Leading Stories, Articles

February 9th, 2021

Connecticut’s emergency shelters take financial hit in pandemic as abuse rises

By Eileen Weber

Across the country, reports of domestic abuse have been on the rise during the pandemic. In December 2020, the New England Journal of Medicine cited this increase, calling it a “pandemic within a pandemic.” Although calls for help dropped as much as 50 percent in some regions, that didn’t mean the violence stopped. It just wasn’t being reported. Isolated at home, many victims were trapped inside with their abusers.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline issued a snapshot in the spring. In March 2020, volume had decreased by six percent in comparison to the same time the previous year.…

February 9th, 2021

Adoption of QAnon beliefs similar to cult following

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Despite vast evidence to the contrary and more than 60 lost court cases, more than half of Republican voters believed that the presidential election in November was actually won by Donald Trump, according to multiple polls done since November.

Across America, there is also strong support for the idea that the media cannot be trusted and that there are secret “deep state” bureaucrats within the government working to undermine democracy. Further, according to an NPR/Ipsos poll done in December, conspiracy theories posited by QAnon, (that Democratic leaders and Hollywood personalities are part of a secret cabal of pedophiles who molest and eat children) were rated as true by a full 17 percent of respondents and 37 percent were not sure if they were true or were not.…

January 12th, 2021

Spike in alcohol use is of concern

By Catherine Robertson Souter

As stay-at-home orders surged, restaurants and bars closed, and social events went virtual, Americans turned more and more to a trusty old friend, alcohol, to help ease the transition. Nightly Zoom cocktail parties became all the rage, with the apt title “Quarantini,” applied to just about anything one wants to drink during lockdown.

According to a Nielsen report, alcohol sales increased by 54 percent for the week ending March 21. Online sales of alcohol increased by 262 percent and world health leaders began to warn the public about the health risks of the increased alcohol use they were seeing.…

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.…

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 probation or parole.…

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 way to financially support the call centers much like 911.…

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 new ways to connect beyond the limitations of Telehealth.…

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 have gained a better understanding of the danger these devices present to public health,” said William Maisel, MD, M.P.H.,…

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.…

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.…