Heading to LA for ISEPP this week

Continuing on my journey to understand the labyrinth of interdependencies that comprise the modern mental health field, I will be attending my first conference this week.

There are several conferences in mental health reform this Fall conference season.  I chose to attend the ISEPP conference because its focus is practitioner-oriented.   In my limited exposure to this field, it appears to me the center of gravity for real reform is going to rest on the shoulders of courageous practitioners who have  1. the responsibility to speak on behalf of the people they serve, and  2.  the gravitas to confront the abuses and fallacies inherent in the eco-system surrounding current mental health reform.

Speakers I’m looking forward to hearing include:

These five were pointed out to me as bringing something particularly interesting and new to the conversation on reform.  I’m also very much looking forward to hearing industry legend Thomas Szasz, as well as meeting Jim Gottstein, although I don’t see him on the agenda.   And, it will be the first time I will meet Robert Whitaker in person.

I will be taking lots of notes, tweeting from @madskillzatx with the hashtag #ISEPP11, and will blog what I learn.  I may do some video interviews as well.

Hope to see you there.


Is Transparency Key to Reform?

The lopsided power imbalance that favors the biomedical establishment over the people (consumers/survivors) who are  allegedly in receipt of its care is carefully protected by a moat of secrecy.  The more I look into the myriad of relationships and interdependencies within the labyrinth of Big Pharma, insurance companies, the medical profession with its supporting eco-system, and the governing regulatory agencies who are tasked with protecting the public’s health interests, the more daunting the challenge appears for well-meaning individuals to attempt to effect serious change.

Luckily, because of the Internet and the rise of social networking and social media, people are connecting and sharing an encyclopedia of knowledge related to mental health reform.  For instance, I really appreciated Alison Bass’ recently published piece, “New NIH Rules about Conflicts of Interest are a Swiss Cheese of Loopholes on the frustration with newly announced rules on financial conflicts of interest among federally funded researchers.

There are two specific areas I’m interested in investigating relative to transparency and a citizen’s right to know.   Both were referenced in Robert Whitaker’s, “Anatomy of an Epidemic.”   The first is the data collected by well-financed data miners that aggregate specific doctor prescription records from pharmacies and resell it to pharmaceuticals.   It seems to me this data should also be available to the public.  The data is de-identified, which means individual patent data is encrypted and protected per HIPPA regulations and patients’ privacy rights.   States are beginning to question the constitutionality of data miners’ rights (oddly, under the first amendment) to collect this data and market it.  A landmark case in this arena was Sorrell v. IMS Health that was just decided recently.  It went all the way to the Supreme Court.  The high court decided against the State of Vermont which had passed a law preventing the practice.   But industry insiders in health care privacy circles think there is still room for more litigation involving this practice.   If IMS Health and other data mining firms have a right to the secondary use of health information for marketing, shouldn’t citizens have a right to the data to make an informed decision about their practitioners?

The second are the fees pharmas pay KOL’s (Key Opinion Leaders).  I was pleased to discover that there has been discussion and legislation sponsored that would expose these payments dating back to 2007.  It seems the Physician Payments Sunshine Act was signed into law March 2010 as part of the Obama administration health care reform legislation.  Again, I feel the public has right to view this data in a consumer-friendly format.

Both of these data sources, when combined with location data and user-generated ratings and comments would provide rich, authentic profiles of practicing psychiatrists.  So, if a consumer is looking to find a psychiatrist in a new city, for example, he/she would have accurate profile data on all pdocs in the region – what they’re prescribing and who they’re accepting fees from, as well as how much.  The dollar amounts are staggering.

Would love to hear any more details around these issues or any others that concern transparency in the eco-system among doctors, pharmacies, insurance companies, data aggregators, federal and state governments, and pharmaceutical companies.

Powerhouse of Mental Health Advocates to speak at The International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP) conference

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychology (ISEPP) is holding its fall conference in Los Angeles, October 28-29, 2011.  ISEPP describes itself as:

ISEPP is a non-profit 501 (c3) research and education network focusing on the critical study of the mental health movement. We are primarily a network of professionals and individuals concerned with the impact of mental health theories upon public policy, therapeutic practices, individual well-being, and personal freedom.

A veritable who’s who of Mental Health reform is scheduled to speak at the event. Cost to attend for non-members is $280 for both days, $140 each day.  There’s a special rate of $89 night at the Double-Tree hotel where the event is being held.

Download the conference brochure here.