Category Archives: Front Page Story

April is Cell Phone Distraction Month

April is Cell Phone Distraction Awareness Month. Scholars, researchers, psychologists, attorneys, counselors and others are asked make efforts to advise the public about the realities of cell phone distraction, explains Dr. Theodore S. (Scott) Smith from the University of Louisiana Lafayette.

Dr. Smith is Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department and leads research in his lab, The Louisiana Applied and Developmental Psychological Sciences Laboratory, where he is interested in how cell phone distraction affects the learning process, not only in the classroom. He also looks at how applicable distractions may affect driving behaviors and eyewitness memory. Smith has authored Cell Phone Distraction, Human Factors, and Litigation, published by Judges and Lawyers Publishing and which is becoming a popular resource for legal professionals.

The impact of cell phone distraction while driving is emphasized each year in April by the National Safety Council (NSC). The NSC says that the first time since the Great Recession, the U.S. has experienced three straight years of at least 40,000 roadway deaths. This is a 14 percent increase from 2014. Overall, this escalation of roadway injuries is the most dramatic seen in 53 years, said the Council.

Every day at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes, according to the Council. Cell phones, dashboard touchscreens, voice commands and other in-vehicle technologies pose a threat to people’s safety. An NSC survey of the risky things drivers do while on the highway, found that 47 percent of people either text manually or work through voice controls, while driving.

Louisiana State University cognitive psychologist Dr. Melissa Beck also conducts research for “inattention blindness” that affects us when we are driving. Working with simulators at the Civil Engineering Department, Beck and her associates have published results of her studies in this area. She directs the Beck Visual Cognition Lab at Louisiana State University Psychology Department, where she and her researchers uncover the ways that visual attention and memory work or don’t work in various situations.

For Cell Phone Distraction Month, Dr. Smith also explained the serious issues of cell phone distraction in education. “While much emphasis has been placed on cell phone distraction and driving,” Smith said, “it is recognized that cell phone distraction affects both young and older students in the classroom.”

Technology has been advantageous to education since students can respond quickly through online formats, collaborate in real time regarding homework, and obtain references instantly, says Smith. But there are many issues now recognized.

“The assumption that students may disengage from their cell phones when entering a classroom is incorrect. Often students will utilize your cell phones in order to text,
resending receiving emails, and other tasks during classes. Multiple studies have indicated that as many as 90 to 95% of college students use their phones to send text messages during class on a constant basis,” Dr. Smith said.

“An effort to reduce or eliminate cell phone use in the classroom and at high school or college level has been difficult. Often students become physically and emotionally attached to their phones, perhaps reflective of addiction, and find themselves very socially awkward and fervently uncomfortable when they do not have their cell phones in their physical presence.”

“Another argument against technology in the classroom evolves around the discomfort that students have when other students are using their cell phones. Some student report being uncomfortable listening to a lecture when other students are texting or performing other activities not related to learning,” said Smith.

At the same time, Dr. Smith points out that there are numerous arguments in favor of technology in the class. “It’s been recommended that teachers may incorporate social media in daily teaching lessons, use clickers to quiz students during lecture, and encourage students to identify resources online during lecture, as opposed to having stagnant lectures limited to verbal talks.”

“Indeed, the argument for and against technology in the classroom will be ongoing.”

Finally, Dr. Smith reminds everyone to remember the potential harm related to cell phone distraction and driving. “This research has consistently indicated drivers pull their attention away from road conditions while driving, further prompting unsafe practices.”

He hopes that readers will consider the wide range impact of technology on their daily lives, including education and performance of daily tasks such as driving.

Psychologists Travel to Advocacy & Leadership Conference at APA

Four psychologists talked with members of Congress about legislation impacting the public and involving healthcare. Representing the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) were Drs. Alan Coulter, LPA President-Elect; Lucinda DeGrange, LPA Council Representative; Amanda Raines, Early Career Psychologist Representative; and Lacey Seymour, Louisiana Federal Advocacy Coordinator. The psychologists also attended a black tie dinner honoring Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy sponsored by the Psychology Political Action Committee, held in March in Washington, DC.

While in D.C. the psychologists helped lobby for legislation, said Dr. Seymour. These efforts included these topics:

1) to ensure access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment;

2) to pass the Medicare Mental Health Access Act, H.R. 884. The bill removes a roadblock that hampers and delays mental health treatment for Medicare beneficiaries by ending unnecessary physician sign-off and oversight of psychologists’ services. Private sector health plans, the Veterans Health Administration, and TRICARE all allow licensed clinical psychologists to practice independently in all inpatient and outpatient settings. Medicare should, too; and

3) to pass the Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act, H.R. 1301. The Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act would make it easier for older adults to obtain mental health care in their own home by removing current-law restrictions on the use of telehealth services.

“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.”

Senator Cassidy has promoted measure to helped access to services through integration of primary and behavioral 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.

Pennington’s Dr. Tiffany Stewart in Spotlight for Innovative Health Programs

Clinical Psychologist and Pennington Biomedical research scientist, Dr.  Tiffany Stewart, is applying her innovations for a community health program at the Knock Knock Children’s Museum, located at 1900 Dalyrmple Drive, Baton Rouge.

The program is a collaborative effort between the Baton Rouge Mayor’s Healthy BR Initiative, the Museum, Pennington, and other community organizations, noted a release in January.

Dr. Stewart, who directs the Pennington Biomedical Behavior Technology Laboratory, and her team will provide the program called “Sisu & You: Healthy Kids and Healthy Family Workshop.” Sisu is the Finnish word for resilience.

The workshop will be held on the fourth Thursday of each month through May and is free for children ages five to 15.

Parents are encouraged to join their children in “connecting ideas with actions for a lifetime of health and happiness.”

“How we view our bodies is a key component of successful health behaviors and significantly affects our quality of life,” said the developers. “This workshop series teaches children and adults to keep their bodies healthy through nutrition, fitness, sleep, and body image.”

The Behavior Technology Laboratory at Pennington is dedicated to Translational Research: Dr. Stewart and her team focus on taking health behavior change programs and technologies from the workbench of science and craft them into programs everyone and anyone can use.

She and her team investigate the novel assessment, prevention, and intervention approaches for eating disorders, obesity, and body image disturbance on health behaviors and chronic disease outcomes.

Dr. Stewart’s work has attracted multimillion dollar funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense. She develops programs and technologies to improve nutrition, fitness, and sleep of U.S. Army Soldiers and their family members.

Recently her work with the US Army was showcased in an article by Stephanie Riegel for the Baton Rouge Business Report.

Stewart’s Healthy Eating, Activity, and Lifestyle Training Headquarters or H.E.A.L.T.H., is part of the Weight Measurements and Standards for Soldiers Project.

H.E.A.L.T.H. is an ongoing, fifteen-year collaborative effort between Pennington and the Department of Defense, designed to aid Soldiers in maintaining healthy weight status, fitness status, combat readiness, and Warfighter performance.

H.E.A.L.T.H. includes programs to aid soldiers’ family members in reaching overall health and fitness goals and incorporates cutting edge interactive technology such as with the Internet and Smartphones, so soldiers and their family members can use it wherever they are in the world.

H.E.A.L.T.H. is considered a population health program, used and tested in two pilot projects, at Ft. Bragg, NC, and New England Reserves, and is being tested in the Louisiana Army National Guard.

The program is currently being disseminated Army-wide as part of the U.S. Army Surgeon General’s Performance Triad Initiative to improve nutrition, fitness, sleep, overall health, and resilience for our technologically advanced fighting force and their families. Approximately 15,000 individuals have used the H.E.A.L.T.H. program.

Stewart explained, “The mission of the H.E.A.L.T.H. program is to translate evidenced–based concepts into a nutrition and fitness tool that Soldiers can use to not only improve Warfighter health and performance, but the overall health well-being of their family members.”

Another of Stewart’s programs has been to improve body image, nutrition, and eating disorders in female collegiate athletes. “Female Athlete Body Project: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, is a partnership with Louisiana State University Athletics, American University in Washington, D.C., and Trinity University in San Antonio, TX.

Research suggests that disordered eating among female athletes is prevalent, and is especially dangerous in female athletes because it increases risk for the Female Athlete Triad (i.e., low energy availability/disordered eating, menstrual disorders, and decreased bone mineral density/ osteoporosis and subsequent injury).

Research supports the use of a program targeting small lifestyle modifications in the prevention of ED onset and in reducing ED and obesity risk factors.

Dr. Stewart is also an inventor and entrepreneur, and named 2015 Woman of Excellence by the Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus Foundation. She was also commended by the Louisiana Legislature in a House Concurrent Resolution for her work and research, and for “spearheading unique, large, multi-site prevention studies that have included the development and deployment of novel approaches for health behavior change, …”.

In the private sector, Stewart is Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Body Evolution Technologies Inc., a venture capital-funded entrepreneurial project dedicated to taking e-health assessment, prevention, and treatment programs and technologies from the lab to those who would benefit most, “… especially among young women as they face enormous pressures concerning body-image, weight, eating behavior, and selfesteem.”

Body Evolution Technologies was designed to commercialize evidencebased health behavior technology and is an entrepreneurial venture, formed as a result of scientific discovery at Pennington, and funded by angel and venture capital investors. The programs and assessment tools are integrated within a social network environment to reinforce learning and promote adherence. See programs at http://www.emergebodyimage.com/, an e-health, online platform.

 

ASPPB Limits Choice, Doubles Price of Psych Licensing Exam

The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) has announced that its previous plan for a voluntary, “Step 2” section to the national exam for psychologists is no longer going to be optional. The new test will be combined with the existing test, which means that additions will be mandatory. The price will increase to $1200, up from the current $600.

The national exam is called the EPPP, or Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, and is required by most regulatory boards as a hurdle for licensure in psychology. ASPPB, who owns the rights to the test, said the updated exam is planned for sale in January 2020.

The new strategy was first announced at the ASPPB Annual Meeting held October 18 in Hawaii, and communicated to regulatory boards in a letter from ASPPB CEO, Dr. Stephen DeMers.

“The ASPPB Board of Directors, based on a number of factors, including feedback from our member jurisdictions and input from our legal counsel, has determined that the EPPP Part 2 is a necessary enhancement, and therefore an essential component of the EPPP,” wrote DeMers.

He explained that the original plan was for “encouraging, but not requiring” the use of the additional exam, called EPPP Step 2.

“However, as the Board considered the unintended implications of allowing jurisdictions to choose a time frame and mechanism to adopt the EPPP Part 2,” he wrote, “the Board determined that the integrity and legal defensibility of the EPPP depended on treating
Part 2 as an essential and integral part of the assessment of competence to practice for all those using the EPPP as a requirement for licensure.”

In 2016 ASPPB had announced the Step 2 exam and objections mounted, mostly from student and early career psychologist organizations.

Last year in Louisiana, Dr. Amy Henke, then a Director on the Executive Council of the Louisiana
Psychological Association (LPA) and Co-Chair of the LPA Early Career Psychologists Committee in LPA, put forth a Resolution to oppose the Step 2 for Louisiana, which passed unanimously. Dr. Henke is now serving on the state psychology board.

Objections, from Henke and others, involve technical and scientific issues, but also the criticism that there is no problem that the new test needs to solve. “There is no evidence that the public is facing some sort of previously unheard of crisis in terms of safety from currently practicing psychologists,” said Dr. Henke in 2016.

Who is ASPPB and How Did We
Get Here?

The ASPPB is listed as a private, non-profit, 501(c) tax-exempt corporation located in Tyrone,
Georgia. The company states its mission is to “Facilitate communication among member
jurisdictions about licensure, certification, and mobility of professional psychologists.”

ASPPB grossed $5,933,473 in 2016 and listed assets of $8,954,240.

The “members” appear to be 64 representatives from regulatory boards from across the United
States and Canada. The boards pay dues to be a member of ASPPB.

While many members are government officials, ASPPB does not follow open meetings laws.
Deliberations and decisions are private. “If you are not a member or staff of an ASPPB
Member Psychology Regulatory Board or an individual member, you are not eligible to access
this section of our website,” they write. Their conferences are also members only.

ASPPB’s mission is to facilitate communication, but it also owns the intellectual property rights to the EPPP and the data generated by the testing program, which they seem to have acquired in or around 2013.

In a Letter of Agreement from ASPPB to the boards in late 2012, ASPPB wrote that the EPPP is “made available as a service to psychology licensure boards that are ASPPB members in good standing as signified by payment of membership dues.”

ASPPB’s main income producing product is the national exam for psychologists, which brings in about $5,000,000 in gross sales each year. They have a few other products, such as the
Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT), a service to coordinate psychologists working across state lines.

While state boards are not required by law to use the EPPP, they uniformly do, since most  licensing laws require a national exam.

Around 2012 ASPPB appears to have embraced a more aggressive corporate strategy. An insider told the Times, “In 2010 or somewhere around that time they were in New Orleans
and they implied that they would be making a lot of money on the new test.”

In 2012, ASPPB acquired the rights for the national exam, taking over from Professional
Examination Service (PES). In 2013 ASPPB wrote the boards that their contracts with PES
were being “replaced with a contract between your jurisdiction and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.”

In that letter, ASPPB officials said, “ASPPB and PES have agreed that it would be simpler and more appropriate for ASPPB to contract directly with the 64 psychology regulatory agencies that are members of ASPPB.”

ASPPB said that the change would be “mutually beneficial because ASPPB can now provide a  simplified agreement that is more specific to the needs of psychology licensure boards. In addition, the renewal of contracts is expected to be more efficient…” And, “Finally, as voting members of ASPPB, each jurisdiction exercises more oversight of this important examination service by contracting directly with ASPPB for examination services.”

At the same time, ASPPB increased candidates’ exam fees from $450 to $600.

ASPPB’s plan to create additional testing products may have been in place as early as 2010. One
undisclosed insider thinks the corporate objective for ASPPB is to be a central source for
regulation of psychologists. “They want to ultimately do all the licensing and regulating for
psychology,” said the insider. “They want to regulate all the telepsychology.” And, “They want
to be the Walmart.”

In 2013 ASPPB officials were instrumental in conducting and designing the 5th International
Congress on Licensure, Certification, and Credentialing of Psychologists, held in Stockhom,
which focused on “… defining professional competence rather than specifying curricula or
training requirements,” reported the Norwegian Co-chair. The invitation-only conference was
primarily funded by ASPPB.

Dr. Emil Rodolfa, Chair of the Implementation Task Force for the EPPP Step 2, and past president of ASPPB, facilitated at the Congress. His goal, according to reports published by the Cochair, was to address assessment and credentialing issues for competence for psychologists.

APPB’s Profitability

ASPPB brings in $5 plus million yearly for its testing products, the main profit source being the
EPPP.

Exams and related fees grossed $5,296,421 for 2016, or 89% of all ASPPB venues. In 2015 this
amount was $4,775,213 and in 2014 it was $4,826, 421.

For 2016 they list 12 employees, the most highly compensated is Dr. DeMers, at $243,842. Another four fall between $131,949 and $125,860. Others are modest.

For exams in 2016, they claim expenses of $1,859, 374 against revenues of $4,916,406 for exams, a profit margin of 38 percent. One of the two major expenses is to Pearson Vue,
Minneappolis for $956,598. The second major expense appears to fall under “Other salaries and
wages,” and comes to $906,995. No employee names are given and it is not clear who receives
this money.

ASPPB claims a large expense for travel. In 2016 the corporation reported $867,217 spent for
travel and also another $200,583 for conferences.

Travel expense is consistently high. For example, in 2014 they reported $863,340 for travel and
$222,083 for conferences. According to various other records Dr. DeMers traveled to Paris, Oslo, New Zealand, Milan, and to Beijing, to meet with international colleagues.

Of note is that ASPPB does not report payments of travel or entertainment for federal, state or
local public officials on the tax returns. However, it appears to be a regular occurrence and
openly discussed. In a June 2016 review of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of
Psychologists (LSBEP), the Legislative Auditor wrote:

“Based on information provided by the Board, the former executive director may have improperly charged $2,343 to the Board for airfare, hotel, baggage, and parking fees related to participation in Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) committee meetings during October and November 2014. ASPPB stated it pays for flights, hotel rooms, and associated travel expenses for committee meeting participants, either directly or through reimbursement.”

Charging to Fix What Isn’t
Broken

Dr. Henke and the 2016 LPA Resolution to oppose the new test point out that multiple checks
on competency already exist for psychologists and appear to be working to protect the public.

“Trainees are already held to high standards through a variety of benchmarks,” Dr. Henke wrote in the Resolution, “including but not limited to: APA approval of doctoral programs, multiple
practicums where competency is repeatedly assessed, completion of formal internship training (also approved and regulated by APA and APPIC), and supervised post-doctoral hours obtained prior to licensure. There is no evidence to suggest this is not sufficient for appropriate training.”

Henke and others have also pointed to multiple hurdles that candidates already must clear,
including two years supervision, a written exam, oral exam, background check, and
jurisprudence exam. Additionally, the law allows the board to require additional physical and
psychological assessments whenever needed.

However, Dr. Rodolfa questions if these standards are enough, saying that supervisors have “…
difficulty providing accurate evaluations of their supervisees to others who may have to
evaluate the supervisee’s competency.”

Dr. Henke has also said, “I am particularly concerned about regulatory boards encroaching
ownership of training standards. The goal of a regulatory board, in my personal opinion, is to provide the least restrictive amount of guidelines possible in order to protect the safety of the public.”

Dr. Rodolfa disagrees and said, “Licensing boards have a mandate to ensure that the professionals they license are competent. Competence is comprised of the integrated use
of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.”

In the LPA Resolution, Dr. Henke said about the new test, “There is no scientific data that support better outcomes regarding patient safety or quality of care. Given that psychologists are uniquely trained to design and create tests, it is concerning that this test is being
proposed without any indication of its necessity for either the field or for the safety of the public.”

Henke and others point out that the evidence from disciplinary statistics suggests that problems are very low.

For the most recent year with records, 2016, total reported disciplinary actions across the
U.S. and Canada dropped 32 percent from 2015. There were 130 disciplinary actions
nationwide in 2016, the lowest number in the last five years. This from the ASPPB
Disciplinary Data System: Historical Discipline Report. This number gives a rate of .001 based on 106,000 psychologists nationwide.

Rates of disciplinary actions for psychologists are consistency low. In 2015 there were 191  actions, in 2014 there were 170, and in 2013 there were 238. Rates remain around 1 or 2 in 1,000.

Louisiana’s rate is similar to the national average. Based on reported disciplinary actions for a five-year period, there were eight separate disciplinary actions by the Louisiana State Board of
Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP) from 2010 to 2014. (Six of the eight involved child custody.) The rate of 1.6 disciplinary actions for approximately 700 psychologists, is consistent with the national rate 1 or 2 per thousand.

Adverse actions and malpractice payments for psychologists and/or medical psychologists in Louisiana over the period of 2004 to 2016, based on National Practitioner Data Bank. Five
medical malpractice payments were reported. The lowest settlement was $10,000 and the highest was $170,000.

For the same 11-year time period, 21 “Adverse Actions” which include board actions, occurred. This is about 1 in 400 for psychologists and medical psychologists, and an estimated 1 in 8,000 if using patients/clients.

“There is no evidence that the public is facing some sort of previously unheard of crisis in terms of safety from currently practicing psychologists,” Dr. Henke has said, and she bases this on facts that even ASPPB helps to gather in their report, ASPPB Disciplinary Data System: Historical Discipline Report.

In her LPA Resolution, Dr. Henke wrote about the EPPP2: “There is no scientific data that support better outcomes regarding patient safety or quality of care. Given that psychologists are uniquely trained to design and create tests, it is concerning that this
test is being proposed without any indication of its necessity for either the field or for the
safety of the public.”

Some say that the technical standards used by ASPPB are insufficient. In 2009, Brian Sharpless and Jacques Barber authored “The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) in the era of evidence-based practice,” for Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

“Professional psychology has increasingly moved toward evidence-based practice,” said
the two authors. “However, instruments used to assess psychologists seeking licensure, such as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), have received relatively little
empirical scrutiny.” They write, “… there is a paucity of criterion, predictive, and incremental validity evidence available.”

Dr. DeMers responded in the same journal attempting to clarify issues and giving some information not published. He agreed with some of the recommendations, according to
the summary of his article.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist Dr. William Costelloe, Chair of the I-O and Consulting Psychology Committee of LPA, told the Times, “… predictive validation studies must be conducted.” This type of research proof is not optional, he said. “Well conducted, scientifically based predictive validation studies must be conducted if the EPPP2 is intended to be used
as a selection tool,” Costelloe said.

Henke and LPA also point to the issue that the test costs fall on the backs of those least able
to shoulder them, new psychologists. According to the American Psychological Association these psychologists carry on average between $77,000 and $200,000 in student debt.

The current EPPP contains 225 items and costs $600 for 225 items, with a four-hour time
limit. Physicians pay $605 for an eight-hour exam, and Social Worker candidates pay about
$250 for a 170-item exam.

More Mental Health, Less Incarceration – Prison Reforms Launched

In an announcement this week, Gov. Edwards said that key parts of the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative,” a package of reform measures passed by the 2017 Legislature, will begin to be implemented. Certain inmates in Louisiana who are currently serving a sentence for non-violent, non-sex offenses, as defined by Louisiana law, will be released an average 60-90 days early. This is an effort to reduce the state’s incarceration rate, the highest in the nation, a pledge the Governor made in taking office.

“Louisiana’s label as having the highest incarceration rate in the nation may be part of our past, but it will not be a part of our future,” said Gov. Edwards.

The package of 10 pieces of legislation is designed to steer less serious offenders away from prison, strengthen alternatives to imprisonment, reduce prison terms for those who can be safely supervised in the community, and remove barriers to successful reentry.

“For more than a year, stakeholders from every walk of life in Louisiana publicly met to
thoroughly review our criminal justice system. Following a model set forth by other Southern,
conservative states, their goal was to make Louisiana a safer place for our children while
being smarter on crime than we have been in the past…” he said.

“Along the way, we will, undoubtedly, find areas where we can improve these changes,” the
Governor said, including “alternatives to incarceration.”

The effort is estimated to save approximately $262 million, with more than $180 million of
those savings being reinvested in programs that reduce the recidivism rate and empower offenders to leave a life of crime.

Louisiana is the latest state to enact such reforms; many others have experienced simultaneous drops in their crime and imprisonment rates. For example, the Texas incarceration rate is down 16% and crime down 30%. In North Caroline incarceration is down 16% and crime down 16%.

The House and Senate votes for S.B. 139 (the bill that includes changes to parole and good time) passed by 26- 11 in the Senate, 75-30 in the House, and then 20-13 in the Senate
concurrence.

This past June, Dr. Raman Singh, Director, Medical and Behavioral Health, Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections, told psychologists at the Louisiana Psychological Association, that the leverage for dramatic changes in the state’s incarceration rate was to institute behavioral health reforms in the Louisiana criminal justice system.

Singh, a medical doctor and cardiologist by training, said, “Louisiana’s incarceration rate
contributes to over-representation of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.”

Dr. Susan Tucker, clinical psychologist and the Assistant Warden at the Bossier Parish
Medium Security Facility, and President-Elect of LPA, introduced Dr. Singh and explained the
significance of comprehensive psychological programs in the corrections and justice system.
Tucker developed the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program nationally recognized 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.

Singh explained to the audience of psychologists and professors that the reasons for over-incarceration in Louisiana are well-established. 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.”

“Incarceration of mentally ill exacerbates symptoms of mental illness. Rarely does incarceration of the mentally ill lead to an improvement in their mental status,” said Singh.

In a related story, in October Attorney General Jeff Landry wrote that taxpayers should be concerned about this “dangerous legislation.” He said that some of those released will
qualify for welfare and that the savings, targeted toward programs to help prisoners with addiction, mental health, and job skills, “…has apparently now morphed…” into more grants rather than taxpayer savings.

Governor Edwards replied that Landry should “Learn the Facts, Stop the Fear Mongering,” in a press release this week.

 

Psychological Scientists Study Hazards of Distracted Driving

Safe driving

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that up to 40,000 people died in auto accidents in 2016, marking a six percent increase from 2015 and a 14 percent increase from 2014. This is the most dramatic increase in 53 years, said Council officials. One of the factors thought to be causing the increase is cell phone use.

An NSC survey of the risky things drivers do while on the highway found that 47 percent of people text, either manually or through voice controls, while driving.

“Our complacency is killing us,” said NSC President Deborah Hersman. “Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn’t true,” Hersman said, as reported by the Safety Council.

Dr. Theodore S. (Scott) Smith from the University of Louisiana Lafayette, and Dr. Melissa Beck, at Louisiana State University, are two of those in the community who are working to uncover the elements of this problem and make a difference.

Dr. Smith is Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department and leads research in his lab, The Louisiana Applied and Developmental Psychological Sciences Laboratory, where he is interested in how cell phone distraction affects the learning process, not only in the classroom, but also how applicable distractions may affect driving behaviors and eyewitness memory. Smith has authored Cell Phone Distraction, Human Factors, and Litigation, published by Judges and Lawyers Publishing and which is becoming a popular resource for legal professionals.

Louisiana State University cognitive psychologist Dr. Melissa Beck is also tracking down the “inattention blindness” that affects us when we are driving. Working with simulators at the Civil Engineering Department, Beck and her associates recently published results of one of her several studies in this area.

For the April issue we take a look at what some of our psychological scientists are trying to do to discover how to make driving less dangerous, and to help stop that one call, that changes a life forever.

Psychology Board Proposes SB 37

SB 37

The Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP) is proposing legislation, Senate Bill 37, authored by Senator Daniel Martiny.

The bill would exempt the LSBEP from requirements for time-limits, called “prescriptive” provisions, in the law regarding disciplinary hearings, according to the digest of the bill.

The Psychology Practice Act currently has a clause that limits the board’s disciplinary investigations to one year, from the time that a formal complaint is acknowledged and the investigation begins, to the hearing.

The present wordings, reported by some to have been added by Dr. Jim Quillin, is as follows:

“… no disciplinary proceeding shall be commenced more than one year after the date upon which the board knows or should know of the act or omission upon which the disciplinary action is based.”

If passed, SB 37 would delete this language. The bill also adds to the psychology statue, provisions for fees in disciplinary actions. These activities are managed by the subcommittee called the “Complaints Committee,” which does not contain a board member.

The current statue allows, “A hearing fee may also be charged at the discretion of the board.”

The new language, if passed, would read:

“(4) The board may charge a hearing fee to include reasonable costs and fees incurred by the board for the hearing or proceedings, including its legal fees, stenographer, investigator, staff, and witness fees and any such costs and fees incurred by the board on any judicial review or appeal.

(5) The board may charge an informal resolution fee to include reasonable costs and fees incurred by the board for a disciplinary action that is resolved by settlement, consent decree, or other informal resolution, including its legal fees, stenographer, investigator, staff, and witness fees.

If passed, the board would also add “or informal resolution” to a paragraph for collecting fees for hearings. Included would be legal fees, investigator and staff fees, as well.

Finally, the bill would also allow applicants for a state license to substitute 5 years of license level experience for one of the two years of post-doctoral supervision, currently required.

 

The Chicago School at Xavier Prepares for 1st Class

This September the first class of doctoral students will start at the new PsyD program in clinical psychology offered by The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans (XULA). The effort is innovative in a number of ways, including getting a head start on aligning with new standards for “Health Service Psychologists” to be approved later this year by the American Psychological Association. The Xavier based program is also innovative because it will focus on applied clinical psychology specifically for the diverse and multicultural context in south Louisiana, and on “growing PsyD Psychologists here,” explained Dr. Christoph Leonhard, department chair for the new program.

“We developed the program to meet the needs of local social service providers of psychological services and of the community,” he said, “and frankly, to provide culturally competent services by people who understand this community, which is a very unique place in many ways.” The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) program will be admitting about 15 doctoral students this fall. The program is hosted by Xavier, the highly ranked New Orleans institution which is the nation’s only Roman Catholic Historically Black College and University (HBCU). “We have applicants from current students in all the HBCUs in the area,” said Leonhard, “including Southern, Dillard, and certainly Xavier. We also have applicants who have already completed their undergraduate degrees at the local institutions. So far, we only have one applicant without a prior connection to the area.” The Chicago School developed and will manage the curriculum and faculty for the new program, and XULA provides support services and hosts the department on its campus. The PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) degree is the only program of its kind in the state, and the only other clinical psychology training after that at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Clinical neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychology in the new program, Dr. Matthew Holcomb, said, “… the PsyD program at Xavier was inspired by the need that southern Louisiana currently has for well trained and qualified clinicians.” He pointed out that from the beginning Leonhard has developed relationships with area agencies for practicum training and externships for the students. “Given that we are a PsyD program, which is invested and emphasizes exposing students to direct clinical work, our students are going to have first-hand experience addressing the multicultural needs of the area, as well as developing an impressive network of professional contacts,” said Holcomb. Holcomb will help train the PsyD students in brain-behavior relationships and assessment practices, his own clinical and research interests being in pediatric neuropsychology.

The program organizers have limited their recruitment to students inside Louisiana. Leonhard hopes to grow PsyD psychologists here, and who will remain here, in order to serve the sometimes unique needs of the Louisiana culture. “Studies indicate that newly graduated psychologists who have to leave the state to get an advanced degree do not return,” said Leonhard. “So the emphasis of this program is to educate and train our own.” To help them reach this goal, Leonhard and his colleagues created an Advisory Committee of local professionals, including two area psychologists, Dr. Janet Matthews and Dr. Michele Larzelere. Dr. Matthews explained that she has met with many of the candidates for faculty and administrators in the new program.

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Dr. Christoph Leonhard, department Chair for the Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Xavier, at his desk. Dr. Leonhard has designed the machine he’s sitting on to help stem the problems for people who have to sit all day at a desk. He has a background in behavioral medicine and health services.

“We have also discussed student recruitment processes, curriculum issues, and overall program philosophy,” Matthews told the Times. “This program is designed specifically to meet community needs,” she said, a topic Matthews knows well, having taught at Loyola for three decades and retiring last year. “With the focus on primary care/integrated care, and cultural diversity issues,” she said, it is ideal for the Greater New Orleans area.” “It has been my experience teaching here for the past 30 years that we have local students who would make solid psychologists but cannot, will not leave the community.” Matthews believes that the new program will allow them to remain in the area, and help assist what she views as an underserved community, in terms of psychological services, she noted. The doctoral students in the TCSPP program at Xavier will complete studies in four models of intervention: Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Humanistic Existential, and Systems. The program includes a Research Clerkship model where the students are paired with mentors from the faculty. Three years of practicum and one year internship are included in the 106 total credit hours that will take five years to complete, and while not yet accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) the program will prepare students to sit for the psychologist licensing exam.

The PsyD program at Xavier will take full advantage of the changes in approach brought about by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires prevention and a focus on primary care and community health. APA will be shifting its training model later this year in response to ACA, and the Chicago Professional School at Xavier will align with these changes. “To be in compliance with what the ACA calls for, we’re now going to be training health service psychologists– –psychologists that provide health service, mental health being a health service, said Leonhard. “Basically the APA is shifting to a new accreditation model for selfstudies due after September 2016, and they are abandoning the G&P, the Guidelines and Principles,” he said, and there will be “new opportunities for clinical psychologists to be health service providers in interprofessional care teams, including in primary care.” “One of the things that most people don’t know about the Patient and Affordable Care Act is that it mandates interprofessional care teams throughout health care but importantly, in primary care,” he said.

Dr. Michele Larzelere is one of the local psychologists who serve on the Advisory Committee and who sees this benefit: “It’s wonderful that the TCSPP at Xavier University training program will be helping to address the nation-wide need for psychologists with primary care competency.” “Since primary care is an excellent way to reach underserved and minority populations, the PsyD program will also be expanding Xavier’s efforts toward its core mission,” Larzelere said, “and providing a tremendous service to the population of Louisiana.” Leonhard has developed the training design to match both the local needs and the new healthcare law and training directions. “So what we’re doing is setting up this program from the word ‘go’ to be in compliance with the new Standards of Accreditation,” Leonhard said. “There is a lot of emphasis about getting out of the silo early. So for example, we’re talking to the Xavier College of Pharmacy about doing some co-training with the Doctor of Pharmacy students here, in interviewing patients,” he said. “And they actually just got a modern interview lab on campus which is basically like a mock hospital room where you can train people how to interview.”

“We used to train people just in one profession––as psychologists, or as physicians, or as pharmacists or as physical therapists and somehow later on they were supposed to figure out how to be part of a multidisciplinary team,” Leonhard said, “So now the emphasis is on interprofessionalism, where the different professions are co-equal participants in the enterprise to improve the patient’s health.” While there are still a lot of unknowns as to exactly how ACA will unfold, Leonhard believes this will be a good step. “I think key is getting psychologists to be the behavioral health providers in the interprofessional teams, especially board certified psychologists,” he said. But the change in training focus will also include changes in the traditional methods. “For example, I’m just rewriting the Psychometrics course syllabus where the scales that are being used in primary care are very different from the battery type testing that a lot of times psychologists do. Because, it is very quick––its five items, seven items,” said Leonhard. “It’s oftentimes tests and scales that psychologists aren’t really familiar with, that physicians use to assess substance use potential or depression, anxiety disorders. Just on the quick, because when you’re in primary care, it’s very fast.” Dr. Janet Matthews also noted that another advantage of the new program is the focus on evaluation methods and outcomes research methods. “As students move into their practicum sites, they will be trained to help those sites do the type of outcome evaluations that is becoming more of a requirement for funding,” she said. “In this way, their work can influence both the quality of current service and also support future growth”. The new program offers two formal focus area — Clinical Psychology in a Diverse and Multicultural Context and Behavioral Medicine/Health Psychology – which Leonhard and his team at Xavier hope to help meet this growing need and to train psychologists for the healthcare services of the future.

Xavier University of Louisiana serves more than 3,000 students at its location in New Orleans, Louisiana and is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Xavier’s Psychology Department, chaired by Dr. Elliott Hammer, will be part of the supporting structure for the program, but is separate in decision-making from the new program. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is licensed by the Board of Regents of the State of Louisiana. TCSPP owns and provides oversight for the curriculum for the Clinical Psychology PsyD program. Tuition is currently $1,260 per credit hour. While the program is not APA accredited at this time, the curriculum prepares graduates for the psychologist licensing exam and to meet requirements for licensure in Louisiana. For more information see www.TheChicagoSchool.edu/XULA.