Articles, Leading Stories

August 19th, 2016

Brain, mental health link studied

By Phyllis Hanlon

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) five years ago re-defined addiction as a chronic brain disorder, not just a behavioral issue. “The theory seems to have a lot of validity. Addiction changes areas in the brain related to motivation and primacy of reinforcement for salience,” said Michael M. Miller, M.D., past president of ASAM, medical director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin and chair of the committee that issued the new definition. Other research is now exploring a connection between the brain and mental health diagnoses. Genetics is one of the risk factors that [More]

August 19th, 2016

Canada may expand new PAD law; U.S. next?

By Janine Weisman

Canada passed new legislation in June legalizing physician-assisted death (PAD) for citizens 18 and older deemed mentally competent and who have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition.” The law defines such a condition as “a serious and incurable illness, disease or disability” that is “in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.” The condition causes a person “enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them” and cannot be relieved. The person’s natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable.” Safeguards to prevent errors and abuse include a 15-day waiting period and having two independent witnesses present when the patient [More]

August 19th, 2016

Mass. DMH releases fresh air regulations

By Janine Weisman

All psychiatric patients in Massachusetts hospitals and residential programs are entitled to “reasonable daily access to the outdoors,” according to new regulations the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health issued July 1. The regulations clarify the so-called “Fresh Air” law enacted in January 2015. The law added a sixth “Fundamental Right” to five adopted in 1998 outlining a patient’s right to make phone calls, send and receive mail, receive visitors, enjoy privacy and humane living quarters and have contact with attorneys, clergy, physicians, psychologists or social workers if desired. Daily fresh air access depends on weather conditions and each patient’s clinical [More]

August 19th, 2016

Dartmouth-Hitchcock awarded contract to staff hospital

By Rivkela Brodsky

Friction over an employment transition at New Hampshire Hospital – the state’s only acute psychiatric care facility – started with the expiration of a contract with Dartmouth College and the state at the end of June. The college’s Geisel School of Medicine had a five-year contract with the state to staff New Hampshire Hospital in Concord with acute psychiatric care professionals. Psychiatrists and nurses providing specialized psychiatric care at the 158-bed hospital do so through a contract with the state, said Jake Leon, director of communications for the state Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the hospital. The [More]

August 19th, 2016

Use of applied behavior analysis on the rise

By Pamela Berard

The use of applied behavior analysis is increasing and more educational programs are rising to meet the demand. Chrissy Barosky, MA, BCBA, started her ABA master’s program at Columbia University in 2006. “When I was picking a program, there weren’t nearly as many options as there are now,” Barosky said. “I’ve seen a huge growth in it, and I would say with master’s programs specifically.” Barosky is vice president of clinical development, clinical director, at Bierman Autism Center in Boston, which works with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, providing early intervention and personalized ABA programs. Barosky said some people may [More]

August 19th, 2016

R.I. mandates Mental Health First Aid training for police

By Janine Weisman

Rhode Island law already mandated training for law enforcement officers on hate crimes, domestic violence, and criminal gang activity when the year began. In August, the list grew with the addition of training on mental health and substance abuse emergencies. That’s when Gov. Gina Raimondo signed into law legislation passed by the General Assembly and sponsored by Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) directing the Police Office Commission on Standards and Training to set mandatory training standards on how to identify and interact with victims, witnesses or suspects [More]

August 19th, 2016

Tool created for psychosis risk

By Phyllis Hanlon

Psychologists have attempted to predict the risk of psychosis in young people since the early 2000s. Recently, the National Institutes of Health funded a study to develop a unique tool to calculate this risk. Nine sites participated in the study, including Yale University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Tyrone D. Cannon, Ph.D., Clark L. Hull Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Yale University, has devoted a quarter century of his career in schizophrenia research to creating such a tool. “Up to now, it has been dependent on finding people at risk with recent changes in psychological functioning and who [More]

August 19th, 2016

Legal socialization is focus of psychologist’s work

By Catherine Robertson Souter

How do we, as a society, deal with the problem of racial bias in policing? The issue, like any complex problem, is not black and white. Beyond the numbers of how many more traffic stops, searches and arrests there are for African Americans than whites, lie more questions. It can be difficult to tease out why blacks are more likely to be arrested and convicted. Are they, in fact, committing more crimes? Or are they more likely to be prosecuted for the same infractions that a white person would get a pass on? Ellen Cohn, Ph.D., professor of psychology and [More]

July 1st, 2016

Reimbursement for neuropsychological testing still poses a problem

By Phyllis Hanlon

Neuropsychological testing has been used in a number of clinical areas to evaluate brain functioning and cognition. The Journal of Athletic Training cites neuropsychological testing as a proven method for assessing symptoms related to concussion. Applied Neuropsychology: Adult credits neuropsychological testing for its effectiveness in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. But more commonly, this evaluation tool is used to examine the overall cognitive, physical, behavioral and executive functioning abilities, among others, in children. In his practice, Greg Javornisky, Ph.D., pediatric neuropsychologist at the Connecticut Pediatric Neuropsychology Associates in Glastonbury, administers general intellect and achievement skills testing to pediatric patients from a developmental [More]

July 1st, 2016

Conn. report tracks behavioral health claims

By Janine Weisman

Connecticut insurers denied more behavioral health claims in 2014, according to an annual report card issued by the Connecticut Insurance Department. How much more depends on how you crunch the numbers. Each year since 2006, the state agency charged with regulating the insurance industry has issued a report card comparing Health Maintenance Organizations or HMOs and up to 15 insurers with the highest premium volume in Connecticut that offer managed care plans. The report compares the track record for each insurer on requests and denials for services and appeal outcomes. Managed care plans use a process called utilization review to [More]

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