Provide for better mental health care — on your state income tax form

It would be easy to miss a major victory in the cause of improving mental health services and awareness for Connecticut residents on the CT form 1040 this year. At the end of the form, there is a list of causes to which taxpayers can donate all or a portion of their state tax refund. It’s a who’s who of well-known causes: wildlife, breast cancer, military families, AIDS research, college funds, safety net services, organ transplants … and now mental health and substance use.

How a statewide healthcare fee can make a healthier state

Illness is often unpredictable. When a person without insurance seeks care for a broken bone or the flu, they receive treatment regardless of their ability to pay. That is because we live in a compassionate society — but the treatment is not free. Taxpayers end up shouldering the burden through higher state taxes or increased provider costs. Economists call this phenomenon “free riding.” Many people are willing to risk going without health insurance knowing that they can get care (and others will pay) if there is a true emergency. … Connecticut can improve healthcare access while controlling the premiums insurance holders pay. I propose that all residents of the state take responsibility for their healthcare costs by either buying insurance or contributing a fraction of their income to healthcare savings accounts.

Overdose kit distribution: A how to guide

I’m not much of a host. But with the opioid epidemic getting worse, I knew we had to start doing overdose-kit distributions. The whys seem obvious. As a medical director for a large mental health and substance abuse non-profit agency —CMHA in New Britain— I see too much death. The toxicology reports from the state’s medical examiner increasingly come back positive for fentanyl, which is now present in over 50 percent of our fatal ODs. At 50 to several-thousand-times-more potent than morphine, fentanyls—yes, there are more than 20— from China have thrown gas onto the fire of America’s opioid epidemic.

On the Parkland massacre: ‘Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must do something now’

It is with profound sorrow and empathy that we try to understand and come to terms with the massacre that occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day of all days. It is unthinkable that, once again, children and adults were shot and killed at a school, with at least 17 people dead and more wounded. We mourn for the victims and the survivors and reach out to all of their families who will be forever changed by this brutal act of violence.

A prescription for a better health care system for Bezos, Buffett and Dimon

As a primary care physician who’s worked in the trenches for 31 years, I’d like to offer some advice to Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon as they prepare to tackle the health care system. If you want to improve health, increase access and lower the cost of health care, you need to emphasize primary care at all levels of the system: individual patients, patient populations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and hospital systems.

To put this into perspective, consider the cost of American health care compared to outcomes. In 2015, the United States spent almost three times the amount on health care as countries with comparable incomes. This data was reported by the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), a group of 35 countries with advanced economies that works to promote economic development.

We must do more to protect people with IDD from sexual predators

Sexual assault has dominated the news cycle. It is clear that this issue can no longer be ignored. Easy to miss was a recent story about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), who are sexually assaulted at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities. That’s right – seven times. Truly an epidemic. This is horrifying. Sadly, it does not surprise me.

Dr. Bandy Lee is damaging the psychiatric profession

A Yale psychiatrist, Dr. Bandy Lee, is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame as the editor of the bestseller “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” This book contains the opinions of 27 psychiatrists and psychologists, some of whom believe the President suffers from cognitive dysfunction and mental illness. In doing so, they are damaging a specialty that has struggled to gain respectability among the general public and making it more difficult for those with mental disorders to receive treatment.

Why walking with your doctor could be better than talking with your doctor

Gyms across the country will be packed this week with people vowing to “get moving” to lose weight this year. Much of the effort will be for naught. And, in fact, some of it could lead to injury and frustration. Currently, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exercise guidelines call for all individuals to do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week. In addition, the CDC recommends two days of strength training, or muscle strengthening, for obese people.

Let’s talk about real issues, not Trump’s mental health

The Connecticut Mirror covered the invitation issued by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to a Yale psychiatrist, Bandy X. Lee, to her Washington home to discuss the sitting president’s fitness – or lack thereof – for the office he holds. The first time I saw the story, I scrolled by. The second time, I clicked on the link.  By the third or fourth time, I responded with a short series of tweets expressing my profound disappointment. By the third or fourth time I did this, I was invited to write an op-ed. That was last week. So much has happened in the intervening days, as has seemed to be the case since January 2017, that I, myself, questioned whether it was worth my time to write this, and your time to read it. But here we are.

What Jeff Sessions doesn’t understand about medical marijuana

On Jan. 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, a 2013 document that limits federal enforcement of marijuana laws. This opens the door for a crackdown in the nine states with legal recreational marijuana. … I have researched a number of drugs of abuse and natural products for safety and effectiveness. Just because a drug has abuse potential doesn’t mean it’s always bad and just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s always safe. While I’m no fan of legalizing recreational marijuana use, I believe there has to be special dispensation for patients with a legitimate medical need.

Let’s not treat opioid addiction with another drug

Many are heralding the FDA approval of the first injectable treatment option for opioid addiction as the solution to the opioid crisis. But using one drug to treat another, and at a cost of $1,500 per shot, buprenorphine is not the answer. A better solution is a natural and relatively inexpensive treatment – acupuncture.

Hope not enough to save communities of color from the HCV epidemic

In 2007, Hepatitis C (HCV) surpassed HIV in causing the more deaths in the United States. That same year, our first black president was in the making, and his chariots of hope were set loose. Unfortunately, many other people of color were languishing in our correctional facilities, with multiple co-occurring health conditions —king among them HCV. The fate of their health is yet a reminder of their disenfranchisement. For incarcerated people of color living with HCV any brush with the Department of Corrections is tantamount to a death sentence.