Category Archives: News Stories

State Facing $1 Billion Shortfall Says Governor, Offers Tax Plan

In a press release January 14, Governor Edwards told Louisiana Legislators to “Act now to address fiscal cliff.”

“Louisiana is well positioned to enter an era of prosperity the likes of which we have not seen in decades, but we cannot pretend there isn’t a very real threat to the significant progress we’ve made,” said Governor Edwards last month and restated his warning in an editorial in the Advocate.

“Louisiana is facing a nearly $1 billion fiscal cliff, which if not addressed by July 1, will force catastrophic cuts to critically important state programs and services that Louisianans rely on.”

“The fiscal cliff is a problem that has been festering since the Legislature approved temporary revenue measures 27 months ago instead of permanent measures that would have historically reformed our tax code.

While lawmakers committed in 2016 to return to Baton Rouge to implement comprehensive reforms, over the course of six legislative sessions the only things they have approved are temporary revenues that will soon expire. Without action from the Legislature, many of the most important services you rely on that are funded by state government will have to be cut. That’s not a scare tactic. That’s basic math.”

Edwards presented his plan for a balanced budget, saying that this is “… one that will show more than $1 billion in state general fund cuts on top of the nearly $600 million in such cuts I have made since becoming governor. Factoring in federal matching funds, the cuts will exceed $2.8 billion.”

He released notes on his plan which includes: Eliminating the 5th penny of sales tax; Making Permanent Reductions to Tax Credits, Deductions and Rebates (Acts 109, 123, 126 of the 2015 Regular Legislative Session); Compressing Income Tax Brackets & Reduce Excess Itemized Deduction to 50%; Cleaning all Four Pennies of Sales Tax based on Clean Penny Exemptions; Taxing Business Utilities at 4% and Industrial Utilities at 2%; and Expanding Sales Tax to Services.

The Governor wrote in an editorial in the Advocate:

“If the Legislature refuses to work collaboratively to fix this problem before March, there will be dire consequences.

“For example, our state is currently on a negative outlook by two credit rating agencies and in danger of being downgraded once again. This will mean it costs more to service our debt. Others are taking our budget problems seriously, and the Legislature should do the same. We must put Louisiana first.

“We can solve this problem, but it requires House leadership to keep its word and offer a plan of action. The speaker of the House and I agree, Louisiana cannot wait. As students decide which colleges to attend, their families need to know what will happen with higher education and TOPS. Long-term planning for major road projects will come to a screeching halt. Our stable and improving economy will lose momentum if the Legislature does not step up, and we will go backward. My commitment is to remain flexible and work with the Legislature. But lawmakers must be willing to work with me. They can’t continue to say no to every proposed solution and refuse to offer their own solution. Within recent months, I have held more than 30 meetings with hundreds of business owners, local government leaders and Louisianans across the state explaining the “fiscal cliff,” answering their questions and listening to their concerns and ideas for addressing our problems. They are weary of our recurring financial problems and want us to we roll up our sleeves and work together to solve this once and for all. I know that we can. Let’s make the most of this opportunity to make Louisiana better for everyone.

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“Hoffman Report” Defamation Suit Continues in Washington, DC Defendants Claim Free Speech Rights; Plaintiffs Point to Leaks as “Actual Malice”

A dispute involving the ramifications of the “Hoffman Report,” a document prepared by the Chicago attorney David Hoffman and commissioned by the American Psychological Association (APA), during conflicts over the role of military psychologists, APA ethics decisions, and human rights policies in APA, was filed in Washington D.C. in late August, immediately following dismissal by an Ohio judge who said the case was not in his jurisdiction.

Motions put forth in the Ohio pleadings and in the new D.C. litigation indicate that the defense attorneys may be positioning themselves to argue that the report falls under free speech protections.

The defamation lawsuit is being brought against David Hoffman, his law firm, and APA, by retired Colonels and psychologists Morgan Banks, Debra Dunivin and Larry James, and also two psychologists who are former employees of the APA, Drs. Stephen Behnke and Russ Newman. The lawsuit alleges reckless disregard for the truth and false statements in a 2015 Hoffman Report.

In December, defense attorneys filed a motion seeking the Court to compel arbitration based on the employment agreements of Drs. Behnke and Newman with APA. Hoffman’s law firm, Sidney, also filed a request that Behnke and Newman arbitrate the dispute with Hoffman’s firm.

In both Ohio and D.C., the defendants filed motions asking for dismissal based on free speech protection laws, called Anti-SLAPP laws. “SLAPP” or “strategic lawsuit against public participation” are lawsuits without merit which are aimed to intimidate or silence free speech, according to the Public Participation Project.

The defense wrote, “Here, APA’s publication of the Report constitutes an ‘[a]ct in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest.’ Id. § 16-5501(1). The publication of the Report is a ‘written . . . statement’ that APA allegedly made ‘[i]n a place open to the public or a public forum.’”

The motion to dismiss also says that the Plaintiffs are public officials or limitedpurpose public figures, calling for the higher standard of not only false statements but of the level of “actual malice,” to be met.

The Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Discovery, saying that they are entitled to limited discovery and that the Plaintiffs are private citizens and plaintiffs should not have to show “actual malice.” AntiSLAPP laws narrow discovery provisions.

The Plaintiffs’ attorneys say that the report was given to James Risen, a New York Times reporter, prior to review and publication, and these actions are evidence of actual malice, said the attorneys.

Mr. Hoffman was hired by APA in 2014 to review interactions between military psychologists, APA officials, and the Bush administration. Then APA president Dr. Nadine Kaslow sought to resolve ongoing accusations that APA was involved in supporting unethical behavior by military psychologists.

The accusations were voiced by human rights activists and psychologists, and had been outlined in several publications, including a book by New York Times’ journalist, James Risen, Pay Any Price.

Hoffman said that communications of a 2005 APA members’ task force amounted to “collusion” with military psychologists and therefore with the Department of Defense. A media furor commenced following publication of the Report, splashing the issue of “torture” and APA across national news outlets. APA paid Hoffman $4.1 million for the Report, according to sources.

In February 2017 plaintiffs filed the defamation lawsuit in Ohio, alleging how the expansion of the investigation was hidden, how Hoffman over-relied on the accusers and aligned with the accusers’ goals, and that Hoffman failed to consider and follow evidence that contradicted the final conclusions.

The attorneys also allege that APA failed to adequately review the Report, failed to give Plaintiffs an opportunity to respond to allegations, and failed to respond to evidence of the mistakes and errors in the Report.

The Complaint states, “The false light in which the Plaintiffs Behnke, Dunivin, and James have been placed would be highly offensive to the reasonable person,” and has caused mental anguish, emotional distress, and “severe personal and professional humiliation and injury to their reputations in the community – reputations they have built over many years.”

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State of Louisiana, BRF, Ochsner Health System, LSU Sign Letters of Intent

Ochsner/LSU Jointly Plan to Operate Health System in Shreveport and Monroe

On December 19, the Governor announced that the State of Louisiana, the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University (LSU) on behalf of Louisiana Health Sciences Center Shreveport (LSUHSC-S) and the LSUHSC-S Faculty Group Practice, the Biomedical Research Foundation and Ochsner Health System announced that they have signed Letters of Intent to create a new, long-term, Public Private Partnership agreement in Shreveport and Monroe.
Under the proposed agreement, LSU and Ochsner will jointly form a new University Health System (UHS) structure to coordinate activities between the school and the healthcare delivery system.

“Both Ochsner and LSU are proven partners who are committed to leading the advancement of healthcare in our state,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “LSU has significant strengths in medical education and research while Ochsner, also committed to academics and research, has tremendous expertise in operating hospitals and supporting the clinical activity of large physician groups. Working together, in a more integrated fashion, we plan to successfully deliver quality, cost-effective patient care in an environment that is optimal for the continued teaching and training of our state’s future doctors and healthcare professionals.”

The UHS structure under consideration would be governed by a new UHS board of directors made up of Ochsner, LSU and community board members from Shreveport and Monroe and in addition a Community Advisory Board made up of Shreveport and Monroe community members, and representatives from Ochsner, LSU and BRF to provide insight into the healthcare needs of the greater Shreveport and Monroe region.

 

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APA Finds Political Stress Significant

The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted its annual “Stress in America” survey to examine how Americans feel and how much stress they are experiencing and why.

Of those surveyed, 63% said that the future of the nation is a significant source of stress, 62% indicated that money stresses are significant, and 61% said that work was a significant source of stress, according to the news release.

APA has conducted the annual survey for more than a decade, and money and work
have consistently topped the list of stressors. In 2017, however, after adding a question with a list of additional stressors, the survey revealed a common new source of significant stress: the future of our nation. While the public’s overall stress level remains the same, on average,
compared to last year, Americans are more likely to report symptoms of stress, which include anxiety, anger and fatigue, said the announcement.

The survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of APA.

The full report is available at http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/index.aspx

The APA Help Center also includes: 10 tips for dealing with the stress of uncertainty and Managing conversations when you disagree politically.

Data was weighted to reflect proportions in the population. The online survey included 2,047 women, 1,376 men with political affiliations of 1,454 Democrats, 698 Republicans, and 672
Independents.

Race of the respondents was 1,088 White, 810 Hispanic, 808 Black, 506 Asian and 206 Native American adults.

About a third (1,122) fell at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and 2,087 were above.

Parents made up 1,182 and those without children were 2,258.

Data was collected online. Because the sample is based on those who were invited and agreed to participate in the Harris Poll online research panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be determined.

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Gov Edwards Meets with President Trump to Address Opioid Crisis

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of LDH, attended a listening session at
the White House with President Trump on October 26 to discuss the growing opioid crisis. Also participating were Governors Bill Walker from Alaska, Chris Christie from New Jersey, Matt Bevin from Kentucky and others.

According to the press release, Gov. Edwards also met privately with Acting Drug Czar Richard
Baum to discuss drug and addiction trends in Louisiana, Gov. Edwards’ priorities related to
drug use, and opportunities to collaborate with the White House in the future.

Edwards praised a decision by Trump to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. President Trump indicated that he intended to file a lawsuit against opioid
manufacturers for their role in escalating the national crisis. In September, Gov. Edwards and
the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) filed a similar lawsuit.

“I appreciate President Trump’s commitment to this issue,” said Gov. Edwards. “This problem has escalated in Louisiana at a rapid pace, and we are taking action to combat the opioid crisis. The president’s declaration will put more tools at our disposal, and will allow us to help more Louisianans who’ve fallen victim to opioid abuse. This is going to take time, and my  administration and I are committed to working with the Trump Administration to provide assistance to as many people as we can.”

According to the White House, declaring a public health emergency will mobilize additional federal resources, including:

• Allowing for expanded access to telemedicine services, including services involving remote
prescribing of medicine commonly used for substance abuse or mental health treatment,

• Helping overcome bureaucratic delays and inefficiencies in the hiring process, by allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to more quickly make temporary appointments of specialists with the tools and talent needed to respond effectively to our Nation’s ongoing public health emergency,

• Allowing the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants to help workers who have been displaced from the workforce because of the opioid crisis, subject to available funding, and

• Allowing for shifting of resources within HIV/AIDS programs to help people eligible for those
programs receive substance abuse treatment, which is important given the connection
between HIV transmission and substance abuse.

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Gov. Edwards Makes Several Board Appointments in Oct

Gov. Edwards announced in October that he reappointed Kathryn A. Steele, Ph.D., of
Metairie, to the Louisiana Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners. Steele is a
licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and professor of counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Steele was nominated by the
Louisiana Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and will serve as a licensed
marriage and family therapist on the board.

The Louisiana Licensed Professional Counselors Board of Examiners is responsible for the regulation of Provisional Licensed Professional Counselors or PLPCs (formerly Counselor
Interns), Provisional Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists or PLMFTs (formerly MFT Interns), Licensed Professional Counselors or LPCs, and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists or LMFTs.

The Governor also reappointed Paul M. Schoen, of Covington, to the Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority. Schoen is a licensed addiction counselor and certified compulsive gambling counselor in private practice. Additionally, he is a veteran of the United States Navy
Reserve. He was nominated by the Louisiana Association of Substance Abuse Counselors and Trainers, Inc., and will serve as a member with significant experience and knowledge in the area of compulsive gambling.

Gov. Edwards also appointed Kerri L. Cunningham, of Lafayette, to the Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority. Cunningham is a licensed clinical social worker, licensed addiction counselor, and the Clinical Director of Victory Addiction Recovery Center.

As required by statute, she was nominated by the Louisiana Association of Substance Abuse Counselors and Trainers, Inc.

The Addictive Disorders Regulatory Authority licenses and regulates addictive disorder counselors and prevention professionals in the State of Louisiana.

Also in October Gov. Edwards appointed Antoinette Q. Bankston, of Baton Rouge, to the Human Trafficking Prevention Commission Advisory Board. Bankston is a licensed clinical social worker and the Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center. As required by statute, she was nominated by the Louisiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

The Human Trafficking Prevention Commission Advisory Board provides information and
recommendations from the perspective of advocacy groups, service providers, and trafficking victims to the Human Trafficking Prevention Commission.

Bambi D. Polotzola, of Opelousas, was reappointed to the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council. Polotzola is the Director of the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs and will serve as its representative on the council.

The Louisiana Developmental Disability Council’s mission is to lead and promote advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change to improve the quality of life for individuals with
developmental disabilities and their families.

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Louisiana Department of Health Files Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers

On September, the Louisiana Department of Health announced a law suit filed against several leading opioid manufacturers for their role in escalating the opioid crisis in Louisiana. The lawsuit, filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge Parish, alleges that the drug
companies engaged in fraudulent marketing regarding the risks and benefits of prescription opioids, which helped fuel Louisiana’s opioid epidemic.

“These drug companies led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive and even suggested that treating physicians prescribe greater dosage units to those who had already
become addicted to opioids,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “As evident by the hundreds of Louisiana families that have lost loved ones due to this crisis, nothing could be further from the truth. We intend to hold these  pharmaceutical companies responsible for the lasting damage they have caused upon our people and the millions of dollars their wrongful claims have cost our state.”

The Louisiana Department of Health is seeking damages for the amounts it has already paid for excessive opioid prescriptions and treatment costs as a result of those prescriptions.
Louisiana joins dozens of other cities, counties and states that have filed similar lawsuits in response to the alarming number of cases of opioid addition and opioid-related deaths
throughout the country. Lawsuits were also filed last week by local sheriff’s offices in Avoyelles, Lafayette, Jefferson Davis and Rapides Parishes.

“By all means necessary, we are fighting the opioid epidemic in Louisiana. All indicators of this problem – opioid prescriptions, overdoses and deaths – are up. Recognizing that a key
contributor to opioid addiction is prescription medications, where 110 prescriptions for opioids are written for every 100 Louisiana residents, we are addressing a fundamental cause of this
problem,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health.

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Dr. Rizutto Leads Rebuilding Project

Dr. Tracey Rizzuto and colleagues are helping those in the hardest hit storm affected areas to rebuild the local business communities, through a group composed of leadership and members of the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology and the Society of Consulting
Psychology, two Divisions of the American Psychological Association.

The effort began recently as the Harvey Organizational Psychology Effort or HOPE, Dr. Rizzuto told the Times. However, the project quickly evolved into an effort between the two Divisions of APA, to be called the Catastrophe Aid and Rebuilding Effort, or CARE.

The group “… is now positioned to respond to a broader range of disaster events,” said Rizzuto, Associate Director, School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, at the LSU College of Human Science & Education.

The interdivisional APA taskforce is working to provide pro bono business recovery services to those in the stormaffected areas, explained Rizzuto. The growing taskforce has over 30
volunteers at present and is working to link with regional leaders in the hardest-hit areas, she said.

The original group, HOPE, started working to connect to local Industrial-Organizational psychologists in the Texas and Louisiana area, to local government administrations, and to
identify businesses in need of services, she explained.

“We’re reaching out to our professional base to inquire about needs for assistance,” such as  housing/food donations, replacing books, assist with academic lectures if possible,” said
Rizzuto.

The current project is modeled after Rizzuto’s work on the Katrina Aid and Relief Effort,” called KARE, Rizzuto said. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the leadership of the Society of
Industrial-Organization (SIOP) called on its membership to deliver needed resources to people and businesses affected by the storm. “The Katrina Aid and Relief Effort (KARE) became SIOP’s
first outreach taskforce designed to deliver pro bono business consulting services with the goal of aiding disaster recovery,” explained Rizzuto.

Along those same lines, the current effort will likely help with a host of services including emotional management, hiring/selection tools, training programs, recruitment, etc.

According to a report in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, KARE provided assistance in managing stress and adversity, change, motivation, and healing from the disaster. Also some of
those served voiced interest in hiring, leadership, training, team management and general business issues.

KARE received commendations from the Louisiana State Senate, the American Society of Association Executives, and the Center for Association Leadership for the work.

Dr. Rizzuto and her team are welcoming voluteers. CARE group volunteers will be placed in complementary teams composed of individuals with a wide range of experience and expertise. Dr. Rizzuto explained that volunteers will work alongside colleagues. “You will not be alone,” she said. The group meets every Wednesday on Zoom.

For those interested in volunteering, the site for the Castastrophe Aid and Rebuilding Effort (CARE) site is: https://www.facebook.com/CARECatastropheAidandRebuildingEffort

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Dr. Leonhard Meets with Medicaid Task Force to Support Innovations

Dr. Christoph Leonhard, PhD, ABPP, Professor in the clinical PsyD program of The Chicago  School of Professional Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana, met recently with the Medicaid Integrated Assessment Task Force, a group created by Representative Barbara Norton and others, with the goal to “make a thorough study and evaluation of Louisiana’s current statewide system of healthcare delivery for Medicaid enrollees with serious mental illness.”

Dr. Leonhard is a member of the Louisiana Psychological Association’s task group to study innovations in healthcare, a committee chaired by Dr. Lacey Seymour. Leonhard is also the Chair of the Health Psychology Interest Area for the Psychological Association.

Representative Norton’s 2017 House Concurrent Resolution No.55 created the Medicaid Task Force, and had noted, “…the mental health and well-being of the residents of Louisiana is a vital issue that affects not only quality of life, but also the health of communities, families, and economic stability.”

According to the Department of Health and the Resolution, the purpose of the Medicaid Integrated Assessment Task Force is to study and evaluate Louisiana’s current statewide system of healthcare delivery for Medicaid enrollees, and especially with concern for those with
serious mental illness.

The task force members should strive to “render objective, fiscally feasible recommendations to the legislature for the implementation of policies that could be adopted by the state for the delivery of integrated primary and behavioral health services for Medicaid enrollees,” according
to the agency officials.

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that people with mental illness are more likely to have chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, than those without mental illness, and those individuals are more likely to use costly hospitalization and emergency room treatment.

Individuals with primary health conditions such as asthma and diabetes report higher rates of substance use disorders and serious psychological distress.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS):
1) Fifty percent of Medicaid enrollees have a mental health diagnosis;

2) People diagnosed with mental illness and common chronic health conditions have healthcare costs that are 75% higher than those without a mental health diagnosis;

3) for individuals with a co-occurring mental illness or substance use disorder and common chronic condition, the cost is two to three times higher than what an average Medicaid enrollee pays for healthcare;

4) and costs of treating those with diabetes is as much as four times higher when a cooccurring
condition such as depression or alcohol addiction is untreated.

The members of the Task Force will be asked to give ideas for innovations that can address these and other issues, and work with the existing programs where feasible.

Dr. Lacey Seymour will be working with a group of psychologists, including Dr. Leonhard, to develop responses for the Medicaid team, according to several sources.

Dr. Chris Leonhard is a health psychologist and originally earned his degree from University of Nevada and completed his internship and postdoc at Harvard Medical School (McLean and Mass General Hospitals). He is Board Certified in Behavioral Psychology and currently is
conducting research in Behavioral Medicine and physical activity promotion

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Psych Board Debt to Reach $400K for 2018

According to Boards and Commission budget tracking for the Louisiana Board of
Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP), the psychology board is projecting a fund
balance of minus $400,595 for 2018.

This comes after several years of overbudget spending that appears to be due in
large part to legal fees. The psychology board is self-funded, and it operates with
income supported by license fees and other service fees.

Based on the budget and financial tracking provided at the Boards & Commissions
website, the LSBEP stayed approximately within budget for most years and carried a
“fund balance” of around $100,000, which appears to function as a savings reserve.
For 2014, the board took in $262,582 and spent $249, 517. The fund balance was
$144,709.

And in 2015, the board took in $263,691 in fees and spent $275,147. For 2015, the fund
balance was listed at $120,188.

However, in 2016, the board spent $336,677 while proceeds remained steady at $265,945. Budget tracking indicates a fund balance of minus $214,818.

The change in the fund balance from 2015 to 2016 is not clear, based on the tracking numbers as given.

For the current year of 2017, expenses are projected to be $388,903. Income continues at the same general level, projected to be $263,265.

The budget figures indicate that board’s projected budget for 2018 will be a fund of minus
$400,595. Expenses for 2018 are projected to be $327,871 with income again holding
steady at $269,755.

The Boards & Commissions site also provides information and various breakdowns of the
budget items, with data from 2010 to the present.

According to the tracking of expenditures from 2014 to 2017, the employee salaries
and benefits have increased from $125,839 in 2014 to $148,946 in the current year.
This amounts to an 18 percent increase.

Over this same time, operating expenses decreased from $66,974 in 2014 to $57,858 in
2017, a drop of 13.6 percent.

Professional services, another category of expense, has increased from $56,704 in 2014
to $135,767 for 2017. This is an increase of 139 percent. For 2018 the total for professional
services is projected to be $182,099, or an increase of 221 percent.

For the budget figures, the professional services category includes four subcategories:
Accounting, Management Consulting, Legal, and Other. From 2014 to 2017 all increased, while legal increased the most at 247 percent.

In 2014 Accounting was $1,331, Management Consulting was $4,495, Legal was $37,882, and Other was $12,996.

For 2017, Accounting is projected at $9,849, Management Consulting is $15,600, Legal is $131,500, and Other is $25,150.

This information is available at

https://wwwcfprd.doa.louisiana.gov/boardsAndCommissions/home.cfm

At the LSBEP regular meeting, held on June 16 at the offices in Baton Rouge, Chair Dr. Darla
Burnett reported that she reviewed the bank and financial records.

According to the minutes, “Dr. Burnett also reported that she had reviewed the current financial state of the Board with Ms. Monic, noting the two biggest expenses are employees and
legal fees. Dr. Burnett thanked Board Members for waiving their Per Diem and Travel
reimbursements in FY 2016-17 to attend Board meetings, committee meetings, and LPA,
and recommended, in an effort to remain fiscally responsible, that the Board continue to waive reimbursement and travel in the 2017-18 fiscal year given the anticipated deficit.

“Dr. Burnett further recommended that the Board continue to actively consider revenue
development initiatives including review and approval of continuing education programs, inactive status, additional licensure types or registration of psychological assistants, providing continuing education workshops, and as a last resort, changes to staff.”

The LSBEP called a special meeting July 7, held in New Orleans, and met in Executive Session, apparently to deal with personnel and financial matters. According to the agenda and
minutes, “The Board reviewed and discussed applicant qualifications for prosecuting
attorney. The Board reviewed and discussed layoffs. The Board reviewed and discussed
qualifications and affirmed the current list of evaluators as approved to perform
psychological/neuropsychological evaluations/fitness for duty examinations under LA R.S. Ch.
37 §§ 2356, 2356.1, 2356.2, and 2356.3: […]”

“The Board reviewed proposals for a contract for prosecuting attorney for the 2017-18 Fiscal
Year due to the current financial status of the Board. Dr. Henke reported receiving proposals and vitas from three well qualified prosecuting attorneys. By motion of Dr. Henke, the Board voted to award the contract to Attorney Courtney P. Newton beginning July 7, 2017 – June 30, 2018, in an amount not to exceed $28,000. The fee schedule should reflect the following rate of pay: $100 per hour plus travel and expenses that are preapproved in accordance with
Policy and Procedure Memo 50.”

Previously the prosecuting attorney, Mr. James Raines, charged $250 hour. While unclear, it appears that Mr. Raines may no longer be with the board.

The July 7 minutes also note, “The Board revisited the need to have a second contract for
Complaints Coordinator. Dr. Boggs moved to offer a contract not to exceed $5,000 for an
auxiliary Complaints Coordinator to Dr. Joseph Constans for overflow or for matters unable to
be handled by Dr. Lambert.”

The board also moved to lay off the administrative assistant. According to the minutes, “The
Board continued discussing its current financial status and outlook. Recognizing that the
Board could no longer delay action given the current financial state versus the time it will take to recover and/or further develop revenue sources, Dr. Henke, moved that in addition to the
recommendations presented in June 2017, the Board temporarily layoff the Administrative Assistant position. The motion passed unanimously.”

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National Group Petitions Federal Drug Administration to Ban High-Dose Opioids

A group of state officials and health advocates are petitioning the
Food and Drug Administration to ban the production of high-dose
opioid medications, saying that the pills when taken as directed
are a daily dose of 90 milligrams of morphine.

The petition was signed by leaders of the Association of State
and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), reported ABC News.

The ASTHO is national nonprofit organization representing public
health agencies in the United States and over 100,000 public
health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members,
the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, formulate and
influence sound public health policy and work to guide statebased
public health practice.

Parham Jaberi, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Public Health
in the Louisiana Department of Health, is listed for the Louisiana
representative.

The petition was also signed by Physicians for Responsible
Opioid Prescribing, the National Safety Council and the American
College of Medical Toxicology. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, physician
advocate for opioid reform, said, “The existence of these
products implies that they’re safe. They’re not,” said Kolodny,
founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and an
outspoken advocate for opioid reform.

More than 15,000 people died from overdoses involving
prescription opioids in 2015. Various sources report that 80
percent of those addicted to illegal opioids became hooked
through a legal prescription

In June Governor Edwards signed measures to help curb the
opioid crisis in Louisiana, where more prescriptions are written
each year than there are residents in the state. Louisiana ranks
#7 in the states with opioid problems.

Louisiana lawmakers passed legislation this year to help deal
with the problems. Act 76 forced limitations on prescribers of
opioids. For acute pain conditions, prescriptions are limited to a
seven-day supply.

Act 76 also restricted prescriptions to minors. “… a medical
practitioner shall not issue a prescription for an opioid to a minor
for more than a seven-day supply at any time and shall discuss
with a parent, tutor, or guardian of the minor the risks associated
with opioid use and the reasons why the prescription is
necessary.”

Another new law, Act 82 set up a monitoring program and
requirements and continuing education requirements. Physicians
must review the patient’s record in the Prescription Monitoring
Program prior to initially prescribing opioids.

In House Concurrent Resolution 21, lawmakers urged health
officials to help undo the attitude changes from drug company
marketing that began in 1996, branding pain as a “5th vital sign”
and a problem to be medicated aggressively.

Authors of the Resolution point out that the Veterans Health
Administration, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of
Healthcare Organizations, and the Federation of State Medical
Boards all embraced the marketing, now resulting in an epidemic
of 180 thousand deaths from overdose, from 1999 to 2015, and a
quadrupling of prescriptions, according to the CDC.

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Dr. Melissa Dufrene Named Early Career Psychologist

Dr. Melissa Dufrene has been named the 2017 Early Career Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association, announced at the association’s annual convention held in June in New Orleans. Dufrene is a licensed clinical psychologist with numerous community and professional involvements. “I am honored to be recognized,” she said.

Her post-doctoral supervisor, Michael Chafetz, PhD, ABPP, said, “It was indeed a pleasure to learn that Dr. Melissa Dufrene was honored for the Early Career Psychologist award of 2017, as she is clearly deserving.”

“She is a strong and compassionate practitioner who fully understands the application of evidence-based methods to achieve desired clinical outcomes,” Chafetz said, “which she also measures. Before I met her for a post-doctoral position in my clinic, she had strong training, especially in her work in the inpatient OCD unit of Rogers Memorial Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” he said.

“In my mind, it is this combination of scholarship and treatment sense that makes her so effective.” In 2014, Dufrene co-authored with Chafetz, “Malingering-by-proxy: Need for child protection and guidance for reporting,” in Child Abuse and Neglect.

Dr. Dufrene currently is a licensed Clinical Psychologist affiliated with the Algiers Neurobehavioral Resource, LLC, where her time is devoted to therapy and psychological evaluations. She leads the clinic’s initiatives surrounding women’s therapy, assessment, and behavioral health needs. In this capacity, she provides services to women patients for issues such as postpartum depression, general anxiety, relationship issues, abuse, and general mental

health.
Her primary areas of interest are anxiety related disorders, PTSD, OCD, depressive disorders, and child behavioral problems.

She has also serves as Adjunct Instructor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Xavier University where she teaches Basic Psychopathology. She has also taught at Delgado Community College and for Instructional Connections. This year she also began working as Gratis Faculty of LSU, where she serves as a supervisor to one of the interns in the program.

She was recently named co-chair of the Early Career Psychologist Committee for the Louisiana Psychological Association. Along with her co-chair and colleague, Dr. Ashley Jefferson, she plans on engaging early career professionals. “We are focusing on increasing the level of involvement of EC’s and students across the state, and addressing pertinent issues in the field,” she said.

Dr. Dufrene serves the broader community in a number of ways. She has served as a member of the Regional Advisory Board for the Alzheimer’s Association where she contributes to community education and support efforts. In 2015 she served as chair of the annual fundraiser event for the association.

She has served as a Partner in Multiple Sclerosis Care, a segment of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to assist patients in accessing quality care and outreach for those living with MS. She provided training on issues of stress management for those with MS.

She has also served as a Each One Save One Mentor, where she works with at risk-elementary students and with school staff to assist youngsters.

Dr. Dufrene trained at Rogers Memorial Hospital, a nationally recognized residential and behavioral health hospital, treating individuals with serious mental health disorders. At this facility, she worked in the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Center, one of only two residential treatment centers in the United States for males and females age 18 and older with obsessive-compulsive disorder and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders.

She earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from The School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute in Springfield, Missouri. Her dissertation was Examination of Executive Functioning Among 9-12 Year Olds with ADHD, Obesity, and Comorbid ADHD/Obesity.

Along with her professional and community service, she has a very busy family life. “And just to keep things interesting,” she said, “my husband and I are expecting baby #2 in December, which will make our two-year old a big brother!”

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Governor Appoints Dr. Leah Crouch to Psychology Board

The Governor has appointed Leah Crouch, PsyD, to serve on the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP) according to a Boards & Commission announcement July 21. Dr. Crouch will begin serving the five-year appointment this month, according to sources.

Outgoing chair is Darla Burnett, PhD, MP, who ended her term in June. Currently serving are Drs. Phil Griffin, Koren Boggs, Jesse Lambert, and Amy Henke. Dr. Lambert is the only medical psychologist with Dr. Burnett completing her service.

In February 2017, Dr. Crouch captured 58 percent of the votes cast in the election and Dr. William Schmitz received 42 percent. The Louisiana Psychological Association submitted both Dr. Crouch and Dr. Schmitz to the Governor, with the association’s request that Governor Edwards appoint the top vote getter, according to sources.

Dr. Crouch is owner of River Bends Psychology, a Private Practice located in New Orleans, where she provides psychological services to adult population. She received her PsyD from the University of Denver in 2006 in Clinical Psychology.

She is also with Tulane University, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, where she is a Clinical Assistant Professor and previously an Assistant Professor, and providing services on an adult, acute, inpatient psychiatric unit for those with chronic and severe behavioral illness.

Dr. Crouch has previously worked for the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, at the Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake, providing services at a Joint Regional Correctional Facility, where she helped restore and prepare prisoners for return to duty or re-enter civilian society. She also worked as a psychologist at the Naval Hospital in Beaufort, South Carolina from 2010 to 2012.

In 2009 and 2010 Dr. Crouch provided services in a juvenile correctional center for Louisiana State University, Health Science Center –New Orleans, School of Public Health Juvenile Justice Program.

Dr. William Schmitz, Jr., is a clinical psychologist with the Department of Veteran Affairs and resides in Baton Rouge. He earned his PsyD from Baylor University in 2006.

Dr. Schmitz, previously served as the President of the American Association of Suicidology, and clinical psychologist, and presented in 2015 as the plenary session speaker at conference of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

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LSBEP to Appeal Judge’s Decision

The Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP) will appeal a recent decision by District Court Judge Michael Caldwell, who ruled that the board’s process violated the Constitutional rights of a psychologist.

On July 27 the Times asked LSBEP Executive Director, Ms. Jaime Monic, if the Board was going to appeal Judge Caldwell’s decision.

Ms. Monic responded the following day, writing, “The Board thoroughly discussed this matter and the Order from the 19th Judicial District Court at a special meeting held on July 7, 2017. With consideration being given to the costs of a new hearing as well as the Administrative Procedures and other statutorily supported procedures that were followed by LSBEP staff, and in consultation with Attorney Amy Groves Lowe, the Board voted to appeal the decision of the 19th JDC.”

On May 2, Judge R. Michael Caldwell of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge said that the procedures leading to the suspension of Dr. Eric Cerwonka’s psychology
license included so many Constitutional violations that the decision could not stand, according to Cerwonka’s attorney, Mr. Lane Roy, in a previous interview.

Judge Caldwell agreed to hear additional arguments from the LSBEP attorney, Ms. Amy Lowe. On June 26 Judge Caldwell heard the additional views but stood firm on his initial opinion, this time using the term, “reeks” to describe some of the process, as described by Mr. Roy.

On July 7 the LSBEP met in a special meeting at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans scheduled from 3:35 to 5:00 pm. According to the agenda the members were to have discussed two matters in executive session from 3:35 to 4:30. The agenda listed the two topics for the closed session as: “1. Review qualifications of applicants for prosecuting attorney. 2. Other in-house personnel matters.”

Also according to the published agenda, the members were then to have discussed the following matters from 4:30 to 5 pm in open session:“1. Prosecuting Attorney Contract 2017-18; 2. Complaints Coordinator II Position 2017-18; 3. 201718 Budget Recommendations; and 4. Eric Cerwonka vs. LSBEP, 19th Judicial District Court Decision.”

At the most recent regular board meeting of the Board, held July 28 at the Baton Rouge office of the LSBEP, Dr. Tom Hannie attended and asked about the appeal. Dr. Kim VanGeffen, Professional Affairs Chair for the Louisiana Psychological Association, was also in attendance. Hannie provided the Times with a recording of the discussion.

Dr. Hannie: “I have questions about that case. As I understand it, the lawyer that was running the trial also had represented Cerwonka in a previous case, and the person who was prosecuting, was a member of the same firm. I’m wondering if the attorneys were committing malpractice by not recusing themselves and if y’all have looked at that?”

Dr. Phil Griffin: “We’ve looked at every aspect of it. I, you know…His attorneys, to me, did a pretty damn good job. I was impressed with Cerwonka’s attorneys. And I don’t know, if there’d have seen something awry … that should have brought that up at the trial, in terms of our prosecuting attorney. Those things, those things quite frankly don’t even enter into what all was going on, why the guy was in the hearing in the first place.”

[Many speaking at same time…]

Dr. Amy Henke: “I would encourage anyone who has questions about these hearings, please come. See what you think. They’re open to the public. Julie was there. I encourage LPA, someone from the association, to see what you think. Watch what we watch, and see what you would do.”

Dr. Kim VanGeffen: “… At least as I understand it, it was not so much the hearing itself, but what led up to the hearing.”

Ms. Monic: “Unfortunately, complaint investigations are confidential. There are avenues for reviewing the board’s policies and procedures. The Inspector General could certainly come in and take a look at that case and how it was handled. That wasn’t an option that was pursued and so now we’re in litigation. Whether or not, as an administrative agency, we acted properly administratively, I believe we did.”

[Many speaking]

Dr. Hannie: “I understand that you, you’re shackled, but when I see that the board is going to appeal I look at the cost of appealing, and sometimes when you appeal, you not only pay your legal fees but you pay the other person’s legal fees and it can get outrageous.” He described an unrelated example where an appeal may be costing $100,000 or more.

“In some of these cases they get six figures, paying on an appeal, just paying the other person’s fees, not just their own.”

Dr. Henke: “We worry about costs too, but our number one charge is public safety. We can’t not pursue something, we can’t just say it’s too expensive–– ‘we’re not going to protect the public on this one because it’s too expensive.’ ”

At the May 12 meeting of the LSBEP, following Judge Caldwell’s initial opinion on May 2, the minutes indicate that the board members discussed the alternatives to either appeal the ruling or to conduct a rehearing of the case involving Dr. Cerwonka. The minutes noted:

“Petition for Judicial Review: Eric Cerwonka vs. Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists: No. C656587 Section 24 – The Board reviewed the Petition for Judicial Review in this matter and the Summary Report provided by Attorney Amy Groves Lowe concerning the Status Conference held on April 21, 2017. The Board approved moving forward with a judicial review before the 19th Judicial District Court in lieu of rehearing.”

Discussion items for that meeting also included the review of Legal Contracts for 2017–2018. The minutes listed the following:

“1. Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips (TPBP) – By motion of Dr. Griffin, the Board unanimously approved an amendment to the July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2019 contract with TPBP to add an additional $12,000, needed for continued legal services.” Taylor Porter is the firm for the Board’s General Council, which includes Mr. Lloyd Lunceford and Ms. Amy Lowe.

The minutes also noted: “2. Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson (BSW) – The consideration of this contract was tabled until July 2017.” BSW is the firm for Prosecuting Attorney, Mr. James Raines.

And the other items were: “3. Roedel, Parsons, Koch, Blanche, Balhoff & McCollister – The consideration of this contract was tabled until July 2017. 4. Other – The Board designated Dr. Amy Henke and Ms. Jaime Monic to conduct interviews for additional legal counsel for the 2017-18 Fiscal Year.” The Roedel firm is the firm for Ms. Deborah Harkins, the attorney often hired for legislative issues.

According to public records the board has had escalating legal fees which stem primarily from charges from the Board Prosecutor, held at one point by Mr. James Raines. Over 2015 to 2016, and into January 2017, Mr. Raines prosecuted 16 cases. Three of these 16 cases amounted to $146,987 of charges from Mr. Raines.

This past legislative session the LSBEP helped pass legislation that removed a oneyear time limit for investigations from the psychology licensing law. The measure also gave the board’s complaints subcommittee the ability to charge fees to psychologists being investigated for activities that do not reach the hearing level.

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Behavioral Health Key to Louisiana’s Problems in Corrections says Director

Dr. Raman Singh, Director, Medical and Behavioral Health, Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections, told psychologists last month that the leverage for dramatic changes in the state’s incarceration rate was to institute behavioral health reforms in the Louisiana criminal justice system. The legislature passed laws in its 2017 session to begin the reforms that Governor Edwards said was a top priority, and some of the key changes Singh explained were needed to overhaul the problems Louisiana has in its corrections and justice system.

Singh, a medical doctor and cardiologist by training, spoke to a packed session at the Convention of the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) held June 2 and 3 in New Orleans.

“Louisiana’s incarceration rate contributes to over-representation of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system,” Singh told the audience, noting that the United States has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world and that Louisiana has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the US. Dr. Susan Tucker, clinical psychologist and the Assistant Warden at the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility, and in-coming 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 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. Singh is responsible for the functional supervision of medical and behavioral health staffs who coordinate on-site care for 19,000 offenders assigned to state prisons, for all off-site health care needs for 38,000 DOC offenders and 16,000 local offenders housed in all state prisons and 104 local jails or detention centers. Singh explained to the audience of psychologists and professors that the reasons for over-incarceration in Louisiana is 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.” Singh said that the 599 criminal statute and 164 mandatory minimum sentences contribute to over-incarceration in Louisiana, which are sentences without benefit of probation, parole or suspension. He said that 55 percent of mandatory minimum sentences are for non-violent crimes and that these minimums “shift sentencing discretion from judges to prosecutors.” Another serious factor is the high rates of local incarceration in Louisiana where there is no treatment. Jails and prisons have a disproportionately high number of persons with mental health issues and people with a serious mental illness (SMI), Dr. Singh explained. 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. Singh told the attendees that there was a complex interplay of multiple societal factors stemming from problems in education, stressed family structures, socio-economic challenges and lack of job opportunities. He pointed out that 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 SMI, 82 percent are diagnosed with a substance use disorder. “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. His vision is to reduce the criminalization of those with mental illness and to resolve the crisis with a comprehensive solutions that provide treatment to those who need it. He promotes the Medicaid expansion and mental health parity. He said that 43 percent of the entire eligible Medicaid Expansion population in Louisiana has a mental health condition, and that offenders with mental illness or substance use disorder can be treated effectively. He wants more outpatient mental health care, more Rapid Stabilization Centers, and emerging models that prevent arrest and incarceration of adults with mental illness, called the Forensic Assertive Community Treatment Programs. To help create alternatives to incarcerating those with mental illness, Dr. Singh said that Forensic Diversion Facilities are needed to help alternative sentencing for offenders with mental health issues and who have committed a minor crime. Expansion of the Mental Health Courts are essential, especially because a majority of offenders are incarcerated for “crimes of survival” such as theft of food or breaking in to find a place to sleep. He wants to strengthen family and communities and help judges divert nonviolent offenders away from jails with better mental health legislation. Dr. Singh serves on the Louisiana Governor’s Drug Policy Board, Louisiana Task Force on Telehealth Access, Louisiana Re Entry Council, Louisiana Medicaid Quality Committee, Louisiana Commission on Preventing Opioid Abuse as well as chairs the Louisiana Commission on HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. He has also been appointed by Governor Edwards to be his liaison to the White House Data Driven Justice Initiative project.

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