Articles, Leading Stories

April 1st, 2013

Substance Use Disorder change gets mixed response

By Pamela Berard

One DSM-5 change that has divided mental health experts is the new category of Substance Use Disorder, which combines the DSM-IV Substance Abuse and Substance Dependence categories into a single disorder measured on a continuum of severity. Some say this change may improve early diagnoses/interventions, while others fear it could mislabel or stigmatize normal, transient behavior – for example, by lumping college binge drinkers in with those who have a hard-core dependence. According to one study, the new criteria could increase by more than 60 percent the number of people classified with alcohol problems. According to the DSM-5 Task Force, [More]

April 1st, 2013

DSM-5 to include binge eating disorder

By Phyllis Hanlon

When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth version (DSM-5) is released this May, binge eating disorder (BED) will have its own diagnostic code. Previously, this condition was listed as an eating disorder not otherwise specified (NOS) and also in the appendix as a diagnosis that required further study. Marsha D. Marcus, Ph.D., a psychologist and professor of psychiatry and psychology at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, served as a member of the eating disorders work group. She notes that this task force, half of whom were psychologists, proved to be [More]

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]

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