Articles: Settlement sought in Hoffman Report suit &
Psychologists can play big role in stemming opioid crisis {Below} 

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Settlement sought in Hoffman Report suit

By James Bradshaw,

Senior Editor
February 4, 2020

American Psychological Association (APA) officials are “hopeful” a lawsuit sparked by the Hoffman Report can be settled soon but declined further comment.

“Because the case is still in litigation, it would not be appropriate for us to comment at this time,” Kim Mills, APA’s interim senior communications advisor, told The National Psychologist in December. “We remain hopeful that the case will be resolved soon.”

The Report, prepared by Chicago lawyer David Hoffman and his firm, Sidney Austin LLP, was commissioned by the APA in 2014 to combat reports that the association had supported unethical conduct by military psychologists in the torture/interrogation of terrorists held at detention centers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Initially, APA officials billed Hoffman’s hiring as seeking an independent, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may investigation.

But when the Report was released in 2015, it read like an indictment, focusing on the APA’s adoption of the 2005 PENS Report (Psychological Ethics and National Security) that allowed psychologists to continue working at the centers after the American Psychiatric Association banned its psychiatrist members from such work.

Military psychologists defended working at the centers on grounds they could monitor interrogations and police abusive and torturous methods. Those arguments were ignored in the Hoffman Report and any exculpatory information obtained in interviews was omitted from the finished product.

Two psychologists – James Mitchell, Ph.D., and John “Bruce” Jessen, Ph.D. – did contract with the CIA under President George W. Bush’s administration to develop “enhanced” interrogation techniques later equated with torture, but they were not members of APA and therefore not subject to its ethics standards.

As a result, the condemnation of the Report fell on APA members military

psychologists who were not part of developing torture tactics but served in

capacities related to detention centers – Larry James, Ph.D., of Ohio; L.

Morgan Banks III, Ph.D., of North Carolina, and Debra Dunivin, Ph.D., of

Washington, D.C.

The Report also drew into question the actions of the APA’s then ethics director, Stephen Behnke, Ph.D., and Russell Newman, Ph.D., J.D.

Newman was APA’s executive director for practice during the consideration and adoption of the PENS Report. He is married to Dunivin, who at the time worked for the Department of Defense.
In the wake of the report, Behnke was fired, two other staffers were forced to resign and a fourth was pressured into early retirement.

Despite complaints that the Report was one-sided, APA officials appeared to revel in the opportunity to clear the public perception of condoning torture and celebrated resetting its “moral compass” at the 2015 annual convention in Toronto.

A number of lawsuits were threatened, but the principle action came from James, Banks and Dunivin, the three military psychologists named in the Report, and Behnke and Newman.

The action was initially filed in early 2017 as a defamation suit against APA and Hoffman’s law firm in Montgomery County, Ohio, the home of Wright State University where James became director of the Psychology Department after retiring from the Army as a colonel.

A judge there dismissed the case, saying it was not within the court’s jurisdiction, and it was refiled in August of 2017 in the Superior Court of Washington, D.C. The APA is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Whether the case is settled out of court or goes to trial, it is certain to increase APA’s expenses connected with the Hoffman Report, already estimated as approaching $8 million.

The law firm almost got a second commission as a result of complaints that the report was biased against military psychologists.

Despite member objections, APA officials approved hiring Hoffman’s firm to investigate the fairness of its own work. That contract was never fulfilled and the offer was withdrawn in view of pending litigation

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Psychologists can play big role in stemming opioid crisis

By Kathy Lynn Gray, Associate Editor
February 4, 2020 

Every day in the United States, an average of 150 people will die of opioid overdoses.

That’s the sobering truth about a crisis that has gripped the country for more than a decade, according to the Centers for 

Every day in the United States, an average of 150 people will die of opioid overdoses.

That’s the sobering truth about a crisis that has gripped the country for more than a decade, according to the Centers for

But Kevin Moore, Psy.D., wants his fellow psychologists to know that they can help change that dismal number.

“There’s a huge amount of good that psychologists can do for this epidemic,” said Moore, a clinical psychologist and director of care coordination for Accessible Recovery Centers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As well as seeing patients, Moore supervises and trains other providers and writes policies for the centers.

Perhaps his greatest passion, however, is teaching other psychologists through seminars and a book he’s published on how they can help patients who are opioid users.

The first step, Moore said, is obvious but sometimes difficult: learning if a patient is using opioids.

“Clinical psychologists in private practice likely are already seeing people with opioid addiction, although they typically don’t know it,” he said. To find out, he suggests asking every patient a series of questions as part of an initial screening process: Do you use alcohol? Cigarettes? Opioids? If so, how often?

For patients who take opioids, a psychologist then should have a conversation about why they’re used, how much has been prescribed and how long they’ve been used. Then psychologists have a choice: Refer the patient to a psychologist with special training in helping opioid patients or get training in that area, he said. He recommends training because the addiction is so common.

“It’s normative for people to be given opioids,” Moore said. “Millions of people still are being prescribed opioids for chronic pain, and psychologists who are seeing these folks may not realize that.”

Jennifer Read, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Buffalo, said she encourages her students to ask every patient about substance abuse, including opioid use, and ask if he or she has chronic pain.

“Some people may perceive they are using opioids for pain and not be aware it’s a problem,” she said.

To illuminate the issue, Read and psychologist Brian Borsari, Ph.D., a psychiatry

professor at the University of California San Francisco, co-edited a special issue of

the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology that focused specifically on the

opioid crisis. The issue, published online Sept. 25, 2019, featured research articles

on clinical psychology as it relates to opioid treatment.

“We wanted the science of this to be strong, but wanted it to focus on clinical implications,” Read said. “It’s really clear that there are ways of managing pain that clinical psychologists can help with. There is a scarcity of treatment providers around the country, and one of the things the papers focused on was telehealth: How do we reach parts of the country that do not have easy access to treatment?”

Moore said the gold standard of treatment for those addicted to opioids is medically assisted treatment (MAT), which includes medication that reduces the urge to use as well as counseling.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, patients who received MAT cut their risk of death in half. Moore said research has shown that 90 percent of people with an opioid addiction will relapse without medication as part of their treatment, while those who have medication plus therapy have success about 50 percent of the time.

“Psychologists have to play a role in this,” he said. “We have standing in the community to say that this works and if we stand behind this we can save a lot of lives.”

Federal funding also is on the way to help psychologists deal with the opioid crisis.

Last fall, the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded more than $17 million to universities and nonprofits to train doctoral health psychology students, interns and post-doctoral residents in the prevention and treatment of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and other substance abuse disorders in high-need and high-demand communities.

The University of Missouri is using that grant and other federal money to add seven doctoral internships in psychology each year for three years and to help telehealth clinics reach patients who are suffering from substance abuse or are at risk for substance abuse.

Idaho State University plans to use its federal grants to train doctoral psychology students how to prevent and treat opioid use and to develop an infrastructure for telehealth and integrated behavioral health programs to treat patients addicted to opioids.

Note: The special issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology dealing with the opioid crisis is available at APA PsycNET. The American Psychological Association also has online The Opioid Guide: A Resource Guide for Practicing Psychologists. Both are available at APA.org.

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