Category Archives: News Stories

Ex. Order Aims to Boost Valid Assessments for Federal Hiring/Selection

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On June 26, the President issued an Order to modernize and reform the hiring
process for federal work candidates.

In the introduction, President Trump wrote, “America’s private employers have
modernized their recruitment practices to better identify and secure talent through
skills- and competency-based hiring. As the modern workforce evolves, the Federal
Government requires a more efficient approach to hiring.

“Employers adopting skills- and competency-based hiring recognize that an overreliance on college degrees excludes capable candidates and undermines labor-market efficiencies. Degree-based hiring is especially likely to exclude qualified candidates for jobs related to emerging technologies and those with weak connections between educational attainment and the skills or competencies required to perform them.

“Moreover, unnecessary obstacles to opportunity disproportionately burden low-income Americans and decrease economic mobility.

“My Administration is committed to modernizing and reforming civil service hiring through improved identification of skills requirements and effective assessments of the skills job seekers possess. We encourage these same practices in the private sector. Modernizing our country’s processes for identifying and hiring talent will provide America a more inclusive and demand- driven labor force.

According to the President, this effort “…directs important, merit-based reforms that will replace degree-based hiring with skills- and competency-based hiring and will hold the civil service to a higher standard — ensuring that the individuals most capable of performing the roles and responsibilities required of a specific position are those hired for that position — that is more in line with the principles on which the merit system rests.

The President is directing the heads of the Office of Personnel Management and
Office of Management and Budget, the Assistant to the President for Domestic
Policy, and the heads of agencies, to review and revise all job classification and
qualification standards for positions within the competitive service, nd that changes
to job classification and qualification standards shall be made available to the
public within 120 days. Reforms include the following:

An agency may prescribe a minimum educational requirement for employment in the Federal competitive service only when a minimum educational qualification is legally required to perform the duties of the position in the State or locality where those
duties are to be performed.

Position descriptions and job postings published by agencies for positions within the competitive service should be based on the specific skills and competencies required to perform those jobs.

Section 3 of the Order addresses “Improving the Use of Assessments in the Federal Hiring Process.”

“(a) In addition to the other requirements of this order, the Director of OPM [Office
of Personnel Management] shall work with the heads of all agencies to ensure that, within 180 days of the date of this order, for positions within the competitive service, agencies assess candidates in a manner that does not rely solely on educational attainment to determine the extent to which candidates possess relevant knowledge, skills, competencies, and abilities. The heads of all agencies shall develop or identify
such assessment practices. (b) In assessing candidates, agencies shall not rely solely on candidates’ self-evaluations of their stated abilities. Applicants must clear other assessment hurdles in order to be certified for consideration. (c) Agencies shall continually evaluate the effectiveness of different assessment strategies to promote and protect the quality and integrity of their hiring processes.

“For purposes of this order: (a) the term “assessment” refers to any valid and reliable method of collecting information on an individual for the purposes of making a decision about qualification, hiring, placement, promotion, referral, or entry into programs leading to advancement;…”

The Order is available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidentialactions/executive-order-modernizingreforming-assessment-hiring-federal-jobcandidates/

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Dr. Erin Reuther Honored for Service

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The Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) has named Dr. Erin Reuther, PhD, ABPP,
recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Service Award, announced at a recent meeting.

This award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to the
professional field of psychology in Louisiana and beyond, by their professional service, noted to the officials.

The Awards Committee recognized Dr. Reuther for her dedication and leadership in
legislative issues and as special task team leader for matters related to Covid-19, as well as for her accomplishments in the role of President-Elect.

“In her leadership of the Legislative Affairs Committee, Dr. Reuther has created an active work group of psychologists who have been monitoring legislation which affects mental health issues in Louisiana. She is also leading LPA’s efforts to gather and disseminate information on COVID-19 during a time of crisis for psychologists in the state.

“Through her work on these committees, Dr. Reuther has demonstrated the abilities of a true leader who is able to bring together psychologists of different backgrounds and to shape them into an effective work group,” said the Committee. “In her role as President-Elect of LPA, Dr. Reuther has also provided outstanding leadership to the
Executive Council.”

Dr. Reuther is a licensed and board-certified clinical psychologist. She works at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, providing patient care to children and adolescents with pediatric illness in both inpatient and outpatient health/pediatric psychology.

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Legislature Calls Special 30-Day Session for Budget, Virus Fallout

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The regular legislative session ended on June 1 at 6 p.m. and the special 30-day session began one minute later at 6:01. The regular session was fragmented say observers, adjourning one week after it began due to the coronavirus and picking up only again on May 4. Some estimate that up to two-thirds of the bills introduced were dropped.  

The special session will address the states budget, not dealt with in the first session. According to the Proclamation to convene, only 41 items will be addressed. These include operating expenses of the state government and measures to appropriate funds. Other items include the Coronavirus Aide and Economic Security Act, the emergency unemployment compensation filed by persons impacted Covid19, and licensure of medical professionals during a declared public health emergency. Insurance dispute resolution for healthcare services, coverage for home health services, extension of filing for state and local tax returns, and expansion of broadband coverage, are also among the 41 topics.  

Senate Bill 458, initiated by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (LSBEP) and authored by Senator Luneau from Alexandria, was not heard in committee. The measure set out ambitious changes to the Psychology Practice Act, but was put on hold after officers from the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) raised objections. Dr. Greg Gormanous, Chair of Legislative Affairs for LSBEP, established an Ad Hoc Legislative Collaborative Committee composed of community members who have been studying the issues. 

Some bills did make it through the chaotic session. These include the following (excerpts are from the digests): 

HB 317 by Thompson establishes an autism spectrum disorder designation for a person’s driver’s license. The new law authorizes an applicant for a driver’s license who has autism spectrum disorder to request a designation and requires the designation to be placed on his driver’s license. The new law requires the applicant to provide a sworn statement from a qualified medical or mental health professional licensed in La. or any U.S. state or territory verifying his disability and prohibits any additional fee for the designation. The new law requires a driver who has autism spectrum disorder to provide a statement from a qualified medical or mental health professional […] authorized to diagnose autism spectrum disorder.  

The new law requires the Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, public safety services, to establish and implement a law enforcement training course relative to law enforcement officers’ interactions with persons who have autism spectrum disorder, in addition to the requirements of present law. And it requires the course to instruct law enforcement officers on sensitivity and awareness to ensure equitable treatment and how to effectively communicate and interact with persons who have autism spectrum disorder.  

HB 449 by Echols also passed. In present law, the Louisiana Telehealth Access Act (R.S. 40:1223.1 et seq.), defines “telehealth”, in pertinent part, as a mode of delivering healthcare services that utilizes information and communication technologies to enable the diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of patients at a distance from healthcare providers. The new law amends this definition to provide that healthcare services delivered via telehealth include behavioral health services. Stipulates that, for purposes of proposed law, “behavioral health services” means those services as defined in present law that are appropriate for the patient and delivered by a licensed mental health professional, acting within the scope of applicable state laws and his professional license for services identified by the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), to treat mental illness or substance use.  

Present law, the Behavioral Health Services Provider Licensing Law (R.S. 40:2151 et seq.), authorizes the provision of behavioral health services in residential settings, clinic settings on an outpatient basis, and in home or community settings. The new law amends present law to authorize the provision of behavioral health services through telehealth, and stipulates that the provision of behavioral health services in any authorized setting shall be subject to rules and regulations of LDH. 

The present law known as the Behavioral Health Law (R.S. 28:1 et seq.) authorizes psychiatrists to conduct via telemedicine a required examination of a person with a behavioral health condition who is subject to admission by emergency certificate to a treatment facility. […] The new law retains present law and authorizes psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to perform these examinations, and to do so via telemedicine as present law authorizes for psychiatrists. 

HB 819 by Bagley authorizes the recommendation of medical marijuana by physicians for treating additional conditions and authorizes any state-licensed physician to recommend medical marijuana. New law retains present law and adds all of the following to the list of debilitating medical conditions which qualify a patient for treatment with medical marijuana: (1) Alzheimer’s disease. (2) Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. (3) Huntington’s disease. (4) Lewy body dementia. (5) Motor neuron disease. (6) Spinal muscular atrophy. (7) Chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia. (8) Chronic pain associated with sickle cell disease. (9) Any condition for which a patient is receiving hospice care or palliative care. (10) Any condition not otherwise specified in present law or proposed law that a physician, in his medical opinion, considers debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified through his medical education and training to treat. 

HB 871 by Marino redefines “dyslexia” for the purposes of testing and providing remediation to students. Present law provides different definitions of “dyslexia” for different purposes. New law retains present law purposes but provides a uniform definition of the term as follows: (1) Present law requires the State Bd. of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt a program for testing students for dyslexia and related disorders and requires school boards to provide remediation for dyslexic students in accordance with the program; defines “dyslexia” for this purpose as a language processing disorder which may be manifested by difficulty processing expressive or receptive, oral or written language despite adequate intelligence, educational exposure, and cultural opportunity. (2) Present law requires every child in public school in grades K-3 to be screened at least once for the existence of certain impediments, including dyslexia; defines “dyslexia” for this purpose as in (1) above. (3) Present law requires, upon the request of a parent, student, or school personnel who has reason to believe that a student has a need to be tested for dyslexia, that a student be referred for testing; defines “dyslexia” for this purpose as difficulty with the alphabet, reading, reading comprehension, writing, and spelling in spite of adequate intelligence, exposure, and cultural opportunity. 

The new law redefines “dyslexia” for all present law purposes as an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader, most commonly caused by a difficulty in phonological processing, which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, and spell; provides that “phonological processing” means the appreciation of the individual sou unds of spoken and written language. SCR 62 by Milligan requests the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, through the state Department of Education, to develop and implement a traumatic injury response program to ensure that each city, parish, or other local public school in the state is prepared to respond in a traumatic injury emergency. 

The Times asked Dr. Erin Reuther, Chair of the Legislative & Governmental Affairs Committee, and President-Elect for the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) about the session. 

“When the legislative session reconvened, LPA remained active in engaging with legislators on several bills of interest,” Dr. Reuther said. “Namely, we monitored language in HB 449 and HB 530 to ensure that psychologists are included in definition of telehealth providers and our services are covered. We worked with stakeholders and legislators on HB 871 (formerly HB 391) and HB 542 regarding dyslexia with the goal of ensuring that legal definitions and practices in the state are consistent with evidence and best practices. This included a call to action of our members, which was helping in advocating for psychology and bringing us into meaningful discussions,” she said. 

“LPA also worked to support and amend HB 317, which creates an optional designation of autism spectrum disorder on drivers licenses for individuals who decide to opt in. It also calls for training of officers in working with individuals with ASD,” Dr. Reuther said. 

“LPA plans to continue monitoring legislation in the special session to continue our goals of bringing psychological science to policy and advancing the field of psychology in Louisiana,” she explained. 

Dr. Reuther is a licensed and board-certified clinical psychologist and works at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, providing patient care to children and adolescents with pediatric illness in both inpatient and outpatient health/pediatric psychology. 

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Malpractice Lawsuit in Terrebonne Parish Goes Against Lafayette Psychologist

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In a lawsuit filed in 2017 against psychologist Dr. Eric Cerwonka, a Terrebonne Parish jury awarded $1,150,000 to a 35-year-old Houma man. The plaintiff said he suffered emotional abuse from Cerwonka, according to the news article in a March issue of The Houma Courier.

The plaintiff’s case was tried by Jerri and Maxwell Smitko of the Smitko Law firm, in Houma, Louisiana.

According to the Courier, Jerri Smitko said that some of Dr. Cerwonka’s mental abuse included forms of brainwashing.

“He wrongfully attempted to convince my client that he had been abused by family members,” Smitko told the Courier reporter, Dan Copp.

Copp reported that the legal complaint alleged that the plaintiff had been in therapy with Dr. Cerwonka in early 2017, during the time that the defendant’s license to practice had been suspended.

However, other sources indicate that while Dr. Cerwonka‘s license had been suspended following a January 2017 hearing held by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, he retained his license because he immediately appealed the decision. According to state records, Cerwonka‘s license is currently in effect in both Louisiana and New York.

The Courier report notes that the Houma man’s legal complaint included the following:

• “Dr. Cerwonka‘s advice during this time reflected the obvious tumult in his practice, as he advised plaintiff to live in his car and fight his father.”

• “When plaintiff learned of Dr. Cerwonka‘s suspension he reached out to him for clarification. In retaliation, Dr. Cerwonka threatened to have the plaintiffs subject to a civil commitment.“

Dr. Cerwonka has been involved in legal matters since 2017, when the psychology board decided to remove his license. He immediately filed an appeal and alleged several due process violations.

In August 2017, he also filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court Western District of Louisiana Lafayette division. In his complaint, Cerwonka and his attorneys allege that the board acted on an interim basis before any hearing had taken place, that Cerwonka was denied a proper opportunity to defend himself against specific charges, that an emergency action was taken because he exercised his right to free speech, and that evidence was manipulated and obtained illegally.

Among these and other violations of his rights, he and his attorneys also allege that because the prosecuting attorney for the board had previously represented Cerwonka in a hotly contested custody battle, and that the attorney had information that was, allegedly, used in the prosecution, the attorney should have been removed.

The due process lawsuit is scheduled for next month and based on an unopposed motion by Ms. Jaime Monic and her attorneys, was changed from a bench trial to a jury trial.

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Trump Administration and CMS Expand Telehealth During COVID-19 Pandemic

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In an April 30 press release, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that at President Trump’s direction, and building on its recent efforts to help the U.S. healthcare system manage the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS has issued another round of regulatory waivers and rule changes to deliver expanded care to the nation’s seniors and provide flexibility to the healthcare system. These changes include continuing CMS’s efforts to further expand beneficiaries’ access to telehealth services.

CMS is taking action to ensure states and localities have the flexibilities they need to ramp up diagnostic testing and access to medical care, key precursors to ensuring a phased, safe, and gradual reopening of America, said the authors.

CMS’s goals during the pandemic are to 1) expand the healthcare workforce by removing barriers for physicians, nurses, and other clinicians to be readily hired from the local community or other states; 2) ensure that local hospitals and health systems have the capacity to handle COVID-19 patients through temporary expansion sites (also known as the CMS Hospital Without Walls initiative); 3) increase access to telehealth for Medicare patients so they can get care from their physicians and other clinicians while staying safely at home; 4) expand at-home and community-based testing to minimize transmission of COVID-19 among Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries; and 5) put patients over paperwork by giving providers, healthcare facilities, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, and states temporary relief from many reporting and audit requirements so they can focus on patient care.

According to the announcement, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, CMS is waiving limitations on the types of clinical practitioners that can furnish Medicare telehealth services. Prior to this change, only doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and certain others could deliver telehealth services. Now, other practitioners are able to provide telehealth services, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists.

Also, CMS previously announced that Medicare would pay for certain services conducted by audio-only telephone between beneficiaries and their doctors and other clinicians. Now, CMS is broadening that list to include many behavioral health and patient education services. CMS is also increasing payments for these telephone visits to match payments for similar office and outpatient visits. This would increase payments for these services from a range of about $14- $41 to about $46-$110. The payments are retroactive to March 1, 2020.

In a May 1 press release, the American Psychological Association applauded the Administration and CMS for expanding Medicare coverage for audio-only phone services during the coronavirus pandemic, including psychotherapy, health behavior assessment and intervention services, and other behavioral health services.

Previously, Medicare recipients who wanted to take advantage of psychotherapy through telehealth could do so only via videoconferencing. This was a significant limitation for people without access or capability to use those technologies

“To curb the spread of the coronavirus and help our communities heal, we cannot leave any of our neighbors behind,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association. “The American Psychological Association is grateful to our members and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle for tirelessly advocating for these needed phone services.”

“Psychologists can now use their specialty skills to improve the health of ALL the communities we serve, including older adults, people with lower income or education, individuals with disabilities and people in rural areas,” he added. “Yesterday, some of the most vulnerable people in our country did not have access to psychological care. Today, they do.”

For additional background information on the waivers and rule changes, go to: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/factsheets/additional-backgroundsweepingregulatory-changes-help-us-healthcare-systemaddress-covid-19-patient

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Gov. Edwards Establishes COVID-19 Help Desk for Louisiana Businesses

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Gov. John Bel Edwards and Secretary Don Pierson of Louisiana Economic Development announced the opening of an LED help desk that provides email and hotline support for Louisiana businesses impacted by COVID-19.

For COVID-19 business questions, LED may be reached at LEDbiz@la.gov or via the toll-free hotline, (833) 457-0531. The COVID-19 hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“Louisiana has experienced the fastest rate of increase for confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world, and it is imperative that everyone in our state take part in the efforts to slow the spread of this disease,” Gov. Edwards said.

“Businesses are making tremendous sacrifices to slow the spread, and resources are available to help businesses navigate this crisis. If your business has questions, please make use of the resources that Louisiana Economic Development has made available to you.”

“This LED help desk is the latest of our efforts to serve Louisiana businesses and to help them sustain operations through the challenges presented by COVID-19,” Secretary Pierson said.

LED is working with all levels of government and the private sector to support Louisiana businesses and their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the LED website — OpportunityLouisiana.com/covid19 — businesses may find workplace guidance from the Governor’s Stay At Home Order and other proclamations; COVID-19 public health recommendations; sources of COVID-19 financial aid; regional resources across the state.

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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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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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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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Dr. Shannae Harness Sole Candidate for LSBEP 2020 Spot

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists is conducting an election to fill the opening coming in 2020. Dr. Shannae Harness of Baton Rouge is the sole candidate for this opening, for serving the five-year term from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2025.

Dr. Harness earned her degree from Jackson State University in 2012, in the major of clinical psychology. She is listed with the National Registry of Health Service Psychologists and is a member of the American Psychological Association.

In her statement, Dr. Harness noted, “… In order to assist the Board, one of my goals is to be a catalyst for change by opening the lines of communication within this field during the process of licensure and the maintenance of competent psychologists. My role as a regulator in enforcing the laws, standards, and ethics code is to be transparent and timely in carrying out the matters of the Board …

“Another goal for my tenure on the Board is to promote diversity and encourage open
dialogue about mental health issues that affect the underserved populations in Louisiana. This is a population that often does not present for help due to the stigma associated with treatment,” Dr. Harness wrote. “Furthermore, many are often incarcerated due to lack of receiving mental health interventions. I would like to focus on bringing the mental health divide amongst people of diverse backgrounds and bring awareness to these issues when participating in rule making activities.

“Lastly, the face of psychology has evolved over the past few decades when it comes to diversity among licensure applicants.  These individuals have different emphases in training and present different competencies. As such, the Board needs to stay abreast of the current laws, standards, and ethics within the field of psychology. Thank you for the opportunity to share my vision and it is my sincere wish to work closely with the Board to continue to promote and grow the field of psychology.”

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Contemporary Southern Psychology Hits Odd Snag

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe Online Journal Contemporary Southern Psychology, announced in June 2018, has published only one volume of one issue, and that volume is not available at this time, explained Dr. Bill McCown, the editor pro temp. McCown is Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean for Research at University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM).

“We expected to be almost into our third issue by now,” he said. “We thought there would be ongoing operational difficulties, but what we encountered was a bit unusual.”

The journal is the brain-child of co-editor Dr. McCown, and team members Dr. Burt Ashworth, Assistant Professor in Psychology and endowed chair in Gerontology, and Dr. Mkay Bonner, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice & Psychology, College of Business & Social Sciences, both at ULM Contemporary Southern Psychology is a peer-reviewed, open access journal with a focus primarily toward psychological research, aiming to match the style and contributions of the wellrespected, 1980s, Southern Psychologist.

While the editors encountered some expected production delays, what they didn’t expect was to find themselves engaged in national politics, said McCown who noted that as the national atmosphere became increasingly heated, “… things got very strange.”

“Not long after we started talking to outside reviewers and editors we began receiving calls and  manuscripts on unusual topics,” McCown said. “We found out that there’s an entire pseudo-scholarly world out there that we didn’t want to be affiliated with.”

“These are people who want to publish on racist and anti-semitic topics and somehow believe that the word ‘Southern’ indicates a like-minded audience. It’s clear most of them did not come from our area, perhaps not even our country. I guess we just got on someone’s radar.”

After a while this flood of extreme right interest subsided somewhat, McCown said, but it was as if it generated an opponent-process on the left.

“Suddenly the name ‘Southern’ seemed to be in the crossfire of some left-leaning people. We started getting emails and calls saying things like, ‘What are your real intentions? Are you as racist as everyone else in the South?’ And, ‘Are you white nationalists at your University?’

“The rhetoric even got much worse even after we explained our mission,” McCown explained. “At that point we just slowed down our pace and waited for the national climate to become more reasonable.”

“It seems that the word ‘South’, which the editors mean more in a geographic sense, is almost a trigger for nonobjectivity,” McCown said.

Have they considered a new name? “We want to be true to our concept, which is a regional journal which recognizes the brief but influential legacy of Ralph Dreger and LPA in one of its periods of excellence, “ McCown said.

“We also want to highlight the necessity of employing psychology and the behavioral sciences for making sure our region is all it can be. The Deep South was a late adopter to the science of psychology. Sometimes this is overlooked. We want to try to remind people not to make this mistake again. So we are sticking with the name.”

“We aren’t going anywhere. Our funding is secure. Our mission is legitimate.  We have enthusiasm and energy.  We will be a peer-reviewed, open-source, journal with no fee charges.  There is a need and we aim to fill it.”

“By late January we hope we will be announcing a special issue and have a general call for papers for future issues,” McCown said.

“The mission of the new journal is to emphasize what psychology can do for our region,” Dr. McCown previously told the Times. “The South, perhaps for reasons that no one still understands, has been slow to embrace this potential contribution. The results of this failure are all around us. The mental and overall physical health of southern citizens is poor. The southern education system is often disconnected from advances in cognitive and social psychology. Southern criminal justice systems desperately need changes that are informed by behavioral science. In the private sector many corporations inadequately understand what organizational psychology now can offer. Consequently, they are not maximally competitive beyond our region.”

“This is a deeper opportunity for psychology to assert its identity to a region that has not recognized what we do and can do well. This is very much in the spirit of the original publication and we hope is a way of celebrating 70 years of LPA’s successes in our state,” he said.
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ASPPB Quietly Advances the EPPP-2 Plan with Jan 1 Launch

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailLast month the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) quietly posted a message that the new Part 2 of the national licensing exam will officially launch on January 1, 2020. ASPPB officials first announced the new test, the EPPP-2, in 2017 as optional for its member jurisdictions. Then as resistance mounted, ASPPB’s Board of Directors decided that they would combine parts and make the entire exam mandatory, this coupled with a 100% fee increase. An outcry followed, then ASPPB backpedaled and made the roll-out optional––for the time being.

The upcoming January launch begins a “voluntary adoption” program, a carrot and stick for the controversial new test product, whose scientific basis is coming under more and more scrutiny.

The new test is optional––but whether it remains that way is highly doubtful, some say. In this article we review the behind-the-scenes decisions and interests impacting the test and those hoping to become licensed psychologists.

The National Exam

The current test, called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology or EPPP, is the national licensing exam required for candidates seeking a state psychology license.

ASPPB purchased the rights to the exam sometime around 2013, and since then the EPPP is the top money making product for the non-profit corporation. The EPPP-2, first priced at $600 then lowered to $450, would increase testing revenues for ASPPB by 75%, boosting the firm’s yearly income by $3,750,000.

The current EPPP is expensive at $600 plus administration fees. At a recommended 50th percentile cut-off, many candidates have to take the test more than once. The test contains 225 items, with a fourhour time limit. To compare, physicians pay $605 for an eight-hour exam, and Social Worker candidates pay about $250 for a 170-item exam.

On-going criticisms about the scientific validity, the practical usefulness of the new exam, and the possible discriminatory impact of the entire EPPP selection approach, appear to have done little to deter ASPPB from its goal.

In the latest of a list of scientists voicing concerns, researchers lead by University of North Texas professor Jillian Callahan, PhD, are set to publish a critique in the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association, The American Psychologist.

Based on a pre-publication draft of the article, the authors will be addressing the need for stronger scientific methods in the EPPP-2 development, the suitability of the test for its intended use, impact on minorities, and legal vulnerabilities.

ASPPB has gone through several roll-out efforts, first to persuade and encourage member jurisdictions to accept the new test, and then to force the new exam on states.  The current effort, “voluntary adoption,” includes a fee of only $100 for Part 2 of the exam for “Beta Candidates.” After the “beta exam” closes in 2021, this fee will be $300 for early adopters. After January 1, 2022, the fee increases to $450.

It is not clear what happens to those states who refuse to accept the EPPP-2 for its candidates. ASPPB officials note, “… At this time, it is optional for licensing boards (jurisdictions) to sign on to require the EPPP (Part 2 – Skills).”

Since ASPPB owns the tests, they will likely make the combined exam mandatory again, said one insider.

Only nine of 64 possible jurisdictions have joined in to “adopt” the additional exam so far, totaling only 14% of ASPPB “members.” These are Arizona, Guam, Nevada, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. Starting in February, Missouri has signed on and starting in March, Manitoba has signed on as early adopters. Finally, Georgia has agreed to be an early adopter starting November 2020.

Show Me the Money

The ASPPB is a private, nonprofit, 501(c) tax-exempt corporation located in Tyrone, Georgia. The company states its mission is to “Facilitate communication among member jurisdictions about licensure, certification, and mobility of professional psychologists.”  The “members” are about 64 regulatory boards from across the United States and Canada. These boards pay dues to be a member of ASPPB.

Tax records indicate that ASPPB grossed $6,686,286 in 2017; $5,973,841 in 2016; and $5,284,952 in 2015.

Total revenue for 2017 was $6,645,731 and for 2016 was $5,933,473.  For 2015, revenues were $5,254,097.

Over the last five years, from 2012 to 2017, total revenues have increased from $4,274,419 to $6,645,731 or 55%.

Assets and balances for 2017 were listed at $8,629,194. In 2016 assets totaled $8,462,637, and in 2015 totaled $7,712,532.

Of total revenues in 2017, ASPPB spent 2,268,203 on salaries and other types of compensation.  Records indicate they have 12 employees and the highest compensated is the CEO, Dr. Steven DeMers, at $270,784. Another four employees’  salaries fall between $134,771 and $111,823. Board members receive between $6,800 and $12,800.

All listed compensation for 2017 together totals $839,747.  An additional $1,098,096 was paid to Pierson Vue Minneapolis for exam administration.

To compare, in 2016 they listed 12 employees, again the most highly compensated was Dr. DeMers at $243,842. Others fell between $131,949 and $125,860.

ASPPB’s main income producing product is the national exam for psychologists, with revenue of $5,378,524 in 2017. This was 80% of total revenues for the year.

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

The company has some other products, such as the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT), a service to coordinate psychologists working across state lines. This product generated $357,708 in 2017.

The organization spends liberally on the other activities including $1,169,743 on travel, $978,143 on other salaries and wages, $240,951 on other employee benefits, $375,418 on information technology, and $240,143 on conferences.

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

This arrangement––where a corporation, formed of state board representatives, operates as a test publisher, with influence and special access to government officials, and also a captive market––seems ripe for conflict of interest. The Times asked one CPA to look over the information and he said, “Of course there is influence and COI.”

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

Scientific Criticisms Continue to Mount 

In the latest of a series of criticisms, University of North Texas professor Jillian Callahan, PhD, and coauthors will address concerns about the scientific quality of the new exam in an upcoming issue of The American Psychologist.

In the pre-publication draft posted on the internet, the authors write, “… the EPPP Part 2 has yet to be subjected to a broader validation process, in which the suitability of the test for its intended purpose is evaluated. Implementation of the EPPP Part 2 before validation could have negative consequences for those seeking to enter the profession and for the general public …” And, “For jurisdictions implementing the EPPP Part 2, failure to gather and report the evidence required for use of a test in a forensic context may also open the door for legal challenges.”

Other critics have pointed to similar problems, one being the lack of the need for additional test hurdles.

“There is no evidence that the public is facing some sort of previously unheard of crisis in terms of safety from currently practicing psychologists,” said Dr. Amy Henke. In 2016, while serving as a director for the Louisiana Psychological Association, Henke took the lead to pass a Resolution opposing the new test. She pointed out that multiple checks on competency already exist for psychologists and appear to be working to protect the public.

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

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

However, Dr. Emil Rodolfa, from Alliant University and also then a program developer at ASPPB, questioned if these standards are enough, saying that supervisors have “… difficulty providing accurate evaluations of their supervisees to others who may have to evaluate the supervisee’s competency.”

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

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

Henke and others point out that the evidence from disciplinary statistics suggests that problems are very rare. For the most recent year with records, total reported disciplinary actions across the U.S. and Canada range from 159 to 222, with only nine to 17 licenses being revoked nationally. (See table.) Data from the ASPPB Disciplinary Data System: Historical Discipline Report show rates of disciplinary actions for psychologists to be consistently low. For an estimated 106,000 psychologists nationwide, the disciplinary rates remain around 1–2 per 1,000.

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

Critics argue that a second test can have very little impact on such a low disciplinary rate.

Other criticisms center around the poor scientific quality of the test for making high-stakes decisions about candidates’ careers. In 2009 Brian Sharpless and Jacques Barber authored “The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) in the era of evidence-based practice,” for Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

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

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

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

In April 2018, ASPPB CEO, Dr. Stephen DeMers, met with members of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and representatives of Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA). After the meeting, Dr. Kim VanGeffen, Chair of LPA Professional Affairs, said, “Dr. DeMers acknowledged that, currently, there is not really any research on the validity of the EPPP-2,” VanGeffen said. “There do not seem to be any plans to obtain predictive validity nor does the EPPP2 committee believe that establishing this type of validity is necessary,” she said.

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

Other critics are concerned about the discrimination aspects of the EPPP. In a December 2018 study of New York psychologist candidates, Brian Sharpless, PhD, demonstrated that the EPPP has differing fail and pass rates for different races. Blacks had a failure rate of 38.50% and Hispanics had a failure rate of 35.60%. Whereas, Whites had a failure rate of 14.07% and Asians had a failure rate of 24%. The difference is large enough for African-Americans and Hispanics to constitute discrimination.

The study, “Are demographic Variables Associated with Performance on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)?” is published in The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied.

ASPPB’s Rough Roll-Out

Keeping its members cooperative with its product plans has been difficult for ASPPB. In 2016 the firm announced the EPPP–2 and told its members, licensing boards across the United States and Canada, that the use of the new test would be “optional.”

However, amid criticisms ASPPB did an about face in late 2017 and announced that the new exam would be mandatory after all, and be combined with the current test. And, the price would increase 100%, from $600 to $1200.

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

Objections mounted, mostly from student and early career psychologist organizations.

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

Objections from Henke and others involved technical and scientific issues, but also the criticism that there is no problem that the new test needs to solve.

“LSBEP does not believe that data exists demonstrating that psychologists are not already held to high standards of competence,” they wrote. “The data that exists in terms of complaints and disciplinary actions toward psychologists also does not support the theory that competency problems abound in the field of psychology.”

The LSBEP also criticized ASPPB’s role and said that the decision is “…an overstep.”

“We are concerned that ASPPB has lost sight of their original mission, which from this board’s understanding was limited to facilitating communication between various member jurisdictions,” the LSBEP members pointed out, and that mandatory decisions on EPPP-2 do not fit this role but rather the role of a vendor providing a product.

Following this, in August 2018, ASPPB President Sharon Lightfoot, PhD, announced that the ASPPB Board of Directors voted to rescind their 2017 decision to mandate the second exam.

“We will continue toward launch of the Enhanced EPPP in 2020,” Lightfoot said, “and make it available to states and provinces interested in serving as early adopters. We are lifting the requirement for use of the Enhanced EPPP and are lifting the deadline for implementation.”

In December 2018, ASPPB decided to use a carrot and stick approach for the new exam. According to an October 24, 2018 letter from Lightfoot, if Louisiana chooses to decline the use of EPPP-2, individuals here will not be allowed to take EPPP-2 even if they wish to do so.

“Only applicants who are registered through a jurisdiction that has adopted the Enhanced Exam, and who have passed the knowledge portion of the exam, will be allowed to take the skills portion of the exam,” said Lightfoot.

Also, those test-takers from compliant states will pay reduced fees as a reward for early adoption of the additional exam, while those from late adopters will pay $450.

Sources at the Louisiana State Board of Examiners believe ASPPB is forcing states to use the EPPP-2 by prohibiting individuals from taking the exam in a state which does not require its use. They say this would make it difficult for psychologists who obtain licensure in a state which does not use the EPPP-2 to obtain licensure in a state which does use the EPPP-2. This policy, if adopted, is punitive, they say.

Is Resistance Futile?

ASPPB appears to be doggedly maintaining it’s commercial course, despite the mounting criticisms that the second exam is not scientifically well-constructed or actually needed for public safety. One source close to the state board said they see very little way to avoid having to accept the new exam eventually–– that efforts to stop ASPPB were futile.

If critics are correct, and the second exam is wasteful spending, the cost and additional regulatory hurdle will be born entirely on the backs of new psychology license hopefuls.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail