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Sens. John Chafee, R-R.I., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., are sponsoring a bill to make it easier for judges, social workers and others to keep children away from abusive family situations. Currently, a 1980 law mandates that a reasonable effort be made to keep families together, but critics have complained that the misinterpretation of this law often results in returning children into dangerous situations. The new law would state that it is unreasonable to reunify families when there is a threat to a child's health or safety. A similar bill in the House is being sponsored by Reps. Barbara Kelly, D-Conn., and Dave Camp, R-Mich. Both bills also have provisions to promote expedited adoption and foster-care placements.

High Bosnian Suicide Rate Reflects Country's Poor Psychological Health

A recent Associated Press article cites statistics on suicide rates that suggest the mental health of Bosnians is worse than it was during the war. In the Muslim third of the country alone, the number of suicides was in the high 40s to low 50s between 1993 and 1995, compared to 27 in 1992, the first year of the war. The article cites experts as saying that as much as 60 percent of the 350,000 residents of Sarajevo suffer from problems related to traumatic stress.

Study: Battered Women in United States Face Barriers
to Care

A study by University of California at San Francisco researchers, published recently in Women and Health, identified treatment barriers faced by battered women at the patient, provider and organizational levels. Researchers interviewed 31 battered women and based their findings on the experiences of 16 women who had 36 encounters with the health-care system.

In 10 of the 36 encounters, the violence was not discussed. Some women chose to say nothing about their injuries, and others lied about the source of the injuries. Fear of their partners and fear that their children would be taken away were primary motivators for avoiding discussions of the violence. Embarrassment was another factor.

Violence was discussed in 26 of the 36 encounters. In 14 of these 26 enounters, women said that health-care professionals appeared disinterested or unsympathetic. In four of the 26 instances, women cited organizational barriers to treatment.

DoJ Allocates $2.7 Million to Reduce Child Abuse, Neglect and Violence

The U.S. Department of Justice awarded $2.7 million to five sites to reduce child abuse and neglect and stop the cycle of violence. Sites receiving the "Safe Kids­Safe Streets" grants include Huntsville, Ala.; the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of the Chippewa Indians, Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; Toledo, Ohio; and Chittendon County, Vt. These sites will work to

  • restructure the criminal and juvenile justice systems to improve the handling of child abuse cases;
  • coordinate parenting programs and support services to protect youth who are at risk of being abused and neglected;
  • improve data collection through information sharing across systems and agencies; and
  • lauch prevention education and public awareness campaigns to teach community residents how to detect, report and prevent child abuse.

DoJ's Office of Justice Programs received more than 175 applications for these grants.

Survey: More Than Half
of Female Psychologists Experience Sexual Harassment

In a survey sent to 750 practicing female psychologists, 53.4 percent of the 354 respondents reported at least one incident of sexual harassment by a patient. The survey, which was conducted by Robert deMayo, PhD, of Pepperdine University and published in a recent issue of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice (vol. 28, no. 1), indicated that only 10 respondents (2.8 percent) reported that a patient had threatened sexual assault; only one psychologist reported having been sexually assaulted by a patient.

While one psychologist reported 29 incidents of sexual harassment, the total number of incidents reported by respondents equalled less than one in 5,000 therapy sessions.

Study Defines Gulf War Veteran Syndromes, Identifies Possible Causes

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center report in the Journal of the American Medical Association the identification three primary and three secondary syndromes -- as defined by clusters of symptoms -- associated with Gulf War veterans. The three primary syndromes are characterized as Impaired Cognition Syndrome, Confusion-ataxia Syndrome and Arthro-myo-neuropathy Syndrome. One of the "symptoms" associated with Confusion-ataxia Syndrome is having a physician's diagnosis of PTSD. The researchers suggest that most of the symptoms could be the result of combinations of brain, spinal cord and nerve injuries. The researchers also identified possible causes of the syndromes, linking increased prevalence of specific syndromes with exposure to chemical weapons, use of a government-issued insect repellent and taking a anti-nerve-gas drug.

Professional Organizations Back Consumer Bill of Rights

Nine U.S. organizations, representing more than 600,000 health professionals, teamed to support a mental-health and substance-abuse services consumer "Bill of Rights." The document reflects the concern of mental health professionals that health-care system changes, particularly managed care proliferation, have eroded the quality of and access to care for mental health patients.

The organizing principles of the document include Right to Know (with specific sections on benefits, professional expertise, contractual limitations and appeals/grievances), Confidentiality, Choice, Determination of Treatment, Parity, Discrimination, Benefit Usage, Benefit Design, Treatment Review and Accountability. The document will be distributed to all health and managed care organizations, consumer groups and members of Congress.

Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., president of the American Psychological Association, said, 'The present obsession of today's health-care system on controlling costs is compromising the rights of individuals to competent and quality care. The principles embodied in this Bill of Rights reflect what we as professionals believe individuals are entitled to when they select a health plan and when they seek treatment."

Groups participating in the project were the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, American Counseling Association, American Family Therapy Academy, American Nurses Association, American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, National Association of Social Workers and National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work. Supporting groups were the National Mental Health Association, National Depressive and Manaic Depressive Association, American Group Psychotherapy Association, American Psychoanalytic Association and National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.