Category Archives: News Stories

Pointing to New Treatments New Study Links Gut Bacteria to Autis3

Researchers at Simons Foundation’s Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) have identified a  microbial signature for autism spectrum disorder, a finding that offers information about  how the gut microbiome influences this neurological syndrome.

The study was published on June 26 in Nature Neuroscience and challenges the idea that  autism is a primarily genetic condition. The new research suggests that environmental  factors may be behind the rise in rates of autism.

The researchers noted, “The presence of this core microbiome in combination with the  depletion of most ASD-associated taxa further suggests a causal role for these  microorganisms in shaping autism symptoms. “Despite our inability to determine actual metabolomic profiles at this point (Methods), our  metabolite analysis based on microbiome-derived and brain-derived metabolite inferences  as well as the dietderived metabolite data reveals a picture of a unifying and distinct ASD  functional architecture. With the brain, the immunome and diet as major effectors, the  multi-factorial complexity of ASD is reduced to a multi-scale set of interactions centered  around human and bacterial metabolism that, in turn, determines phenotypic, genomic and metagenomic attributes via multiple feedback loops.”



Gov. Vetoes Bill That Would Have Restricted Discussion of Sexual Orientation in Schools

HB 466 by Rep. Dodie Horton, RHaughton, would have prohibited the discussion of gender  identity and sexual orientation in public schools, but was vetoed by Gov. Edwards on Jun 29.

The proposed law, passed by the house with a vote of 74 to 25, and passed by the Senate with a vote of 29 to 9, would have prohibited a public school teacher, employee, or other presenter at a school from doing any of the following in grades kindergarten through 12:
(1) Incorporating into classroom instruction or discussion topics of sexual orientation or gender identity in a manner that deviates from state content standards or curricula developed or approved by the public school governing authority.
(2) Covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity during any extracurricular activity.
(3) Discussing his personal sexual orientation or gender identity.

Proposed law provides that no public school employee shall use a pronoun for a student that differs from the pronoun that aligns with the student’s sex unless the student’s parent provides written permission.

In his veto letter, Gov. Edwards said, ” House Bill 466 aims to prohibit teachers, school employees, or other school presenters from engaging in discussions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. This bill unfairly places vulnerable children at the front lines of a vicious culture war.

Further, the language would lead to absurd consequences. As passed, the mere mention of one’s spouse who happens to be the same gender could cause the school employee or presenter to run afoul of the law without ill intentions and educators would be prohibited from teaching United States Supreme Court jurisprudence (see Obergfell v. Hodges) as well as from the Bible, which was just authorized as a course of instruction (see the Book of Leviticus).

“The bill is also unduly harsh as it allows students, teachers, and others serving students to totally disregard a student’s autonomy by forcing the student to answer to pronouns that they do not wish to use. Every parent would have to provide written permission to the school to allow or direct the employee to use pronouns differing from pronouns used in accordance with the child’s gender assigned at birth. This forced rejection of self-identity is particularly cruel to a child and this cruelty may adversely affect the child in their formative years. […]

“It is the duty of our schools to create an environment that fosters and supports all of the children of our state, to help them succeed academically and professionally. As I stated in response to another unnecessary and harmful bill from a previous session, ‘the real harm of this bill is that it would set as the policy of the State of Louisiana that there is something wrong with these children and that they should be treated differently from whom they really are. All of us are sons and daughters of this great state, and we should do and be better than that.’ “.



Governor Saves Health Care Budget from Cuts

Gov. Edwards announced last Thursday that he had vetoed Lines 6-9 on page 72, noting, “Veto No. 2 restores the $100million reduction in funding to Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) to protect against devastating programmatic cuts that would result from loss of the funding and the federal matching funds, totaling between $400 million and $700 million that were discussed in the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare on June 20 and that were outlined in the letter sent to me by the committee after the hearing asking that I restore the funds.”

“The actual cut could have been seven times larger because of lost federal matching dollars, state health officials told lawmakers on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week. Officials said thousands of residents, including children, would likely have lost access to mental health care,” reported Molly Ryan, from WWNO.

Lawmakers had allocated the more than $100 million to pay off state retirement debt. Gov. Edwards had criticized the lastminute cut to health care, calling it “ridiculous” considering the state’s $2.2 surplus. “Lawmakers who helped both negotiate and pass the budget expressed regret about the reduction as they realized the profound impact it could have on health care access for Louisianans,” Ryan reported.



Mental Healing for Incarcerated People Act Signed by Governor Edwards

The final version of Rep. Selders’ House Bill 55, aimed to improve treatment of incarcerated individuals with mental health needs, and referred to as “The Mental Healing Justice for Incarcerated People Act,” was signed by the Governor on June 8. It became Act 214 and becomes effective next month.

The new law provides that it is the intent of the legislature that the state allocate funding for the new law to ensure both the access and delivery of quality care for individuals incarcerated within the Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections.

The existing law provides that the Department may establish resources and programs for the treatment of inmates with a mental illness or an intellectual disability, either in a separate facility or as part of other institutions or facilities of the department.

Act 214 amends existing law to make the establishment of resources and programs mandatory.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, “There is no anticipated direct material effect on governmental expenditures as a result of this measure. DPS&CCS states that the proposed  law includes provisions already included within a list of services that it provides utilizing existing resources and would have no fiscal impact on expenditures.”

The new law provides for the duties of the department as follows:

(1) Provide screening to persons entering state prison facilities, upon intake, for mental health disorders as defined in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, subject to appropriation by the legislature and the availability of resources.

(2) Refer a person to a facility’s mental health department if at any point during the person’s incarceration, any department staff member suspects that an incarcerated person may have a mental illness.

(3) Provide Mental Health First Aid training to employees on an annual basis, subject to
appropriation by the legislature and the availability of resources.

(4) Utilize trained peer support who have shared lived experiences to augment and enhance mental health services.

(5) Provide an incarcerated person who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, prior to that person’s release, with an appointment or walk-in instructions for a community
mental health provider to ensure continuity of care to the extent that this is feasible and subject to the availability of department and community resources.



Effort to Ban Medical Procedures for Trans Minors Rebounds, then Vetoed


In a clash of ideologies, and after going through several gyrations to resurrect HB 648, Rep. Gabe Firment’s effort to ban surgery and hormone blockers for trans minors was vetoed by Gov. Edwards on June 30.

The measure was presumed dead after the Senate Health and Welfare Committee tabled it in a May, tie-breaker vote. The committee chair, Senator Fred Mills, who is a Republican, broke the tie and voted with the Democrat opposition to defer the bill.

But then on June 1, the Senate voted to suspend its rules and recalled the bill from committee, a rare, technical maneuver used when bills have been assigned to the wrong committee. The measure was reassigned to Senate Judiciary A, and a special review of the bill was scheduled for June 2.

The committee for Judiciary A approved the bill and the Senate passed it with amendments by a vote of 29 to 10. It was then returned to the House and the amended version passed 75 to 25. It was sent to the Governor on June 8 for executive approval.

However, in a long and detailed critique, Gov. Edwards vetoed the measure, writing, “This bill is entitled the ‘Stop Harming Our Kids Act,’ which is ironic because that is precisely what it does. This bill denies healthcare to a very small, unique, and vulnerable group of children. It forces children currently stabilized on medication to treat a legitimate healthcare diagnosis to stop taking it. It threatens the professional licensure of the limited number of specialists who treat the healthcare needs of these children. It takes away parental rights to work with a physician to make important healthcare decisions for children experiencing a gender crisis that could quite literally save their lives. And, without doubt, it is part of a targeted assault on children that the bill itself deems not ‘normal,’ “[…]

“According to the March 2023 Louisiana Department of Health’s Study on Gender Reassignment Procedures on Minors, from 2017 – 2021 there were zero gender reassignment surgical procedures performed on children in Louisiana, zero. The proponents
of this bill suggest that it is necessary to stop physicians from mutilating our children by
performing gruesome sex change surgeries. This is simply not happening in Louisiana,” he

“The Gender Reassignment report further showed that the entire issue of gender reassignment impacts a very small subset of the population. In 2021, of 794,779 children enrolled in Medicaid only 465 were diagnosed by a healthcare provider with gender dysphoria, and of those only 57 were ultimately considered candidates for puberty blockers or hormone replacements,” the Gov. wrote.

During the Senate Health and Welfare Committee hearing, Clinical psychologist, Dr. Clifton
Mixon, was among those who testified in opposition to HB 648.

“I work in a gender clinic that prescribes hormone therapies to youth,” he said. “At the heart of this debate is mistrust in our medical and mental health providers to provide ethical, individualized care without prejudice and based on best practices and established research,” Mixon said. “I’m here to address these concerns in opposition to a mean-spirited bill that defies science and humanity.

“The evidence is clear––gender affirming medical interventions are safe and effective treatment for gender dysphoria and resulting mental health problems for many trans youth. Unfortunately, you’ve been exposed to false information that misrepresents the established research and practice guidelines on gender health care medicine. I am here with actual studies that can help you understand the actual facts. I have a doctoral degree with training in how to conduct and interpret research,” he said.

Psychologist, Dr. Jesse Lambert, also testified in opposition, representing the Louisiana
Psychological Association.

The clashing world views of the individuals supporting and those opposing the bill included both sides claiming that they had the more valid research and that the other side’s research was flawed.

Dr. Quenton Vanmeter, a pediatric endocrinologist from Atlanta, Georgia, cited evidence from European countries that suggests that there is no benefit in transgender surgery or hormonal treatment and that the suicide rate is not impacted.

Dr. Stephen Félix, a pediatrician, said, “The problem with the studies that the AEP reports and others, they do not have significant randomized control trials. They have small sample sizes, they have poor follow up, they have a lot of people lost to follow up, they have individuals who they have a very short period of time that they follow them,…” he said.

In concluding his veto letter, Gov. Edwards wrote, “I believe that this bill violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it targets and limits healthcare to transgender children that remain available to “normal” children. And finally, I believe that time will show that this veto was not just an exercise in compassion and respect for transgender children and their parents, but it was also the only legally responsible action to take because it is what is constitutionally required of me to do to uphold my oath of office as governor.”



Dr. Paula Zeanah Named 2023 Distinguished Psychologist by LPA


Dr. Paula Zeanah, who has worked as a pediatric nurse and clinical psychologist in
a variety of settings, serving children and their families for more than 40 years, has been named the 2023 Distinguished Psychologist by the Louisiana Psychological Association (LPA).

Spokesperson for the LPA Awards Committee, Dr. Amanda Raines said, “Dr. Zeanah is the Lafayette General Medical Center/Our Lady of Lourdes Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Nursing and Professor of Nursing at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. She has over 200 peerreviewed publications and presentations and has served as the PI on over a dozen grant-funded projects,” Raines said.

“Dr. Zeanah has a long-standing role as a teacher, trainer, and supervisor at various academic institutions and medical centers and frequently serves as an advisor and consultant on numerous state, national, and international partnerships. Further, she frequently gives back to the field by serving as a committee member of various university and department organization and, most recently, as our esteemed president of LPA,” said Raines.

Dr. Zeanah serves as the Research Director at the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development & Lifelong Learning at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her expertise includes physical and mental health; perinatal, infant, and early childhood mental health; adolescent and early adulthood sexuality; and chronic illness in children and adolescents.

She has served as Associate and Full Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and  Behavioral Sciences at Tulane School of Medicine from 1998 to 2015. Before becoming a psychologist, Dr. Zeanah worked in a variety of primary care and tertiary health care settings as a pediatric nurse, educator, and administrator.

“I am deeply honored and proud to be identified as a distinguished psychologist, Dr. Zeanah told the Times. “And, given that Louisiana benefits from the contributions of many deserving psychologists, I am also quite humbled,” she added.

“As a young professional, my work/career was important to me,” Dr. Zeanah said. “But other than 11 years of pursuing education in nursing and psychology, I did not envision a specific endpoint. I have had opportunities that enabled me to integrate nursing and psychology in ways that have been gratifying and are still interesting to me!” she said.

“For example, my dissertation, the development of a measure of sexual self-esteem for women, evolved from my experiences working as a pediatric nurse practitioner with vulnerable teenagers for whom sexuality was insufficiently addressed. The measure has been used in studies examining various aspects of sexuality in many countries around the world—that’s cool! I believe being a nurse and a clinical psychologist has given me a certain credibility when focusing on the interface of health and mental health,” Dr. Zeanah said.

She has held many positions over the years, including:

Advisory Committee, New Families: Innovation and Development of the Child Health Services in Oslo, Norway; a collaborative project, City of Oslo and University of Oslo, 2021- 2022;

Consultant, Development of Culture of Wellness Framework for Nurse Family Partnership, National Service Office, Denver, CO, 2021;

Consultant, Supporting the Child to Thrive course development, Nurse Family Partnership, National Service Office, 2020-2021;

Advisory Group, Promoting Mental Health in NFP Educational Development (PI: L. Beeber, UNC). A project of the national NFP/University of Colorado Prevention Research Center for
Family and Child Health, under the direction of D. Olds, 2012-2021; and

Innovations Advisory Committee, Mental Health Subcommittee Nurse Family Partnership, Denver, Colorado, 2017-2019.

Dr. Zeanah went on to say, “Today, that’s a huge focus of psychology, but it was not always so. I’ve been lucky to hold positions that allowed me to work ‘inter-professionally’ in
nursing, psychology, and public health, which has been exciting, fun, and enabled the development of innovative strategies to address the mental health needs of vulnerable populations including pregnant women, infants, young children, and chronically ill children and families. Currently, I am collaborating with colleagues to increase attention to ethical dilemmas in the multidisciplinary field of infant mental health.”

Dr. Zeanah further explained, “Compelling research on the importance of early experience for brain development and later health and social functioning means the needs of infants are better recognized and prioritized-yet sometimes what is beneficial to the infant may be harmful or hurtful to the parent/caregiver, and vice-versa. Figuring out how to make
appropriate clinical decisions, within the contexts of limited resources, social and cultural pressures, and personal and professional values is the challenge. Any achievements have
not occurred in a vacuum—I’ve greatly benefitted from working in some of the country’s best medical centers and universities, having inspiring and encouraging colleagues, and of course, the unwavering support of my husband, family, and friends.”

Her numerous publications include:

Zeanah, P., Korfmacher, J., Lim, I. & Zeanah, C. (in press). Introduction to special section: Doing the ‘right’ thing: Ethical issues in infant and early childhood mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal;

Zeanah, P., Steier, A., Lim, I., Korfmacher, J., & Zeanah, C. (in press). Current approaches and future directions for addressing ethics in infant and early childhood mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal;

Lim, I., Korfmacher, J. Steier, A., Zeanah, C. & Zeanah, P. (2023). The ethics of infant and early childhood mental health practice. Infant Mental Health Journal;

Zeanah, C.H., Korfmacher, J., Lim, I., Steier, A., & Zeanah, P. (2023). Ethical dilemmas in infant mental health: Examples from child protection, home visiting, and medical contexts. Infant Mental Health Journal; and

Beeber, L., Gasbarro, M., Knudtson, M., Ledford, A., Sprinkle, S., Leeman, J., McMichael, G., Zeanah, P., Mosqueda, A. (under review). A mental health innovation for nurse home
visiting program shows effectiveness in reducing depressive symptoms, Prevention Science.

The American Academy of Nursing added her to its 2021 Class of Fellows. Dr. Zeanah was the only Fellow from Louisiana selected for the 2021 class. “The Academy’s Fellows embody our values of equity, diversity and inclusivity, inquiry, integrity, and courage, which enable us to achieve new heights of impact that advance health policy across the globe,” noted Dr. Eileen Sullivan-Marx, the organization’s president. Dr. Zeanah joins an elite group that now comprises more than 2,900 experts in policy, research, administration, practice, and academia who champion health and wellness.

“Nursing is a profession that values and relies upon research to inform practice,” Dr. Zeanah explained. “There’s never been more expertise in the field, or as comprehensive a commitment to health and wellness, which makes it an exceptionally good time to be a nurse.”

Dr. Zeanah’s grants, contracts, and development activities include:

Zeanah, P. (PI; Co-PI’s L. Asare, C. Suire). Clinical Decision-Making in Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting: Does implicit Bias Play a Role? New Horizons Grant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, $18,690 February 2023-January 2024;

Zeanah, P. (PI). The Culture of Nurse Wellness in the Nurse-Family Partnership, Nurse-Family Partnership National Service Office, $7840.00, March –September 2021. The purpose of this contract was to develop wellness education and resources for the national Nurse-Family Partnership program; and

Zeanah, P. (Local PI, Co-Investigator; L. Beeber, UNC, PI). Mental Health Integration to Nurse- Family Partnership, Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation, $74,188, January 2018-July 2021. Supports the development, implementation, and evaluation of the maternal mental health educational program for the national Nurse Family Partnership program.

Dr. Zeanah told the Times, “I truly appreciate the opportunities I’ve had through the years as a member of LPA to meet and work with so many strong psychologists, and to learn and grow professionally. This past year, I had the honor to serve as LPA’s President. More than ever, I am impressed by the myriad ways Louisiana psychologists are ‘advancing psychology as a science, as a profession, and as means of promoting human welfare.’ ”

What does she hope to accomplish in the future? “Sometimes I laugh about wanting to be a People’s Health Champion,” Dr. Zeanah said. “I’ve always been so impressed and energized by the accomplishments of those over 65! But truthfully, I do not have a list of specific things I want to accomplish. I do want to stay involved and to be useful—by that I mean I want to continue to contribute in meaningful ways to our profession through clinical service, scholarly activities, and involvement in professional activities,” she said.

“With a healthy balance of spending more time with my most important accomplishments—my children and grandchildren!” 

Researchers Present at Assn of Psychological Science Convention

Psychological scientists from Louisiana joined more than 2,000 researchers from around the world who gathered in Washington D.C., for the 2023 APS Annual Convention of Psychological Science to share psychological research. This year’s
event was held from May 25 to 28.

Louisiana State University

Raymond Tucker, PhD, collaborated on the “Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) facilitates the study of complex, time-varying phenomena in daily life, such as suicidal ideation.” According to the program: The presenters described the recent EMA research examining suicidal desire variability and sexual orientation, emotional differentiation in relation to suicidal thoughts, and person-specific models of suicide risk, with implications for just-in-time suicide prevention efforts.

Tonya Vandenbrink, PhD., was a co-collaborator on “The Influence of Age and Divided Attention on Eyewitness Memory.” The collaborators abstract noted: Their study supports previous findings that children are more suggestible than adults to misleading questions. This study also found that the negative influences of divided attention on eyewitness memory are not only present in adults but also can be found in younger populations, such as preschoolers.

University of Louisiana Lafayette

Aidan Guidry, Anna Catherine Romero, BS, Prynceston Fant, and Hung-Chu Lin co-authored “Attachment Insecurity and Empathy: Comparison between Inmates and College Students.” The authors noted: When compared to college students, inmates reported significantly lower levels of empathy but higher levels of attachment anxiety. For inmates, but not college students, regression results predicting empathy indicated main effects of attachment anxiety and avoidance, suggesting the role of attachment insecurity in empathy for criminal justice involved population.

Anna Catherine Romero, BS, Jaci Philliber, Kinsey Hatfield, Sydney Guidry and Hung-Chu Lin, PhD. Contributed to “Adverse Childhood Experiences, Mindfulness, and Health Outcomes.” The abstract noted: Data from 650 emerging adults revealed a main effect of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on depression, anxiety, stress, and somatic symptoms. Separate regression analyses (with age, gender, race/ethnicity controlled) indicated that mindfulness emerged to be a protective factor for all four outcomes above and beyond ACEs, social support, and resilience.

Ashley Messina, B.S. and Theresa Wozencraft, PhD. presented “The Relation between Race-Based Traumatic Stress and Stress Appraisals.” According to the presenters: The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the relation between race-based traumatic stress (RBTS) and stress appraisals (i.e., threat, challenge, and centrality appraisals). Preliminary analyses demonstrated that the relationships between each variable were significant (p < .05) and that threat appraisals significantly predicted RBTS (p = .02).

Ayodeji Adegoke and Manyu Li, PhD., presented “Egocentric Network Analysis of Undergraduate Students’ Support Network.” From the presenters abstract: Using an egocentric network analysis approach, this study took a step further to understand the types of social support that relate to students’ academic motivation. The preliminary analyses demonstrated initial evidence that students’ support network indices were related to their intrinsic academic motivation and  academic/career success values.

Brianna Sadighian, BA, and Manyu Li, PhD., discussed “Generation Status and Social Restrictiveness As Predictors for Attitudes Towards Seeking Professional Mental Health Services in Asian Americans.” According to the abstract: Though the Asian American population and rate of mental health disorders continues to increase, there is still an underutilization of services in this population. Results show that generation status and levels of social restrictiveness may predict treatment-seeking attitudes in Asian Americans.

Brooke O. Breaux, PhD, Robert B. Michael, PhD and Ayush Deshpande.  Collaborated on “Fake News: Towards an Empirical Definition.” From the abstract: College students were more likely to label a news story as “fake news” when it contained information that they disagreed with, made them unhappy, was thought to contain false information, and was thought to be written by a blogger, politician, or Facebooker whose intent was to mislead the reader.

Brooke O. Breaux, PhD., authored “Psychology Research Proposals: Benefiting from Explicit Instruction, Content Alignment, and Strategic Simplification.” According to the presenters: Within an introductory research methods course, it can be challenging for undergraduates in psychology to produce a quality research proposal. To improve outcomes, I created a sequence of three assignments for which there are explicit instructions, aligned the delivery of course topics with the assignment deadlines, and eliminated unnecessary complexity.

Hung-Chu Lin, PhD, Dianne Olivier, Roger Rholdon, Tricia Templet, Kaylee Ackel, Megan Bergeron, and Aidan Guidry and Paula Zeanah collaborated on the “Experiences of Student-Parents during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The presenters abstract noted: Data of a sample of student parents enrolled in a mid-size public University in the South of US during the COVID-19 pandemic were compared to non-parent students. Young student-parents (aged below 25) were at the greatest risks for academic difficulties and overall negative experiences, when compared to older student-parents and non-parents.

Kiara E. Martin, BS and Valanne MacGyvers, PhD., coauthored “The Role of ACEs on Academic Achievement and Psychological Well-Being: Examining Protective Factors.” From their abstract: Abuse, violence witnessed in the home, and divorce are all considered adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and can limit a person’s potential for success. However, protective factors such as resilience, growth mindset, and campus connectedness can help individuals overcome adversity from their childhood and improve their chances of success.

Kirsi S Michael, HS and Brooke O. Breaux, PhD, presented “Are Perceptions of Criminality Biased? The Roles of Name Popularity and Socioeconomic Status.” According to the presenters abstract: Are people with unpopular first names and people with lower socioeconomic status perceived by others as more likely to have committed a crime than people with popular first names and people with higher
socioeconomic status? Such biases would potentially impact the criminal justice system and convictions in court.

Taylar Johnson, BS and Manyu Li, PhD., co-authored, “Threat to Sense of Belonging: The Buffering Effects of Social Media Influencers.” The presenters abstract noted: This study examines whether parasocial bonds with social media influencers and cultural similarity to the influencers will moderate the negative relationship between threat to sense of belonging and sense of belonging. It is hypothesized that the moderators will buffer against the negative role of threat of sense of belonging.

Ainsley Graveson contributed to “Adverse Childhood Experiences, Mindfulness, and Health Outcomes.” According to the abstract: Data from 650 emerging adults revealed a main effect of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on depression, anxiety, stress, and somatic symptoms. Separate regression analyses (with age, gender, race/ethnicity controlled) indicated that mindfulness emerged to be a protective factor for all four outcomes above and beyond ACEs, social support, and resilience.

Tulane University

Anna Wilson, Hilary Skov, Kavya Subramaniam and Sarah A.O. Gray, PhD, co-collaborated on the “Maternal Depressive Symptoms during COVID-19: Pandemic-Related and Other Stressors Confer Risk.” According to the abstract: In a sample of low-income and economically marginalized, primarily Black mothers of young children, maternal depressive symptoms increased from pre- to post-COVID, elevating to clinically significant levels. Pre-COVID depressive symptoms were the most significant predictor of pandemic depressive symptoms, but exposure to  COVID-related stressors accounted for 7.3% additional variance.

Charles Figley, PhD, was the co-chair for the presentation on “Filling Gaps in Research on Disaster Related Traumatization and Growth: Lessons from Catastrophic Category-5 Hurricanes.” From the abstract: Facing the surging impact of major disasters, trauma psychologists pointed to certain research gaps. This symposium on hurricane studies seeks to address gaps via following modalities: 1) Complex pathways to multifaceted outcomes; 2) Bayesian structural equation modeling (SEM) on prospective research; and 3) In-depth analysis concerning resilience of underserved communities.







Bill to Improve Mental Health for Incarcerated Passes House 94 to 0

Rep. Selders is proposing in House Bill 55 to improve treatment of incarcerated individuals with mental health issues needs, referred to as “The Mental Healing Justice for Incarcerated People Act.” The measure passed the House and was reported favorably out of the Senate Committee. It is pending Senate Floor action.

The proposed law states that legislative intent is access to high-quality mental health services, regardless of the setting, and that the state wholly supports efforts to assist incarcerated individuals suffering from severe and persistent mental illnesses, including post-incarceration syndromes, in their efforts to navigate incarceration and reentry into society.

HB 55 amends present law to make the establishment of resources and programs mandatory. The proposed law provides that the qualified mental health persons within the multi-disciplinary service team shall establish a training program to be conducted annually.







La Department Health Launches Awareness Campaign for 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The Louisiana Department of Health is launching a campaign to raise awareness of
the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

According to officials, the Lifeline is available 24/7 to anyone in mental health distress or who may be worried about a loved one who may need crisis support. 988 crisis counselors are trained to help reduce the intensity of a situation for the person seeking help and connect them to additional local resources, as needed, to support their wellbeing.

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death for individuals ages 15-24. In 2021, 48,183 Americans died by suicide, including 689 in Louisiana. One death by suicide occurs every 11 minutes, wrote officials.

“Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity for us to recommit to raising awareness about the importance of mental health in the lives of all Louisianans,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available to
anyone in mental health distress. If you’re depressed, going through a hard time,
thinking about suicide or just need to talk, 988 is for you. 988 is for all of us.”

As part of the 988 awareness campaign, LDH is launching an online 988  dashboard providing transparency on key metrics of crisis call data from Louisiana’s two 988 crisis centers.

According to the dashboard, among Louisiana callers self-reporting their information to 988: 59.4% are White and about 34.8% are Black. 60.6% are female and 38.9% are male. 32.2% are ages 25-40 and 18.9% are ages 18-24 and 18.1% are ages 41-59. The most common referrals were for mental health, housing and financial assistance. Orleans, East Baton Rouge and Jefferson parishes had the highest volume of calls.

The dashboard, which will be updated monthly, contains metrics on accessibility,
referral source, reason for the call, and some outcomes, but they do not contain historical summaries. Demographic data is available for only about 20% of calls, as it is not always possible to collect data during a crisis call.

Calls to 988 are confidential and any self reported data is aggregated before sharing with the public.








Dr. Nemeth Helps Ukraine Survivors

Kyiv’s community psychological support center is partnering with international charity organizations to “restore and rehabilitate war-torn minds” in Ukraine, reported Kyiv Post on April 25. Among those assisting is Dr. Darlyne Nemeth, Clinical, Medical & Neuropsychologist, Founder of The Neuropsychology Center of Louisiana, and Secretary General of the World Council for Psychotherapy.

According to the Post, “With long-term, active combat operations taking their toll on the psyche of Ukraine’s military, leaving lasting imprints on their mental health, the International Society of Psychologists is actively working to help Ukrainians with mental health problems as a result of Russian aggression. These problems with mental health have not spared the civilians of Ukraine – who are under constant pressure from the tragic events of the war.”

Dr. Nemeth explained, “Our first workshop was on dealing with fear. Dr. Kuransky presented a wonderful exercise using stress management via balloons, and I followed with a Double Bind exercise showing how two feelings can occur at the same time. When acknowledged, they can be processed and resolved. The feelings that I used were being afraid and being brave. That workshop was very successful according to those who attended,” she said.

According to the Post, “The psychological support center has been operating in Kyiv for about ten months, with experts from all over the world providing counseling to those seeking support. Since beginning, 403 people have passed through the center, where they go through a course until ten individual sessions. Mostly, they are refugees from Mariupol, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and cities of the Kyiv region,” reported the Post.

“We’re providing temporary relief and coping strategies to those who are under intense duress,” said Dr. Nemeth. “I am sure that many people from Louisiana are attempting to help the Ukrainian people; however, I have specifically been asked to participate in the planning and execution of these workshops. Dr. Judy has asked that her students be involved, and I have asked my clinical and research assistant, Cody Capps, B.S., from LSU, to participate as well. There are only four psychologists on site to help thousands of people, so anything we can do via Zoom will help,” she said.

“The next workshop will be focused on women with cancer who have been in considerable pain,” said Dr. Nemeth. “I am working with Dr. Judy Kuriansky at Columbia University and her students to assist Dr. Alexander Zharkov with the
workshop. My presentation will be on a variation of the Tapping Exercise that was used in our Katrina 10 Workshops. We are still formulating the entire workshop, so
the results will be finalized in the next two weeks.”







Effort to Ban Medical Procedures for Trans Minors Fails in Committee

In an exciting tie-breaker vote, the Senate Health and Welfare Committe tabled a bill which would have prohibited surgical and hormonal sex change procedures for miners. The committee chair, Senator Fred Mills, broke the tie and voted with the opposition to defer the bill.

Authored by Representative Michael Firment, the measure had passed the House, 71 to 24, after being heavily amended and substituted in committee. The Senate Committee vote was a tie at 4 to 4, splitting down party lines. The chair, a Republican, Senator Mills acknowledged his vote would break the tie.

He said, “It comes down to me. I’m going to make a statement then. I guess I’ve always in my heart of hearts, I believe that a decision should be made by a patient and a physician. I believe in the physicians in Louisiana. I believe the people that are licensed by the Board of Medical Examiners are well regulated. I believe in the scope of practice. I believe in the standard of care.” […] “So because of that, I do believe in opposition, and I believe in the right of a family to choose what’s best for them. I vote yes.”

During the hearing, Clinical psychologist, Dr. Clifton Mixson, was among those who testified in opposition to HB 648.

“I work in a gender clinic that prescribes hormone therapies to youth,” he said. “At the heart of this debate is mistrust in our medical and mental health providers to provide ethical, individualized care without prejudice and based on best practices and established research,” Mixon said. “I’m here to address these concerns in opposition to a mean-spirited bill that defies science and humanity.

“The evidence is clear––gender affirming medical interventions are safe and effective treatment for gender dysphoria and resulting mental health problems for many trans youth. Unfortunately, you’ve been exposed to false information that misrepresents the established research and practice guidelines on gender health care medicine. I am here with actual studies that can help you understand the actual facts. I have a doctoral degree with training in how to conduct and interpret research,” he said.

“These medical interventions reduce risk for suicide and improve overall mental health functioning and quality of life. We are not providing access to youth for whom it is not appropriate.”

He noted the success rate is high; high rates of treatment satisfaction and low rates of regret less than 1%. And he pointed out 20 position statements for major medical and mental health organizations across the country.

He explained that when he and his team suggest hormone therapy to these children, it is because they have exhausted all other options and when this happens they get better, he said.

“I’m here to tell you we know what we are doing. We are following established research, Best practice guidelines and our ethical codes and we are doing so with an awareness of our role and supporting safe exploration and decision-making. We are doing so with the best interest of every child and family member.”

Psychologist, Dr. Jesse Lambert, also testified in opposition, representing the Louisiana Psychological Association.

“A lot of research has been discussed today scientifically sound research that indicates that this is a true phenomena and that individuals who are trans have suffered greatly.

“Citing from the American Psychological Association, we have data that indicates that individuals who are trans experience more victimization, be that bullying, be that acts of violence occurring in school. They feel more ostracized, more isolated and this generalizes into relationships including close family relationships.

“I echo the data that indicates the greater likelihood of psychological morbidity including self-mutilation, suicide and also note research again endorsed by the American Psychological Association that shows greater degrees of satisfaction and resolution of these issues and that this isn’t immediately about going to a biological treatment modality.”

He explained that a model of triage issues with different intensities and that practitioners don’t automatically jump to biological modalities.

“If this bill should pass, psychologist would not be able to take part in a team-based approach, involving endocrinologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians and contribute to an individual’s care from a holistic standpoint.”

Speaking in favor of his measure, Rep. Firment said, “Perhaps the most compelling scientific evidence to consider today is the fact that several progressive European nations who pioneered chemical and surgical sex change procedures like England, Sweden, and Finland have completely reversed course on this issue and they are now recommending counseling and watchful waiting as opposed to the use of dangerous and experimental drugs and invasive and irreversible surgeries,” he said.

“We know that for 85% of the kids experiencing gender dysphoria, the confusion will resolve itself with time in counseling. We also know that despite claims to the contrary rates of suicides are not decreased and health outcomes are not improved with so-called gender affirming care. Where children are self diagnosing, decisions can lead to permanent damage including sterilization and loss of sexual function.”

Dr, Quenton Vanmeter, a pediatric endocrinologist from Atlanta, Georgia, cited evidence from European countries that suggests that there is no benefit in transgender surgery or hormonal treatment and that the suicide rate is not impacted.

Dr. Evelyn Griffin from Baton Rouge testified as a certified OB/GYN that puberty blockers are not approved for adolescents and are dangerous.

The clashing world views of the individuals supporting and those opposing the bill included both sides claiming that they had the more valid research and that the other side’s research was flawed. Sen. Mills asked why so many differences in the evidence.

Dr. Stephen Félix, a pediatrician, said, “The problem with the studies that the AEP reports and others, they do not have significant randomized control trials. They have small sample sizes, they have poor follow up, they have a lot of people lost to follow up, they have individuals who they have a very short period of time that they follow them. That’s why,” he said.

“The studies that are coming out of Sweden, Finland or long-term studies where they looked extensively and they said, ‘wait, this is all wrong.’ The quality of evidence that supports this transition therapy is poor. The level of evidence that we’re presenting is strong.”

Sen. Mills said that he just needed them to understand that there are a lot of organizations that have the other side.

Dr. Griffin said, “Policies are created by organizations, a small group of individuals in organizations. That is then broadcast out and physicians like ourselves, in the trenches, […] It does become increasingly difficult to practice medicine when you’re told by your employer that these are the benchmarks that you have to check off. So that’s actually the reality of what’s happening nowadays and that’s why you see a contradiction and what is perhaps shown in mainstream media or by organizations and why you see front line doctors like ourselves saying something different.”

During the two-hour hearing, some degenerated into mudslinging. Dr. Mixson remarked that Dr. Vanmeter’s views had been compared to a hollow chocolate Easter Bunny, and Rep. Firment returned that Dr. Mixson was a “radical activist who works for Ochsner’s Hospital.”

The hearing is available on the Senate archives.








Dr. Newman Wins Sweetgrass Award

Division 35 of the American Psychological Association (APA) has named Dr. Denise Newman, PhD, recipient of the 2023 Sweetgrass Award. The award
honors the Indigenous psychology professional who epitomizes values and virtues through the dedication of outstanding professionalism in service. For Native peoples, sweetgrass is a sacred plant that attracts positive energy, beauty, and sweetness.

Dr. Newman served as President for the Society for Indian Psychologists, whose stated mission is to provide an organization for Native American indigenous people to advocate for the mental well-being of Native peoples by increasing the knowledge and awareness of issues impacting Native mental health.

One of the main focuses for the Society is for Native psychologists to support professionals, researchers, graduate students, and undergraduate students who are aspiring for careers in any area of psychology and match them with Native mentors, to share ideas, spread knowledge, and provide new information that is relevant to Native People who are united by a common set of core values.

At the 2021 Society for Indian Psychologists (SIP) Convention, Dr. Newman was a co-collaborator for the SIP Mentorship Program: “The Native-to-Native way.” The Mentorship Program is an online mentoring community of American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Islander scholars in psychology and allied health professions. The SIP pair Native students and early career professionals with experienced and elder Native psychologists from all around the country and overseas. The program offers mentoring training and online webinars, CE offerings, on topics in Indigenous psychology, personal, and career development.

According to the APA Sweetgrass program, Dr. Newman is honored for actions including mentoring and support of Indigenous women, development or adaptation of research methods or models for treatment and intervention that are ethnical, cultural and gender appropriate for Indigenous women. Also included are activities such as advancing the understanding of the psychology of Indigenous women; the scientific understanding of features of ethnicity, culture and class among Indigenous women which pertain to the psychology of women. Advocating on behalf of Indigenous women in policy, clinical and research findings in the area of services to AN/AI and other Indigenous women, children, youth, and families, is also included.

Dr. Newman notes that her training and background as an analyst help her to be particularly sensitive to multicultural concerns and to the importance of knowing oneself in depth and in the context of relationships with others. She combines her scientific background in development and neuroscience with her interests in psychoanalysis and culture. Her psychotherapy style is depth and insight oriented, and she also has over 25 years’ experience in academic research, university teaching, graduate training, and clinical specialty practices background as a university professor.

Her specific areas of expertise include developmental psychopathology during adolescence, identity, and personality  development – including racial and ethnic identity, culture and neuroscience, diverse topics in American Indian mental health, and developmental topics in psychoanalysis. She especially enjoys working with culturally diverse populations and with pre/post-partum mothers. She is active in service with various international, national, and local professional organizations in
psychology, psychoanalysis, child development, American Indian affairs, and mental health.

She has published and presented scholarly research on topics in developmental psychopathology, psychiatric epidemiology, ethnic minority children’s development, and on Native American mental health and personality development. She has lectured nationally on topics related to the development of depression, anxiety, substance use, attention problems, dissociative or disruptive behavior, personality and identity development, stress and trauma in preschool, adolescence, and during the transition to young adulthood.








Dyslexia Screening Bill Goes Forward with Amendments

HB 69 by Rep. Marino revises laws relative to screening for dyslexia. The measure was voted out of the Senate Education Committee favorably after being amended by Sen. Jackson and testimony from Dr. Jesse Lambert of the Louisiana Psychological Association. The amendments changed the word “diagnosis” to “identification” and the word “psychometric” to “academic.”

The measure is pending Legislative Bureau as of May 31.

The measure Was voted out of the Education Committee of the House
favorably at 11 to 0. It was voted on by the House on April 25 and passed 105 to 0.

According to the digest, the Committee Amendments Proposed by Senate Committee on Education to the engrossed bill are as follows: 
1. Require the state Department of Education to select a dyslexia screener that meets certain criteria and to provide the screener, at no cost, to each public school.
2. Change the word “diagnosis” to “identification”.
3. Change the word “psychometric” to “academic”.
4. Require the core assessment for the identification of dyslexia to include a brief standardized screening tool of intellectual ability.

According to the current digest, the proposed law requires the state Department of Education to select a dyslexia screener with an area under the curve of 0.80 or above and provide the screener, at no cost, to each public school. Further requires the dyslexia screener to be administered to each student by a classroom teacher in the second half of kindergarten or at any time it is requested by a teacher or a parent or guardian. Prohibits the screener from being a progress monitoring tool and requires that it be developed solely for dyslexia; be evidence-based with proven, published academic validity; and be used for the purpose of determining whether a student is at-risk for dyslexia.

Regarding Identification, the digest says that the proposed law, relative to diagnosis, provides the following:
(1) Provides that if screening results indicate that a student is at risk for dyslexia, the school, in order to determine whether he has dyslexia, shall determine through history, observation, and academic assessment if there are unexpected difficulties in reading and associated linguistic problems at the level of phonological processing that are unrelated to the student’s intelligence, age, and grade level. (2) Provides that the core assessment for the identification of dyslexia shall not be based on a single test score or specific number of characteristics and shall include the following: (a) Tests of language, particularly phonemic assessment, real words and pseudowords, oral reading fluency, and a brief standardized screening tool of intellectual ability. (b) An academic performance review. (c) A parental interview.







A Large Share of Americans Say Country is in Decline, a PEW Research Study Finds

In a research study conducted by PEW, Americans are pessimistic about the current and future state of the country.

The vast majority expressed dissatisfaction with the economy and overall national conditions.  “And when they look toward the not-too-distant future, they see a country that in many respects will be worse than it is today,” concluded a new Pew Research Center survey, reported by Andrew Daniller on April 24.

The majority of adults say that in 2050, “the U.S. economy will be weaker, the United States will be less important in the world, political divisions will be wider and there will be a larger gap between the rich and the poor. Far fewer adults predict positive developments in each of these areas.”

When asked if the US economy would be weaker or stronger, 66% of the respondents said they believed it would be weaker by the year 2050. And, 32% judged that it would be stronger.

A full 71% of respondents said the US will be less important in the world at that time in the future, while 27% said the US will be more important.

In the study, when participants were asked if the country will be more politically divided or less, 77% said more and 21% said less.

When asked if the gap between the rich and the poor will grow or get smaller, 81% said it would grow and 18% said the gap would get smaller.

“Americans’ negative views of the nation’s future are influenced by their bleak assessments of current conditions,” said the authors. “Only 19% of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, while 80% are dissatisfied. Ratings of the economy remain largely negative, and an increasing share of the public expects economic conditions to worsen over the next year.”

There is an age gap. “Differences between older and younger Democrats account for most of this age gap. A sizable majority of Democrats 50 and older (80%) have at least some confidence in the country’s future. That compares with 62% of Democrats ages 35 to 49 and 53% of those 18 to 34. Among Republicans, by contrast, there are only modest differences on this question across age groups.








APA Speaks Out on Confidentiality and Reproductive Decisions

Representatives of the American Psychological Association passed a “Resolution on  confidentiality and reproductive health” in February 2023.

According to the statements put forth by the APA representatives, the resolution affirms that a  psychologist’s allegiance to the ethics code should be given utmost attention when psychologists are faced with an ethical conflicts regarding law of disclosure and confidential information about sexual and reproductive health.

In the resolution officials noted the following:

“WHEREAS psychologists must be able to speak freely with their patients, and patients must know they have confidentiality when speaking with their psychologists, a concept recognized by U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in asserting that, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, “under fundamental First Amendment principles, individuals must remain free to inform and counsel each other about the reproductive care that is available in  other states;” and

“WHEREAS Standard 4.01 of the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct  (Ethics Code) states that psychologists have a “primary obligation… to protect confidential information”; […]

“WHEREAS the Ethics Code does not require that a psychologist follow the law when a conflict arises between the law and the Code, but instead allows “each psychologist [to]. . . weigh the consequences of their decision when navigating these [reproductive justice] issues and attempt to resolve the conflict in ways that are consistent with the APA Ethics Code based on their own circumstances” […]

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the APA that the American Psychological Association, in accordance with the APA policy on reproductive rights, and human rights, affirms that a psychologist’s allegiance to the Ethics Code, including ethical standards related to patient confidentiality, should be given the utmost attention and significance especially when psychologists are faced with ethical conflicts with a law requiring the disclosure of confidential  information regarding sexual and reproductive health, including birth control; fertility  treatment; contemplating, seeking, or having had an abortion; and related issues.

The report is available at health.

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