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Why Behavioral Health Providers Should Watch for Problem Gambling

When talking about addiction, most people think of substance abuse, like drinking too much, using illicit drugs, or misusing prescription medication. However, problem gambling is another serious disorder that can cause huge problems for individuals, families, and communities.

Gambling problems don’t just create financial difficulties and strain relationships. They can also come with serious mental-health symptoms. Research has found that individuals who struggle with a gambling addiction are at a higher risk of suicide.

What is a gambling disorder?

Many people engage in gambling without negative long-term effects. Spending a few dollars on lottery tickets, a slot machine, or a friendly game of poker may not have a significant impact on their lives.

Problem gambling (also known as excessive gambling, gambling addiction, compulsive gambling, or a gambling disorder) occurs when a person feels compelled to continue gambling, even with negative consequences. Individuals who engage in problem gambling may want to stop, but feel they are unable to.

Excessive gambling has been classed as an impulse-control disorder. The American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5) specifically lists it. Rather than just a financial problem, experts consider excessive gambling an emotional problem with financial effects.

To be diagnosed with a gambling addiction, the DSM-5 says a person must experience at least four of these criteria over the last 12 months:

A need to gamble increasing amounts of money
Feeling restless or irritable when trying to stop gambling
Repeatedly trying to stop, control, or reduce gambling, without success
Frequently thinking about gambling and planning to gamble
Gambling to relieve stress
Continuing to gamble even after losing money
Hiding gambling activities
Developing relationship or work problems because of gambling
Relying on others to provide money for gambling

Are there risk factors for gambling addiction?

Anyone who gambles is at risk of developing an addiction. However, there are some factors that could put a person at higher risk:

Male sex
Use of certain medications, including antipsychotics or dopamine agonists
Presence of other addictions
Emotional struggles, such as loneliness, depression, or anxiety
Significant life changes, such as retirement or trauma
More opportunities to gamble, such as living near a casino

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, even people who have been seen as responsible and strong-willed have developed gambling problems. Other factors, such as those listed above, often lead to behavioral changes that cause a gambling disorder.

Here at the BestNotes blog, we’ll be continuing this discussion in future posts. Check back soon for more details on the topic of problem gambling, including specific types of gambling, and treatment methods.

Do you have clients who struggle with gambling? It’s time to use data to your advantage to improve their outcomes.

OutcomeTools, available with BestNotes, is a state-of-the-art delivery and analysis system that helps behavioral health providers track their effectiveness with outcome questionnaires. Using either standardized or custom questionnaires, you can electronically administer, score, and report on many types of outcome measures. This helps demonstrate your practice’s value and provide better treatment for your clients, potentially increasing your referrals and revenue.

Ready to learn more about how OutcomeTools can help your practice? Contact us today to schedule a free demo!

date:  Oct 26, 2021
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Should Mental Health Professionals Watch Out for “COVID” Encephalitis?

Mental-health conditions, from substance misuse to depression, have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. But are there mental health risks to contracting the virus itself?

Research is still ongoing, but there is evidence that COVID-19 infections could be linked to some mental health symptoms. For example, a 2020 study from Wuhan, China, found that about one-third of 214 patients with COVID-19 infection had “neurologic manifestations.” These included symptoms like dizziness and impaired consciousness, or the loss of taste and smell that is now commonly associated with the virus.

Preliminary results of a more recent study, published February 2021, show that COVID-19 survivors may be at higher risk of psychiatric concerns. These included anxiety disorders, insomnia, and dementia. However, further research is needed to confirm these findings.

Even more recently, some clinicians have been warning of another condition associated with COVID-19 and mental health symptoms: encephalitis.

What is encephalitis?

Encephalitis occurs when part of the brain swells or becomes inflamed. Symptoms can vary, depending on what part of the brain is affected. They can include:

Fever
Headache
Neck stiffness
Sensitivity to light or sound
Mental confusion or memory loss
Seizures
Vision changes
Movement disorders
Loss of consciousness
Mood-related symptoms, such as anxiety or irritability
Hallucinations
Excessive sleepiness

To diagnose encephalitis, healthcare providers may conduct scans of the brain, such as an MRI or CT scan. Electroencephalogram (EEG) can reveal the brain’s electrical activity. Patients may also be tested for infection.

Encephalitis is a serious condition that requires fast treatment of the underlying cause, which often includes antivirals or antibiotics. Mild cases often experience a full recovery. More serious cases may require months or even years of treatment and rehabilitation.

How is encephalitis linked to COVID-19?

Encephalitis is usually triggered by an autoimmune response or an infection, such as a virus. Therefore, the COVID-19 virus may cause encephalitis in rare cases.

A recent review of 23 studies looked at the outcomes of patients who developed encephalitis as a complication of COVID-19. Among hospitalized patients, the incidence of encephalitis was only 0.215 percent, and more likely in severely ill patients. For those few patients, the mortality rate was a significant 13.4 percent.

Paula Carvalho, MD, of the University of Idaho, has reported on a specific case of encephalitis in a 36-year-old man who was previously healthy, with no history of a psychiatric condition or drug use. He contracted a mild case of COVID-19. Two days after his symptoms resolved, however, he became physically and verbally aggressive.

When his family brought him to the ER, his vital signs were normal, and he showed no signs of infection, except testing positive for COVID-19. Brain MRI results indicated encephalitis. After treatment, the patient improved, and his mental status gradually returned to normal until he was discharged to home in 18 days.

The bottom line: Clinicians should be aware of this risk, and suggest the possibility of COVID-19 encephalitis for clients who exhibit abnormal behavior, acute psychosis, a confused state, or drowsiness.

Providing the best care for your behavioral health clients takes a lot of information: intake assessments, medication management, appointments, symptoms, and outcomes. Properly storing and analyzing this data not only helps you serve your clients, but keeps your practice efficient, profitable, and compliant.

BestNotes’ OutcomeTools feature takes the work out of outcome studies, leaving you free to do what you do best—treat your clients. Contact us to find out more or schedule a free demo.

date:  Oct 18, 2021
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Counterfeit Opioids, First Responder Hotlines, and Other Idaho Behavioral Health News

Mental health and substance misuse concerns have resonated across the United States, including BestNotes’ home state of Idaho. Check out this news roundup of some of the top behavioral health-related stories affecting the state.

Fentanyl-Laced Counterfeit Drugs Increasing in Idaho

Idaho law enforcement agencies are warning the public about a rising supply of pain medications laced with the opioid fentanyl, matching an increase that agencies across the nation have noticed. Idaho State Police (ISP) reports that troopers seized 195 fentanyl pills in 2019, and 20,000 in 2020. The agency has seized nearly 28,000 fentanyl pills in 2021 up to September.

ISP Sgt. Kurt Sproat notes that counterfeit pills are often disguised as prescription medications that may fool new drug users, causing dangerous overdoses. Nycole Thomas, RN, of Northpoint Recovery in Meridian says that the treatment center plans to expand from 22 beds to 48 due to a rising demand for overdose treatment.

Crisis Hotline Opening for Idaho First Responders

Magellan Health, Inc. is launching a free, confidential, 24-hour crisis line for Idaho workers responding to the coronavirus pandemic. This includes all first responders and frontline health-care workers, as well as Idaho National Guard citizen soldiers and airmen assisting hospitals experiencing a surge of COVID-19 patients.

Hotline callers can dial 1 (800) 327-7451 (TTY 711) to speak directly with a certified licensed mental health clinician. Callers can also be connected to information about other available resources for those responding directly to the pandemic.

Organizations Receive Over $17 Million in Idaho Community Program Grant Funds

Thirty-five organizations in Idaho have received more than $17 million in Idaho Community Program Grant funds, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for Child Care Development Fund. The awards have come through the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

These funds aim to serve children who have experienced academic learning loss and need behavioral health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations that will receive grant funds include:

Boys & Girls Clubs (6 statewide clubs)
Idaho Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs
Children’s Home Society of Idaho
Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (3 programs)
University of Idaho Extension (18 programs)
Idaho Resilience Project

Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Have Potential for Idaho

Mental illness and drug overdoses are plaguing Idaho, but certified community behavioral health clinics could be the answer, Sen. Jeff Agenbroad (R-Nampa) and Rep. Brooke Green (D-Boise) write in an opinion piece for the Idaho Statesman. These facilities offer 24-hour crisis care and evidence-based services for individuals with behavioral health needs.

The lawmakers write that such clinics can help people avoid jail, reduce emergency department visits, and save taxpayer money. The Idaho Behavioral Health Council, appointed by Gov. Brad Little, has recommended that Idaho explore how to implement the certified community behavioral health clinic model.

Behavioral health providers in Idaho face many challenges. At BestNotes, we believe your EHR software shouldn’t be one of them.

We are committed to developing software that helps your practice function more efficiently, reducing the administrative burden for clinicians so they have more time to do what they do best. Get in touch with us today to find out what we can do for your practice!

date:  Oct 14, 2021
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Three Mental Health Trends Behavioral Health Providers Should Keep an Eye On

Like all other healthcare specialties, behavioral health is constantly evolving with new discoveries and information. Here are some of the top trends impacting the field of behavioral health today.

1. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an important tool for organizations that collect and analyze enormous amounts of data. Information generated by social media alone could provide valuable insights for mental health experts when analyzed with AI technologies like natural language processing.

According to an article in Scientific American, data generated by the more than 4 billion social media users across the globe could be used to help better detect mental illness. For example, in some countries, Facebook uses AI to scan for images and words that could indicate an increased risk of self-harm. AI tools then send alerts to trained human reviewers, who can share mental health resources with at-risk users.

2. Self-help apps

Along with telehealth, the use of mental health apps have exploded in the last few years. According to Acumen Research and Consulting, a global provider of market research studies, the global mental health app market is expected to reach a value of over $3.7 billion by 2027.

Some of the benefits of digital health, remote monitoring, and mental health apps include:

Better management of chronic conditions
Increased awareness and engagement in users
Potentially low costs for users
Decreased need for in-person visits with a provider, alleviating the shortage of mental health providers

However, the widespread availability of these apps has created other challenges. Consumers may be confused about which option is right for them. Many apps use evidence-based techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, but other apps may make claims that have not been scientifically supported. User privacy and data security are also potential concerns.

3. Reduced stigma

The increased use of social media and mental health apps have reduced much of the stigma around mental illness. More people are seeking help for mental health issues and discussing these topics online. At the same time, this has created additional challenges related to language and misinformation.

More social-media influencers are sharing their personal struggles with mental health issues. Unfortunately, not all the information these influencers share with their followers is accurate.

In addition, some of the language used to discuss mental health concerns online can be misused. For example, the term “gaslighting” has been widely used in recent years—often incorrectly. Some people have been accused of “gaslighting” another person simply because they denied an accusation or disagreed with another person.

Similarly, the term “narcissist” has been used to demean or invalidate others. In reality, it is a specific personality disorder with a particular set of symptoms.

Increased awareness of mental health concerns can get more people the help they need. However, mental health experts and influencers should be careful to use correct terms to avoid spreading misinformation.

As a behavioral health provider, you already have plenty of industry trends and changes to keep track of. Keeping your practice’s EHR updated shouldn’t have to be one of them.

BestNotes EHR solutions, created specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers, include automatic updates to its documentation features. That means we do all the work to keep you compliant with federal, state, and accreditation requirements, so you have one less thing to stress about. Contact BestNotes today to learn more, or schedule a free demo.

date:  Oct 11, 2021
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Wellness for Behavioral Health Clinicians: Keeping Healthy Boundaries, Part Two

In a previous blog post, we talked about the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries with your clients. This can help you stay compliant with behavioral health standards and protect both you and your clients.

However, boundaries don’t just apply to client relationships. Healthy boundaries with employers, employees, and partners are also valuable. They help differentiate roles, define responsibilities, and set standards for your workplace.

Good boundaries are an important part of a healthy work-life balance. Without clear work boundaries, it may be easy for a clinician to:

Cover for an associate even when they are too busy for it
Take on more clients than they can realistically manage
Perform tasks that could be delegated to others
Miss out on personal or family obligations
Become too emotionally involved in coworkers’ lives

Too many demands with too few boundaries can create provider burnout. This has serious consequences that can ripple through your work and personal life.

What are good work boundaries?

Boundaries essentially define where you end and others begin. They can vary for different people and environments.

Some examples of boundaries at work include:

Strictly defining what tasks or results you are responsible for in your practice
Deciding how many projects or clients you can reasonably take on, and sticking to that limit
Creating standards for workplace behavior and employee relationships, such as physical contact or time spent together outside of the office
Defining what you and your coworkers owe to each other, such as keeping each other up-to-date on schedules or covering sick days
Setting standards for how you will manage after-hours work and communications

Your individual boundaries will depend on your personal needs and the type of work you do. Life is always changing, and that means that our boundaries may have to change, as well.

How do you start setting boundaries?

If you feel frustrated, exhausted, resentful, or guilty at work, that could indicate boundary violations. However, you may not be sure how to define those boundaries, or when they have been crossed.

Start with some self-reflection when you feel stressed, anxious, guilty, or resentful. Consider which people or situations may be involved in those feelings, and why. This can indicate where you need to make changes.

For example, if you feel resentful because you often cover for a partner who misses too much work, you may need to get better at saying no. If you’re exhausted because you are the only therapist at a practice, you may want to hire a partner or an assistant. If you feel guilty for not spending enough time with your family, consider setting rules for after-hours work.

It’s okay to ask for help with creating and managing boundaries. Discuss the issue with a manager or trusted coworker, or even your own therapist. They may have valuable input to help you create and protect boundaries.

If you struggle with boundaries and burnout, you’re not alone. Many behavioral health clinicians struggle to minimize frustrations at work while serving their clients and meeting their own personal needs.

At BestNotes, we believe that the right tools can help manage work-life balance without sacrificing professional standards. BestNotes EHR solutions were designed so you can run an efficient practice with better client results, higher revenue, and lower stress. Contact us today to take the next step in making your career even more satisfying!

date:  Sep 29, 2021
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