March 1st, 2015

Veterans’ suicide prevention bill supported

By Rivkela Brodsky

Losing one veteran to suicide is one veteran too many, says Connecticut Veterans Affairs Commissioner Joseph Perkins. “If a veteran takes his one life one time, to me that is a big issue,” he said. “To say that 22 people a day, which means that across this country, 8,000 veterans are taking their lives a year, that’s out of control. That’s not acceptable.” Perkins is referencing a figure which has been used by lawmakers – including U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – urging support of federal legislation that addresses this issue, called the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans [More]

October 1st, 2013

Victims of sibling aggression suffer consequences

By Susan Gonsalves

Even one incident of sibling aggression causes mental distress among children and adolescents according to recently-published research in Pediatrics. Study authors from the University of New Hampshire analyzed data from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence using a random sample of 3,599 children ages one month to 17 representing all geographic regions. They conducted telephone interviews with youth ages 10 to 17 and spoke with caregivers concerning younger victims. Lead author Corinna Jenkins Tucker, Ph.D., UNH associate professor of family studies, notes that the mental health effects of various forms of aggression were considered such as physical abuse [More]

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]

January 4th, 2020

VT legislators seek to close gap in criminal justice, mental health systems

By Phyllis Hanlon

Earlier this year, three high-profile criminal cases were dropped when Vermont’s attorney general deemed the defendants insane at the time the crimes were committed. The ruling drew questions about the way the state handles criminal cases involving people with mental illness. To address this issue, lawmakers proposed legislation to bridge the gap. State Senator Richard Sears (D-Bennington County and Wilmington) reported that the bill is still in the draft stage and is the result of collaboration with several other senators and the office of states attorneys. “I expect once introduced in January both Senate Judiciary and Senate Health and Welfare [More]