Sen. Whitehouse Steps Up for Mental Health Parity

Good news for the mental health professions, who desperately need better tools for managing health Information:

Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Improve Mental Health Care


Washington, DC – In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made an unprecedented investment in our medical infrastructure, providing almost $20 billion in incentive funds for health information technology.  However, an important group of health care providers were excluded from these incentives: behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities.  Today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1517) to correct that inequity.


“In the wake of this week’s tragic mass shooting in Washington, we are once again confronting questions about the treatment of mental illness in America,” said Whitehouse.  “Many questions remain about the shooting, but one thing is crystal clear: mental health is just as important as physical health.  This legislation will extend to mental and behavioral health professionals the same assistance given to other health providers, which will help them invest in vital health information technology.”


The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act would enable behavioral health providers, including psychologists, community mental health centers, and psychiatric hospitals, among others, to receive incentive payments for the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records.  More specifically, it would:

  • ·         Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare incentives for the use of electronic health records to include licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and psychiatric hospitals;
  • ·         Expand eligibility for Medicaid meaningful use incentive payments to include community mental health centers, mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, licensed psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers; and
  • ·         Allows electronic health record incentive payments to eligible professionals and hospitals under Medicare Advantage plans.

Senator Whitehouse previously introduced a version of this bill in the Senate in 2010.  Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy also championed this issue in the House until he left office. 



My Letter to Michelle Obama

Did any of you other liberals get the email from Michelle Obama yesterday entitled “Up Late”?  It started:

Dear Kiersten,

Every night in the White House, I see Barack up late poring over briefings, reading your letters, and writing notes to people he’s met.

I decided to write a response.

Dear Michelle,

Please tell Barack that I would prefer he not stay up late at night.  Sleep is one of the most important factors in mental health, and I would prefer to have a president who understood this and got his proper supply of Z’s.  Without sleep, a person can become quite emotionally imbalanced.  Without sleep, your body cannot properly rejuvenate to fight off disease and infection.

I like your husband very much and I want to see him survive for another term in the White House, as well as long into his retirement years.  Please tell Barack to go to bed and stop worrying so much about the next election.  The Republicans don’t stand a chance, IMHO.

Sincerely, Kiersten

What do you think, should the President stay up at night writing notes to people he’s met, or should he let his body and mind rejuvenate so he can make decisions and lead the free world? Just sayin’.

Keeping Faith With Our Veterans

by Kevin DeJesus
As I wrote back in October, 2011, one means by which opponents
of the war in Iraq can employ their good, positive energy for social
justice, human rights and accountability at home (the stuff which
keeps a democracy a democracy), one key means by which we can support
our soldiers, many deployed in Afghanistan as well as those returned
home from Iraq, is to express our outrage and expectations that the US
Military face the necessary legislative scrutiny to disallow the
culture of “diagnostic meddling” as I like to call it, and the
consequent interference with the right of soldiers to obtain vital
medical benefits when needed, in order to cut rising costs. Perhaps we
ought to have thought about this before we went to war? Our stellar US
Senator to the north, Senator Patrick Leahy, the conscience of our
nation, indeed has reminded us of our failure to consider this whilst
jumping on the bandwagon to take Iraq on a consistent basis. He should
be lauded for demanding more of us as a responsible democracy. Alas, back to
the central purpose of my post.

Here is an important article from the New York Times which robustly
details the military’s internal turmoil over this issue of apparently
fudging and foiling psychiatric diagnoses as a means to prevent the
US military from going bust, as NY Times writer James Dao explores in
his important piece, ‘Personality Disorder’,a disputed diagnosis

Dao cites reports of military doctors and social workers being pressured to change psychiatric diagnoses from conditions such as PTSD, that can be considered a war injury, to ‘personality disorder’, a pre-existing condition…

But the issue [of improper command influence on a clinician] has roared back into national focus with recent reports out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord that a special forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center was reversing diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers being medically evaluated for discharge. In several of those cases, the soldiers were left with diagnoses of personality or adjustment disorder — illnesses that, unlike PTSD, did not automatically qualify them for medical discharges and certain benefits.

Remember, if our legislators know that we as a
concerned, committed public will not allow our military to engage in
such utterly disrespectful practices toward our soldiers, the needed
scrutiny on this issue will be sustained. Raise this issue at your
legislator’s community dinners, in email/letters to the editor, and of
course, by writing or phoning your US Senators and congressional
representative. Raising your compassionate, well-argued voice matters!

Kevin DeJesus is a recently minted PhD in Critical Human Geography
from York University in Toronto, Ontario. His areas of focus include
Africa and the Middle East. Kevin is particularly interested in the
geographic processes of violently divided societies, human rights and
survivor effects of war-trauma and political violence amid the
geographies of everyday life. During his undergraduate and graduate
studies, Kevin was a visiting student at the American University
of Beirut, Cape Verde, West Africa, Gaza, and the American University
of Cairo, Egypt. Kevin carried out his doctoral research in Beirut, Lebanon. Kevin resides in Providence, and is a happily active member of the First Unitarian Church of Providence.

Afraid of Our Own Shadow

Early visit is cancelled and I’m psyched for work but stalled for a half hour. The TV is on, Anthony Hopkins is starring in a re-make of ‘The Exorcist’. I’m still just Catholic enough that this stuff creeps me out, and Pagan/Earth Religion enough that I have several effective recipes for pest removal, even non-corporeal pests. Really.

So what’s with the new interest in exorcism? There’s a reality show planned, the Pope is seriously promoting it, evangelists consider it a part of their usual ministry– some are casting out gay demons in people who are just too fabulous.

Having firsthand experience in exorcism (more common than you might think) I take a materialistic view. People are in pain, they are frightened. Our own unacceptable shadow side can scare and torment us. Sometimes it is actually therapeutic to externalize what we can’t manage and ritually cast it out. Hey, my nursing philosophy is ‘whatever works’.

But since everything is political, I have to wonder. Is this the literal-minded demonization of the other? Fear of some kind of miscegenation of the spirit? A need for a purge of internal enemies? Desire for a dramatic showdown and victory, after which everything will be pure?

My experience of exorcism is that it scares the heck out of people but has little lasting effect. You can’t cut off parts of your self and throw them away– you are you. You can’t escape your own shadow, you just have to accept that there’s no vision without the dark and the light. The more you understand yourself, the less you are at risk of saying or doing something you will instantly regret, or causing such offense that others will have to sit on you.

I don’t know if the latest ‘Exorcist’ will drive some troubled people into treatment, and scare more into denying their own full self. It will probably rake in the bucks, though. We live in anxious times.

The Wild Hunt is a thoughtful Pagan blog, and they have great coverage including a witch’s interview with the priest featured in ‘The Rite’. Check it out here.