Friday, April 29, 2011

Can Nation's Weather Impact
Americans' Mental Health?

Patrick E. Mitchell:Shutterstock
Dramatic weather has been making the news for months now, and most recently tornadoes and other turbulent weather have hit a number of states, killing over 300. Whether such weather is due to climate warming or not, there is reason to think that it may be having an adverse impact on the mental health of Americans. For more information on this topic, go to Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/5/17.1.full

National Medication Take Back Day Tomorrow

While the abuse of street drugs is on the decline, the abuse of prescription drugs (especially opioid medications) is rising dramatically. And that’s not just among the young—drug abuse among the baby-boom population increased by more than 50 percent between 2002 and 2008. To help get unused prescription drugs out of circulation, the Drug Enforcement Administration is sponsoring “National Medication Take Back Day” on April 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. More than 5,300 police departments and other sites are participating. Last week the White House released a federal plan to curtail the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. For more information on the plan, watch for the May 6 issue of Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/10.toc. The issue also contains an article about physicians’ need to monitor pain control medication more tightly while still prescribing it appropriately.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Contact Your Congressman Regarding
Mental Health Parity Guidance

APA is asking its members to urge their legislators to sign on to letters written by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and John Sullivan (R-Okla.) in support of the parity final rule guidance. In the letters, the congressmen ask the Obama Administration to implement the mental health parity rules in full. Currently in effect is an interim rule, which has many gray areas—including the scope and duration of mental health services that must be offered when a qualified health plan currently offers mental health and substance abuse benefits and the application of the rule to Medicaid managed care organizations and/or their carveouts. The deadline to sign on to these letters is Tuesday, May 3. The letters are posted at http://capwiz.com/psychorg/home. Information on the interim final rule appears in Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/45/5/1.3.full.

Stalkers Beware as Royal Wedding Approaches

Credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant
The eyes of the world will be on Britain’s royal family this week when Prince William weds Kate Middleton. The royal family attracts the admiration and devotion of millions, but not all followers are friendly. Researchers who studied people who stalk members of the British royal family set up a center across from Buckingham Palace to translate their findings into practical help for the royals, those who protect them, and the stalkers themselves. For more information, see Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/2/8.2.full.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Court Takes Up Data-Mining Case

Credit: ericsphotography/istockphoto
On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments on a case involving the constitutionality of Vermont’s law banning most forms of data mining, a process in which companies gather physicians’ prescribing information and then sell it to pharmaceutical firms that use it as a marketing tool to try to get physicians to increase the number of prescriptions they write for a firm’s product. The case centers on whether Vermont’s law is a violation of First Amendment free-speech rights or is a legitimate regulation of commerce in the state. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that in their questioning, several justices seemed to be concerned that the law did indeed trespass on data-mining companies’ free speech. A federal appeals court had ruled against the law, but another appeals court upheld similar laws in two other states. For background information on the case, go to http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/8/9.1.full.

APA Joins in Rep. Kennedy's
Brain Research Campaign

APA has joined an impressive list of government officials, mental health advocacy groups and experts, scientists, and clinicians to launch former Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s campaign to support the development of effective new treatments for neurological and mental disorders and dramatically increase funding for and coordination of brain research. The American Psychiatric Foundation, APA's charitable and educational arm, has stepped up with a $50,000 grant to support the conference that will launch the campaign, known as “The Next Frontier: One Mind for the Brain.” Read more about this major effort to advance brain research in the May 6 issue of Psychiatric News, accessible on May 6 at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/9.toc.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Vermont Advances Single-Payer Legislation

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (center in suit and yellow tie) came to the Vermont Psychiatric Association (VPA) spring meeting to discuss Vermont’s single-payer health reform legislation and other issues. Pictured with the governor are members and staff of the VPA. Credit: Kate McAllister, State Legislative Field Representative, APA

The Vermont State Senate today approved a bill that will, in time, create a single-payer health care system in the state. The bill, which has received the backing of the Vermont Psychiatric Association, has already passed in the House. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), who has championed the bill, is expected to sign it into law next week. More complete coverage of the Vermont bill will appear in Psychiatric News on May 6.

Muzzle Loosened on Physician-Patient
Gun Talk

Credit: Adrian Grosu/shutterstock
A compromise has been reached on a bill intended to prevent physicians from asking patients about gun ownership and gun-related issues, such as storage of firearms in the home. Civil and criminal penalties have been removed from the bill, but physicians who appear to be asking “harassing” questions or putting unnecessary information about gun ownership in patient records may be reported to the Florida Board of Medicine. Additional information about the original bill and comments from the Florida Psychiatric Society are posted in Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/5/16.3.full. The bill is posted and can be tracked at www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2011/432.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Supreme Court Declines to Hear
Virginia Health Care Reform Case

Credit: DHuss/istockphoto
The United States Supreme Court today rejected a call from Virginia’s attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the new health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will continue in federal appeals courts. The justices turned down a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a leading opponent of the law, to resolve questions about its constitutionality quickly.

The Court’s decision was not considered a surprise because it rarely steps into a legal fight before issues are aired in appellate courts, and at least three hearings are scheduled in appellate courts in May and June. The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012. More information is available in Psychiatric News at http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/46/1/11.1.full.

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