November 1st, 2017

Union wants metal detectors at Department of Mental Health sites

By Susan Gonsalves

Representatives of workers at inpatient mental health facilities around Massachusetts fear that it’s inevitable people will be seriously injured or killed if action is not taken to ensure their safety. They’ve taken their concerns to the governor’s office. Earlier this year, officials from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) hand-delivered a petition signed by 1,100 workers seeking the installation of metal detectors at seven locations. James Durkin, director of legislation for AFSCME Council 93 said that although metal detectors would not solve the security issues completely, the “simple first step,” would “drastically reduce the possibility,” of [More]

December 1st, 2010

Unit uses softness to connect with kids

By Jennifer E Chase

A Massachusetts-based child inpatient psychiatric unit is breaking from the traditional use of restrictions and seclusion for managing troubled patients with a much softer approach: colorful rooms, soft places to sit, listening ears and lots of hugs. To be exact, the “Hugs not Holds” initiative is just one of several programs used to calm, quell and treat kids admitted to the Child Assessment Unit (CAU), an award-winning unit under the auspices of Cambridge Health Alliance that thinks outside the box when it comes to treating difficult patients. The CAU opened in 1989 but underwent a major change in 2001 when [More]

May 11th, 2019

United Behavioral Health case shines light on parity violations

By Catherine Robertson Souter

While an attempt by the Senate Finance Committee to unmask secretive drug industry pricing has been in the news lately, another case that could have far-reaching results for insurance company procedure was recently decided in a federal court in California. In March, a federal judge issued a ruling in a class-action case brought by several patients against United Behavioral Health (UBH), a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. Judge Spero of the U.S. District Court of Northern California sided with the plaintiffs in their allegations that they were denied mental health care benefits improperly. The plaintiffs said that the insurance company did [More]

May 1st, 2013

UnitedHealth Group’s practices challenged in lawsuit

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The New York State Psychiatric Association (NYSPA), along with several patients and their families, has challenged UnitedHealth Group’s (also known as United Healthcare) practices in a class action lawsuit filed in March in the New York courts. The suit, which could take years to be brought to any decision or settlement according to Rachel Fernbach, Esq., associate director of NYSPA, claims that UnitedHealth Group has “systematically implemented unlawful and deceptive practices designed to create the illusion of…fairness…while simultaneously undermining access to treatment for the most vulnerable segment of our society.” The claimants allege violations of both federal and state parity [More]

December 1st, 2017

URI offers Mental Health First Aid training

By Pamela Berard

When it comes to accidents or physical illness, First Aid training can help minimize the damage and speed up healing time. The University of Rhode Island is taking a similar approach to mental health, adopting Mental Health First Aid training, an eight-hour program that teaches people how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. Lindsey Anderson, Ph.D., director of the Psychological Consultation Center at URI, said the program was rolled out over the summer, and by the end of the current semester in December, they expect more than 400 people will have received [More]

October 1st, 2015

Use of antipsychotic drugs for ADHD is ‘worrisome’

By Rivkela Brodsky

In recent years, there has been an increase in the prescription of antipsychotic medications to children aged 13-24 in the U.S. – especially adolescent boys, and often for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – according to a recent study in JAMA Psychiatry. The study, published in July, looked at prescription information for antipsychotic medications in patients aged 1-24 in 2006, 2008 and 2010 from the IMS LifeLink LRx Longitudinal Prescription database. The database includes information from about 60 percent of retail pharmacies in the nation. “What we found is that throughout childhood and adolescence, boys are more likely [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]

February 1st, 2013

Use of ECT on the rise?

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Practice trends at odds with study results For a treatment that’s existed for nearly a century, the function of electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is still somewhat of a mystery. Researchers are at a loss to explain why sending an electronic current through the brain, causing a convulsion similar to a grand mal epileptic seizure, relieves acute feelings of depression. Once known as “shock therapy” or “electric shock treatment,” ECT began in the 1930s when psychiatrists in Italy noticed that schizophrenic patients improved temporarily after a spontaneous seizure. Early attempts at replicating the effect with patients were partially successful and the [More]

July 24th, 2010

Use of restraint, seclusion is controversial, Part 1

By Edward Stern J.D.

The first of a two-part column. When the justice and mental health systems believe that someone is a risk to himself/herself or a threat to others, the courts may intervene and involuntarily commit that person. To the public, an involuntary commitment might be the end of the inquiry regarding the treatment and care of those in mental health treatment. This month’s column focuses on the use of seclusion and restraint for patients being treated within the mental health system. These issues are important, especially settings where the program is understaffed. First, it’s important to discuss the variety of people who [More]

July 1st, 2016

Use of third party vendors reviewed in wake of stabbing spree

By Pamela Berard

The state is conducting a review in the aftermath of a stabbing spree that ended at Silver City Galleria mall in Taunton, Mass., that left three people dead and several others injured. Family members of the man accused of the stabbings – who was shot and killed during the May 10 incident after reportedly stabbing several individuals, two of whom died – reported that he had been taken by ambulance to Morton Hospital the night before for psychiatric issues and was released early the following morning, the day of the attacks. In a statement following the incident, Morton Hospital, part [More]