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News and Notes   |    
News Briefs
Psychiatric Services 2010; doi:
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Court orders New York State to rectify rights violations: In what advocates are hailing as a victory for residents of New York adult homes, a judge has decided that the state must afford all qualified residents an opportunity within the next four years to move into supported housing. The March 1 decision in the case of DAI v. Paterson implements a previous finding that virtually all of the more than 4,000 residents of the large (120 beds or more), privately run adult homes are qualified to live in supported housing. Under the recent decision, the state must create 1,500 supported housing units per year for three years. The court rejected the state's proposed remedy, which was to develop 1,000 alternative placements over five years. The state argued that advocates had overestimated the demand for supported housing and underestimated the cost. The March 1 decision also requires the state to contract with supported housing providers to educate adult home residents about opportunities to live in their own housing with support services. The state must also employ "peer bridgers" to assist in this process. Two days after the March 1 decision the state filed an appeal. The plaintiff in the case is Disability Advocates, Inc. (DAI), an organization that protects the rights of people with disabilities. The defendants include the Governor of New York and cabinet-level officials. More information on the case is available on the Web site of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, which is one of the organizations providing legal representation to DAI in the case (www.bazelon.org/incourt/docket/dai.html).

Mental health campaign for the African-American community: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in collaboration with the Ad Council and the Stay Strong Foundation, has launched a national public service advertising campaign designed to raise awareness of mental health problems among young adults in the African-American community. In 2008, 6.0% of African Americans aged 18 to 25 had a serious mental illness in the past 12 months. Created pro bono by Grey Worldwide through the Ad Council, the campaign aims to broaden social acceptance of mental health problems in the African-American community by encouraging, educating, and inspiring young adults to talk openly about mental health problems. The television, radio, print, and Web ads feature personal stories of real people. The ads direct audiences to visit a new Web site, www.storiesthatheal.samhsa.gov. The Stay Strong Foundation (www.thestaystrongfoundation.com), which collaborated on the development of the Web videos and media ads, serves as public relations liaison for the campaign.

SAMHSA Mental Health Transformation Grants: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is accepting applications for $82.5 million in Mental Health Transformation Grants (MHTGs). To avoid duplicating efforts of other SAMHSA programs, fiscal year 2010 funding for MHTGs will focus on services to address the needs of adults with or at-risk of serious mental illnesses, especially those related to economic problems. Grantees must implement evidence-based or best practices that will create or expand capacity to address one or more of five strategic initiatives: prevention through outreach, screening, and early intervention; implementation of trauma-informed care; service provision to active duty, guard, and reserve members and their families; availability of safe and affordable housing; and promotion of employment and education. Up to 22 grants will be awarded. Awardees are eligible for up to $750,000 each year for up to five years. State and local governments and federally recognized American Indian-Alaska Native tribes and tribal organizations may apply. Applications, which are due by April 30, 2010, can be downloaded at www.samhsa.gov/grants/2010/SM-10-010.aspx.

GAO report on substance abuse treatment in the VA: A 43-page report issued in March by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) presents results of a year-long review of treatment for substance use disorders in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The document describes challenges that VA officials and providers cited in providing these services and recent national efforts to improve services. Some challenges are access related: several VA medical centers reported problems hiring additional, experienced staff to meet veterans' needs, in addition to waiting lists for beds in residential programs. Pharmacotherapies for substance use disorders are underused in the VA, and officials cited reasons such as lack of provider training and reluctance to prescribe these medications. Problems assessing the effectiveness of substance abuse treatment were also widely reported, including a lack of information about veterans after treatment discharge and a lack of standardized outcomes measures. To improve services VA is establishing more intensive outpatient programs and hiring treatment specialists to work in settings unrelated to addiction treatment. VA is requiring facilities to make specific evidence-based treatments available, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for relapse prevention, and has begun training physicians in the use of pharmacotherapies for substance use disorders. VA is also testing a new data collection tool—the Brief Addiction Monitor—that could be used to assess treatment effectiveness at the patient and medical center levels. The full report, VA Faces Challenges in Providing Substance Use Disorder Services and Is Taking Steps to Improve These Services for Veterans, is available at www.gao.gov/new.items/d10294r.pdf.

Deadline near for comments on DSM-5 draft diagnostic criteria: The two-month window for submitting comments on changes proposed for the next version of the DSM closes on April 20, 2010. Among changes being considered is a new "risk syndromes" category, with information to help clinicians identify earlier stages of some serious mental disorders, such as dementia and psychosis. A new diagnostic category is proposed for the mood disorders section of the manual—temper dysregulation with dysphoria (TDD). The proposed TDD criteria are based on a decade of research on severe mood dysregulation and may help clinicians better differentiate children with these symptoms from those with bipolar disorder or oppositional defiant disorder. In addition, two new scales for assessing individuals' risk factors for suicide, one for adolescents and one for adults, are being considered for inclusion in the new manual. Although the DSM-IV includes thoughts of suicide as a symptom of some mental disorders, such as major depression, the proposed suicide risk scales have been designed for use with anyone receiving an evaluation for a mental disorder, regardless of diagnosis, to help clinicians better identify those at risk of suicide. Public comments can be submitted on the DSM-5 development Web site at www.dsm5.org.

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