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Latest News Around the Web

Sickest Mental-Health Patients Ending Up In Jails, Homeless Shelters.

In a lengthy piece in its magazine section, the New York Times (6/24, MM24, Interlandi, Subscription Publication) reported, “Deinstitutionalization, the systematic closure of state psychiatric hospitals, was codified by the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963 and supported by patients’ rights laws secured state by state. Chief among those laws were strict new standards: only people who posed an imminent danger to themselves or someone else could be committed to a psychiatric hospital or treated against their will.” However, “in the decades since, the sickest patients have begun turning up in jails and homeless shelters with a frequency that mirrors that of the late 1800s.” Such patients also end up in the emergency department. The article detailed the story of Joseph Interlandi, the article author’s father and a patient with bipolar disorder who was bounced around between the ED, jail cells, and short-term psychiatric hospitals before finally receiving long-term psychiatric help through a community mental-health center.

Related Links:

— “When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind, “Jeneen Interlandi, , June 22 , 2012.

Analysis: Placebo Effect In Schizophrenia Medication Trials Increasing.

Reuters (6/21, Norton) reported that according to a data analysis published online May 15 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, report that clinical trials of schizophrenia medications reveal that increasing numbers of participants appear to be responding to the comparison placebos which contain no active medication whatsoever. Researchers at the US Food and Drug Administration arrived at that conclusion after examining 32 clinical trials of pharmaceutical company data submitted to FDA during the years 1991 to 2008. Review author Thomas P. Laughren, MD, pointed out the importance of discovering the reasons why responses to placebo are increasing. The failure likelihood of clinical studies with bigger placebo responses is increased and may discourage pharmaceutical makers from development of new medications for schizophrenia.

Related Links:

— “Rising placebo response seen in schizophrenia trials, “Amy Norton, Reuters, June 21, 2012.

Online Mental Health Records Cause Patient Concern.

On its front page, the Boston Globe (6/21, A1, Kowalczyk) reports that shared electronic mental health records within Partners HealthCare system has raised privacy issues. According to Dr. David Blumenthal, Partners’ chief health information and innovation officer, “It’s one thing to give your psychiatrist the right to share your information [with certain doctors], it’s another to enter your data into a system that makes it available with relative ease to an unknown number of physicians who may be involved in your care … There are groups who are very uncomfortable with their records being shared with people they have not specifically designated.” Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said the new health information exchange will share patient records online across clinicians, “but only with patients’ permission.”

Related Links:

— “As records go online, clash over mental care privacy, “Liz Kowalczyk, The Boston Globe, June 21, 2012.

VA Looks To Videoconferencing, EMR Technology To Reduce Suicide Risks.

The AP (6/21, Freking) reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department hopes to reduce the risk of suicide among veterans by making greater use of video conferences between patients and doctors and by gradually integrating its electronic health records with those maintained by the Defense Department, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told mental health professionals” who attended a suicide prevention held Wednesday in Washington, DC. Shinseki “oversees a department that members of Congress have criticized heavily in recent months for overstating how frequently patients are able to see a doctor or other mental health professional.” But, according to the AP, “as many as two-thirds of the veterans who commit suicide are not enrolled” in VA healthcare. As Shinseki put it during his Wednesday conference remarks, VA “can’t influence and help those we don’t see.”

Stars And Stripes (6/21, Shane) points out that during Wednesday’s conference, Shinseki “called for a national commitment to end military suicides, ‘not just controlling, reducing or managing those at risk.'” The “official theme of the conference this year is ‘back to basics,’ a call by officials to ensure that all caregivers are equipped with fundamental suicide prevention principles. But after the first day, the unofficial theme could have been ‘frustration despite progress,’ as mental health officials lamented lingering difficulty stopping suicide even after years of focusing on the issue.”

The American Forces Press Service (6/21, Parrish) notes, “The ongoing battle against service member and veteran suicide requires community, commitment, and attention to three critical areas, a senior Defense Department official said” on Wednesday. Addressing “attendees at the annual DOD and Department of Veterans Affairs suicide prevention conference, Dr. Jonathan Woodson,” assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, “said employing vigilance, reducing stigma and sharing success stories are essential to the struggle to end suicide.” The conference, which began Wednesday and “ends June 22, drew hundreds of health care [professionals], researchers, and others from what Woodson called a broad community of people from government and private industry working to understand and defeat the occurrence of suicide in the ranks and among the nation’s military veterans..”

USAF Monitoring Social Media Sites For Potential Suicides. The Washington Times (6/21) reports that the US Air Force (USAF) “plans to increase its monitoring of its airmen on Facebook and other social media sites for signs of personal distress.” That is according to Air Force Maj. Michael McCarthy, who on Wednesday “spoke at a suicide prevention conference sponsored” by VA and the DOD.

Related Links:

— “VA looking to technology to reduce suicide risks,”Kevin Freking, Associated Press, June 20, 2012.

Study: Lingering Symptoms Of TBIs May Persist For Years.

HealthDay (6/21, Esposito) reports, “Lingering symptoms from combat-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) — even ‘mild’ cases — may persist for years,” according to a study presented at the American Headache Society’s annual meeting. Researchers arrived at that conclusion after looking “at 500 veterans who underwent general health and depression screenings between 2008 and 2011 at the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center and were found to have symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome.” Notably, “whether the injury had occurred two years or eight years earlier made no significant difference in frequency or intensity of symptoms. And the type of injury made no difference.”

Related Links:

— “For Combat Vets, Brain Injury Symptoms Can Last Years, “Lisa Esposito, HealthDay, June 20, 2012.

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