Articles, Leading Stories

November 1st, 2013

Virtual reality technology used with soldiers as therapy

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The numbers are staggering. By some estimates, a full one-third of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade have come home as the “walking wounded.” With the invisible scars of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a traumatic brain injury, these men and women are not easily identified nor, because of the stigma of mental health care within the military, do they always seek treatment. The good news is that, while previous war veterans may have similar concerns, there is far more attention being paid to the problem today. One of the more innovative and promising treatments [More]

November 1st, 2013

Electronic treatment raises complicated issues

By Phyllis Hanlon

Technology has invaded many aspects of daily life and some psychologists may be ready to make the leap into digital therapy. But before engaging in tele-treatment, psychologists should consider a number of factors, including patient privacy and jurisdictional regulations. Nancy T. Silberg, Ph.D., who works in the Bariatric Program in the Department of General Surgery at the Health Centre at Williston, Vermont and also has a private practice, Associates in Psychology, in Burlington, says that medical disciplines have been using technology, particularly teleconferencing, for some time. But psychologists who want to offer therapy electronically face some challenges. Privacy ranks as [More]

November 1st, 2013

Involuntary medication law sparks legal battle

By Rivkela Brodsky

A legal battle that has been brewing in Vermont over the state’s involuntary medication law is picking up steam – with one side saying the law delays necessary treatment of mental health patients and the other saying the law protects the civil rights of patients under state care. A court order is required before a mental health facility can medicate a patient who is refusing medications.  A separate hearing to commit a patient to state care must take place before the medication hearing can happen. The patient also has 30 days to appeal the decision. The process takes an average [More]

November 1st, 2013

Former DMH chief reflects on issues

By Phyllis Hanlon

On October 8, Ken Duckworth, M.D., medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, discussed his thoughts on a variety of mental health issues in an informal event sponsored by the Association of Health Care Journalists. He touched upon some current issues that have an impact on the mental well-being of individuals in Massachusetts and across the country. As former commissioner at the Department of Mental Health (DMH), Duckworth is intimately familiar with the Commonwealth and its efforts to help those who have a mental illness. He applauds the state for being a pioneer in this field, although he [More]

November 1st, 2013

Maine set to lose federal funding for state hospital

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In a situation that was still unfolding at press time, the state of Maine has been informed that Medicare/Medicaid funding for services at the state hospital have been terminated. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was informed that the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) had decided to remove Riverview Psychiatric Center from its Medicare Provider Agreement, effectively cutting off $19-20 million, nearly two-thirds of its annual $33 million operating budget. The hospital, which has seen a sharp rise in the number of forensic patients since 2012 without a matching increase in funding, has had a number [More]

November 1st, 2013

Study uncovers disparity during stages of treatment

By Susan Gonsalves

A recent study published in Health Services Research tracking mental health care episodes found that blacks and Latinos are much less likely to initiate treatment. And whites are much more likely to have care that consists solely of filling psychotropic drugs without checking in with a provider. Benjamin Lê Cook, Ph.D., MPH, study author, is an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and senior scientist at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance. Cook says this research is unusual because it looked at the beginning, middle and end of episodes of [More]

November 1st, 2013

N.H. Suicide Prevention Council engages community

By Howard Newman

In addition to the conventional steps of suicide prevention (education, training, a 24-hour hotline, increased public awareness, etc.), the New Hampshire Suicide Prevention Council (NHSPC) is going the extra mile, actively engaging community sectors that have not traditionally participated in this area. “Suicide prevention belongs to all of us,” says Jo Moncher, vice chair of the Council. Simply stated, suicide prevention is a community issue, not just a concern for the mental health system. By getting different segments of the community involved, educated and active, the NHSPC is attacking the problem at the root, instead of dealing with the tragic [More]

November 1st, 2013

Program focuses on patients with chronic pain syndrome

By Catherine Robertson Souter

For those who suffer from chronic pain, it can be difficult to separate who they are from what they feel. For many, the pain can cause a host of other ailments from depression and anxiety to weight loss or gain, lack of sleep, sexual dysfunction and more. The treatment of choice for many physicians, opiates to curb the pain, can often lead to dependence and substance abuse, further curtailing their ability to live productive lives. While there are many programs that work with chronic pain and/or addiction, the eight-bed, residential Chronic Pain and Recovery Center (CPRC) at Silver Hill Hospital [More]

October 1st, 2013

Children with physical, mental impairments require varied treatment

By Phyllis Hanlon

When it comes to treating mental disorders, psychologists have an arsenal of tools at their disposal. But that armament may need to be refined when the client has a physical disability as well as a psychological impairment. In addition to traditional techniques, psychologists need to draw upon creativity, hone communication skills and practice patience. Mary Talbot-Fox, Ph.D., NCSP, school psychologist at Perkins School in Watertown, Mass. who works with students with vision impairments, explains that psychologists face two major stumbling blocks when working with this population: helping parents and other professionals understand that not every problem is related to the [More]

October 1st, 2013

Wait times rise in Maine

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The numbers are going in the wrong direction for certain clients of the mental health care system in Maine. Although nearly a quarter of a century has passed since Maine settled a lawsuit agreeing to standards of care for patients of the state’s mental health system, the most recent report on its implementation shows a marked increase in the number of those waiting to be assigned caseworkers. According to the report, filed by former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Daniel Wathen, Esq., who was appointed by the courts to monitor the state’s compliance, there are 543 patients waiting to [More]

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