Author Archives: Susan

Dr. Buckner Named for Research Excellence

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Louisiana State University Professor Dr. Julie Buckner has been named the G. Alan Marlatt Mid-Career Research Award winner for 2020, announced at this year’s annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) Addictive Behaviors & Anxiety Disorders Special Interest Group.

Julia Buckner is a Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University and the Director of LSU’s Anxiety and Addictive Behaviors Laboratory & Clinic. She is also a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at LSUHealth Sciences Center and a Visiting Professor at the London South Bank University School of Applied Sciences. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist.

The awards committee said, “Among the multiple renown and highly-productive researchers who were nominated this year, you were the unanimous choice of the award selection committee. The praised her “pioneering work on the role of anxiety in substance use and related problems as well as her commitment to the development of innovative treatments for addictive behaviors, her research with historically underrepresented groups, her work to disseminate evidence-based practice to Baton Rouge (a high need area), and her outstanding mentorship and commitment to teaching…”

Dr. Buckner said, “I am honored to have received this award. Alan Marlatt was committed to both research aimed at understanding substance misuse as well as the translation of evidence-based findings to help improve treatment outcomes. Receiving this award highlights my research on the impact of psychosocial vulnerability factors such as anxiety on the etiology and maintenance of substance use disorders and research on ways to best treat dually diagnosed patients.” She explained that these patients, such as those with comorbid anxiety and substance use disorders tend to have poorer treatment outcomes.

Dr. Buckner’s program of research primarily focuses on: (1) delineation of causal and maintaining factors implicated in substance use disorders, especially the role of affect-related vulnerability factors; and (2) development and evaluation of empirically-informed treatment and prevention protocols for substance use disorders, including treatment for cooccurring anxiety-substance use disorders.

Dr. Buckner has had over 150 publications and has been involved in several NIH grants. She is currently Primary Investigator on a graduate education training grant from the US Department of Health & Human Services’ HRSA to integrate clinical graduate students into Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge to bring evidence-based psychotherapy for substance use disorders, with a particular focus on treatment for opioid misuse. She has also received awards from organizations such as the American Psychological Association, College on Problems of Drug Dependence, Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

The award is in honor of Dr. G. Alan Marlatt for his distinguished career as a pioneer and innovator in cognitivebehavioral therapy and research on addictive behaviors.

Dr. Buckner said, “This award is unique in that it also highlights our work that more directly impacts the lives of individuals in Baton Rouge who are suffering from these conditions, including our efforts to bring MET-CBT for substance use disorders (including those with dual diagnoses) to several locations throughout Baton Rouge, including the 19th JDC Adult Drug Treatment Court Program, Our Lady of the Lake’s outpatient clinic Center for Psychiatric Services, and thanks to a recent HRSA grant we received from the US Dept of Health & Human Services, to several units in OLOL Hospital.”

Also at this year’s conference Kayce Hopper was awarded the Outstanding Student Poster award for her poster, “Dual electronic and combustible smokers use of cannabis in relation to pain and hazardous drinking.”

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DOJ Asks Judge for More Time to Answer Dr. Hesson’s 2255 Petition

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On February 12, prosecutors at the Department of Justice asked for a second extension to respond to a 2255 Petition by Dr. Rodney Hesson, who was at the center of the 2015 high profile Medicare fraud case that resulted in convictions of two other well-respected psychologists in the community, Dr. Beverly Stubblefield and Dr. John Teal.

Dr. Hesson filed 829-pages of documents and exhibits with the United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana on November 1, 2019, alleging violation of his Constitutional rights to a fair trial due to inadequate representation.

A 2255 petition is a motion under 28 United States Constitution §2255 to vacate, set-aside, or correct sentences for a person in federal custody.

Among other assertions, Hesson alleges that his rights were violated when his defense attorney failed to “move the court” to issue a jury instruction which would have identified the governing Medicare rules and regulations that Hesson relied upon in his clinical and billing practices. In contrast, prosecutors focused on CPT codes. The failure to explain Medicare regulations caused numerous “prejudicial consequences which were overwhelming…” Hesson writes.

Representing himself in the Petition, Hesson argues that the jury was not given instructions as to how to understand critical Medicare regulations and rules, and if they had, their understanding would have been the basis of a “complete defense.”

“In the end, not even one governing Medicare regulation was presented in the court’s instructions to jurors,” he writes, “leaving jurors unable to determine that the billing procedures were based on Medicare regulations, CPT codes being only a part of the more complex Medicare guidelines, and that Hesson relied on these regulations in good faith.”

If jurors had been made to fully understand, he explains, that Hesson’s company, Nursing Home Psychology Services (NHPS) passed a 2011 Medicare audit and review of its procedures for billing, and also that in 2012 he voluntarily asked Civil-DOJ to review NHPS billing procedures, then jurors would have concluded that he did not have any intent to do fraud or make false statements, he writes.

In the fact-filled 2255 Petition, Hesson argues that the jury was not instructed nor allowed to understand the official regulations, which would have successfully countered the prosecutors’ theory of fraud, and more importantly, their “theory of conspiracy.”

In response to the November 8 Petition, Judge Carl Barbier ordered that the US attorneys file a response to Hesson’s arguments by January 7. In December the prosecutors filed a motion for additional time and then again in February prosecutors asked for more time. Judge Barbier granted both extensions. The US response is now due on April 6, 2020.

Hesson’s company, Nursing Home Psychological Services (NHPS) consulted with and served up to 72 nursing facilities and employed between 23 and 26 psychologists and between 18 and 20 clinical coordinators. Hesson designed a service that paired each psychologist with a clinical assistant, and the total units/hours billed was a sum of both the psychologist’s and the supervised assistant’s procedures. Consulting with the staff at the nursing home and working from physician referrals were part of the program for diagnostic testing of patients.

Three main NHPS practices formed the basis of the charges against Hesson: use of clinical assistants, medical necessity, and “locum tenens” billing, of one psychologist under the agency Medicare number of another.

In the Petition, Hesson argues that each of these business practices would have been shown to be legal and valid, or a good faith reliance upon them at the least, if the jury would have been caused to fully understand the Medicare regulations and rules. And, his company’s willingness to undergo voluntary reviews by Civil-DOJ would have countered any conclusion of “conspiracy.”

The 2015-2016 charges against all defendants were elevated to “conspiracy,” which carries some of the harshest legal treatment that Government prosecutors can bring to bear on defendants, through laws that allow pre-trial and pre-conviction seizing of assets and property.

“Conspiracy” laws originate from prosecution of individuals in organized crime and terrorists. “Federal prosecutors can, and should, use civil forfeiture to enhance criminal cases and further the Department of Justice’s (Department) goal of effective law enforcement,” writes Craig Gaumer in the U.S. Attorney’s Bulletin, “A Prosecutor’s Secret Weapon: Federal Civil Forfeiture Law.

Even the Judge, notes Hesson, commented on the unusual circumstances of the case. Before the trial began, Judge Barbier said, “You know, in many criminal cases, the defense is: I didn’t do it. I didn’t commit the act you said I committed. I didn’t have a gun, I did not do whatever it is. But in this case, as I understand it, the defendants are saying: we did what we did, but we didn’t believe it was illegal to do what we did.”

And, the transcript confirms that confusion. The Judge acknowledged that he had not reviewed the regulations and stated, “I have seen references to them in all the pleadings, all the memoranda that have been filed. They said these are very complex regulations, does it pretty much say in black and white under 101 and 102 what you can do and not do?“

Prosecutor’s Kanellis response was misleading at best, writes Hesson: “The CPT codes are very short. What [the defense] want[s] to do is they want to muddle the picture by saying here’s a way you interpret these codes, why don’t we consider this ….”

Hesson writes that when prosecutor Kanellis reinforced his point that any interpretations about the governing law is “the Judge’s function,“ the following conversation occurred:

The Court: You’re going to propose or suggests legal instructions on that, right?

Prosecutor Kanellis: Yeah. If there’s a reason —

The Court: is there case law on this that’s relevant, on how to instruct the jury on these types of regulations?

Prosecutor Kanellis: There are cases that discuss the issue in general. I have not seen a case where they discuss the specific instructions in that regard. That’s certainly something, your honor – – I mean, the easiest thing to do is for the court to say, this is what CPT code 96101 says,” and it’s a sentence, or a few sentences. Here is what CPT code 96102 says.”

Jurors never received these instructions, Hesson writes, and so could not determine whether he and his employees reasonably complied in good faith with civil law.

Hesson and his mother, Gertrude Parker, owned and operated regional companies, Nursing Home Psychological Service and Psychological Care Services. They marketed to nursing homes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. At the trial, Hesson said that his company was “…inundated with referrals.” He said that at times the company had to cap how many people could be seen.

Physicians ordered the assessments and nursing homes appeared to need them, based in part in changing attitudes around the country and the increasing awareness about overmedication of senior citizens in nursing home care. Many sources note the under utilization of psychological services in senior care facilities. Hessen and his company, classified as a small-business based on yearly revenues, became a top biller of Medicare services.

Dr. Hesson was found guilty and sentenced to 120 months, and restitution of $13,800,553 with at least $200 per month after release, paid to Medicare.

Gertrude Parker was sentenced to 84 months, restitution of $7,313,379, and $200 per month.

Dr. John Teal was sentenced to serve 24 months, restitution of $3,505,137, and $200 per month. He has completed his sentence.

Dr. Beverly Stubblefield was sentenced to serve 30 months, restitution of $2,181,378, and $200 per month. She is home in Ecru, Mississippi. Stubblefield worked contract for the Hesson companies, part-time for about five years. She was paid roughly $89,000 per year.

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LSBEP Planning Changes in Law

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In the last week of February members of the La. Psychological Association reviewed a memo from the Board of Examiners of Psychologists on “Possible Housekeeping Legislation.” The three-page memo, obtained from an undisclosed source, included substantial changes to areas of the psychology law, said the source.

One of the significant areas listed in the memo is the goal to define “Registered Assistant to Psychologist.” The board notes that the psychologist and anyone under the supervision of that psychologist must conduct their activities in ethical and professional ways that meet standards required by the board. The authors of the memo write, “Clear authority to require registration of assistance will allow the board to enforce regulations that it promulgates, ensure the individuals who are being employed or qualified do not have a history of violent behavior, or other impairment that would prohibit them from interacting with vulnerable populations, with whom they are often alone.”

The board also notes that the changes they seek would allow them the authority to collect fees for registering assistants.

The memo also included a number of expansions to the authority of the board including the right to delegate to an employee or Executive Director subpoena authority.

The authors note that even though the board has authority to issue a summary suspension (of a license) there is no clear language in the law that gives the board the right to delegate that authority to a specific individual or executive committee.

This authority is outlined in Louisiana Administrative Procedures Act 49:956, they write, however there is no clear authority given to the board to delegate the authority to a specific individual or committee.

“Present law is also silent on the authority of the board to delegate duties to an Executive Director of the agency in order to effectuate the provisions of the Chapter.”

The board would also like to change the law to give itself clear authority to provide educational activities and to recuperate the cost of providing such education.

According to the memo the board would like to modify the definition of the practice of psychology. “This definition has been challenged in an attempt to exclude from licensure those individuals who practice in a forensic setting,” the board writes. The definition, authors say, should also be modified to include individuals engaged in education and training in a clinical setting such as university hospitals and clinics.

The LSBEP wants to change the definition of board member such that the qualification no longer includes a minimum of five years practice under Louisiana law. “This is unnecessarily restrictive and narrows the pool of qualified board members,” they write. “A new licensee may have been in practice for more than five years in another jurisdiction.”

The board is also seeking changes in the licensing requirements because they are outdated, they explain. They suggest changes are needed to match the current national standards for training and credentialing for licensure.

Adding the words “or otherwise restrict“ into the definition of the boards power to “suspend, deny or revoke” someone’s license, and so this would allow them to modify licenses in a less restrictive way where appropriate and allow some individuals to continue to practice in a limited capacity in contrast to completely revoking their license, the authors explain.

The board members also recommend changes to establish clear authority for them to collect applicable administration and maintenance fees, as related to application, registration and renewals.

The board is also seeking to change the definition of “Executive Committee” because the present law is not clear regarding the authority of the board to delegate certain functions.

Authors write they want to make additions or changes in matters of telepsychology including the authority to collect fees necessary to review or deny request to provide training via electronically means.

Also the LSBEP is seeking to further define and determine the differences between an “applicant” for licensure and a “candidate” for licensure because the board has been challenged with determining the level of due process rights of an individual once they are granted candidacy status.

The memo was obtained from an undisclosed source in Louisiana Psychological Association who said that the association was not in favor of major changes without more assessment of the suggestions by the members at the state association and the community at large.

The memo does not appear to be posted on the board’s website. However, according to the December minutes (posted January 10) legislative efforts were discussed briefly. “Dr. Gormanous expressed his opinion that the LSBEP should prepare to educate people, including new legislators if the Board is going to seriously consider statutory changes.” And, “The committee agreed that they would wait for ASPPB to publish recommendations for the ‘Elevator Speech’ and revisit that topic at that time.”

The minutes contained no reference to comments from the members about separation of powers.

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Knives Out

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Knives Out

A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein

Card five of Henry Murray’s Thematic Apperception test
portrays a middle-aged woman looking through an open door
with an expression shock and maybe anger on her face. We
graduate students learning about the test called it The
Snoopy Mother card. Now, more sophisticated, I might retitle
it Family Secrets. Adam Smith has famously opined that the
family is where one learns about frustration. It is also the case
that all families have secrets, many of which have to do with
taboos, sexual and otherwise. The symbolic power of the
closed door to the parent’s bedroom is manifest.

I can further document the potential of family secrets to
potentiate intense psychological conflict. The only time a
patient of mine fainted in the course of being psychologically
evaluated was when he was confronted with Snoopy Mother.

Knives Out is usually called a mystery film, a Who Done It.
More precisely, it is about family secrets. A central figure is
Harlan Thromby, an 85-year-old famous writer of mysteries
and founder of a lucrative financial empire based on his
prolific authorship. The empire is a family business that
appears admirable. But when Thromby is found dead on the
morning after his birthday party in the film’s opening, the
audience begins to follow the investigation into his death.
How did he die, and who was responsible? The investigation
is carried out by the police and a private investigator, Benoit
Blanc. Blanc at the outset sits in the background, listening
while the police interview members of the family. But he is an
interesting character, one who like Sherlock Holmes, seems
to have a special relationship with the official police. Blanc,
mysteriously, speaks with a Southern accent. He comes to
play a leading role in the investigation, which he
characterizes as a donut—a mystery with a hole in its
center.

The audience hears the initial accounts by family members
of the birthday party and its surrounding events. Those
accounts are a façade, and much of the film amounts to
uncovering the secrets behind that façade. And the secrets
behind those. The twists and turns of those discoveries are
the meat of the film, I will scrupulously avoid spoiling the
surprises that are entailed.

But its fair to reveal that Thromby is a King Lear figure, but
one in reverse. He has discovered that his family, living on
and profiting by his labors, have been stealing from him,
are planning to rebel against his plans for the empire, and
are engaged in surreptitious sexual activities. So he has
written a will disinheriting them and making Marta Cabrera,
young nurse who has been acting as his factotum, his heir.

Marta, like Thromby and Blanc, is also a fascinating
character. What makes her remarkable is that, surrounded by misrepresentations, she, like Pinocchio, cannot lie. The
puppet, you will recall, is burdened with a nose that
lengthens when he lies. Marta vomits if she lies. That
peculiarity is brought into special perspective by the
movie’s ending, in a way that will surprise you, I promise.

And I want to mention yet another fascinating character,
Nana Thromby, the deceased’s mother, though her role is a
cameo. Senile, she sits staring through a window with a
fixed stare. Like Snoopy Mother, she seems to be saying “I
know what you did.”

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Stress Solutions

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The Zen of Balance

The Zen of Balance of which I write relates to our ever-present list of things we have to DO versus making some time to just BE. To illustrate the importance of balancing the Do’s and the Be’s in life, meet Stacy (a fictional character). Stacy is the kind of person who does not have a good sense of how stressed she is, and she did not do much to change her busy schedule even when she was warned about needing more time for relaxation. Her attitudes about work and career keep her feeling overwhelmed and responsible on the one hand and conflicted on the other hand because she frequently reads about how long-term stress can affect your health. This is a mental tug-a-war that many career-focused people have a hard time resolving.

Stacy is a good example of how we can get worn down by our attempts to live up to all of our responsibilities to family, work or education, and friends (and still enjoy a social life). Like so many of today’s bright young people, she wants to balance her personal life and her career. Her story, however, indicates that she may not be managing as well as she thinks.

As a lawyer, Stacy has always prided herself on being logical rather than emotional. She uses her cell phone and computer to manage her exercise routine, keep up with her business responsibilities, and watch her diet to manage her weight. Recently, Stacy added a yoga exercise class as a way of relaxing. Adding more to her daily to-do list, though, stretched her even more each day. Thank goodness, Stacy thought, for the modern electronic world at our fingertips. Stacy’s plan was to stay in touch with the office even when she went to yoga class, by using her cell phone. She set her email on her phone to notify her of important “can’t wait” messages. She completely missed the concerned looks that the yoga teacher gave her whenever her phone would ring, and she would excuse herself to go outside the classroom to take the call. Despite her best intentions to relax, Stacy cut her relaxation exercises short to attend to business. Even more problematic was that Stacy could not bring herself to take mental breaks from thinking about what she needed to do next and about business details and issues.

We all generate lists of what we want to get done today or this week. And, don’t we all run out of day (time) before we run out of the things on our todo list? Time is a funny thing; if you want time to do a thing, you have to MAKE that time. The point is that one thing that few of us make time for is time to spend each day just Being.

Just Being means a making a short period of time, maybe as little as 5 or 10 minutes, in which you find a quiet, peaceful environment, assume a gentle and safe position (so that you will not be concerned or thinking about your body), and clear your mind of all thoughts. Try to push away thoughts of what you will do when finished or next. Focus on listening, being aware of the environment around you. Or, focus on listening to your breathing. Try to make time every day to spend a few minutes just being.

In a lot of ways, Being can lead to enlightenment. Buddha is thought to have said: “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” Maybe spending a few minutes in a state of Being will make chopping wood and carrying water a bit more palliative.

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President Trump Issues Executive Order to Combat Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation

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President Trump signed an executive Order on January 31 to establish goals and priorities to end human trafficking in the U.S.

“Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery,” he said. “Throughout the United States and around the world, human trafficking tears apart communities, fuels criminal activity, and threatens the national security of the United States. It is estimated that millions of individuals are trafficked around the world each year — including into and within the United States. As the United States continues to lead the global fight against human trafficking, we must remain relentless in resolving to eradicate it in our cities, suburbs, rural communities, tribal lands, and on our transportation networks. Human trafficking in the United States takes many forms and can involve exploitation of both adults and children for labor and sex.

“Twenty-first century technology and the proliferation of the internet and mobile devices have helped facilitate the crime of child sex trafficking and other forms of child exploitation. Consequently, the number of reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of online photos and videos of children being sexually abused is at record levels.

The President wrote, “Effectively combating these crimes requires a comprehensive and coordinated response to prosecute human traffickers and individuals who sexually exploit children online, to protect and support victims of human trafficking and child exploitation, and to provide prevention education to raise awareness and help lower the incidence of human trafficking and child exploitation into, from, and within the United States,” he said.

“To this end, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to prioritize its resources to vigorously prosecute offenders, to assist victims, and to provide prevention education to combat human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children.”

The Order aims to strengthen federal responsiveness to human trafficking, and make available, online, a list of the Federal Government’s resources to combat human trafficking, ways to identify and report instances of human trafficking, to protect and support the victims of trafficking, and to provide public outreach and training.

Improving interagency coordination for targeting traffickers, assessing threats, and sharing law enforcement intelligence is an objective, and also to enhance capabilities to locate children who are missing. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is to establish an internal working group to develop and incorporate practical strategies for state, local, and tribal governments, child welfare agencies, and faith-based and other community organizations to expand housing options for victims of human trafficking. The Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Secretary of Education, shall partner with state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities to fund prevention programs.

In 2017 Gov. Edwards and the Governor’s Office Human Trafficking Prevention Commission announced a series of regional summits on human trafficking. In collaboration with various agencies the summits aimed to highlight pertinent information from key stakeholders regarding the existing services, protocols and community response to trafficking victims.

Psychologist Dr. Rafael Salcedo attended the Louisiana Human Trafficking Prevention Advisory Board meeting, held 2018. First Lady Donna Edwards and Senator Beth Mizell, gave opening remarks.

Dr. Salcedo represents psychology on the advisory group and he is also the cocreator with his wife Beth, of a the Free Indeed Home, the only licensed, therapeutic group home in the state for helping teen girls escape the physical and psychological bonds of sex-trafficking. The First Lady Ms. Edwards has toured the Home, Dr. Salcedo explained to the Times.

Dr. Rafael Salcedo is known for his advocacy and comprehensive treatment program for the young victims of human sex trafficking, and for this and other efforts, was named the 2017 Distinguished Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association.

Salcedo is a licensed Clinical Psychologist with subspecialties in the area of forensic and neuropsychology, providing services for issues such as competency to stand trial, sanity at the time of crime, and other legal issues.

He consults to the court system in Orleans, Jefferson, Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes, to the Office of Community Services, and has worked with the Department of Children and Family Services for the last 25 years, conducting evaluations of children who are in need of supervision or care.

Dr. Salcedo also chairs the Louisiana Psychological Association Committee for Community Psychology & Psychology in the Public Interest.

In 2012, after becoming aware of the depth and tragedy surrounding child sex trafficking, Rafael and Beth, a licensed speech- language pathologist, founded the nonprofit, advocacy group, the Louisiana Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

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Gov.’s Task Force Releases Report After Appeals Court Rules on ACA Individual Mandate

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On January 29, Gov. Edwards released the Protecting Health Coverage in Louisiana Task Force’s final report, showing Louisiana stands to lose $3.6 billion in federal funding if Texas v. United States is successful in overturning the Affordable Care Act, with almost half a million Louisianans losing healthcare.

In December the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision on a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), affirming a lower-court ruling that said that the ACA’s individual mandate, which was reduced to $0 as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, is no longer considered a tax and so Congress no longer has constitutional authority to enforce the mandate and also held that the whole law is unconstitutional. Twenty states signed onto the lawsuit, including Louisiana by way of Attorney General.

Gov. Edwards created the task force in 2019 following these efforts to repeal the ACA protections offered to Louisianans with preexisting medical conditions and overturn Medicaid expansion.

“The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but as the report indicates, completely eliminating the program would jeopardize Medicaid expansion, eliminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions and cost the state $3.6 billion in federal funding,” Gov. Edwards said. “The Attorney General’s lawsuit is about political gain, but for hundreds of thousands of Louisianans, it’s about losing access to healthcare and critical health protections. This new report makes it clear: the people of Louisiana and the State of Louisiana simply can’t afford Jeff Landry’s lawsuit.”

According to the Task Force report:
Louisiana stands to lose $3.6 billion from the federal government if the Affordable Care Act is invalidated, with an estimated 494,000 Louisianans losing health coverage.

The outcome of Texas v. United States could invalidate some or all of the provisions of the ACA, making it difficult to quantify the exact funding necessary today to ensure no change in health coverage status for Louisianans.

It would cost more than $536 million for Louisiana to “backfill” the loss of federal subsidies for those enrolled in the federal marketplace and keep key pre-existing condition protections, as imagined in Act 412 of the 2019 Regular Legislative Session. Without this funding, key individual market pre-existing condition protections do not exist.

Without additional funding from the federal government or additional action from Congress, if Texas v. United States is successful, the state would be left to fill budget holes, Medicaid coverage for working adults would be diminished or cut altogether and Louisiana’s uninsured rate would be at risk of going from a historic low of 8 percent in 2018 back to pre-ACA levels, which were more than 17 percent.

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Rebekah Gee and John White Tender Resignations in Jan

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Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health, Dr. Rebekah Gee, and Education Superintendent John White, both gave notice of their resignations in January.

In a statement, Governor Edwards said, “Dr. Gee has been on the front lines of this transformational improvement to health care in Louisiana. Under her leadership, we brought health care to more than 460,000 hard-working adults who now have access to the medical services they need to live healthier lives, to fight chronic illness and, in some cases, survive,” Governor Edwards said.

“I am thankful for her partnership on this issue and on her lifechanging – and saving – work to eliminate Hepatitis C in Louisiana, to fight opioid addiction and to lower the rate of HIV in our state,” said Edwards, who won reelection in November. “She is a champion for improved health outcomes for all the people of our state, especially mothers and children. I wish her well in the future.”

Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich continued his criticism. “We at the Republican Party of Louisiana are pleased to learn that after four years of ruinous mismanagement, …” Gurvich said, as reported in the News Star.

On January 31, Gov. Edwards announced Stephen Russo as the interim secretary of the Department of Health. The Governor hopes to name a permanent LDH secretary in the coming weeks.

Russo currently serves as LDH’s executive counsel and is a graduate of Louisiana State University’s Paul M. Hebert Law Center. He has served as executive counsel since 2008.

Gov. Edwards said, “I appreciate Stephen Russo stepping up to lead the department during this time of transition and for his 24 years of service at the agency. Louisiana’s health department is responsible for everything from promoting better health outcomes to ensuring coverage for working Louisianans and some of our most vulnerable populations.

On January 8, John White announced that he will step down from his role as Louisiana’s State Superintendent of Education in March. White is the longest serving state education chief in the nation.

He launched Louisiana Believes, the state’s plan to ensure every child is on track to a college degree or a professional career.

Louisiana Believes includes nationally recognized initiatives such as Early Childhood Networks, Louisiana Teacher Leaders, ELA Curriculum Guidebooks, Believe and Prepare teacher residencies, Jump Start career education, the state’s Innovative Assessment Pilot, and the Louisiana FAFSA initiative.

Superintendent White and his team have also led the post-Katrina renovation and unification of schools in New Orleans and the creation of the Baton Rouge Achievement Zone.

According to the Department’s information:
Today Louisiana is a better educated state than at any point in the state’s history.

Louisiana’s class of 2018 included 5,000 more graduates than did the class of 2012.

Five thousand more students in that class earned the state’s TOPS scholarship, and 5,000 more enrolled in college after graduating high school.

In that time, the number of Louisiana students earning Advanced Placement early college credits has increased by 167 percent, and the state leads the nation in the percentage of high school seniors completing an application for higher education financial aid.

In his statement, the Governor said, “Though we have not always seen eye to eye, I appreciate John White’s service to our state. By working together, teachers received their first pay raise in a decade, MFP funding increased and additional funding was provided for early childhood education, all things the Superintendent supported. Louisiana has also achieved the highest graduation rate in history, increased the numbers of high schoolers earning college credit, and provided more opportunities for families needing early childhood education services. I wish him well, and I thank him for his service to our state.”

In a January letter to members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, White said, “Our work together has been focused on causes critical not just to the future of schooling but also to the future well-being of our state and nation.”

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Little Women

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Little Women

A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein

This 2019 film is the latest version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, first published in 1868 and reissued countless times in print, as well as formatted for television and the stage. Its many iterations speak for something compelling in the work. There is an important sense in which Alcott strikes the same chord as John Stewart Mill’s 1869 essay, The Subjection of Women. There, Mill argues that women would be the last class of humans to be accorded equal social status.

Like the novel, the movie has an autobiographical element mirroring Alcott’s life. Alcott can be regarded as a pioneering feminist, and the film certainly dramatizes the struggle to achieve the feminist goal of equality.

The second sister, Jo, like Alcott, is a writer. But with Jo as its central character, the movie has a sharper focus. Jo wants to be famous.

At a climactic point she exclaims, “Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for.”

At another point, when she has asked a professor of literature for his opinion of her writing, she responds to his criticism with defensive anger, “If you know so much about it, why don’t you do it yourself?”

He responds, “I’m not a writer. I don’t have the gifts you have.” And Jo goes on, “No, you don’t, and you’ll always be a critic, never an author, and the world will forget that you ever even lived.”

The exchange reflects not just the feminist wish for equality and not just the tension between creative work and critical efforts. It highlights Jo’s thirst, not to be equal, but to be celebrated, to be famous.

Excellent acting and relevance to contemporary socio-political issues justify the film’s popularity. However, the film’s impact suffers from its narrative structure. It has a confusing double flash back, and the potential for confusion is magnified by an interpolated dream sequence. But it also struggles with a nagging short-coming in psychological theory—how feelings and thinking relate.  How should we take account of emotion in evaluating the mind?

Freud argued that secondary process, reality testing, logic and rationality, should replace more primitive mental activity.  He is often quoted as saying that mental health was the ability to work and love. But what about the wish to be known? And then to further complicate things, the relationship between being known by a loved one and being known to all? Is a quest for fame healthy? Is it socially valuable?

Little Women raises those questions, too. We can’t expect it to answer them, but it should prod us to think about them.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Stress Solutions

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by Susan Andrews, PhD

Living Long and Stress Free

Longevity is living a long life. Longevity is often considered in relationship to the current life expectancy, which has markedly increased in the past 100 years. More and more comments and articles are now focusing on ways to live longer (and hopefully happier). Surely, there are many critical factors that contribute to the length of one’s life; however, many factors are beyond our control. A major factor over which we have little or no control is genetics. On the other hand, one of the factors that repeatedly earn mention in such lists is avoiding stress in your life. And, that is something that we can take control of. 

Recently I saw this article (healthline.com) on 13 Habits to a long life. Other lists of “ways to increase your longevity” are shorter, maybe listing 6 or 7 factors or habits, and some list are longer. A common element besides reducing stress that always figures prominently has to do with food, what you choose to eat, how much you eat, and whether or not you are overweight. This particular article put much emphasis on food choices. For example, almost one-half of the “13 Habits” were about food and drink, including eating nuts, turmeric, vegetables and leafy greens, avoiding too much alcohol but recommending caffeine, and avoiding overeating. 

Of course, exercise and physical activity are on everyone’s list as a means of maintaining good health and reducing cardiovascular problems. Moderation is always mentioned for alcohol but Avoiding is the usual term used for smoking and recreational drugs. Not mentioned on this particular “13 Habits” list was that people who avoid taking too many medications tend to be healthier and live longer. A good night’s sleep is also listed as important in longevity. 

Often bringing up the rear there will be the suggestion that “avoiding stress” leads to greater longevity. Truly, it is a lot easier to add turmeric to your diet than it is to avoid stress. Stress is not a large rock or boulder in the road. In truth, it is probably not possible to avoid stress in today’s life. In fact, it is not even desirable to live a stress-free life if you could figure out how to do it. 

A much more helpful habit is to learn how to reduce the stress that you accumulate by living. The best method is to become aware of accumulated stress and how you and your body have responded to the challenges of the day. Then you can plan what you need to do and how much you need to do to reduce the day’s accumulation. I rarely see this point made and even if it is made, it is not elaborated so that the average person will walk away knowing how to manage stress. Different methods of stress reduction work best for each of us. Some favor types of meditation. Others do much better in the gym with exercise to help let go of or use up the builtup cortisol and other stress-related hormones with increased activity. Music – either listening or playing an instrument – is an excellent method. Walks in nature and visits with friends and family are also good ways to reduce built-up stress. 

But, all of these suggestions miss an important point which is how important a positive frame of mind is to longevity. The key to understanding whether a potentially stressful event will have a negative versus neutral versus a positive outcome is what the person thinks about the event. People who have the wonderful ability to see the silver lining or to recognize a positive outcome instead of a negative one might be called “Polyanna” by some, but they are also more likely to live a less stressful life. 

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Stress Solutions

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby Susan Andrews, PhD

Train Students in Mindfulness to  Reduce Stress and Improve Grades

For any of Louisiana’s Psychology graduate students or their advisors or our community-minded practicing clinicians looking for a project that will improve Louisiana’s schools and quality of education, I recommend training students from kindergarten to graduate level in Mindfulness. Many are now familiar with the technique called Mindfulness. It is easy to learn and easy to teach – even for young people. I am devoting this month’s column to an idea for the new year that holds great promise for making a difference in our future – the promise of increasing consciousness for ourselves, our community, the world.  

Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain. And, when you regularly devote as little as 5 or 10 minutes daily to breathing and becoming mindful of your surroundings, amazing things can happen. The following is one of many published articles on the value of teaching students.

One hundred 6th grade students received Mindfulness training each day of the school week for eight weeks in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research study designed to determine more of the benefits of practicing mindfulness. The students were compared to a peer control group who spent the same amount of time studying computer coding. After 8 weeks, it was found that the students who received Mindfulness training experienced lower stress levels, less depression and improved academic performance, compared to their controls. The MIT researchers surveyed 2,000 students in grades 5 through 8th and found that those who showed more mindfulness tended to have better grades and test scores. They also had fewer absences and statistically significantly less suspensions.

Many resources now exist to learn mindfulness and even to learn how to teach others. I am reminded that many moons ago now, LPA invited a young woman to speak on Mindfulness and she recommended a book available through Amazon called, Sitting Still Like a Frog, by Eline Snel. I have since recommended that many of my young clients (especially those with attention problems) buy this book. It is $12 and available at Amazon. But, the real prize is the CD that comes with the book and includes 10 or more short mindfulness meditations. Kids love it as do their parents.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
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The Rise of Skywalker

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The Rise of Skywalker

There was no way that I would miss seeing what was billed as the conclusion of the Star Wars series.  Particularly because of the intriguing title. Luke was dead, sacrificing himself as had his first mentor Obi-Wan—would he be resurrected?

One of the movie’s strong points is a surprise-filled plot line, which obligates me to be scrupulous in avoiding spoilers, despite the comment some of them merit.  Another plus is the film’s finding ways to play on some of the tropes that fans of the series will relish: extra-terrestrials that range from the grotesquely imaginative to the cute and cuddly; re-encounters with almost all of the major players in the series’ history; the ramshackle wonders of Millennium Falcon; aerial combat scenes that include dizzying careers along risky courses.

There is an edge of sadness in the film’s highlighting the effects of aging. We see slender Luke contrasted with a grizzled oldster, Han Solo as a wise-cracking daredevil contrasted with a battle-scarred veteran, a frankly seductive Lando Calrissian contrasted with a sage grandfather, a sexy, saucy Princess Leia aging into a matronly general. This last transformation comes with a new wrinkle. The general now is endowed, in unexplained ways, with Jedi status and a light saber. I have read that the original plan for the movie had been to focus on Leia as a Jedi, but Carrie Fisher, who appears in this film by virtue of earlier outtakes from the series, died in 2016, making it necessary to retool the plan.

Another new wrinkle is a hyped-up version of Jedi powers, in which psycho-kinetic ability goes way beyond being able to retrieve a light saber, or even to retrieve a fighting craft
submerged in water. Jedi powers are further augmented in another way here. In addition to mind tricks and psycho-kinesis, they now include the power to heal.

Psychologically the series leans on the Oedipal theme of fraught relationships between fathers and sons: Darth Vader and Luke, Han Solo and Kylo. Rey’s training as a Jedi and Leia’s role as another seem a nod in the direction of gender equality. But there remains a gap in the attention to the special relationships between mothers and daughters and to sisterhoods.

This movie retains the moralist component of the series, the good guys vs. the bad guys, freedom vs. totalitarianism. At times it verges on, but happily manages to avoid, being an echo of the patriotic celebration of the 1996 sci-fi flick Independence Day.

When a story begins with Once upon a time, we know we are about to hear or read a fairy tale. In literary theory, fairy tales differ from fables, in that the latter offer theories about the origins of things while the former, like parables, communicate timeless moral realities. The series’ familiar introduction, A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, announces its status as a fairy tale. That The Rise of Skywalker continues in the fairy tale tradition is emphasized in another fairy tale convention, they lived happily ever after. I am risking a spoiler here, but the film ends with a focus on Rey. In the film, the actress portraying her often must contort her face to express agonistic excess. But the film closes on her beatific smile.
Why is she smiling? If you watch the film you will learn why.

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Who’s READING What?

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Recommended Reading for New Year’s

by Dr. Judith Miranti

The holidays have a way of inserting into our psyches a reflective mode that, if ignored, will just keep inserting itself until we stop and pay attention to our mind, body and spirit.  Individuals react differently to the approaching holidays. For some, the holidays are unbearable after the loss of a loved one depending upon their unique stage of grief and whether or not they are experiencing survivor’s guilt. For others, it is a time of thanksgiving and connecting with those we love.

During our reflective mode, these two short reads, God Isn’t Finished with me Yet (139 pages) and Man’s Search for Meaning (167 pages) put a lot into perspective regardless of one’s spiritual and/or religious beliefs.  Everyone wants to find meaning in life.  The self-help books that fill the shelves of bookstores testify to this search.  As we see fewer years ahead than behind, it can be easy to question our value or what we have left to contribute. How can we continue to be generative and give back and live with purpose in our later years?

Sadly, there is no quick fix.  To have meaning and purpose in life is a quest which is never ending but can be fulfilling.  Often we hear clients discuss how they are spiritually, psychologically and mentally bankrupt. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, has captivated generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival.  Frankl argues that while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.  Throughout the holiday, pause and reflect on any one of the top ten Viktor Frankl quotations:

1. “Our greatest freedom is the freedom to choose our attitude.”

2. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

3. “But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

4. “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

5. “The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

6. “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.'”

7. “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

8. “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

9. “The point is not what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.”

10.”For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”

Find comfort in God Isn’t Finished with Me Yet.  We still have time to repair old wounds and reconnect with those from whom we are estranged.  We are encouraged to examine our lives and to make reasonable choices that will yield positive results.  We can let go of hurts, forgive ourselves, and find ways of bringing joy into our lives and discovering the spiritual graces of later life.

[Dr. Judith Miranti is Chair of the Division of Education and Counseling at Xavier University of Louisiana. She served as Dean of Humanities at Our Lady of Holy Cross College for 10 years and as VP for Academic Affairs for two. She has also served as the President of the National Association for Spirituality, Ethics, and Religious Values in Counseling.] Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

We Remember Dr. Billy Seay

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailDr. Billy M. Seay, long-time member of the Louisiana psychology community, passed away December 4, 2019. He served as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University for many years, and then went on to become the founding Dean of the LSU Honors College.

Dr. Seay was one of the “monkey men,” the affectionate term for those who observed the behavior of primates and then explained the development, adaptation, and social structures of these close great-ape relatives.

When Dr. Seay came to LSU as a young psychologist in 1964, he brought with him the distinction of having published in the then ground-breaking studies about mother-infant separation. Seay studied with the American primatologist, Harry F. Harlow, at the University of Wisconsin, where Seay earned his doctorate.

In his work at Wisconsin and with Harlow, Seay published “Mother-Infant Separation in Monkeys,” in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, “Affectional Systems in Rhesus Monkeys,” and “Maternal Behavior of Socially Deprived Rhesus Monkeys,” and ‘Maternal Separation in Rhesus Monkeys,” in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

“Harlow provided his students with the resources of his laboratory, staff support, and considerable independence,” Seay told the Times in 2015. “When research was published he used a ‘post-Nobel’ style of authorship. Students were consistently the first author of  research reports. Exception occurred only if he had an agreement with an editor to be first author. He would not co-author dissertation publication. You were on your own.”

Seay also worked with colleague and fellow LSU professor and development psychologist, Dr. Nathan Gottried, to author The Development of Behavior: A Synthesis of Developmental and Comparative Psychology in 1978.

The Development of Behavior was ahead of its time. While debates still occur today about which influence––genetic, environmental, epigenetic, individual, etc.–– is dominant in development, Development of Behavior set out the importance of five “sets” for determining behavior from all five directions. In Development, they approached behavior from the dynamic interplay of the Phylogenetic Set, the Ontogenetic Set, the Experiential Set, the Cultural Set, and the Individual Set.

“One hopes that what is not lost is that all behavior is multiply determined,” Seay had told the Times. “There is not a single cause for any behavioral outcome,” he said.

“I think that both biological and cognitive psychology fail to recognize the importance of culture in shaping and determining behavior,” Seay said about the awareness of cultural impacts. “The cultural setting is a determining factor with respect to the environment an individual encounters. Failure to recognize cultural influences on behavior limits understanding behavior.”

Dr. Billy Seay was a devoted husband for sixty years to his college sweetheart. Billy is survived by his loving wife, Nedra Dees Seay, of Baton Rouge, his daughter Delecia Seay Carey and husband Tom, of Maurice, Louisiana, his son Franklin Whitfield Seay and wife Cheryl of Denham Springs, and many beloved grandchildrenFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Governor Appoints Mr. McNeely to LSBEP as Consumer Member

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailIn December, Governor Edwards appointed D. Chance McNeely of Baton Rouge to the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.

McNeely is currently the Executive Director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, and he will serve as a consumer member on the LSBEP.

He has served at Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, Office of the Secretary, as Assistant to the Secretary for Policy; at the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Environmental Compliance, Office of the Governor, State of Louisiana, as Policy Advisor; and in U.S. House of Representatives as a Legislative Assistant.

Mr. McNeely has a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business from Louisiana State University (LSU) and Master of Public Administration also from LSU.

Act 515 of the 2018 Legislative Session created a position on the board for a Consumer Member. Under LA R.S.37:2353.A.(3)(b)(i) The consumer member shall be selected from the state at large and shall possess all of the following qualifications: (a) Is a citizen of the United States and has been a resident of Louisiana for at least one year immediately prior to appointment. (b) Has attained the age of majority. (c) Has never been licensed by any of the licensing boards identified in R.S. 36:259(A), nor shall he have a spouse who has ever been licensed by a board identified in R.S. 36:259(A). (d) Has never been convicted of a felony. (e) Does not have and has never had a material financial interest in the healthcare profession.

The consumer member shall be a full voting member of the board with all rights and privileges conferred on board members, except that the consumer member shall not participate in the grading of individual examinations.

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