Articles, Leading Stories

June 1st, 2013

Autism linked to grandfathers

By Greg Hitchcock

A Swedish study links a child’s autism to his/her grandfather’s age at the time their grandchildren were born. The research conducted by Avi Reichenberg, Ph.D. and Andrew Adesman, M.D., concluded that men who fathered a child at the age of 50 or older were more likely to have a grandchild with autism, suggesting that the risk may be passed down through successive generations. Men who fathered a son at the age of 50 or older had a 67 percent higher risk of having a grandchild with Autism Spectrum Disorder compared to men who fathered a child as young adults. “These [More]

June 1st, 2013

Goal of program is to make technology useful for kids

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In 2010, the Kaiser Foundation reported that children spend more than seven hours each day with entertainment media, including time on a computer at home or at school, playing video games, watching television or using a mobile device. If multitasking is taken into account, like texting while watching a show, that number climbs to more than 10 hours. According to Randy Kulman, Ph.D., president and clinical director of South County Child and Family Consultants in Wakefield, R.I., and author of “Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions,” we have to accept that digital media is not [More]

May 1st, 2013

Treating mental illness in the elderly: achieving stability through inpatient care

By Phyllis Hanlon

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports that approximately 5.6 to 8 million Americans 65 and older have mental health or substance use disorders; those figures are expected to double in the next 15 years, precipitating a tremendous burden on an already overburdened health care system. Although community-based care is preferred, inpatient care still remains important as a line of defense in stabilizing individuals and creating long-term solutions. McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. has two separate geriatric psychiatry units, one serving individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and the other for patients with non-dementia related psychiatric diagnoses, according to Don Davidoff, [More]

May 1st, 2013

Smoking bans at facilities are more common

By Pamela Berard

After initial controversy, the practice of prohibiting smoking in inpatient psychiatric facilities has taken hold. In decades past, many considered smoking one of the few indulgences allowed patients. So when psychiatric facilities began prohibiting tobacco about a decade ago, they faced resistance, and in some cases, lawsuits. The tide has turned: 2011 survey results from the Research Institute of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors show that of respondents, almost 80 percent of state psychiatric facilities prohibit smoking – up from about 40 percent in 2006. The culture has changed, says Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Commissioner [More]

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]

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