Category Archives: News Stories

Governor: FBI Crime Data Shows Decline in Louisiana’s Murder Rate

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Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the following statement on FBI crime data released that shows violent crime in Louisiana has decreased, with fewer murders in 2018. Louisiana’s murder rate decreased by 7.8 percent, a faster decrease than the national murder rate.

Gov. Edwards said, “Today’s FBI crime data shows decreases in violent crime and murder in Louisiana. We also saw decreases in property crime, including robbery. While there is still too much crime, we are moving toward a safer, less violent future. I commend the local, state and federal law enforcement officers who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe. These statistics reflect the first full year of FBI data after the passage of criminal justice reform. The decrease in violent crime reaffirms what Republicans, Democrats, faith leaders, business leaders and law enforcement officials said at the time of reform’s passage: we can make our state safer with commonsense reforms that focus on non-violent offenders and invest in crime prevention. That’s why our Louisiana reforms were mirrored by what President Trump and congressional leaders of both parties passed at the federal level last year.”

From FBI data release:

Overall violent crime decreased by 3.4 percentage points in Louisiana.

Louisiana’s murder rate was 11.4 per 100,000 people, which is a decline from 12.3 since the 2017 data.

Louisiana’s murder rate decreased by 7.8 percent from 2017 to 2018, outpacing the national decrease of 6.8 percent.

Property crimes went down by 2.7 percent from 2017 to 2018.

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Psychology Board Holds Long Range Meeting & Rules Hearing

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The state psychology board held a meeting on October 10 and 11 to review and discuss their objectives for the 2019– 2020 fiscal year, and to conduct a public hearing to review Rules.

The public hearing was held 9:30 am to 11:30 am on Thursday, October 10 at the board’s offices on South Sherwood Forest Boulevard in Baton Rouge. The stated goal of the hearing was to conform with Act 454 of the 2018 legislative session so that interested persons have
the opportunity to comment on any of the many Rules of the board, especially when the person believes the rule might be “…contrary to law, outdated, unnecessary, overly complex, heart burdensome,” noted the board’s agenda hand officials.

The chair, Dr. Koren Boggs, said that her goal was to discuss the objectives for the next year and “Tighten up our policies and procedures, to be consistent with rules and law.”

The board meeting was conducted by Dr. Boggs an attended by members Dr. Amy Henke, Vice Chair, Dr. Gina Gibson, Dr. Gregory Gormanous, Dr. Michelle Moore and Executive Director Jaime Monic and board attorney Courtney Newton.

Also attending were representatives of the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA) Dr. Kim VanGeffen, Co-Chair of LPA Professional Affairs, and LPA President Dr. Alan Coulter. Also attending were Dr. Joe Comaty, Dr. Darlyne Nemeth, and joining at the luncheon were attorneys Lloyd Lunceford and Amy Lowe.

Past-member of the board, Dr. Jesse Lambert, and Dr. Carmen Broussard, who served on the Licensed Specialist in School Psychology Advisory Committee, attended and were honored at the luncheon on Thursday.

During the formal hearing on Thursday morning, verbal and written comments were provided on topics such as examinations, continuing education, supervision and other Rules.

The agenda for the long-range planning meeting included a discussion of comments received during the morning hearing and efforts to apply for comments and develop objectives for moving forward in the coming year.

Honors Drs. Broussard and Lambert for Service Psychology Board Holds Long-Range Meeting & Rules Hearing, cont’d Specifics topics listed were policy revisions to the oral examination process, specialty designation versus health services provider or general applied psychologist labeling, and adopting opinions and guidelines for tele-supervision. Also listed for discussion was registration of unlicensed assistants, issues related to a masters level licensing, and reciprocal licensing.

Additionally, topics to have been discussed included jurisprudence examinations and the EPPP2.

Finally, topics regarding continuing education requirements, complaint adjudication process, and any other requests for changes in the rules received during the earlier hearing, were to be included in the two-day event.

The board recently sent out a survey to licensees requesting their opinions about continuing education hours and the amount of formal versus informal credits required, and also polling licensees about the use of psychological assistants.

The rules hearing was mandated by Act 454 of the regular 2018 Legislative Session.

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Psychologists at OCD Louisiana Hold Walk For Awareness Oct 20

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OCD Louisiana will hold the 2nd Annual 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk on October 20, at City Park  in New Orleans. OCD Louisiana is an official affiliate of the International OCD Foundation with the goal of furthering the Foundation’s mission in the state of Louisiana.

OCD Louisiana program’s aim is to support all those affected by OCD, and to further educate the greater community about what it means to live with OCD and/or a related disorder. Melissa Dufrene, PsyD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Algiers Neurobehavioral Resource and Secretary for OCD Louisiana said, “This is our first fully official walk as an IOCDF affiliate. We are thrilled to be establishing our organization in the community and we consider this to be the most basic step of doing so.”

OCD Louisiana’s President is Kristin Fitch, PhD, Vice-President is Leslie Higgins, PsyD, Treasurer is Michele Carroll, PsyD, and Secretary is Melissa Dufrene, Psy.D. Suzanne Chabaud, PhD and Gail Pesses, MSW, LCSW, are Board Members.

The annual 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk is Co-hosted by the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) and its Local Affiliates. According to the news release, the event, 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk, is the nation’s largest grassroots  awarenessbuilding and fundraising campaign to highlight obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders, including body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), hoarding disorder (HD), and body-focused repetitive disorders (BFRBs). Funds raised at the walk support the important programs of the International OCD Foundation and its partnering Local Affiliates, including OCD Louisiana. These programs aim to drive change through advocacy, education, research, and resources that improve the lives of those living with OCD and related disorders.

“OCD Louisiana invites all members of the community to join the 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walk this October 20 at City Park, New Orleans to raise awareness, funds, and hope. We will be meeting by the Reunion Pavilion and Outdoor Classroom at the Big Lake. Participation is free.”

Dr. Dufrene said, “Our next project is to establish support groups that are accessible to the OCD community. The funding we raise with the walk will help us do that and more!”

President Dr. Kristin Fitch pointed out: “OCD Louisiana is an official affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. OCD Louisiana aims to provide education, resources, and support to the local Psychologists at OCD Louisiana Hold Walk for Awareness Oct 20, continued State News community to increase access to effective treatment and promote awareness about OCD and related disorders [Hoarding Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Trichotillomania (Hair-Pulling Disorder), Excoriation (SkinPicking) Disorder, and other related disorders. We hope to develop a community for those affected by OCD and related disorders and the professionals who treat them.

Like our parent organization, OCD Louisiana is a donor-supported nonprofit organization run by volunteers. We welcome individuals who suffer from one of these conditions, their family members and friends, mental health professionals, researchers, educators, religious leaders, and/or other interested community members to become involved or attend any of our events.

“It’s estimated that 1 in 100 adults and 1 in 200 children live with OCD. Despite its prevalence, OCD is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the media as a personality quirk or helpful trait that keeps people organized. In reality, OCD is debilitating and severely impacts those living with the disorder, as well as their friends and family. The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked OCD in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses of any kind in terms of lost earnings and diminished quality of life.”

Dr. Suzanne Chabaud, New Orleans clinical psychologist, is a Board Member at the OCD Louisiana, and an expert in hoarding. Chabaud earned national recognition for her work with the A&E television show, Hoarders, one of the first of these reality-type shows. In this captivating series, Dr. Chabaud and other experts, consulted with the show’s producers to help hoarders and their families accomplish the complex task of transforming how they think of themselves, their relationship to objects, and to change their lives.

The Times previously interviewed Chadaud about her work. “I am fascinated by hoarders’ real life journey through a world of stuff–what I call hoards,” Chabaud said. She noted that compulsive hoarding cannot be neatly defined or easily placed in the taxonomy of mental disorders. “It is a multidimensional disorder that affects and is affected by difficulties with emotional, cognitive, and sensory processes. Along with compulsive hoarding, clients can have symptoms in a number of overlapping categories, such as OCD, depression, dementia and even anorexia.”

Even though she had treated OCD intensely for many years and 70 percent of her clients have it, “… many clients are just beginning to admit their hoarding behavior,” she said.

Similar to other severe mental illnesses, the whole family can acquire symptoms. “Children become lonely and embarrassed, and can not bring home friends. If they are lucky, theyfind comfort and friendship in other people’s homes. Some stay overly close to the hoarding parent. These children watch the other parent become consumed by the disorder or distance from the home. I have seen the spouse of a hoarder work two jobs to support the hoarders purchases and sleep on the sofa because the hoarder took over every bedroom in the house.”

Her work extended to treat children of hoarders and in 2011, ABC’s prime time news magazine, 20/20, included Chabaud as part of a special report about children of hoarders and the psychological impact that they must manage as adults.

In an interview with WWL–TV in New Orleans, Dr. Chabaud commented, “Children of hoarders’ lives are deprived in so many ways. It’s not just the unhealthy environment; it’s the emotional contact with a significant adult. It’s the loss of skills for just maintaining their lives, down to bathing, making beds, organizing their belongings,” she said. “You just can’t put these children in foster homes. There has to be a program to help them through this.”

For those wanting more information about OCD Louisiana, Dr. Fitch invites interested psychologists to visit the website at ocdlouisiana.org and follow on facebook (facebook.com/ocdlouisiana), Instagram (instagram.com/ocdlouisiana), and twitter (twitter.com/LouisianaOcd).

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Psychology Board to Hold Rules Critique and Long-Range Meeting

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On Thursday, October 10, the state psychology board will hold a hearing so that the public can give feedback on the Louisiana Administrative Law affecting licensed psychologists, also known as “Rules.” Thursday afternoon will include the board’s annual discussion about long-range plans.

The board gave notice for the Rule’s critique session stating that the “… purpose of allowing any interested person the opportunity to comment on any rule of the agency which the person believes is contrary to law, outdated, unnecessary, overly complex, or burdensome,” said the notice from the board.

The hearing to critique old Rules is mandated by a law passed in 2018 and authored by Representative Mark Wright. The law notes that an agency shall consider fully all written and oral comments and submissions concerning its rules.

The agency is to advise persons who provide oral comments that in order to be submitted to the legislative oversight committees, comments must be submitted in writing. The law also states that the agency is to issue a response to each submission describing the principal advantages and disadvantages of the rule changes suggested in the submission.

According to the Louisiana Psychological Association’s Chair of Professional Affairs, Dr. Kim VanGeffen, “In 2018, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law––Act 454––which requires Louisiana public agencies, such as our licensing board, to hold periodic public hearings to allow any interested person the opportunity to comment on any of the agencies rules which it believes may be ‘contrary to law, outdated, unnecessary, overly complex, or burdensome,’ ” VanGeffen said last month to members of the state psychology association. “The Board will also receive written comments to be submitted into the record until Wednesday, October 9th, 2019.”

In the afternoon, explained VanGeffen, the Board will hold its long range planning meeting and discuss issues which affect psychology licensure and enforcement matters likely in the coming year or years.

“Topics to be addressed include revisions to the oral examination process, the EPPP2 and several potential rule changes––specialty designations, continuing education requirements, the jurisprudence examination, tele psychology/tele supervision, and the adjudication process,” VanGeffen said.

According to the July minutes, the new Board Chair, Dr. Koren Boggs “… discussed the goals and objectives she would like accomplished for her final year on the Board stating that there are a lot of items that have been ongoing discussions that she would like to see through including oral exam procedures, resolving or refining procedures related to recognizing program specialties versus health service provider versus whether we have any designations at all; conducting a thorough review of our regulations to make sure our Thursday, Oct 10 Psychology Board to Hold Rules Critique and Long-Range Meeting procedures are in line with how the statutes and rules are written; review regulations and procedures for determining degree equivalency; and review procedures and regulations for assessing competencies.”

The board considered changes to the Continuing Professional Development Rules in October last year and some in the community objected, saying that the change would broaden the board’s authority to approve providers of professional training. After a follow-up meeting, the  issues were tabled until further study.

According to the May 2019 minutes, “The board reviewed CPD rules and discussed the current rules, problems with current rules, administrating current rules, previous rules.

The board focused their discussion on minimum requirements necessary to maintain and develop their knowledge, skills and competence in order to keep pace with trending or developing areas of practice for public protection versus requiring maximum standards to force development of personal qualities, attitudes, capabilities, or professional socialization, and how such maximum requirements actually play a role in public protection or the board’s ability to regulate such requirements.

“Following extensive discussion, Dr. Lambert called for motions on setting a direction for revising the CPD Rules. Dr. Boggs moved in favor of researching the option of returning to the basic model of ontinuing education requirements and reducing the number of biannual hours to 20 and requiring formal approved sponsored activities (quality over quantity).”

In July, Ms. Monic provided the Board with draft rules based on LSBEP original Continuing Education rules which were in place prior to initiating new requirements based on ASPPB’s Continuing Professional development model.

To attend the upcoming public meeting, Executive Director announced that, “Individuals may confirm their attendance via USPS at 4334 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite C-150, Baton Rouge, LA 70816 or via email at Jaime.Monic@la.gov. This will assist LSBEP with planning for an adequate venue.”

All Rules can be found on the licensing board website under “Laws, Rules and Guidelines,” or on the state’s website for Louisiana Administrative Code. All meetings are open to the public, except during certain executive sessions.

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Chicago School at Xavier Earns APA Accreditation for Its PsyD Program

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Dr. Kelli Johnson, current department chair at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Xavier University of Louisiana, announced last month that the program has been granted initial Accreditation on Contingency status through 2024 by the American Psychological Association (APA).

At its July 18-21, 2019 meeting, the APA Commission on Accreditation voted to initially “accredit, on contingency” the doctoral Clinical Psy.D. program at The Chicago School in New Orleans. “Accredited, on contingency” is granted when the program meets all standards except for the inclusion of all required outcome data on students in the program and after program completion. To move to fully accredited, the program is to provide the required outcome data within three years.

“We are overjoyed that our first class will be graduating from an accredited program next August,” said Dr. Johnson. She extended her thanks and that of faculty members Drs. Chris Leonhard, Richard Niolon, and Margaret Smith to colleagues of the Louisiana Psychological Association. “We would like to extend our gratitude for your support for the program from its inception. A number of you have been a part of the program as adjunct instructors, offered your agencies as practicum training sites, and have served as clinical supervisors over the years,” Johnson noted. “Thank you to each of you for offering guidance, consultation, or encouraging words along the way…your ongoing support has been and continues to be invaluable and we look forward to many more years as a part of Louisiana’s psychology community.”

The school began implementation of its “Health Service Psychologist” Model and Multicultural Focus in September 2015 when the first class of doctoral students started at the new PsyD program in clinical psychology.

The effort was innovative in a number of ways, including getting a head start on aligning with new standards for “Health Service Psychologists” approved by the American Psychological Association later that year.

The Chicago School at Xavier program was also innovative because it focused on applied clinical psychology specifically for the diverse and multicultural context in south Louisiana, and on “growing PsyD Psychologists here,” explained Dr. Christoph Leonhard, founding chair of the program.

“We developed the program to meet the needs of local social service providers of psychological services and of the community,” he said, “and frankly, to provide culturally competent services by people who understand this community, which is a very unique place in many ways.”

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) program is hosted by Xavier, the highly ranked New Orleans institution which is the nation’s only Roman Catholic Historically Black College and University.

The PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) degree is the only program of its kind in the state, and the only other clinical psychology training after that at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

The program organizers focused their recruitment to students inside Louisiana. hoping to grow PsyD psychologists here, and who will remain here, in order to serve the sometimes unique needs of the Louisiana culture. “Studies indicate that newly graduated psychologists who have to leave the state to get an advanced degree do not return,” said Leonhard. “So the emphasis of this program is to educate and train our own.”

Prior to her death this year, Dr. Janet Matthews served on an Advisory Committee of local professionals, along with health psychologist, Dr. Michele Larzelere, for the Chicago School program.

The program is designed specifically to meet community needs, with the focus on primary care/integrated care, and cultural diversity issues, Janet Matthews had explained, and she felt it was ideal for the Greater New Orleans area, helping provide psychological services in an underserved community.

The doctoral students in the TCSPP program at Xavier complete studies in four models of intervention: Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Humanistic Existential, and Systems. The program includes a Research Clerkship model where the students are paired with mentors from the faculty. Three years of practicum and one-year internship are included in the 106 total credit hours that will take five years to complete, prepares students to sit for the psychologist licensing exam.

The PsyD program took advantage of the changes in approach brought about by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires prevention and a focus on primary care and community health.

APA shifted its training model in response to ACA, and the Chicago Professional School at Xavier aligned with these changes. “To be in compliance with what the ACA calls for, we’re now going to be training health service psychologists– –psychologists that provide health service, mental health being a health service, said Leonhard. The Patient and Affordable Care Act is that it mandates interprofessional care teams throughout health care but importantly, in primary care, he said.

Dr. Michele Larzelere served on the Advisory Committee and saw this benefit. “Since primary care is an excellent way to reach underserved and minority populations, the PsyD program will also be expanding Xavier’s efforts toward its core mission,” Larzelere previously said, “and providing a tremendous service to the population of Louisiana.”

The program offers two formal focus area — Clinical Psychology in a Diverse and Multicultural Context and Behavioral Medicine/Health Psychology.

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“Panic Button” App Initiative Aims to Improve School Safety

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Gov. Edwards joined Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Kevin Reeves at Neville High School in Monroe on August 29, to announce that the state is providing funding for all K-12 schools in Louisiana to begin using the RAVE Mobile Safety App that will better alert authorities to emergencies on K-12 campuses.

“Today we are taking a step forward in making our schools safer with technology that will dramatically improve reporting and response times for teachers and other educators who face emergency situations while in their classrooms,” Gov. Edwards said. “While we hope and pray that the safety of our children and their teachers is never compromised, it’s our hope that this technology will assist in protecting our schools.”

Rave Mobile Safety will provide the Rave Panic Button app to all schools that will allow teachers to quickly request immediate assistance from law enforcement or other first responders in the event of a health or safety emergency in their classroom.

This is funded with $4 million included in the state’s FY 20 budget. The app will begin to be deployed to schools across the state this fall.

“The progress that Louisiana is making to improve the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff are the direct results of the vision and leadership of Governor Edwards in creating the Blue Ribbon Commission,” stated Colonel Kevin Reeves, State Police Superintendent. “I am
extremely proud of the work of my fellow Commission members including our parish and local law enforcement partners and the efforts of the men and women of the Louisiana State Police that helped bring this technology to Louisiana.”

“As tragedies at schools have escalated, leaders in education, law enforcement, and emergency response have collaborated to strengthen preparedness and crisis management,” said Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White. “Among those efforts, we have explored the use of new technologies, like the mobile app announced today, that may prove beneficial in quickly and effectively responding to an on-site emergency. Every child and every educator deserves to feel safe in their classrooms, and it’s our duty to put into place every measure to ensure that’s possible.”

The Rave Panic Button is a smart phone app designed to speed emergency response by alerting authorities when there is a medical emergency, a fire, an active shooter or another crisis. When a teacher, administrator or staff member activates the button, it simultaneously places a 911 call to dispatch help while delivering immediate notification of the type and location of the emergency to other school employees and first responders.

This type of coordination further enables schools to respond to emergencies more quickly. The state will cover the cost of the technology for all schools in Louisiana, including charter schools, either as their first line of communications or to work in hand with solutions individual school systems already have in place.

“As a school district, the first and foremost requirement we have is to work to ensure safety for all our students, faculty, and staff,” said Dr. Brent Vidrine, the Superintendent of Monroe City Schools. “This App is one more tool to help our school district be pro-active in working to ensure safer schools for all of our students and adults on campus.”

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Gov. Pledges to Close Gaps in Mental Health

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Governor Edwards released his Healthy Families Agenda, a plan to make Louisiana a healthier state in his second term.

In a press release August 30, he pledged to close gaps in the mental health system if re-elected. In the release the Gov. said he will build on those first term successes by:

• Keeping the rural hospitals open
• Closing the gaps in the mental health system
• Eliminating Hepatitis C in Louisiana
• Reducing maternal mortality by 20%
• Getting every Louisiana birthing facility to participate in the fight to reduce maternal mortality
• Lowering prescription drug costs
• Continuing the fight against opioid addiction
• Drastically reducing the waiting list for home and community-based health services for older adults
• Continuing to break records for the number of children adopted out of foster care

“Louisiana is much better off today than we were four years ago, in part because our people are healthier. My decision to expand Medicaid has cut our uninsured rate by more than half, created thousands of jobs, and most importantly saved lives. But we have more to do. In my second term we can build on our successes, using innovative approaches to keep our rural hospitals open, lower drug costs, reduce maternal mortality, and fight infectious disease. Let’s keep moving Louisiana forward, to a happier and healthier future,” said Gov. Edwards.

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Louisiana is 10th Fastest-Growing Economy in the Nation says Gov. in July 25 Statement

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Gov. Edwards released a statement on Louisiana’s record high GDP of $256.45 billion, an annual growth rate of 3.8% in 2019Q1. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Louisiana has the 10th fastest growing economy in the U.S., the Governor’s Office said on July 25.

“This latest ranking is further proof that Louisiana’s economy continues to grow and move in the right direction,” said Gov. Edwards. “Just this month, we have seen the largest unemployment decline since last year of any state, the lowest it has been in 11 years, personal income is at an all-time high and for the first time in a long time, our state debt is declining.”

“We are continuing to attract new business and industry while retaining and expanding our existing businesses and implementing programs in Louisiana to further strengthen our workforce.”

Louisiana’s GDP is at a new record high: $256.45 billion, compared to $247.2 billion in 2018Q1 and $255.5 billion in 2018Q4.

Non-durable goods manufacturing was the main contributor to growth, contributing 2.09 percentage points.

Retail trade contributed 0.82 percentage points and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction contributed 0.80 percentage points.

In a related story, the Governor’s Office announced that Louisiana has the largest drop in unemployment rates of all states since last year.

Louisiana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June 2019 is 4.3 percent, which is a .7 of a percentage point decline since June of 2018, the largest such drop for any state.

Louisiana’s unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since January 2008.

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La. No Longer “Incarceration Capital of Nation,” Says Gov. $12 Million in Savings

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“Louisiana is no longer the incarceration capital of the nation, we have saved over $12 million which is more than double what was projected and are reinvesting those dollars into programs that are helping to reduce recidivism, improve public safety and support crime victims,” Gov. Edwards said in a July 19 press release.

“Everything we have put in place is based on data-driven policies that are successful in other southern states and are now having the same impacts in our state,” Edwards said. “It is still early in this process and there are more lessons to learn and more challenges to meet, but we are taking significant steps toward improving our criminal justice system.”

The comment followed the release of the Justice Reinvestment Reforms 2019 Annual Performance Report, presented to the Legislature in June. The report listed the following:
• Reduced Prison Population: Louisiana’s total prison population has continued to decrease. It has fallen from a peak of 39,867 individuals at the end of 2012 to 32,397 individuals as of the end of 2018. As an immediate result of reduction in nonviolent offenses, Louisiana no longer has the highest imprisonment rate in the nation.
• Sentence Length Down for Nonviolent Offenses: The State has seen significant decreases in sentence length for nonviolent offenses. Drug offenses have seen the largest decrease by the end of 2018 with a drop of 17%, followed by property offenses with an 8.3% decrease. The average sentence length for new felony admissions decreased from 76.6 months to 73.2 months (3.7%).
• Decrease in Use of Habitual Offender Enhancements: The use of Habitual Offender enhancements, which allow for increased penalties for crimes based upon the existence of previous convictions, decreased significantly (74.3%). This reduction is attributed to both prosecutorial and judicial discretion as well as legislative changes which limited the scope of its application.
• Reduction in Probation and Parole Population and Officers’ Average Caseloads: The State has seen a significant decrease in the total supervised population as well as the average caseload of Probation and Parole Officers; from 149 in 2016 to 123 by the end of 2018. The reduction is attributed to new incentives that allow people to earn time off supervision based upon compliance with supervision conditions.

The report can be found at http://gov.louisiana.gov/assets/docs/CJR/2019JRI-Performance-Annual-Report-Final.pdf.

Psychological science and practice has played an important part in the Governor’s reforms.

Dr. Susan Tucker, the 2019 recipient of the Award for Psychology in the Public Interest, has been a key figure for innovations in the state correctional system. She is Psychologist and Assistant Warden at the Bossier Sheriff’s Office.

Dr. Tucker has focused on treatment and research innovations that reduce recidivism and that are based in the fact that most inmates have a substance abuse problem and few get the right kind of treatment.
She launched the Steve Hoyle Intensive Substance Abuse Program to offer intensive treatment, skill development, educational opportunities, and post release support and care. Her approach has achieved a significant reduction in recidivism, from an expected first year rate of 18 percent to only 3 percent.

Tucker has earned state and national recognition for these achievements, including from the Vera Institute of Justice. Dr. Tucker was also commended by Louisiana legislators for her work and the related cost savings of $15 million by earned “good time credits” through participation and successes in the psychological programs designed by Tucker.

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Defense Rests in Bellwether Case Against Opioid Drug Industries

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The last arguments from the defense were heard in the $17.5B bellwether opioid crisis lawsuit against Johnson& Johnson, reported the Courthouse News Service last month.

The state Oklahoma sued Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in 2017 on claims of fraud, unjust enrichment, public nuisance and violation of state Medicaid laws for allegedly pushing doctors to prescribe opioid painkillers while downplaying the addiction risks and overstating their benefits.

Purdue settled in March for $270 million. Israel-based Teva reached a similar settlement in May for $85 million – two days before the trial began, according to Court House News service.

Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary are the only remaining defendants. In the  weeks before trial, the state dropped all claims except its public nuisance claim to prevent further delays caused by defense appeals, said Courthouse News.

“For its last witness during the seven-week bench trial, the defense called Dr. Terrell Phillips of Oklahoma City. He explained that many insurers and workers’ compensation laws reimburse doctors for only “reasonable and necessary” treatment that excludes physical therapy, counseling, injections and surgery. He said that leaves doctors with no choice but to prescribe opioids over the excluded treatment options.

“Phillips testified the situation leaves him effectively ‘handcuffed.’ He said patients with chronic pain are left improperly treated, leading to even depression and suicide.

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Gov. Edwards Appoints Dr. Gina Gibson and Dr. Michelle Moore to LSBEP

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On July 23, Governor Edwards announced that he appointed Dr. Gina Gibson of Lafayette and Dr. Michelle Moore of New Orleans to the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. Both were nominated by the Louisiana Psychological Association.

Dr. Moore received the top number of votes in a regular election held this past February to fill the opening left by the normal completion of service by Dr. Jesse Lambert. Dr. Gina Gibson (who has since changed her last name from Beverly) was nominated and ran in an April special election to fill an unexpected vacancy caused by the resignation of Dr. Leah Crouch.

Dr. Gibson is a neuropsychologist with the Department of Veterans Affairs, licensed in 2008. She lists her specialty as Counseling/Clinical Neuropsychology. Her training is from Louisiana Tech University and employment is with Dept. of Veterans Affairs and also private practice. She is a member of the National Academy of Neuropsychology and the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology.

In her statement, Dr. Gibson wrote that “there are numerous critical issues facing psychology, including revising the complaints process,” and “exploring the use of healthcare designations in place of specialty classifications.”

“Moving forward,” she wrote, “I believe that the board’s primary obligation is to the public consumers of our services and psychologists themselves. Examining these issues and finding balanced solutions that work to support and advance the profession should be at the forefront. My goals for the psychology board are to be an advocate for psychology as a progressive and critically important discipline that is well-suited to use our collective knowledge and training to help others and solidify our place in the current healthcare environment.”

Dr. Michelle Moore is an associate clinical professor at the LSU Health Science Center. She has served as Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, LSU Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA, Department of Psychiatry, Section of Psychology, and Training Director of Clinical Psychology Internship Program.

From 2016 to present her research and scholarship has included: Working with ReNEW Charter School Network to provide needed clinical services to students either in special education or seeking evaluations for possible special education services; Primary Investigator and Mentor, AsianAmerican Mental Health among Medical Students; and Primary Investigator, Collaborating with Community Partners.

She is a member of the American Psychological Association; Association of Psychologists in Academic Health Centers; Louisiana Psychological Association; Southeastern Psychological Association; and Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. “In my current role as Training Director for the internship program at LSU Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine,” Dr. Moore said in her statement, “I have the pleasure of directly training students and trainees who are the future of our profession. Being in this position, I would bring a unique perspective to the Board from the graduate program applications we review, the training of psychology interns and fellows and how we are preparing individuals for independent practice. […]”

Among other appointments announced in July 23 press release, the Governor also reappointed Bambi Polotzola of Opelousas, the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs, to the Statewide Independent Living Council. “Bambi has been a leader in disability issues for over a decade working with people with disabilities and their families as an educator and as a home and community-based service provider. She has served on state councils and boards of numerous disability-related non-profit organizations. Her work has primarily been centered in capacity building and systemic change that supports people with disabilities and their families to be fully included and valued members of their communities,” said the author of the announcement.

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Winners in State Poster Research Announced LSU

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Winners were named in the state-wide research poster presentation and competition, held at the Louisiana Psychological Association Scientific Poster Session, on June 14. The session was organized by Melissa Dufrene PhD, chair of the Early Career Psychologist Committee for the Association.

Tiffany Augustine, MA, Shaely Cheramie, MA, and Christoph Leonhard, PhD, authored the winning research presentation for the Evidence-Based Practice category for graduate students, titled “Making a difference in marginalized populations: mindfulness and adjudicated youth.”
The authors represented The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at
Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans.

The undergraduate winner for Evidenced-Based Practice was Anna Elysse Lee, with research titled, “Esketamine as an adjunct to psychotherapy, efficacy and possible side effects: Implications for therapists.” Ms. Lee represents Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, and her sponsor is Mary-Margret Livingston, PhD. In the category for Original Research, the graduate student entry winner was for the research, “Posttraumatic stress symptoms and gender: Independent and interactive associations with suicidal ideation among veterans with military sexual trauma.”

Authors were Chelsea R. Ennis, MS, from South Central Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), New Orleans; Taylor Ceroni, MA, also from MIRECC, Amanda M. Raines, PhD, from MIRECC, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, New Orleans and School of Medicine, Louisiana State University, New Orleans; and C. Laurel Franklin, PhD, from MIRECC, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, New Orleans, and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans.

The undergraduate winner in the category for Original Research was Sarah Grace Guillaume for “Racial socialization of Black preschool-aged children: The influences of child sex and maternal arrest.”

Ms. Guillaume represented Tulane University, New Orleans, and was sponsored by Justin Carreras, PhD.

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Heather’s Law May Help in Domestic Abuse

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HB 36 became Heather’s Law and may help victims in domestic abuse situations so that law enforcement is alerted more quickly.

In present law provides that upon the issuance of a temporary restraining order or protective order in domestic abuse cases, the judge shall cause to have prepared a Uniform Abuse Prevention Order, shall sign such order, and shall immediately forward it to the clerk of court for filing on the day that the order is issued.

Present law further requires the clerk of the issuing court to transmit the Order to the judicial administrator’s office, La. Supreme Court, and to send a copy to the chief law enforcement officer of the parish where the person or persons protected by the order reside by facsimile transmission or direct electronic input as expeditiously as possible.

The new law:(1) Adds that the copy of the Uniform Abuse Prevention Order sent to the chief law enforcement officer shall be reviewed by the law enforcement agency upon receipt. (2) Requires the petitioner to be notified of the right to initiate criminal proceedings and to be informed that the granting of a temporary restraining order or protective order does not automatically file criminal charges against the defendant

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New Crime of Harassing Referees Comes with Mandatory Anger Management

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Representative Henry’s bill has been signed by the Governor into Act 355 and creates the crime of harassment of a school or recreation athletic contest official, and sets penalties which can include mandatory counseling for anger management.

The new law defines the crime as the harassment of a school athletic or recreation athletic contest official that occurs under either of the following circumstances and that includes verbal or non-verbal behavior by the offender that would cause a reasonable person to be placed in fear of receiving bodily harm: (1) While the school athletic or recreation athletic contest official is actively engaged in the conducting, supervising, refereeing, or officiating of a school-sanctioned interscholastic athletic contest or a sanctioned recreation athletic contest. (2) In the immediate vicinity of a school-sanctioned interscholastic athletic contest or a sanctioned recreation athletic contest and is based on the official’s performance in the conducting, supervising, refereeing, or officiating of a school-sanctioned interscholastic athletic contest or a sanctioned recreation athletic contest.

New law provides the following penalties for persons who commit the offense: (1) A fine of not more than $500, imprisonment without hard labor for not more than 90 days, or both. (2) Performance of 40 hours of court-approved community service work. (3) Mandatory participation in a court-approved counseling program which may include anger management, abusive behavior intervention groups, or any other type of counseling deemed appropriate by the court. Cost of the program shall be borne by the offender.

The new law creates the crime of entry or remaining on site of a school or recreation athletic contest after being forbidden which provides that no person shall without authority go into or upon or remain in or upon, or attempt to go into or upon or remain in or upon, any immovable property or other site or location that belongs to another and that is used for any school athletic contest or recreation athletic contest, including any area in the immediate vicinity of the site or location of the athletic contest, after having been forbidden to do so, either orally or in writing, by any owner, lessee, or custodian of the property or by any other authorized person.

New law provides that whoever violates the provisions of new law shall be fined not more than $500, imprisoned without hard labor for not more than six months, or both.

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Changes Made to Law when Investigating Student Threats of Violence, Terrorism

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The Governor signed House Bill 193 into law and revises last year’s effort to improve school safety. Representative Bacala’s measure revises procedures relative to students investigated for making threats of violence or terrorism.

Present law provides relative to a student reported to a law enforcement agency for a threat of violence or terrorism, and provides for a judicial hearing on whether the student should undergo a mental health evaluation. The current law requires that the student shall not be permitted to return to school until undergoing a formal mental health evaluation.

The changes passed and signed by the Governor instead instruct authorities that a student who is the subject of a complaint and investigation shall be permitted to return to school by the school administration if at any point prior to a hearing the threat is determined not to be credible by the school administration, law enforcement agency, or district attorney or by order of the court after a hearing.

While present law requires the law enforcement agency file a petition with the appropriate judicial district court for a mental health evaluation, the new law instead says that if the law enforcement agency determines that the threat is credible and imminent, it shall report it to the district attorney, who may file such a petition not later than seven days after receiving such report. It requires that a student be permitted to return to school if the district attorney decides not to file a petition or does not do so within that time period.

The new law defines that a “credible and imminent” threat means that the available facts, when viewed in light of surrounding circumstances, would cause a reasonable person to believe that the person communicating the threat actually intends to carry out the threat in the near future or has the apparent ability to carry out the threat in the near future.

Another revision passed by the Senate was to prescribe a 7day time limit on the district attorney’s authority to file a petition for the examination of a student who makes a threat and add a requirement that the student be allowed to return to school if the district attorney decides not to file a petition or does not do so within that time period.

The law now is “If a law enforcement agency, based on its investigation as required by R.S. 17:409.4(B)(1), determines that a student’s threat is credible and imminent, it shall report it to the district attorney, who may file a petition no later than seven days after receiving such report with the appropriate judicial district court for medical, psychological, and psychiatric examination as outlined in this Subsection.”

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