The Assembly urges APA to begin an initiative to get medical schools and residency programs more involved in educating future physicians on the rapidly developing models of care
Thwarted in his attempt to establish a partial-hospitalization program for people with mental illness in what appears to be a case of “not in my backyard” syndrome, Mississippi psychiatrist Sudhakar Madakasira, M.D., filed a lawsuit charging that local authorities illegally discriminated against patients with mental illness.
His refusal to let stigmatizing actions go unanswered won him this year’s Profile of Courage Award from the APA Assembly.
Sudhakar Madakasira, M.D. (right), wins the Assembly Profile of Courage Award for his fight against discrimination aimed at people with mental illness in his Mississippi community. At left is Philip Scurria, M.D., Area 5 deputy representative.
According to his colleague, Mark Ladner, M.D., a past president of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, Madakasira tried for several years to bring a partial-hospitalization program to the Southern Mississippi town of Ocean Springs. The program was to be based on a model that had operated successfully in another part of the state. Madakasira, who is president and medical director of Psycamore Psychiatric Programs, had won the approval of local authorities to open the treatment program, but other local leaders objected since it was to be in a commercial zone that is adjacent to a residential area, and these leaders preyed on residents’ “fears about being near mentally ill persons,” Ladner said. “The mentally ill were cast in a very poor light, and scare tactics were used…”
The nearby town of Biloxi agreed to let the facility open, but the battle came with considerable cost, financially and mentally, to Madakasira. While proceeding with the establishment of the new program, he filed a suit alleging that the actions of the leaders in Ocean Springs were an example of illegal discrimination against people suffering from one form of illness. A state court judge eventually ruled against the town, and the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld that ruling, Madakasira noted, adding that the Department of Justice has been investigating Ocean Springs for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Madakasira, also a past president of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association, said that he hopes his actions lead the people of Mississippi “to have better understanding and compassion about mentally ill people.”
In other actions at the November meeting, the Assembly Nominating Committee announced that James Batterson, M.D., and Glenn Martin, M.D., will compete in the next election for the post of speaker-elect. Batterson is the deputy representative for Area 4, and Martin is the Assembly recorder. Vying to fill the recorder post will be Daniel Anzia, M.D., the Area 4 representative, and Stephen Brown, M.D., the Area 7 representative. The election will take place during the May 2014 Assembly meeting. Also at that time, current Speaker-elect Jenny Boyer, M.D., will succeed Melinda Young, M.D., as speaker.
Also at last month’s meeting, the Assembly approved a proposal to establish a joint Assembly/Board of Trustees committee to develop an initiative to engage medical schools, residency programs, and individual practitioners in an effort “to influence, facilitate, and support education, training, and recruitment of practitioners in systems and models of care compatible with implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its promise of expansion of access to psychiatric care.”
Assembly delegates also addressed problems that may arise in interactions between psychiatrists and caregivers of people with mental illness, including patients with neurodevelopmental, cognitive, and substance abuse disorders. They voted to ask APA to establish a work group to “identify barriers to communication with caregivers of mentally ill persons, . . . investigate clinical, ethical, and legal problems unique to communication with caregivers, and develop resource documents to advocate and assist psychiatrists in their interactions with caregivers.”
Two actions passed by the Assembly dealt with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In one action, the delegates voted ask APA to “immediately petition the VA to halt the online disclosure of mental health notes in the absence of clinician oversight” and develop an official position statement “on the appropriate disclosure of electronic mental health records to patients.” The proposal also urges APA to develop training materials for members “on how to chart in this new era of highly accessible medical records and provide it as a member benefit.”
The second VA-related vote urges APA to advocate for loan repayment as a strategy for recruiting and retaining psychiatrists in the VA health system. ■
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