HCN News & Notes

Austin Riggs Center Slates Fall Conference

STOCKBRIDGE — The Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center announced its annual fall conference for clinicians and scholars: Mental Health Parity, Ethics, and the Law: What clinicians, patients, and advocates should know. The day-long conference will be held on Sept. 23 at the Austen Riggs Center, and will focus on understanding the interplay between the politics of mental health care and the law.

This activity is approved for up to 6.0 hours of AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™, risk management study.

According to Dr. Eric M. Plakun, the conference director and associate medical director at Austen Riggs, “the conference goal is to educate clinicians, patients, and care advocates about the current state of the national health insurance landscape, with a focus on parity law implementation. We will also offer a tool kit to maximize the likelihood of gaining insurance support for medically necessary psychotherapy and other psychosocial treatments.”

Despite the fact that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 was signed into law, there are still many obstacles to obtaining access to care. Given this situation, Plakun organized this conference to allow clinicians, patient advocates, and scholars to engage, explore, and come together around the most recent developments in this critical area of healthcare.

The conference will feature presentations by top clinicians and those with legal or political experience relevant to ethics and mental health parity:


  • Ted Kennedy, Jr., JD, will speak about the then current state of the ACA, the parity law, and other health insurance related legislation;
  • Meiram Bendat, JD, Ph.D., an attorney/clinician behind several class action lawsuits concerning parity implementation and restrictive managed care standards, will speak about the use of litigation to implement mental health parity;
  • Eric Plakun, MD, will review recent clarifications of medical and psychiatric ethics that raise questions about the ethics of utilization review standards that do not comply with the parity law, while also offering a “tool kit” to maximize the chances of winning mental health managed care appeals when indicated care is denied;
  • Laura Dunn, MD, from Stanford, will offer a perspective on the parity law, suggesting that “all ethics are local.”

In addition, the 2017 Austen Riggs Center Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media will be presented to the Boston Globe Spotlight Team in conjunction with the conference for their story The San Antonio Way: How one Texas city took on mental health as a community – and became a national model, part of the series, “The Desperate and the Dead.”

Continuing education credits (6.0) are offered to MDs, PhDs, PsyDs, and social workers. Nursing Contact Hours (6.0) are offered to nurses.

To register: visit www.austenriggs.org/2017FallConference or call Erikson Institute Education Coordinator Samantha Blache at (413) 931-5230. The $175 registration fee includes breakfast and lunch; registrations made by Sept. 1 receive a $25 discount.

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