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Friday, May 14, 2021

The morning after pill is nobody's business except the woman taking it and her health care provider.

 



From the New York Times , May 13, 2021

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that people seeking abortion pills during the Covid-19 pandemic will no longer have to visit a doctor’s office to get a prescription. Under the Trump administration, patients were required to receive the first of the medication’s two doses in person, a mandate upheld by the Supreme Court in January. The new policy instead allows for telemedicine consultations and pills sent by mail.

The decision is a practical one for the Covid era: It reduces unnecessary face time in doctor’s offices, which cuts down the potential for exposure. It could also be a huge blow to the anti-abortion movement. Groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been pushing the Biden administration to make the F.D.A.’s decision permanent. Last week, in a legal filing, the agency announced it was reviewing their restrictions on the medication.

For years, anti-abortion activists have tried to impose their morality under the guise of women’s health and protection. Legislators have proposed anti-choice bills with names like “woman’s right to know,” which sound compassionate but in reality force doctors to falsely claim that women who end their pregnancies suffer physical and mental harm. The primary political strategy of abortion foes relies on the claim that abortion is brutal and dangerous, a myth that is much harder to perpetuate when people can easily access medicine to safely end their pregnancies at home.

For more click here.

Editor's note:

Social Workers believe in the client's right to self determination. Politicians should have little control over a woman's choice about her reproductive status. Forcing a woman to have a child is an inappropriate policy stand for a politician to take and act on. A woman's right to choose is a basic component of her mental health.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Nature draws out a happy place for children New study explores children's perception of their own wellbeing using art


 "We identified indicators of wellbeing that were made explicit in children's drawings, such as the need for safety, happiness and positive relationships. Interestingly, the representations of nature mainly exist in the background and were rarely the main focus of the drawings..

"The drawings depicted nature and outdoor spaces as being interconnected with all aspects of wellbeing. For example, being able to play outside boosts physical wellbeing, while being able to stay calm and appreciate the beauty of nature can be linked to emotional or mental health.

"Previous research has shown that wealth affects access to nature, with children living in deprived areas significantly less likely to have access to green spaces and outdoor places to play. Our research suggests that nature and open spaces underpin these children's consideration of wellbeing.

"As such, making nature explicit, and restoring the interconnectedness between the arts and nature should be a key priority for research to help improve children's wellbeing."

For more click here.

Editor's note

The report of this study reminded me of Richard Luov's book, Last Child In The Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder which was published in 2008.

I find that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder especially like and benefit from playing outdoors.


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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Traumatization of black Americans by racist police is major mental health issue.

 



What happens when black people are arrested and falsely accused by the police?

There is a very good article on NBC News on 05/11/21 well worth reading. You can access it by clicking here.

Editor's note:

Over my 51 years as a Psychiatric Social Worker and a white male of privilege, I have been made very aware of the racism my black clients and co-workers have experienced in their interactions with police. At times, it has brought me to tears to hear their stories.

All helping professionals should read the above article so that their consciousness is raised so that they can better understand the experience of their black clients and their families and community..

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Book Discussion - Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy - Bio-psycho-social-spiritual components of human functioning.


Bio-psycho-social-spiritual: the four components of human functioning.


After all, psychology is still a young field, just a little over a hundred years old. And the study of spirituality is even younger, after having been largely neglected by psychologists for many years. My hope is that this work contributes in some way to a more integrated approach to understanding and addressing the spiritual dimension in psychotherapy.


Kenneth I. Pargament PhD. Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy: Understanding and Addressing the Sacred (Kindle Locations 55-57). Kindle Edition. 


Most psychotherapists since the 1970s have been trained in the bio-psyco-social model of human behavior. In the last twenty years “spiritual” has been added so now we have the bio-psycho-social-spiritual model.


All four components of the model explaining human functioning are important. Kenneth Pargament is one of the early pioneering psychologists exploring the spiritual in addition to the other three models.


There is an important distinction to be made between “religious” and “spiritual.” Religious refers to membership in an institution and an ethnocentric identity which involves membership, adherence to creedal beliefs, certain practices and traditions, and respect for expert leaders of the religion as well as for sacred texts.


Spiritual is one’s relationship with one’s Higher Power whatever the person considers their Higher Power to be.


Some people are religious but not spiritual. Some people are spiritual but not religious, and some people are both religious and spiritual.


Being spiritual does not require a belief in a god. In fact many atheists consider themselves spiritual in the sense that they believe in a transcendent reality greater than their own egos if only a belief in the rightness of atheism itself.


One of the important aspects of a psychotherapist’s activity is to try to understand the client’s view of the world. The three major spiritual questions are: why was I born, what is the purpose of my life, what happens when I die? Unless the psychotherapist understands how the client would answer or does answer these three major existential questions, the psychotherapist may not be able to be of much help to the person.


These three questions are not often explicitly stated and discussed, but as the psychotherapist comes to know the client’s story and the client’s situation, an empathic psychotherapist will have a good sense of how the client views themself and the world.


Opening up these questions for exploration and examination may be an important part of any helpful episode of psychotherapy.


What's the deal about medical records in behavioral health?

 

Most of the requirements around progress notes come from regulators and payors.


I have always been taught, and practiced, according to the following ideas which are based on the "medical model";

An assessment leads to a diagnosis.
A diagnosis leads to a treatment plan to minimize, if not eliminate symptoms and increase functioning.
The treatment plan is composed of goals, and treatment interventions.
The "provider notes" are labeled "progress" notes to describe progress toward the achievement of treatment goals.
The treatment plan is adjusted according to the "progress made."

Conclusions:

Progress notes make no sense without a treatment plan specifying treatment goals.
The progress notes make little sense unless they detail treatment interventions and level of achievement to goals.

Regulators often have additional requirements like;
Treatment summaries every 90 days.
Discharge summaries detailing the achievement of treatment plan goals at the conclusion of "treatment"
In many settings, these assessments, treatment plans, and summaries must be co-signed by a supervisor and/or medical director.

In New York State, the Office of Mental Health, and Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services periodically do surprise visits to audit records. The agency's operating certificate depends on medical records compliance. Also State Medicaid funding is tied to required medical record documentation, If records are out of compliance, agencies can be assessed "pay backs" and agencies have to return sometimes millions if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of Medicaid money paid for services rendered but not recorded in the specified formats.

I have been through these audits and in the 90s they were draconian. This has led to staff time being skewed to medical record documentation for regulatory compliance rather than patient care. Many counselors dream of escaping this system to private practice to be liberated from enslavement to such systems.

I, currently, have 4 medical requests now on my desk from Ciox because Medicare is auditing Medical Option plans looking for Medicare fraud. It is interesting how the accountants and regulators have such a big impact on health care delivery to the extent that some physicians say that an equivalent amount of time and effort is spent on documentation rather than patient care. The same complaint is made by mental health professionals captured by these publicly funded agencies with all their regulatory requirements. 

Enter the Electronic Health Record which  promises to make these documentation requirements more efficient and effective. It's utter nonsense. I got a 12 page fax yesterday of a treatment summary for a partial hospitalization episode of a patient being referred to me for outpatient care. The only information the least bit helpful was the demographic information and diagnosis. All the rest were check boxes and fill in the blank kind of data reminding me of Mad Libs party games that has no context for living, breathing, sentient human being.

This kind of stuff makes me very sad at the end of my career. The robots have taken over and have convinced us to use these systems of care of human beings. Makes me cry. The point of these systems is not good patient care but, as always, money.

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FCC announces help for low income people to obtain internet service

 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program will be available for individuals to apply to. This benefit is intended to provide temporary assistance to households who do not have or cannot afford high speed broadband in their place of residence. Eligible households will be able to receive up to a $50/month discount on an eligible internet service plan (Households on Tribal lands can receive up to a $75 discount). Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) participating in this program are also offering a discount on the purchase of certain devices.


Some important things to know:
  • Households can sign up for the EBB program through the (1) participating provider's website, (2) applying online through the National Verifier, (3) or through the mail.
  • USAC also has created an Emergency Broadband Support Center with a hotline (833) 511-0311 and an email (EBBHelp@USAC.org) where they will answer questions for all interested parties. The Hotline is open from 9am-9pm ET. 7 days a week
  • USAC also has a website where households or consumer-based orgs will be able to obtain the EBB application UPON THE START OF THE PROGRAM. Getemergencybroadband.org 
  • Some local libraries will be prepared to help patrons who need assistance signing up. One would just need to ask at the reference desk whether the help is available or not.
Editor's note
 Lack of internet service is a big issue for many of my clients who have to go to the library or other public place to get online. This is a major issue in this modern age for doing even simply tasks like making job applications, accessing information about organizations, getting directions, etc.

Monday, May 10, 2021

I just bought a Guillotine bagel slicer.

 I just bought a Gullotine Bagel Slicer. I buy bagels by the dozen, slice them in half and throw them in the freezer where they will keep frozen for months. When I want a nice toasted bagel, I take one out of the freezer and pop it in the toaster. Smothered in butter or cream cheese or peanut butter and jelly or make a bagel sandwich with just about anything and you will experience a little bit of heaven on earth.

Book discussion - Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy by Kenneth Pargament.

I am reading Kenneth Pargament's book, Spiritually Integrated Psychotherapy, and will be posting a series of articles on some of the ideas he discusses. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts as well.


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David G. Markham

Publisher.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Who people spend their time with by age.

 One of the protective factors for good mental health is social connections. Here is an interesting graphy of with whom people spend their time with by age.


Click on image to enlarge/


What's your age and with whom do you spend your time with?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Re-entry to community life from prison

Re-entry

 

 

I have worked with many clients who have been incarcerated in prison. The longer the period of incarceration the greater the institutionalization and the harder the adjustment to life on the outside.

 

The three most helpful components of successful re-entry are a stable residence, an informal support system, and a job.

 

There is a very illuminating essay in the March, 2021 issue of the Sun Magazine by Saint James Harris Wood entitled, “I Still Don’t Feel Free.” Mr. Wood writes his essay after being incarcerated for 18 years for robbing banks with a toy gun to  support his drug habit.and released in his mid 60s.

 

This is one of a series of articles based on his essay.

 

For me, personally, the punishment of prison wasn’t the loss of free movement; I have a rich inner life that’s hard to suppress. My real punishment was being forced to cohabitate with antisocial, angry, or mentally ill men, 95 percent of whom had personalities defined by insults and moronic macho bullshit. Sure, a few were boon companions — good musicians and chess players and charming lunatics. Nonetheless I have had my fill of sharing a room with another man and will never do so again. I spent an extra month in my single prison cell rather than live in a halfway house for six months.

 

I have heard this complaint from many people who have been incarcerated. One person told me that he preferred solitary confinement or as it is called in New York State “SHU” for “Special Housing Unit.” He told me several times he refused to leave SHU and a couple of times when forced to leave and placed in what is called “Gen pop,” he would break the rules deliberately to be sent back to SHU.

 

This same dynamic might not be true for prisoners who join gangs in prison or gain control of the system in their cell block or dormitory or have jobs in the prison they like..

 

A little further Mr. Wood writes

 

The next day I see my parole agent, a social worker, and an overworked state psychiatrist, who is too busy trying to spot would-be murderers and arsonists to care about my problems and dispenses with me in two minutes. It would be nice to have a regular psychiatrist. I believe I have a type of post-traumatic stress.

 

Most clients who have PTSD from their incarceration don’t want to talk about it, but slowly, in a long term psychotherapy relationship, the stories bubble up and the person tells them with apparent relief that someone who cares about them nonjudgmentally understands.

 

Article #1 in a series on “I Still Don’t Feel Free”.


Saturday, March 6, 2021

Purpose and meaning - Volunteer service - Bon Secours



Purpose and meaning

 

After basic needs are met for physical health and social well being, the need for purpose and meaning becomes paramount at all stages in the human life cycle. This realization leads one to consider volunteer service. A new feature is being added to this blog today intending to highlight opportunities for volunteer service.

 

The first opportunity is the Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry in Baltimore, Maryland and Richmond VA. 

Here is the mission statement of Bon Secours from their website:

 

Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry, sponsored by the Sisters of Bon Secours, provides the opportunity for women and men to participate in the Sisters’ commitment to justice in radical solidarity with the poor, the suffering, and those most in need. By sharing the Bon Secours charism of compassion, healing, and liberation, the ministry nurtures and sustains individuals in their personal and communal journeys towards transformation through service with others.

To nurture this transformative journey, Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry supports individuals through a year of spiritual formation. The ministry is structured with five pillars that support this growth. Volunteers commit to: grow spiritually, develop an intentional community, live simply, practice God’s justice, and learn through service with others. Throughout this year, volunteers discover that by sharing the charism of compassion, healing, and liberation with others they, in turn, receive the charism from those they serve.

You can learn more by clicking here.


Friday, March 5, 2021

“911 operator, What’s your emergency?” Mental health emergencies


Daniel Prude died on 03/30/20 after an incident in which Rochester, NY police mishandled a 911 mental health emergency call on 03/23/20


“911 operator, What’s your emergency?”


People with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians, according to a 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center. That same year, a Washington Post investigation found that a quarter of the people shot by police in the United States were suffering from a mental or emotional crisis at the time of their death. Most of those officers were not responding to a crime, but rather to a call about a mentally fragile person behaving erratically.

Sojourners, March 2021, p34


LEAD and CAHOOTS both prove that it’s possible to respond to myriad crises without the police, thereby reducing harm in the community and lowering the potential for accidental injury and police misconduct.

The biggest barriers facing both programs are not that they don’t work. It’s that they’re still relatively unknown, underfunded, and only as good as the other social services available to treat chronic problems like homelessness, drug addiction, and poverty.

Sojourners, March 2021, p37

The better frame for this idea is not to defund the police, but to redirect some of the funding for militarized police to other emergency services focused on mental health emergencies.

In the March, 2021, there is a very good article in Sojourners Magazine entitled “911 operator. What is your emergency?” The article describes the concept and actual programs to respond to mental health emergencies in Eugene, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. There is increased interest in developing such programs in other cities and jurisdictions. Is there a mental health crisis team in your area? If so, how does it function?