Key Update: February 2011
Volume 7, Number 8


News and Alerts

Alternatives 2011 Theme Is Chosen and Web Site Is Launched!

The theme of Alternatives 2011 http://www.alternatives2011.org – to be held Oct. 26-30 at the Caribe Royale Orlando in Orlando, Fla. – is “Coming Home: Creating Our Own Communities of Wellness and Recovery.” The theme was selected by the Alternatives 2011 Advisory Committee to reflect the yearning for home by military veterans, individuals with involvement in the criminal justice system, and those who are homeless. “We are making a special effort to reach out to members of these three groups,” said Joseph Rogers, executive director of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse, which is organizing this year’s conference. The Clearinghouse is a peer-run national technical assistance center funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services. More information, including details about SAMHSA scholarships, will be provided as it becomes available, on the new Alternatives 2011 Web site: http://www.alternatives2011.org. Questions? Please e-mail the Clearinghouse at info@mhselfhelp.org.

Also see http://www.mhselfhelp.org/resources/view.php?resource_id=697 for suggestions about alternative ways to obtain funding to attend the conference, since scholarships are limited.

Source: http://www.mhselfhelp.org/

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SAMHSA Offers Consumer Scholarships for MHA Annual Conference and NAMI Annual Convention

A limited number of consumer scholarships, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, are available for Mental Health America’s annual conference, to be held June 9-11, 2011, in Washington, D.C., and NAMI’s Annual Convention, to be held July 6-9, 2011, in Chicago. The MHA scholarship application form can be downloaded at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/conference. (For the MHA conference, book a hotel reservation before May 18, 2011, to receive the discounted group rate at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.) MHA scholarship applications must be postmarked by March 8, 2011; NAMI scholarship applications must be postmarked by April 8, 2011. The NAMI scholarship application is available at the following link: http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Convention_FAQ. No faxed or e-mailed applications will be accepted for either conference.

Sources: http://www.nami.org
http://www.nami.org

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Study of Online Support Groups Finds Some Benefit

A Temple University study of the clinical effectiveness of online peer support groups found that, although such support did not have a statistically measurable effect on the well-being of the participants, they seemed to consider the groups beneficial. The study, published this month in Social Science and Medicine, evaluated the well-being of 300 individuals with severe mental health conditions who were assigned to an e-mail list-serv, a bulletin board online community, or a control group. While the benefits cannot yet be quantified, “these groups likely provide some degree of comfort in sharing a similar experience,” said lead researcher Mark Salzer, chair of Temple’s Rehabilitation Department. Salzer urged clinicians to discuss with their clients how to safely navigate online resources.

Source: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-02/tu-cop022311.php

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Short-Term Respite Care Provides Helpful Alternative to Hospitalization

Voices of the Heart in upstate New York has developed a peer-run respite program that offers an alternative to psychiatric hospitalization. Stays at the respite house usually range from three to 15 days, at about $250 a day. This compares to $1,200 to $1,400 a day for hospitalization, according to Daniel Hazen, executive director of the consumer-run organization. The lower cost is just part of the benefit, Hazen told the Post Star, a Pulitzer Prize-winning daily in New York’s Adirondack region. “We’re offering people care at lower cost, but really connecting with the person in a different way – a holistic way,” Hazen said. Reliance on hospitalization for people with mental health issues is among the reasons for the high cost of Medicaid in New York, according to Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. The National Empowerment Center offers a directory of peer-run crisis services at http://www.power2u.org/peer-run-crisis-services.html ; there are fewer than a dozen such programs in the United States.

Sources: http://www.voicesoftheheart.net/index.php?categoryid=24

http://poststar.com/news/local/article_8d34ad18-361a-11e0-9cf0-001cc4c03286.html

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Mental Health Parity Law Has Not Raised Substance Abuse Treatment Costs

Parity in insurance coverage for treatment of behavioral health disorders has not resulted in an increase in behavioral health treatment or in associated costs, according to a study in the February issue of Psychiatric Services. Instead, the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 has simply resulted in lower out-of-pocket costs for individuals who are covered by the new law, which compels employers whose insurance plans include behavioral health treatment to offer benefits equal to those provided for general health care, Medscape Medical News reported. “I think these findings, along with those found in other studies, clear the air for all the people who have been criticizing parity law for mental health treatment,” said lead author Vanessa Azzone, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School.

Source: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/736875

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FDA Panel Decides That ECT Machines Require More Testing

A panel of experts has advised the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the machines that administer electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) require the same kind of rigorous testing that new medical devices receive. This “could drastically affect the future of psychiatry’s most controversial treatment,” according to the Washington Post. If the FDA accepts the panel’s findings (as it typically does), ECT machine manufacturers will need to prove ECT’s safety and effectiveness to the FDA’s satisfaction or else use of the devices might be discontinued, the Post reported. The panel made its decision after two days of testimony from adherents and opponents of the procedure.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/28/AR2011012806328.html

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Abortion Does Not Increase Mental Health Disorders

Authors of a new study of Danish women and girls have concluded that having a first-trimester abortion does not increase a woman’s risk of developing a mental health condition. Of the 365,550 individuals studied between 1995 and 2007 who either gave birth for the first time or had an abortion, the latter group – 84,620 women – had roughly the same rate of seeking psychiatric help before the abortion as afterward. On the other hand, of those who gave birth, the rate of those who sought help in the year after delivery was significantly higher than the rate of those who sought help before having a child. Authors of this study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that the stresses of parenthood, coupled with hormonal changes and less sleep, may explain the increase. To read the free abstract, go to http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0905882

Source: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/parenthood-not-abortion-linked-to-mental-illness/

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Free Report Available on the Strong Connection Between Behavioral and Physical Health Disorders

A new report from the United Hospital Fund in New York City indicates the strong connection between behavioral health disorders and physical health disorders. “Providing Care to Medicaid Beneficiaries with Behavioral Health Challenges,” available free at the following link, http://www.uhfnyc.org/assets/879 , reports that Medicaid recipients with mental health disorders are up to 60 percent more likely to also have high blood pressure, cardiac or pulmonary disease, diabetes and dementia; individuals with substance dependence are up to 300 percent more likely to have cardiac or pulmonary disorders and HIV/AIDS. In 2003 (the year studied), average spending for health care by people with mental health disorders was $28,451; it was only $15,964 for those without such disorders – and only one quarter of the money spent was to treat mental health conditions. According to an article in the Huffington Post, more effective treatment of behavioral health disorders would lower overall health care costs.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-friedman-lmsw/mental-health-and-medicaid-the-_b_825047.html

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Olive Oil May Protect Against Depression, Researchers Say

According to a study published online in the journal PLoS ONE, eating trans-fats and saturated fats increases one’s risk of depression, and ingesting olive oil and other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids decreases the risk. Over a six-year period, researchers analyzed the diet, lifestyle and illnesses of more than 12,000 SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) project participants. At the beginning, there were no cases of depression. At the end of the six years, 657 of the participants had experienced depression. The researchers have theorized that depression and cardiovascular disease might share common “nutritional determinants” related to ingesting various types of fat. The study is available for free download at the following link: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0016268


Source: Mental Health Weekly, Feb. 7, 2011

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Reducing Co-pays Does Not Increase Senior Usage of Mental Health Services

Reducing co-pays for senior citizens enrolled in Medicare HMOs does not result in their increased use of outpatient mental health services, according to a new study published online in the journal Medical Care. Dr. Amal Trivedi of Brown University and graduate student Chima Ndumele compared the use of mental health services among enrollees in 14 HMOs that raised co-pays for mental health treatment, to usage in plans that held co-pays steady and to three plans that reduced co-pays. In all three cases, the number of seniors seeking treatment remained generally constant, although price reductions resulted in a small increase in the use of services by African Americans. Dr. Trivedi commented that policies that require referrals from primary care physicians or the restricted number of in-network doctors may be greater barriers to treatment than higher co-pays are. Ndumele added, “Our study indicates that we must identify other steps beyond insurance parity to promote the appropriate use of mental health services among the elderly,” Science Daily reported. To view the free abstract, go to: http://journals.lww.com/lww-medicalcare/Abstract/2011/03000/Effect_of_Copayments_on_Use_of_Outpatient_Mental.9.aspx.

Sources: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208101328.htm
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/737228"http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/737228

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Author of Landmark Book Offers Free Two-Page Summary

Robert Whitaker, author of “Anatomy of an Epidemic: The Hidden Damage of Psychiatric Drugs,” has developed a two-page summary of his findings that is available for free download at the following link: http://www.ncmhr.org/downloads/Anatomy-Of-An-Epidemic-Summary-Of-Findings-Whitaker.pdf. The book challenges the assumption that long-term use of psychotropic medications is the most effective treatment for serious mental illnesses. Evidence reported in Whitaker’s book suggests that more people recover from schizophrenia when off medications than when on; that a significant number of children who are given Ritalin for a long period develop bipolar disorder; and that some individuals who are given antidepressants for a long time become chronically ill.

Sources:
http://www.ncmhr.org/public-policy.htm
http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2010/04/27/interview_whitaker_anatomy_of_an_epidemic

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Awareness of the Problem of Troops on Multiple Psychiatric Drugs Grows

Because of the increase in use of psychiatric drugs in the military over the last 10 years, the Defense Department is improving its monitoring of prescribing practices and adding restrictions to the use of such drugs, The New York Times reports in a front-page article. Over 300,000 troops have returned from Afghanistan or Iraq with depression, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or a combination of these or other problems. According to a recent Army report, one-third of troops are on at least one prescription medication. Many are taking multiple drugs, including such potentially dangerous, occasionally fatal combinations as anti-anxiety drugs and narcotic painkillers. Also, illegal use of prescription drugs tripled between 2005 and 2008, according to a Defense Department study. To help address such problems, the Navy has begun pill “give-back” days on some bases, while the Army and Navy both have started offering treatments that do not include drugs, such as yoga, acupuncture, and exposure therapy (which some believe to be the only effective treatment for PTSD). Yet most expect the use of multiple drugs to continue in the foreseeable future.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/us/13drugs.html

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Do You Operate, or Know of, a Warm Line?

The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is assembling a list of warm lines around the country. If you operate or know of a warm line, please share this information with us by e-mailing info@mhselfhelp.org or calling 800-553-4539.

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Consumer Driven Services Directory

The Clearinghouse welcomes all programs in which consumers play a significant role in leadership and operation to apply for inclusion in its Directory of Consumer-Driven Services. The directory, accessible at www.cdsdirectory.org, is searchable by location, type of organization, and targeted clientele and serves as a free resource for consumers, program administrators and researchers.

Apply online, via fax at 215-636-6312, or by phone at 800-553-4KEY (4539). To receive an application by mail, write to info@cdsdirectory.org or NMHCSH Clearinghouse, 1211 Chestnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19107

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About The Key Update

The Key Update is the free monthly e-newsletter of the National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse Volume 7 No.8, February 2011, http://www.mhselfhelp.org

To subscribe send a message to: subscribe thekey. To unsubscribe send a message to: unsubscribe thekey. For content, reproduction or publication information, contact Susan Rogers at 215-751-1800 x288 or srogers@mhasp.org.