April 6th, 2018

Violence and Video Games: Are They Linked?

By Eileen Weber

Contentious debate continues over whether video games and other forms of media promote violent behavior, particularly in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Games like “Resident Evil,” “Manhunt,” and “Mortal Kombat” top the list. But, is there a one-size-fits-all answer to the question? “I don’t think you are going to find any media effects researchers willing to suggest that violent video games lead to school shootings,” said Kirstie Farrar, Ph.D, associate professor of communications at the University of Connecticut. “However, most media effects researchers agree there is a small but significant relationship between violent media exposure and outcome [More]

December 1st, 2015

Violence toward staff of concern at Worcester Recovery Center

By Rivkela Brodsky

When the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital opened in 2012 it was touted as a state-of-the art facility that emphasized the “natural structure of home, neighborhood and community.” The $305 million, 430,000-square foot structure, with 320 beds – 60 for adolescents and 260 for adults – was built to have a “non-institutional look” where the “intent is to provide a private, quieter space.” However, there has not been much quiet at the hospital as of late. The hospital has seen a dramatic rise in incidents of violence against staff by patients – far and above anything the Massachusetts Nurses Association [More]

January 1st, 2010

Violence: balancing treatment efficacy with provider safety

By Phyllis Hanlon

Last October, shock waves rippled through the mental health community when a patient at the bipolar clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) stabbed his psychiatrist. While such events – although rare – grab media attention, they serve as reminders to providers of the importance of awareness and preparation. According to Steve Nisenbaum, Ph.D., J.D., past president of Division 18 (Psychologists in Public Service), Division 18’s public policy liaison to the American Psychological Association, and 30-year staff member at MGH, these violent episodes create a conflict between the efficacy of treatment and the safety of the provider. “This is a key [More]

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, 2017

Virtual reality: a clinically useful tool for psychologists

By Phyllis Hanlon

Middle-school children from a rural school in Vermont recently “connected” with peers in South Sudan. Some younger students studying ancient civilizations “traveled” to Mayan ruins where they witnessed sacred ceremonies firsthand. Both of these groups engaged in virtual reality (VR) experiences that immerse the individual in a scenario through sight and sound. VR is slowly becoming part of the educational process, not only imparting academic lessons but also fostering a sense of empathy for and understanding of others. Katy Farber, Ed.D., professional development coordinator at the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont, explained that these immersive [More]

May 1st, 2010

VSH denied recertification – again

By Phyllis Hanlon

Since 2003, Vermont State Hospital (VSH) has lost, regained and once again lost its certification. In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) denied VSH’s bid for recertification yet again because of patient care issues and safety concerns about the aging facility’s physical environment. State Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Washington-2) says, “First, an interesting aspect is that CMS has become more clear in the past year that they are not considering recertification; they are treating [the hospital] as though it is a new entity seeking certification. This is important because it creates a different standard than simply remedying the [More]

June 12th, 2018

VT braces for loss of psychiatric bed Medicaid funding

By Janine Weisman

A special waiver exempts Vermont from a decades-old restriction prohibiting states from using Medicaid funds to cover services for non-elderly adults with mental health conditions in hospital settings with more than 16 beds. But Vermont’s waiver is set to expire starting in 2021 and phase out completely in 2025. That would leave the state on the hook for the $23 million in federal dollars being used to provide treatment for patients ages 21 to 64 at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital (VPCH) in Berlin and Brattleboro Retreat, said Department of Mental Health (DMH) Commissioner Melissa Bailey. A proposal among an [More]

December 1st, 2013

VT mental health agencies to be audited

By Catherine Robertson Souter

While they are not suspected of any wrongdoing or failures, the mental health agencies of the state of Vermont will be under the microscope in the coming months. In September, the Vermont state auditor’s office announced it will run an audit of the state’s designated agencies (DAs), the community mental health and developmental disability organizations contracted by the Vermont Department of Mental Health (DMH). State Auditor Doug Hoffer announced the plan to inspect the agencies as one of four new audits being initiated. The office will also look at the Sex Offender Registry to ensure it is being kept current [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]

March 1st, 2017

Wait times still long in EDs

By Pamela Berard

Patients having mental health emergencies who require hospital admission wait nearly four times longer for an inpatient bed than their medical counterparts, according to a study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine. Additionally, mental health patients waited more than five times as long for transfer to another facility, according to the study, “Analysis of Emergency Department Length of Stay for Mental Health Patients at Ten Massachusetts Emergency Departments.” “Boarding, the practice of prolonged waiting in the emergency department for an inpatient hospital bed or transfer to another facility, is a pervasive public health problem that disproportionately affects mental health patients,” [More]