The National Pulse – Texas School Safety “Action Plan” Contains More Problems than Solutions

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In this article, Dr. Effrem discusses the new school safety initiatives out of Texas following the tragic school shooting in Santa Fe, and the problematic use of mental health screenings.

The first element of the plan is to “provide mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others and provide them with the help they need.” This is the Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project, one of the programs that I wrote about several weeks ago. This program sends troubled students, referred by teachers, for screening by licensed professional counselors and, if necessary, for two telemedicine sessions with psychiatrists. According to the program’s data sheet, nearly 42,000 students were “impacted” by the program, with 1 percent (about 400) referred for triage and 215 receiving the counseling sessions.

However, while it may be a step forward that those truly in need of counseling are receiving it, there are several issues not mentioned in the information given. One unmentioned issue is the false positive rate of the screening. Although it is likely to be better than a standard written or online screen, because the screening is done by a licensed mental health professional, as previously discussed, the psychiatric profession readily admits that diagnosis is not standardized but is rather a consensus judgment, and diagnosing children and adolescents is especially difficult due to rapid developmental changes. A 2016 international psychiatric conference also highlighted the crisis of consensus for that specialty.]

You can view the full article at the National Pulse here.

May 25, 2018

The National Pulse – America Must Improve Its Horrible Psychiatric Care for Veterans

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In this article, Dr. Effrem discusses the quality of psychiatric care for veterans in the United States and the problems linked to the use of some psychiatric medications.

As Memorial Day approaches, it is incredibly important that we pause from our rhetorical and political battles on the education front to remember, honor, and teach the next generation the stories of our military men and women. These soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen fought and died to secure the heritage and blessings of our liberties. We are rapidly losing those who fought tyranny in World War II and the Korean conflict to age. The veterans of Vietnam are in middle age and are dealing both with the horrors of war and the poor treatment they received on their return due to the country’s conflict about our involvement there.

Tragically, in addition to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in battle, far too many military members that served in Iraq and Afghanistan are dying due to suicide and, in addition to physical wounds, are suffering from the ravages of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The care they should be receiving is too often inadequate, ineffective and, in the area of mental health, downright dangerous….

…As bad as David’s experience was with psychiatric medications, sadly, it pales in comparison to that of other veterans. According to a letter by Dr. Joseph Tarantolo, a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist who helps patients come off of psychiatric medications, one of his veteran patients came to him on nine different psychiatric medications at the same time, and had been prescribed more than forty of these drugs over seven years with terrible consequences. According to the letter:

When he arrived at my office on August 17, 2017, he was on high doses of nine different drugs all of which have had profound adverse reaction impact. Before arriving at the VA for medical care in 2010, his vision was perfect, now impaired. Before arriving at the VA he had normal GI functioning, now impaired. Before arriving at the VA, he had normal sexual functioning, now impaired. Before arriving at the VA, although in psychological turmoil, he had excellent cognitive function and could emotionally feel authentically, now, “I fake feeling. I know I’m supposed to feel but I can’t.” And he nods off in the middle of substantive discussion.

You can view the full article at The National Pulse here.

May 18, 2018

The National Pulse – 6 Key Takeaways from Congress’ Hearing on Protecting Student Data

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In this article, Dr. Effrem discusses and highlights aspects of the May 17 congressional hearing regarding student data protection.

1.) More leaders are realizing the need to reduce the amount of student data collected.

By far, the best witness from a parental rights and pro-privacy perspective was David Couch, Chief Information Officer for the Kentucky Department of Education. A former military cyber security expert, his most cogent remarks had to do with decreasing the amount of data collected:

2.) School districts are making a valiant effort to protect data, but it’s a difficult task.

Dr. Gary Lilly of the Bristol, Tenn., school district highlighted various efforts to protect student data. These include background checks on employees and limiting access to data depending on employee role. Both Lilly and Couch discussed the need for more training for teachers and administrative personnel to avoid inadvertently releasing personally identifiable information via spreadsheets or phishing attacks.

3.) The corporate and foundation Big Data interests were well represented.

Amelia Vance, director of education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) was one of the witnesses. FPF is a creation of many of the biggest, worst actors on the privacy front, including the Gates Foundation, Google, and Facebook. She spoke about how necessary it is for taxpayers to spend more money training school districts and corporations to properly protect privacy.

You can view the full article at The National Pulse here.

The National Pulse – “Stunning” Report: Parkland Superintendent Misled Public About Shooter’s Past

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In this article, Dr. Effrem discusses accusations against Broward County authorities for not recognizing shooter Nicolas Cruz’s harmful tendencies,

Despite statements to the contrary by Broward County, Fla., Superintendent Robert Runcie and Sheriff Scott Israel, it has now been reported by WLRN that the Parkland school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had in fact been involved in the controversial PROMISE school discipline program. PROMISE, launched in 2013, stands for Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports and Education.

Runcie had stated in April, “Nikolas Cruz, the shooter that was involved in this horrific accident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had no connection to the PROMISE program.” Yet, according to an admission by Broward district officials this past Sunday, Cruz did in fact receive a “referral to PROMISE after he vandalized a bathroom at the middle school on Nov. 25, 2013.”

This revelation also comes after some of the survivors have announced their intention to sue the school district and sheriff’s office for negligence related to their handling of the massacre, the lack of safety in Broward schools due to the PROMISE program, and the failure to act on the many violent and threatening incidents involving Cruz.

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