Articles, Leading Stories

August 21st, 2013

Psychosocial oncologists: a critical niche in the field

By Phyllis Hanlon

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS); the organization expects 1.6 million new cases will be diagnosed in 2013. While medical treatment is paramount in managing a cancer diagnosis, psychological intervention also plays a key role. Ellen Dornelas, Ph.D., director of the behavioral health program at the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center at Hartford Hospital and associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, sees a huge need for more psychologists to work with cancer patients. Whether the prognosis is poor or good, psychologists [More]

August 21st, 2013

Courts, governments scrutinize insurers

By Pamela Berard

State governments and courts are scrutinizing whether insurers are complying with laws meant to ensure care for the mentally ill. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley this spring sent a letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), urging the industry to comply with state law requiring coverage of necessary mental health services. The AG’s Health Care Division has obtained seven settlements since 2007 alleging carriers failed to cover mandated mental health services, amounting to $9.2 million in payments to consumers and the state, according to Jillian Fennimore, deputy press secretary for the attorney general’s office. “Compliance with the law is not [More]

August 21st, 2013

Insurance re-write has consequences

By Catherine Robertson Souter

As the first state in the country to attempt to institute a government-funded universal health care plan, Vermont will have all eyes on it as the rest of the nation watches how details of their health care reform will be ironed out. The passing of Act 48 in 2011 led to the creation of a state-funded, independent insurance board, the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB), which will oversee all aspects of health care reform including the implementation of universal coverage for all Vermonters. As with any massive change, the effects of re-writing an entire insurance system will have major consequences, [More]

August 21st, 2013

CHA rescinds cuts to children’s services

By Howard Newman

The current level of psychiatric inpatient youth services at the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) will survive for another year, at least, but the organization’s struggles to keep this program alive underscore a major problem in Massachusetts. On April 3, the CHA announced a drastic reduction in psychiatric inpatient services for children and teens, cutting the number of available beds from 27 to 16 and eliminating care for children under the age of eight. The proposed change, primarily a cost-cutting measure, involved the merger of two inpatient units, one for adolescents age 12-19 and another for children as young as three. [More]

August 21st, 2013

Law establishes ‘best practices’ plan

By Rivkela Brodsky

A new law passed in Connecticut aims to establish a ‘best practices’ plan when it comes to treating the mental, emotional and behavioral health of children in the state. The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Dannel Patrick Malloy in June, was developed in part as a response to the Newtown shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Dec. 2012. Senate Bill 972 was written to complement the mental health portion of legislation passed earlier this year, a direct response to the shootings which made changes to the state’s laws on guns, security for K-12 public schools and mental health insurance [More]

August 21st, 2013

Exercise program geared toward treatment reluctant veterans

By Susan Gonsalves

The Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass. (Bedford VAMC) will offer an exercise program designed to engage and motivate veterans who shun traditional forms of treatment for mental health problems. Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office awarded a $60,000 grant for the project through the Bedford VA Research Corp. Inc (BRCI), a private non-profit that provides an avenue for VAMC to get funds from non-VA sources. VAMC psychologists Holly Parker, Ph.D. and Ed Federman, Ph.D., developed the project, noting that only 25 percent of veterans receive the help they need for a variety of reasons. “Mental health treatments [More]

August 21st, 2013

New Vermont collaboration integrates care management

By Jo Kadlecek

It used to be that someone with a heart condition needed a different health care provider if they also struggled with clinical depression. A new collaboration in Vermont has changed that situation. Last spring, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont (BCBSVT) teamed up with the Brattleboro Retreat to provide comprehensive care that went into effect July 1, 2013. The new organization – known as Vermont Collaborative Care (VCC) and jointly owned by both non-profits – integrates psychiatric and substance abuse services with those of traditional health care. The move acknowledges the increasing data that links physical and mental health, [More]

August 21st, 2013

Reimbursement, client eligibility issues cause confusion

By Phyllis Hanlon

Issues regarding reimbursement have long plagued psychologists. Recently, some Massachusetts providers have become frustrated over the complex rules regarding “crossover” payments and client eligibility. According to James Leffert, Ed.D., co-chair, advocacy committee of the Massachusetts Psychological Association (MPA), reimbursement issues present “a mystery wrapped in an enigma.” He cites the complicated formula for receiving payment for clients with Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or some combination of the three payers. Additionally, he reports confusion over and concern for clients in the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program. The federally-funded Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, which is run through Medicaid, is an income-based benefit [More]

August 21st, 2013

Study highlights prevalence of children with mental disorders

By Janine Weisman

Up to one in five U.S. children experience a mental disorder, finds a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report reviewing various federal efforts tracking childhood mental health. “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children – United States, 2005-2011,” the first comprehensive report on children’s mental health released last May, estimates $247 billion annually is spent on the 13 to 20 percent of American children living with mental disorders. ADHD (6.8 percent) was the most prevalent parent-reported diagnosis among children aged 3-17 followed by behavioral or conduct problems such as ODD or conduct disorder (3.5 percent), anxiety (3 percent), depression [More]

August 21st, 2013

New commissioner puts focus on system transformation

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Since 2011, after Tropical Storm Irene closed the Vermont State Hospital, the state’s mental health care system has undergone a massive re-structuring. The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin, with input from mental health care professionals, advocates and consumers, took the natural disaster as an opportunity to re-make the entire system following a de-centralized, community-based model. For Paul Dupre, recently named as commissioner for the Department of Mental Health, the changes are also providing opportunities he may not otherwise have had. Dupre, formerly the executive director of the Washington County Mental Health Services (WCMHS), had been a member of the transformational [More]

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