What Good is Mental Health Parity if No One Knows About it?

While federal and state mental health parity laws have seemingly made access to mental health services easier for individuals, a new study released in the April issue of Psychiatric Services, the journal of the American Psychiatric Association, says that many of those surveyed were not aware of their extended benefits.

Researchers studied the results of Timothy’s Law, New York’s state mental health parity law, by conducting telephone interviews with 54 employed individuals who had private insurance. Of the 54 respondents, 32 were adults diagnosed with mental illness and 22 were parents of children diagnosed with mental illness.

Most of those surveyed had been informed of their insurance coverage benefits before the state parity law went into effect in 2007, but were not aware of the extended coverage as a result of the law. Individuals also reported that their health plan provided unclear or incomplete information about their benefits, they had more difficulty obtaining information on mental health benefits than on medical/surgical benefits, and they felt their insurance companies were managing their mental health care benefits more aggressively than their medical/surgical benefits.

Those surveyed also reported difficulty finding a high-quality mental health care provider in their network as well as problems with health plan provider lists, such as outdated provider lists and long waits for appointments.

Forty-nine states have passed mental health parity legislation. What can be done in other states to educate individuals on their mental health benefits? What do you know about your state’s benefits?

To read more about this study, click here.

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Upcoming Webinar Explores Social and Emotional Intelligence, Healthy Relationships, and Mindsight

PAR author Dr. Lisa Firestone and PsychAlive are proud to host a free Webinar this summer with Dr. Dan Siegel, award-winning UCLA clinical professor and executive director of the Mindsight Institute.

Mindsight: Learning a New Science of Personal Transformation   

A free Webinar for the general public with Dr. Dan Siegel

Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. EST

Seeing the inner world more clearly and learning to shape it toward health are the fundamental health-promoting capacities of “mindsight.” Mindsight underlies both social and emotional intelligence. This webinar will offer an overview and practical interventions regarding mindsight and its application to strengthening the mind, the brain, and human relationships.

To learn more, visit www.glendon.org and click on Upcoming Webinars; to register now, click on https://www1.gotomeeting.com/island/webinar/registration.tmpl?id=220778937

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PAR Author David Schretlen to Present AACN Workshop

PAR author David J. Schretlen, PhD, will be giving a workshop at the annual conference of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) in Washington, D.C., on June 9, 2011.  Dr Schretlen’s workshop, entitled “Threats to the Validity of Inference in Neuropsychology and Novel Methods of Practice to Help Overcome Them,” will encourage participants to consider fundamental questions about inference in clinical psychology:

  • How do we decide when a neuropsychological examination is abnormal?
  • What constitutes “impaired” test performance?
  • When does a set of abnormal test scores represent a clinically meaningful pattern?

Dr. Schretlen will describe three basic approaches to clinical inference (pathological signs, deficit measurement, and pattern analysis) and examine the underlying logical assumptions, implementation, strengths, and threats to the validity of each inferential method.  Participants will examine the conceptualization and assessment of pathognomonic signs and cognitive deficits and will discuss the risky practice of sysgiving additional tests to clarify ambiguous findings.  Dr. Schretlen will describe what it means to “calibrate” test performance for demographic characteristics and estimated premorbid ability, and how this fundamentally alters the meaning of high and low test scores.  Participants will learn about the circumstances under which raw scores can be more informative than demographically calibrated scores.  Finally, Dr. Schretlen will argue that symptom validity testing differs from effort testing, and he will present findings from an experiment designed to assess cognitive effort among adults with no incentive to feign impairment and no evidence of symptom exaggeration.

Dr. Schretlen is Associate Professor of Medical Psychology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Radiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  He is the author of the Calibrated Neuropsychological Normative System™ (CNNS™) and the companion Software Portfolio (CNNS™-SP), which are designed to assist clinicians and researchers in their interpretation of the tests that make up the normative system.  To learn more about how to improve the precision of neuropsychological test interpretation with the CNNS and to see a list of tests calibrated by the CNNS, visit www.parinc.com 

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Ira L. Cohen Presenting at APS Annual Convention

PAR author Ira L. Cohen, PhD, will be presenting during the Association for Psychological Science (APS) Annual Convention in Washington, DC taking place from May 26 through May 29, 2011.

Dr. Cohen’s poster presentation, “Arousal-Modulated Fixation on Flashing Light Patterns in At-Risk Four-Month-Old Infants is Associated with Autism Severity Scores in Childhood,” is scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 26, 2011, from 8 to 9 p.m. in Columbia Hall at the Washington Hilton.

Dr. Cohen is the author of the PDD Behavior Inventory™ (PDDBI™) and the PDD Behavior Inventory™−Screening Version (PDDBI™-SV).

For more information about the APS Annual Convention, click here.

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Meet the Author: Robert M. Roth, Ph.D.

1. Why did you choose to enter the field of psychology?

I was 8 years old when I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist. I had come across a series of books my sister had about human nature in which the term was often mentioned. While I did not really understand what being a psychologist meant at the time, things in the books such as pictures of the brain and visual illusions made a lasting impression on me. During high school I developed an interest in the etiology and treatment of substance abuse in adolescents. While my career path eventually led largely away from that topic, it cemented my dedication to a career in psychology.

 2. What made you decide initially to develop the TEC?

During the development of the BRIEF-A, Peter Isquith, Gerry Gioia, and I had engaged in discussions about assessment and functional neuroimaging of executive functions. We became interested in the idea of developing an instrument that would involve executive function tasks often used in neuroimaging studies but that had not been standardized for use as a clinical measure.

 3. What would you like to tell people about the TEC that they may not know?

It took 7 years from the initial discussion about developing a new measure to publication of the TEC. A great deal of time was spent developing the measure, trying different parameters, selecting stimuli, making other adjustments and changes to the task and reports based on pilot testing, analyzing data, and writing and editing the manual. It was a true labor of love.

 4. What would you like to tell people about yourself that they may not know?

I have been studying executive functions, using a variety of methods (neuropsychological measures, ERPs, fMRI, questionnaires) for the past 20 years. I love writing and mentoring scientific papers. I am a trilingual Canadian from Montreal Quebec who speaks English, French, and Hungarian (the latter being my parents’ native language).

 5. How do you spend your free time? (hobbies, books are you reading, movies you enjoy, pets, etc.)

I most enjoy spending time with my two sons and other family members. Other than that, reading history and historical fiction related to Europe, tourism, watching movies (lots of kid-friendly fare, but also romantic comedies and sci-fi, as well as just about anything that has to do with historical events pre-1919), listening to hard rock and heavy metal music, and following the National Hockey League (go Habs!).

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Illinois Schools Address Teen Suicide

In January of this year, the once-taboo subject of teen suicide was brought front-and-center with students at Oak Lawn Community High School in Chicago. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article entitled “Teen suicide: More schools bring issue out of shadows” (February 21, 2011), each Oak Lawn freshman received a short questionnaire about depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. Uncomfortable questions were asked: Had they lost interest in everything? Did they feel they weren’t as smart or good-looking as most other people? Were they thinking about killing themselves? For three years, Oak Lawn has been screening freshmen for signs of depression or suicidal thinking. This year, 270 students filled out the questionnaire in their health classes, and a fifth of them were referred to counselors for follow-up interviews. About half of those teens were offered free in-school therapy or referrals to outside counselors.

Until recently, the topic of teen suicide was avoided by many schools. “There were some people who felt that if you talk about it, you might motivate students or put the thought in students’ minds,” said John Knewitz, the school district’s assistant superintendent for student services, speaking with Tribune reporter John Keilman. “The more we studied it, we came to the realization that that was not the case. It was something that needed to be talked about openly” (http://articles.chicagotribune.com).

Last year, Illinois passed a law encouraging teachers and school staff to update their training on suicide prevention. Erika’s Lighthouse, a mental health advocacy group formed in memory of a girl who took her life at 14, offers programs to Chicago area middle schools that help students and their families recognize the signs of depression; the group also offers instruction to school officials. In response to recent suicides, other schools have updated their health curriculum to include depression and suicide, started Facebook pages for mental health awareness, and provided mental health hotline numbers on the back of student IDs.

Screening for childhood and adolescent depression and suicidal ideation may become more common in the coming years as schools try to find ways to address these and other mental health crises in their student population. How are schools in your area responding to this issue? Is the topic of teen suicide avoided, or are there programs in place that address it directly with students?

Let’s start the conversation—PAR wants to hear from you!

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