Two-day SSU symposium trains clinicians in addiction diagnosis and treatment

 

 

David Selden, a clinical social worker and therapist, has been involved with the management and provision of behavioral health services for over 35 years as a clinician, administrator, executive level manager and consultant.

 

He is the Director of Leahy Health System’s Cape Ann Adult Behavioral Learning Center in Salem and teaches part-time at Salem State University in the Psychology Department.

 

He also has a private practice with a specialty in working with teens, adults and their families who are experiencing difficulties from substance use and related mood disorders. He holds both ACSW and LICSW degrees and has lived on the North Shore for over 30 years.

 

In other words, he is no stranger to mental health and addiction issues on the North Shore. And Selden is worried.

 

“50-60% of our clients have substance use and addictive issues. We are primarily a mental health and not a specialty substance use treatment facility. This is typical for most mental health facilities, and why it is so important the staff are cross-trained in both the mental health and addiction treatments,” he said.

 

Although more and more clients with substance abuse and addiction disorders seek help initially from psychotherapists, local graduate schools do not include this topic in their curricula, he explained.

 

“Local programs are graduating new clinicians who become therapists, case managers, program directors and supervisors with no education or experience in this specialty. This is resulting in misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and programs unprepared to provide necessary services,” the Marblehead resident said.

 

To rectify this deficiency, he has been working with administrators at Salem State University to develop training programs and curricula that may lead toward a specialty graduate program in the area of substance abuse and addiction. That long-range project has the support of local agency executives, who see a major need for this type of workforce training.

 

In the meantime, however, he is focused on the more immediate need to fill the gaping hole in practicing clinicians’ and graduate students’ training. To that end, he has spearheaded and organized a two-day symposium titled, “Substance Use and Addictive Disorders: Energizing the Community to Fight Back.”

 

The intensive and highly interactive conference will integrate elements of best practice treatment models, case studies and virtual team practice sessions. The two-day workshop runs Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17 from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm with 12 CEUs available for professionals who attend both days.

 

Selden worked with Dr. Carol Bonner, Associate Dean of SSU School of Social Work and Dr. Jeanne Corcoran, Interim Dean of the College and Health and Human Services. The symposium is supported by the School of Social Work and will take place at SSU’s Ellison Campus Center.

 

Between 2000 and 2016, opioid-related deaths have dramatically increased in Massachusetts, according to The Official Website of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. For example, total statewide deaths increased by more than five-fold, from 379 to 2,069.

 

Essex county increased from 51 to 281 deaths; Salem from 5 to 19 deaths; Gloucester from 2 to 9 deaths; Swampscott from 0 to 4 deaths; and Marblehead from 3 to 4 deaths. (For more information, visit

mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/stop-addiction/current-statistics.html.)

 

Selden thinks the symposium is both well timed and relevant.

 

Allison Bauer, who holds degrees in law and social work and is the Director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, will open the Friday, June 16 with a keynote address.

 

The rest of the day is devoted to topics in two areas: basic clinical (“What is Addiction?”; “Assessment and Diagnosis”; “Stages of Change/Motivational Enhancement Therapy”) and supervision/management (“State of the Treatment System”; “Self-Help 101”; “Alternative Programming”).

 

Day Two deals with treatment, post-recovery and relapse issues. Participants will spend the afternoon in virtual treatment teams that will be assigned case studies for practice in assessment and treatment planning.

 

Selden has assembled a stellar panel with a variety of degrees and professions, from business executives to educators to nurses and treatment program specialists. He has promoted the symposium through e-mail, social media and word of mouth via various professional networks.

 

Colleague feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive. Everyone I speak to agrees this is a much-needed program. The faculty all readily stepped up to volunteer their time for the symposium,” he said.

 

With the opioid addiction crisis and its human toll frequently at the forefront of local, state and national news, Selden stresses that the symposium is neither limited to nor geared exclusively for professionals in addiction treatment or related fields.

 

“The audience is anyone interested in working with people with substance use and addictive disorders,” he said, including those whose friends or loved ones may be so afflicted.

 

To register, go to substanceabuse17.eventbrite.com.

RESCUES Manual for Commercial Fishing Industry Unveiled

 

Compilation of best practices for fishermen, families and communities

By Shelley A. Sackett

 

 

 

Over fifty people packed the standing room only Gloucester Coast Guard Station last Thursday for the unveiling of RESCUES, the long awaited first-ever comprehensive guidebook on dealing with a crisis in a fishing community.

 

“This is an exciting day, but it is also a sad day,” said Angela Sanfilippo, the President of both the Gloucester’s Wives Association and the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, who also served as master of ceremonies. As a fisherman’s daughter, wife and mother, she has first hand experience of the pain and trauma suffered by families and communities when a fisherman is lost at sea.

 

She told the story of the night of the 1992 “perfect storm” when she and many others slept at the Gloucester Coast Guard Station. “The captain said, ‘We need to start training fishermen in how to save themselves,’” she recalled. That planted the seed that would eventually grow into the RESCUES manual.

Mayor and Sanfilippo

Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken addresses the group as Angela Sanfilippo looks on.

 

The acronym stands for Responding to Emergencies at Sea and to Communities Under Extreme Stress.

 

“We all get numb to the dangers of the fishing industry, but there are widow’s walks and porches named for families who paced, hoping their men would come home,” said J.J. Bartlett, President of Fishing Partnership Support Services. He said that if public school teachers died at the same rate as fishermen on the job, over 400 teachers would die of work-related injuries each year.

 

“The idea is that, when a crisis occurs, folks in our fishing ports will be able to consult this manual and know right away how the Coast Guard and other authorities are responding, and where to turn for reliable help and support,” Barlett added.

 

Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken spoke of her own family tragedies over fishing accidents and their aftermath. “You can take the fisherman out of the ocean but you can’t take the ocean out of the fisherman,” she said. “We’re fortunate in Gloucester because we have a team in place to put this kind of book together so now you know where to go” for help, she added, noting that although there is no safety book that will prevent loss of life at sea, “this book can help.”

 

The Mayor praised the Coast Guard. “They risk their lives for the sake of the fishermen,” she said. Captain Robert Lepere, commanding officer of the Gloucester Coast Guard Station for the past three years, returned the compliment. “I’ve been in the Coast Guard for 20 years, and never have I seen a community pull together like this,” he said. Captain Claudia C. Geltzer, commanding officer of the Boston Coast Guard Station and Captain of the Port of Boston, praised RESCUES as a very important milestone. “This manual will make any fisherman who reads it better prepared at sea,” she said. “In the heat of a crisis, we all revert back to our training.”

Hall-Arber and Sanfilippo

Madeline Hall-Arber

 

Madeline Hall-Arber, an anthropologist at the Sea Grant College program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Ann Backus, of the Harvard University School of Public Health, were the principal investigators on the lengthy project that produced RESCUES. They interviewed fishing community leaders, Coast Guard personnel, fishing vessel safety trainers, clergy, social service agencies, fishermen and their families, business owners, insurance companies and attorneys. Kristina Pinto of the Fishing Partnership Support Services is the third co-author.

 

Hall-Arber described how she first became interested in undertaking the RESCUES project. “I met a fisherman who didn’t know how to swim. ‘Why prolong the agony?’” he asked. She remembered thinking it might be an interesting research project to find out what fishing industry standard best practices were before an accident, at sea and if disaster occurred. “People in the industry were astoundingly enthusiastic,” she said.

 

The RESCUES manual focuses on what interviewees shared as being critical to know before, during and after an incident. It contains a wealth of material, including contacts for services in Gloucester and New Bedford.

 

Its five main sections focus on essential information to help prepare individuals, groups and entire communities for a crisis affecting members of the commercial fishing industry, such as the sinking of a boat or the search for crew members lost overboard at sea.

I wanted people to be able to skim the manual, get useful information, and then go back,” Hall-Arber said.

 

For example, chapter 1, “Integrative Preparedness” (before leaving the dock) includes an easy-to-follow checklist of essential safety training and communication plans for the vessel owner, crew and families. “Emergency” explains what the Coast Guard does during an emergency and outlines communication chains of command. “The Aftermath” and “Longer-Term Outreach and Counseling” addresses situations after a loss is confirmed. Appendices incorporate maintenance checklists, Coast Guard contact information, community crisis support organizations and useful websites.

 

One of the surprising facts Hall-Arber learned was that many family members didn’t know which boat their loved one was on or what kind of fishing he might be doing that day. Backus, whose expertise is in occupational safety and health in the fishing industry, likewise discovered that vessel captains usually didn’t know about crewmembers’ medical histories or their contact information. She and Sanfilippo have since developed and distributed scores of refrigerator magnets for fishermen’s families to keep handy with information that the Coast Guard would need in an emergency. “Families should know where important documents are,” Backus said.

 

Paul Vitale, 43, a fisherman who has lived in Gloucester his whole life, thinks some of these common sense suggestions will be extremely helpful. “Lots of time people don’t know which boat they’ll be on. Not everyone owns their own boat,” he explained.

 

Fishermens wives Statue

 

Sanfilippo, who was instrumental in bringing to fruition the decades-long dream of Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association to create a Fishermen’s Wives Memorial, is equally determined to bring RESCUES beyond Boston, the South Shore and Cape Cod. “We will be bringing this up and down the entire coastline. Today we open that road,” she said to resounding applause.

 

 

 

Funding Cancer Research: ACS Fights the Good Fight

Above: Aaron Goldman, Ph.D., American Cancer Society pay-if grantee.

By Shelley A. Sackett

This year, 1.6 million Americans will receive a new cancer diagnosis. Yet, federal funding for cancer research is at its lowest ebb in decades, according to American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

“It’s scary what we’re doing nationally with funding,” said Tom Flanagan, Interim Senior Director of the New England Division of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Tom Flanagan

Tom Flanagan

In 2014, cancer caused 585,720 deaths in the United States, or one fourth of all reported deaths. According to the ACS, the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by almost forty percent by 2030. Yet, federal funding of medical research has remained flat for more than a decade when adjusted for inflation.

The U.S.’s National Institute of Health (NIH) is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world. Since 2003, however, its inflation-adjusted appropriation is down 23 percent, according to the ASCO. The NIH budget peaked in fiscal year 2010 at $30.9 billion, falling to $30.3 billion for fiscal year 2015.

Diminished resources have had immediate effects. For example, patient enrollment in NIH’s clinical trials network decreased from 29,000 patients in 2009 to 20,000 in 2013. Clinical trials are a critical step in bringing potential new therapies to the marketplace.

Next to the federal government, the ACS is the largest private funder of cancer research, subsidizing 809 research grants in the U.S. worth $438 million in 2015. Of that national total, $47.5 million, or over ten percent, is earmarked to fund 96 Massachusetts grants.

In addition, the ACS’s multi-disciplinary review panel sometimes approves applications that are beyond that year’s funding resources. Called “pay-if” grants, individual donors who wish to support research that would not otherwise be funded subsidize the work. In 2014, these individual donors stepped up to contribute more than $8.8 million in funding, financing 46 additional “pay-if” grants.

One pay-if grantee is Aaron Goldman, Ph.D., an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who was a fellow with ACS for three years, until this past July. He received a $150,000 research grant to study the biological mechanism that makes some breast cancer cells resistant to cancer therapy. His goal was to develop a drug that would attack this mechanism.

“The focus of our work is not just to keep testing and playing with pathways and molecules, but to really make something come to fruition. There is a huge unmet need, particularly when it comes to cancer cells’ resistance to chemotherapy,” he said. In fact, he and his team have developed drugs that they know are working. “We got a lot of great research accomplished in just three years,” he said proudly.

Goldman and his team are currently seeking private funding to expand these drugs into a full-fledged company so they can study and license them. With the right funding, these new therapies could be market-ready within a year-and-a-half, Goldman estimates, improving a cancer patient’s overall therapeutic outcome and preventing relapse.

Over the course of his 15-year involvement in cancer research, which started as an undergraduate and then graduate student at the University of Arizona, he has had a lot of experience with foundation and government grants. ACS is unique among funders.

“ACS brings you in as family. You’re interacting with the actual funders and the patient population. All the work I’m doing gets communicated throughout the community of administrators and the grant committee,” he said. By contrast, NIH is more anonymous and diffuse. “You feel a little more detached from the population that you’re trying to help – the people suffering from cancer.”

Goldman’s main takeaway from his experience with medical research and securing funding is that foundation grants are crucial in the current fiscal environment that has created even fiercer competition for federal grants, making it very difficult for a young investigator to even qualify for one.

“It’s the old paradigm of applying for a job without the experience but you need the job to get the experience. These foundation grants, like ACS, have been fantastic in filling those gaps,” he said.

ACS is trying to get Congress to refill NIH cancer research funding gaps by increasing appropriations. In 2001, it created ACS Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) to amplify the organization’s work in the public policy arena. As the nation’s leading nonprofit, nonpartisan cancer advocacy organization, ACS CAN promotes its agenda of fighting cancer at the state and federal levels. ACS provides 92 percent of ACS CAN’s 2015’s budget of $35.9 million. The other 8 percent is donated by individuals, health systems and companies.

“We hold candidates as well as lawmakers accountable for their stance on public policies that we know will make a positive impact on fighting cancer,” said Shalini Vallabhan, ACS CAN Vice President of Government Relation in New England. With one million volunteers nationwide, trained volunteers in every congressional district and a lobbyist and grass roots manager in every state, the group is a political force to be reckoned with.

“We all know the level of partisanship that is taking place in Washington, D.C. Increasing funding for medical research is an area we see strong bipartisan support for,” Vallabhan said, pointing out that on July 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Bill 6, “The 21st Century Cures Act” (congress.gov/bill/114-congress/house-bill/6) which provides for dedicated funding for NIH for the next five years at $1.75 million per year, or $8.75 million total.

The bill must next pass in the Senate before President Obama can sign it into law. Later this month, over 700 volunteers and ACS CAN staff will travel to Washington, D.C. to lobby lawmakers from all 435 congressional districts.

ACS would not receive any of this increased funding. “This is for the public good. We have to get the story out because it’s such an exciting time in life sciences and cancer treatment and if we continue to decrease funding from the federal government, it will have a ripple effect for decades in terms of research and science in these areas,” Vallabhan said.

Since its first cancer prevention study in the 1950’s linked smoking and lung cancer, ACS has funded long-term prospective studies on large groups of people to help researchers identify cancer risk factors. Currently, 300,000 people across the country are involved in a study that looks at lifestyle, medical history and changes in medical history, trying to uncover the next big link that can help in the fight to prevent cancer.

“We know that cancer will cost our economy over $200 billion in medical costs and lost productivity this year. We also know that 50 percent of cancer is preventable either through preventing tobacco use or ensuring good nutrition and proper physical activity, “Vallabhan said, pausing. “It’s common sense that it’s better both from a cost perspective and certainly in terms of impact on families and communities if we’re preventing the disease,” she added.

ACS CAN Outreach

June 2015 ACS CAN Research Breakfast, standing from left to right are: Shalini Vallabhan (Vice President of Government Relations, ACS CAN), Mike Ruggiero (Vice President of Government Relations, EMD Serono), Governor Baker, Paris Panayiotopoulos (President and Managing Director, EMD Serono), and Paul Guzzi (then - President, The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce).

June 2015 ACS CAN Research Breakfast, standing from left to right are: Shalini Vallabhan (Vice President of Government Relations, ACS CAN), Mike Ruggiero (Vice President of Government Relations, EMD Serono), Governor Baker, Paris Panayiotopoulos (President and Managing Director, EMD Serono), and Paul Guzzi (then – President, The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce).

Each year, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network brings together leaders from the life sciences ecosystem, health care systems, non-profit sector and businesses. The annual Research Breakfast highlights new breakthroughs in federal funding for cancer research and calls on policymakers to commit to increases in federal funding for the National Institute of Health and National Cancer Institute.

In June 2015, the 8th annual event featured Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh and Paul Guzzi from the Boston Chamber of Commerce as guest speakers. More than 80 percent of federal funding for the NIH and NCI (National Cancer Institute) is spent on biomedical research projects at research facilities across the country. In FY 2015, researchers in Massachusetts received $2 billion in NIH funding, which supported more than 32,800 jobs across the state.

ACS CAN also launched the OneDegree project this year in partnership with Stand Up to Cancer to push for increased funding at the federal level. ASC CAN asks everyone to sign the petition at www.onedegreeproject.org. A two-minute video about the OneDegree campaign is at: facebook.com/video.php?v=10152839454796378&set=vb.6355071377&type=2&theater.

For more information or to donate to the American Cancer Society, visit http://www.cancer.org; for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, visit www.acscan.org, and for the One Degree project, visit http://action.acscan.org/site/PageNavigator/OneDegree_Microsite_Petition_Page.html.