Congress: Say yes to Excellence Act expansion

November 23, 2015, 09:30 am By Shelly Chandler and Danette Castle, The Hill – Congress Blog Imagine this. Your loved one behaving erratically by reacting to voices in their head. What do you do? Where do you go? Who do you call? You don’t want to have to drive five hours to see a psychiatrist. And you don’t have time to make an appointment to see someone in two weeks. You are worried and need help. The sad truth is that in too many communities in America, that help is simply not available. After decades of funding cuts, our nation’s overburdened, underfunded mental health and addiction system is failing to reach far too many people. Each year, only 40 percent of Americans with a mental health condition receive treatment. And a mere 10 percent of those with an addiction receive it. The lack of ready access to behavioral health services has a profound impact across many aspects of American life. First responders and law enforcement agencies report increasing encounters with individuals experiencing acute psychiatric symptoms – leading directly to a “boarding” crisis in hospital emergency rooms. Up to half of homeless people have an untreated mental illness. Nearly 10 percent of all persons residing in nursing facilities nationwide are non-elderly adults with severe mental illnesses – with the most common diagnosis being schizophrenia. Meanwhile, the opioid crisis sweeping our nation causes upwards of 40 overdose deaths per day. Congress must speak out and say clearly: nursing homes, county jails, homeless shelters and hospital emergency rooms can no longer serve as the de facto behavioral health system in the greatest...

Suicide First Aid as important as CPR

Monday, August 24, 2015   |   Scoop Independent News Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and nothing says this clearer than the provisional coronial data for 2014/2015. With 569 suicides it’s fair to say that New Zealand has a lot of work to do. No one knows this better than Jo Denvir, CEO of Lifeline Aotearoa. She is at the coalface, with a team of professionals and volunteers answering calls 24-7 from people in crisis. For many of these callers suicide is something they are thinking about. With almost 50 years experience in crisis support, Lifeline knows a lot about suicide in New Zealand. After all, they run the country’s only Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 TAUTOKO and deliver the respected, evidence-based, suicideTALK, safeTALK and ASIST suicide prevention courses. But Ms Denvir acknowledges that like most not-for-profit organisations, Lifeline is in a sector where need often outweighs the capacity to respond. “There is so much more we can do. If we are serious about making a difference in this country we need to reach saturation point with training and education. We need people, organisations, industries to view ASIST suicide first-aid intervention skills as important as learning CPR,” says Ms Denvir. She goes on to say “A recent international study proves people at risk of suicide feel significantly less suicidal and more hopeful about living after coming into contact with an ASIST trained person. This model works.” One might wonder, isn’t crisis the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff? A question Ms Denvir is used to being asked. “One in seventeen New Zealanders will have thoughts of suicide over the...

NIDA and NIAAA commentary strongly supports brain disease model of addiction

Announcement July 29, 2015 The brain disease model of addiction is strongly supported by scientific evidence, according to a commentary published today in The Lancet Psychiatry by NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow and NIAAA Director Dr. George Koob. The two NIH Institute Directors point out that animal and human studies have shown that critical brain structures and behaviors are disrupted by chronic exposure to drugs and alcohol. These findings, along with ongoing research, are helping to explain how drugs and alcohol affect brain processes associated with loss of control, compulsive drug taking, inflexible behavior, and negative emotional states associated with addiction. Understanding these processes has already resulted in several effective medicines, as well as new and promising medication targets to treat drug and alcohol addiction. The authors add that this process of discovery within a disease framework has also led to the development of promising brain stimulation treatments and behavioral interventions, and has had a positive impact on public policy. The commentary, co-authored by Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), was written in response to the Personal View article, by Wayne Hall and colleagues. NIDA and NIAAA are part of the National Institutes of Health. Reference: “Brain disease model of addiction: why is it so controversial?” by Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse and George Koob, Ph.D., Director, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published online July 29, 2015 in The Lancet Psychiatry. It will also appear in the August print issue of The Lancet Psychiatry...

Newer genetic testing methods may provide benefit for children with suspected autism

September 01, 2015 The use of two newer diagnostic testing technologies (chromosomal microarray analysis and whole-exome sequencing) among children with autism spectrum disorder are superior to current approaches of identifying genetic mutations linked to the disorder, according to a study funded in part by Autism Speaks.  The study also found that children with certain physical anomalies were more likely to have detectable genetic mutations, findings that may help identify children who could benefit most from genetic testing. The study appears in the September 1 issue of JAMA.  It was led by Dr. Stephen Scherer, of the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, who is director of the Autism Speaks MSSNG program. Scherer and colleagues performed chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) and whole-exome sequencing (WES) in a group of 258 unrelated children with ASD to determine the percentage of subjects with a genetic alteration [mutation] that may contribute to the features of autism spectrum disorder present in these individualsof these tests. All children underwent CMA; a random subset of 95 also underwent WES. All children underwent detailed clinical assessments for the presence of any major congenital abnormalities and minor physical anomalies and were stratified into 3 groups of increasing severity: essential, equivocal, and complex. Of the 258 children, 24 (9.3 percent) received a molecular diagnosis from CMA and 8 of 95 (8.4 percent) from WES. The yields were statistically different between the morphological groups. Among the children who underwent both CMA and WES testing, the estimated proportion with an identifiable genetic cause was 15.8 percent. This included 2 children who received molecular diagnoses from both tests. The clinical yield for genetic testing...

Survey: Mental health stigmas are shifting

By Azadeh Ansari, CNN Updated 9:10 AM ET, Wed September 2, 2015 Mental health has a long-standing public perception problem, but the stigma appears to be shifting, at least in the United States, a new survey reveals. Results from a national online survey on mental health, anxiety and suicide indicate that 90% of Americans value mental and physical health equally.  “Progress is being made in how American adults view mental health, and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. People see connection between mental health and overall well-being, our ability to function at work and at home and how we view the world around us,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The foundation commissioned a Harris Poll with the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention to gauge public opinion on mental health, anxiety and suicide awareness. In August, the Mental Health and Suicide Survey was emailed to a random sampling of individuals age 18 and older who live in the United States. Despite recognizing a link between mental health and overall well-being, the majority of survey participants view access to mental health care inaccessible and costly.  How Americans view mental health conditions Although most people surveyed identified life circumstances, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder as risk factors for suicide, more than half — 53% — did not know that people with anxiety disorders are also at risk for suicide, the survey found.  “The findings provide key insights into how Americans view mental health conditions, life circumstances, barriers for seeking help...

Many Doctors Have Delayed Autism Diagnosis by Ignoring Parent Concerns

Many Doctors Have Delayed Autism Diagnosis by Ignoring Parent Concerns – New analysis of 2011 survey shows that many healthcare providers were dismissing parents’ early concerns about autism April 15, 2015 A new analysis of a 2011 national survey finds that many parents of children with autism had their early concerns dismissed by their healthcare providers. In fact, they were more likely to have had their first concerns dismissed than were parents of children with other developmental delays, including intellectual disability. This appears to have resulted in significant delays in autism diagnosis and treatment. The parents reported first raising concerns about possible autism symptoms when their children were around 2 years of age, on average. By contrast, their children’s average age of autism diagnosis was close to 5 years of age. The findings appear online in the Journal of Pediatrics. At the time of the 2011 Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Treatment, all the children were between the ages of 6 and 17. This included 1,420 children diagnosed with autism and 2,098 children with intellectual disability or another type of developmental delay. “This research shows that a decade ago parents’ concerns about possible autism were being dismissed without action far too often,” comments developmental pediatrician Paul Wang, Autism Speaks’ head of medical research. “Since then we have been actively engaged with the medical community to ensure this no longer happens.” Since its founding in 2005, Autism Speaks has taken the lead in raising autism awareness both in North America and around the world. In 2013, the organization launched its “Early Access to Care” initiative to lower the age...

Five Point Plan to Improve the Nation’s Mental Health

Five Point Plan to Improve the Nation’s Mental Health February 18, 2015 / Pamela Hyde / Mental Health By: Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Paolo Del Vecchio, M.S.W., Director, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration In the 50 years since the implementation of the Community Mental Health Act, we have learned a great deal about how to improve the mental health of the nation, particularly for those of us with serious mental illnesses.  The solutions to improving mental health care in America are clear and have been demonstrated repeatedly by presidential commissions, federal agencies, states, providers, the Surgeon General, the Institute of Medicine, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and others over the last several decades.  However, as a nation we continue to lack the economic and political will to put these solutions into place, despite the fact that they would greatly reduce the economic burden of mental illness; increase productivity, achievement, and independence; and improve the lives of millions of Americans and their families. The following are 5 steps America could take that would immediately and greatly improve the existing overburdened mental health system and would help ensure delivery of effective, high quality, coordinated, and evidence-based care for Americans with mental illnesses. 1: Increase Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Despite the ongoing knowledge that 1 in 5 Americans experience a mental illness each year, and that many Americans with serious mental illness die years earlier than other Americans from treatable medical conditions, our nation is often reluctant to make the investments necessary to provide effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services...

Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide

Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide April 7, 2015 / SAMHSA / Alcohol / No Comments By: Melinda Campopiano, M.D., and Brandon T.  Johnson, M.B.A., Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Alcohol problems are alarmingly common in the general population.  Between 10 and 20 percent of patients seen in primary care or hospital settings have a diagnosable alcohol use disorder.  However, there are treatment options available. Many addiction experts believe that patients with moderate or severe alcohol-related problems should routinely be offered medication-assisted treatment.  Unfortunately, current evidence shows that medications are underused in the treatment of alcohol use disorders.  In fact, of the 18.0 million people who met the criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in 2013, only 1.4 million received any type of treatment (excluding mutual-help groups)—ranging from a single meeting with a counselor to participation in a specialized treatment program. To address this gap, the SAMHSA and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) jointly convened a Consensus Panel on New and Emerging Pharmacotherapies for Alcohol Use Disorders and Related Comorbidities.  The panel brought together experts in alcohol research, clinical care, medical education, and public policy to review the current evidence on the effectiveness of available medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder.  Today, SAMHSA and NIAAA are releasing Medication for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Brief Guide, which contains the guidance of this panel of experts. This report is intended for use by primary care and specialty providers, and contains information about: The use of medications in clinical practice to treat alcohol use disorder, The four medications...

What It’s Like to Live As a Veteran With a Mental Health Stigma

Mike Liguori:   Author The Sandbox Stories of Human Spirit and War, Advocate of All Things Self-Improvement My heart was racing. I felt the sweat starting to make its way down my face as I attempted to disguise my anxiety about reading the first time I encountered an IED from my tours in Iraq. I stood at the podium, with the eyes of the class and a professor locked in on my position. I felt as if I was alone on a big stage with nothing but a spotlight shining on me. Line by line, I told them about the moment of silence that came before the explosion on a fall night in the northern part of the Al-Anbar province. During a night convoy, we were headed back to Al Asad Air base when our convoy had split due to one of the trucks making a wrong turn. I couldn’t radio ahead to the convoy commander due to the radio not working.Just when my truck and four others passed through a village, a deafening silence came over me followed by an IED that brightened the night sky. I went on to tell about the multiple explosions afterward, followed by sporadic green and red traces and how I stepped on the gas as hard as I could hoping to push through to our rendezvous point a couple kilometers outside of the village. I told what happened when I jumped out of my truck at the rendezvous point, filled with tears of pain throwing my helmet against the wheels hoping it would shatter while shouting a mass amount of obscenities to God...