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Friday, October 31, 2014

Affordable Care Act Lacking Mental Health Coverage

The Affordable Care Act has provided coverage to millions of Americans who were previously uninsurable. Unfortunately, despite being insured, there are people who have not been able to seek treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems, according to U.S. News & World Report.

There are a number of loopholes in the health care law that has kept people from requesting mental health care, the article reports. The Affordable Care Act does not specify which particular services must be covered, despite mental health and substance use disorders being considered essential health benefits that must be covered. In some cases, patients are not aware that their insurance plans cover behavioral health.

“There’s a perception that enforcement is not what it should be, and that people aren’t getting the benefits they are entitled to,” said Bob Carolla, a spokesman at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found a shortage of 1,846 psychiatrists and 5,931 other mental health professionals. Some experts fear that if more patients start seeking help for behavioral health issues, there will not be adequate resources to serve them. The report showed that 55 percent of U.S. counties do not have any practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers.

“There has been a long-standing shortage,” Carolla says. “Expansion of health care is a good thing, but it also means you are widening demand for it.”

It is crucial that patients understand what their health insurance plan covers exactly before choosing a plan. If you have a history of mental illness or substance abuse, and your plan is not covering treatment, it is best to switch your plan to one that does.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Social Media Recovery Study

Social media is excellent tool for people to connect around the world, closing the gap between liked minded people. Over the last few years people in recovery and people wanting to learn about recovery have connected with professionals in the field using platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Social media is perhaps the best way to get real-time information on any subject, which couldn’t be more important when considering the dangers of untreated alcoholism and addiction.

Researchers working with Facebook and Twitter to further understanding, prevention, and treatment of substance use and addiction have been granted millions of dollars over a three year period by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Medical Daily reports. Researchers will use social media platforms to better identify current attitudes and myths about alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

“We hope to learn more about how changing technologies affect interpersonal communications and factual knowledge about tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs, including the non-medical use of prescription drugs,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a news release.

One research team, led by a computer science professor at UNC Charlotte, Dr. Yong Ge, will form advanced data mining techniques to gather tweets directly related to substance use; to uncover patterns of substance use in a timely, economical, and in-depth way, according to the article.

“Substance abuse is a serious health issue facing alarming numbers of young adults (aged from 18 to 25), who often suffer considerable consequences (e.g., blackout, rape, HIV-related sexual risk-taking, academic failure, mental issues, and violence) as a result,” wrote the researchers.

Another team, led by a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Dr. Warren K. Bickel, hopes to provide better treatment of addiction. The team would like to determine if social networks can support continued recovery.

“Although recognized as a chronic relapsing disorder, addiction is still largely treated as an acute disorder,” wrote Bickel’s team in their proposal.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program

In an attempt to combat the two leading causes of death in young adults, more than 55 universities and colleges have partnered with the Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program. The goal is to prevent deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses or alcohol poisoning, and suicide, according to USA Today. The Jed Foundation and Clinton Foundation will work together to evaluate substance abuse, mental health and suicide prevention programs at the participating schools.

Participants include:
  • NYU
  • Cornell
  • Georgetown
  • Boston University
  • Princeton
  • UCLA
“There’s nothing out there this large and comprehensive that I’m aware of that does this, and including substance abuse is pretty novel as well,” said Greg Eells, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Cornell’s Gannett Health Services.

Self-assessment surveys on current mental health promotion, substance abuse and suicide prevention programming will be given to each participating school. The findings will then be compared to a comprehensive set of recommended practices. Each institution will be given customized feedback, such as ideas for improvements and support.

“The college years are the age when many mental health issues first manifest, and it can be a time of significant stress and pressure,” John MacPhee, Executive Director of The Jed Foundation, said in a news release. “The Jed and Clinton Health Matters Campus Program helps schools by working with them to survey everything their university is doing to support their students’ emotional health, and find practical ways to augment these efforts in a comprehensive way. We believe that the implementation of a campus-wide approach to mental health will lead to safer, healthier campuses, and likely greater student retention.”

The colleges have made a four-year commitment to the program.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Need for Mental Health Screening in Schools

Millions of Americans who struggle with mental illness fail to receive treatment. Left untreated, the insidious nature of mental illness can destroy lives and devastate families. While mental illness can develop at an early age, sadly, only one-fourth of children with mental health problems are diagnosed and treated, HealthDay reports.

In fact, new research from the University of Oxford in England showed that about three-quarters of adults, who have been treated for a mental illness, had a diagnosable disorder before they were 18. The report highlighted the need for schools to play a larger role in assisting students with mental health disorders.

“Mental illness often starts in adolescence but doesn’t end in adolescence: it is a life-long disorder,” lead author Dr. Mina Fazel said in a journal news release. “It is therefore essential to find innovative ways to approach treatment and to reach young people to maximize their academic, emotional and social development, and schools are where children spend much of their time.”

School children most commonly suffer from behavioral disorders and anxiety, with depression being more prevalent in secondary school, Fazel said. Untreated mental health problems can impact young people in a number of ways developmentally, leading to failure in school and non-attendance as well as affecting long-term career choices and relationships.

While mental health experts advocate psychiatric screening in schools, some critics are concerned that with screening will come labeling which will lead to stigmatization, according to the article.

"If 10 percent of children had diabetes, we wouldn't be saying that screening was a bad thing. Schools provide a platform to access large proportions of young people, and the vast majority of children picked up by screening would not need complex interventions,” Fazel said. “We know what works, but where we fall down is implementing this on a large scale in schools. We also need national policies to help education and mental health services work more closely together.”

The report can be found in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Alcohol Related Brain Changes Causes Sleep Disturbances

Early recovery from substance use disorders can be challenging; after relying on one substance or another for an extended period of time many feel like a fish out of water. Anxiety and depression are just two of the myriad of issues that alcoholics and addicts are faced with when the substances leave the body. Everyone’s brain is different and how one’s brain has been affected by prolonged use will vary. One of the biggest problems that people in early recovery deal with is sleep disorders.

Many recovering from alcoholism struggle with sleep in early recovery, some even have difficulty with sleeping long after they sober up. After years of drowning the brain in alcohol, the effects can be extensive and often times alter how the brain functions. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine have found that chronic alcohol use over a long period of time can disrupt cells in an area of the brain stem involved in regulating many aspects of sleep, Boston Magazine reports.

"Sleep-wake disturbances can last for months, or even years, after someone stops drinking, which indicates that chronic alcohol abuse could cause long-term negative effects on sleep," said Subimal Datta, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) who served as the article's senior author.

The disruption in the normal sleep cycle from prolonged drinking is the result of the activity of chemicals in the brain that excite neurons increasing, while at the same time decreasing the activity of a chemical that inhibits activity of these neurons, leading to over-activity of brain chemicals.

“Identifying the specific mechanisms that lead to change in brain activity will allow us to develop targeted medications, which could help treat people suffering from sleep issues related to alcohol use disorders,” Datta said in a news release.

The researchers write in Behavioral Brain Research.
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