Welcome USC Price School of Public Policy Practicum Students

We are thrilled to have been selected by a team of policy analysis practicum students who will complete their graduate capstone project with us. Students will support an ongoing larger project by conducting data analysis to analyze the relationship between the provision of comprehensive support services with telehealth, opioid use disorder, and recidivism for previously incarcerated individuals. Students will conduct statistical analyses using data prepared by IBHRI, and may also conduct expert interviews to collect original data.

We are excited about this new partnership and look forward to a mutually rewarding experience. For additional information about this project, please contact Dr. Josh Matacotta.

Recap of APA 2019

The annual convention for the American Psychological Association came and went. There were so many wonderful sessions and moving speeches from presenters and guest speakers. I left Chicago feeling energized and with a number of ideas and lessons learned to bring back to my students and fellow colleagues. This convention redefined the impact of togetherness and the impact our work has (and can have) on the most pressing issues of our time.

On day one, keynote speaker Wes Moore asked (and answered), “If there’s a question about whether we can do more, the answer is yes.” Wes Moore is the author of “The Other Wes Moore” and CEO of the anti-poverty organization Robin Hood. He shared his powerful personal story of overcoming poverty, hardship, and early traumas. On day one, we also talked about the importance of a growth mindset - the belief that one can learn and improve rather than that intelligence and abilities are fixed. There are ways we can instill this mindset in our students and support our colleagues as they venture into new, challenging areas.

On day two, there were plenty more continuing education sessions, presentations, and exhibits. On the Main Stage was Kevin Hines, who shared with us challenges he faced as an adolescent, the emotional disconnect between people that we must address, and his story of how he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. Fortunately for all of us, he survived his suicide attempt - only 1% of those who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge do. We also heard from Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D. who reminded us that “suicide is a global health crisis and the answer is going to come from psychology.”

On day three, we met Nelba Marquez-Greene, licensed family therapist and mother of Ana Grace, who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. Her moving story came with a powerful call for psychologists and behavioral health scientists to boost their work to address gun violence in America. APA is taking a strong stand on gun violence because what we know about the science does not match the public policy on this issue.

I was sad to see APA 2019 come to a close. But I felt inspired and gained additional insight that will propel me forward as I continue my work as a professor of psychology and behavioral scientist.

Consider joining us in Washington, DC August 6-9 for APA 2020!

-Dr. Josh Matacotta

HIV-Infected Cells May Persist in Cerebrospinal Fluid of Some Patients

It is well-known that persistence of HIV in reservoir (sanctuary) sites is a major barrier to viral eradication despite treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART). A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation reaffirms this challenge and also brings attention to the problem of neurocognitive impairment in some patients on long-term ART.

The authors find that cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can offer a window into the neuropathogenesis of HIV in living patients, although HIV-infected cells in CSF does not necessarily cause neurocognitive impairment. Overall, the investigators from the University of North Carolina, the University of Pittsburgh, and Yale University find that examining CSF cells revealed a higher prevalence of persistent HIV in the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS and persistent HIV in CSF cells despite years of viral suppression due to ART may be a significant barrier to optimal neurocognitive function and finding a cure for HIV.

HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) is indicated with patients perform below expectations for age and ability on formal neurocognitive tests. Cross sectional studies demonstrate that approximately half of all treated HIV patients have cognitive impairment. Co-morbidity and lifestyle behaviors are known to contribute to impairment, but are insufficient to explain the frequency of impairment that currently exists in patients with HIV.

The CSF study consisted of sixty-nine participants (97% male, median age 50 years, CDF 696 cells/mm3, plasma HIV RNA <100 copies/mL) enrolled in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) HIV Reservoirs Cohort Study (A5321). The observational study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIAID and NIMH). To read this article, visit the JCI website.

Tips to Reduce Fatigue

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness and lack of energy. Individuals suffering from fatigue may experience a reduction in overall alertness and cognition, causing everyday activities to become difficult. Most adults experience fatigue at some point in their lifetime. Listed below are tips provided by the National Institutes of Health on how to reduce fatigue:

  • Get a sufficient amount of sleep every night.

  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Find ways to relax (e.g., yoga).

  • Follow a reasonable work and personal schedule.

  • Take a vitamin (with the aid of a credible provider).

  • Abstain from alcohol, nicotine, and drug use.


It is important to note that, while fatigue is a common symptom and generally not indicative of a serious health concern, it may be a sign of a severe illness. If the aforementioned tips do not help to relieve fatigue, contact your physician. Additionally, notify your physician if you experience any of the following: confusion or dizziness, blurred vision, little to no urine, swelling, weight gain, or thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Additional information can be accessed here.


Works Cited

“Fatigue: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003088.htm.


June is Pride Month

It is wonderful to see the celebration of being. With a long history of violence, marginalization, and oppression, the LGBTQ+ community has earned its right to march in the streets for celebration. Nothing is more affirming than seeing allies in the most unlikely place “come out” publicly to support the LGBTQ+ community. No doubt the news of Cody Barlow, a straight man from the small town of Hulbert, Oklahoma who decided to show his support for pride by decorating his truck put a smile on your face. And one wonders if he was subjected to any grief for his outspoken support of the LGBTQ+ community.

There is still a lot of work to be done. This is evidenced by recent news of violence perpetrated on the LGBTQ+ community. Murders of black transgender women in Dallas have put a community on edge. The killings of two gay men and a transgender woman in Detroit and a gay man outside Atlanta have highlighted alarming increases in attacks against LGBTQ people. In January 2018, Blaze Bernstein, an openly gay Jewish college student, was stabbed more than 20 times by an avowed neo-Nazi and member of the Atomwaffen Division. In March 2018, Rio Carson was fatally shot as he left a nightclub in Kansas City, Missouri. That same month, Jared Jacobs was killed after a man drove a car at high speed into a gay couple. Amia Tyrae, a black transgender woman, was found dead in a motel room in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with multiple gunshot wounds.

If anyone asks why there needs to be a Pride parade, just point them here or to any site documenting the history of violence against LGBT people in the United States. There is a need (and tremendous benefit) for visibility and awareness. While Pride celebrations are often advertised as a party that promotes love and acceptance for everyone, it is also a time to reflect on LGBTQ history. It is a reaction to a community being shunned and ostracized for years. It is time to celebrate being alive, and to illustrate the continuing need to remind people that the struggle remains.

Psychosocial Research Can Help the National Institute of Mental Health Reduce the Burden of Mental Illnesses and Psychological Disorders

Article: How psychosocial research can help the National Institute of Mental Health achieve its grand challenge to reduce the burden of mental illnesses and psychological disorders.

Citation

Teachman, B. A., McKay, D., Barch, D. M., Prinstein, M. J., Hollon, S. D., & Chambless, D. L. (2019). How psychosocial research can help the National Institute of Mental Health achieve its grand challenge to reduce the burden of mental illnesses and psychological disorders. American Psychologist, 74(4), 415-431. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000361

This article was published in American Psychologist, and is available in the PsycARTICLES database.

Abstract

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) plays an enormous role in establishing the agenda for mental health research across the country (its 2016 appropriation was nearly $1.5 billion; NIMH, 2016a). As the primary funder of research that will lead to development of new assessments and interventions to identify and combat mental illness, the priorities set by NIMH have a major impact on the mental health of our nation and training of the next generation of clinical scientists. Joshua Gordon has recently begun his term as the new Director of NIMH and has been meeting with different organizations to understand how they can contribute to the grand challenge of reducing the burden of mental illness. As a group of clinical psychological scientists (most representing the Coalition for the Advancement and Application of Psychological Science), he asked what we saw as key gaps in our understanding of the burden of mental illnesses and psychological disorders that psychosocial research could help fill. In response, we first present data illustrating how funding trends have shifted toward biomedical research over the past 18 years and then consider the objectives NIMH has defined in its recent strategic plan (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, & National Institute of Mental Health, 2015). We then note ways that advances in psychosocial research can help achieve these objectives. Critically, this involves integrating psychosocial and biomedical approaches to efficiently relieve the suffering of millions of Americans who struggle with mental illnesses and psychological disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)