"Best and Worst News for Prevention” is based on a purposive sample consisting of expert staff members who each week choose to share their opinions on the best and worst news for prevention.
N.J. National Guard could serve as a national model for mental health care
During a visit to Trenton in August, the nation's top military officer turned to his hosts in the New Jersey Army National Guard, noting the group's success in monitoring and treating the mental well-being of the state's citizen-soldiers. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then asked for more information. It wasn't an idle inquiry. At a time when suicides in the military have soared to record levels, New Jersey is one of just six states in which no Guard members have taken their own lives since 2002. While the Department of Defense mandates some mental health programs, New Jersey has gone further, marshaling state resources and assembling a network of private practitioners to treat distressed Guard members or their family members. The state's primary tool is a 24-hour helpline that's both confidential and independent of the military. Operated by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and funded by the state, the helpline is staffed by veterans and therapists. They counsel soldiers and their relatives, make referrals for treatment and, in the most critical cases, summon help. They also make callers aware of resources available to them, including Department of Veterans Affairs programs, family assistance centers and individuals who can help process claims with the VA.
The number of prescriptions for controlled medications such as opioids and stimulants has nearly doubled in adolescents and young adults since 1994. The trend, reported in the December issue of Pediatrics, mirrors a similar increase in misuse of these drugs, with adolescents and young adults' illicit use of prescription drugs now outstripping all other illicit drug use except marijuana. The researchers couldn't attribute the increased misuse directly to more prescriptions, but did urge both physicians and patients to be vigilant when considering the use of drugs such as Oxycontin or Ritalin.
The New Jersey Guard has deployed more than 11,000 soldiers since 2002, with the biggest mobilization -- just over 2,800 soldiers -- spanning 2008 and 2009. Shortly after that contingent returned, calls to the helpline jumped 20 percent, said Cherie Castellano, the line's director. More recently, she said, therapists fielded two consecutive calls from suicidal veterans.
Prescriptions for Stimulants, Painkillers Soaring Among Youth
The “Best/Worst” awards are announced each week in “Prevention Matters,” the blog of Partnership for Prevention. "Best/Worst News for Prevention” polls are snapshots taken during a brief period of time that reflect the views of Partnership for Prevention staff. The polls are not designed or intended to reflect a statistically valid representation of the population and should not be used as such. More information is available at http://www.prevent.org.