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News and Notes   |    
News Briefs
Psychiatric Services 2011; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.62.3.325
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Copyright © 2011 by the American Psychiatric Association.

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Online discussions focus on schizophrenia: For several years the Schizophrenia Research Forum (SRF) has hosted various types of online discussions, inviting participants to post comments via e-mail. A special discussion, which began in late January in the wake of the Tucson shootings, is titled “Schizophrenia and Violence, Case Not Closed.” Paul Appelbaum, M.D., provides a brief introduction, posing questions to promote more nuanced exchanges on the issue. As additional background for discussion participants, the SRF editors provide links to archived popular media presentations on the issue of violence and mental illness, such as CNN videos, NPR's Diane Rehm Show, and a New York Times piece. Interested individuals can access these materials and the discussion board and post their own comments on the SRF Web site (www.schizophreniaforum.org). In addition, SRF and Schizophrenia Bulletin collaborate in an online “journal club” discussion of selected articles. A lively discussion that has been ongoing since last fall focuses on issues raised by an article published in the September 2010 Schizophrenia Bulletin—“Antipsychotic Dosing: How Much but Also How Often?” by Remington and Kapur. The SRF also hosts one-hour live discussions of critical issues that are led by experts. The discussion transcripts are then archived, along with e-mailed comments from participants.

Six law enforcement agencies are national learning sites: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, with assistance from a team of national experts and the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance, has selected six police departments to act as national law enforcement mental health learning sites—agencies that will help other jurisdictions improve their responses to people with mental illnesses. Selected were the police departments of Houston; Los Angeles; Madison, Wisconsin; Portland, Maine; and Salt Lake City, along with the University of Florida Police Department in Gainesville. The learning site project, which will be managed by the Justice Center, will help the selected departments share information on how to tailor proven strategies to ensure better outcomes for police encounters with people with mental illness. The six learning sites will host site visits from interested colleagues and local and state government officials over a two-year period, answer questions from the field, and work with Justice Center staff to develop materials.

New Kaiser resources on Medicare: As the focus on the nation's budget deficit intensifies, various proposals are circulating to reduce Medicare spending. Medicare covers 47 million seniors and younger people with disabilities, with total expenditures of $524 billion in fiscal year 2010, or 15% of all federal expenditures. To provide background for the ongoing debate, the Kaiser Family Foundation has released a 26-page report, Medicare Spending and Financing: A Primer. The primer offers an overview of spending trends and of factors contributing to the growth in spending. It describes expected effects of the health reform law on future Medicare spending and outlines several ways to assess Medicare's long-term fiscal outlook. In addition, Kaiser has issued a new brief that examines the current role of Medicare for nine million low-income elderly persons and persons with disabilities who are dually eligible beneficiaries. Because “dual eligibles” account for a disproportionate share of both Medicare and Medicaid spending, they are a key focus of policy discussions. The 11-page brief examines their use of Medicare-covered services and presents data on Medicare spending associated with their care. It also describes the new Federal Coordinated Health Care Office and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which resulted from major provisions in the health reform law aimed at improving care for this population. The Role of Medicare for the People Dually Eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and the Medicare primer are available on the Kaiser Web site at www.kff.org/medicare.

AHRQ focuses on care coordination: Three programs that use care coordinators in primary care settings to assess and monitor individuals with mental illness and connect them with services are described in the February 2, 2011, issue of “Innovations Exchange,” a Web site of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for disseminating promising practices and tools. The three featured innovations are use of a messaging device by care coordinators in a Veterans Health Administration program, a seven-county New York State program that provides recovery-focused care coordination for individuals with severe mental illness, and a Florida health plan that works collaboratively with eight psychiatric hospitals to improve patients' transitions to outpatient care. The three featured “Quality Tools” are the Behavioral Health Practitioner Communication Form, developed by Independence Blue Cross; a collection of assessment and reporting forms used in the New York seven-county program; and the Depression Care Toolkit, developed by the Institute of Clinical Systems Improvement, which includes communication forms for contacts between primary care and mental health providers. The materials are available at www.innovations.ahrq.gov/issue.aspx?id=95.

MHA toolkits on key advocacy issues: Mental Health America (MHA) has created toolkits on five key issues to help advocates navigate emerging trends and the impact of federal legislation on the states. The five toolkits cover health reform, state budget advocacy, access to medications, criminal justice, and parity. They provide essential information for advocates, including white papers, fact sheets, sample legislation, talking points, PowerPoint presentations, and additional resources. The toolkits were created by representatives of MHA's Regional Policy Council, a group of policy leaders from around the country who help strengthen MHA's advocacy reach at the state and federal levels. Toolkit materials can be downloaded at www.mentalhealthamerica.net.

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