Feds Warn Employers Against Discriminatory Hiring Algorithms

By KHARI JOHNSON: For Complete Post, Click Here…

As AI invades the interview process, the DOJ and EOCC have provided guidance to protect people with disabilities from bias.

AS COMPANIES INCREASINGLY involve AI in their hiring processes, advocates, lawyers, and researchers have continued to sound the alarm. Algorithms have been found to automatically assign job candidates different scores based on arbitrary criteria like whether they wear glasses or a headscarf or have a bookshelf in the background. Hiring algorithms can penalize applicants for having a Black-sounding name, mentioning a women’s college, and even submitting their résumé using certain file types. They can disadvantage people who stutter or have a physical disability that limits their ability to interact with a keyboard.

All of this has gone widely unchecked. But now, the US Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have offered guidance on what businesses and government agencies must do to ensure their use of AI in hiring complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We cannot let these tools become a high-tech pathway to discrimination,” said EEOC chair Charlotte Burrows in a briefing with reporters on Thursday. The EEOC instructs employers to disclose to applicants not only when algorithmic tools are being used to evaluate them but what traits those algorithms assess.

“Today we are sounding an alarm regarding the dangers tied to blind reliance on AI and other technologies that we are seeing increasingly used by employers,” assistant attorney general for civil rights Kristen Clark told reporters in the same press conference. “Today we are making clear that we must do more to eliminate the barriers faced by people with disabilities, and no doubt: The use of AI is compounding the long-standing discrimination that job seekers with disabilities face.”

The Federal Trade Commission gave broad guidance on how businesses can use algorithms in 2020 and again in 2021, and a White House agency is working on an AI Bill of Rights, but this new guidance signals how the two agencies will handle violations of federal civil rights law involving the use of algorithms. It also carries the credible threat of enforcement: The Department of Justice can bring lawsuits against businesses, and the EEOC receives discrimination complaints from job seekers and employees that can result in fines or lawsuits.

USPSTF Guidance Misses the Mark on Youth Suicide Risk Screening

by Christine Yu Moutier, MD: For Complete Post, Click Here…

We can all play a role in identifying at-risk kids.

With increasing rates of suicide and mental health issues among U.S. youth, and with suicide as the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34, the state of youth mental health has reached crisis proportions. For this reason, I’m gravely concerned about the impact of the recent draft recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that found insufficient evidence for implementing screening for suicide risk among youth.

The USPSTF’s methodology may be mismatched with the real-world implementation science and the scope of the problem concerning youth suicide. Clinicians and mental health professionals must have a clear understanding of the USPSTF’s guidelines for reviewing evidence and arriving at a recommendation, as their approach is out of touch with recent expert recommendations on screening for youth suicide risk. The USPSTF findings may cast doubt among healthcare providers on the importance of suicide screening and preventive care.

In collaboration with our partner organization on the Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and experts from the National Institute of Mental Health, we have identified three key weaknesses of the USPSTF draft report.

Suicide Screening Can Be Done Safely

The USPSTF calls for screening asymptomatic adolescents ages 12 to 18 years for major depressive disorder, and youth between the ages of 8 and 18 for anxiety, saying there would be a moderate benefit to each. We support this recommendation and believe the benefits would be more than moderate. On suicide risk, the USPSTF concluded there is insufficient evidence to weigh the benefits and harms of screening asymptomatic children and adolescents. However, in regards to the suicide risk, the report excluded or overlooked a number of key research studies that find universal suicide screening in pediatric medical settings validated with high sensitivity (97%) and specificity (91%), and demonstrate feasibility, accessibility by youth, parents, and clinicians, and importantly, demonstrate no evidence of harm.

8TH CIRCUIT COURT DECISION ALLOWS IOWA SCHOOLS TO PROTECT STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES WITH MASKING UNDER FEDERAL LAW

From ACLU Iowa: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Today the 8th Circuit Court made a decision in our lawsuit to protect Iowa students with disabilities that make them vulnerable to COVID.

It’s important to note that the Court did not vacate as moot our lawsuit as a whole. The lawsuit was filed to protect Iowa students with disabilities who need to be protected by masking from COVID from the way the state was enforcing a new Iowa law. That new state law prohibited schools from requiring masking. 

The Court’s decision today vacates as moot the district court’s preliminary injunction only; the Court’s decision allows for the possibility of further litigation in this case.

It’s also very important to note that the court specifically did NOT rule that schools cannot require masking to protect students with disabilities. Today’s decision interprets the new state law to mean that schools can still require masking for students with disabilities that make them particularly susceptible to COVID, under federal disability rights laws. 

 Bottom line: Iowa schools can still require and Iowa parents can still request masking as a reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities under appropriate circumstances. 

Study: Deaths from Alcohol Use Disorder Surged During Pandemic

By Sarah Lichtman: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Cedars-Sinai Investigators Found Alcohol Use Disorder Mortality Rates Were 25% Higher Than Projected in 2020, 22% Higher in 2021.

Deaths involving alcohol use disorder increased dramatically during the pandemic, according to a new study by Cedars-Sinai investigators. The study also found that young adults 25 to 44 years old experienced the steepest upward trend in alcohol use disorder mortality.

In the study, published this month in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Network Open, investigators used predictive modeling to compare expected—also called projected—alcohol use disorder mortality rates to actual rates. They found that alcohol use disorder-related mortality rates increased among all ages and sexes during the pandemic.

UTSW genetic study confirms sarin nerve gas as cause of Gulf War illness

From UTSouthwestern Medical Center: For Complete Post, Click Here…

ngd- Sarin is an organophosphate, and a lot of insecticides are organophosphates. If the genes that degrade sarin also degrade organophosphates in general, then I don’t see how the conclusion that sarin is responsible clearly is the case. I had a fair level of experience with malathion when I was in Vietnam and developed symptoms just like gulf-war syndrome, though they faded over time when I left country. I retain a sensitivity to it that triggers when I smell it after mosquito spraying…

For three decades, scientists have debated the underlying cause of Gulf War illness (GWI), a collection of unexplained and chronic symptoms affecting veterans of the Persian Gulf War. Now researchers led by Robert Haley, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Division of Epidemiology at UT Southwestern, have solved the mystery, showing through a detailed genetic study that the nerve gas sarin was largely responsible for the syndrome. The findings were published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, with an accompanying editorial on the paper by leading environmental epidemiologists.

Dr. Haley’s research group not only discovered that veterans with exposure to sarin were more likely to develop GWI, but also found that the risk was modulated by a gene that normally allows some people’s bodies to better break down the nerve gas. Gulf War veterans with a weak variant of the gene who were exposed to sarin were more likely to develop symptoms of GWI than other exposed veterans who had the strong form of the gene.

“Quite simply, our findings prove that Gulf War illness was caused by sarin, which was released when we bombed Iraqi chemical weapons storage and production facilities,” said Dr. Haley, a medical epidemiologist who has been investigating GWI for 28 years. “There are still more than 100,000 Gulf War veterans who are not getting help for this illness and our hope is that these findings will accelerate the search for better treatment.”

Did You Get the Help You Needed After a Hurricane or Tropical Storm? We’re Investigating Disaster Relief.

by Richard A. Webster: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Catastrophes don’t affect all Americans equally. We want to hear about your experiences applying for aid and paying for flood insurance.

ProPublica and The Advocate | The Times-Picayune could use your help investigating how America prepares for hurricanes and tropical storms and helps victims afterwards. The news organizations are exploring how a range of policies unintentionally punish working-class Americans and people of color, contributing to the disproportionate harm they suffer in catastrophes.

The problem is particularly urgent in Louisiana. Not only is it one of the poorest states in the union, it’s the most flood-prone, and it has been struck by some of the costliest natural disasters ever to hit the U.S. Sweeping changes made to the National Flood Insurance Program, which went into effect in April and resulted in premium increases for many Louisiana policyholders, will only exacerbate the situation.

If you have been impacted by a disaster and received or applied for government assistance, and you’re willing to help, please sign up here by answering a few questions below.

Obtaining Durable Medical Equipment Survey

From SARTAC: Self Advocacy and Beyond: For Complete Post, Click Here…

The following survey is to inform a project being worked on by Jordan Anderson, a self-advocate from Wisconsin, who was selected as one of only six 2022 Fellows for SARTAC (Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center).  The SARTAC Fellowship is a year-long opportunity for self-advocates to develop and grow their skills as leaders in the self-advocacy movement.  Your participation in the survey is completely voluntary.  

When people with disabilities need durable medical equipment, there can be challenges such as the length of time the process takes, lack of providers, and insurance denials.  This project will examine the process for getting durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, oxygen, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device, Hoyer lifts and hospital beds to find ways to streamline the time it takes from needing the equipment to using the equipment.  The project will also look for ways to attract more rehabilitation specialists to the field to better manage the volume of repairs that can leave people with disabilities stuck at home waiting for extended periods of time due to a lack of providers.  

Setting Standards for Delivering High-Quality Care to Veterans with Invisible Wounds

by Carrie M. Farmer, Sierra Smucker, Natalie Ernecoff, Hamad Al-Ibrahim: For Complete Post, Click Here…

he Veteran Wellness Alliance, an initiative of the George W. Bush Institute, is a coalition of seven veteran peer network organizations and nine clinical provider organizations that aims to improve access to high- quality care for post-9/11 veterans with invisible wounds. The alliance collaborated with RAND researchers to develop a shared definition of high-quality care and identify corresponding standards of care for treating invisible wounds.

There are four components of the shared definition of high-quality care for veterans with PTSD, depression, substance use disorders, and TBI:

  1. Veteran-centered care: High-quality care accounts for veterans’ unique needs, values, and preferences. Providers are culturally competent and assess veterans’ experiences, engage them in shared decisionmaking, and involve family members and caregivers in their treatment.
  2. Accessible care: High-quality care is both accessible and timely.
  3. Evidence-based care: High-quality care is based on the best available research and adheres to clinical practice guidelines. Providers perform a comprehensive assessment to guide treatment; conduct screenings; and take an interdisciplinary, team-based approach to care.
  4. Outcome monitoring: High-quality care promotes the use of validated measurement tools to assess and monitor clinical outcomes and veterans’ well-being, guide treatment decisions, and facilitate coordination.

Characteristics of Standards of Care for Invisible Wounds

For standards of care to be useful, they must be feasible to apply and must address important aspects of care.

Feasibility

From an initial list of 103 potential high-quality care measures and standards, 33 were feasible to collect—that is, the necessary data were available, and collecting these data resulted in a minimal burden on programs and providers.

Importance

Standards of care were considered important if clinicians and administrators rated them as addressing a very important element of high-quality care. Ambiguous standards and those that applied to only a subpopulation of veterans were considered of low importance. Of the 33 standards of care that were considered feasible, 17 were rated as highly important.

Incorporating feedback from clinical providers, administrators, and policymakers, the researchers consolidated and edited standards for clarity, parsimony, and specificity and recommended a set of ten standards of care (shown below) that address each of the pillars of high-quality care and all four conditions.

Veteran-Centered Care

  • Veterans report being told about treatment options.
  • Program/clinic staff who interact with veterans have completed training in military cultural competence.

Accessible Care

  • Care is available at no or minimal cost to veterans: Program accepts insurance, has resources to support veterans without insurance, or is free.
  • Veterans who request a new outpatient appointment are seen within 30 days.

Examples of Evidence-Based Treatments

  • Evidence-based psychotherapies for depression include acceptance and commitment therapy, behavioral therapy/behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and problem-solving therapy.
  • Evidence-based trauma-focused psychotherapies for PTSD include prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, CBT for PTSD, brief eclectic psychotherapy, narrative exposure therapy, and written exposure therapy.
  • Psychosocial interventions for substance use disorder include behavioral couples therapy, CBT, the community reinforcement approach, motivational enhancement therapy, and 12-step facilitation. Psychosocial interventions are recommended for alcohol, cannabis, and stimulant use disorders. The evidence is unclear on the benefit of psychosocial interventions for opioid use disorder.

The baby formula shortage and the twisted priorities of the American economy

By Judd Legum, Tesnim Zekeria, and Rebecca Crosby: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Throughout the country, there is an acute shortage of baby formula that millions of families rely on to feed their children. According to research from Datasembly, “the national out-of-stock rate for baby formula reached 43 percent” last week. That’s up from 31% last month, 11% in November, and the low single digits in the first seven months of 2021.

The result is that many parents are struggling to keep their children fed. Some are driving hours to find a place with formula in stock. Others are paying exorbitant prices from resellers seeking to exploit the crisis. Many have been forced to ration their supply, watering down the formula and potentially leaving their children undernourished. 

There are a variety of reasons why baby formula is in short supply. For months, the industry has struggled with supply chain challenges related to the pandemic. Then in February, Abbott Nutrition — one of a handful of major manufacturers — recalled three popular varieties of formula. Four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infections after drinking the formula and two died. The Michigan plant where the formula was manufactured remains closed. 

Ed Dept. to Update Section 504 on Protecting Children With Disabilities

By Linda Jacobson: For Complete Post, Click Here…

The U.S. Department of Education will update a 45-year-old civil rights law meant to protect students with disabilities from discrimination. The department this month will begin collecting public comments on what is known as Section 504, which applies to students with physical or mental health needs who might not qualify for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Special education experts say there’s wide variation in how school districts accommodate students’ needs in the classroom and that parents are often in the dark about their children’s rights under 504.