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AAGP highlights include Annual Meeting and Journal
By Susan K. Schultz, MD, AAGP president
On the heels of the terrific “Empower Aging” Annual Meeting, I’d like to thank the staff and membership for all the inspiring and thought-provoking sessions in Orlando. The range of topics nicely reflected the breadth of scientific and clinical expertise that makes our field such a unique specialty. It was wonderful to hear the enthusiastic comments among attendees who plan to join us in New Orleans!

The chance to get together at the Annual Meeting with our peers and recharge our enthusiasm for the field is the highlight of membership for most of us! I am hopeful that each of you will take to heart how important it is for the AAGP to reach out and engage more of our colleagues in our mission and our meeting.

In addition to the Annual Meeting, the other terrific benefit to our members is the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. We have reaped the rewards of Dilip Jeste’s leadership enormously over the past 14 years, which has elevated the journal to a premier status and provided an exemplary outlet to publish our science. Dilip will finish his successful tenure at the end of 2015, and we are in the process of identifying our next Editor-in-Chief to take over this role.

To read the rest of the President's Column, click here.
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AAGP CEO Chris deVries retires after 15 years of accomplishments
AAGP
After nearly 15 years with the association and many accomplishments, AAGP’s Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice-President Chris deVries retired from AAGP on Friday, April 4. During her tenure, Ms. deVries established a strong government affairs program that helped push through congressional funding of the 2012 IOM geriatric mental health workforce report and built up the AAGP Political Action Committee. She enhanced AAGP’s communications efforts through the monthly publication of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the creation of various association websites, and entry into the social media arena. Through her work, AAGP’s Annual Meeting has grown and attracted a broader audience. Ms. deVries’ efforts with the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation have created a public face of late-life mental health care for consumers and their families and a means to help build the pipeline of future professionals in the field.

With Ms. deVries at the helm, AAGP has become the go-to organization on matters of geriatric mental health and a multi-disciplinary organization meeting the needs of a diverse group of professionals. The association thanks Ms. deVries for her leadership and dedication.

Marjorie Vanderbilt, AAGP’s Deputy Executive Director, is currently serving as the acting CEO.

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Congratulations to AAGP's 2014 Award Winners!
AAGP
AAGP’s 2014 award winners were announced March 14 during the Opening Plenary and Awards Session in Orlando, Fla., during the AAGP 2014 Annual Meeting.

Allan A. Anderson, MD
AAGP’s 2014 Clinician of the Year

Daniel D. Sewell, MD
AAGP’s 2014 Educator of the Year

Kristine Yaffe, MD
AAGP’s 2014 Distinguished Scientist

Briana Mezuk, PhD
AAGP’s 2014 Barry Lebowitz Early Career Scientist Awardee

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House and Senate approve 'patch' for Medicare payments
On March 27, the House of Representatives approved a bill to avert a 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians that had been scheduled to take effect on April 1. The Senate then passed that measure on March 31, sending the bill to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The so-called “doc fix” is the 17th time in recent years that Congress has approved a temporary patch in order to avoid a sharp reduction in Medicare payments for physicians. In 1997, Congress created the sustainable growth rate, a system that pegs the amount of money budgeted for Medicare payments to the economy’s projected growth. Within a few years, however, health care costs far outpaced economic growth, creating a multibillion dollar shortfall in funding for Medicare payments. Since 2003, Congress has approved “doc fix” bills that appropriate more money to Medicare funding to avoid cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors.

Many members of the House and Senate criticized the bill, insisting that Congress should have voted on a permanent repeal of the SGR and a reform of the payment system. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “This is a Band-Aid. There are so many things that are wrong with this bill, but the simple fact is that the clock is ticking, and on March 31 it’s bad news for our seniors and the doctors that treat them.” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said that it was “cowardly” to pass a patch instead of a long-term solution to the problem.

AAGP has been working closely with the American Medical Association and other organizations to achieve a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to repeal the SGR and will continue to do so. The passage of yet another temporary patch to the ongoing SGR problem perpetuates an atmosphere of uncertainty for physicians and their patients. It is critical that Congress continue the work that started last year to achieve permanent Medicare physician payment reform.

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'Doc fix' bill also delays ICD-10 for at least a year
The bill approved by the House of Representatives and Senate to avert a 24 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements for physicians also included a delay in the implementation date of the nationwide conversion to the ICD-10 diagnostic and procedural codes for at least a year.

The ICD-10 conversion was scheduled to occur on Oct. 1, 2014. However, a single sentence in the legislation states, “The Secretary of Health and Human Services may not, prior to Oct. 1, 2015, adopt ICD-10 code sets as the standard for code sets” and finishes by citing sections in the Social Security Act and the Code of Federal Regulations where the secretary’s authority to mandate ICD-10 are located. This action was greeted with relief by some who were worried that the industry could not be ready by October of this year and with frustration by others upset that those who have invested money in meeting this year’s deadline must now wait for at least another year for others to catch up.

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FEATURED ARTICLE
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AAGP 2015 Annual Meeting abstracts website to open April 15
AAGP
AAGP’s 2015 Annual Meeting will take place in New Orleans, at the New Orleans Marriott, March 27-30. Planning is already underway. Submit your session and poster proposals beginning April 15.

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Blood test predicts Alzheimer's disease
CNN
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have developed a blood test for Alzheimer's disease that predicts with astonishing accuracy whether a healthy person will develop the disease.

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Explore the AJGP and review the most read and most cited articles
AAGP
The online American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry at www.AJGPonline.org has a number of helpful features including the “most read” and “most cited” tabs. Did you see these articles?

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Lawmakers and advocates prompt CMS to reverse decision on Medicare proposal
AAGP joined advocacy groups and consumer organizations in applauding the March 10 decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reverse its plans to eliminate mental health medications from its protected classes. It was feared that the proposed CMS regulations would cause Medicare beneficiaries with a serious mental illness to have limited access to appropriate medications and impede access to affordable health plans.

CMS had issued a proposed rule on January 6, for contract year 2015, that called for the removal of antidepressants and immunosuppressant medications from the protected status they received under Medicare Part D. The proposal also called for the removal of antipsychotics from that protected status in 2016. The classes of drugs have had a protected status since the Medicare prescription drug benefit program was launched in 2006. The deadline for the comment period on the CMS proposed regulations was March 7, and CMS withdrew the proposal just one business day after that deadline.

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Bill addresses psychiatric workforce shortage at VHA
On March 13, legislation to recruit psychiatrists for employment within the Veterans Health Administration and offer loan repayments was introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD, R-Ind., and David Scott, D-Ga., and three cosponsors to address the mental health care needs of veterans.

H.R. 4234, entitled the Ensuring Veterans’ Resiliency Act, would establish a demonstration project to recruit psychiatrists for full-time employment by the VHA by offering medical loan repayments commensurate with other public and private entitles.

In a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General, Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care, released on April 23, 2012, hiring and retaining psychiatrists at the VHA was identified as a key barrier to providing needed mental health services to veterans. In recent Congressional testimony by current and former psychiatric physicians in the VHA, low pay, inadequate training and long hiring processes were identified as barriers to developing and maintaining a robust psychiatric workforce at the VHA. Current policy makes it extremely difficult for the VHA to compete with other public and private entities in offering employment incentives such as medical school loan repayments.

The Ensuring Veterans’ Resiliency Act would:
  • Establish a three-year demonstration program under the VA modeled on the Department of Defense (DOD) Health Professions Loan Repayment Program, which offers physicians up to $60,000 in medical school loan repayment for each year of services;
  • Authorize the VA to recruit at least ten psychiatrists into the loan repayment program each year. The VA would hire these physicians permanently to fill full-time vacant positions;
  • Require the program participants to demonstrate a long-term commitment to the VA;
  • Require a report to Congress on the program’s impact on psychiatric vacancies and recruitment; and
  • Authorize a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on pay disparities among psychiatrists at the VA.
H.R. 4234 has been referred to the Subcommittee on Health of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

AAGP strongly supports legislative efforts to help ensure that our nation’s veterans, who often face significant mental health challenges, have access to quality mental health care.

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AAGP 2015 Annual Meeting abstracts website to open April 15
AAGP
AAGP’s 2015 Annual Meeting will take place in New Orleans, at the New Orleans Marriott, March 27-30. Planning is already underway, and the meeting theme is “Interprofessional Practice: Working Together to Meet the Mental Health Needs of Older Adults.” Submit your session and poster proposals beginning April 15 at www.AAGPmeeting.org. Session proposals are due June 15. New research posters are due Oct. 1 and posters from early investigators are due Oct. 15.
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Are you on the list?
AAGP
Question: What’s it take to get on an AAGP committee?
Answer: An email address.


The majority of AAGP’s committees, caucuses and interest groups are open to any members wishing to join. Sign up for these groups by joining their listservs at www.aagponline.org/lists. Learn about the association and become active in the core committees (Clinical Practice, Research, and Teaching and Training), or the other groups such as the Advanced Practice Nurses Caucus, the Members-in-Training Caucus, the Public Policy Caucus, the VA Caucus, the Women’s Interest Group, and more.

If you are interested in participating on one of the administrative committees (Annual Meeting Program Committee, Continuing Medical Education Committee, or the Nominations Committee), please use the Join form on the AAGP website.

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IN THE NEWS


Caffeine against Alzheimer's disease
redOrbit
As part of a German-French research project, a team led by Dr. Christa E. Müller from the University of Bonn and Dr. David Blum from the University of Lille was able to demonstrate for the first time that caffeine has a positive effect on tau deposits in Alzheimer’s disease.
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Mentally demanding jobs help offset dementia after retirement
Liberty Voice
Good news was delivered recently as the recent Health and Retirement Study, from the National Institute of Aging and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, concluded that individuals with mentally demanding jobs have a better chance of maintaining higher cognitive function and offsetting dementia after they retire.
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Medical food could help treat Alzheimer's disease
KMOX-TV
Saint Louis University researchers are studying a medical food to help treat Alzheimer’s Disease. Lead researcher Dr. George Grossberg says the medical food is a natural substance taken like a milkshake each day in the morning.
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