Leading Stories

November 5th, 2020

Practical Practice: Getting people the help they need

By Catherine Robertson Souter

According to a study published in August by the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. adults have reported three times the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder and four times the prevalence of symptoms of depressive disorder compared with the same time period in 2019. Even if the figures cannot be compared directly, as the CDC report points out that the methodology was not identical, the numbers are alarming. One quarter of respondents reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, 13 percent reported an increase in substance use and 11 percent reported an increase in suicidal ideation. Luckily, Americans are also reaching [More]

November 5th, 2020

Racial disparity in the criminal justice system

By Phyllis Hanlon

According to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Southern states, post-Civil War, utilized criminal justice as a way to maintain control over African Americans. A loophole in the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, enabled these states to pass “Black Codes,” a system that involved the arrest and imprisonment of African Americans. The Latino population has faced similar discriminatory practices when it comes to the criminal justice system. The Pew Research Center conducted a bilingual phone survey of 2,015 Hispanic adults in 2008 and found that four percent of this population was in prison/jail or on [More]

November 5th, 2020

National Suicide Hotline soon to become three-digit number: 988

By Eileen Weber

In two years, the U.S. will have another three-digit emergency code: 988. In a co-sponsored bill proposed last year by Massachusetts State Representative Seth Moulton and Utah State Representative Chris Stewart, that number will directly connect callers with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. In July, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously voted to designate 988 as the national number for mental health emergencies. Until now, the access line has been the 10-digit number 1-800-273-8255. But like its emergency counterpart, 988 is far easier to remember and quicker to dial. A surcharge is slated to be connected to it as a [More]

October 8th, 2020

Could walk and talk therapy become the norm?

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Before we all were forced to slow down, most of us tended to think of spending time in nature as a benefit, something we squeeze in between all our running around. But, as studies have shown, getting outside should be considered more than a luxury. We should think of it as a requirement for both physical health and optimal cognitive function. In fact, one 2019 United Kingdom study shows that a minimum of 120 minutes of outdoor time per week is associated with higher levels of self-reported health and well-being. As the 2020 pandemic churns onward, therapists are looking for [More]

October 8th, 2020

FDA ban on shock device affects one school

By Eileen Weber

This past spring, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of electrical stimulation devices (ESDs) because they present an “unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury” to patients with aggressive or self-injurious behavior. The ban is nation-wide but directly impacts one school—the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, Mass. The device has been used for decades at the residential school for people with autism and other psychiatric, developmental, or mental disabilities. It is the only facility in the U.S. that uses the technique on its residents. “Since ESDs were first marketed more than 20 years ago, we [More]

October 7th, 2020

COVID-19 funds provide financial relief to several residential schools

By Phyllis Hanlon

Some special education residential schools in Massachusetts received a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm when Governor Charlie Baker announced that $16.1 million would be awarded to certain facilities. Thirty-two special education residential schools were given the funds to help alleviate pandemic-related expenses. Awards ranged from $18,220 to nearly $2 million. Several residential schools received more than $1 million, including the Hillcrest Educational Center ($1,275,323); the Evergreen Center ($1,087,973); the May Institute, Inc. ($1,006,071); the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, Inc. ($1,763,017); New England Center for Children (NECC) ($1,902,742); and Saint Ann’s Home, Inc. ($1,081,950). Vincent Strully, CEO and founder of [More]

October 7th, 2020

Residential schools adopt safety measures related to pandemic

By Phyllis Hanlon

In March, states across the region ordered the closure of school systems. While public and many private academic institutions shuttered their doors, residential schools were considered “essential services” and were allowed to remain open. Elizabeth Della Russo Becker, executive director of maaps (Massachusetts Association of Approved Private Schools), reported that residential schools serve a diverse population that is more vulnerable to infectious diseases than students in the general population. Becker applauded Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders for the “wise and unique” decisions that helped protect these students. “She understands that these schools have needy and often voiceless populations. [More]

October 6th, 2020

Child abuse reports down; concern is up

By Eileen Weber

Authorities and medical professionals in Maine are seeing a 30 percent decrease in child abuse reports. The sharp decline began when schools closed in mid-March because of COVID-19. These days, the safety nets that are typically built around children—teachers, friends, neighbors, other family members, doctors and social workers—weren’t there. Calls to the abuse hotline at the Maine Child and Family Services have also been down. Only seven percent of the calls were from school personnel when that number would ordinarily be more than 20 percent. According to the National Children’s Alliance, a nation-wide network of children’s advocacy centers, approximately 700,000 [More]

October 6th, 2020

Study details effects of pandemic on people with eating disorders

By Catherine Robertson Souter

For those with an eating disorder, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and stress can be major contributing factors. And of course, what are the major factors we all face during a pandemic and related shutdown? Isolation, loneliness, anxiety and stress. A recent study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders shows that, across the board, those dealing with eating disorders have reported increased symptoms and concerns about the effects of the current situation on their mental health. “People with eating disorders,” said Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D, co-author of the study and the founding director of the University of North Carolina Center of [More]

October 6th, 2020

Program for educators teaches social and emotional learning

By Catherine Robertson Souter

The state of Connecticut is looking to take the lead on creating an emotionally strong educational system. The Department of Education has joined forces with stakeholders across the state to pilot a unique program aimed at giving educators the tools they need to cope and to teach coping skills during the pandemic. The program, “Social and Emotional Learning in Times of Uncertainty and Stress: Research-Based Strategies,” is a 10-hour online program for educators that will give instruction in social and emotional learning (SEL). “The course is 10 hours of training in the psychology and neurobiology of trauma and stress resilience,” [More]

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