Leading Stories, Articles

August 18th, 2017

Law would shift ‘medically necessary’ determinations to clinicians

By Phyllis Hanlon

Efforts to increase coverage for behavioral health services have been an on-going struggle for patients, families and advocates in recent years. Some politicians have stepped into the fray and have filed legislation that benefits patients with mental health issues. On January 19, 2017, Massachusetts State Rep. Kay Khan (D-11th Middlesex) and Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Worcester and Middlesex) jointly filed a bill (H.1070) that would expand determination of medical necessity for mental health services to a treating clinician; currently insurers make that determination. Originally, Sen. Tom P. Kennedy (D-Brockton) had been a proponent of this bill and had been working on [More]

August 18th, 2017

Ban proposed on conversion therapy

By Phyllis Hanlon

In June, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities held a hearing to consider legislation (S.62/H.1190) that would ban conversion therapy, i.e., therapy aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Rep. Kay Khan (D-11th Middlesex) filed the original bill in 2015; she and Sen. Mark C. Montigny (D-2nd Bristol and Plymouth) jointly filed the most recent bill earlier this year. “The bill will ban deceptive conversion practices that can lead to depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal and suicidality,” according to a fact sheet provided by Rep. Khan’s office. While the bill aims “…to [More]

August 18th, 2017

UMaine athletes to get mental health resources

By Pamela Berard

The University of Maine (UMaine) is adding a mental health program to its athletic department. UMaine is receiving $640,000 in a one-time distribution from the NCAA, which this spring distributed funds to nearly 350 Division I schools for the purpose of providing better support to student-athletes. The money had to be used for new programs or to enhance existing programs (not to buy more equipment, increase salaries, or hire more coaches, for example). Each school was required to submit a spending plan. UMaine, which has more than 450 student-athletes, chose to use the funding to prioritize mental health care for [More]

August 18th, 2017

Study looks at connection between mental illness, opioid addiction

By Catherine Robertson Souter

As the country reels under the spread of opioid addiction and overdosing, a recent study conducted by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the University of Michigan has brought a new focus to a possible connection between mental illness and addiction. According to the study, the rate of opioid prescriptions in the United States has quadrupled in the past 15 years. The researchers found that more than half of all prescriptions for opioids in the U.S. each year are given to Americans with two of the most prevalent mental health disorders. That means that 60 million of 115 million prescriptions for opioids distributed go [More]

August 18th, 2017

Vermont to compensate for first responders’ mental health issues

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Although one of the smallest states, especially by population, Vermont has taken the lead in mental health public policy. With a multi-partisan bill that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott, (R), the state became the first in the nation to provide coverage under workers’ compensation for mental health issues and illnesses. First introduced by Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Orange) and representatives from the Republican, Independent and Progressive parties in February, the bill became law as of July 1. Opponents raised concerns over the ultimate cost of the bill. According to the state’s Joint Fiscal Office, the law should cost [More]

August 18th, 2017

Clark team committed to address disparity issues

By Catherine Robertson Souter

For minorities and the poor in this country, the rates of access to and use of mental health care services remain far lower than those of majority whites. At Clark University, Esteban Cardemil, Ph.D., and his team of undergraduate and graduate students in the Mental Health, Culture and Community Research Program are working to shine a light on the disparity faced by minority and economically disadvantaged groups in the United States. An associate professor in the department of psychology, Cardemil is also editor of the Journal of Latina/o Psychology, a collaboration between the National Latino Psychological Association and APA. Cardemil [More]

July 1st, 2017

Creativity: The path to identity

By Phyllis Hanlon

Museums house innumerable works from masters such as Renoir, Monet, Rodin and Jackson Pollock. But creativity doesn’t stop there. The family refrigerator might feature the creative renderings of a three-year old mind. And the fields of technology, science, health, education and more have produced their share of creative geniuses and innovation. Area psychologists helped to unravel the underpinnings of creativity and how it shapes a person’s identity. The research community defines creativity as something new or novel, original and task-appropriate, according to James Kaufman, Ph.D., professor of educational psychology at the NEAG School of Education at the University of Connecticut. [More]

July 1st, 2017

Dept. of Public Health approves bed closure

By Susan Gonsalves

The Department of Public Health conditionally approved UMass Memorial Medical Center’s plan to eliminate 13 of 27 inpatient psychiatry beds as part of a $30 million renovation project designed to increase the number of medical/surgical beds instead. In late April, hospital officials responded to a DPH request to outline how it would accommodate the region’s psychiatric patients following the bed reduction. In an 11-page letter, they described how they would address concerns about other facility options, patient insurance and transportation to alternate sites. UMMC CEO and President Eric Dickson has said that the remaining 14 beds in the “8 East,” [More]

July 1st, 2017

New Hampshire legislation expands mental health care

By Phyllis Hanlon

On May 11, the New Hampshire Senate unanimously passed an amendment to House Bill (HB) 400, which is intended to significantly improve access to beds for psychiatric patients and reorganize the state’s Division for Children, Youth and Families. Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem) and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) originally brought the mental health component to the legislation, which was introduced in January 2017. Citing a shortage in the capacity to provide emergency mental health care and long-term treatment for patients, the Senators proposed that the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services undertake and complete specific actions. [More]

July 1st, 2017

Shortage of prompt care for children highlighted

By Pamela Berard

Appointment availability is low – and wait times, long – for a family seeking care for a child with depression, according to a recent study. The study, published by the International Journal of Health Services, from Harvard Medical School researchers and others, found that access to outpatient pediatric mental health care, whether with a child psychiatrist or a pediatrician, in the five metropolitan areas used in the study was limited, even for those with private insurance or willing to pay out of pocket – although it was even more difficult for those on Medicaid. The authors used the Blue Cross [More]