Columnists

January 12th, 2011

More than a few good interns

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

By the time this column appears in January, the interview phase of the annual internship sweepstakes will be in full swing. But as I write in December, I have just finished reviewing my share of the mountain of applications that come every year to our hospital’s training program. Reading applications for internships always makes me think that I have been transported to Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s fictional Midwestern city where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.” I don’t know about strength or looks and those qualities aren’t relevant [More]

December 16th, 2010

Ebenezer Scrooge and the Season of Second Chances

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

What I love most about the dark cold days of December is the opportunity they give us to notice and enjoy glimpses of contrasting light and warmth. Outdoors the cold makes everything sharp and clear and paradoxically we are more aware of the sun glinting off crystalline expanses of blinding white snow. Indoors we light fires, celebrate holidays and remind ourselves that anything is possible. True or not, this is something we need to believe because we see too much distress and suffering and know too well the importance of second chances. This is the season of second chances and [More]

December 16th, 2010

Crimes against children are decreasing

By Catherine Robertson Souter

If you took the nation’s pulse only by reading newspapers, you’d probably believe that bullying and crimes against children are on the rise. In fact, those reports, sensationalized or not, may be positively impacting the rates of crimes against children. In a study conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, researchers found that rates of bullying and reports of sexual assault against children had declined in the years between 2003 and 2008. Based on two nationally representative sample of children ages two to 17, the study saw a reduction of bullying from 22 [More]

December 16th, 2010

Bill would extend technology assistance to mental health providers

By Pamela Berard

Time is running out, but Congress is considering legislation that would amend the Public Health Service Act and the Social Security Act to extend health information technology assistance eligibility to mental health and addiction treatment providers and facilities. The Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 would add mental health and substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse treatment facilities and community mental health centers to those eligible for electronic health record incentive payments established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Companion bills were introduced in the Senate (by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, [More]

December 1st, 2010

CDC adds depression module to behavioral risk survey

By Nan Shnitzler

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included a depression questionnaire in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey for the first time in 2006 and again in 2008. Combined data revealed that an estimated nine percent of U.S. adults experienced depression during the two weeks preceding the survey, including 3.4 percent who met criteria for major depression. A total of 235,067 adults in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were polled in telephone surveys. The findings were reported in this past Oct. 1 CDC “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.” Depression [More]

December 1st, 2010

Shared decision making embraces consumers

By Nan Shnitzler

Shared decision making (SDM) is an interactive, collaborative process between consumers and their health care providers about decisions pertinent to the consumer’s treatment and services, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The SDM model promotes self-determination and empowerment and enhances consumer involvement in health care. The Institute of Medicine cited consumer-centered care and approaches like SDM as a way to achieve better outcomes in mental health care and substance abuse in its 2006 report, “Crossing the Quality Chasm.” SDM has gained traction in physical health care and is starting to make inroads in mental health care [More]

December 1st, 2010

Guidelines for depression treatment revised

By Ami Albernaz

The American Psychiatric Association recently revised its guidelines for treating Major Depressive Disorder, covering everything from clinician-patient rapport to the full range of antidepressants to alternative therapies. Key recommendations included more frequent use of rating scales during assessment; use of electroconvulsive therapy as well as new, technologically advanced therapies in patients with treatment-resistant depression; and regular aerobic exercise as an adjunct to treatment. A group of Association members with extensive experience in assessing and treating Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) reviewed more than 13,000 articles published between 1999, shortly before the last guidelines were released and 2006. Through the five-year review [More]

December 1st, 2010

Medicare cuts: detrimental to both psychologists and clients

By Phyllis Hanlon

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final payment rule on November 2 that affirmed a 21 percent Medicare reimbursement cut effective December 1 and another four percent decrease on January 1, 2011. This decision comes in spite of stringent lobbying efforts from the psychology community. CMS uses the Medical Economic Index (MEI), which measures a medical professional’s time and practice expenses and the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), a formula that considers practice costs, Medicare enrollment and real gross domestic product per person to determine Medicare rates. According to CMS, from 2001 through 2015, physician costs are [More]

December 1st, 2010

Telemedicine protocol helpful to depressed elderly people

By Ami Albernaz

A telemedicine-based protocol for treating depression among homebound elders has shown promise in a preliminary study, pointing the way for more rigorous research. The study, conducted by Rhode Island Hospital in collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Telemedicine Program, applied telemedicine – now used by the homecare industry to help manage chronic illnesses, such as heart disease – to a condition known to afflict many of the elderly, though relatively few receive treatment. The 48 participants were already receiving home care for other medical conditions and either had depressive symptoms or were taking antidepressants. Pre-programmed monitoring devices alerted participants at [More]

December 1st, 2010

Unit uses softness to connect with kids

By Jennifer E Chase

A Massachusetts-based child inpatient psychiatric unit is breaking from the traditional use of restrictions and seclusion for managing troubled patients with a much softer approach: colorful rooms, soft places to sit, listening ears and lots of hugs. To be exact, the “Hugs not Holds” initiative is just one of several programs used to calm, quell and treat kids admitted to the Child Assessment Unit (CAU), an award-winning unit under the auspices of Cambridge Health Alliance that thinks outside the box when it comes to treating difficult patients. The CAU opened in 1989 but underwent a major change in 2001 when [More]