The PRMS Blog

Guest Blog: Psychiatric Outreach Program (POP) in Jackson, MS

As a part of PRMS’ ongoing commitment to behavioral health we invited Dr. Chasity Torrence, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and a staff psychiatrist at the Mississippi State Hospital, to be featured as one of our guest bloggers this month. In 2016, Dr. Torrence received the PRMS Resident Achievement Travel Award and the 2016 Draper Award at the UMMC resident graduation.

What is homelessness? Homelessness is defined as “having no place to live” or “having no home or permanent place of residence.” Thirty percent of those suffering from chronic homelessness have a serious mental illness and two-thirds have a primary substance use disorder or other chronic health condition.

In recent years, homelessness has become an epidemic. Annually, 1.56 million individuals (0.5% of the U.S. population) use emergency shelters or transitional housing. The majority of homeless individuals lack health insurance, a public provision for healthcare, or a primary care provider. Emergency departments are not equipped to meet the psychosocial needs of homeless patients and do not have the capacity to assist with housing, substance use treatment, or mental healthcare.

The Psychiatric Outreach Program (POP) is a volunteer physician-based outreach program founded in July 2016 by Dr. Chasity Torrence, assistant professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and a staff psychiatrist at the Mississippi State Hospital, along with Dr. Charles Richardson and Dr. Matthew Walker, psychiatry residents at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The thrust of POP was inspired by Dr. Sheryl Fleisch from Vanderbilt University who founded a similar program in Nashville, Tennessee. Last summer, amid $8.3 million in legislative budget cuts to mental health in Mississippi, POP was founded to offset those affected who could not otherwise afford mental health services.

Dr. Chasity Torrence, right, and fourth-year medical student Jonathan Baker review a case on October 15 in the POP clinic at the Jackson Free Clinic. Photo courtesy: Gary Pettus

The POP clinic is available every third Saturday at the Jackson Free Clinic, a medical-student-run free clinic in Jackson, MS. The number of patients has tripled since POP opened its doors seven months ago, and the volunteers are looking to partner with other outreach programs and homeless shelters in the area to meet the growing demand. POP’s goals are to:
– provide accessible mental healthcare to the underserved, homeless, and uninsured residents of Jackson, MS
– reduce the volume of non-emergent care placed on emergency departments of local hospitals
– build strong relationships with the community

The POP clinic uses an interdisciplinary team of volunteer social workers, recreational therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists who also volunteer at the Jackson Free Clinic.

Staff members of the Psychiatry Outreach Program are, front row, from left, row, co-founders Dr. Matthew Walker, a third-year resident; Dr. Chasity Torrence, assistant professor of psychiatry; and fourth-year resident Dr. Charles Richardson; back row, from left, volunteers Yolonda Ross, a fourth-year medical student; Dr. Jon Jackson, assistant professor of psychiatry; and Jonathan Baker, a fourth-year medical student.

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Mississippi Psychiatric Association Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Make no mistake, religion and spirituality can help some people struggling with mental health conditions and often plays a big role in recovery. Inclusive and welcoming congregations often have outreach programs for people with mental health conditions or mental health ministries. But some – particularly in the South – view mental illness as a moral failing. 

In its 50th anniversary year, the Mississippi Psychiatric Association (MPA) plans to do something about this. In May, the Association is announcing the launch of an ambitious campaign designed to encourage faith-based communities to be welcoming and supportive of people and family members affected by mental illness from October 7th to October 14th 2018.

The initiative will focus on fostering dialogue and reducing stigma that addresses the medical and spiritual dimensions of people seeking care. The goal is to have every major faith-based organization in the state present a program, sermon or bulletin write-up addressing the connection between faith and mental health.

“We want to help banish stigma – when bad things happen on the news, that gives a lot of people a really negative impression of mental illness, but a lot of times it’s really not what is going on and that’s a terrible thing because patients are further ostracized,” said Maxie Gordon, MD, a psychiatrist and MPA president. “We think by reaching out to churches we will be able to have a big impact in the lives of people who suffer from mental illness.”

MPA, incorporated in 1967, is a District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). MPA hopes to partner with Southern Baptist, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations, as well as Hindu and Muslim organizations. Although outreach is just beginning, Gordon, former Director of Medical Student Education at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, who now works at East Mississippi State Hospital and G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said the idea has met little resistance.

The goal is to provide a better understanding of science and evidence-based treatments for mental illness and to highlight how for many, support and reinforcement from faith-based leaders in recovery can be key to successful outcomes.

“We are in the South and it is very much a faith-based bunch of people who feel like it’s extremely important to have their medical team and their faith team on the same plane,” said Angela Ladner, Executive Director of MPA. “We don’t determine who the higher power is – we just want the dialogue to occur.”

As part of its outreach, MPA plans to provide faith-based leaders “Mental Health: A Guide for Faith Leaders,” a guide developed by the APA. If successful, MPA hopes to build a tradition that is recognized annually during Mental Health Awareness Week.

MPA has a long history of successful lobbying, thanks in large part to Ladner, who began working with the Association in 1999 as its contract lobbyist.

Capitol Screening Initiative

Since 2005, MPA has partnered with the Mississippi State Medical Association on a Capitol Screening Initiative (CSI). Ladner launched the initiative because she wanted elected officials to better understand what physicians do each day. The program brings free health screenings to members of the legislature and staff once a year in January. MPA also has psychiatrists onsite to advocate for the profession and talk to legislators about issues affecting the practice.

“We find that often our elected officials don’t take the time to monitor their health, especially during the legislative session,” said Ladner. Since CSI began, cases of male and female breast cancer and an imminent heart attack have been detected, she added.


Ladner spends three months a year at the legislature when it is in session. When she began working for MPA, the Association fought for the ability to hold people who were a danger to themselves or others with a so-called “72-hour hold statute,” which passed in 2000.

MPA is now focused on promoting mental health courts. Last year, it helped pass statutes that allowed for pilot programs in certain areas of the state. Legislation this year would allow such courts to be set up statewide and also provide funding. Gordon said the group also hopes to get legislation adopted surrounding mental health parity to make sure that companies are identifying and paying for issues and treatment related to mental health.

50th Celebration and Growth

This year’s MPA annual meeting in March included a 50th anniversary celebration. MPA celebrated achievements, honored past leadership and highlighted milestones.

Retired psychiatrist June Powell, MD, MPA President from 1997 to 1999, who later was a member of the Tulane University School of Medicine faculty before returning to the state more than two decades later, was key in getting recognition for Mississippi at the national meetings of the APA.

In addition to working to change laws, Powell said one of the most important things about MPA’s impact in a rural state such as Mississippi “is meeting colleagues and knowing then who to refer patients to while building your practice. It really helps to see what other people are doing particularly because many people are very isolated. It gives a feeling of community and that was extremely valuable for me coming back because I was away 25 years.”

Psychiatrist Vincent Liberto, MD, of the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center, served as President of MPA for two terms and noted that in addition to its lobbying impact, the Association also helped secure better staffing and more continuity at community mental health centers and worked to address regions of the state that had low ratios of psychiatrists to the population.

In nearly 20 years with the Association, Ladner said she has seen it become more diverse. Gordon is MPA’s first African-American President. But it has grown in other ways, in part a reflection on the profession.

“There are many more female physicians. The Association also is more culturally diverse and its membership has broadened, helping bring in different perspectives and ideas,” Ladner said.

MPA’s 50th anniversary celebration is co-sponsored by PRMS, MPA’s Platinum Partner.

“Our longstanding relationship with PRMS truly allows us to accomplish our mission every day,” Ladner said. She sends MPA members a weekly electronic newsletter with information from PRMS about risk management and other issues that reinforce “everything our people need to be thinking about.” PRMS also presents MPA members a half-day of CME seminars at no cost during the annual meeting.

“MPA is a strong and effective advocate for psychiatrists and their patients,” said Stephen Sills, PRMS President and Chief Executive Officer. “It is our privilege to have worked together through the decades and we look forward to many more decades to come.”

For more on MPA, visit

Charles D Cash presented a CME seminar during the Annual Meeting in March.

Sign at the 50th Anniversary celebration.

To learn more about the superior insurance program and comprehensive services offered by PRMS, click here.

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Psychiatry-Specific Excess Risk Management Courses

PRMS is pleased to announce that it is making its psychiatry-specific Excess Risk Management courses available online – at no charge – to all New York psychiatrists, including those not insured through the PRMS program.  Our risk managers are experts in psychiatric malpractice risk management and we are sharing our expertise with the entire New York psychiatric community as part of our strong commitment to behavioral healthcare.

Both the Basic and Follow-Up online courses will be offered.  These have been approved by the New York State Medical Society and the New York State Insurance Department (with special approval to focus solely on psychiatry).

Psychiatrists may need to take one of these courses for any of the following reasons:

-If doctors in the New York Excess Insurance Program are required to take the Excess Risk Management course this year for continued participation in the Excess Insurance Program.

-Doctors may want to earn a Risk Management Premium Credit on their medical malpractice insurance.  In New York, completion of an approved Excess Risk Management course is required to earn this premium credit.

-Doctors may want to take the course for CME purposes.

About the courses:

-The Follow-Up Course is three hours and focuses on psychiatrists’ greatest liability exposures – psychopharmacology and treating suicidal patients, with special focus on the suicide risk assessment.

-The Basic Course is six hours and covers confidentiality, communication, psychopharmacology, treating suicidal patients, and more!

If doctors are insured through PRMS in The Psychiatrists’ Program, they can access the courses here (log in required).  If doctors are not insured through PRMS, they can simply send an email requesting access to  Upon receipt, we will email the course link.

To learn more about the superior insurance program and comprehensive services offered by PRMS, click here.

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New York, New York…

Will you be in New York City for the Annual Meeting later this week?  If so, join PRMS at these upcoming events:

Telepsychiatry: What You Need To Know 
Friday, May 4
7:30 am – 12:15 pm OR 12:30 pm – 5:15 pm
New York Hilton Midtown (1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York City) 
Click here for more details and to register today!

Manfred S. Guttmacher Award Presentation 
Saturday, May 5
8:00 am
Javits Center (655 W. 34th St, New York City) Please check directory for exact location

“Suicide and Suicide Risk Assessment: A Core Competence”
APA Annual Meeting (registration required)
Panel with Lisa Gold, MD, Cheryl Wills, MD, Richard Frierson, MD, Kaustubh Joshi, MD, Donna Vanderpool, JD, MBA, PRMS VP Risk Management
Monday, May 7
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Liberty, Marriott Marquis (1535 Broadway, New York City)

PRMS is pleased to support many organizations that will be meeting in New York City this May, such as:

  • American Association of Community Psychiatrists (AACP)
  • American Association of Psychiatric Administrators (AAPA)
  • Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists (AGLP)
  • Association of Women Psychiatrists (AWP)
  • Indo-American Psychiatric Association (IAPA)
  • Senior Psychiatrists
  • Society of Uniformed Services Psychiatrists (SUSP)
  • Southern Psychiatric Association (SPA)
  • And more


The PRMS team will be out and about and we hope to run into as many friendly faces as possible.

Thanks to all of you for your support of PRMS.  It is an honor to have you as a client.

To learn more about the superior insurance program and comprehensive services offered by PRMS, click here.

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PRMS Shines a Light on Maryland Foundation for Psychiatry

We would like to take a moment to shine a light on a mental health foundation PRMS contributes to and the important work they are doing to promote mental health.

The Maryland Foundation for Psychiatry, Inc. (Foundation) works both to educate the public about mental health issues and also with psychiatrists to broaden their contributions to the welfare of psychiatric patients. The Foundation has an impressive agenda including public service radio announcements with timely information on psychiatry and mental health topics such as opioid abuse and how training helps police help the mentally ill, an oral history project documenting the careers of prominent Maryland psychiatrists, and an annual award for news articles or letters that help destigmatize mental illness.

“Our goal is to act as a bridge between psychiatric medicine and the general public, presenting understandable information to those who need it,” said Heidi Bunes, executive director of the Baltimore-based Maryland Psychiatric Society, which provides administrative support to the Foundation.

Public Service Radio Announcements

Each year, the Foundation writes and produces minute-long spots aired on local radio stations. Topics have included guns and mental illness, mental illness among prison inmates, mental health parity, suicide prevention, holiday and recession depression, bullying and one titled “Who Are Psychiatrists and What Do They Do?” Visitors can listen to or download spots at The group runs web-based ad campaigns in the Baltimore Sun concurrently with the radio spots.

The ads appear to be working. Traffic to the Foundation’s website spikes when ads run and stories generated in the local news often address topics featured in the spots. Best of all, callers seeking referrals have mentioned them. “We think that they reach a lot of people,” said Neil E. Warres, MD, president of the Foundation, past president of the Maryland Psychiatric Society and former Chief of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center.

A recent segment talked about how a Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. program is training city police officers to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and hopefully avoid tragedies.

“The goal is to teach police officers specific steps they can take to deescalate crises so that people don’t simply become violent,” said Warres.

Oral History Project

For more than a decade, Foundation volunteers have been hard at work on an oral history project featuring interviews with distinguished Maryland psychiatrists that explores the impact of changes in the profession on psychiatrists in the 20th century. The Foundation plans to make interviews available on its website – both as audio files and as transcripts.

“People will be able to hear or read about some rather prominent psychiatrists, why they became a psychiatrist, and what a psychiatric practice was like in their day,” said Warres. For now, PDF copies of transcripts are available by email and interviews and transcripts can be viewed in the Maryland Psychiatric Society office.

Maryland Institute College of Art Collaboration

Since 2009, the Foundation has also partnered with the Maryland Institute College of Art, which created a website and YouTube video campaign called “Love From Depression” ( to help college students struggling with depression and anxiety.

Maryland Psychiatric Society Collaboration

Since its inception more than 25 years ago, the Foundation has collaborated with the Maryland Psychiatric Society on public events such as screenings of the films “A Beautiful Mind” and “The Hours.” Another event featured Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Medicine, whose work has centered on bipolar disorder, which she has had since early adulthood. In 2003, the Foundation provided seed money for “The Building of a Sanctuary,” a Maryland Public Television documentary about the early history of Sheppard Pratt Hospital. In 2016, it helped sponsor a lecture about Beethoven and performance by Dr. Richard Kogan, a noted psychiatrist and Juilliard-trained concert pianist who speaks frequently about the lives and struggles of musicians who had psychiatric problems.

Anti-stigma Advocacy Award

Meanwhile, the Foundation’s annual Anti-Stigma Advocacy Award provides $500 for the best local or regional article or letter to the editor in which someone shares their experience with mental illness, writes something that helps others overcome their inability to talk about mental illness or makes “particularly insightful observations” about mental illness. The 2017 winner was Baltimore psychiatrist John Lion, MD, whose article “Steadfast Talking is the Only Cure for Suicide” in the Baltimore Sun reassured readers that even serious mental illness like depression can be overcome, even if there are setbacks along the way that evoke suicidal thoughts.

Warres said much of what the Foundation does is possible because of donations and partnerships with groups such as PRMS.

“PRMS certainly has been a very generous sponsor both with financial contributions and now by helping publicize the Foundation,” Warres said. “We’re very grateful for their support.”

Melanie Smith, PRMS Senior Vice President, Client Relations said PRMS is honored to lend a hand. “We are delighted to shine a spotlight on the Foundation’s campaigns and activities as it continues building awareness about psychiatry and works to continue moving the needle to help destigmatize mental illness.”

The Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 organization; donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. To donate or for more information, visit or follow the Foundation on Twitter via @MFP_Inc.

To learn more about the superior insurance program and comprehensive services offered by PRMS, click here.

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