hospital says a [More]

March 1st, 2013

Combating school shootings will take deeper approach

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The public and media react quickly and vehemently in the wake of traumatic events like the school shootings in Newtown and Columbine. Who were these kids? What made them commit these acts and, most importantly, how can we keep it from happening again? From stricter gun control laws to heightened security at schools to greater access to mental health services, the public, politicians, special interest groups and the media have proposed a number of ways to approach the problem. But the real solution, according to experts, will take a deeper effort. “Schools have lockdown procedures and they focus on what [More]

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