Dr. Vinson Teaches in Liberia for the Carter Center

As a consultant to the Carter Center, Dr. Vinson has traveled to Liberia twice to teach two different cohorts of students about Child and Adolescent Substance Use Disorders .The Carter Center is working to develop a credentialed mental health clinician workforce of Physician Assistants, Nurses and Midwives in Liberia, and Dr. Vinson is honored to contribute to the effort.

Lorio Psych Group Proud Sponsor for NAMIWalks GA

Our very own Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson, is a newly elected board member for Georgia's Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

On Saturday, October 7th at 9am in Grant Park, NAMI will have its annual walk. Lorio Psych Group is a sponsor, and Dr. Vinson is the co-captain for the Morehouse School of Medicine/Satcher Health Leadership Institute Team. 

As NAMIWalks celebrates its 15th anniversary, we invite you to take part in NAMI’s largest and most successful mental health awareness and fundraising event in the country.

When you walk with NAMI, you join the movement to raise awareness of mental illness and raise funds for its mission to help individuals and families right here in Georgia.  

To learn more about NAMI Georgia and its programs across the state, please visit www.namiga.org.

Click here to support or join our walk team. 

Dr. Vinson, Morehouse School of Medicine and Families First Child & Adolescent Psychopharmacology Clinic

For those who wish to use their insurance and are willing to be seen by psychiatric residents (physicians in training) working closely with Dr. Vinson, there is an exciting new treatment option for child and adolescent patients. In collaboration with Morehouse School of Medicine and Families First, Dr. Vinson will be providing psychiatric assessment and treatment services. For appointments, please call 404-853-2811.

 

Chairing Events at American Psychiatric Association Mtg.

This year the national conference for the American Psychiatric Association will be held right here in Atlanta. In addition to my involvement in the community outreach event which is open and free to the public (check out the earlier blog entry), I will be chairing two events during the conference - a media presentation based on the Nina Simone Netflix Documentary - What Happened Miss Simone and a Multidisciplinary Symposium with perspectives from psychiatry, psychology and law on Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System. 

Prince and Opioids

While there is much we still do not know, and frankly can never know definitively about Prince’s death, in the two weeks since a variety of sources – a man claiming to be a former drug dealer, a former family members attorney, medical professionals and an addiction doctor’s attorney - have been quoted in numerous stories pointing to opioid addiction as a factor. The autopsy results have yet to be released.

If reports that Prince received naloxone (brand name Narcan) during an emergency medical landing just 6 days before his death are true, this in and of itself is telling. This is a medication used for one purpose: to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

If opioid addiction contributed to Prince’s death, the tragedy of the loss is made even more acute by the fact that drug addiction is a treatable condition. Opiate addiction in particular, has highly effective FDA-approved medication options in addition to psychosocial interventions.

It is an undeniable truth that treatment is not always readily available. Approximately 13% of Americans do not have health insurance and insurance is no guarantee that a suitable treatment facility or program accepting one’s coverage is available. For most, the alternative of paying cash or out of pocket is prohibitively expensive. For Prince, though, who left behind a fortune in excess of 300 million dollars, money and the access to treatment that it affords most certainly were there.

As a mental health professional, I can’t help but to wonder if stigma killed Prince. 

The stories of people with drug addiction do not have to end with death or imprisonment. Whether or not the autopsy results reveal that opioids contributed to Prince’s death, this is an area that merits our collective attention and effort. According to the CDC, Opioids killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record.

So, what now?

  • Flush them. If no longer needed, get rid of prescription medications that have a risk for harm to others, including the risk of addiction and abuse. The FDA has a list of medications, which include opioids, that they recommend flushing. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/UCM337803.pdf 
  • Be informed. The Centers for Disease Control has a wealth of information about the opioid  epidemic. This information will better equip you to be an advocate in your family, communities and state to prevent opioid overdose deaths. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/AADR_drug_poisoning_involving_OA_Heroin_US_2000- 2014.pdf.
  • Recognize and refer. Know the signs and symptoms of addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has a great resource page on this issue http://www.asam.org/quality-practice/definition-of-addiction.  If treatment is needed for yourself or a loved one, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a treatment finding tool available at https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/TreatmentLocator/faces/quickSearch.jspx.

Holiday Season ABCs

A – Accept your family for who they are. The old saying is true - you do not choose your family. If you are choosing to spend the holidays with them though, they must have some redeeming virtues. Human behavior is stubborn as are relationship patterns, so it is more likely than not that whatever grating quirks or habits family members had last year have not disappeared.  Acceptance allows you to spend more of your mental energy and time enjoying your loved ones rather than frustrating yourself trying to change them. 

 

B – Budget now. Money is a constant stressor for families, and with travel, big meals, and gifts, the holidays can intensify money-associated stress. Knowing what you have to work with and planning accordingly can help set realistic family expectations and take off some of the pressure. Planning ahead also can give you time to shop around for lodging options if you’re traveling and not staying with family.

 

C – Celebrate Conscientiously. Parties, vacation days and more people on the road combine to increase the risk of legal, or potentially worse, consequences from impaired driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during major holiday periods 40 percent of vehicle crash fatalities involve a drunk driver and in the Christmas/New Year’s Eve season, an average of 304 people die in drunk driving crashes. If a designated driver was not decided upon before the festivities, the use of car-sharing services provides a back-up for safe travels home. (Just be sure your phone is charged, so you can use the app.!) 

Trauma as Disability?

There's an interesting article in NPR today about a class action lawsuit by students in the high crime/neighborhood violence school district of Compton California suing their school district. The students are saying that the behavioral, learning and emotional manifestations of their traumatic experiences are being met with a punitive approach - suspensions and expulsions. They argue that rather than their schools denying them learning opportunities, the schools is obligated to help them as they would a child with a disability who wanted access to a public education. The link to the article's below.

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/08/20/432885473/are-traumatized-students-disabled-a-debate-straight-outta-compton

As a clinician who works with many traumatized children, I have seen everything the article discusses repeatedly - poor concentration, emotional reactivity and anger - leading to subpar academic performance and disruptive behaviors that negatively impact school performance and behavior. While it would be ideal for an entire school district to adjust for these issues, as the students in Compton say it should, there is a small scale remedy available to some children/families that many do not take advantage of.

Though not all children who are exposed to trauma will meet criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, many of them will. If a child is diagnosed with PTSD by a mental health professional, he/she can qualify for special education services, which can include behavioral interventions and some protections from suspensions and expulsions, under the Other Health Impaired Category of existing special education laws.

ABCs of Back to School

As summer winds down and fall approaches, families across the country are resuming the school routine.  With that routine, however, comes the risk of school becoming simply somewhere your children go, rather than a place where they excel at their full potential. The overwhelming majority of the time children take their cues about the importance of education from their parents, and a parent who approaches the school year intentionally can help to set the stage for their child’s success. Here are five quick tips for starting the school year off right. 

Agree on Goals – Taking the time to discuss goals for the school year with children signals to them that school performance and academic effort matter to their parents/primary caregivers, the most important people in their lives. Goals can also clarify the abstract, translating it into concrete steps for the child to work toward.  What it means to have a “good school year” or what constitutes “good grades” has a myriad of definitions. Goals that are clear and attainable ensure that everyone is on the same page, and when reached, can bolster children’s confidence and inspire them to continue achieving.

Be Present – Parental accountability changes behavior for the better and waiting until report card time means up to a quarter of the school years has passed. If a child knows that his parent may show up and observe class or that his parent will go online and checks his grades, it can motivate him.  The goal for parents is that there are no big surprises come report card time. The other reason to show up early and often is that if there are academic struggles, interventions to address them can be explored before the child falls further behind. Often if students do not have problem behaviors, schools do not proactively reach out to parents about academic issues.

Create the Environment – Think about the things in the home environment that make it easier or harder for your child to start off their school day rested and ready to learn. Are they able to play their video game or text all night because their phone, TV and console are in their bedrooms, which sets them up to be tired during instruction the next day? Are they eating pastries for breakfast, which spikes their glucose levels early but leaves them with little substance throughout the morning? Are they rushing to get ready in the morning and forgetting or misplacing their homework?

Distinguish between Needs and Privileges – Good job prospects as an adult when they grow up seems too far away and abstract to motivate most children.  What can? Tying effort and performance to things that matter to them now. Watching tv, playing sports, the use of personal cell phones and the like are all privileges. Identify the privileges that your child values most and give them the opportunity to earn it on a daily or weekly basis based on their efforts in school.

Encouragement is Key – Often parents feel the need to make their children stronger by focusing on what the child is doing “wrong”. Though well-intentioned, sometimes this is done at the expense of encouraging and praising the child for what he/she isdoing right. Acknowledging when they are working hard, helping them recognize and build upon their strengths, and praising their effort and progress can encourage them to keep working toward their personal best.

News Clip of Dr. Vinson: http://www.cbs46.com/clip/11770745/abcs-of-back-to-school-with-dr-sarah-y-vinson

BlackMentalHealthNet.com Med. Student Scholarship

As the Founder and Senior Editor of BlackMentalHealthNet.com, Dr. Vinson is pleased to announce the BMHN.com Scholars Award. This is an opportunity for a medical student to be mentored by and work directly with the website's Founder and Senior Editor, Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson, and Managing Editor, Ms. Chandra White-Cummings in the creation of psycho-educaitonal website content.  Awardees receive a $500.00 stipend. Application is due Wed. July 1st. For questions, please email us at info@BlackMentalHealthNet.com.

Dr. Vinson a Radio Host!

Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson has been tapped to host an hour-long weekly radio show on Atlanta's new FM station 99.1 WDJY. The show will feature guests discussing a wide range of topics on the mental illness - mental health continuum as well editorial commentary from Dr. Vinson.

Teaching Pediatricians about Children's Mental Health

After serving as a consultant to Children's Health Care of Atlanta in the planning process for this event, this upcoming Saturday Dr. Vinson will be the moderator for "Current Topics in Mental Health for the Primary Care Pediatrician" on Sat. 9/13/14 at the Scottish Rite Auditorium. This event will help to educate pediatricians about mental illness, helping services reach a wider array of children and adolescents in the greater Atlanta area.