Thursday, November 12, 2015
Doctor's Perspective
Brain health as a disorder

By Dr. Anthony Policastro For years health insurance companies have separated medical care and mental health care reimbursement. Their logic was that in one case there were abnormal medical findings in the body. In the other, people with mental illness had no abnormal medical findings. That may all change in the future. As we get more sophisticated in our diagnostic procedures we are finding more evidence suggesting a medical issue is at fault when discussing mental health problems. There are several examples. One example is related to our discoveries from the Human Genome Project. We are finding more and more genes that are common in patients with various types of mental illness. Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder are two examples. Both are found frequently in families. We now know that there are certain genes that carry the tendency to develop these disorders. Another example is related to some of the more sophisticated brain imaging studies. There is a type of MRI called a functional MRI (fMRI). The basic MRI shows the structure of the brain. The fMRI shows the performance of the brain. We are now learning that the brain performs differently on these studies in patients with mental health issues. A third example is related to chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. We know that two of these (dopamine and norepinephrine) are abnormally low in individuals with ADHD. We know that serotonin levels are affected in depression. At some point in time we will start to look at these disorders as brain abnormalities not mental health issues. We have identified many genetic disorders. Down's Syndrome is a good example. They are treated as medical problems. We have found many abnormalities in scanning techniques. For example, CT scans can identify lung cancers at an earlier stage than chest x-rays. We have found many disorders related to chemicals in our body. Diabetes is the best example. The day will come when we will have to include brain health as a medical disorder. The term mental health will be outdated. The one thing we can bet on is that the medical insurance companies will try to push that date as far back as possible. The longer they wait to start paying for the treatment of brain illnesses the same as they do for illnesses in other organs of the body, the more money they will have for profits and their shareholders. Ultimately, it will take the individuals in this country banding together to demand that brain health deserves the same level of treatment as all the other organs in the body. Until that occurs we will continue to have individuals with mental health issues who can not afford treatment. Perhaps every time one of them becomes a mass murderer, the finger needs to be pointed first at their medical insurance company.

Better Breathers Club Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a Better Breathers Club on the third Monday of each month from 2-3 p.m. This free support group is open to anyone affected by a chronic lung disease including relatives and caregivers. This month's meeting will be held on Monday, Nov. 16, in the Medical Staff Conference Room. The Better Breathers Club offers a venue for participants to learn from featured speakers and educational materials, socialize with others affected by a chronic lung disease, and practice skills that will help them better manage their condition and improve their quality of life. Refreshments will be provided and registration is required. For more information and to register, call 629-6611, ext. 1010.

Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Join Nanticoke Health Services and local community members at the inaugural Shine a Light on Lung Cancer event at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Nanticoke Cancer Care Center. Shine a Light, sponsored by the Lung Cancer Alliance, promotes awareness for lung cancer and provides hope, inspiration and support for all of those touched by lung cancer. Founded by a lung cancer survivor and caregiver, it is the largest coordinated awareness event for lung cancer in the United States. The lighting of the flashlights to honor survivors and loved ones is a highlight of the evening. Guest speakers include Isabel Benson, AOCNP, nurse practitioner, Cancer Care Center, and lung cancer survivor Betty Lewis. Light refreshments will be provided. This event is free and open to the public. RSVP is preferred, but not required. To learn more, visit To RSVP, contact Rachel Ostroski, marketing coordinator, at or 536-5386.

Lymphedema support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a Lymphedema support group on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 1:30-3 p.m., at the Seaford Library and Cultural Center. The topic is dietary. This free support group is open to anyone affected by lymphedema including patients, caregivers, and relatives. Meetings consist of a lecture by health care professionals and medical equipment providers followed by refreshments and an open question and answer session or discussion among participants. Registration is required. For more information and to register, contact Robert Donati at 629-6224 or

Parkinson's Support Group Nanticoke Health Services, in conjunction with CHEER and Care DE and The Methodist Manor House, will hold a Parkinson's education and support group on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 9:30-11 a.m. at the Methodist Manor House in Seaford. This support group is free and open to the public. Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological disease that affects the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. Participating in education/support groups is essential for coping with an illness such as PD or other disorders that impair bodily movement. This support group is not only helpful for the individual diagnosed with PD, but also for caregivers, friends and family. Group members welcome guest speakers on a variety of subjects related to PD and provide support through small group discussions. Tara Trout, LPN, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, co-facilitates the group with Kathy Landis, caregiver resource coordinator, CHEER, Sussex County. For more information, contact Trout at 629-6611, ext. 3838.

Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will a host stroke support group on the third Tuesday of each month at the Seaford Library & Cultural Center from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

The meetings consists of guest speakers and breakaway sessions in which caregivers and stroke survivors meet in groups to discuss concerns, providing support and networking. Refreshments will be provided. This month's meeting will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, call 629-6224.

Del Tech announces new endowment Delaware Technical Community College announces the creation of the Chris M. Fisher and Michael E. Peterson Scholarship Endowment for Nursing and Allied Health Professions. This endowment will provide scholarships to Delaware Tech students who are seeking a credit certificate, diploma, or degree in nursing or an allied health program. Fisher was born into a middle class family in southeastern North Carolina. While it took him over 25 years of working and going to school to complete his degree, he was determined not to give up on his dream of an education. He received his bachelor of science in applied behavioral science from the National College of Education, National Louis University in Evanston, Ill. in 1990. Peterson was born in California into a middle class family that stressed the importance of education. He pursued his education through hard work to pay for tuition and other fees and now holds a bachelor of science in political science from the University of Idaho. He also earned a master's degree in management with a concentration in human resource development from the National College of Education, National Louis University in Evanston, Ill. Both men had successful careers with the federal government, and met while working and living in the Washington, D.C. area. They were married on Oct. 11, 2013. After retirement, they built a home in Rehoboth Beach and moved there full-time. Fisher and Peterson also became Delaware Tech Legacy Society members by including a gift commitment in their estate plans. To contribute to the Chris M. Fisher and Michael E. Peterson Scholarship Endowment for Nursing and Allied Health Professions, or to learn more about creating a scholarship at the Jack F. Owens Campus of Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown, contact Jason Bentley, director of Development at 302-259-6024, email, or visit

Bariatric Support Group Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery will host bariatric support groups on the first Tuesday and third Thursday of each month from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in the Medical Staff Conference Room. This free group is designed to provide education and support to patients before and after their bariatric weight loss surgery. Support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and presentations to provide useful information about nutrition, supplements, exercise and behavior modifications. Patients and their spouses, family members or friends are welcome to attend. Registration is not required. The next meeting will be held on Thursday, Nov. 19. For more information, contact Shelly Geis at 629-6611, ext. 8810.

Breastfeeding support group Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't always come naturally. During the early weeks after birth, moms and babies experience challenges as they both learn how to breastfeed. At times, even the most dedicated nursing moms want to give up. On Monday, Nov. 23 at 10 a.m., Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold The Mom's Circle, a free breastfeeding support group, in the Nursing Conference Room. The Mom's Circle is a safe place for moms to come for support, advice and friendship from both experienced nursing moms and new moms and a lactation consultant. Registration is not required. For more information, contact Jacalyn Bradley, lactation consultant, at 629-6611, ext. 2234.

'Coping with the Holidays' workshop Delaware Hospice will hold a one night grief support workshop on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Milton Library for individuals who have lost a loved one and are dreading the upcoming holidays. This presentation offers coping strategies for the challenges the holidays offer and suggestions for self-care. To register or to learn about other support groups at Delaware Hospice, contact Bereavement Counselor, Midge DiNatale, BA, GC-C at 856-7717, ext. 4120 or email

Safe Sitter Class Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a Safe Sitter class from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14, for children ages 11 to 13 who are interested in learning child care essentials and safety. The course is designed to train teenagers how to be safe baby/child sitters. Components include infant/child development and care, safety, injury prevention, first aid, accident management, rescue breathing and choking management. Cost is $35 per student, which includes the class and all materials. Advance registration is required. To register or for more information, call 629-6611, ext. 2540.

Apply for policymaking program The Delaware Developmental Disability Council (DDC) is accepting applications from Delaware residents ages 18 and older to participate in the 2016 class of the Partners in Policymaking program which offers a focused training on advocating for and influencing policies that impact individuals living with disabilities. Applications must be received by Dec. 18. Partners in Policymaking (Partners) is an innovative, leadership training program for adults with disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities. Often described by participants as a life-changing experience, the program, free to accepted applicants, includes eight, two-day sessions, held monthly from February through September. Local and national subject matter experts cover a broad range of topics, including the history of the disability and self-advocacy movements, inclusive education, supported living, and current practices on policymaking through state and federal legislative processes. With application approval, child care, respite allowances, and overnight accommodations are provided. For more information and an application, contact Karen Bell, program coordinator, at or call 610-256-4190.