Leading Stories

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]

January 4th, 2020

Getting inside the consumer’s mind: Specialty examines range of human behavior

By Phyllis Hanlon

Consumer psychology can be defined as the examination of why people buy things, which involves cognitive processes, and response to the influence of marketing, according to study.com. The discipline looks at a wide range of human behavior and refers not only to shopping for tangible goods, but also pertains to the consumption of entertainment and experiences as well as attitudes and motivation underlying purchasing decisions. Several industries employ consumer psychologists, from universities and financial institutions to high-tech companies and manufacturing operations, each with its own unique area of concentration. According to Erin Percival Carter, Ph.D, assistant professor of marketing at [More]

January 4th, 2020

Brown University research aims to tackle opioid crisis

By Eileen Weber

Brown University’s School of Public Health has an idea that might impact Rhode Island’s opioid crisis. The school’s researchers have received a five-year $6.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a two-pronged project. The first part will focus on determining at-risk neighborhoods while the second part will be administering test strips to determine if drugs have been tainted by fentanyl. Ultimately, the hope is that this action can reduce the number of drug-related deaths in the state. “Both projects are trying to bring innovative technologies to help solve the overdose crisis,” said Brandon Marshall, an associate professor [More]

January 4th, 2020

Mass. Attorney General brings Sandy Hook Promise to schools

By Eileen Weber

On December 14, 2012, 20 first grade children and six teachers lost their lives in the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Mark Barden lost his son Daniel, age seven, that day. Since then, Barden, along with several of his fellow grieving parents, put together a foundation and service program to teach about the connection between mental health and gun violence in this country. They call it the Sandy Hook Promise, or SHP. SHP focuses on educating and mobilizing parents, schools, and communities on mental health and wellness programs that identify, intervene, and help at-risk individuals [More]

January 4th, 2020

NH’s legislation addresses mental health needs

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

In 2008, New Hampshire developed a plan to address mental health needs in the state. However, because of the recession, “not a single thing happened,” said Rep. James MacKay (Merrimack, District 14), a retired social worker and chair of the New Hampshire House Subcommittee on Mental Health, Addiction, and Recovery.  Last January, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), with input from focus groups, workgroups, and public sessions, released a new, more comprehensive plan. Unlike the previous plan, this 10-year plan considers the needs of both adults and children. A major objective is to increase the number of “designated receiving [More]

November 5th, 2019

New bill proposes 988 as the national crisis number

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

If someone is breaking into your home, you’ve witnessed a car crash, or a friend is having a heart attack, you know to dial 911. But if you or a loved one is having a mental health crisis, what number do you call? Most people have to look it up. In August, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), along with Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), introduced the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which would make 9-8-8 the national crisis hotline. As Moulton said via email, “When you wake up in the middle of the night, and your house is on fire, you don’t [More]

November 5th, 2019

Maine cracks down on vaping at schools

By Eileen Weber

A new law in Maine is cracking down on vaping by prohibiting tobacco, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes on school grounds. The law went into effect on September 19. One day later, the Bangor Daily News reported that the state had its first reported case of vaping-related illness. And, Centers for Disease Control Director Nirav Shah, MD, JD, made it clear that if you haven’t vaped yet, don’t start now. “People who do not vape should not start,” he said, “and people who do should seriously consider the health risks in using e-cigarette products.” According to Maine’s CDC, nearly four percent of [More]

November 4th, 2019

Commonwealth Fund Scorecard: New England states ranked in top 12

By Phyllis Hanlon

The New England states have earned a reputation for providing health care services that outrank much of the rest of the country. The Commonwealth Fund recently released the 2019 Scorecard on State Health System Performance. Massachusetts ranked No. 2; Connecticut and Vermont, No. 5; Rhode Island, No. 7; New Hampshire, No. 10; and Maine, No. 12. The scorecard examines access and affordability; prevention and treatment; avoidable use and cost; healthy lives; and health care disparities. In addition to reporting top-ranked and most improved indicators, the scorecard assesses the impact improvements will have on the state. David Radley, Ph.D, MPH, senior [More]

November 4th, 2019

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Often unrecognized and difficult to treat

By Phyllis Hanlon

Sleek physiques, flawless skin, and perfectly symmetrical facial features. For some individuals, achieving physical perfection becomes an obsession. This atypical behavior may be an indication of body dysmorphic disorder. Rachel Simmons, Ph.D, defines BDD as an intense focus on one or more aspects of appearance with the belief that they are abnormal, although in most cases, these perceived flaws are minor or non-existent. Simmons is a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. She noted that some patients spend between one and eight hours a day focused on thoughts [More]

November 4th, 2019

ACLU-NH lawsuit seeks due process for ER patients waiting for beds

By Catherine Robertson Souter

According to state law in New Hampshire, individuals held against their will because of a mental health crisis must be provided a hearing before a judge to determine if they present a risk to others or themselves. That hearing must happen within three days of the signing of an Involuntary Emergency Admission. However, because of a shortage of beds in the state’s psychiatric care facilities, people are often held in emergency rooms until a space opens up. And the mandated hearings are only offered at psychiatric facilities. The result is that some patients are being held, against their will, in [More]