Thursday, September 16, 2010
Punishment should try to change behavior, instead of rewarding it

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

As a developmental pediatrician I emphasize that the purpose of punishment is to get people to change their behavior. The amount of punishment only needs to be just enough to make that happen. Parents often struggle with how to do that. It is interesting to see how our legal system does that. I once had a conversation with a child psychiatrist who is a friend of mine. He told me that in our society, the legal system pays more attention to money than it does to improving behavior. He used an example of two adolescents that committed the same serious crime. The one without money to pay lawyers would go to jail. The one with money would go to the child psychiatrist. The expectation of the system was that each would be punished enough to no longer commit the same crime in the future. In actuality, the punishments were so different that the end result would have to be different. At the time, I thought that it was an item of interest. Two recent cases suggest that we need to look at the way our legal system has gotten off track in terms of behavior management. We need to use the legal system to make people behave better, but instead we use it in some bizarre ways. Recently a Jet Blue attendant lost it with a passenger. He misbehaved in a bizarre fashion. The likelihood of that kind of thing happening again in the future is rare. Therefore, the punishment to prevent it from happening should be one that involves a firm slap on the wrist. The district attorney has decided otherwise. He now faces reckless endangerment in the first degree and criminal mischief in the second degree. Both of these crimes are "D" felonies punishable by up to seven years in prison. While he will likely not receive jail time, he will run up lawyer costs. Hopefully, he can make enough television appearances to pay for them. Of course that is another issue. Why should someone, with bad behavior, be rewarded for that behavior on national television? Our system over-punishes the individual in the justice system but rewards him in the media. How does that affect his future behavior? On the other end of the spectrum is a famous football player. A woman had previously alleged that he raped her and he denied it. Then earlier this year, he went to a bar. There were several women there who were not old enough to legally drink but he bought them drinks anyway. When one of them was drunk enough, he took her off to the bathroom. His two bodyguards stood outside the door and they would not let her girlfriends in. The result was that she accused him of rape. The circumstantial evidence clearly suggests that was the case. The problem was that it needed to be something that could be proven in court and there was not enough concrete evidence to do that. The girl could have spent thousands of dollars in lawyer fees. She could have had her personal life raked over the coals in court. However, she chose not to do so and no charges were filed. The National Football League decided that the evidence was strong enough to punish him anyway. Now, news reporters from everywhere are indicating that since he was not formally charged, no crime was committed. Therefore, since he could afford the best lawyers, he should not be punished. He should be allowed to continue doing the same thing that he appears to have done to two women already. My suspicion is that without the punishment that the league gave him, his behavior would not have changed at all. Behavior change is what the legal system should be about. Instead it is more often about the games people with money can play. Hopefully, as parents, we do a better job with behavior management with our own children.

Autism Delaware recognized Autism Delaware's adult services division is one of three programs nationwide recently designated as an Effective Program by the National Advisory Panel of the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Model Project for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. POW&R (Productive Opportunities for Work and Recreation) has been part of Autism Delaware's services to the community since 2007. POW&R now offers services for adults throughout New Castle County and is starting services in Kent County. Through its recent merger with the Lower Delaware Autism Foundation, Autism Delaware plans to have POW&R services available in Kent and Sussex Counties by July 2012. POW&R is a unique community-based program, with full-time staff members dedicated to helping adults with autism spectrum disorders find and be successful at employment, volunteer activities and recreation. For more information, contact Katina Demetriou, at 302-224-6020.

National Depression Screening Day With soaring gas prices, rising mortgages, and a recession looming, no one can blame you for feeling anxious or overwhelmed. These days it is common and understandable to be angry, worried and even gloomy, especially if you lost your job, your house, or are stressed about paying bills. Worry, anger and stress are normal, appropriate and even necessary during life's difficult moments. But when negative feelings prevent you from doing your daily activities or interacting with friends and loved ones, it might be time to seek help. Attend Mental Health Association in Delaware's National Depression Screening Day event on Oct. 7 at several locations in Delaware. As part of the program, you will have the opportunity to complete a brief, written questionnaire, learn about the symptoms of depression, and how to help a friend or family member who may be at risk. You will also have the option of talking to a health care professional. Locally, the event will be held at Laurel State Service Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; La Red, by appointment; and Georgetown Easter Seals from 1 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 7-8. For more information about National Depression Screening Day or MHA in Delaware, visit

Dr. Olowo named medical director Abimbola O. Olowo, MD, hospitalist at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, has recently been named medical director of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Hospitalist Program. In this position, Dr. Olowo is responsible for organizing and overseeing medical care provided within the hospital setting. He monitors the professional performance of physicians and midlevel care providers, such as nurse practitioners, within the Hospitalist Program ensuring their competency, conducting performance appraisals, promoting professional development, and managing monthly schedules. Dr. Olowo is Board Certified in internal medicine and completed his residency at Christiana Care Health System in Newark. He earned his medical degree at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio.

Competition to improve school meals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge to improve school meals and the health of children across the nation through the creation of exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus.

The competition - part of the First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative - will draw on the talents of chefs, students, food service professionals, and parents or other community members working together to develop tasty, nutritious, kid-approved foods. There will be a grand prize chosen by the judging panel as well as a Popular Choice winner based on public voting. The judges will also choose award winners for the top two recipes in each category. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs. To recognize and share the culinary creativity nationwide the top ten recipes in each category will be published in a Recipes for Healthy Kids Cookbook to share with students and families. To learn more about the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign, visit The deadline for recipe submissions is Dec. 30. For more information, visit

Free Breast Health Forum Beebe Medical Center's Tunnell Cancer is offering a free breast health forum on Friday, Sept. 24 from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Salvation Army on Sussex Highway, next to Food Lion in Seaford. Breast health education will be available on-site. For those who qualify, referrals for no-cost mammograms will be offered the same afternoon. Drop-ins are welcome. All women 18 and older should have a clinical breast exam, and all women age 40 and older should have a yearly mammogram. Early detection saves lives. For more information about this free breast health forum, call 645-3100, ext. 2718. This initiative called SOS, Sharing Our Stories, Saving Our Sisters, is funded by a grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Philadelphia Affiliate.

'Expressions of Grief' conference Delaware Hospice's Family Support Center will hold a professional conference for professionals dealing with grief, "Expressions of Grief: Exploring grief styles by culture, faith and gender," from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 29, at the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford. Social workers, mental health counselors, chemical dependency professionals, nurses, funeral home services, chaplains, and anyone interested in learning more about grief are invited to this special conference where expert speakers will explore grief styles by culture, faith and gender. Keynote speaker will be Thomas Golden, LCSW, an international grief educator and published author, who will present, "The Secrets of the Masculine Side of Healing."Golden has taught mental health professionals around the world about men and boys and their unique paths in healing from stress, grief and trauma. Other speakers include Dr. Judith Ramirez, EdD, manager of the Psychological Services & Outreach Department of Tunnel Cancer Center through Beebe Medical Center, and the Rev. David Oppold, BA, MDiv, ordained pastor and Hospice chaplain. Registration fee is $99 per person and $75 per student.Breakfast and catered lunch are included.Continuing Education credits are 6.0hours for social workers (NASW) and 7.5 hours for nurses, professional mental heath counselors, chemical dependence professionals and funeral services staff (Delaware State Board). Deadline for registration is Wednesday, Oct. 27 and early registration is recommended as space is limited to 50 participants. To register, call Vicki Costa at 856-7717, ext. 1129, or

Prostate screenings offered September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and the Cancer Care Center staff at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will provide prostate screenings on Friday, Sept. 17, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the lobby of the Miller Building (121 S. Front St., Seaford). There is a $5 screening fee and pre-registration and fasting are not required. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital encourages men over 50 to take advantage of this service. Also men age 40 and at high risk of developing prostate cancer are also encouraged to participate. African-American men and men who have a family history of the disease have a higher risk for developing prostate cancer. For more information, call Melinda Huffman, nurse navigator, at 629-6611, ext. 3765 or 2378.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a general cancer support group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones held at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. The monthly support group meets in the second floor conference room of the Cancer Care center on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The next meeting takes place on Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m. The Wellness Community, an affiliate of the Cancer Support community, is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. Facilitators are trained mental health professionals with a master's degree or more. Call 645-9150 for information or to register for this program. All support groups offered at the Wellness Community are free of charge. This program is made possible by the support of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford.

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. The program is facilitated by Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center professional staff - Terri A. Clifton, MS, NCC, Cancer Care coordinator; Mary Brown, RN, DSN, manager Cancer Care Center; and Wendy Polk, nutritionist - with assistance from Lois Wilkinson, DBCC special projects manager, who helps facilitate the program at Bayhealth. Of particular value to newly-diagnosed women is DBCC's Peer Mentor Program through which they are paired with a long-term survivor for one-on-one support. To learn more about Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided. Delaware Hospice support group Delaware Hospice's Bereavement Counselor, Paul Ganster, LCSW, will lead an eight-week grief support group on "Grieving the Loss of a Loved One," on Thursdays, from Oct. 14 through Dec. 9, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford. There is no fee for this service which is provided as a community outreach by Delaware Hospice. To register, call Paul Ganster, LCSW, at 357-7147, or send him an email at