BY Gregory P. Barclay, M.D.
In this summer edition of our society newsletter, I am pleased to introduce a lead article written by our President-Elect, Dean DeCrise, M.D. This article relates to the implications of Megan’s Law when applied to adolescents who commit sexual offenses. This is one of several controversial issues in which ASAP is considering taking a position and for which we have reactivated our newly formed Committee for Legislative and Judicial Affairs. I asked Dean to prepare this article so that our membership have a better understanding of the Megan’s Law issue before the council takes it up at our next business meeting. For those of you who were at our 2010 annual scientific meeting in Los Angeles, Dr. DeCrise’s article summarizes his excellent presentation on the treatment of adolescent sexual offenders. And, for those of you unable to attend our meeting, please don’t despair. We have also included Dom Ferro’s summary of the outstanding keynote presentation given by Schonfeld Award Recipient Harold Koplewitz, M.D. as well as our usual photo gallery of presenters and ASAP members hard at work in Los Angeles.
All of this edition’s articles and book reviews have a common connection – the developing adolescent brain. With the advent of functional MRI and other imaging procedures, there is now undeniable proof of what we who work with adolescents know from clinical experience: The adolescent brain is in a state of massive change and uneven development, the result of pruning with increased white matter and diminishing gray matter through to age 24 or later. Hence, their impulsivity, emotional over-reactivity, and cognitive immaturity have clearly established origins in brain development and are only influenced to a degree by hormones and sociocultural variables. This fact alone is of enormous significance to us as an organization established to advocate for adolescents, especially with the current trends to try adolescents who commit crimes as adults, invoking the death penalty for adolescent criminals, and, as Dr. DeCrise states in his summary, applying Megan’s Law to youthful sexual offenders.
In his president’s column, Dr. Joe Kenan describes the changes in ASAP’s membership and finances over the past decade. We are also sad to note the passing of some ASAP giants, Mike Kalogerakis, James Masterson, and Everett Dulit. The challenge before us at this time is how we can grow and adapt, as a society to advocate for adolescents with mental health and substance abuse problems, to meet current reality vs. the alternative of atrophying into irrelevance. It is key for our membership to become engaged and involved. ASAP membership is now open to non-psychiatric physicians and non-physician licensed mental health professionals, as well as continuing to offer reduced-cost membership to trainees. If we each recruited one member, our society would increase to 400 members! That alone might allow us some semblance of a return to those “hey days” conferences Dr. Kenan speaks of in his president’s column and grant us more legitimacy as an advocacy organization. It might also allow us to print and mail our newsletter once again! We all know colleagues with a passion for working with teens, so what is holding us back? Do consider asking a colleague to join, plan to attend our annual meeting in New York March 26-27, 2011, pay your dues on time, and join a committee or council (we have openings on the Governing Board and the Committee for Legislative and Judicial Affairs).
Finally, I continue to welcome any contributions to our newsletter. Please ask any residents or students interested in getting something published to contact me. Or, if you have something of your own (including poetry) to submit, or have a passion for reading and writing book reviews, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.