February 28, 2012

Dr. Jonathan Metzl and The Structural Competency Conference

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a psychiatrist from the University of Vanderbilt, whose research focuses on the intersection of race, gender, and mental illness. As portrayed in his fascinating book, The Protest Psychosis, Dr. Metzl argues that historical and structural forces transformed schizophrenia from a disease that was diagnosed among white, docile females in the 1940s and 1950s, to a disease that was diagnosed among angry African American men participating in the Black Power Movement and other associated groups in the 1960s and 1970s. While the lecture was not filmed at UCLA, a similar video can be found HERE.

At the end of his lecture, Dr. Metzl described one of his new initiatives, which focuses on why teaching cultural competency to mental health professionals and psychiatrists is insufficient. Rather than focus only on sociocultural factors of patients and doctors, structural competency aims to recognize the invisible structural inequalities that shape the definition of a diagnosis.  In other words, Dr. Metzl stated it's not enough to acknowledge the race and gender of the patient and the doctor, but the racial factors of the diagnosis have to be accounted for as well.

For those interested in learning more about structural competency, Dr. Metzl is hosting a FREE day-long conference in New York City on March 23, 2012. All the details can be found here.

February 16, 2012

Camp Max Straus: A Secular Camp for Low-Income Children

One of the things I love most about working in Community Mental Health is the wealth of information exchanged between clinicians and other staff at the agency. Even though I've lived in Los Angeles for the past 26 years (with a brief hiatus in 2003-2007 to attend college in the midwest), I am learning that there are countless agencies, programs, resources, etc. that I knew nothing about. 

During our staff meeting this past Wednesday, one of my colleagues handed me an application to Camp Max Straus, a summer camp for low-income children run by the Jewish Big Brothers and Sisters Foundation of Los Angeles. There are seven 5-6 day sessions throughout the summer, running from June 24th through August 9th. The list of camp activities is pretty standard, including archery, dance, horseback riding, hikes, arts and crafts, etc. Camp Max Straus offers families a unique value-add, by sending children and their families home with a post-camp report summary of the child's experience over the summer. Through the report, children's parents gain insight into how well their child adjusted to the camp experience, interacted with other children and counselors, and their behavior over the session.

With regards to cost, camp tuition runs $200 for the 5-day session, and $250 for the 6-day session. However, the camp does operate on a sliding scale, so several families who cannot afford the tuition can often go for much less. To request an application for a child from Max Straus, you can call (323) 456-1152 or email Alba@campmaxstraus.org.

Lastly, the camp also offers employment opportunities. Given our training, I think this is a great opportunity for social work students to put their clinical skills to use (and of course, a chance to earn some cash).

February 9, 2012

A Free Resource: A Provider's Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for LGBT Individuals

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation from Mike Rizzo, a certified substance abuse counselor from the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. He spoke primarily about crystal meth addiction, treatment strategies for addicts, and how both play into the lives of individuals within the LGBT population.

At the end of his presentation, he handed us a great free resource available through The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) called A Provider's Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbia, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals. This is truly a great resource for any clinician who would like to learn more about the intersection between homosexuality and substance usage.

For a free download of the provider's resource, click HERE.