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Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Archive for August 2010

UPDATE: Early Bird Registration Extended to September 03, 2010!

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UPDATE: The deadline for the early bird registration for ATSS’ 2010 conference has been extended until September 03, 2010! If you’re headed to this year’s conference — Safely in Our Hands:  Helping Our Helpers Stay Healthy — you only have a few more days to save $100 on your registration fee.

If you aren’t yet a member of the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists, you also have the opportunity to save on registration. How? ATSS members save $100 on registration costs. ATSS also offers student discounts as well as daily rates if you’re unable to attend our entire conference.

CLICK HERE to see the complete registration details.

Our three-day (Thursday, September 30, 2010 to Saturday, October 2, 2010), biennial conference will be held in Toronto, Canada. In addition to 30 conference workshops to choose from, ATSS has arranged for opportunities to network and socialize with colleagues and friends. The President’s Luncheon will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about ATSS and its future. The evening social, certification Q&A and a night on the town are other venues to meet colleagues from all over the U.S. and Canada.

Beginning in September on the blog, we’re going to begin to highlight each day of the conference, sharing some of the speakers, workshops and events that will occur each day.

Don’t forget to call now to receive a discount on your hotel room at the Delta Toronto West Hotel.

Hope to see you in Toronto!

Written by traumalines

August 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Dangers of Seroquel

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According to the Associated Press, doctors have increasingly prescribed the drug Seroquel to our veterans to battle the symptoms of PTSD.  The “potent anti-psychotic” drug — approved for treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression — has been widely prescribed to treat sleeping disruptions such as insomnia and nightmares:

Thousands of soldiers suffering from PTSD have received the same medication over the last nine years, helping to make Seroquel one of the Veteran Affairs Department’s top drug expenditures and the No. 5 best-selling drug in the nation.

The VA’s spending on Seroquel has increased more than 770 percent since 2001. In that same time frame, the number of patients covered by the VA increased just 34 percent.

Seroquel has been the VA’s second-biggest prescription drug expenditure since 2007, behind the blood-thinner Plavix. The agency spent $125.4 million last fiscal year on Seroquel, up from $14.4 million in 2001.

Spending on Seroquel by the Department of Defense, has increased nearly 700 percent since 2001, to $8.6 million last year, according to purchase records.

If the potential side effects of the drug — diabetes, weight gain, muscle spasms — aren’t bad enough, a new study revealed a far more devastating side effect: sudden heart failure:

Last year, researchers at Vanderbilt University published a study suggesting a new risk: sudden heart failure.

The study in the January 2009 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine found that there were three cardiac deaths per year for every 1,000 patients taking anti-psychotic drugs like Seroquel. Seroquel’s unique sedative effect sets it apart from others in its class as the top choice for treating insomnia and anxiety.

The VA defends that the drug is not used as a first or even second option to treat insomnia. AstraZeneca PLC, the drug’s manufacturer, is looking into the results of the study.

The instant relief Seroquel provided to some soldiers suffering from sleep disorders put it in high demand. It’s important to understand all the potential side effects of each prescription drug you’re taking, let alone the combined effects if you are being prescribed multiple medications.

Written by traumalines

August 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Katrina…5 years later

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As we approach the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the emotions of residents are mixed, the stages of recovery are farther along in some areas versus others and let’s not forget that the Gulf shores have recently been struck with another major disaster in which they’re still picking up the pieces.

But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says that five years later, FEMA is far more prepared for any disaster that comes their way. However, Fugate is still urging Americans to still make sure they’re prepared:

While FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said he believes his agency is prepared for whatever comes his way, he urged people to take their own steps to be ready for a disaster in case the government cannot reach them quickly to provide assistance.

“People are always asking is FEMA ready, is FEMA prepared as if, if FEMA were prepared, suddenly magically everything gets better,” Fugate said in an interview this week ahead of his trip to the region. “Here’s my question, are people prepared?”

Yet future preparations can’t do anything to help the residents of the hurricane-ravaged area who say that government resources and donations are beginning to dry up too quickly:

“There are still a lot of homes being rebuilt, but the process is slowing down,” [Kurt Jostes, director of development for RAI Ministries] said.

Grant money and insurance proceeds have dried up. The recession hasn’t helped, either.

Post Katrina, FEMA was widely criticized by many, saying their relief efforts were unorganized and insufficient to even begin with. Yet as Fugate suggested, it’s the people on the ground — your neighbors, the countless volunteers — that have the ability to work swifter and faster than the government:

“If you’re looking for somebody else to take care of you in a disaster, there may not be somebody else fast enough,” he said, noting some of the quickest rescues immediately after Katrina were done by neighbors, not the government.

Brenda Murphy, editor-in-chief and publisher of Jambalaya News, a free, bilingual newspaper published every other week, said “This is the new New Orleans life,” referring to the city’s new residents who have traveled to the Gulf to help rebuild the Crescent City.

While many of the cities and towns damaged by Hurricane Katrina are mere skeletons of what they once were, the pride and determination of the residents — both new and old– seems to be intact. 

Some things never change.

Written by traumalines

August 25, 2010 at 8:38 pm

BP pledges $52 million to support mental health

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The sun shined a little brighter today down in the Gulf. Shrimpers in Louisiana reported their first clean day of fishing, and the states affected by the spill will be getting millions from BP to support mental health services:

Funds will go to one federal and four state agencies to provide support and outreach services for mental health programs in the Gulf of Mexico region. In what appears to be its first nod to the mental health challenges from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP announced Monday, Aug. 16, it will provide $52 million in funding for one federal and four state agencies to provide support and outreach services for mental health programs in the Gulf.

Here’s a breakdown of the federal and state funding:

AMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) – $10 million

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals – $15 million

Mississippi Department of Mental Health – $12 million

Alabama Department of Mental Health – $12 million

Florida Department of Children and Families – $3 million

Besides the physical ailments that have surfaced after the spill — rashes, respiratory discomforts, etc. — mental health concerns skyrocketed. Why do mental health issues surface so fast after a natural disaster like an oil spill?

Dr. Farris Tuma of the NIMH explains: “One of the tragedies that we have seen over and over again after large scale disasters, is really a spiraling downward of people who were, maybe, managing to keep their lives together, to keep their emotions and behaviors under control, but with some additional stress and some added disorganization in their community — really became quite disabled by their anxiety, depression and psychosis. (Click here to view a video in which Dr. Tuma discusses the “Mental Health Concerns from the Gulf Oil Spill.”)

Related Posts:

Oil Spill’s Impact on Mental Health
VIDEO: “Mental Health Concerns from the Gulf Oil Spill”

Written by traumalines

August 17, 2010 at 8:19 pm

ATSS is on Facebook and Twitter

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Don’t forget that the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists (ATSS) is now fully-functional in the world of social media. For a few months now, ATSS has been on Facebook and Twitter, posting our latest blog posts, conference updates and just catching up with ATSS members, old friends as well as making brand-new friends. Our group of friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter is growing by the day, and we’re always looking to make new contacts and new friends.

If you’re on either Facebook or Twitter (or perhaps both), be sure to find us. Click here to find us on Facebook, and click here to check us out on Twitter.

Social and digital media are still new and emerging communication and outreach resources for many in the Trauma Response and Disaster Relief community. The importance of social media has become so profound, that the Red Cross held an Emergency Summit last week to address how to reply to all the “cries for help” they have been receiving through social media (e.g. Facebook, twitter, etc.) and digital media (e.g. text messages) more effectively.

Written by traumalines

August 16, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Former Soldiers Conquer an Enormous Challenge

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Due to the current and unfortunate state of affairs, we tend to publish posts that document the challenges and roadblocks our soldiers are facing. This post is meant to focus on the positive.

Can you picture life without your legs? I know I can’t. Can you imagine climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? Ha, I definitely can’t; no way!

But for three former soldiers, life without their legs didn’t stop them from climbing one of the tallest mountains in the world:

[U.S. Army Sgt. Neil Duncan] and two other former soldiers, three men with one leg between them, have just come down from summiting 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. You read correctly: Three soldiers, one leg. Mountain climb.

The trio of Duncan (a 26-year-old Minnesotan, now in college in Colorado) and former Army sergeants Dan Nevins (39, lost both legs in Iraq, native of California) and Kirk Bauer (62, lost one leg in Vietnam, lives in Ellicott City) made their six-day ascent as part of the Warfighter Sports Challenge, a series of seven extreme events for permanently disabled veterans.

The Warfighter Sports Challenge is just one facet of a much larger program, run by non-profit Disabled Sports USA.

“If I can do this, I can do anything!” is the first thing you see when you visit www.dsusa.org (Disabled Sports USA). The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project “is a partnership between Disabled Sports USA, its chapters and the Wounded Warrior Project, providing year round sports programs for severely wounded service members from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict and the Global War on Terrorism.”

Be sure to visit the Wounded Warrior Project’s website to learn more. So while our vets are faced with a myriad of obstacles, programs and organizations like these are there to help our soldiers — our first responders — come together as one, and accomplish new goals and challenges.

Written by traumalines

August 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Harnessing Social and Digital Media for Disaster Relief

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The Red Cross is holding an “Emergency Social Data Summit” on Thursday August 12 “to bring together government agencies, emergency management professionals, disaster response organizations, tech companies and concerned citizens to address how to reply to these digital cries for help more effectively.”

The Red Cross has been receiving an increasing amount of “digital cries for help” via social media — Facebook, Twitter, etc. — and digital media (i.e. text messaging) during disaster situations. While these sources of social and digital media have helped organizations like the Red Cross expand their outreach, they aren’t prepared to deal with the growing number of citizens in need who are contacting them through these media outlets.

According to some research conducted by the Red Cross:

One in six (16%) have used social media to get information about an emergency.

More than half would send a text message to an available response agency if someone they knew needed help.

(Click here to view the Red Cross’ entire slideshow that displays their research conducted on social and digital media.)

I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated when the Red Cross releases the findings from their ’emergency summit.’ While I think it’s an essential discussion for disaster-relief agencies like the Red Cross to have, I think, frankly, that this conversation about how to better utilize social and digital media is long overdue.

Written by traumalines

August 10, 2010 at 8:08 pm