Category Archives: Features

Dr. Bianchini (L) and Dr. Greve (R) receive awards from Dr. Chafetz. The two were honored last month for their distinguished contributions in psychological science by the Louisiana Psychological Association

Psychologists Honored for Distinguished Contributions

The Louisiana Psychological Association has named Dr. Johnny Matson, Drs. Kevin Bianchini and Kevin Greve, Dr. Susan Tucker, Dr. Julie Nelson, and Dr. John Sawyer for their outstanding contributions in the psychology community. The awards were announced at the 71st Annual Convention and Business Meeting of the Association, held June 14 and 15 in Metairie.

For the prestigious 2019 Distinguished Psychologist Award, the association named Dr. Johnny Matson of Louisiana State University (LSU). Dr. Matson is Professor of Psychology and Distinguished Research Master at LSU and a top cited scholar who has been named by Thompson Reuters as one of the “Most Influential Scientific Minds of our Time.”

Dr. Matson is an expert in autism, mental disabilities, and severe emotional disorders in children and adolescents, and has produced more than 700 publications and 38 books. He has authored the International Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Practitioner’s Guide to Applied Behavior Analysis for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Practitioner’s Guide to Social Behavior and Social Skills in Children, and many others.

He has served as Editor-in-Chief for Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (Oxford England), Editor-in- Chief for Research in Developmental Disabilities (Oxford, England), and Associate Editor for Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities (London). Among his many professional activities, Matson has been a guess expert on ABC’s 20/20, consulted with the Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Virginia, and the US Departments of Mental Health. He has been a guess expert on CBS Eye-to-Eye and consulted for the DSM III-R Educational Testing Service. He has served on the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, and consulted to the US States Department of Justice, and the US Department of Education.

The state psychological association named Kevin Bianchini, PhD, ABN and Kevin Greve, PhD, ABPP, as the 2019 recipients of the Contributions to Psychological Science Award.

The joint award acknowledged the two applied scientists and their roles in the systematic development of validity science based upon criterion-groups research, and the development of the rules for malingered pain related disability, explained Dr. Michael Chafetz, Awards Committee Chair. “Their scientific influence in our field has had considerable impact, and we are grateful for their outstanding contributions,” said Chafetz.

Dr. Kevin Bianchini is a board certified Neuropsychologist and Clinical Psychologist who has been in practice in Louisiana for 23 years. He was the Director of Neuropsychology for Bancroft NeuroHealth, a residential brain injury rehabilitation facility in Louisiana. He has remained involved in the rehabilitation of patients with acquired brain injury and pain throughout his career. He is actively involved in research and has published more than 75 articles in peer-reviewed professional journals on psychological factors and work related injuries, neurological rehabilitation, brain damage, neuropsychological assessment and symptom validity assessment.

Dr. Bianchini is a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology. He holds adjunct faculty appointments at Tulane University Medical School, Department of Psychiatry and Neurology, and at the University of New Orleans, Department of Psychology. He is the managing partner of Jefferson Neurobehavioral Group, which has offices in Metairie, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Houston.

Dr. Kevin Greve has published more than 110 papers in peer-reviewed neuropsychology, psychology, and medical journals including papers on the assessment of the effects of traumatic brain injury and chronic pain. He is also the author of 10 chapters in edited books and has made more than 100 scholarly presentations at state, regional, national, and international conferences. Dr. Greve has served on the editorial board of The Clinical Neuropsychologist, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, and Assessment. He periodically serves as an ad hoc reviewer for several other journals.

He retired from full-time employment in the Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans in May 2012, at the rank of University Research Professor after 21 years of service. He continues to be affiliated with the University of New Orleans as Emeritus Research Professor and holds a number of other academic positions. Dr. Greve is now in the full-time practice of clinical psychology and clinical neuropsychology. He conducts approximately 150 psychological evaluations a year typically related to traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, dementia, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and the psychological effects of medical illness.

Dr. Susan Tucker is the 2019 recipient of the Award for Psychology in the Public Interest. Dr. Tucker, has been a key figure in reforms in the state correctional system. She is Psychologist and Assistant Warden at the Bossier Sheriff’s Office, where she has focused on treatment and research showing innovations that reduce recidivism and that are based in the fact that most inmates have a substance abuse problem but few get the right kind of treatment. She launched the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program at the facility to offer intensive treatment, skill development, educational opportunities, and post release support and care. “We thank her for her outstanding work that is certainly in the public interest,” said Chafetz.

Her effective and creative treatment approach has achieved a significant reduction in recidivism, from an expected first year rate of 18 percent to only 3 percent. Tucker has earned state and national recognition for these achievements, including from the Vera Institute of Justice who said the program “…should be a model for the nation.” Dr. Tucker’s work was also honored by the Ash Center for Democratic Government and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Dr. Tucker was commended by Louisiana legislators for her work and the related cost savings of $15 million by earned “good time credits” through participation and successes in the psychological programs designed by Tucker. Legislators pointed to multi-million dollar cost savings to the state because of shorter incarceration times of those offenders who participated in the psychological programs.

Julie Nelson, PhD, received the award for Distinguished Service in Psychology. She was cited for her service as LPA President and for her journalism and publishing of The Psychology Times. She is a consulting psychologist and owner of PSI, Inc. and serves the petrochemical industry in Gulf south region providing validity research and organizational development activities.

Dr. John Sawyer was named Early Career Psychologist. John Sawyer, PhD, ABPP is a board-certified neuropsychologist trained to evaluate children, adolescents, adults, and geriatrics. He is the Co-Director of the Cognitive Disorders and Brain Health Program at Ochsner Health System, where he has led several clinically-focused research projects aimed at using telehealth and electronic medical record technology to provide care to individuals with dementia and their care partners while limiting the need for disruption of routine for hospital or clinic visits. His work will be presented at the upcoming meeting of the National Academy of Neuropsychology.

The LPA Awards Committee is chaired by Dr. Chafetz and committee members include Drs. Kim VanGeffen, Beth Arredondo, and Brian Mizuki. LPA is the state affiliate of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Tony Puente and Dr. Art Graesser Keynote Speakers at LPA Convention

Dr. Antonio Puente, the 2017 President of the American Psychological Association, and Dr. Art Graesser, Professor in the Psychology Department and the Institute of Intelligent Systems at the U. of Memphis and Honorary Research Fellow at Oxford, will lead off keynote addresses for 2019 Annual Convention of the Louisiana Psychological Association, to be held in June 14 and 15 at the Sheraton Galleria in New Orleans–Metairie.

Dr. Puente will deliver the Janet and Lee Matthews Invited Address on the opening day, a sentimental event following the death of community leader Dr. Janet Matthews in late March.

Puente, who will speak on “Making a Difference: Psychology’s Identity & Contributions in the Coming Decades,” has been at the forefront of changes in the profession, and the first and only psychologist ever to serve on the CPT committee, a key working group that helps define how healthcare services are structured through the codes and definitions. He lectures around the country about the issues affecting psychologists now and in the future.

Dr. Graesser is an expert in cognitive science, discourse processing, artificial intelligence and learning, who will deliver the Century Members Invited Address on Saturday, “Collaborative Problem Solving, Communication, and Comprehension in the 21st Century.”

Graesser is the lead author for “Advancing the Science of Collaborative Problem Solving,” the recent issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, published by the Association for Psychological Science.

Dr. Puente has presented his insider knowledge and thoughtful views about the sweeping changes in healthcare, tracking the payment changes such as those impacting issues of chronic diseases, care transition groups, team and interdisciplinary care, and population management. He has pointed to a “tsunai of change” before it started and follows the shifts to comprehensive care, uniformity, and integrative care, and the focus on performance.

Puente has said that the current and future paradigms include boutique services, prevention, integrative & multidisciplinary, and performance based reimbursement and a shift from federal to state.

For 15 years, Puente was the APA representative to the CPT system and was the person responsible for the adding the words, “Qualified Healthcare Professional,” to healthcare terms. For reasons that were very complicated and that he doesn’t fully understand, he ended up on the select, 17person team, CPT Editorial Panel. He was the only psychologist in that group, the only psychologist that’s ever been on the panel, and only the third non-physician that has ever been on the panel.

Dr. Graesser, who will deliver the Saturday keynote, says that collaborative problem-solving is a 21st century skill that is critical to efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation in the modern world.

Collaborative problem-solving is needed, not for routine work, or even team work, but for that event when a group must solve a novel problem where little or no plan for success exists and where team members are interdependent, each with different resources and knowledge, he has explained.

“CPS is an essential skill in the home, the workforce, and the community,” he writes, “because many of the problems faced in the modern world require teams to integrate group achievements with team members’ idiosyncratic knowledge. CPS requires both cognitive and social skills.” He and others note that we are in a new age, an age where rapid growth in information and technology is creating complexity in social, political, and economic systems. Everything is affected–– education, healthcare, big industry, small business and even family and home life. Problems are larger and more complex, they span disciplines, people and geography. What was once simple is no longer simple or routine.

Psychological scientists have made a distinction between shallow knowledge––the kind of cognitive information useful for solving simple, routine problems––and deep knowledge.

“Deep knowledge,” writes Dr. Art Graesser, expert in both collaborative problemsolving and artificial intelligence, “is achieved to the extent that learners comprehend difficult technical material, construct mental models of systems, solve problems, justify claims with evidence and
logical arguments, identify inaccurate information, resolve contradictions, quantify ideas precisely, and build artifacts.”

Deep knowledge can be trained into each individual, says Graesser. But another, and sometimes more efficient approach is to train individuals “… to better participate in collaborative problem solving so that groups can collectively master and implement deep knowledge.”

Ψ We Remember Dr. Janet Matthews

Dr. Janet R. Matthews, “cherished and esteemed” colleague to many in the psychology community, died March 31, 2019, in Metairie, Louisiana, after a struggle with cancer. She was 73.

Dr. Matthews was known to be a remarkably competent person in all of her many roles–– educator, mentor, leader, author, and professional psychologist. She gave generously of her time, knowledge, and experience to others, and attracted them to her with her knowledge, wit and wisdom. Her strength, kindness and common sense made her a rock of the community.

“Janet was a powerful force in my professional life from my time at Loyola until the present day. I will always carry her with me,” wrote Dr. Laurel Franklin Harlin, colleague of Janet’s.

Dr. John Robinson, now Professor Emeritus at Howard University in Washington, DC, said, “Janet was my supporter…. my colleague…….my mentor…….and my dear friend.”

“Janet was as an absolute giant in psychology,” wrote Dr. Christoph Leonhard, “not just in Louisiana but nationwide. I personally was lucky to benefit from her wise and warmhearted council on many occasions and will forever be indebted to her …”.

The outstanding service and accomplishments of Dr. Janet Matthew’s life have left an “indelible mark on her colleagues, her students, her profession, and her community,” said a message from the Louisiana Psychological Association.

Dr. Matthews was a clinical and neuropsychologist, and held the diplomat in clinical from the American Board of Professional Psychology. She served as Full Professor at Loyola University in New Orleans until retirement.

Her contributions included extensive professional service, including the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association (APA) and president of multiple APA divisions and organizations. She was honored as a Distinguished Practitioner by the National Academy of Practice and earned both the Mentoring award from Section IV (the Clinical Psychology of Women) of the APA Division of Clinical Psychology and later the Lifetime contribution to clinical psychology award.

She was named the 2011 Distinguished Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association for life achievements.

A Full Professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, she served the university in numerous areas, including the Faculty Senate, the Arts & Sciences Awards Committee, the Psychology  Department Curriculum Assessment Committee and the Advisory Board for University Honors Program. She was the faculty advisor for the Psychology Club and received her university’s award for Excellence in Advising.

Janet published five books including Introduction to Clinical Psychology published by Oxford University Press and Your Practicum in Psychology: A Guide for Maximizing Knowledge and Competence published by APA. She was a contributing author for 13 book chapters including
“Clinical psychology: Ethics of Therapists,” in The Handbook of 21st Century Psychology, published by Sage.

She has published over 80 journal articles, including her many contributions to Journal of Personality Assessment, Journal of Medical Education, Teaching of Psychology, Professional Psychology, and American Psychologist. And she presented over 100 professional presentations.

Dr. Matthews reviewed for PsyCRITIQUES and for Teaching of Psychology. She was a textbook reviewer for APA Publications, Harper Collins, Macmillian, McGraw-Hill, John Wiley, Harcourt Brace and others. She served as Consulting Editor for Teaching of Psychology.

Janet also served as an item writer for the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, and she worked on the Advisory Panel for the G. Stanley Hall Lecture Series at APA.

She served on the Advisory Board of the American Board of Assessment Psychology and was Associate Editor of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Dr. Janet Matthews “loved professional service,” she said in 2009, explaining her long-standing involvement and depth of service in the American Psychological Association, punctuated by a position on the APA Board of Directors.

Janet also served as Chair of APA’s Board of Educational Affairs. She was President of Division 31, President of Division 2, and Division 12 sections IV & IX, and Secretary-Treasurer of Division 2 and Secretary of Division 12. She was a Fellow in APA Divisions 1, 2, 12, 29, 31, 35, 40, 42, and 52.

She was Chair of APA’s Committee Undergraduate Education, Board of Professional Affairs, Policy & Planning Board and Membership Committee, on the Council of Representatives for both Division 2 and Division 12, Ethics Committee for Division 2, Committee on Adulthood & Aging Division 42, and Fellows Committee Division 12, among many other contributions.

Janet was a member of Southwestern Psychological Association where she has served as President, President-elect, and as Secretary-Treasurer. She was a longtime member of the Louisiana Psychological Association, the Southeastern Psychological Association, the Association of Women in Psychology, the National Academy of Neuropsychology, and the International Neuropsychological Society. She was a member of the International Council of Psychologists, and the National Academies of Practice – Psychology, and member of the former New Orleans Neuropsychological Society, and served as president & secretary.

She served a full five-year term on the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, including chair.

At Loyola, Dr. Janet Matthews was able to do what she truly loved. “I love teaching,” she said in 2009. “Teaching is the focus of my university. I love mentoring and keeping in touch with my students. I can tell you where dozens of my former students are now as practicing psychologists, because we keep in contact– constantly.” Her love of teaching and mentoring was reflected in the number of her former students who remained in regular contact with her.

She held a strong belief in the value of learning psychology. In 2015 she said that psychology enriched students’ lives and that was why it was so popular. “The material can be applied to a myriad of life experiences,” she said. “Thus, they have immediate relevance rather than something which needs multiple layers and future application.” It was important for today’s young adults, she said, “Because it can be used to better understand their world.”

She is survived by her beloved husband of 53 years, Dr. Lee H. Matthews of Kenner, also a very accomplished psychologist.

“I got into psychology in a somewhat atypical way,” Janet once explained. “I married a psychology major.” As an undergraduate at the University of Tampa, set to study law, she became engaged to her husband and soul mate, Lee, a psychology major, and “that was it.”

Their lives together took them to Trinity University and then to Kent State, and three during the Kent State shootings. Janet did not know for hours if Lee was safe. After that, Janet packed them up immediately and the couple headed back to San Antonio and Fort Sam Houston. The next years took them to North Carolina and Pembroke State University, then to Old Miss for doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, internships at U. of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, to a
teaching position at Creighton University, -and finally to New Orleans and Loyola.

Janet once explained how the couple always worked flexibly with the demands of dual careers, “That’s who we are. Its so much of what we do.” Janet and Lee wrote together on the subject: “A professional pair at the job market,” in American Psychologist, and “Husband/Wife psychologists describe life in post-hurricane Louisiana” in The National Psychologist. They authored their book Dual Career Couples, “Going shopping: The professional couple in the job market;” and a book chapter in Your Career in Psychology.

The Louisiana Psychological Association recently passed a resolution to honor Janet, writing, “…to acknowledge with gratitude the outstanding service and accomplishments of her life and the indelible mark she has left on her colleagues, her students, her profession, and her community.”

“… the members of the Council, and on behalf of the membership of the Louisiana Psychological Association, do hereby express sincere sorrow at the death of Dr. Janet Matthews whose loss leaves a void in our community and in our hearts, and extend posthumous tribute to her distinguished career of excellence and her commendable service to the community and her colleagues.”

Dr. Bill McCown, said, “Janet was indeed one of our few true legends. Her immense intelligence and wisdom were only equaled by her commitment to our profession–and by her heart. She always seemed to represent the best of what Psychology could be, even in our worst times. Perhaps her legacy needs to be for us to somehow come together more fully and rededicate our efforts towards the memory of this remarkable professional and human.”

“Janet was a friend and most respected colleague,” wrote Dr. Michael Chafetz. “She was a shining star in her leadership in the Psychology community as a teacher, researcher, mentor, noted author, organizer, leader, and just all-around Mensch!”

Janet was born September 2, 1944 in New York City, the daughter of the late Eugene Travis and Louise Baker Rogers. She is survived by her beloved husband of 53 years, Dr. Lee H. Matthews of Kenner, LA and their cat Judy as well as two cousins, Dr. Philip Rogers and wife Dr. Rima Salys of Boulder, CO, and Ms. Denise Rogers of Jackson, NJ.

The family invites you to share your thoughts, fond memories, and condolences online at www.lakelawnmetairie.com

Legislature to Convene April 8

The 2019 regular Legislative Session will convene at noon, Monday, April 8. Bills currently being prefiled include a variety of issues. Below are some of those with interests to psychologists.

HB 53 by Representative Moss sets requirements for youth suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention, in-service training for school employees and services available to
students. Proposed law requires the governing authority of each public and approved nonpublic secondary school that issues student identification cards to have printed on the cards the phone numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline, the Crisis Text Line, and a local suicide prevention hotline. Proposed law is applicable to charter schools. Present law requires BESE to adopt guidelines for in-service training of school employees in suicide, and the board is to identify suitable programs and requires coordination with LDH in identification of such programs.

HB 193 by Rep. Bacala revises procedures relative to students investigated for making threats of violence or terrorism. The present law provides relative to a student reported to a law enforcement agency for a threat of violence or terrorism and provides for a judicial hearing on whether the student should undergo a mental health evaluation. Present law requires the law enforcement agency to file a petition with the appropriate judicial district court for a mental health evaluation. The proposed law instead provides that if the law enforcement agency determines that the threat is credible and imminent, it shall report it to the district attorney, who may file such a petition.

HB 211 by Rep. Horton limits the number of hours per day of certain behavioral health services reimbursable by Medicaid. “CPST services” means community psychiatric support and treatment services and “PSR services” means psychosocial rehabilitation services. The proposed law limits Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral health providers who furnish CPST and PSR services by providing that the following types of providers shall be limited to a maximum combined total of 12 reimbursable hours of CPST services and PSR services per provider, per day, regardless of the number of patients seen by the provider for those services: (1) Psychologists. (2) Advanced practice registered nurses. (3) Physician assistants. (4) Licensed clinical social workers. (5) Licensed professional counselors. (6) Licensed marriage and family therapists. (7) Licensed, certified, or registered addiction counselors.

HB 237 by Rep. Chad Brown prohibits discrimination by health insurance issuers in the individual market and small and large group market based on health status, from imposing any preexisting condition exclusion with respect to the plan or coverage. And the proposed law requires a health insurance issuer to include mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, and preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management.

HB 248 by Rep. Chad Brown provides for parenting coordinators in child custody proceedings. Present law (R.S. 9:358.1) authorizes the court to appoint parenting coordinators in certain child custody cases for one-year terms and apportion the cost between the parties. Proposed law authorizes the appointment of parenting coordinators prior to entering a judgment establishing custody and extends the initial term of appointment to up to two years. Present law (R.S. 9:358.2) prohibits the appointment of a parenting coordinator in family violence cases unless there is good cause shown. Proposed law instead allows the court to name a parenting coordinator when there has been domestic abuse or a history of perpetrating family violence if the parties consent after consultation with an attorney or domestic violence advocate. Present law (R.S. 9:358.3) provides the qualifications for parenting coordinators and requires three years post degree experience and 20 hours of continuing education every two years. Proposed law changes present law to five years post-licensure experience and 10 hours of continuing education and further extends the qualifications to include Louisiana attorneys.

HB 296 by Rep. Hoffmann provides for the training of peace officers and first responders with respect to interacting with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Proposed law requires the bureau of emergency medical services and the Council on Peace Officer Standards and Training to create a dementia training program in cooperation with the Department of Health. Provides for the creation of an initial training program and updates to the continuing education program.

HB 320 by Rep. Simon provides for student access to applied behavior analysis providers in schools. Present law prohibits a public school governing authority from denying student access to behavioral health service providers at school during school hours if requested by the student’s parent or legal guardian. Proposed law adds “applied behavior analysis providers” to present law definition of “behavioral health service provider” in order to allow access to such providers for students in school upon the parent’s request. In addition, proposed law requires public school governing authorities to make their policies available to the public, that behavioral health evaluations include recommendations for applied behavior analysis services. Provides that present law and proposed law shall not supercede present law relative to the licensing of behavioral health services providers or any regulation of the La. Dept. of Health related thereto or present law relative to the practice of behavior analysts.

HB 336 by Rep. Lyons adds certain school-based psychologists and social workers to those providers exempt from behavioral health provider licensing requirements––the Behavioral Health Services Provider Licensing Law. Proposed law retains present law and also exempts from behavioral health services licensure requirements an individual who provides school-based health services through a public school governing authority and who meets both the following criteria: (1) He is a certified school psychologist or a licensed master’s social worker. (2) He is enrolled in the La. Medicaid program under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment program.

HB 541 by Rep. Cox amends the Post-Conviction Veterans Mentor Program for incarcerated veterans. With regard to the purpose of the program, those veterans who are eligible and willing to participate in the program could serve as mentors for military to civilian transition services programs or to first-time offenders housed in a parish jail, and could serve as parish jail HiSET tutors. The secretary of DPS&C is to establish the Post-Conviction Veterans Mentor Program for incarcerated veterans, and adopt regulations and guidelines as it deems necessary for administration of the program. If the offender is granted parole and released, the offender shall be required to participate in all programs and services available to veterans that are determined to be necessary for the offender by the committee on parole and comply with other requirements specified in proposed law.

SB 19 by Senator Boudreaux. Present law authorizes the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) to regulate perfusionists, medical psychologists, genetic counselors, and polysomnographic health professionals. Proposed law provides that the LSBME, in addition to any other requirements established by regulation, shall require an applicant, as a condition of licensure to submit a full set of fingerprints, in a form and manner prescribed by the board, permit the board to request and obtain state and national criminal history record information on the applicant, and pay, in addition to all other applicable fees and costs, such amount as may be incurred by the board in requesting and obtaining state and national criminal history record information on the applicant.

SB 78 by Sen. Martiny. Present law provides for student behavioral health services to be provided during school hours if requested and paid by a student’s parent or legal guardian. Proposed law retains present law and adds “behavior analyst” to the definition of “behavior health provider” and “evaluator.” Further includes “applied behavior analysis” in
the definition of “behavioral health services.”

SB 107 by Senator Gatti proposes that any benefit payable to a sheriff or deputy sheriff which provides coverage for temporary or permanent disability to all sheriffs or sheriff’s deputies who suffer an injury or disease arising out of and in the course and scope of their employment shall include coverage for post traumatic stress injury. Proposed law provides that the following definitions shall apply to benefit payable to a sheriff or deputy sheriff: (1) “Post traumatic stress injury” means those injuries which are defined as “post traumatic stress disorder” by the most recently published edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the American Psychiatric Association. (2) “Psychiatrist” shall have the same meaning as it is defined pursuant to present law. (3) “Psychologist” shall have the same meaning as it is defined pursuant to present law. Proposed law provides that any sheriff or deputy sheriff who is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist with post traumatic stress injury, either during employment or thereafter, shall be presumed, prima facie, to have a disease or infirmity connected with his employment.

SB 139 by Sen. Gatti provides for the “Louisiana Healthy Workplace Law” which prohibits workplace bullying or harassment. Proposed law provides for the following purposes: (1) To provide legal relief for employees who have been harmed, psychologically, physically, or economically, by deliberate exposure to abusive work environment; (2) To provide a legal incentive for employers to prevent and expeditiously respond to abusive mistreatment of employees in the workplace.

SB 160 by Sen. Boudreaux provides for definitions regarding opioid addiction, its treatment and those healthcare professionals certified to conduct such treatment. Proposed law provides for the responsibilities of the licensing boards for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to become certified to administer medically-aided treatments for those addicted to opioids. Proposed law provides for the outline of treatment offered for opioid addiction through the program sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Chafetz Named Outstanding 2019 Tulane Alumnus

The Tulane School of Science and Engineering has named Dr. Michael Chafetz for its prestigious Outstanding Alumni Award for 2019, announced last month by Dean Kimberly Foster and program director Candise Guedry. The selection was made by the Science & Engineering Board of Advisors Alumni Awards Committee, chaired by the Science & Engineering Board President Shep Perrin.

The alumni awards ceremony will be held on Thursday April 4, 6 PM – 8 PM in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life.

Michael Chafetz, PhD, ABPP, is principal and director of Algiers Neurobehavioral Resource, LLC. His research and clinical activities involve forensic matters, and he is frequently asked to provide neuropsychological expertise in state and federal courts in Louisiana and Texas. He has provided neuropsychological expertise in over a dozen capital cases, several other criminal cases, and in highly contested civil litigation matters.

Chafetz’s research has focused on the use of validity instruments in low IQ individuals and has led to numerous forensic publications in neuropsychology, forensic psychology, and child abuse journals. His book  Intellectual Disability: Criminal and Civil Forensic Issues was published in 2015 by Oxford University Press in the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology Workshop Series. This book has been used by neuropsychology colleagues across the country who have testified in capital cases involving validity issues in low IQ individuals.

His research came to the attention of U.S. Senator Tom Coburn in 2012, and Dr. Chafetz consulted with a senior staff member on Senator Coburn’s 2013 letter to then Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue on the need to provide more accurate psychological assessment in Social Security Disability cases. The Chafetz research had shown that a high proportion of Social Security Disability claimants were feigning impairments. Through specific comparisons, it had become clear that the low IQ Social Security claimants who had failed validity tests were not false-positives who had been mislabeled as feigners, as similarly low IQ individuals motivated to appear normal easily passed these same tests. Senator Coburn was especially concerned that the Social Security Administration (SSA) had removed the use of these validity tests from the disability arena.

In their Congressional Response in September 2013, the Office of the Inspector General for Social Security affirmed the Coburn letter, essentially saying that it would be wise for SSA to further evaluate their policy on the use of validity testing in disability cases. This prompted SSA to call for an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee to study the problem. The IOM published their favorable statement on the use of validity testing for SSA disability cases in 2015, the same year that Chafetz was the lead author on an American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology sponsored paper giving guidance to SSA on the same topic.

Dr. Chafetz is a Fellow at the National Academy of Neuropsychology. He served on the Board of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology from 20122017. He was the 2012 Distinguished Psychologist for the Louisiana Psychological Association and the 2018 LPA awardee of the Contributions to Psychological Science award. He provided consultation and expertise for the Association of Administrative Law Judges in their Grievance against SSA in 2016. Through his work on illness-deception, he has been invited to speak at various state psychological associations, APA, NAN, AACN, administrative law judge conferences, and internationally at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

National Psychology PAC to Host Louisiana Senator Cassidy in Washington DC

Dr. Lacey Seymour, Louisiana Federal Advocacy Coordinator and Past-President of the Louisiana Psychological Association, announced in late February that the national Psychology Political Action Committee has chosen Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy as its honoree for 2019.

Senator Cassidy will be the guest of honor at a dinner to be held March 10, in Washington, DC, coinciding with the leadership conference for the American Psychological Association.

“Senator Cassidy has been a supporter of mental health legislation on both a federal and state level,” Dr. Seymour told psychologists in a recent letter. “Since his election, Senator Cassidy has championed legislation that addresses access to mental health care for our most vulnerable citizens by removing barriers to care.”

Among his achievements, Senator Cassidy worked to design and pass the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Reform Act of 2016” and first advocated mental health reforms while he served in the House of Representatives. In 2015, he introduced mental health reform legislation that became the template for the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016. He helped strengthen accountability at HHS by creating an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and improved interdepartmental activities related to those with serious mental illness.

The measures Cassidy promoted have helped access to services through integration of primary and behavioral care, and helped establish grants that provide screenings for young children at risk of developing a serious mental illness. Cassidy’s efforts helped ensure that federal funded programs are evidence based and use best practices.

Working with a bipartisan group of senators, he introduced in 2017 the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act to require Medicare coverage for intensive behavioral therapy provided by psychologists and other mental health professionals.

Last year he worked to get a resolution adopted in the Senate recognizing suicide as a serious public health problem and expressing support for September as National Suicide Prevention Month. Also in 2018, he co-sponsored the COMBAT Act to provide certified opioid treatment services to be covered by Medicare.

“This fall,” said Seymour, “Senator Cassidy hosted the Louisiana Mental Health Summit, bringing together federal, state, and local leaders to discuss and promote the implementation of proven methods to improve mental health care in Louisiana and the country. He is currently raising awareness of the impact of dyslexia and mental health issues on incarcerated individuals in an effort to decrease recidivism,” she said.

“Dr. Cassidy has been an ardent champion for mental and behavioral health in Congress and was the lead Senate sponsor of major mental health reform legislation enacted in 2016. Last year he led the fight to preserve Medicare payment for psychological and neuropsychological testing services,” said Seymour.

“I am thrilled that the Psychology PAC has chosen to honor Senator Cassidy,” Dr. Seymour said. “It is a privilege to have a congressman from our state chosen to be recognized with this prestigious honor. It is important that we work together to represent psychologists across our state in showing our gratitude for the work Senator Cassidy has done and to elicit support for the important work in mental health that is yet to come.”

Senator Cassidy is a physician, specializing in gastroenterology. Before entering politics, he co-founded the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic, providing free dental and health care to the uninsured. He began his political career in 2006 in the Louisiana State Legislature and won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, before becoming a Senator in 2014.

Dr. Seymour is heading up a group of psychologists who will attend the fundraiser on March 10, to show support for Cassidy in his re-election bid. Dr. Seymour is asking for contributions and involvement by Louisiana psychologists. She can be reached at LaceyLSeymour@gmail.com

Interview with Dr. Heather Pedersen Brain–Health a Growing Concern as Boomers Age

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced their State and Local Public Health Partnerships to Address Dementia, The 2018- 2023 Road Map, as part of the CDC Healthy Brain Initiative. The Road Map helps chart a course for state and local public health agencies to prepare their communities to deal with the ever expanding need for brain-health concerns.

According to CDC and their Healthy Brain Initiative, there are at least five to six million people currently living with age-related dementias in the U.S. This translates into one out of every six women and one out of every 10 men, who live past the age of 55. As the population increases, and more Baby Boomers reach older ages, these numbers are expected to rise.

The CDC wants to stimulate changes in policies, systems, and environments. They convened experts who developed 25 actions for public health leaders to promote brain health, better care for people with cognitive impairment, increased attention to caregivers, and efforts to build public health capacity.

“Dementia is a devastating condition that impacts millions of people annually,” said Dr. Heather Pedersen, a board certified clinical neuropsychologist at the Algiers Neurobehavioral Resource, LLC, located in New Orleans.

“Dementia,” she said “is a generic term that refers to when an individual is experiencing cognitive problems––such as memory loss, difficulty with logic, or trouble with language––to such an extent that they cannot manage aspects of daily life.”

According to the CDC, while there are various forms of dementia, around 70 percent of cases are due to Alzheimer’s and the next most common type is vascular dementia. African Americans, Hispanics, and women are particularly at risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. More than 95% of people with dementia have one or more other chronic conditions. And, one in three Alzheimer’s caregivers report their health has become worse due to care responsibilities.

“There are many diseases and conditions that can lead to dementia,” Pedersen said, “with Alzheimer’s disease being the leading cause of dementia. Per the CDC, the number of adults with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next 40 years. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementiacausing diseases impact individuals, families, friends, caregivers, health-care agencies, and communities in wide-ranging ways,” Dr. Pedersen said.

According to the CDC, they seek to promote the use of effective interventions and best practices to protect brain health, address cognitive impairment, and help meet the needs of caregivers for people with dementia. They aim to improve inclusion of healthcare quality measures that address cognitive assessments, improve the delivery of care planning to people with diagnosed dementia, and improve outcomes.

Another of the CDC’s goals is to educate public health professionals about the best available evidence on dementia, including detection. CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said. “Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future.

“The importance of early detection and intervention for many dementia processes cannot be overstated,” Dr. Pedersen explained. “Some medications are more effective when started earlier and compensatory strategies can often be put into place so as to be more useful in the long run. However, in order to be able to put these interventions into place, an individual has to first be diagnosed with dementia.”

What are some of the benefits of early diagnosis of dementia?

“Early diagnosis of course allows for individuals to begin appropriate medication earlier on in the process, as there are medications for certain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, that can slow down the disease process. But, early diagnosis also allows for individuals and their families to begin to adjust and adapt their lives in ways to make good years last as long as possible,” Dr. Pedersen said. “By making slight changes to schedules, home management, or other systems, individuals can maintain independence for as long as possible.”

Can neuropsychologists’ findings help with treatments and/or treatment planning?

“Absolutely,” Pedersen said. “By helping with an accurate diagnosis, neuropsychologists can also help other providers make informed decisions about treatment options. Neuropsychologist evaluations also help by determining individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses,” she said.

“By maximizing strengths to compensate for weaknesses, neuropsychologists can help make suggestions to make tasks more efficient or easier to complete.”

Neuropsychologists can often help caregivers better understand issues for their loved ones and better cope with and adjust to the caring role.

“It is often very helpful for caregivers and other family members to understand the basics about what is causing the cognitive problems or dementia,” Dr. Pedersen explained. “As part of the evaluation process, clients and loved one’s are provided with feedback about what is likely causing their cognitive problems. We spend time discussing the causes, prognosis, treatments, and other strategies that might be helpful in maximizing the client to live their best life.”

In today’s medical culture, the approach is often the quick screening rather than the comprehensive assessment. Is this a concern? A quick screening may not be able to determine the cause of an individual’s cognitive problems, Pedersen explained.

“A comprehensive assessment is critical in the accurate diagnosis of dementia. There are many conditions that can masquerade as dementia and given the permanent, progressive nature of some dementias, it is vital that one isn’t falsely diagnosed,” she said. “There are many different diseases and conditions that cause dementia, some of which are treatable and some of which are not. Depression and some metabolic conditions can ‘look like’ dementia, but in fact are treatable conditions.”

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has recommended neuropsychological testing since 1996 for patients who may have experienced a traumatic brain injury, a stroke, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, a neurotoxic exposure, or dementia. Neuropsychological testing “is particularly valuable in distinguishing between normal aging and mild dementias,” they AAN noted.

Dr. Pedersen, who earned her PhD from the University of North Dakota, and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center and UT Health Sciences Center Consortium, is licensed in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Arizona.

Among her training and research achievements, Dr. Pedersen has co-authored “The next major neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric breakthrough: Alzheimer’s disease,” for the Handbook of Neuropsychiatry Research. She also co-authored research on concussions for American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, and co-authored “Later life health optimism, pessimism, and realism: Psychosocial contributors and health correlates,” published in Psychology and Health.

“Each person who walks through my door is a unique constellation of traits, strengths, and weaknesses, who is looking for some sort of assistance,” Dr. Pedersen said. “I find it very satisfying to come along side each client to work with them in their treatment goals.”

“That process of collaborating with my clients is a very enjoyable process for me,” she said.

New Study Shows EPPP Can Discriminate Against African-Americans, Hispanics

A new study demonstrates that the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, known as the EPPP, has differing fail and pass rates for different races, and that the difference is large enough for AfricanAmericans and Hispanics to fall into “disparate impact” discrimination, as described in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The study, “Are demographic Variables Associated with Performance on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)?” is published in The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, October 22, 2018. The author, Brian Sharpless, PhD, is associate professor at the American School of Professional Psychology. To collect data, he used a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request test results and demographics from the New York state board of psychology for its candidates.

Dr. Sharpless gathered data on 4892 applicants and first-time EPPP takers. He obtained “Records of all doctoral-level psychology licensure applicants from the previous 25 years with EPPP scores, gender, ethnicity, and degree type were requested.”

He found that Blacks had a failure rate of 38.50% and Hispanics had a failure rate of 35.60%. Whereas, Whites had a failure rate of 14.07% and Asians had a failure rate of 24%.

New York uses converted scores for the EPPP, from 0 to 100, with 75 as the passing score.

The differences in minority candidates’ selection rate violates what is known as the “four-fifths rule.” This means that the pass rate for minority groups fails to reach at least 80% of the pass rate for the majority group.

Typically, when a test has this impact, industrialorganizational psychologists exercise very careful methods to set cut scores, seek additional validity or research, and investigate possible replacements with less disparate impact.

Dr. Sharpless wrote, “… given the ethnic performance discrepancies and limited validity evidence, additional psychometric investigation of the EPPP appears warranted (e.g., in terms of criterion and predictive validity testing),” Sharpless also wrote. “Further, it is recommended that the EPPP Step-2 should undergo similar assessments prior to implementation.”

“Additional empirical attention should be devoted to the cut score (i.e., a scaled score of 500, roughly corresponding to 70% correct).” He noted that “…the determination of the ‘passing’ score is one of the most important, yet difficult, psychometric tasks in testing …”

And he noted that “… passage of the EPPP carries serious professional ramifications for applicants. There appears to have been limited discussion of the theoretical and/or empirical justifications for the current cut off score in the publicly available EPPP literatures…”

While regulatory boards aren’t employers, the principles of employee selection may apply. Employers using tests often fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employers from using neutral tests or selection procedures that have the effect of disproportionately excluding persons based on race, or other protected characteristics. Test
New Study Shows That EPPP Can Discriminate,developers and users must demonstrate that the use is necessary and related to relevant characteristics.

Industrial-organizational psychologists, who help companies show business necessity when a company is paying for employee performance, with a legitimate business goals of seeking top performing employees, may point out that regulatory boards do not have this same business necessity.

Regulatory boards concern themselves with the lower end of the distribution of performers, those likely to exhibit gross negligence or in some way endanger the public. Denying a license to a candidate because they perform at the average range, or even below average, might conceivably violate that candidate’s property rights and have no impact on safety.

Dr. Sharpless noted similar issues. “… if the EPPP is found to lack acceptable validity evidence (or if a decision is made to not submit the measure to further empirical testing), then it will remain open to charges of being a potentially arbitrary barrier in an already protracted path to professional independence…” Sharpless wrote.

He notes the lack of Blacks and Hispanic psychologists and suggests that these issues could be related.

And, he said, “… psychologists have always been at the forefront of developing tests of individual differences with valid and reliable scores…” And he wrote, “A case could be made that psychology gained recognition, as well as a more coherent professional identity, through such testing efforts. Therefore, it only makes sense that we submit our own licensing exam to these same high levels of scientific scrutiny.”

Brian A. Sharpless is an associate professor at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Northern Virginia. He received his PhD in clinical psychology and MA in philosophy from Penn State University and completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania.

To link to the article go to: https://doi.org/10.1080/00223 980.2018.1504739

Psychologists to be Compensated for “Thinking” CMS Publishes New Psychological and Neuropsychological Testing Codes

The 2019 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule was published at the Federal Register this week, and includes major changes in how psychological testing codes will be handled, changes
that Dr. Tony Puente, Past-President of the American Psychological Association, says are “…the biggest paradigm shift since the development of testing.” Puente presented at the annual  conference of the National Association of Neuropsychology last month held in New Orleans.

Dr. Kim Van Geffen, Director and Chair of Professional Affairs for the Louisiana Psychological
Association, explained that these changes are important for psychologists to understand.  “Beginning on January 1, 2019,” she said, “psychologists who bill insurance companies will be required to use a new set of CPT codes for billing psychological and neuropsychological testing,”
Van Geffen said.

“These codes, which were developed with input from the American Psychological Association,  ill greatly change the way assessments are billed,” Van Geffen said. “The new codes will include base codes and ‘add on’ codes and will distinguish technical work, such as administration and
scoring of tests, from professional work, such as integration and interpretation of evaluation data, clinical decision making and treatment planning. Both types of services will be billed with different codes.”

The CMS final rule updates payment policies, payment rates, and other provisions for services furnished under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) on or after Jan. 1, 2019, noted CMS. In addition to policies affecting the calculation of payment rates, this final rule finalizes a number of documentation, coding, and payment changes to reduce administrative burden and
improve payment accuracy for office/outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) visits over
several years, according to the announcement.

CMS officials also said that through an interim final rule with comment period, CMS is implementing a provision from the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid
Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act that expands access to telehealth services furnished for purposes of treatment of a substance use disorder or a co-occurring mental health disorder for services furnished on or after July 1, 2019. CMS will accept comments on the interim final rule until December 31, 2018.

All releases about the Rule can be reviewed as CMS.gov.

In a series of recent announcements over the last months, Doug Walter, JD, Associate Executive Director for Government Relations, American Psychological Association Practice Organization, alerted psychologists that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its proposed changes on the 2019 Fee Schedule.

CMS had targeted the codes for revisions and asked the American Medical Association’s CTP® and RUC (Relative Value Update) Committees to restructure and revalue the testing codes. Doug
Walter, JD, Associate Executive Director for Government Relations, American Psychological Association Practice Organization, alerted psychologists to the proposed changes.

CMS had targeted the services because the claims had exceeded $10 million, up to $42 million in 2016, according to Puente. CMS considered the services to be overvalued and targeted them for revision and review.

Walter said APA’s Practice Organization staff had met repeatedly with CMS throughout the year to ask the agency not to make substantial cuts in testing service payments. “We are gratified that CMS listened, and rejected the significant reductions in payments that had been under consideration…” They prevented  4% cuts that would have come when psychologists collect their own test data, APA officials said.

Van Geffen will be conducting on-line training for LPA members and other psychologists in the next few weeks, she said. “These new testing codes represent significant changes in the way in
which psychologists code their testing services. Dr. Tony Puente, former APA President, refers to them as a ‘paradigm shift.'”

“Under the current Medicare regulations,” Van Geffen said, “psychologists are viewed as ‘technicians’ which means that our services are not financially valued for the cognitive work
which we do as a part of our assessments. The new codes represent a move toward
psychologists being paid for cognitive work.”

Although the codes will be somewhat complicated to learn initially, they will ultimately be a
valuable change in the reimbursement landscape,” Dr. Van Geffen explained.

In the most recent announcement, Walter wrote, “Based on a close examination of the proposal we project that the Medicare payment for a six-hour battery of psychological tests would increase 6.3%. The Medicare payment for a neuropsychological test conducted with the assistance of a technician would increase 6.8%, while the payment for a neuropsychological test
conducted by a neuropsychologist her/himself would decrease by just over 3%. The reimbursement rate for a one-hour neuropsychological status exam would increase almost 2%, with reimbursements for a two-hour exam declining 5.3%

Gov. Edwards Joined Pres. Trump and Other Governors to Discuss Criminal Justice Reform

On August 9, Gov. Edwards joined President Trump, other state governors, and White House cabinet members in a roundtable discussion about the positive impact that criminal justice reform is having across the nation.

Gov. Edwards explained to the President that the package of bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation that Edwards signed into law in 2017 was working.

“In Louisiana, we’re proud of the work we’ve done,” said the Governor. “It’s been sentencing reform, prison reform, and a real focus on reentry and for the first time in 20 years, I can tell you Louisiana does not have the highest incarceration rate in the nation today.”

“We are reinvesting the savings into our reentry program and also into the victim services. And so we are excited about what we’re doing and looking forward to sharing that with you,” according to the press release.

A report in the Advocate by Elizabeth Crips noted that Trump and others at the meeting spoke about the need to enhance job and skills training programs in prisons, and to focus on how to prepare people to be productive citizens when they get out. “Our first duty is to our citizens, including those who have taken the wrong path but are seeking redemption and a new beginning,” Trump said. “That’s people that have been in prison, and they come out and they’re having a hard time.”

According to Gov. Edwards’ press release, he was the only democratic governor attending. Also attending were Gov. Matt Bevin (R-Kentucky), Gov. Phil Bryant (R-Mississippi), Gov. Nathan Deal (R-Georgia), Gov. Doug Burgum (R-N. Dakota), Atty. General Ken Paxton (R-Texas), Atty. General Pam Bondi (R-Florida), Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Jared Kushner and other White House staffers.

Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, commented, “The most powerful thing about this… I look at guys like John Bel Edwards in Louisiana, represents a different party than I do in Kentucky in terms of our political affiliation. This is something that we are very much of like-mind on. I think this transcends anything political.”

Energy Sec. Rick Perry said, “I want to share with these governors around here; every one of them is courageous…”

Just after the meeting, Gov. Edwards gave President Trump a letter detailing Louisiana’s efforts, said the release.

The Governor wrote, “For nearly twenty years, Louisiana was known as the nation’s incarceration capital. Our imprisonment rate was nearly double the national average. We were spending roughly $700 million annually on corrections, more than any other line item except education and healthcare, but our communities were not safer for it….”

And, “With the technical support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, we convened a bipartisan task force and spent a year scrutinizing our correctional policies and practices. In June of 2017, I signed into law the most expansive criminal justice reform package in Louisiana’s history…Republicans, Democrats and Independents, as well as the business and religious community, came together to pass these historic reforms.”

The Governor invited the President to tour the State Penitentiary at Angola and see efforts to reform the state’s criminal justice system.

“I believe you will gain a great deal of insight by visiting Louisiana State Penitentiary and I look forward to welcoming you to Louisiana on behalf of the people I serve,” Edwards wrote in the letter given to Trump. “The reentry programming services at LSP (Louisiana State Penitentiary) are key examples of how we plan to utilize the savings from our reforms to better prepare those being released from our prison system. In fact, the first year savings is dedicated specifically to the five parishes that generate nearly 50% of Louisiana’s prison admissions…

Also according to the report by Crisp, Governor Edwards joined other Democratic governors in Colorado recently and discussed divisive politics and ways to unite people. “Folks are just anxious,” the Aspen Daily News quoted Edwards as saying Friday at the Aspen Institute event. “We ought not to vilify anyone. I don’t talk about Trump backers as crazy or racist.”

The justice reform efforts have not been without controversy. Critics point to the two individuals who are now accused of murder and others who have been rearrested. District attorneys are some of the most vocal skeptics, according to various sources.

Some estimate that as many as 22 percent are now back in the justice system, according to the Advocate. The Department of Corrections disputes that figure as inflated. “I’m not sure where the DAs are getting their information from,” said the head of Corrections, James LeBlanc. “Our numbers are not anywhere close to what they are saying.”

Dr. Susan Tucker, clinical psychologist and the Assistant Warden at the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility, has explained the significance of comprehensive psychological programs in the corrections and justice system.

Tucker developed the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program which has earned national recognition for excellence. In 2016 the Louisiana Legislature commended Tucker and her team in a House Concurrent Resolution pointing to multi-million dollar cost savings to the state because of shorter incarceration times of those offenders who participated in the psychological programs designed by Tucker.

Dr. Raman Singh, previous Medical Director at Corrections, pointed out the reasons for over-incarceration in Louisiana. Based on a 2016 Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s review Singh said the top reasons were mandatory sentences and habitual offender laws, high rates of local incarceration without treatment programs, and “not addressing issues driving criminal behavior such as substance and mental illness.”

Jails and prisons have a disproportionately high number of persons with mental health issues and people with a serious mental illness. He noted that of the mentally ill in society, greater than 40 percent have been arrested and the majority of these are brought in for minor offenses. Those with mental illness spend two to five times longer in jail.

There is a complex interplay of multiple societal factors stemming from problems in education, stressed family structures, socio-economic challenges and lack of job opportunities. The unemployment rate in the mentally ill adults in Louisiana is 88.3 percent.

And while 16 percent of the DOC prison population has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, 82 percent are diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

Stabilized funding for higher education. State Budget Finally Stable Says Governor Edwards

This week Gov. Edwards authored a guest column in The Advocate detailing the progress Louisiana has made since overcoming the state’s fiscal challenges.

“… Louisiana is projected to have a $300 million surplus for the fiscal year 2018,” the Governor said. “This surplus is available to us because Louisiana businesses are doing
better, more Louisianans are finding work, and the improving economy has allowed corporate tax receipts to outpace expectations. Since I’ve been governor, the unemployment rate has fallen from a high of 6.2 percent to its current rate of 5 percent. But our good news doesn’t stop there.”

Gov. Edwards said that Louisiana now has long-term budget stability.

“For the first time in years, we have a stable budget structure that does not rely on one-time money or gimmicks, and we have put an end to the annual cuts to higher education that have threatened our children’s future. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents did all of that, and we still reduced the tax burden on the people of Louisiana by nearly $600 million.”

“Within weeks the national credit rating agencies removed Louisiana from the negative watch list. Our universities began the fall semester with nearly every campus’ enrollment at record levels because for the second year in a row, we stabilized funding for higher education and fully funded TOPS and Go Grants.”

“Bipartisanship has served our state well in other areas as well. Louisiana has taken the courageous step of implementing historic bipartisan criminal justice reforms. The reforms have been in place for just over a year, and the early results show that they are working. The state is no longer the incarceration capital of the world, a title we held for decades. In addition, the reforms have saved Louisiana $12.2 million, money that we are reinvesting into public safety and efforts to reduce recidivism. Our reforms were focused on nonviolent, non-sex offenders and were based off efforts in other Southern, conservative states, and we are proud to continue working with the White House and other states hoping to follow Louisiana’s lead.”

In a September 25 press release, the Governor announced that Louisiana was second in the nation for personal income growth in 2nd Quarter of 2018, behind only Texas, based on Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal income in Louisiana grew at a rate of 5.9 percent, outpacing the national average of 4.2 percent, said the statement.

“Last week, we announced that the state ended the last fiscal year with a surplus. Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis confirmed our assumptions – Louisiana’s businesses are doing better and people are bringing home more in their paychecks. This is excellent news, and just another sign that Louisiana is moving in the right direction. Our economy is growing, more people are working, and we have a stable budget structure for the first time in many years. While this is all positive news, we still have more work to do, but there is no denying that the momentum we have in Louisiana is real.”

The good news comes as a feature of the nationally based economic boom but also after painful legislative battles for the Governor.

After a total of seven special sessions since 2016, and three special sessions this year, Governor Edwards and legislators finally wrestled the budget into some type of order this past spring,
by the passage of an extra .45 percent sales tax, in down to the wire negotiations that ended last week. The move sidestepped drastic cuts to public health and higher education and provides several years of stability.

The new sales tax, a partial renewal of an expiring one percent sales tax, gave the lawmakers some respite from the yearly battles with the budget. The .45 brings the state sales tax to 4.45.

In the special sessions lawmakers were attempting to deal with the state’s budget crisis when more than $1 billion in taxes would expire on June 30, 2018. The two earlier special sessions floundered after the House repeatedly rejected increased taxes.

The House passed a budget that made dramatic cuts to TOPs, universities and state agencies. That budget was vetoed by the Governor.

Focus is on Prevention as Suicide Continues to Rise

One of the measures that flew through the House (85 to 0) and then with amendments, through the Senate (32 to 0), in the regular 2018 Legislative session, was Representative Reid Falconer’s “Louisiana Suicide Prevention Act.”

An ambitious plan, Act 450 directs the Office of Behavioral Health to ensure that administrators of all healthcare facilities licensed by state and all licensed healthcare professionals have access to informational resources and technical assistance necessary for implementation of the zero suicide initiative. The initiative carried a price tag of nearly $800,000. Because of the state’s financial picture, an amendment was added requiring that implementation had to be contingent on obtaining grant money.

The authors of Act 450 note that according to the 2016 America’s Health Rankings report, the number of deaths due to suicide per one hundred thousand people in the United States rose steadily from 2012 through 2016, and Louisiana’s rate of deaths from suicide is nearly ten percent higher than the national average.

The Center for Disease Control continues to rank suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the US. The most recent year of data (2015) placed suicide deaths at 44,193 nationwide, more than the number killed in automobile accidents, which was 37,757, or homicides, 17,793, for that same year.

Representative Falconer wrote “While suicide occurs among persons of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and income levels, it is an especially troubling problem among youth in Louisiana, with suicide ranking as the second-leading cause of death in this state for persons between the ages of ten and twenty-four in 2014, the most recent year for which complete data are available.”

Suicide is a pronounced public health concern among military veterans nationwide and in Louisiana particularly, as Louisiana’s veteran suicide rate is over ten percent higher than that of the nation and of the southern region, write the authors. And, more than half of the people who died by suicide did not have unknown mental health condition, reports the CDC.

The rising rates of suicide has been at the front of the news for some psychologists in the field, and motivated the Louisiana Psychological Association to host suicide prevention expert Dr. April Foreman at their recent state convention.

Foreman is a licensed psychologist serving Veterans as Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. She also serves as Suicide Prevention Lead for Veterans Integrated Service Network 16, a region of Veterans Affairs. She is on the Executive Committee for the Board of the American Association of Suicidology.

Dr. Foreman presented “Suicide Risk Assessment,” at the Louisiana Psychological Association Convention recently, providing an overview of basics of suicide risk assessment, risk levels, and acute vs. chronic risk. She covered the use of safety planning as a follow up to risk assessment, current research innovations pertaining assessment of risk and actual prediction of suicide attempts/deaths, and possible ways this may impact clinical work in the upcoming years.

Dr. Foreman has been working toward this goal for some time. In 2014, Foreman supported Senator Ben Nevers’ effort to ensure that mental health professionals were adequately trained, SB 539. While the mandate was removed, the effort drew attention to the problem.

“This is a public health issue that is squarely in psychology’s wheelhouse,” said Foreman in a previous interview. “Only 9 to 10 percent of mental health professionals can pass a competency exam,” in this topic, said Foreman. “This is a big training deficit.”

Dr. William “Bill” Schmitz, Jr., a licensed clinical psychologist in Baton Rouge, working primarily with the nation’s veterans, and who has served as President of the American Association for Suicidology previously explained the importance. “It is the number one emergency in mental health and the most lethal situation a professional will encounter. But, no one is required to have training,” he said.

Schmitz co-authored a white paper, “Preventing Suicide through Improved Training in Suicide Risk Assessment and Care,” a report of the American Association of Suicidology Task Force, which Schmitz chaired. In the report, authors noted that training for suicide prevention is inconsistent at best. The majority of mental health professionals receive very little, if any formal training in suicide prevention. The exceptions are the psychiatrists; 94 percent have received some training. However, even in this group, only about a quarter of these receive skill development training.

“An hour of didactic training may increase knowledge,” Schmitz explained to the Times, “but it doesn’t do anything to actually change competency.”

Dr. Foreman has also looked carefully into the competency problem. “When the state of Georgia was asking these same questions in 2005,” she said, “they assessed a sample of mental health professionals, and the competency rate was 9 percent. A few hours of training raised the rate to 83 percent,” she said. “That’s a huge difference.”

The rising rates of suicide are a concern. “There are several theories regarding this trend, though a specific and definitive explanation has not emerged,” Schmitz noted. “We do know that suicide attempts, across the lifespan, tend to become more lethal,” explaining that the ratio of suicide attempts to death is 100-200 to one for adolescents and young adults, but for those over 65 the ratio is four to one.

“Coupled with this,” Schmitz said, “I would also add that help-seeking and mental health treatment remain very stigmatized among the older adult populations. There is lingering doubt and fears associated with institutionalization, asylums, and being ‘locked up’ if one divulges any thought of suicide,” he explained. “This is very disconcerting given the clear evidence that even people determined to be at high risk for suicide have been shown to respond to intensive outpatient therapy.

In a previous interview with the Times, Dr. Frank Campbell, a clinical social worker and expert from Lacombe, Louisiana, former Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center, and also Past-President of and American Association for Suicidology, said, “It is important to accept that suicide is a very complex and paradoxical cause of death to develop clear
understandings from. It is an N of 1 and by that I mean each suicide is unique.” Dr. Campbell’s work has been featured in a documentary for the Discovery Channel.

“For me the most comprehensive micro or individual answer to any death by suicide,” he said, “is that it happens as a result of a self-defined crisis where the individual’s ability to cope with the precipitating event which brings on the crisis response––decline in coping and possible increase in maladaptive coping––was unable to keep that person safe from suicide,” Dr. Campbell said.

“Data is helpful in awareness but each death impacts the community in ways that are unique and little research has been conducted on the impact suicide has on generating additional causalities both in the short term or long term for a community.”

“The macro response would include considering the impact of social and economic changes in the past 10 years,” Campbell said, “because economic conditions have historically correlated with upward trends in suicide.”

Also, “… a growing number of citizens who are veterans of military service––mostly men––which are estimated to equal one out of each five deaths by suicide,” he said.

Dr. Schmitz pointed out that there is growing evidence supporting various approaches that help those at risk. “There are treatments that work, there are warning signs and basic skills of suicide assessment and management that should be core clinical competencies,” said Schmitz.

“Unfortunately, the majority of mental health professionals do not obtain this training in either their graduate studies or continuing education,” he said.

“Providers that are not engaging their patients in active discussions about means restriction and crisis response planning really terrify me,” he said.

Dr. Campbell said, “Managing transitions in life if not easy and when health and loneliness are isolating factors along breakdown geographically of the family and health care challenges it is a lot to manage. Generational expectations are not always shared or expressed clearly to family who might be wanting to help but just don’t know how.”

“My thought is that if we had the number of folks who die by suicide each year drowning then we would train more lifeguards to stand by those in the water.

“The river of suicide is large in this country and it is up to all of us in our communities to become trained as lifeguards. One such training that is for all care givers is the two-day ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) that helps anyone help another at risk from the river to safety for now.”

Lt. Governor Nungesser and Dr. Scott O. Lilienfeld Look at Psychology’s Role

Lt. Governor William (Billy) Nungesser and nationally recognized clinical psychologist, Scott O. Lilienfeld, delivered the welcome and keynote to attendees for the 70th Annual Convention of the Louisiana Psychological Association, held last month in Metairie.

Nungesser highlighted the need for those in Louisiana to think “outside the box” when it comes to Louisiana’s critical needs, helping launch the 2018 theme, “Psychology: Essential Partner for Solving Critical Problems.”

In his remarks, the Lt. Governor pointed to the natural beauty and strengths of the state’s diverse population and environment, and his belief that the state’s culture, history and people are the key to making the state great and working out the problems, he said. Nungesser also spoke on how he and others have addressed natural disasters and built resources through the programs in the Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism.

Lt. Governor Nungesser has been called one of the state’s top CEOs, for his ground-up business development and his can-do approach to crises like Katrina and Deepwater Horizon. He also spoke about his business background and how problem-solving and innovation was essential.

Nungesser closed with the new branding video and slogan, “Feed Your Soul,” unveiled at Mardi Gras 2018. He explained the method for the branding effort was data-driven, pointing to the evidence-based methods and thinking outside-the-box for the outcomes.

Followed with hearty applause by attendees, the video included an appealing, baritone narrator who said, “Louisiana isn’t for spectators. It’s for participants, for those who want to feed their soul, to not only live in the moment, but to become the moment.”

The video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnGRfDaMU4

Nationally recognized speaker and Emory Professor Dr. Scott O. Lilienfeld, continued the theme with “Being the Essential Partner: Understanding and Overcoming Skepticism about Scientific Psychology.”

Dr. Lilienfeld, recipient of the James McKeen Cattell Award for Lifetime Contributions to Applied Psychological Science from the Association for Psychological Science, reviewed the evidence for the public’s skepticism of psychology as a science and why the public has doubts about information from psychological science.

Among his findings he cited that only 30% agree that “psychology attempts to understand the way people behave through scientific research” and 41% see psychological research as less rigorous than medical research. Along with many findings he noted that an APA Presidential Task Force found that, “Despite psychology’s foundation in science and its standing as the science of human behavior, it is not fully accepted as a science by the general public.”

After Dr. Lilienfeld reviewed the common criticisms of psychology’s scientific status he discussed rebuttals of the criticisms, and gave main reasons for negative public views of psychology.

He noted that the public face of psychology is not represented by psychological scientists. “Psychologists are rarely called on by the media to comment on psychological findings; when they are, they are rarely scientific psychologists,” he said.

He pointed to “The Illusion of Understanding––We’re all ‘psychologists’ in everyday life, so psychology seems easy.”

Among the problems he included the “Confusion Between Psychologists and Psychotherapists,” as an important factor.

He also said that that scientific psychology is challenged by the “scientific impotence excuse,” and that “When psychological findings conflict with our deeply held intuitions, we may resolve that cognitive dissonance by dismissing a scientific approach to the questions at hand…”

Among the remedies, Dr. Lilienfeld said that, “Academic and practicing psychologists have not spent enough of their time disseminating science to the public, combating bad science, and correcting misconceptions of the field.”

“We must play a more active role in educating laypersons about psychology’s scientific side and confronting its nonscientific side,” he said.

Lilienfeld’s work has been cited over 21,295 times. He delivered the Award Address, “Psychology’s Public Image Problem: Why Many Laypersons and Politicians Don’t View Our Field as Scientific,” at APS. He is also a researcher and test author in areas of psychopathy, and also presented, “The Multifaceted Nature of Psychopathy.”

Also highlighted this year was neuropsychologist David Schwartz, PhD, from the Concussion Institute in Atlanta; April Foreman, PhD, licensed psychologist and Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System; and Canadian psychologist, and expert in nutritional mental health, Bonnie Kaplan, PhD.

Denise Newman, PhD, chaired a panel with Drs. Alvin Burstein, Dana Labat, and Sandra Loucks, on the “Heart of Change in Psychotherapy.”

“Ethical Issues and Health Disparity,” was presented by co-chairs ValaRay Irvin, PhD and Chris Leonhard, PhD, APPB. Alan Coulter, PhD, and Courtland Chaney, PhD, presented a cross specialty presentation on “Opportunities for Organization Development Interventions in Schools: The Interface of Two Specialties.”

Members of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and staff presented, “Laws, Rules & Ethics Update.”

Tiffany Jennings, PsyD, presented, “Highlights on Rural Health:Utilizing Telehealth to Increase Access to Care, Support, and Peer Consultation.”

Jill Hayes, PhD, lead a round table discussion on “Ethical and Legal Issues for Misdiagnosis,” with Drs. Denise Newman, John Fanning, and Marc Zimmermann.

A Scientific Poster Session was chaired by Drs. Ashley Jefferson and Melissa Dufrene, and the Science Café was chaired by Drs. Scott Smith and Bridget Sonnier-Hillis.

The Convention included an Industrial-Organizational Psychology Mini-Conference, with presentations by Richard Flicker, PhD, Courtland Chaney, PhD, Jim Stodd, MS, Barry Vose, BS, William Costelloe, PhD, Tyree Mitchell, PhD, John-Luke McCord and Brian Doyle, and Jared LeDoux, PhD.

Lt. Governor, Dr. Scott O. Lilienfeld to Speak at 70th La Psych Assn Convention

Lt. Governor William (Billy) Nungesser will deliver the welcome for the 70th Annual Convention of the Louisiana Psychological Association, and highlight Louisiana’s critical needs, launching this year’s theme for “Psychology: Essential Partner for Solving Critical Problems.” Nationally recognized speaker, Emory Professor Dr. Scott O. Lilienfeld, will continue the theme with “Being the Essential Partner: Understanding and Overcoming Skepticism about Scientific Psychology.”

The two-day conference will be held May 18 and 19 at the Sheraton, 4 Galleria Boulevard, in Metairie, and host an array of national and local presenters, scientific poster and laboratory presentations, and experiential groups, building on the theme of psychology’s unique perspectives and contributions.

Lt. Governor Nungesser has been called one of the state’s top CEOs, for his ground-up business development, and his can do approach to crises like Katrina and Deepwater Horizon.

Dr. Lilienfeld is recipient of the James McKeen Cattell Award for Lifetime Contributions to Applied Psychological Science, Association for Psychological Science (APS). His work has been cited over 21,295 times. He delivered the Award Address, “Psychology’s Public Image Problem: Why Many Laypersons and Politicians Don’t View Our Field as Scientific,” at APS.

Lilienfeld is also a researcher and test author in areas of psychopathy, and will also present, “The Multifaceted Nature of Psychopathy,” during the breakout sessions.

Also highlighted this year is neuropsychologist David Schwartz, PhD, from the Concussion Institute in Atlanta, who will present, “Advances in the Assessment and Management of General and Sports–Related Concussion Injuries.” Dr. Schwartz is an engaging speaker who is known for his entertaining delivery and broad information, noted the conference organizers.

Dr. Schwartz will also present the plenary session for Saturday, the cross-cutting topic, “New Technologies for Assessment and Behavior Change.”
April Foreman, PhD, licensed psychologist and Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System will present “Suicide Risk Assessment.” Foreman is Suicide Prevention Lead for Veterans Integrated Service Network 16, and on the Executive Committee for the Board of the American Association of Suicidology.
Dr. Foreman is known for her work at the intersection of technology, social media, and mental health.

In a special Zoom presentation, Canadian psychologist, and expert in nutritional mental health, Bonnie Kaplan, PhD, will present “Nutritional Mental Health.”

Kaplan is Professor Emerita in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and an expert in the field of nutritional mental health, including topics such as inflammation and mental health, the microbiome and mental health, oxidative stress and mental health, mitochondria and mental health and nutrienttreatment research.

Denise Newman, PhD, will chair a panel with Drs. Alvin Burstein, Dana Labat, and Sandra Loucks, on the “Heart of Change in Psychotherapy,” and panelists will address, “Technical and Ethical Aspirations in Psychotherapy within a Developmental Framework: Navigating Challenging Dynamics in the Therapeutic Relationship,” and address both the theoretical aspects and the technical navigation of the therapeutic relationship as the focus of psychotherapeutic treatment. Dr. Newman is chair of the LPA Psychotherapy Interest Area Committee.

“Ethical Issues and Health Disparity,” will be presented by co-chairs ValaRay Irvin, PhD and Chris Leonhard, PhD, APPB. Along with panelists they will address the intersection between social determinants of health research, and access to quality mental healthcare and health disparities. Irvin and Leonhard will frame issues in the context of the role of ethical principles, codes of conduct, and related policies and laws in the amelioration of disparities.

Alan Coulter, PhD, and Courtland Chaney, PhD, will present a cross specialty presentation on “Opportunities for Organization Development
Interventions in Schools: The Interface of Two Specialties.” Presenters will review the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), organizational development theory, and blend into a discussion for intervening at the individual, group and organizational level in school systems.

Members of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and staff will present an interactive session on “Laws, Rules & Ethics Update.” They will cover demographic characteristics of licensees, where to locate information regarding current laws, rules and opinions pertaining to psychologists, characteristics of the current Rule-making, and common complaints received by the LSBEP and related ethical violations.

Tiffany Jennings, PsyD, will present “Highlights on Rural Health: Utilizing Telehealth to Increase Access to Care, Support, and Peer Consultation.” Dr. Jennings will cover applications for telehealth and also contraindications, how to set up telehealth, forms and codes, ethics and safety measures.
Jill Hayes, PhD, will lead a round table discussion on “Ethical and Legal Issues for Misdiagnosis,” addressing challenges in correct diagnosis in today’s restrictive insurance environment and complex cases.

A Scientific Poster Session will be held on Friday, chaired by Drs. Ashley Jefferson and Melissa Dufrene. Attendees will enjoy breakfast while they review research findings through poster presentations from psychological science across the state, and speak directly with researchers about their theory, methods, and results.

Breakfast is served again on Saturday at the Science Café on Saturday, chaired by Drs. Scott Smith and Bridget Sonnier-Hillis. Attendees can review findings in psychological science from laboratories around the state, and chat with researchers about how science is rapidly changing in key areas.

The Convention includes an IndustrialOrganizational Psychology MiniConference, organized by the LPA I-O and Consulting Psychology Committee. Attendees will hear topics in four modules. Under Ethical Challenges and Citizen Psychology, RichardFlicker, PhD, will present “Ethical Challenges in I-O Psychology: What would you do?” and Courtland Chaney, PhD, will conduct a session on “An I-O Role for a Citizen Psychologist: The Governor’s Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy.”

Under the I-O Psychology Practitioner segment, Jim Stodd, MS, will present, “Why I-O Psychology is Superb Training for Those Who Shape and Manage Compensation Programs.” Barry Vose and William Costelloe, PhD, will present, “Seven Steps to Developing an I-O Career.”

Lunch & Learn will address Ethical Dilemmas. The Scholarly Pursuits and I-O Psychology in Healthcare section will begin with Tyree Mitchell, PhD, “Too Much of a Good Thing? The Diminishing Returns of Leadership on Leadership Emergence.”

“The Influence of Untraditional Interview Questions on Applicant Affective Reactions and Perceptions of Organizational Personality,” will be presented by John-Luke McCord and Brian Doyle.

Jared LeDoux, PhD, will present “Applying I-O Psychology in a Hospital Setting.”

For the closing activities of main conference, professional issues are addressed in a communitywide, experiential learning event, known as Lunch & Learn. Specialty interest area groups will address the problems in “Current Ethical & Moral Challenges in Professional Psychology” on Friday, and “Current Professional Challenges in Specialty Areas of Psychology Practice” on Saturday. This working lunch allows attendees to join with colleagues to discover and analyze key issues for today’s professional psychologists.

Facilitators blend the information into the Saturday wrap-up session, and engage attendees in institution-level, strategic analysis in “70 Years of Psychology Contributions––Are We There Yet? An experiential, strategic– planning exercise. Julie Nelson, PhD, and William Costelloe, PhD, will co-chair.

Early registration is open until May 14.

For more information go to the LPA website at: louisianapsychologicalassociation.org.
Science

Bill for School Violence Prevention Calls for More Mental Health Evaluations

Representative Tony Bacala, Republican from Prairieville, representing District 59, has submitted a bill, HB511 which seeks to address reporting of threats of violence and mental health issues.

The legislation would address matters relative to the reporting of threats of
violence and terrorism at schools and requires mental health evaluations.

According to the digest of the bill, currently, the law does not require that teachers, principals, or other school employees report threats of violence or terrorism on school campuses to law enforcement. The present law does not require any person who threatens violence or terrorism in a school setting to undergo a mental health evaluation.

HB511 would require any school employee who learns of a threat of violence or terrorism at a school or a school-related function to report the threat to law enforcement.

“Any administrator, teacher, counselor, bus operator, or other school employee, whether full-time or part-time, who learns of a threat of violence or threat of terrorism, whether through verbal communication, written communication, or electronic communication, shall report the threat to local law enforcement.”

The proposed law provides for procedures for law enforcement upon receiving a report of a threat of terrorism or violence on a school campus or school-related function.

The legislation would require mandatory mental health evaluations for individuals who make threats of violence or terrorism at schools or school-related functions. Any individual making a threat of violence or terrorism at a school or school-related function is prohibited from being within 500 feet of the school until undergoing a mental health evaluation and being cleared by a mental health professional to do so.

“If the person who is reported to law enforcement is a minor, then the local law enforcement agency shall contact the local child protection unit of the Department of Children and Family Services. The local child protection unit shall file a motion with the appropriate judicial district court for a medical, psychological, and psychiatric examination as authorized by Children’s Code Article 760.”

Representative Bacala is a retired Deputy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, and attended LSU and the FBI National Academy.