Leading Stories, Articles

May 29th, 2019

Massachusetts bans conversion therapy for minors

By Eileen Weber

Massachusetts became the 16th state to ban conversion therapy, a method attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity by treating it as if it’s a mental illness. Sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” tactics range from shaming the person to using painful physical stimulation like electric shocks. In early April, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a bill banning licensed health care professionals from providing this practice to anyone under 18. Fifteen other states and Washington D.C. have already banned conversion therapy, with California being the first in 2012. Massachusetts joins Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and [More]

May 28th, 2019

Vermont’s medication assisted treatment program shows encouraging results

By Catherine Robertson Souter

For the first time since 1918 during WWI when a flu pandemic swept the nation, life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped for each of the last three years. Suicide and drug overdose are edging the country downward. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 72,000 drug overdoses in 2017, up from 63,000 in 2016. New England has seen its fair share of the crisis, with New Hampshire among the worst in the county with a rate of 34 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, more than double the national average of 14.6. Vermont saw a rate of 20 [More]

May 28th, 2019

R.I. bill to mandate suicide prevention training for school staff faces quiet hurdles

By Janine Weisman

On the first day of spring, they came to the Rhode Island Statehouse. Many were students from Portsmouth High School who formed the suicide prevention group Every Student Initiative. They were there to support a bill before the House Committee of Health, Education and Welfare. The bill was called The Nathan Bruno and Jason Flatt Act. Bruno, 15, a Portsmouth High School sophomore, died on Feb. 7, 2018. Flatt died on July 16, 1997, at age 16 in Nashville, Tennessee. The proposed legislation that bears their names would establish mandatory youth suicide awareness and prevention training for all public school [More]

May 28th, 2019

CT bill supporting prescriptive authority fails; to be re-submitted

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

David Greenfield’s office manager called 19 psychiatrists before she found one to return her call. This situation is not uncommon, according to Greenfield, Ph.D, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and founder and medical director for The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford. “We see this every day,” said Greenfield, whose practice receives daily calls from individuals looking for a prescriber. Connecticut, like many states, has a shortage of psychiatric medication prescribers. That shortfall means that people often have to wait weeks or even months for an appointment, Greenfield [More]

May 13th, 2019

Psychologists find inpatient autism treatment complex, challenging

By Phyllis Hanlon

Growing awareness, mandatory early screening and changes to the diagnostic criteria have collectively contributed to an increase in the number of autism diagnoses. For the most part, patients with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum are managed on an outpatient basis. But, in some cases, hospitalization is necessary. Barbara Tylenda, Ph.D, ABPP, chief psychologist to Bradley Hospital’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (CADD), said that individuals with autism who need hospitalization are “…just like their neurotypical counterparts…” but can no longer be home or in school because of aggressive, self-injurious, or some other maladjusted behavior. Tylenda is also a [More]

May 12th, 2019

Butler Hospital research seeks to identify people in pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Currently, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that total is expected to increase to nearly 14 million. Between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease decreased by nine percent; deaths from Alzheimer’s increased by 145 percent.Butler Hospital in Rhode Island is among the institutions working to shrink those statistics. Butler has been researching dementia for 25 years. In the last several years, research at Butler Hospital Memory & Aging Program (MAP) has shifted to identifying people in the pre-clinical stage of dementia, even individuals who are at risk but haven’t developed symptoms yet, said Athene Lee, [More]

May 12th, 2019

Telepsychology: Is it the future of treatment?

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Technology has become an integral part of our daily world. We ask Alexa about the weather, tell Siri to place a phone call and use voice recognition software to write emails. How far a step is it, then, to reach out to a therapist via technology? Telepsychology, or telehealth, the practice of providing psychological services over telecommunication equipment, is not exactly a new facet of the profession. Since video conferencing equipment was first developed in the 1990s, there has been a slow, but steady, expansion of therapists who offer the option. Insurance coverage has been a bit slow to follow, [More]

May 12th, 2019

Study finds lack of data a barrier to systems-level research on patient safety

By Janine Weisman

Morgan Shields admits she was naive in the summer of 2017 when she first submitted an online public records request for all substantiated complaints against inpatient psychiatric facilities in Massachusetts. The paralegal from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) who called her told her it would cost more than $100,000 to provide the records. “I thought what he was saying was it would cost the state that much money to redact all of the information, just go through all the files,” recalled Shields, a Ph.D. candidate and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism fellow at the Institute for [More]

May 11th, 2019

United Behavioral Health case shines light on parity violations

By Catherine Robertson Souter

While an attempt by the Senate Finance Committee to unmask secretive drug industry pricing has been in the news lately, another case that could have far-reaching results for insurance company procedure was recently decided in a federal court in California. In March, a federal judge issued a ruling in a class-action case brought by several patients against United Behavioral Health (UBH), a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. Judge Spero of the U.S. District Court of Northern California sided with the plaintiffs in their allegations that they were denied mental health care benefits improperly. The plaintiffs said that the insurance company did [More]

May 11th, 2019

Study attempts to identify at-risk babies for autism treatment

By Susan Gonsalves

Babies who are at risk of developing autism have better outcomes if they are identified early and given intensive treatment. That’s the premise of the Infant Sibling Project, spearheaded by Rebecca MacDonald, Ph.D., BCBA-D, director of that initiative at The New England Center for Children in Southborough, Mass. MacDonald explained that her work attempts to replicate and expand research by Graupner and Sallows of the Wisconsin Early Autism Project in 2017. That project identified 60 siblings of children who already had an autism diagnosis. Researchers studied the babies, who were up to six months old, and conducted bi-weekly developmental screenings, [More]