Leading Stories, Articles

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]

March 7th, 2018

Vermont prison complex meant to accommodate multiple populations

By Janine Weisman

Fixing the mental health system is a key part of a plan Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s administration introduced to the State Legislature in January to build a 925-bed prison complex in northwest part of the state over 10 years. Fifty forensic beds — 20 reserved for hospital level care and 30 for outpatient or residential level care — are part of the $150 million corrections campus outlined in the Agency of Human Services (AHS) Report on Major Facilities. AHS oversees both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health. The plan to create the large complex in Franklin [More]

March 7th, 2018

Report: Massachusetts is healthiest state

By Susan Gonsalves

Massachusetts jumped up a spot and is now designated as the healthiest state, according to a report from America’s Health Rankings. The 171-page report from the United Health Foundation and American Public Health Association takes into consideration 35 measures for policy, clinical care, behaviors, community and environment. The overall rankings for the other New England states are as follows: Vermont, third; Connecticut, fifth; New Hampshire, eighth; Rhode Island, eleventh; and Maine, twenty-third. Massachusetts achieved the slot based on high marks for having the highest concentration of mental health providers (547.3 per 100,000 population), more than 200 primary care physicians and [More]

March 6th, 2018

In-service training to focus on police officers’ mental health

By Catherine Robertson Souter

There were 19 deaths of police officers by suicide in Massachusetts in 2016 and 2017, the fourth highest number of suicides in the country. That is not fourth highest rate per 1,000 but fourth highest total number overall. The state is the 15th largest by population. According to Blue H.E.L.P., a non-profit law enforcement mental health awareness group based in Auburn, Mass., there were 286 deaths nationwide. A bill currently before the state’s legislature looks to address the issue by mandating in-service training on mental health as well as annual mental wellness and suicide prevention courses for all current officers. [More]

March 5th, 2018

DMH initiative aims to expedite psychiatric inpatient admissions

By Phyllis Hanlon

People with mental health conditions routinely experience long wait times in hospital emergency departments. Acknowledging this problem, Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders convened a task force last spring to develop appropriate interventions. EOHHS, together with the Department of Mental Health (DMH), MassHealth and the Department of Public Health (DPH) created the Expedited Psychiatric Inpatient Admission Policy, a multi-pronged approach that launched on February 1. Daniela Trammel, DMH director of communication and community engagement, explained that the EOHHS chaired and partnered with the Division of Insurance (DOI) in convening a task force comprised of insurance carriers, psychiatric [More]

March 5th, 2018

Lawmakers seek to strengthen parity in Rhode Island

By Pamela Berard

Rhode Island lawmakers are considering several proposals to strengthen mental healthcare and substance use disorder treatment. Among budget items Gov. Gina M. Raimondo included in her proposal to the state General Assembly in mid-January, are: The creation of an acute mental health crisis center to help people navigate urgent mental health and substance use disorder crises and facilitate better connections to ongoing mental healthcare resources; The development of a benchmarking study under the leadership of the state Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC), to benchmark under-investment in mental healthcare and provide recommendations about investments/policies for improving mental health provided [More]

February 10th, 2018

New Hampshire to develop 10-year mental health plan

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Looking to design a better system, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently awarded a contract to Keene University’s Center for Behavioral Health Innovation to develop a 10-year mental health plan for the state. To be released in June, the report will offer a roadmap for the state’s mental health services moving forward. “The last plan was issued in 2008. A lot has changed since that time,” said Katja Fox, director of the DHHS Division for Behavioral Health. “The state wants to be able to look at how services can be delivered to address the needs [More]

February 10th, 2018

Mental health, harassment among Vermont’s priorities

By Eileen Weber

Vermont’s House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-Grand Isle-Chittenden) and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/Prg-Chittenden) want to collaborate with Governor Phil Scott this year on legislation for education, clean waterways, a $15 minimum wage, better mental healthcare and stronger sexual harassment policies and procedures. In the wake of rampant opioid addiction and the #MeToo movement, the two relevant issues are mental health and sexual harassment. Ashe and Johnson are in favor of legislation that not only addresses the high cost of prescription drugs but also limits prescription pain killers. Johnson said the opioid epidemic may account for the rise in [More]

February 9th, 2018

Psychologists grapple with issues of racism, diversity in therapy

By Pamela Berard

As the world becomes more diverse, it’s a good time for psychologists to have a social justice philosophy for their practices, according to Charmain F. Jackman, Ph.D. Everybody benefits when we’re all working toward cultural competency,” said Jackman, a licensed clinical/forensic psychologist whose metro-Boston area private practice, Innovative Psychological Services, recently hosted a panel discussion, “Join the Conversation: Navigating Racism & Other ‘Isms’ in Therapy.” Attendees discussed strategies for mental health professionals to effectively address issues such as racism, xenophobia and heterosexism, whether working with clients who have experienced discrimination, with clients who express offensive comments in sessions or through [More]

February 8th, 2018

Rural Massachusetts experiences psychiatric bed increase

By Phyllis Hanlon

Across the Commonwealth, particularly in rural areas, the need for more inpatient care for patients with mental health issues continues to grow. In recent months, small towns in the central part of the state have seen an uptick in the number of psychiatric inpatient beds and services. In October 2015, Heywood Healthcare in Gardner purchased a former teaching convent in Petersham that had housed the Sisters of Assumption. Rebecca Bialicki, Ph.D, vice president for Community Health and Chief Change Agent at Heywood Healthcare, noted that the property encompasses 21 acres and a 75,000 square foot building with two wings. “It [More]