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24 Sep

San Francisco Chronicle wine critic Esther Mobley was named feature wine writer of the year Thursday in the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards, a prestigious international competition.

Mobley was recognized for her body of work in 2018, which included “Battle for Napa Valley’s future,” an insightful look at the 50th anniversary of the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve and the controversial 2018 ballot measure, Measure C, that sought to limit new vineyard plantings.

In reporting the story, Mobley found Napa Valley bitterly divided over the measure. She went on to detail in the article how “Measure C, and the oak trees it aims to protect, epitomize a battle over what Napa Valley has become and what it should be.”

“The great wine country of California has met its match in Esther Mobley, who has in a few short years become not only the go-to expert on the region’s industry and its world-renowned wines. She’s also the chronicler of a way of life, found in the stories of the winemakers, and the histories of the vineyards and their future under climate change,” said Kitty Morgan, deputy managing editor of The Chronicle. “It’s her amazing range — whether she takes up pop culture trends or the serious business of cult wines — that sets her apart.”

The Roederer awards — named after famed French wine producer Louis Roederer — is arguably the most prestigious writing award for wine journalists outside of an award from the James Beard Foundation.

“This award doesn’t just recognize my individual work — it also reflects The Chronicle’s amazing, ongoing commitment to wine coverage,” Mobley said. “I’m lucky to be the only wine critic at a daily newspaper on the West Coast, and we’re uniquely positioned to tell the story of California wine.”

Mobley joined The Chronicle in 2015 to cover the state’s wine, beer and spirits. She previously was an assistant editor at Wine Spectator magazine in New York.

Justin Phillips is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @JustMrPhillips

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13 Sep

The Greater Augusta Healthcare Network focused its annual meeting Thursday on mental health issues and the need for more patient access and greater reimbursement from Medicare.

Most of those in Georgia and nationwide who have mental health needs are not getting care, and that problem could get worse in Augusta for those covered by Medicare, providers said Thursday.

At the Community Health Fall Forum of the Greater Augusta Healthcare Network, the focus was on mental health. The group, which includes many of the largest community clinics, has been trying to meet the needs of the underserved since 2007, and the work of those clinics is having an impact, according to data presented by Augusta University’s College of Nursing.

The number of patients served by those GAHN community clinics grew from 3,755 in 2007 to 26,619 in 2018, and clinic visits grew from 13,613 to 86,985. That has helped reduce the number of patients seen in the emergency departments at AU Medical Center and University Hospital for primary care-related problems from 18,611 to 11,945, an 8.8% reduction, even as the total number of visits in those departments increased from 82,688 to 91,867, according to GAHN data.

But there is still a largely unmet need in mental health treatment. Nationally, 57% of people with behavioral health issues don’t have access to treatment, and it is worse in Georgia at 61.3%, said Zachary Cooper, behavioral health manager for Christ Community Health Services. Among those with substance abuse problems, 92.2% do not have access to treatment in Georgia, he said.

“The vast majority of people are not receiving care,” Cooper said.

About 45% of people who committed suicide had contact with a primary care provider in the month before, he said.

Christ Community and Augusta’s other federally qualified health center, Medical Associates Plus, are both working different models to integrate behavioral health into their primary care settings. Christ Community’s physicians screen all patients for potential problems such as depression and substance abuse. If a problem arises, behavioral health specialists can be called in to do quick interventions such as therapy or medication consults, Cooper said. An analysis of 36 studies on that kind of primary care behavioral health showed it increased access and follow-up and improved quality of life for those patients, he said.

Medical Associates has a full-time psychiatrist in Dr. Porscha Campbell, who can consult with other providers who have screened patients for problems but can also see patients directly in a number of categories. That can range from general outpatients with severe mental illness to perinatal patients, women who are pregnant or who have given birth and are experiencing issues, she said. The clinic strives not to separate mental health from other medical problems, Campbell said.

“We really take pride in looking at the patient as a whole person,” she said.

The problem is with the area’s largest mental health safety net provider, Serenity Behavioral Health Systems, and specifically with Medicare, said Serenity CEO Charles Williamson. Medicare is paying Serenity about 10% of the cost of the care it is currently providing to almost 2,000 patients, and the system is being forced to look at refusing to take new Medicare patients, he said.

“I hate that we have to do this, but the amount of money we’re losing is exorbitant,” Williamson said.

The problem is in who Medicare recognizes as a certified provider, said Stephen Martell, Serenity’s clinical director. Medicare will not recognize most of the counselors at Serenity, will not cover services such as group therapy or pay for the intake necessary to get patients into the system and will not recognize Serenity as a substance abuse provider, he said.

The center is also hampered by odd rules governing telepsychiatry, which Serenity uses to try to cover the gaps created by a shortage of psychiatrists, Martell said. Medicare allows telepsychiatry only if it is provided in a rural area. Richmond and Columbia counties and even McDuffie County are not considered rural by Medicare. 

“It’s a very serious concern and it’s impairing our ability” to provide care, Williamson said. “Laws need to be changed.”

But Serenity is still going to care for those patients who need the help, he said.

“We will not abandon anybody,’ Martell said.

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12 Sep

By Angelyn Ramos

A report from the Center of Disease Controlin 2017 found that the second leading cause of death in American adolescents (ages 15-19) was suicide. According to another study put out by the CDC, Utah has had a 46.5% increase in suicides since 1999, which makes Utah the fifth most suicidal state in the nation. Even more alarming is the rate of teen suicide in Utah. In 2018, within one high school, seven students had died by suicide. In 2016, it was declared that the leading cause of death among children between the ages of 11-17 was suicide. These numbers pale in comparison to international statistics regarding mental health and suicide. This fact, however, brings to attention an even more alarming statistic: the majority of international suicides are in fact never documented as most are ruled as “accidental deaths,” which may be due, in part, to cultural stigmas and attitudes regarding mental health.

Dr. Alexander Au, a mental health advocate, member of the Global Mental Health Initiative and CEO of MoodPal, noticed and experienced this problem first hand. Au took the lack of true mental health data very seriously, and in 2016 he set out to change the status quo. Originally partnered with Bench-To-Bedside, a University of Utah program that allows students to create, develop and fund their own medical innovations, Au collaborated with two other students — Mark Van der Merwe and Tarun Sunkaraneni —to launch MoodPal. MoodPal is a multifaceted and comprehensive physician and patient app that combines the features of “mood trending, social connection, personalized media, and daily check-ins” to improve emotional intelligence and provide visual data regarding an individual’s mental health progress. 

Often when a patient visits a medical professional with issues regarding mental health, they are given a prescription and told to return within four to six weeks to discuss any progress (or lack thereof). MoodPal allows a patient and their physician to access the app and its data in real-time, allowing collaborative efforts regarding treatment plans for an individual’s mental health. MoodPal includes a feature on the patient’s end where they can check-in daily to track their mood and any reflections they may have. Over time, this data will begin to create charts that track their mental status which gives patients the opportunity to visually see their progress. From the physician’s end, they will be notified when one of their patients has completed their daily entry, and they then have the opportunity to respond to that entry. Additionally, there is a feature that allows the physician to remind their patient to complete their daily check-in if it hasn’t yet been completed in the day. These are just some of the unique and specifically curated features on the MoodPal app. 

I am hoping to have everything in phase two (launching use in a clinic) by the end of this year … The program will be launched in beta mode,” Au said. “The importance of introducing a tool into any system is being able to work on improvements. I want to make this app easily integrated and become an effortless part of a clinic’s protocol. I do not expect us to be doing too much testing, because most of our work is focused on the initial planning stages with the clinics. Involving them in the creation of the functionalities of the app makes it so we can all see the same vision and aim for the same goals.”

Au has high hopes for the launch of MoodPal. I hope this will provide access to mental health providers and resources for patients who need it. I hope the launch will show people that mental health is important and that healthcare providers are dedicated to taking care of our communities both physically and mentally,” he said. “I also hope that the initiative gains interest and support from foundations, academic centers, world organizations, and leaders to expand our work.” 

Au has been invited by the U.N. to speak in New York on Oct. 10, World Mental Health day, about MoodPal and the continuation of his work. Au will be “continuing strengthening relationships with organizations like the U.N. and WHO to continue working towards helping citizens of the world.”


[email protected]


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22 Aug

A College Applicant Writes About Mental-Health Challenges. Should Admissions Red-Flag That File?  The Chronicle of Higher Education

Critics say marking those applications for further review is discriminatory. But many in admissions say it is a common-sense way to keep campuses as safe as …

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11 Aug

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s back-to-school column Aug. 6 (“Back to school, not the status quo”)) emphasized mental health and school safety strongly, more even than his headline-making intention to “eliminate the remnants” of the failed Common Core standards. Given the awful mass shootings perpetrated by young males, it is understandable that political leaders wish to assure communities that school safety will be a high priority.

There are pitfalls, nevertheless, in essentially turning K-12 schools into mental institutions. Virginia and New York are inserting mental health courses into their required curricula. The federal government and huge foundations are plugging for so-called social-emotional learning – having to do with students’ attitudes and feelings – to have parity with academics. Gov. Kemp may not be going that far, but he does write approvingly of schools focusing relentlessly on “behavioral health.”

Many parents and students may feel more secure in schools that follow a path of classic learning and character education. The governor briefly noted that parents “need more input and choice.” Indeed. Families ought to be able to use a voucher, tax-credit scholarship, or state-assisted savings account to choose a solid academic school for their children as opposed to an assigned one from the rapidly proliferating therapeutic model.

Robert Holland

Arlington Heights, Ill.


(The writer is senior fellow for education policy at the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian public-policy think tank.)

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