Author Archives: Susan

Dr. Laurel Franklin Named 2021 Recipient for Contributions in Psychological Science

Dr. Laurel Franklin, Assistant Chief, Psychology Service, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health  Care System and Clinical Associate Professor, in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral  Sciences at Tulane University School of Medicine was recently honored with the Louisiana Psychological Association’s 2021 award for Contributions in Psychological Science.

“This award is given to an individual who has significantly increased knowledge of psychological  concepts via research and dissemination of research findings,” said program officials. “This year we are recognizing Dr. Laurel Franklin.

“Dr. Franklin’s program of research focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of trauma- and stressor-related disorders, namely posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as  the extension of evidence-based psychotherapies (EBPs) for PTSD to veterans living in rural and underserved areas throughout Louisiana.

She has published over 40 peer-reviewed manuscripts, books, and book chapters and received  over 1.2 million in grant funding throughout her career.”

Dr. Franklin is also the Site Lead, for South Central VA Healthcare Network Mental Illness  Research, Education, and Clinical Center.

Her first author contributions include “The overlap between OCD or PTSD: Examining self- reported symptom differentiation,” published in Psychiatry Research;

“No trauma, no problem:  Symptoms of posttraumatic stress in the absence of a Criterion A stressor,” published in Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment;

“Using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 to examine overlap of PTSD criteria D  and E,” published in Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease;

“Examining various subthreshold definitions of PTSD using the Clinician-Administered PTSD  Scale for DSM-5,” published in Journal of Affective Disorders; and

“27 ways to meet PTSD: Using the PTSDChecklist for DSM-5 to examine PTSD core criteria,”  published in Psychiatry Research.

Dr. Franklin has joined with colleagues to investigate and many other areas of her major topics,  including “Examining the relationships between perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive  symptom dimensions among rural Veterans,” published in Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy;  Anxiety sensitivity and posttraumatic stress symptoms: Associations among female veterans  with a history of military sexual trauma, in Military Psychology, and “Anxiety sensitivity and  substance use: Differential levels across individuals primarily using opioids, cannabis, or  stimulants,” in Addictive Behaviors.

Franklin and Dr. G. Manguno-Mire coauthored the book chapter, “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” In R. A. Carlstedt (Ed.) Integrative Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral  Medicine: Perspectives, Practices and Research, by Springer Publications.

Along with K. E. Thompson, Franklin authored the book, The Post-Traumatic Insomnia  Workbook: A Step-by-Step Program for Overcoming Sleep Problems After Trauma, by New  Harbinger Publications.

She and Drs. Raines, Boffa, Goodson, and Schmidt, have this year authored a treatment manual, An All-Encompassing Approach to Treating Affective Disorders Via Identification and  Elimination of Safety Aids: A Therapist Guide, a South Central VA Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center publication.

Dr. Franklin, along with Drs. Corrigan, Chambliss, Repasky, Uddo, Walton, and Thompson,  authored another treatment manual, with a 2019 second edition, Stress Less: Relaxation  Enhancement Group Veteran and Therapist Manual, a South Central VA Mental Illness  Research, Education and Clinical Center Publication.

She and Drs. Thompson and Hubbard, authored PTSD Sleep Therapy Group: Training Your Mind and Body for Better Sleep, a South Central VA Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical  Center Publication.

She has been awarded numerous research grants including:

Local Site Investigator (PI: Kehle- Forbes, S.) Comparative effectiveness of trauma-focused and non-trauma-focused treatment strategies for PTSD among those with cooccurring SUD  COMPASS). PCORI Award.

$4,997,116. 2019 Co-Investigator (PI: Ennis, C.). Evaluating the utility of a group-based brief  cognitive-behavioral therapy for suicide prevention. Central MIRECC Pilot Study Program Award: $50,620.

2019 Co-Investigator: (PI: Boffa, J.) All about PTSD: A guide to understanding, managing, and  treating symptoms of traumatic stress. South Central MIRECC Clinical Educator Award: $2,600.

2018 Co-Investigator: (PI: Raines, A.M.) An All-Encompassing Approach to Treating Multiple  Affective Disorders via Identification and Elimination of Safety Aids. South Central MIRECC  Clinical Educator Award: $3,750.

2018 Clinical Consultant: (PI: Raines, A.M.) Evaluating the Utility of a Brief Computerized Anxiety  Sensitivity Intervention for Opioid Use Disorders: A Pilot Investigation. South Central MIRECC  Pilot Study Program Award: $38,161.

2017 Co-Investigator: (PI: Raines, A.M.) Improving Access to Evidence Based Care Among Rural  Veterans using a Transdiagnostic Treatment Approach. VA South Central MIRECC Pilot Study  Program Award: $35,911.

Her editorial appointments include the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, and Journal of Psychological Trauma (formerly Journal of  Trauma Practice).

She is an invited reviewer for many journals including: The American Journal of Psychiatry,  Anxiety and Depression, Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, Cognitive Therapy & Research, Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, and Crisis: Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention.

Dr. Franklin has not only contributed to building scientific evidence, she has many specialized  professional experiences including: VA Certified Cognitive Processing Therapist (CPT), VA  Evidence Based Psychotherapy Initiative; VA Certified Prolonged Exposure Therapist (PE), VA Evidence Based Psychotherapy Initiative; Prolonged Exposure Consultant, National Center for PTSD, Evidence Based Psychotherapy Initiative; Submission Reviewer, Division 56 (Trauma  Psychology), American Psychological Association Conference; Forensic Examiner, New Orleans  Criminal Court; Psychological Examiner, Military Entrance Processing Station (M.E.P.S.), as just a  few examples.

New Facts Point to Discrimination in National Exam, Selection Programs at State Boards

The debate over an additional exam for those applying for a state psychology license has shined the light on a nest of scientific problems originating at the Association of State and Provincial  Psychology Boards (ASPPB).

The debate has unearthed new facts and a jaw dropping irony––the psychology profession, a  discipline that preaches anti-discrimination to others, and that sets the bar for selection-testing, has been promoting racism at state licensing boards, and by all accounts doing it for the  money.

These problems might start with the ASPPB, but legally and morally they land at the doorstep of every state psychology board. The situation hits Louisiana particularly hard. While only 4% of  licensed psychologists nationwide are African-Americans, Louisiana has a 34% Black population, a group chronically underserved by mental health professionals. Louisiana is specifically in need of psychologists who understand the Black experience.

For this report we look at current facts, core problems and underlying causes of how organized  psychology is failing its students, the public, and its own goal of fighting systemic racism.

“Adverse Impact” found in psychology license examination program

The psychologist license exam is called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology  or EPPP. After finding racial differences in the New York state pass–fail rate on the EPPP scores, Dr. Brian Sharpless has now found similar problems in Connecticut.

Dr. Sharpless studied 642 applicants to the Connecticut State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. In his article, “Pass Rates on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) According to Demographic Variables: A Partial Replication,” he reported  significant differences in failure rates based on ethnicity.

Whites had a 5.75% failure rate, Blacks had a 23.33% failure rate, and Hispanics had a 18.6%  failure rate.

In a much larger study in New York, Dr. Sharpless discovered an even greater impact by race.  He reported his findings in “Are Demographic Variables Associated with Performance on the  Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)?”

Dr. Sharpless gathered data on 4,892 New York applicants and first-time EPPP takers. He  obtained records of all doctoral-level psychology licensure applicants from the past 25 years  and looked at their EPPP scores.

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

“Adverse impact” is the term used to describe differences in scores. An exam has adverse  impact if minority candidates fail to pass at at least 80% of the majority race candidates’ rate.  The results in New York classify as adverse impact and the Connecticut results clear the bar only by a hair.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the  basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. When state psychology boards deny a  license based only the EPPP scores, they must prove that the test is being used in a fair and 
unbiased manner.

Selection–testing and design of selection programs is most often a subspecialty in industrial– organizational and business psychology. State boards primarily deal with healthcare  practitioners, and are composed of clinicians. So, expertise in selection testing is unlikely to be  involved in all or most states.

“If two states have found adverse impact, it is probable that all or most states will also find  adverse impact. It is typical for knowledge tests to have adverse impact anyway, and this must  be handled in the overall selection program,” said one expert.

One Black candidate told the Times, “We’ve known for a long time that the test discriminates–we learned it in graduate school. But there’s nothing we, as students, can do about it.”

According to one source at the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP), the board makes no effort to study their procedures for adverse impact.

Critics of the national exam have gained momentum, fueled by the ASPPB’s effort to install yet  another, second examination, called the EPPP2.

Dr. Jennifer Callahan sounded the alarm as lead author in her article, “The enhanced  examination for professional practice in psychology: A viable approach?” published in the  flagship journal for psychologists, American Psychologist.

The EPPP2 has not been evaluated for its intended purpose, Callahan said. “For jurisdictions  implementing the EPPP Part 2, failure to gather and report the evidence required for use of a  test in a forensic context may also open the door for legal challenges.”

Dr. Sharpless had also been pointing to legal risks. “… given the ethnic performance  discrepancies and limited validity evidence, […] it will remain open to charges of being a  potentially arbitrary barrier in an already protracted path to professional independence…”.

Industrial-organizational psychologist Dr. William Costelloe, who works in the private sector,  agrees. There is no other choice these days, he told the Times, “… predictive validation studies must be conducted.”

Another business psychologist said that in the private sector the ASPPB’s approach would not  be accepted. “Business owners would not take the risk of having adverse impact. We would be  adjusting cutoffs and adding unbiased tests to the overall selection program, so that our clients  could avoid adverse impact.”

Criticisms have been mostly dismissed by officials at the ASPPB. In an answer to Callahan, also  published in the American Psychologist, Drs. Matthew Turner, John Hunsley and Emil Rodolfa  defended their decisions. “The standards emphasize that licensure/credentialing examinations  are built from a content validation framework, and this framework is used for licensure examinations across professions,” they said.

Dr. Turner is employed by ASPPB and in charge of the exam services. He was previously  employed by the Georgia school systems. Both Hunsley and Rodolfa have also worked with and  provided consulting services for the ASPPB examinations.

Callahan and coauthors replied, “…Turner et al. remain narrowly focused on defense of content  validity and a reliance on outdated standards that fail to meet contemporary expectations for  assessment of health care professionals. […] ASPPB’s methods demonstrably foster linguistic biases and systemic racism that constricts licensure of diverse individuals as psychologists.”

Callahan urged ASPPB to take “drastic corrective action.”

Experts point to serious issues with how states use cutoff scores on the national test, especially  since there is no criterion related research to help set the cutoff.

“A 50th percentile cutoff score, that automatically fails the bottom half of a sample, all who are  highly qualified already, does not make sense,” said one business psychologist. “This is exactly  the way you drive up adverse impact. You’re basically having a bunch of PhDs compete against  each other and then flunking half of them. Is your hypothesis really that half are incompetent?”

Sharpless had earlier noted problems with the cut off scores, typically set at the 50th percentile  by state boards. “Additional empirical attention should be devoted to the cut score…” he said.  “…the determination of the ‘passing’ score is one of the most important, yet difficult, psychometric tasks in testing …”

ASPPB acknowledges the exam limitations. On their webpage officials state, “There is no  suggestion that people who do better on the EPPP will be better practitioners.”

The connection between test score and job performance would require predictive validity  research, which ASPPB does not conduct.

Dr. Costelloe, explained “… predictive validation studies must be conducted.” For instance, “…  you infer that a candidate with a high Extroversion score will make more sales than a candidate  who has a high Introversion score,” Costelloe said. With a predictive study, “… you realize that  your inference was not only completely wrong but backwards. Why? The sales personnel are  interacting with mechanical engineers who must make the decision to switch over these new  valves. They don’t want to relate. They want specific engineering facts and data and they are  introverts.”

Michael Cunningham, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Africana Studies and Associate Provost at  Tulane, points to potential problems with item development.

“Like all standardized exams, people with the highest pass rates tend to very similar in racial  and ethnic backgrounds as the test developers,” he said. “For many standardized tests, experts  examine items for bias when there is an adverse impact of a question for males or females. In  these cases, when bias still exists after an item analysis, the question is excluded. I don’t think  similar considerations are done for racial/ethnic or SES backgrounds.”

ASPPB seems unconcerned with the scientific criticisms and standards. In April 2018, then SPPB CEO, Dr. Stephen DeMers, met with members of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of  Psychologists and representatives of Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA).

About the meeting, Dr. Kim VanGeffen, Chair of LPA Professional Affairs, said, “Dr. DeMers  acknowledged that, currently, there is not really any research on the validity of the EPPP-2.  There do not seem to be any plans to obtain predictive validity nor does the EPPP2 committee  believe that establishing this type of validity is necessary,” she said.

Dr. Marc Zimmermann, past LSBEP board member, also attended. “He [Dr. DeMers] stated that  there is no predictive validity,” said Zimmermann. “He also threw in that none of the national  tests had predictive validity. He reported that content validity was the accepted standard  because a test with predictive validity could not be constructed,” said Dr. Zimmermann. “…  DeMers had the temerity to try to sell us something that does not meet the standard that  psychological tests being published are expected to have.”

Is more regulation needed? Safety estimates for psychologists are very good

One of the arguments that critics mention is the consistently high safety ratings for  psychologists, based on the low number of disciplinary actions nationwide.

“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. Amy Henke, who spearheaded a  Resolution opposing the EPPP2 while serving as a director for the LPA.

“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.”

However, Dr. Emil Rodolfa, then a program developer at ASPPB, questioned 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.”

The facts are on Dr. Henke’s side. Data from their own ASPPB Disciplinary Data System:  Historical Discipline Report show rates of disciplinary actions for psychologists to be  consistently low. For an estimated 125,000 psychologists in the US and Canada, the disciplinary  rates remain around 1–2 per 1,000.

For 2016–2020, the total reported disciplinary actions across the U.S. and Canada ranged from  139 to 186.

Using a conservative estimate of 10 clients per psychologist per year, this translates to a safety  problem of one or two per 10,000 service events.

Louisiana’s rate is similar to the national average. For the year 2019–2020 there was one  disciplinary action, for 2018–2019 there were two, for 2017–2018 there were also two, for 2016– 2017 there were three, in 2015–2016 there was one, and in 2014–2015 there was also one.

ASPPB’s plans for doubling the size and cost of licensing exam

Several sources suggest that profit motives may be the main reason for the cutoff and the extra test. The current EPPP costs candidates $600 plus administration fees. The test contains 225  items, with a four-hour time limit. To compare, physicians pay $605 for an eight-hour exam and  social worker candidates pay about $250 for a 170-item exam. The EPPP2 would increase cost  from $600 to $1200.

Some years ago, ASPPB appears to have embraced a more aggressive corporate strategy. An  insider told the Times, “In 2010 or somewhere around that time they [ASPPB] 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 to the 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 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…” At the same time, ASPPB  increased candidates’ exam fees from $450 to $600.

One 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. The  invitation-only conference was primarily funded by ASPPB. Dr. Emil Rodolfa, Chair of the Implementation Task Force for the EPPP 2, facilitated at the Congress.

ASPPB officials have gone through several roll-out efforts for the EPPP2, first to persuade  member jurisdictions to accept the new test, and then to force the new exam on states.

In 2016 the firm announced the EPPP2 and told its members, licensing boards across the United States and Canada, that the use of the new test would be “optional.”

However, after criticisms mounted, ASPPB did an about face in late 2017 and announced in a  surprise move that the new exam would be mandatory after all, and combined with the tests.  And, the price would increase from $600 to $1200.

In July 2018, Dr. Amy Henke, then serving on the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP), and LSBEP members sent a blistering letter to the ASPPB Board of  Directors, to the ASPPB members, and to the administrators of state psychology boards across the US and Canada.

Following this, in August 2018, ASPPB President Sharon Lightfoot, PhD, announced that the  ASPPB Board of Directors voted to rescind the mandate.

However, shortly after that, ASPPB decided to use a carrot and stick approach. According to an  October 24, 2018 letter from Lightfoot, if Louisiana, or other jurisdictions, chose to decline the use of the new additional test, then student candidates in those jurisdictions would be  prohibited from taking the test. Sources at the Louisiana state board considered this to be punitive, because many students  wished to prepare for licenses in other states, which might require the second test.

Dr. Henke said that at a recent meeting of the member jurisdictions, representatives voted  100% to allow qualified candidates from any jurisdiction to take the EPPP2.

“Unfortunately,” Henke told the Times, “the ASPPB Board and staff have pushed back on both the vote and the formal request. For instance, despite this unanimous vote, ASPPB’s Board has  not acted on the clear wishes of the member jurisdictions. Instead, they have decided to  individually poll each jurisdiction with a survey that I felt was misleading and biased.”

ASPPB’s non-profit & financial status

The ASPPB is a private, non-profit, 501(c) 6, tax-exempt  corporation located in Tyrone, Georgia.

The IRS notes that the 501(c) 6 “… may not be organized for profit to engage in an activity ordinarily carried on for profit (even if the business is operated on a cooperative basis or  produces only enough income to be self-sustaining).”

The corporate mission is to “Facilitate communication among member jurisdictions about  licensure, certification, and mobility of professional psychologists.” The “members” are the 64 or so regulatory boards from across the United States and Canada.

These boards pay dues to ASPPB. LSBEP records note they paid $2,660 in 2020 for annual ASPPB dues.

ASPPB’s net assets for 2018 (the most recent year available due to delays from Covid) totaled $9,137,930. GuideStar estimates their assets at $11,013,348.

Total revenue for 2018 was $6,505,651. Revenue for 2017 was $6,645,731 and $5,933,473 for  2016.

ASPPB’s main income producing product is the national exam. The exam and related services  generated $6,137,348 in 2018. This accounted for 94% of the Association’s 2018 income. Exam  income was $5,378,524 in 2017, and $4,916,406 in 2016.

While they paid $1,302,603 to Pierson Vue Minneapolis for exam administration in 2018, most  other expenses claimed on their tax reports are for employees and employee related expenses.

They report a total of $2,278,482 for compensation of key employees, other salaries and wages, contributions to pension plans, employee benefits and payroll taxes.

In 2018, the CEO, M. Burnetti-Atwell, received pay and benefits of $255,936. In 2017, Dr. Steven  DeMers, then CEO, received $270,784.

Assn Executive Officer Dr. Matthew Turner received pay and benefits of $$171,174 in 2018. He  has four employees reporting to him for exam services.

Assn Executive Officer Janet Orwig received pay and benefits of $158,142 in 2018. Ms. Orwig has 12 employees reporting to her for member services.

The ASPPB website lists other staff, including a business manager, financial officer, two  directors of professional affairs, and an administrative associate.

“With a lot of cash sitting on the balance sheet, the strategy is to maximize expenses,” said an  MBA in reviewing the information for the Times. “The extra profits are likely to go into perks  rather than price cuts,” he said.

Examples of this appear to include items like travel, which includes travel for spouses or  companions. The organization spent $949,483 on travel in 2018 and $1,169,743 on travel in 
2017.

Other examples are $336,175 on “technology,” $188,256 on conventions, $123,053 for “item  writers and exam consultants,” $144,000 on bank fees, $60,610 on advertising, and $55,946 on dues and subscriptions.

It is not clear how oversight is established at ASPPB. The Times asked one CPA to look over the  information and he said, “Of course there is influence and COI (Conflict of Interest).”

Conclusions

ASPPB appears unable to constructively answer the criticisms and mounting evidence that their  exam program, marketed to the captive customers through state boards, is scientifically  deficient and discriminatory.

The state boards have bought into a mess, but do not appear able to deal with the bureaucracy  at ASPPB. Since state boards are typically composed of clinicians, and rarely have the hands-on experience needed for high-stakes selection testing, they may lack the knowledge to fight the  problem.

Ignorance does not fly as an excuse for discriminatory practices in the private sector, so it’s  ironic that it is found in the public and quasi–governmental agencies of psychology.

ASPPB appears too busy feeding off of the exam revenues, and building their bureaucracy on  the backs of psychology license candidates, perhaps especially racial minorities, to wake up. State psychology boards must not ignore the problem any longer. Callahan’s call for “drastic corrective action” is on point. But it is the members of ASPPB who need to take action, with or  without ASPPB bureaucrats.

In September 2020, the American Psychological Association (APA) called for “… true systematic  change in US culture.” Zara Abrams reported in a Monitor article, APA “… is working to dismantle institutional racism over the long term, including within APA and psychology.”

Before preaching anti-discrimination to others, APA needs to start in their own backyard.

Dr. Thomandra Sam Appointed by Governor to State Psychology Bd

On August 6, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced his appointment of Thomandra S. Sam, PhD of  Zachary to the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. Dr. Sam is clinical  supervisor for the Sexual Behavior Treatment Program within the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice.

Dr. Sam fills the July vacancy on the state board created as Dr. Amy Henke completed her  five-year service.

Dr. Sam is from Baton Rouge and was licensed in 2015 in the specialty area of counseling according to her candidate statement. She is a Psychologist V/Office of Behavioral Health/Eastern LA Mental Health System. She earned her degree from Auburn University.

In her statement, Dr. Sam wrote, “I working with diverse clinical presentations, demographics  and within various settings from college counseling, community mental health, a pastoral  center, domestic violence and homeless shelter, a marriage and family clinic and hospital  settings. I am and have been licensed in various states and so I am keenly aware of how a variety of psychologists exist in different spaces both here in Louisiana as well as across our nation. I hope my unique experience adds an additional layer to an already highly qualified  Board and staff.”

“My desire to assist the Board comes from my graduate program’s Social-Justice orientation and strong value to serve the profession and the general community. In this vain, one of my goals is  to aide in creating spaces for Psychologists to feel more comfortable consulting with the Board  to inquire about the best processes, best practice and most informed actions when engaging in  all levels of their work; diminishing the fear of asking for guidance and increasing access to  consultation, informal support or mentorship should be highly supported to create a more confident and effective psychological community. With this goal, there will also be times when someone’s actions or decision-making may need to be reviewed in retrospect; with regard to  what would be my role as a regulator in enforcing the Ethics Code, psychological standards and  laws would require I act judiciously, timely and fairly accounting for context while balancing the protection of the public and the profession.

Dr. Sam wrote, “Additionally, I am Interested in ensuring that Louisiana is ahead of the curve with offering diverse platforms to diverse consumers from diverse Psychologists; yes, that is a  lot of one word in a sentence but its message is necessary. As our society Is changing, it is  important Louisiana is able to compete with the rest of the nation and attract bright minds to  work and advance our state and practice; in doing so, we ensure we are at the cutting edge of  service by creating a healthy Louisiana that recognizes the need for mental healthcare, has access to the care needed and is ultimately positively impacted by our profession toward higher levels of wellness and increased quality of life. Regarded as the father of individual psychology  in some circles, Alfred Adler encouraged us to, ‘Follow your heart but take your brain with you.’ I think being an effective Board member requires a constant balance of both.”

Who’s READING What?

Psychiatric Casualties

How and Why the Military Ignores the
Full Cost of War

Mark Russell and Charles Figley

 

Dr. Charles Figley, the Paul Henry Kurzweg Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health,  Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the Tulane School of Social Work, and Director of  the Tulane’s award-winning Traumatology Institute, has a new book, co-authored with Dr. Mark  Russell, military and trauma expert.

Psychiatric Casualties: How and Why the Military Ignores the Full Cost of War courageously explores the dark side of military mental health and the paradoxical nature of, and challenges in, this  tragic situation.

The authors point out that the toll of war is huge and the prevalence of post traumatic stress is  underestimated, covered over by stigma and fears of being diagnosed, contributing to a culture  with excessive waiting times for veterans, high rates of suicide and addictions, inadequate  treatment and organizational scandals.

The two trauma experts offer a courageous critique of the ongoing failures in military mental  health care in the United States. They take a hard and honest look at the war culture and the  denial of the mental health crisis in the military and the suffering of service members.

In Psychiatric Casualties the authors write, “The psychological toll of war is vast, and the social  costs of war’s psychiatric casualties extend even further. Yet military mental health care suffers  from extensive waiting lists, organizational scandals, spikes in veteran suicide, narcotic over-prescription, shortages of mental health professionals, and inadequate treatment. The prevalence of conditions such as post–traumatic stress disorder is often underestimated, and  there remains entrenched stigma and fear of being diagnosed. Even more alarming is how the  military dismisses or conceals the significance and extent of the mental health crisis.”

The contents:
Introduction: The Genesis of the Military’s Mental Health Dilemma
1. A War to Die For: Casualty Trends of Modern Warfare
2. The Dark Side of Military Mental Health: A History of Self-Inflicted Wounds
3. Cruel and Inhumane Handling: The First Dark-Side Strategy
4. Legal Prosecution, Incarceration, and Executions of Mental Illness: The Second Dark-Side Strategy
5. Humiliate, Ridicule, and Shame into Submission: The Third Dark-Side Strategy
6. Denying the Psychiatric Reality of War: The Fourth Dark-Side Strategy
7. Purging Weakness: The Fifth Dark-Side Strategy
8. Delay, Deceive, and Delay Again: The Sixth Dark-Side Strategy
9. Faulty Diagnosis and Backdoor Discharges: The Seventh DarkSide Strategy
10. Avoiding Responsibility and Accountability: The Eighth Dark-Side Strategy
11. Inadequate, Experimental, or Harmful Treatment: The Ninth DarkSide Strategy
12. Perpetuating Neglect, Indifference, and Self-Inflicted Crises: The Tenth Dark-Side Strategy
13. Toward a Resilient and Mentally Healthy Military
14. Transforming Military Mental Healthcare: Three Options for Change

“We are eager to reach military members and families as well as military veterans to join our  cause and help improve the situation significantly,” Figley said in a Tulane interview with Barri Bronston..Figley served a tour of duty in the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Marine  Corps. And later, as a noted professor at Purdue University, he had a front-row seat to the  failures of military mental health in the United States, reported Bronston.

“Military mental health is mismanaged, disorganized and often ignored and misunderstood,”  said Figley. “The prevalence of conditions such as post–traumatic stress disorder is often underestimated, with the military dismissing or concealing the significance and extent of the  mental health crisis.”

So far, he said the response to the book has been positive, he told Bronston. “Among other  good signs: A documentary has emerged and will be released in September; Military Times  interviewed us, and the article should be out shortly; there has been no negative response so  far.”

As part of their mission to raise awareness of the problem, Figley and Russell appeared in June  in a Facebook Live show titled “Championing Mental Health.” Featured were clips from the documentary “Stranger At Home: The Untold Story of American Military Mental Health,” which  will be released in September.

Figley has published more 160 refereed journal articles and 25 books as pioneer trauma scholar and practitioner. His Encyclopedia of Trauma was named as an Outstanding Academic Title for  the 2013-2014 academic year by Choice, a publication of the American Library Association. The  work is an interdisciplinary guide, bringing together concepts from the humanities, all of the  social sciences, and most of the professional fields, for understanding human responses to  traumatic events.

Dr. Figley enjoys, “A sense of satisfaction of informing psychology and helping psychologists.  Also, I learn lots from practitioners struggling with critical issues never addressed by  researchers,” he explained.

Another of Figley’s books First Do No SELF Harm has garnered high praise, “… because it  addresses––finally––the high prices physicians and medical students pay in managing work- related stress,” he explained. His work has had far-reaching influence. Recently, he was named  the 2021 Distinguished Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association.

Undine/Ondine – A Double Feature

by Alvin G. Burstein

Antedating contemporary concerns about extra-terrestrials, many cultures have some variant of fascination with sea-dwelling humanoids, and feature tales about interactions between them and earthlings. Often they focus on sexual allure and associated danger. Examples are the  sirens that require Odysseus’ crew to bind him to a mast to keep him from succumbing, and  there are the Scotch-Irish Selkies, seal folk that tempt Hibernian fishermen. In psychoanalytic  terms, the sexual appeal of the exotic, noted as far back as Havlock Ellis’s writings on the  psychology of sex, may have its roots in an incest taboo; be that the case or not, one cannot fail  to be impressed by the trans-cultural ubiquity of mermaid tales in which desire and danger are  linked.

It has been almost a quarter of a century since the movie Splash, a rom-com, introduced Tom  Hanks to the public as fishmonger. As a child he had been rescued from being drowned by a mermaid played by Daryl Hannah, and years later, she returns to lure him into joining her in her maritime world. The film was popular, earning Oscars; it is one I have seen and enjoyed more than a few times.

In that context, it is unsurprising that I would want to see a new German/French drama by Christian Petzold, Undine. More, I decided on a double feature. I chose to view it along with  Ondine, a 2009 Irish film. These are variant spellings of the same being: a female sea-creature  that is attracted by and to male lovers, and poses a danger to them.

With very similar basic plots, the two films are very different in style and in emotional tone. The  earlier, Irish film has a streak of humor that makes its male star, Colin Farrell, appealing as a recovering alcoholic fisherman, Syracuse, who pulls Ondine, played by Alicia Bachleda, out the  water in his trawling net. She brings him astonishing good fortune in his hitherto marginal  fishing efforts and supports his efforts to help his precocious young child deal with her serious  kidney disease. All the characters, including a surprising tolerant priest, are appealing, but the  selky magic is abruptly dispelled in its ending.

Undine has little humorous relief. Played by Paula Beer, we meet Undine outside the museum  where she works as a docent. She is at a café, as her lover, Johannes, played by Jacob  Matschenz, is letting her know that he wants to end their relationship. She warns him that if  that happens, she will have to kill him. She must leave the meeting to begin her lecture about  the reconstruction of post-war Berlin, but she warns him to stay at the café to await her return.  She returns to find him gone. While searching for him she meets a man, a deep sea technician,  Christoph, played by Franz Rogowski, who attended her talk. He wants to strike up a relationship with her. She is not interested, but, in a murkily surreal series of events, they  manage to destroy a large aquarium containing, along with fish, a deep sea diver figurine.  Undine is injured by a shard of the aquarium glass, and Christoph gives her first aid.

Undine and Chistoph become lovers, and she accompanies him in some of his undersea  adventures. They include encounters with a nightmarishly huge catfish. Their relationship  deepens, but a catastrophic underwater accident leaves Christoph in a coma which is said to be  irreversible. A distraught Undine, whom Christoph has confronted about her lingering interest  in her former lover, is driven to carry out her threat to kill Johannes, and to end her earthly life.

Eventually, Christoph recovers, and after fruitless efforts to find Undine, begins a new life. The  tragedy takes another turn when Johannes tries again to make contact with Undine.

A dark, stormy and unsettling tale, a striking counterpoint to the wit and romance of Ondine.

How Long is Your To-Do-List?

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is
the only one you know you have for sure.” Oprah

My mother used to be famous for telling our family: “It’s hard work having a good time.” I was  remembering that as I sat nursing a bump on the head from forgetting to duck under an open  cabinet door while rushing around setting up camp this weekend. At the same time, I was thinking about writing this column and wondering what to write about.

We used to laugh when mom said “it is hard work having a good time” but the more I live life,  the more I realize the truth of it. Life seems to be all about hurrying to DO things. We seem to  try to pack in as much as we can into each day. The more we put into the schedule, the more stressful the day becomes. For one thing, nothing ever goes as quickly or as easily as we plan,  thanks to things like traffic, the weather, the unexpected phone calls or unplanned things we  simply have to deal with. The meeting we planned doesn’t happen because the Zoom connection was bad, or the other person forgot, or they had an emergency or something.

Life in the fast lane. There is an explosion in one part of the world, and it is world news within  the same hour. What precautions do you take to erase some of that stress daily? Or, do you just let it build up until you realize you are exhausted.

How long is your To Do List? The busier we are the more we think we can add to the daily To Do List. After all, we are very fast and efficient at getting things done. Or, at least, that is what we  tell ourselves.

To change this pattern, you have to be conscious of (aware of) so much from minute-to-minute  in your day. Start by becoming aware of not over-booking yourself and not underestimating  how long it takes to do things. That is a tough one for most of us. If you are honest with yourself, you will recognize that you underestimate most everything from how long it takes to  drive to work to how long it takes to write that report. I spent years estimating my drive to the  office from Mandeville to Metairie was 30 minutes. It is and always has been 40 minutes – even  with no traffic or bad weather.

And, most important, I will bet that none of you think about putting a real break into your To- Do-List, a period where you can just BE for a few minutes, breathe, stretch, drink some water,  and STOP THINKING! Why not put the paper down and take a few minutes right now to just BE.

Dr. Rizzuto Named Interim Director of the LSU School of Leadership & HRD

Dr. Tracey Rizzuto, expert in industrial–organizational psychology, has been appointed the  interim director of the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development by the Louisiana State University College of Human Sciences & Education.

Dr. Rizzuto is the associate director of the School of Leadership & Human Resource  Development at LSU. She is the Mary Ethel Baxter Lipscomb Memorial Endowed Professor of Human Resource, Leadership, and Organizational Development.

“Rizzuto has taken an active role in research that benefits local and state interests, such as  workplace disaster recovery through the Katrina Aid and Relief Effort (KARE), the Baton Rouge  Choice Initiative, and smart policing and prosecution initiatives like the Baton Rouge Area  Violence Elimination (BRAVE) program and Crime Strategies Unit (CSU),” noted officials.

Dr. Rizzuto is associated with over $9M in grant from state and federal sources including NSF,  the U.S. Department of Interior, and Department of Education and Department of Justice, said  the officials. “Her research is published in journals across disciplines including psychology,  management, information systems, sociology, and education, and has been featured in popular media outlets such as The New York Times, National Public Radio’s Market Place and American Public Radio Works. She was also a 2015 TEDxLSU speaker.”

Dr. Rizzuto received her PhD from Pennsylvania State University in industrial and organizational psychology, with a minor concentration in information systems and technology. The over-arching focus of her research program is on developing human capital and organizational  capacity through technology-mediated processes, with the goal of increasing access to the knowledge, expertise, and resources needed to manage change in the modern workplace. Her  secondary research interests include workforce aging issues and understanding change  reactions to workplace disasters.

“The School of Leadership & Human Resource Development is critical in achieving the college  mission to improve quality of life across the lifespan, and I am confident that our students,  programs, and faculty research will thrive under her leadership during this time of transition,”  said Dean Roland Mitchell.

In her current role, Dr. Rizzuto is hoping to recruit additional professionals to help her with growing research responsibilities. According to the job announcement, she is recruiting a social  science researcher as a project coordinator/post doc for several NSF-funded, multi-year, multi-institutional projects that study and enhance the diversity of graduate students and  professionals across a variety of workplace settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veto Override Fails by Two Votes – Women’s Sports at Center of Political Clash in SB 156

In a clash of ideologies and efforts to discern whether the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act”  would promote discrimination or protect against reverse discrimination, the Louisiana House of Representatives failed to override the Governor’s veto, sending SB 156 to the dust bin.

The measure, authored by Senator Beth Mizell, would have had the effect of prohibiting  transgender females, those assigned as male at birth, from competing in traditional women’s  sports.

In the 2021 regular legislative session, SB 156 easily passed both the Senate (29–6–4) and the House (78–19–8).

But on June 22, Gov. Edwards announced he had vetoed the bill, stating “… discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana.” And, “Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health.”

On July 20 the Legislature convened a veto override session for the first time since the 1974  constitution. Sources report a primarily reason for the session was to override the veto on Mizell’s SB 156.

The Senate narrowly overcame the veto with a 26–12–1vote. However, the House vote, 68–30-6,  fell two votes short of the super majority needed to override the Governor’s veto.

Mizell’s bill highlights the crossroads of transgender individuals’ rights and the rights of  biological female athletes. The issue has galvanized both the political left and right across the  country.

The conflict is likely in response to the national level legislation, H.R. 5, “Equality Act,” submitted  in the US Congress and passed at the federal level by the House. The Equality Act would allow  those assigned at birth as males to compete as females following gender reassignment. H.R. 5  is waiting a vote in the US Senate.

Idaho was the first state to react, passing a “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” in 2020, which  requires transgender student-athletes to compete based on their gender assigned at birth. The  American Civil Liberties Union has sued to block the law’s enforcement, but a number of states  have followed Idaho’s example. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and West Virginia. According to the data from the Progressive Action Fund, 25  similar bills have been introduced at last count.

The American Psychological Association opposes these measures, stating, “Transgender children vary in athletic ability, just as other youth do. There is no evidence to support claims  that allowing transgender student athletes to play on the team that fits their gender identity  would affect the nature of the sport or competition.”

The Louisiana Psychological Association opposed SB 156 and the Louisiana School  Psychological  Association labeled the bill as discriminatory saying, “SB 156 runs counter to our obligation to support all students’ dignity and privacy, particularly those with transgender and gender diverse backgrounds.”

The two sides presented their ideas in the committee. In the original Senate Committee  hearing, during the spring legislative session, Senator Mizell opened her arguments by highlighting the advancements made by female athletes since Title IX and the 70s.

“The strides that have been made for women athletes to reach the pinnacle of where they are  now is something that we should not take for granted and allow that to be lost.”

Mizell gave the example of Chelsea Mitchell from Connecticut, where transgender athletes  have  captured 15 titles that previously belonged to nine different girls. Chelsea Mitchell  reported it to be a “devastating experience” that impacted her college scholarship opportunities.

Sheila Thompson Johnson, high school and college player, coach and Athletic Director at  Louisiana College said she was a product of Title IX and would never have gone to college  without her scholarship. She said there are very few spots for girls at the top and she wants to
“…preserve the fair and equal opportunities guaranteed to them by federal law…”

Glason Bernard, LSU graduate and track and field athlete also spoke. Both he and Johnson said  they feel strongly that there are biological differences between men and women that cannot be dismissed.

Also speaking in support of Mizell’s bill was a representative from Louisiana Association of Superintendents, and a football coach and member of Louisiana High School Athletic  Association (LHSAA).

The Executive Director for the LHSAA spoke and stated that the Association has a policy and  position paper regarding this situation and the association is in support of the bill.

Senator Katrina Jackson asked if the policy includes those males who go through gender  therapy and become trans females. “Can they then qualify to compete in the females group?”

He answered yes, “That’s in the position paper.” Jackson pointed out that LHSAA has a  conflicting statement between the bylaws and the policy and Sen. Mizell’s bill would clear that up. He agreed.

Sen. Jackson referenced a study noting that the transgender individual still has a  9% advantage over their biological female counterparts. “I’ve looked for studies, talked to physicians, and when I looked at this bill. I looked at affirming hormone therapy and would that  change the athletic ability, […] to basically level out the playing field. And what the journals are telling me is–no. That’s where I get a concern.”

Testifying in opposition to the bill was Dr. Clifton Mixon, member of the Louisiana Psychological  Association’s legislative committee, Sarah Jane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality,  Dr. Melissa Flournoy, chair of Louisiana Progress Action, Dylan Wagues back from True Colors  United, Alexis Canfield from STAR, and Chris Kaiser from the ACLU of Louisiana.

Dr. Mixon said, “I want to clarify some of the misstatements. First of all, this bill is about  discrimination. It is about something that is not a problem currently. And I want to highlight a  couple of statements I heard that evidences what underlies this bill. ‘You don’t get to play God.’ I think is a direct attack against transgender persons,” he said.

“Also, calling people biological males instead of identifying them as females inherently identifies your opposition and the authenticity of them being who they are.” Dr. Mixon talked about the  impact that this bill will have on the psychological development of all girls, not just transgender girls. He indicated that he worked closely with endocrinologists and encouraged Senator Mizel  and others to “… continue to listen and learn.”

Sarah Jane Guidry, Executive Director for Forum for Equality, Louisiana’s LGBTQ human rights  organization, also spoke in opposition. She cited statistics on how difficult and how much harassment transgender individuals experience in school. 

Dr. Melissa Flournoy, chair of the Louisiana Progress Action, said that she does not feel that the legislation is necessary, that there has been no issues in Louisiana.

Dylan Waguespack, Director at Cindy Lauper‘s nonprofit True Colors United, said the bill goes too far on these issues and needs further work.

Alexis Canfield, from STAR, discussed the psychological impact on transgender individuals and  Chris Kaiser, with the ACLU of Louisiana, spoke on the potential for discrimination against  transgender individuals.

During the testimony, Sen. Katrina Jackson suggested that Dr. Mixon had inferred that anyone who votes for this bill was “transphobic.” Jackson said she did not want anyone thinking she was transphobic, that this was about protecting women’s athletics, and that people of certain faiths  may see the issue differently.

Ultimately Jackson voted against overriding the Governor’s veto. In a July 21 press release, she  explained that she and others voted to sustain the governors veto “… based on a technicality  that undermined the existing policy from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. In the  announcement, Senators Barrow and Jackson, and Representatives Johnson, Brown, Cormier,  and Moore, jointly stated that, “The current LHSAA policy is more restrictive and allowing this  bill to move forward would have undermined the current rules.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Governor Urges Precautions as Louisiana Hits Record Covid Cases

On July 27, the Governor said that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Louisiana both hit records, and urged individuals to take immediate precautions for their own and others’ safety.

The Louisiana Department of Health announced 6,797 new COVID-19 cases reported to the state since July 26, 2021, the second highest single-day case count reported since January 6, 2021 (6,882 cases reported that day). Also, 1,390 people have been hospitalized, the largest single-day increase since March 2020.

“To see this current rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is becoming increasingly scary,”  said Gov. Edwards. “We reported nearly 6,800 cases today in addition to the nearly 8,000 that  were reported from the weekend. And today, there are close to 1,400 COVID patients hospitalized statewide …approximately 90 percent of whom are unvaccinated. This is the largest single daily increase since March of last year.

“As I said recently, this surge is on us, and that means it is up to each of us to do our part to bring it to an end. It’s within our power. Getting vaccinated is the best way to stay safe and healthy during this pandemic. It is the best way to put it behind us. In addition, I am  recommending that everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, wear masks while indoors if six feet of physical distance cannot be maintained.”

“COVID is surging in Louisiana and it is not slowing down. As the dangerous and dominant Delta  variant continues to spread and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to skyrocket, we urge all individuals in Louisiana to protect themselves and their families,” said Dr.  Joseph Kanter, State Health Officer.

“Mask while indoors and get tested if you suspect you’ve been exposed to COVID-19. These are  public health emergency measures that will limit death and suffering during this fourth surge.”

In a press release on July 16, officials said:

•The number of new cases diagnosed each day in Louisiana has been increasing since June 16  and is now increasing in all nine regions of the state; 

• The settings with the greatest outbreak increases included camps, child day cares, religious services and restaurants;

• In addition to the widespread circulation of the more transmissible Delta variant, insufficient  masking and distancing, especially among unvaccinated individuals, are also contributing to the  spread of COVID-19 in these settings.

On July 30, the Governor’s office disclosed that two members of Gov. Edwards’ team have  tested positive for COVID-19, according to the press release.

Both are at home in isolation, per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Health, according to the press release.+

The Governor’s office has a high rate of fully vaccinated staff, including these staffers who were  vaccinated against COVID earlier this year, according to the press release.

While breakthrough cases such as these do happen, they typically do not result in serious  illness.

The Governor’s Office practices all CDC and LDH recommended COVID mitigation measures,  including indoor masking, quarantine and isolation, and COVID testing after exposure, according to the press release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Charles Figley Named Distinguished Psychologist for 2021

Dr. Charles Figley, the Paul Henry Kurzweg Distinguished Chair in Disaster Mental Health,  Professor and Associate Dean for Research in the Tulane School of Social Work, and Director of  the Tulane’s award-winning Traumatology Institute, has been named the 2021 Distinguished  Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA).

LPA Awards Chair, Dr. Laurel Franklin noted that Dr. Figley has exhibited “…exemplary contributions to Psychology. We were especially impressed with the breath of your mentorship,  clinical, and research endeavors in the area of trauma and trauma-related disorders.”

Dr. Figley has served as co-founder of two graduate programs at Tulane. He served as Founding Program Director of Tulane’s Master of Science degree in Disaster Resilience Leadership Program and as Founding Program Director of the City, Culture, and Community PhD Program.

“I was shocked and delighted to be named Distinguished Psychologist by the State Association,”  said Dr. Figley. “Thank you so much. This is among the most welcomed and prized awards I  have received. I am too old to cry but never too old to scream with delight!”

Included among his many accomplishments, Dr. Figley has served on the American  Psychological Association (APA) Council of Representatives and on the Executive Council of  APA’s Division on Trauma Psychology.

He has served on numerous editorial boards including for Family, Systems, and Health, Journal  of Family Psychology, and Traumatology. He is founding editor of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, the Journal of Family Psychotherapy, and the international journal, Traumatology. He is also Founding Editor of the Book Series Death and Trauma, Innovations in Psychology, and  continues to as Editor of the Psychosocial Stress Book Series.

He has published more 160 refereed journal articles and 25 books as pioneer trauma scholar  and practitioner.

His Encyclopedia of Trauma was named as an Outstanding Academic Title for the 2013-2014  Academic year by Choice, a publication of the American Library Association. The work is an interdisciplinary guide, bringing together concepts from the humanities, all of the social  sciences, and most of the professional fields, for understanding human responses to traumatic events.

His newest book is Psychiatric Casualties: How and Why the Military Ignores the Full Cost of  War, co-authored with Mark C. Russell and published by Columbia University Press.

The authors write, “The psychological toll of war is vast, and the social costs of war’s psychiatric  casualties extend even further.  

Yet military mental health care suffers from extensive waiting lists, organizational scandals,  spikes in veteran suicide, narcotic over-prescription, shortages of mental health professionals,  and inadequate treatment. The prevalence of conditions such as post–traumatic stress disorder is often underestimated, and there remains entrenched stigma and fear of being diagnosed.  Even more alarming is how the military dismisses or conceals the significance and extent of the  mental health crisis.”

Dr. Figley’s Encyclopedia was one of the sources for Tulane’s “MOOC,” one of Figley’s many  innovations at Tulane. An MOOC, sor  Massive Open Online Course, is a trend in higher education that allows for online enrollment extending to other states and even other nations.  Figley’s training invention was the first free course in the world about trauma, and the first MOOC for Tulane.

“It’s the first of its kind anywhere,” said Dr. Figley in a previous interview. “The original MOOC  model was flawed. MOOCs were simply the traditional classroom structure…” They were often  only videotaped lectures moved online and free. But, “They were boring, rigid, and rather  inflexible,” he explained. “We chose to invent a new platform that would make it easier and  more fun for students to use all platforms––ipad, smartphones, computers––to access all  course material, when they wanted it, where they wanted it, and we made it much more  interactive and engaging,” he said.

Dr. Figley has made training others a key element of his vision. He has regularly presented at  the American Psychological Association and regional associations topics such as, “First Do No  Self-Harm––Self-Care Strategies for Psychologists Working with Trauma Survivors,” “Compassion  Fatigue and Promoting Regeneration in Psychologists” and “Stress Management  skills and Developing a Self-Care Plan.”

“Burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and secondary traumatic stress reactions are  frequently found among psychologists and others who deliver humane human services,” said  Figley. “These problems are an indication of low resilience that can be corrected with proper training for workers and their supervisors. I love helping in this way,” he told the Times.

Dr. Figley enjoys, “A sense of satisfaction of informing psychology and helping psychologists.  Also, I learn lots from practitioners struggling with critical issues never addressed by researchers,” he explained.

Figley’s book First Do No SELF Harm has garnered high praise, “… because it addresses–– finally––the high prices physicians and medical students pay in managing work-related stress,”  he explained.

His work he has had far-reaching influence. In 2018 Dr. Figley and Reggie Ferreir, Director of  the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, visited Puerto Rico to assess the status of the area  after one year following landfall of the Category 4 hurricane, Maria. Reported by Tulane magazine, the two were working with the Foundation for Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization,  to promote economic and social development.

Figley and Ferreira helped assess the area’s needs in disaster recovery and mental health  services, and also trained organizational leaders in disaster resilience and leadership for recovery.

He is a former professor at both Purdue University (1974-1989) and Florida State University  (1989-2008) and former Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Distinguished Professor at the Kuwait  University (2003-2004). In 2014 Dr. Figley received the John Jay College of Criminal Justice  honorary degree of doctor of letters, honoris causa.

Dr. Figley notes on his website that he has many passions, among these is social justice with  special focus on those overlooked: “This passion emerged in high school, continued during his  service in the US Marine Corps, especially his war service in Vietnam where he worked with his  high school in Springboro, Ohio to collect and ship several tons of school and hygiene supplies  to his Marine unit in Da Nang for distribution to the children at the Catholic orphanage and  school.

After graduation he spent considerable time as a volunteer and as a scholar to help war  veterans cope with their mental health, disaster survivors, secondary trauma survivors, and others who experienced traumatic stress injuries. He continues his humanitarian efforts today,  focusing inequities in the treatment of Native Americans, torture trauma survivors, and the  elimination of on trauma stigma.”

Dr. Figley and wife Dr. Kathy Regan Figley own and operate the Figley Institute, a professional  training company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Signs Budget Bill, Investing in Higher Education

In June, Gov. Edwards signed the budget bill, announcing that the measure invests in many of  the Governor’s key priorities, including increased funding for education, promoting continued  economic recovery from the pandemic, and creating substantial new investments in  infrastructure. 

“In terms of higher education,” said the Governor, “the budget supports a $19.8 million faculty  pay raise, and additional $14.5 million in the funding formula for both four and two year  institutions, fully funds TOPS as well as a historic $11.1 million increase in GO Grant funding. All of this is critical to supporting our educational systems as we come out of a challenging year  and creating first class learning environments in Louisiana,” the Governor said.

According to the press release, Louisiana’s budget uses federal coronavirus recovery dollars in the state’s ongoing response and long-term resurgence following the pandemic, without  creating structural budget issues in the future. Because of these increased revenues, teachers  will receive an $800 pay raise and school support workers will receive a $400 pay raise. These raises are not enough, said the Governor, but they are another critical step forward in reaching our goal of getting teacher pay back to the Southern regional average.

“The budget I signed today is a far cry from past years, thanks to increased revenues and additional federal funding to support the state’s recovery from the pandemic,” Gov. Edwards said. “It makes significant investments in education at every level, provides support for families  on Medicaid, those living with disabilities, foster families and adoptive parents working with the  Department of Children and Family Services, and promotes access to important services for the  elderly. It invests in infrastructure, economic development, public safety and our continued  efforts to reform Louisiana’s criminal justice system.

“Thanks to bipartisan cooperation and a commitment to responsible budgeting, Louisiana  enters the next fiscal year more resilient and ready to resume robust economic growth.”

In related news, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) pointed out its list of  bills passed by the legislature that LABI leaders said can change the Louisiana business climate  for the better.

“This has been an extremely collaborative session where legislators worked together to develop innovative solutions for the good of the people of Louisiana,” said Stephen Waguespack,  resident of LABI.

The association pointed out positive legislation for tax reform, transportation infrastructure funding, school choice appeals process, school funding transparency, paycheck protection, and  a ban on deceptive attorney advertising. 

“The bills passed this session— with great bi-partisan support— will untangle Louisiana’s confusing tax code and improve the business climate for those in our state as well as those looking to invest here. While tax reform and infrastructure funding were front-and-center in the public’s eye this session, we can’t overlook some of these long-sought solutions to problems  plaguing our business community. These are major milestones on the path toward economic  opportunity in Louisiana,” said Waguespack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislature Closes Shop June 10, Gov. Signs HB 477 into Act 238

House Bill 477, put forth by the state psychology board, was signed by the Governor on June 11  and became Act 238. The new law goes into effect August 1, 2021.

Act 238 allows the state psychology board to charge a registration fee for each assistant to a  psychologist, not exceed $50.

Also, the board will be able to charge an application and renewal fee, up to $250, to an  individual who sponsors a continuing professional development (CPD) course or activity and seeks pre-approval. A licensee who seeks pre-approval of a CPD course can be charged $25.

Act 238 also allows the board to charge “reasonable” fees for a CPD activity which may be  offered, sponsored, or co-sponsored by the board.

The board will be able to charge up to $200 for special services such as applications for  authority to conduct telesupervision, for emeritus status, for written or computer-generated  license verifications, or mailing lists.

The measure, authored by Rep. Joe Stagni, was a compromise measure following the  downsizing of a 23-page bill introduced by the psychology board in 2020 and then again this  year. Under pressure from opponents, the board agreed to substitute a “fee bill,” telling sources that without the increased fees the board would not be able to operate in the future.

On the Senate floor, an amendment was attached to the bill by Alexandria Sen. Jay Luneau to  rename the 2009 Act 251. Luneau’s amendment renames Act No. 251 of the 2009 Regular  Session “The Dr. James W. Quillin, MP, Medical Psychology Practice Act.”

The Legislative Fiscal Office note indicates that Act 238 changes should total to $78,750 per  year. The office estimates that $50,000 of this amount will come from continuing professional  development preapproval applications. The Office also estimates initial registration of  unlicensed assistants will grow to 420 and produce revenue of $21,000.

According to the explanation from the Fiscal Office, estimates and reasoning included:

“(1) Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Preapproval Applications: 200*$250=
$50,000-$50,000 is presumed based on 1/3 of total revenue for CPD Sponsor preapprovals  observed by the Physical Therapy Board, which has three times as many licensees and requires  the same number of CPD hours.

“(5) Annual Renewal of Registration of Unlicensed Assistant: 420*$50 = $21,000 -LBEP [sic] cites  a 2019 survey where 1/6 of LA licensees report the use of 70 assistants, thus 70*6=420…”

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Edwards Vetoes Sen. Mizell’s Bill on Women’s Sports

On June 22, Gov. Edwards announced he had vetoed Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell during the 2021 Regular Legislative Session. The bill, known as the Fairness in Women’s  Sports Act, sought to prevent transgender girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and  postsecondary schools. Gov. Edwards issued the following statement:

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value,  and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even  the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single  case where this was an issue.

Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health. We should be looking for  more ways to unite rather than divide our citizens. And while there is no issue to be solved by  this bill, it does present real problems in that it makes it more likely that NCAA and professional  championships, like the 2022 Final Four, would not happen in our state. For these and for other reasons, I have vetoed the bill.”

Senator Beth Mizell’s controversial SB 156, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act”, passed both  chambers. The final passage in the House on May 27 was 78 yeas, 19 nays, and 8 absent. The Senate vote was 29 yeas, 6 nays, and 4 absent. It has been sent to the Governor.

During the process numerous co-authors signed onto the measure.

The measure would have required an athletic team or sporting event sponsored by an  elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational institution to be designated, based upon  the biological sex of team members, as only one of the following:

(1) A males’, boys’, or men’s team;
(2) A females’, girls’, or women’s team;
(3) A coeducational or mixed team or event for students who are biological males or biological  females.

SB 156 would have prohibited a team designated for females, girls, or women from being open  to students who are not biologically female.

Quo Vadis, Aida?

A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein

In Michael Ignatieff’s 1993 book, Blood and Belonging, he explores a phenomenon described by Freud in his 1921 essay, Group Psychology, i.e., the capacity for closely related peoples to hate one another. Ignatieff chose to examine that notion by interviewing individuals in several  contemporary warring groups, including those in the conflict-ridden Balkans after the collapse  of soviet Yugoslavia.

Jasmila Zbanic provides a riveting representation of the havoc that the phenomenon wrought in her 2020 war film, Quo Vadis, Aida?, now available on Amazon Prime. A fictional account, it memorializes the tragedy that unfolded when, in 1995, an element of the Serb army stormed  into the “safe haven” that the United Nations had established in Srebrenica, and carried out an ethnic “cleansing” of the largely Muslim refugees there. Over eight thousand men, women and  children were killed over the next few days.

Zbanic focuses on Aida Selmangic, an erstwhile schoolteacher, working as an interpreter for the UN forces policing the supposed safe zone. The film opens on a meeting of the UN colonel, Karremans, with the mayor of the city. The UN commander is attempting to reassure the mayor that the UN and NATO are committed to ensuring the safe status of the city by instituting air strikes if the Serbian forces violate the UN designation of the city’s safe zone status. Thousands  of refugees, including Aida’s husband and two sons, are pouring into Srebrenica and pleading  for admission to the already overcrowded UN compound. Aida manages to locate her family in  the crowd and uses her status to get them admitted into the facility, persuading Kerremans that her husband, multilingual and highly educated, would be useful as a negotiator with the leader  of the Serb army forces, General Mladic.

As Mladic is leading his marauding forces through the city and toward the UN encampment, Kerremans tries vainly to have the UN/NATO forces initiate the promised airstrikes. His  entreaties fall on deaf bureaucratic ears. Mladic meets with local negotiators, including Aida’s  husband, and promises to help the refugees find a safe place elsewhere. The general sends a team to examine those in the UN encampment to make sure that none there are armed and,  ultimately, sends buses to collect the refugees, separating the women and children from the men. Realizing that Mladic’s assurances are lies, Aida tries frantically to have her husband and  son included with the UN staff evacuating the facility. The UN leaders refuse to help her, even  when she falls on her knees to plead.

Her husband and sons are bundled onto a carrier with other men and herded into a building  where they are machine-gunned.

Years later, after the war and the grisly genocide has run its course, Aida returns to Srebrenica and her role as a teacher. She returns to her old apartment  to find it occupied by a young Serbian woman. Aida asks her if she found any of her pictures in  the apartment and is given a packet of photos. She tells the new tenant that she intends to  resume her residency.

Later, we see Aida walking through a room containing the remains of bodies found in mass  graves. She is able to recognize what is left of her family and collapses in grief. Later still, we see her at her school teaching her class and watching her students—pre-teens—in a dramatic  presentation in which they dance and alternately cover and expose their eyes. Seeing and not-seeing seems fraught with a meaning that the film’s audience must construe. What occurred to  me was this: Some things are so overwhelming that they can only be glimpsed, not stared at.  This is not an easy film to watch, but it is one that is important to see and to remember.