Category Archives: News Stories

Dr. Mixon Honored for LGBTQ+ Advocacy

The Louisiana Psychological Association named Dr. Clifton Mixon for their 2022 Award for  Psychology in the Public Interest, announced at the Spring meeting.

“This award is given to an individual who has made significant scholarly or practical contributions to the health and well-being of the general public through their work in psychology,” said Dr. Amanda Raines, spokesperson for the association.

“This year we are recognizing Dr. Clifton Mixon. Despite being early in his career, Dr. Mixon  serves as an active member of the LPA legislative committee, which meets weekly during the  legislative session. In the 2021 legislative session, he took on a leadership role coordinating LPA’s efforts in advocating for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Dr. Mixon has ensured that  LPA is aware of legislation impacting the LGBTQ+ community and that such efforts remain an  active priority for LPA’s advocacy. He even testified on behalf of psychologists who care for  those in the LGBT+ community twice in the legislature this past year. In addition to his roles  within LPA, he serves on several community organizations to advance and promote the well-being and interests of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community,” said Dr. Raines.

According to information from Oschner, Dr. Mixon received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and Southeastern Louisiana University  in Hammond, respectively. He received a doctor of philosophy in child and adolescent clinical psychology from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

His publications include: Incremental Benefits of a Daily Report Card Over Time for Youth with  Disruptive Behavior: Replication and Extension. School Mental Health. 12:507-522; Leveraging  Technology to Facilitate Teachers’ Use of a Targeted Classroom Intervention: Evaluation of the Daily Report Card.Online (DRC.O) System. School Mental Health. 11:665-677.

Dr. Mixon is licensed by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and has been  on staff at Ochsner since 2019. Dr. Mixon’s expertise is in treating children and adolescents with acute, chronic or recurring medical problems and providing affirming care to gender diverse youth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with a Dean

Dr. Mary Treuting on Being Dean of LSU Alexandria College of Social Sciences

Mary Boone Treuting, PhD, Professor of Psychology and a licensed psychologist, and who  served as Chair of the Psychology Department at Louisiana State University Alexandria (LSUA),  was promoted to the role of Dean of the College of Social Sciences last year. For this feature, we were able to interview Dr. Treuting and discover some of the challenges and joys of moving

from Professor and department chair to Dean at LSU Alexandria.

Dr. Treuting has served at LSUA since 1994 and was the founding director of the LSUA Center  for Teaching Excellence in 2010 and the Center for Academic Success in 2014, which housed  LSUA’s First Year Experience. 

She was the recipient of the Bolton Award for Teaching Excellence and has held three Endowed Professorships. She is the current holder of the F. Hugh Coughlin Endowed Professorship.

According to the University, the College of Social Sciences offers programs designed to “help  students shape their society and make a meaningful mark on the world.” Degree paths include Criminal Justice, Disaster Science, History, Political Science, or Psychology. Also offered are  courses in Anthropology, Geography, Social Work, and Sociology.

In the fall of 2018, the LSUA Psychology Department was named one of two academic  departments chosen by on-campus students as a 5-Star department, according to officials. The  Bachelor of Science in Psychology was also recognized as one of the nation’s best Online  Psychology Programs by Affordable Colleges Online. LSUA’s program was ranked 38th in the  U.S. and is the highest ranked online psychology program of any Louisiana school.

The Psychology Times asked Dr. Treuting what has it been like for her since she took over as  Dean?

Dr. Treuting: This first year has been quite an adventure as our university has moved into a new academic structure. Much of our time has involved updating policies and processes and  ensuring that students are getting what they need.

A new area for me has been reaching out to the community and showcasing our faculty and  students. I have become more involved with community groups and the usefulness of our degree programs for the workforce. We are continuously looking for ways to connect our  students to careers in their given fields of study and to let the community know about the  quality education that is the LSUA Experience!

I’ve had wonderful mentors from my time in graduate school at LSU through the various  positions held at LSUA. Our current administration is supportive and encouraging, and that  positivity can be felt across campus. We have just had our 8th straight semester of enrollment  growth. In a time when other campuses are seeing enrollment declines, we are poised for  continued progress. Being a part of this endeavor is exciting.

PT: What have been her major goals in this new position?

Dr. Treuting: I want to spread the word about LSUA and the quality education our students  receive here. Major goals include highlighting and increasing student research opportunities,  and promoting degree programs both within the state as well as nationwide, with our online component. I also have made it a priority to reach out to our neighboring parish of Avoyelles,  our second largest student contributor, to raise the LSUA profile in those communities. Our  faculty strive to infuse the curriculum with creative and innovative approaches. LSUA’s Online Psychology program was recently named #2 in the nation for affordability. We believe that students may come to us for our lower costs, and lessor debt, but stay with us because of our  quality programs.

PT: What are the three main challenges she has been faced with?

Dr. Treuting: Of course, Covid has been a challenge for Higher Education in general. LSUA was able to meet those challenges because our faculty worked diligently to ensure students continued to move forward with their degrees and progressed toward graduation.

A second challenge involves staffing and ensuring students are getting the highest quality  education possible. Our traditional class sizes are small, the online components supported by  LSU-Online have increased our reach across the state and nationally. LSUA has a dedicated  group of faculty and staff, and I have enjoyed working with multiple disciplines to ensure we are meeting the needs of our students.

I think a third challenge is one of time. Being out in the community, interacting with a multitude  of stakeholders takes time. I have continued to teach in a limited capacity, but wish I could  clone myself to increase my productivity. There are so many good programs in our community  and so many possible collaborations. I love the brainstorming that goes along with creating  unique student opportunities. We have put together a Dean’s Advisory Council made up of a  wonderful group of students who have actively participated in ideas for strengthening our  programs. Combining ideas across multiple disciplines is intriguing, and a bit challenging, but  also immensely rewarding. Fundraising is a new area for me, but one that I am embracing in  order to meet our goals.

PT: What has she enjoyed the most?

Dr. Treuting: I love the freedom to think broadly and futuristically. The reception and support by our community is palpable. LSUA is poised to not only be innovative in our approach but also our administration is very supportive of a growth mindset and continuous improvement- two of the themes the campus has adopted.

PT: Is she still involved in the psychology department? If so, in what ways? What does she miss  most?

Dr. Treuting: Oh YES!! Our psychology department is an important part of the College of Social  Sciences. Of note, it is one of the largest and fastest growing programs on the entire campus. I  am working with other psychology faculty as we continue to grow and develop that program. I  have maintained my faculty status as a full professor of Psychology. Additionally, within the  college, Psychology has been joined by other degree programs, Criminal Justice, History,  Political Science and Disaster Science. Our college theme is “Shaping Societies” since our common thread is helping students gain the knowledge and skills that will shape their world  within the social context. I miss teaching the most, but am still able to teach at least one  psychology class each semester. I do miss more involvement with psychology students.

PT: Did her background in psychology help prepare her for this new role?

Dr. Treuting: I use “psychology“ every day! I have no doubt that my background in psychology  has prepared me well for this position. I see the Dean’s role as one that assists faculty and  students in the pursuit of their goals. My job is to support them and try to figure out ways to  fulfill their ideas and allow growth to happen. We have so many creative minds; our faculty are  developing new courses and setting up useful internships, which in turn help our students find  their own path. I have been asked to speak to Business Leadership groups, teenagers, prison  employees and women’s groups on topics ranging from emotional intelligence to emotional  health and leadership. Psychology plays a significant role in my world. Active listening, problem  solving, conflict management, and empathy are all frequent skills I depend on to get things done. This is true for programs in Criminal Justice, History, Political and Disaster Science as well  as Psychology.

One of the things I often tell students who are considering Psychology as a major is that if you  plan on working with people, a Psychology degree can be extremely beneficial. We don’t know  what the future holds in terms of specific jobs, but we do know that the science of behavior is  useful in many social settings. I had no ambitions of being a dean, but had an evolution from  psychologist to professor to department chair and now to Dean. It has been a fun career and I  have enjoyed each of these roles immensely.

Dr. Treuting has broad experience and background. She has taught extensively including Educational Psychology, Psychology of Adjustment, Child Psychology, Adolescent Psychology,  Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Personality, History of Modern Psychology, and Senior Seminar in Psychology.

Her publications include, “Acceptance of response cost methods: Teachers’ and psychologists’  reactions,” in the Canadian Journal of School Psychology, and “The behavior untervention rating  scale: Development and validation of a pretreatment acceptability and effectiveness measure,”  in the Journal of School Psychology.

She has served as a coordinator for a Title III Federal Development Grant-$1.8 million.

She has made many presentations and conducted training on topics that include, “Emotional  Intelligence: An Essential Facet of Leadership,” Invited Presentation, CENLA Leadership; “Roles  for Faculty in Student Success and Retention,” Presentation at Fall Teaching Institute, Louisiana  State University at Alexandria, and LSUA 1001 Faculty- Peer Mentors Workshop, and “Creating a  Culture of Faculty Engagement,” Workshop Presentation at National Teaching Professor  Conference, Boston.

She delivered “Resilient Woman Working: Women Leading from the Middle,” Louisiana Association of Women in Higher Education, Annual Conference, Conference of Louisiana  Colleges and Universities, and “Standardized Tests: Linking Assessment to the Classroom,”  Faculty Workshop for St. Frances Cabrini School, Alexandria.

She also has extensive community service. Examples include serving on the Foodbank Board  Capital Campaign – Current Board of Directors Central Louisiana Food Bank; she served as the  Executive Committee-Secretary, Diocese of Alexandria, Vocations Advisory Board; and for CENLA A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Community, Theology, Service) Catholic Outreach. She has served as  Retreat Director, Holy Savior Menard Advisory Council, Bishop Appointment and on the  Alexandria Museum of Art – Board Member (secretary), as well as with the Habitat for Humanity  and with Hospice.

What else is happening in her life?

“My family is very important to me,” said Dr. Treuting. “My three sons are grown, are educated,  married and settled in to their own lives. I am the proud ‘Omie’ of 4 adorable grandchildren and my husband and I now have the freedom to travel and experience life on a new level. I am full of gratitude!”

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Nemeth Honored by Am. Board of Prof. Neuropsychology

The American Board of Professional Neuropsychology has named Dr. Darlyne Nemeth for the  2021 Distinguished Service Award in recognition for Leadership, Training, Practice Innovations  and International Relations. Dr. Nemeth is a psychologist and medical psychologist and founder of the The Neuropsychology Center of Louisiana in Baton Rouge.

Dr. Paula Cooper, past-president of the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology  noted, “Nemeth has been a pioneer in the area of Clinical Neuropsychology for over 30 years  and was the first in Louisiana to establish a private practice Neuropsychology Laboratory in  1977. She also established the first Neuropsychology Laboratory at the Louisiana State  University Student Mental Health Service in Baton Rouge.

“Dr. Nemeth was instrumental in the movement to have Clinical Neuropsychology recognized  as a specialty area in the State of Louisiana,” said Dr. Cooper.

“Dr. Nemeth is currently serving as Co-Secretary General for the World Council for  Psychotherapy (WCP) and has been a WCP/DPI/NGO Delegate to the United Nations. Dr.  Nemeth has been nationally and internationally recognized for her Hurricane Anniversary  Wellness Workshops, which, in cooperation with many government, religious, and professional  Organizations, were offered to the victims/survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the  Summer 2006 and was offered in August, 2015 for the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,”  said Dr. Cooper.

“Dr. Nemeth recently hosted an International meeting in Moscow that described the  contributions of Luria and Reitan to child Neuropsychology. We congratulate Dr. Nemeth for all  her accomplishments in the field of neuropsychology.” “I can tell you that I was quite surprised  to receive this award,” said Dr. Nemeth. “Typically, such awards are given to people who are  board certified. When I was young, however, board certification was not something that was emphasized. In fact, my mentor, Ralph Reitan, Ph.D., did not encourage board certification at  all. Of course, at the end of his life, he appeared to have many, many credentials. For me, this  was indeed a great honor. It certainly reflects the many years I have mentored students,  presented at national meetings, and even published a few articles,” Dr. Nemeth said. 

“One such article was 3q29 Deletion Syndrome and Neuropsychological Functioning: Fraternal  Twin Case Study, which was published in Applied Neuropsychology Child, of which I serve on  the Editorial Board. Another important presentation was on the role of the treating psychologist: Nemeth, D.G., Olivier, T.W., Whittington, L.T., & May, N.E. (2010, February). The  role of the treating neuropsychologist in forensic cases. Poster session presented at the 38th  Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society, Acapulco, Mexico. I wrote this  because, at that time, too many treating neuropsychologists wandered into the realm of forensics. They didn’t stay in their role. I found this very frustrating,” Dr. Nemeth said.

Dr. Nemeth has presented at the International Neuropsychology Society, National Academy of  Neuropsychology, APA, as well as other professional meetings.Dr. Nemeth has co-edited/coauthored five books. Her book, Innovative Approaches to Individual and Community Resilience: From Theory to Practice was published by Elsevier Press in July 2017 and was  awarded the PROSE Award in February 2018. Dr. Nemeth’s most recent book, co-edited by  Janna Glozman, Ph.D., D.Sc., titled, Evaluation and Treatment of Neuropsychologically  Compromised Children: Understanding Clinical Applications Post Luria and Reitan, was  published by Elsevier/Academic Press in April 2020.

At its 106th Annual Convention, Dr. Nemeth was elected to Fellowship status, having been  nominated by Drs. Gerry Goldstein, Linus Bielauskas, and Stanley Berendt, making her the first  Clinical Neuropsychologist from the State of Louisiana to have been elected as a Division 40  Fellow. At that time, of the more than 4500 Division 40 members, including 108 Fellows, only 11  Fellows were women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Gormanous Drops His Lawsuit after Motion is Denied

Attorneys representing both sides agreed to a dismissal of the lawsuit by Dr. Gregory Gormanous that alleged the state psychology board, on which he serves, was failing to provide  accommodations for his disability by denying him the opportunity to attend through virtual  sessions.

A Stipulation of Dismissal with prejudice was filed on July 29, closing the proceedings after Judge Terry Doughty, United States District Court, denied Dr. Gormanous’ Motion for Preliminary  Injunction.

In Judge Doughty’s analysis, he wrote: “This Court agrees with Judge Drell that the ADA would  supersede Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law but denies Gormanous’ request for preliminary injunction in this case for other reasons. This Court finds that the accommodations offered by LSBEP to Gormanous were reasonable. The Governor’s emergency COVID-19 order expired on March 16, 2022. LSBEP offered  accommodations recommending social distancing and masks, a reserved table with a single seat at least six feet away from others only for Gormanous, and/or  one-way broadcasting of meetings. These are reasonable accommodations that would protect Gormanous and allow him to attend the meetings in a manner that would not impede on his  health issues. […]”

“Additionally, LSBEP has valid due process concerns with respect to applicants and/or persons undergoing disciplinary procedures. LSBEP’s powers include the power to examine for, deny, approve, revoke, suspend, and renew the licenses of applicants, candidates, and psychologists.  Conducting hearings by Zoom raises due process concerns for applicants, candidates, and  psychologists. These important due process protections of applicants, candidates, and psychologists appearing before LSBEP shows a very valid concern by LSBEP of Gormanous’  request.

In his June 6 filing in the United States District Court Western District of Louisiana, Dr.  Gormanous asked for a Preliminary Injunction in his favor against defendants Jaime T. Monic, in her official capacity as Executive Director of the LSBEP, and the LSBEP as a political entity. He  alleged that Ms. Monic and the LSBEP have unlawfully discriminated against Dr. Gormanous by (1) failing to provide a reasonable accommodation and (2) using eligibility criteria that tends to  screen out people with disabilities.

Dr. Gormanous is 74 years old and has various medical conditions, including chronic  obstructive  pulmonary disease (COPD) and a pacemaker, that make him highly susceptible to  COVID-19, noted authors of the June 6 Motion.

In a June email to colleagues, Dr. Gormanous wrote, “Supporting discrimination does not align  with the ideals of psychology. Throughout this ordeal, I have unsuccessfully tried to minimize LSBEP’s expenditures of scarce limited human & financial resources. I tried to resolve issues  with a civil inquiry beginning in JUN 2020. During the FEB 22, 2022 meeting, I was met with  cognitively rigid replies. Statements like I was asking the ED to break the law by attending by  Zoom. As a result, LSBEP’s flawed decision-making process necessitated litigation that continues to result in their spending unnecessary legal fees.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Psychologists Continue to Press State Board on Single Hurdle EPPP and Racial Discrimination

As follow-up to their January complaint that the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of  Psychologists is inappropriately using the national licensing exam as a single hurdle, resulting in discrimination against Blacks and other minorities, a group of psychologists have submitted a position statement to the Board.

In the statement, the psychologists give seven ethical and legal points, and argue that using the  EPPP is not only illegal but also inherently discriminatory,” and that, “The test is racist, and its  use must be restricted.”

In one conclusion they write, “The State Board must immediately offer an alternative path for  licensing that relies on either a reduced cutoff score OR specific board supervision for individuals who are so marred by systemic racism that they perform poorly on standardized  tests.”

In January, the psychologists, Drs. William Costelloe, Julie Nelson, and Marc Zimmermann,  business psychologists who have extensive experience with high stakes selection testing in the  private sector, submitted “A Request for Investigation,” stating that members of the Louisiana  State Board of Examiners of Psychologists are operating outside of their area of competence in regard to selection–testing and racial discrimination. The request was rejected by the Board. In  a letter dated March 7, Ms. Jaime Monic, the Executive Director, said that the members do not  have jurisdiction over themselves. Also, she said, they are not engaged in the practice of psychology as board members.

However, they are open to reviewing this issue, Ms. Monic wrote. She said to send any  information and they would review it. The psychologists have sent several documents.

In the most recent position statement, authors wrote:

“We have seven ethical and even legal concerns regarding the current Psychology licensing  procedures and how they affect Black psychologists, other people of color, and many others from historically disenfranchised groups. These criticisms are noted explicitly for Black  psychologists. They may also apply to people from linguistic, cultural, and religious minorities,  including people who identify as nonbinary.

“First, although we are not lawyers, we note the overwhelming psychometric and legal  problems with the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). This test is used  in all 50 states (though not Puerto Rico), and states use a criterion of 500 to pass. The test relies on content validity alone with no evidence of other validities. As Sharpless (2018) noted in a  review, “It is unknown if scores are associated with relevant performance criteria” (p. 161).  While this was acceptable in the 1980s (Kane, 1981), it is not acceptable now, as Kane (2016)  notes.

“There is no evidence that the test predicts competency, adequacy, or professionalism. We are  unaware of any evidence published in peer review sources that currently link this test to the  objective performance criteria of licensed, professional psychologists.

Quite ironically, and perhaps hypocritically, the standards required of our profession for testing  others, for example, in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, are not applied to  psychologists when they must regulate themselves. These include what courts consider  minimally necessary: test stability, evidence of findings in peer-reviewed publications, and  predictive error rate.

“Beyond this, in Griggs v. Duke Power, the Supreme Court ruled that if employment-related tests  had a disparate impact on protected groups (illustrated below), the organization requiring the  test must prove that the test in use is “reasonably related” to the duties performed on the job.  There is no peer-reviewed evidence that the EPPP is reasonably related to the responsibilities of practicing psychologists. There is no published evidence that it measures skill knowledge and much less skills competency.”

According to the June minutes from the Board, “Dr. Gibson reported that additional information has been sent to the Board, by the individuals raising concerns about the use of the EPPP. Dr. Gibson recommended that a committee be formed to comprehensively study the concerns  addressed in the complaint about the EPPP and its bias against minority populations and that in order to avoid the perception of bias, board members with close ties to ASPPB should not be  members of the committee.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Claire Houtsma Recognized for Early Career Contribution in Suicide Prevention

Dr. Claire Houtsma, a research scientist in suicide prevention, was honored this spring by the Louisiana Psychological Association with their Early Career Psychologist Award.

Dr. Houtsma is the Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System. She is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Core Investigator at South Central Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center.

Dr. Houtsma is also Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral  Sciences, Tulane University, School of Medicine, and Research Assistant Professor in Section of Community Population Medicine, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine.

The Times asked Dr. Houtsma what she views are her most important contributions at this point in her career.

“My most important contributions have probably been in the area of firearm suicide  prevention,” Dr. Houtsma said. “My research related to firearms has been designed to clarify  contexts under which risk for firearm suicide is heightened, as well as to develop and test  interventions that reduce risk for firearm suicide. I am particularly proud of my projects that  have involved active collaborations with Veteran and civilian firearm owners,” she said.

“Through my work with the Veteran-Informed Safety Intervention and Outreach Network  (VISION), I collaborated with firearm owning Veterans and civilians to create a suicide prevention learning module, including a PowerPoint slide deck and brief video, that can be used in Louisiana firearm training courses,” said Dr. Houtsma. “I am currently working with a number of firearm course instructors to test the acceptability and effectiveness of this learning module.”

Spokesperson for the Louisiana Psychological Association, Dr. Amanda Raines, said, “The impact that Dr. Houtsma will make on the field of psychological science is best reflected in her timely  and innovative program of research. At a time when suicide remains the 11th leading cause of  death in the United States, her program of research aims to identify and examine risk factors that underlie firearm suicide,” Raines said. “In addition, her body of work focuses on the  development and dissemination of novel methods of prevention and intervention. To date, Dr. Houtsma has published 28 peer-reviewed articles and presented her work at various local and  national conferences. Further, she serves as a co-investigator or principal investigator on six  federally funded projects.”

Dr. Houtsma’s work is ongoing. “I am also in the midst of recruiting for a study that will examine the feasibility and acceptability of peer-delivered lethal means counseling among  firearm owning Veterans,” Dr. Houtsma said. “This study will evaluate whether conversations about implementing safer firearm storage practices are acceptable among Veterans and  whether they actually lead to behavior change. I feel these projects are among the most important contributions I have made so far because they focus on a population at high risk for firearm suicide, use a partnered approach in research design and implementation, and provide  practical outcomes that may help save lives now,” she said.

Dr. Houtsma has authored numerous important studies. For her article, “The Association  Between Gun Ownership Dr. Claire Houtsma Recognized for Early Career Contributions in  Suicide Prevention, continued and Statewide Overall Suicide Rates,” the aim was to “expand on extant research by examining the extent to which gun ownership predicts statewide overall  suicide rates beyond the effects of demographic, geographic, religious, psychopathological, and  suicider-elated variables.” According to the abstract, “By extending the list of covariates utilized,  considering those covariates simultaneously, and using more recent data, the study sought to present a more stringent test. Gun ownership predicted statewide overall suicide rates, with the full model accounting for more than 92% of the variance in statewide suicide rates. The correlation between firearm suicide rates and the overall suicide rate was significantly stronger  than the correlation between non-firearm suicide rates and the overall suicide rate.”

Another article by Dr. Houtsma, “The Association Between State Laws Regulating Handgun Ownership and Statewide Suicide Rates,” examined the impact of three state laws––permit to  purchase a handgun, registration of handguns, and license to own a handgun on suicide rates. According to the abstract, “They used 2010 data from publicly available databases and state  legislatures to assess the relationships between the predictors and outcomes. The Results  largely indicated that states with any of these laws in place exhibited lower overall suicide rates and suicide by firearms rates and that a smaller proportion of suicides in such states resulted  from firearms. Furthermore, results indicated that laws requiring registration and license had significant indirect effects through the proportion of suicides resulting from firearms. The latter  results imply that such laws are associated with fewer suicide attempts overall, a tendency for  those who attempt to use less-lethal means, or both. Exploratory longitudinal analyses indicated a decrease in overall suicide rates immediately following implementation of laws  requiring a license to own a handgun.”

In Dr. Houtsma’s “Moderating Role of Firearm Storage in the Association Between Current Suicidal Ideation and Likelihood of Future Suicide Attempts Among United States Military  Personnel,” researchers hypothesized that how soldiers store their firearms would moderate  the relationship between suicidal ideation and the self-reported likelihood of engaging in a future suicide attempt, and that this relationship would be explained by fearlessness about  death, noted the abstract. “There were 432 military personnel who endorsed current ownership of a private firearm and who were recruited from a military base in the southeastern United States (94.5% National Guard). Firearm storage moderated the relationship between suicidal  ideation and the self-reported likelihood of engaging in a future suicide attempt, but this relationship was not explained by fearlessness about death. Individuals who reported keeping  heir firearms loaded and stored in an unsecure location exhibited higher mean levels of fearlessness about death. Findings highlight the need for research examining contributors to  suicide risk in the context of firearm storage and provide support for suicide prevention efforts  involving restricting means.”

Dr. Houtsma regularly shares information and research at conferences across the country. Examples include:

Houtsma, C., Powers, J., Raines, A. M., Bailey, M., Constans, J. I., & True, G.  (November, 2022). Adaptation and evaluation of a lethal means safety suicide prevention module for concealed carry courses. Symposium talk submitted to the National Research  Conference on Firearm Injury Prevention, Washington, D.C.

Houtsma, C., Sah, E., & Constans, J.  I. (November, 2022). The firearm implicit association test: A validation study. Symposium talk  submitted to the National Research Conference on Firearm Injury Prevention, Washington, D.C. 

Houtsma, C., Tock, J. L., & Raines, A. M. (November, 2022). When safe firearm storage isn’t  enough: Comparing risk profiles among firearm suicide decedents. Symposium talk accepted at  the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), New York  City, New York.

Houtsma, C., Anestis, M. D., Gratz, K. L., Tull, M., Butterworth, S. E., Richmond, J., & Forbes, C.  (November, 2021). The role of opioid use in distinguishing between suicidal ideation and attempts. Symposium talk presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral  and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), Virtual Conference.

Houtsma, C. (August, 2021). Feasibility and acceptability of Caring Contacts for suicide prevention among veterans recently separated from military service. Symposium talk presented at the Mississippi Health Disparities Conference, Biloxi, Mississippi.

Dr. Houtma is the investigator or coinvestigator for numerous grant projects including: Demonstration Project – Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP) Title: Measuring Feasibility and Effectiveness of a Lethal Means Safety Suicide Prevention Module in  Concealed Carry and Firearm Safety Classes, and Veterans Rural Health Resource Center FY22  Project – Office of Rural Health (ORH) Title: Preventing Firearm Suicides Among Rural Veterans  by Engaging Military Caregivers.

In her career so far, what is she most thankful for?

“I am endlessly thankful for the mentors who have helped me reach my goals,” Dr. Houtsma  said. “My graduate school mentor, Dr. Michael Anestis, provided me with the skills, encouragement, and support I needed to become a successful, research-oriented graduate  student. He has continued to be a mentor to me after graduate school and I am so grateful to know I can reach out to him for guidance as I navigate my career. I am also thankful for the  mazing mentors I gained during my clinical internship year. Drs. Amanda Raines, Laurel Franklin, Gala True, and Joseph Constans were critical in Dr. Claire Houtsma Recognized for  Early Career Contributions in Suicide Prevention, continued helping me transition from trainee  to early career psychologist,” she said.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a fantastic workplace,” Dr. Houtsma said, “however,  it is not always clear how to forge a research career in this setting. My mentors at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System have provided invaluable assistance, reassurance, and  support in moving my research program forward within VA. I feel very lucky to have such amazing people on my team and I wouldn’t have achieved success as an early career  psychologist without them,” she said.

Does Dr. Houtsma have any advice for other early career psychologists?

“I would encourage other early career psychologists to stay in close contact with their mentors,” she said. I have found it immensely helpful, not only in navigating the minutia of research  studies, but also in determining how to balance work-life priorities. I realize not everyone has  the opportunity to gain desired mentorship in a naturalistic way, so I would encourage early  career psychologists to reach out to others in your field who have careers you admire. I have  gained mentorship from individuals at other institutions, simply by reaching out via email or  Zoom. It’s very hard to make it on your own in this field and the good news is, you don’t have  to!”

What has Dr. Houtsma enjoyed the most?

“Working with and learning from Veterans and firearm owners,” she said. “My work with VISION  as exposed me to the world of community-engaged research and I have found this to be an  extremely informative and rewarding experience. Being able to connect with individuals for  whom firearm suicide is a very real and personal experience reminds me why I’m doing this  work and reinforces my passion to find solutions,” said Dr. Houtsma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mizell’s Bill Becomes Law This Week Without Gov.’s Signature

Senator Beth Mizell’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” becomes law this week after the Governor declined to veto or sign the measure. The new law, Act 283, will have the effect of  prohibiting transgender females, those assigned as male at birth, from competing in traditional women’s sports.

In a June 6 letter to the President of the Louisiana Senate, Governor Edwards, who had signaled  that he would veto the measure, explained his reasons. “[…] after passing this legislation  overwhelmingly in two consecutive regular legislative sessions, it is clearly the will of the  legislature that this bill become law.

Further, it is clear to me, both from the support for this bill and from private conversations with legislators, that Senate Bill 44 would have become law regardless of my action on it.”

Sen. Mizell’s bill passed the Senate by 32 to 6 and the House by 72 to 21. A similar effort failed,  by two votes, to override the Governor’s veto in 2021.

According to the final digest, Act 283 requires 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  mens team or event only for students who are biological males. (2) A females, girls, or womens  team or event only for students who are biological females. (3) A coeducational or mixed team  or event for students who are biological males or biological females.”

Also according to the digest, nothing in new law is intended to prevent any school from  implementing or maintaining a coed athletic team or sporting event which is open to both  biological males and biological females so long as a female athletic team or sporting event is  not disbanded for the purpose of creating a coed team or event which would thereby result to  the detriment of biological female students. And also nothing in new law shall be construed to apply to an intramural athletic team or intramural sport.

In his June 6 letter, Governor Edwards expressed his feelings about the legislation. “Despite it becoming law,” he said, “I stand by my position on this issue over the last several years as it has  been debated. This legislation unfairly targets vulnerable children who are already struggling  with gaining acceptance in every aspect of their lives.“

“It is unconscionable.” Gov. Edwards wrote, “to have these organizations year after year  continue to push the same legislation to capitalize on this issue at the expense of these children who are just trying to learn how to live their everyday lives,” he said.

“It is my sincere hope that we as a state become more educated about our transgender  community and the difficult and unique challenges they face. We should strive to be better and  more understanding.”

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 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 the 2021 SB 156 and the Louisiana School Psychological Association labeled the 2021 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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Psychology Board Embarks on Major Overhaul of Rules & Regulations

In their February minutes, posted on July 11, the state psychology board outlined major  changes and updates they intend to make to the regulatory law governing psychologists.

Central to these changes is the new section of administrative Rules on registration of assistants  to psychologists, including regulations on who may be an assistant, their credentials, how the  board will investigate complaints, and how to regulate supervision of the assistants.

According to the minutes, board members discussed numerous changes and additions to the  rules and regulations for psychologists. The following excerpts (Italicized) were included in the  reporting.

Chapter 11: Assistants to Psychologists (registration) –

Define “Assistant to a Psychologist” (ATAP), “General Professional Supervision”, “Continuous Professional Supervision”, “Supervisor” or “Supervising Psychologist”

Establish minimum criteria for an ATAP to qualify for registration (age, high school diploma, Criminal Background Check).

Establish titles that may be used when identifying ATAP’s. Clarify the boundaries that establish the  legal functional authority of the Supervising Psychologist, and the responsibility that the Supervising  Psychologist has for their clients.

Establish clear criteria to ensure that the Supervising Psychologist is responsible for ALL activities (administratively, clinically, ethically, functionally and legally) of the ATAP including registration,  renewal, directing the provision of psychological services, the outcome of work, the welfare of the  client, general communication and disclosures to clients, services delivered by ATAP’s, and  advertisement.

Define the minimum criteria of general professional supervision (direct, in person) to ensure the  welfare of the client, and the ethical and legal protection of the assistant.

Clarify that a registration is not a property right of the ATAP; shall not be construed to allow the ATAP to independently engage in the practice of psychology; or render any diagnosis; or sign any  evaluations or reports as the provider of record; or independently advertise psychological services; or assign or delegate psychological duties to others;

Define those activities an ATAP may perform with regard to psychological testing/scoring.

Outline the statutory authority of the board to conduct investigations in matters involving the ATAP  and/or their Supervisor; […]

The minutes also included discussion and possible changes in numerous other chapters of the rules  and regulations.

Chapter 3: Training Requirements

Update language for identifying acceptable accrediting bodies for doctoral-level psychology programs. Update standards to ensure training equivalence in the nine profession-wide competencies equivalent to the current American Psychological Association (“APA”) Commission on Accreditation Implementing Regulations. The new APA training requirements include competence in  supervision prior to graduation, which allow the board to eliminate the hurdle of additional  experience post licensure prior to engaging in supervision.

Provide a clause in consideration of individuals trained prior to 2015, that they will be assessed  under the training standards in place at the time of their graduation.

Classify specialty designations into “Health Service Psychology” and “General Applied Psychology”.  Necessary to provide a fair and consistent review of individuals who are graduates of programs  without APA Accreditation; necessary to provide an alternate route to licensure for individuals not trained in a Health Service area of psychology; and necessary to make clear that individuals who  attend graduate programs without internship training do not meet the criteria for practice in a  Health Service area of psychology.

Clarify current training requirements for the registration of a Clinical Neuropsychology specialty consistent with Houston Conference Guidelines; also clarifies those overlapping areas that do not  require the registration of a Clinical Neuropsychology specialty.

Chapter 7: Supervision Requirements –

Provide a definition for “General Professional Supervision” to clarify that which is the direct, in person supervision required as part of training.

Provide a definition for “Continuing Professional Supervision” as ongoing supervision which  establishes the legal and functional responsibility of the licensed psychologist for the client and the services provided to a client by a supervisee.

Clarify that the Supervisor owns or is an employee of the entity employing the supervisee to quantify  legal functional responsibility of the licensed psychologist for the client and the services provided to a client by a supervisee.

Chapter NEW: Telepsychology and Telesupervision

Facilitate the process for a Louisiana Licensed Psychologist to provide psychological services via  telecommunications.

Chapter 8: Continuing Professional Development

Add a requirement that (2) of the 40 hours that are currently required must be within the area of multiculturalism or diversity.

Remove the categorical requirement in consideration of the least restrictive requirements for license  renewal.

Define activities that are “automatically approved” by the Board as Workshops, Conference Workshops/Training Activities that have Board approved sponsors.

Chapter 9: Licenses (Emeritus)

Create a retired status for licensees: “Psychologist Emeritus: Retired”.

Create definitions, criteria and a procedure for requesting the status.

Create a procedure to return to practice.

Provide that “Psychologist Emeritus: Retired” are exempt from Continuing Education requirements.

Provide a procedure and requirements for renewal of a Psychologist Emeritus.

Chapter 15: Complaint Adjudication process – Draft changes were not ready for presentation.

Chapter 19: Public Information (petitions to the board)

Dr. Gibson presented draft amendments to Chapter 19 which establish a procedure for any  interested person to petition the LSBEP to request the adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule according to Title 49. Section 953.C(1).

Chapter 40: LSSP CPD Requirements –

Ms. Monic presented previously approved changes to Chapter 40 which will reduce the number of  continuing education hours required for the renewal of a license from 50 to 40 hours.

******
[Editor’s Note: Minutes are available at the board’s website which
include all notes on discussion of new rules.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Edwards Issues Statement on Court Overturning Roe V. Wade

In a June 24 press release, Gov. John Edwards issued a statement about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling by the United States Supreme Court, which overturned  Roe v. Wade.

Gov. Edwards said, “I am and have always been unabashedly pro-life and opposed to abortion. However, I understand that people on both sides of this complex issue hold deeply personal  beliefs, and I respect that not everyone, including many in my own party, agrees with my position.

“While we are still reviewing the decision issued by the Court this morning, Louisiana has had a  trigger law in place since 2006 that would outlaw abortion, without exception for rape and  incest, should the United States Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

“I asked the Legislature to include exceptions for rape and incest in the legislation most recently passed. While the bill that passed expanded the exceptions from the 2006 law to include  instances of medical futility and treatment of ectopic pregnancies, these important exceptions  were not included.

“As I have said many times before, I believe women who are survivors of rape or incest should  be able determine whether to continue with a pregnancy that is the result of a criminal act.

“And, to be clear, the legislation I recently signed protects all forms of contraception, including emergency contraception, which remains fully legal and available in Louisiana.

“Being pro-life  means more than just being against abortion. It means providing the necessary resources and implementing policies that provide real options and not just lip service to the children, women,  and families we are blessed to serve. Now more than ever, it’s critical that Louisiana funds  services to support women, children, and families throughout their lives, which is why I have  expanded health care through our Medicaid program and lobbied for measures to make sure workers are paid better and more fairly. It’s also why I’ve supported better funding for  Louisiana’s public education system, including early childhood education. I believe all people  should have the opportunity to succeed and that starts with providing a strong foundation early in life.

“Make no mistake, there is much more that we can do to support women, children, and families, and I hope that my fellow pro-life public officials will join me in these efforts in the  coming months and years.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislative Auditors Review Strengths, Weaknesses of State Psychology Board

A performance audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditors Office has found problems in the  complaints process of the state Psychology Board. The audit, led by Ms. Emily Dixon, Performance Audit Manager, and begun in August 2021, examined the Board’s processes for  licensing, monitoring, and enforcement. The performance of the board was compared to the requirements set forth in the Psychology Practice Act, and found to be in compliance with “most best practices.”

However, the auditors found numerous problems with the complaints committee performance. They said that the average time for resolving a complaint was 338 days and that the Board had  no internal time frames for accomplishing its investigations. The auditors also stated that the  board had no “disciplinary matrix,” and no way to track the nature and outcomes of complaints  or to analyze the data. They also found numerous errors, inconsistencies, and lack of follow up.

The auditors sampled internal documents from fiscal years 2019 through 2021. During this  three year time, LSBEP received 71 complaints and closed 63 of these complaints. Eight, or 12.7%, resulted in a public, disciplinary action. There was one, non-public, impaired psychologist procedure and 11 Letters of Education, also nonpublic. According to this data, 43 of the cases  were dismissed with no action. A total of 85.7% were either dismissed or received a letter with  educational information.

The auditors found that the board required an average of 338 days to resolve a complaint. The  time ranged from eleven days to more than three years. Eight (12.7%) of the 63 complaints took more than two years to resolve, and an additional 13 (20.6%) of the complaints took more than  one year to resolve.

” […] LSBEP has not established internal timeframes for resolving complaints, and its process for tracking complaints does not record accurate and complete information. As a result, the Board  cannot ensure that it is investigating and resolving complaints in a timely manner,” they said.

The auditors found that LSBEP’s process for tracking complaints included inaccuracies and inconsistencies.

“LSBEP tracks complaint information in a spreadsheet, an investigation log, and a complaints  log. However, we compared these three documents to each other and to LSBEP’s paper  complaint files and Board meeting minutes that contain complaint outcomes, and found that  none of the tracking documents were accurate or complete. For instance, the spreadsheet did  not include all complaints, incorrectly listed some closed complaints as open, and did not  include all instances of disciplinary action.

“[…] we found that three Letters of Education were sent to the licensees more than five months  after the Board voted to send them.” And, “… we identified five complaints that LSBEP did not ensure were fully closed. These five complaints included one licensee who was never sent a Letter of Education that the Board voted to send in June 2019 about mandatory reporting of  abuse.” The auditors sound that four complaints were never presented to the Board for closure.”

The auditors also found that “LSBEP has not adopted a disciplinary matrix that aligns with  regulatory best practices to ensure that disciplinary actions are consistent and appropriately  escalated based on the number and/or severity of violations.”

 The auditors found the following categories and percentages of allegations. (See Audit Exhibit below.) The most frequent category of 25% came in from allegations of “Substandard Care,  Negligence, or Malpractice.” This was followed by 20% for “Unprofessional Conduct, Discrimination, or Rude Treatment.” Next was “Failure to Maintain or Provide Accurate Patient  Records” at 16%, “Multiple Relationships or Conflict of Interest,” and ‘Practice Without  License, Misrepresentation of Credentials, or Practice Outside of Scope,” both at 14% of allegations.

The auditors noted, “According to LSBEP, staff create separate spreadsheets to track the compliance of each disciplined licensee and use calendar reminders for monitoring specific  activities.

“However, these processes are not formalized in policy and staff have not followed them consistently. In addition, the Board does not have a process for systematically and periodically  monitoring whether all disciplined licensees have performed required corrective actions,  reimbursed disciplinary costs as ordered, and continue to comply with ongoing Board restrictions.”

The auditors noted that, “LSBEP did not report four (44.4%) of the nine adverse actions it issued during fiscal years 2019 through 2021 to the NPDB in accordance with federal law.”

The auditors recommended that the Psychology Board require all licensees to undergo a background check, Instead of just new licensees. And, they recommended that the Board query  the National Practitioner Data Base for enforcement information when making license decisions and for continuous monitoring.

The auditors also indicated that the Legislature may want to authorize the Psychology Board to  impose fines for discipline and administrative noncompliance.

In a response, the Board agreed with all the auditors’ recommendations. Specifically, they  agreed to “… establish a system where complaints are prioritized and investigated on a case-by- case basis considering risk to the public in accordance with the Audit, the Act, LAPA, and other  applicable law and oversight. This system will ensure complaints are processed within reasonable time periods, factoring in the complexity of the case. These procedures are  currently in practice, but not explicitly stated in policy. Additionally, the board has recently hired two full-time employees including in-house counsel whose primary focus is on the complaint  adjudication process. Timeframes for internal monitoring will be determined to ensure compliance.”

The Board agreed to “… establishing a process for tracking complaints that includes  documenting the status, nature, and outcome of all complaints; periodically reviewing open  complaints; and regularly analyzing complaint data to assess compliance with agency policy and identify opportunities for improvement. Over the past 3 years, the board has worked to  improve financial stability in order to employ staff who can develop these processes understanding that this is vital to operations and best practice.”

The 37-page report is available online at https://app.lla.state.la.us/publicreports.nsf/0/dd11af03beda7797862588540052a678/$file/0002f3.pdf?openelement&.7773098

 

 

 

 

 

Governor Announces “Internet for All” Initiative Jointly with NTIA

Along with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information  Administration (NTIA), Governor Edwards announced that Louisiana will participate in the  “Internet for All” initiative, a program designed to provide high-speed internet for all Americans at an affordable cost. The initiative, which will build internet infrastructure, provide pertinent  technology, and teach digital skills to community members, will invest $65 billion in the project  and will be funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Partnering with Commerce/NTIA will allow Louisiana to achieve what we thought was  impossible. We will now have the financial resources necessary to once and for all eliminate the  digital divide in Louisiana. We are grateful to both Secretary Raimondo and Assistant Secretary Davidson of NTIA for their leadership and partnership. Over the past several years, our Broadband Office (ConnectLa) has worked hard to align resources between federal, state, and  local officials to take full advantage of this historic broadband funding opportunity. We look forward to partnering with the people of Louisiana to make closing the divide a reality,” said  Gov. Edwards.

Louisiana plans to invest $5 million in planning funds, and each state will be awarded support  from dedicated NTIA staff to catalyze and complete the project. Each participating state will  receive at least $100 million in funds to help implement the scope of the project.

“Generations before us brought electricity to rural America and built the interstate highways,”  said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information. “Our generation’s task is to connect all Americans online. […]”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OBH Expanding Opioid Treatment Services to Shreveport, Hammond

Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) announced it is expanding opioid use disorder treatment in the Northwest and Northshore regions of  Louisiana. Accessible, evidence-based, 24/7 treatment is now available in Shreveport and is  coming to Hammond in June of this year. These areas were chosen because of their high rate of  opioid prescriptions and are available at Behavioral Health Group (BHG) Shreveport, 1303  Line Avel, Suite 600, by calling 844-535-7291. Between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., services are  provided by calling 318-349-2451.

These new services are made possible by the expansion of funds earmarked to increase the workforce in these areas and come from the federal entity, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through the Louisiana State Opioid Response (LaSOR) 2.0  Grant. The LDH has developed a business plan designed to combat opioid substance abuse by  providing outpatient treatment utilizing Medication for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD), supplying  clients with effective, evidence-based treatments that allow them to live their daily lives.

Currently, almost all Opioid Treatment Programs only provide treatment during daytime hours.  This can be detrimental to individuals battling opioid addiction. “The road to recovery is  different for everyone, and for some that may require unconventional hours to accommodate  those with young children or who work on later shifts. We are proud to expand around-the- clock opioid treatment in Louisiana, meeting families where they are when they most need it,”  said LDH Secretary Dr. Courtney N. Phillips.

According to federal research done in 2019, only 1 in 20 Louisiana residents affected by opioid addiction received the help they needed that year. The national average is 1 in 9. “For those  seeking help for the first time, the need for care often strikes at night,” said Natashia Cheatham, regional director of operations for BHG. “Waiting for the nearest treatment center to open can  be a matter of life or death for people living with opioid use disorder (OUD). We are looking  forward to working with the Caddo Parish community to provide the full spectrum of opioid  treatment services.”

Authors from the Lancet’s, “Responding to the Opioid Crisis in North America and Beyond: Recommendations of the Stanford-Lancet Commission,” published in February, said that in the  USA and Canada, 2020 was the worst year on record for fatal opioid overdoses. The US overdoses rose 37%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that provisional data analysis estimates for the 12 months ending in May 2021, there were 75,387 deaths from opioid  toxicity.

Opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of  drug overdose deaths, said the CDC, with 72.9% of opioid-involved overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids. And, overdose deaths involving psychostimulants such as methamphetamine  are increasing with and without synthetic opioid involvement.

Also in February, Medscape reported a surge in the rate of Black Americans dying from a combination of opioids and cocaine, an increase of 575%. The rate for White Americans  increased by 184%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Constans Recognized for Contributions

Dr. Joseph Constans, clinical psychologist and Senior Manager for Suicide Prevention within the Department of Veterans Affairs, has been recognized by the Louisiana Psychological Association for the 2022 Contributions in Psychological Science Award.

Presenting the award and spokesperson for the association, Dr. Amanda Raines explained that  this honor is given to those in the psychological community who have used their time and resources to expand and propagate the knowledge of psychological concepts through rigorous research and the publication of these findings.

“Dr. Constans was recently promoted to Senior Manager for Suicide Prevention within the Department of Veterans Affairs where he manages the suicide research portfolio for the Office  of Research and Development,” Dr. Raines said.

“Previously he served as the Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Southeast Louisiana  Veterans Health Care System where he successfully led the activation of our state of-the-art  research program following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Constans’ own  program of research involves understanding and modifying belief systems in trauma-exposed  individuals prone to either homicidal or suicidal violence,” she said.

“In his role as the Senior Manager for Suicide Prevention at the Department of Veteran Affairs,  Dr. Constans is instrumental to the Office of Research and Development, where he maintains  the suicide research portfolio,” said Dr. Raines.

She also explained that Dr. Constans has published over 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts and  book chapters, serves as an ad hoc reviewer for over 20 peer reviewed journals and has secured funding for over $12 million in grants.

“I’m truly honored,” Dr. Constans told the Times, “that my colleagues selected me as the  recipient for the Louisiana Psychological Association 2022 Contributions in Psychological  Science Award. The Boulder model served as the framework for my graduate education in  clinical psychology, and I continue to strongly support the scientist/practitioner approach.  Therefore, I am particularly grateful to have received this award.”

Dr. Constans is also Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Tulane  University School of Medicine, and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Louisiana State University School of Medicine.

He is a member of the Tulane University  Violence Prevention Institute (VPI), which focuses its research on violence both in the local  community and across the globe. The Violence Prevention Institute mission is to be “an equity- focused hub supporting communities to foster transformative research, training, and advocacy  to address systemic, structural, and interpersonal violence.” Local research has shown that the prevalence of sexual assault and domestic violence in the New Orleans area needs to be  addressed with research and community collaboration.

Dr. Constans is a member of both the Internal Advisory Committee at the Louisiana Clinical and  Translational Science Center, whose objective is to transform the clinical and translational  research efforts of our region away from the status quo, to a unified, comprehensive approach  targeting the theme of “prevention, care and research of chronic diseases in the underserved  population.”

He also serves on the Advisory Board at Louisiana Violent Death Reporting System in the  Louisiana Office of Public Health.

Dr. Contans is also the President of Louisiana Veterans Research and Education Corporation.  Dr. Constans’ evidence-based methods utilized to combat anxiety disorders are rooted in  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for which he publicly advocates. He is passionate about  serving his clients and the psychological community through research and treatment. His  federally-funded research program is designed to understand and treat emotional disorders,  and his extensive training with some of the early pioneers of CBT, including Drs. Andrew Mathew and Edna Foa, grant him the expertise which catalyzes this research.

In addition to his boots-on-the-ground work, Dr. Constans has been able to gather the  Resources needed to fund research integral to his expertise. To facilitate his research surrounding trauma-exposed individuals, where he studies the thought process behind their  belief systems and strives to achieve modification in this area, Dr. Constans has procured over  $12 million in grants. This research is instrumental in preventing homicidal and suicidal  violence, and his commitment to this work is evidenced in the 50-plus peer-reviewed  manuscripts and book chapters he has published to date.

Working with the VA and Department of Defense, he has served as the Principal Investigator or  Co-Investigator on countless studies and has been an ad hoc reviewer for over 20 peer- reviewed journals. He also has reviewed various grants funded by both the federal government  and private entities.

Dr. Constans’ research includes the following major areas.

Understanding attention, judgment, and memory bias in pathological anxiety:

Constans, J. I. & Mathews, A. M. (1993). Mood and the subjective risk of future events. Cognition  and Emotion, 7(6), 545-560.

Constans, J. I., Foa, E. B., Franklin, M. E., & Mathews, A. (1995). Memory for actual and imagined  events in OC checkers. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33(6), 665-671.

Constans, J. I., Penn, D. L., Ihen, G. H., & Hope, D. A. (1999). Interpretive biases for ambiguous  stimuli in social anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37(7), 643-651.

Peters, K., Constans, J. I., & Mathews, A. (2011). Experimental modification of attribution  processes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120(1), 168-173.

Cognitive bias and neuropsychological deficits associated with PTSD:

Constans, J. I., Foa, E. B., Franklin, M. E., & Mathews, A. (1995). Memory for actual and imagined events in OC checkers. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33(6), 665-671.

Constans, J. I., Penn, D. L., Ihen, G. H., & Hope, D. A. (1999). Interpretive biases for ambiguous  stimuli in social anxiety. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37(7), 643-651.

Peters, K., Constans, J. I., & Mathews, A. (2011). Experimental modification of attribution  processes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120(1), 168-173.

The prevention of death, including homicide and suicide:

Wamser-Nanney, R. A., Nanney, J. T,  & Constans, J. I. (2019). PTSD Symptoms and Attitudes Towards Guns. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Wamser-Nanney, R. A., Nanney, J. T., Conrad, E., & Constans, J. I. (2019). Childhood Trauma  Exposure Among Victims of Gun Violence. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, and Policy, 11(1), 99-106.

Wamser-Nanney, R., Nanney, J. T., & Constans, J. I. (2019). The Gun Behaviors and Beliefs Scale:  Development of a new measure of gun behaviors and beliefs. Psychology of Violence, 10(2),  72–181.

Wamser-Nanney, R.A., Nanney, J.T, & Constans, J.I. Trauma Exposure and Attitudes Towards  Guns. Psychology of Violence. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Dr. Constans told the Times, “When I began my professional career in the Veterans Health Administration 1993, I thought I’d last about 5 years in the organization. Now, almost 29 years  later, I’m still a VA employee. Reflecting on why my prediction was so inaccurate and why I have  stayed with this organization for so long, I can say that a primary reason is because of the  opportunities that the VA provided me in pursuing a career as a clinician scientist,” he said.

Dr. Constans specializes in the non-medical treatment of a variety of emotional disorders  including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, mild to moderate depression, and stress- related emotional issues.

After completing his undergraduate studies in Psychology at Louisiana State University (LSU),  Dr. Constans went on to receive his M.S. at Colorado State University and a PhD in Clinical  Psychology from LSU. He then completed his internship at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

What does he view to be his most important contributions? “There have been three phases in  my career as a clinician scientist,” Dr. Constans said. “For the first 15 years of my career, I  investigated how biases in judgment and attention served as causative or maintaining factors  for psychopathology, particularly posttraumatic stress disorder.

“In the second phase, beginning approximately 10 years ago, my focus evolved from studying  the sequelae of trauma to one that is concerned with prevention. My interests became and remain the prevention of suicide and homicide with a particular emphasis in understanding  how beliefs and behaviors surrounding firearms contributes to violent death,” he said.

“The third part of my career was and is as an administrator for scientific endeavors. I served as  the Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the New Orleans VAMC from approximately a year after Hurricane Katrina until October of 2021. In this administrative position, I was able to  advance and grow the scientific mission in our healthcare facility, and hopefully during this  time, I served as a particularly strong advocate for psychological science,” he said.

“Now, I working for Office of Research and Development in VA’s Central Office, developing and  managing the suicide prevention research portfolio, allowing me to assist in the advancement  of psychological science to address an important public health issue,” Dr. Constans said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Cohen’s Newest Research in Clinical Psychological Science

Dr. Alex Cohen, clinical psychologist and professor at Louisiana State University (LSU), continues his efforts to adapt behavioral technologies for investigating a wide range of clinical issues,  including suicidality, depression, psychosis, mania, and anxiety. His newest publication is “High Predictive Accuracy of Negative Schizotypy with Acoustic Measures,” published recently in the  flagship clinical journal, Clinical Psychological Science. He is widely recognized for his work using automated computerized analysis of behavior and has been featured in top psychology and  psychiatry journals.

In an interview with the Times, Dr. Cohen said, “I think we are pushing the boundaries of what  clinical science can do in measuring symptoms of serious mental illness.

“Psychology has not sufficiently addressed many areas of human suffering, and innovation is  needed. I believe that Psychology can’t fulfill its potential alone, and will require cooperation between other academic disciplines, and also community partners, big tech, advocacy and political groups, business, government regulators, law enforcement and above all, people from  the communities we are serving,” he said.

“Finding ways to cooperate and overcome the inevitable ‘tower of babel’ problem between  these groups, in my opinion, is essential to solving many of the big problems that we face right  now. Who else is trained so effectively in bringing people together? I think psychology can  occupy a central role in coordinating these efforts.”

What does he think are the major and most important findings of this new study? “We were  trying to use objective vocal data to predict personality traits associated with psychosis risk,” Dr. Cohen said. “Given the nature of our data, we used supervised machine learning. Our models  were highly accurate, generally 85% or so in classifying people with versus without the traits.

“More importantly, we were exploring how this kind of model building should be done, and this  problem extends well beyond psychosis risk research. Our models didn’t actually predict  personality traits or psychosis risk, but rather, people’s report on ‘gold-standard’ self-report  scales. Predicting psychosis risk and predicting scores from a gold-standard measure are not the same, and our secondary analyses speak to this.

“Generally speaking, ‘gold standard’ measures are good enough for many purposes in  psychology. If the goal is highly accurate prediction using objective data however, our measures are often inadequate. This is an unrecognized obstacle to implementing predictive analytics into psychology,” Dr. Cohen said.

This most recent work was a collaboration with the LSU Department of Psychology, the LSU  Center for Computation and Technology, the Department of Psychiatry at University of Utah,  and Department of Psychology at University of Central Florida.

Dr. Cohen worked with Dr.  Christopher Cox on this project, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at LSU. Dr. Cox is involved in various research endeavors, including focusing on experimental machine learning tools, exploring the context sensitivity of semantic knowledge, building computational models of reading.

What was it like collaborating with Dr. Cox? “Dr. Cox is one of the most thoughtful people I have  had the pleasure to work with,” said Dr. Cohen. “He is extremely bright and methodical, and  cares deeply about students and learning. He seems to operate on a higher level of consciousness than most, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he sees the world in streams of binary  data like Neo from the Matrix movies.”

Dr. Cohen is also an adjunct professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center and LSU  Health Sciences, where he manages a team of doctoral students and graduate assistants. His  current research projects focus on understanding and helping those with severe mental illness,  notably schizophrenia, and those at risk of developing various psychotic-spectrum disorders.

Dr. Cohen’s current research projects are multi-tiered. He is currently working on a project that  involves adapting biobehavioral technologies for use in assessing mental well-being. This  project involves a highly constructed collaboration between industry and academia and uses  “Big Data” methods to measure and predict cognitive, affective, and behavioral states in those with serious mental illness.

A few years ago, LSU helped Dr. Cohen and some of his colleagues to commercialize his  technologies for “digital phenotyping.”

“Digital phenotyping involves quantifying aspects of mental health using complex, objective  data streams,” he said. “In our case, these data are from automated language, facial, vocal,  location and movement analysis from a smart phone. Since then, we have created an app using  these technologies to support clinical trials. We are starting to explore digital phenotyping to  support clinical management of patients with serious mental illness, and I am proud to have community partners in Baton Rouge for this. The methods used in our clinical psychological science paper were central in advancing these technologies.”

Dr. Cohen is in collaboration with an international consortium involved in researching the links  between disturbances in natural speech and symptoms of mental illness and genomics. Pattern recognition and advanced machine learning are being utilized in this research. In addition to  these projects, he facilitates research investigating how emotion, cognition, motivation, and  social functions in those predisposed for developing serious mental illness and those already combating serious mental illness. This project uses “small data” and basic psychological science  methods are used, including self-report, behavioral and electrophysiological measures, and performance measures.

Dr. Cohen has been working for nearly 20 years on these innovations, and explains that with  the help of many colleagues, “… we are getting closer – though this process has been anything  but time efficient.”

“What I have found is that digital data and symptoms ratings rarely agree,” he said. “Using  machine learning, one can engineer solutions that show impressive agreement in one setting,  but they don’t generalize. What is considered flat and unresponsive speech in one setting by  one group of people is considered unremarkable in another setting for other people. That is one major thing we found in the CPS paper, and have replicated in a number of other studies.”

“Why don’t they agree? Are clinicians wrong? Are digital technologies missing a critical human  element? The answer is, of course, both. So we are trying to develop methods for optimizing and evaluating these digital technologies. This field is huge right now, but I am afraid many of  the solutions being proposed are superficial and will fade quickly. I think my colleagues and I  are in a unique position to advance this field.”

Some of Dr. Cohen’s recent work helps to explain these complexities. • Cohen, A. S., Rodriguez,  Zachary Warren, K. K., Cowan, T. M., Masucci, M. M., Granrud, Ole Edvard Holmlund, Terje B  Chandler, C., Foltz, P. W., & Strauss, Gregory, P. (2022). Natural Language Processing and  Psychosis: On The Need for Comprehensive Psychometric Evaluation. Schizophrenia Bulletin, In Press.

“Evaluation of digital measures falls far short of what is expected of most psychological tests,” Dr. Cohen said. “This is part of a themed issue Brita Elvevåg and I are finalizing for the journal  Schizophrenia Bulletin.”

• Cohen, A. S., Cox, C. R., Tucker, R. P., Mitchell, K. R., Schwartz, E. K., Le, T. P., Foltz, P. W., Holmlund, T. B., & Elvevåg, B. (2021). Validating Biobehavioral Technologies for Use in Clinical Psychiatry. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.503323

“In this paper,” he said, “we compare evaluation of objective measures in other areas of science (e.g., physics, computer sciences, engineering) to that of psychology. There are some critical differences, particularly surrounding how ‘resolution’ is handled. The upshot is that psychology  should do a better job of defining exactly when, where and how a phenomenon is occurring. . . at least with respect to validating objective measures.”

• Cohen, A. S., Schwartz, E., Le, T. P., Cowan, T., Kirkpatrick, B., Raugh, I. M., & Strauss, G. P.  (2021). Digital phenotyping of negative symptoms: the relationship to clinician ratings. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 47(1), 44-53. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbaa065

“In this paper, we demonstrate how objective technologies often disagree with what a clinician  says. We attempt to unpack why that is – with the idea that neither is inherently wrong. Rather,  they are looking a different phenomenon,” he said.

• Cohen, A. S., Cowan, T., Le, T. P., Schwartz, E. K., Kirkpatrick, B., Raugh, I. M., Chapman, H. C., &  Strauss, G. P. (2020). Ambulatory digital phenotyping of blunted affect and alogia using objective facial and vocal analysis: Proof of concept. Schizophrenia Research, 220, 141–146.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.schres.2020.03.043

“In this paper, we evaluate a method of evaluating aspects of psychosis using smart phone  technologies. We are currently trying to implement these technologies with Capitol Area Human Services District ––though, in early stages.”

Besides pushing the boundaries of what clinical science can do in measuring symptoms of serious mental illness, what was the most enjoyable thing for about the work for Dr. Cohen?

“This is a necessarily multidisciplinary endeavor, and I really enjoy being challenged by my students and colleagues. When trying to objectify aspects of mental illness, we need to be very  mindful of the role that demographics, culture and other individual differences play. I am blessed to have a network of colleagues from a variety of walks of life that can help challenge us to create culturally appropriate, and ultimately better, measures.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model” Passes House 98 to 0

HB 278 by Rep. Echols passed the House on April 27 with a vote of the 98 to 0. It was received in the Senate and placed on the calendar.

The measure provides requirements for the Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model and requires mental health or substance abuse benefits for services delivered through the model. The bill is pending in the Insurance Committee.

The proposed law requires a health coverage plan delivered or issued for delivery in this state  that provides mental health and substance abuse benefits to reimburse for such benefits that  are delivered through the psychiatric Collaborative Care Model. The model includes the current  procedural terminology (CPT) billing codes 99492, 99493, and 99494.

The new proposed law requires the commissioner of insurance to update the CPT codes if there are any alterations or additions to the billing codes for the Collaborative Care Model.

Proposed law authorizes a health coverage plan to deny reimbursement of any CPT code  provided in proposed law on the grounds of medical necessity, provided that such medical  necessity determinations are in compliance with certain federal and state law.

Defined are: (2) “Mental health or substance abuse benefits” means benefits for the treatment  of any condition or disorder that involves a mental health condition or substance use disorder  that falls under any of the diagnostic categories listed in the mental disorders section of the  current edition of the International Classification of Diseases or that is listed in the mental  disorders section of the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental  Disorders. (3) “Psychiatric Collaborative Care Model” means the evidence-based, integrated  behavioral health service delivery method described in 81 FR 80230.