Tagged Mental Health

Viewpoints: Taking Stock Of Genetic Privacy; What About Those Medical Misfits?

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Undermining Genetic Privacy? Employee Wellness Programs And The Law
Genetic information is becoming ubiquitous in research and medicine. The cost of genetic analysis continues to fall, and its medical and personal value continues to grow. Anticipating this age of genetic medicine, policymakers passed laws and regulations years ago to protect Americans’ privacy and prevent misuse of their health-related information. But a bill moving through the House of Representatives, called the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1313), would preempt key protections. Because the bill, which was sent to the full House by the Education and the Workforce Committee in March, would substantially change legal protections related to the collection and treatment of personal health and genetic information by workplace wellness programs, it should be on the radar screens of physicians, researchers, and the public. (Kathy L. Hudson and Karen Pollitz, 5/24)

The New York Times: Where Will The Medical Misfits Go?
People with health insurance tend to think of safety-net hospitals the way airline travelers think of the bus: as a cheaper service they would use only if they had to. But without these essential hospitals — which specialize in the care of our country’s most medically and financially vulnerable, particularly the uninsured — our entire health care system would be in danger. (Nuila, 5/26)

RealClearScience: Alternative Medicine Is Not The Answer To The Opioid Epidemic
America’s opioid epidemic is not manufactured hype; it’s real. Prescription painkillers are now more widely used than tobacco. Opioids were to blame for 31,000 overdose deaths in 2015, a 300 percent increase from 1999. Of the top ten drugs involved in overdose deaths, half are prescription opioids. (Ross Pomeroy, 5/25)

The New England Journal Of Medicine: Accelerated Approval And Expensive Drugs — A Challenging Combination
For serious or life-threatening disease, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can approve drugs on the basis of surrogate end points that are “reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit,” through its accelerated approval review track. This pathway, which dates back to the early 1990s, was designed as a response to the demand for faster drug development in the context of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Since then, the accelerated-approval program has expanded to include oncology products and drugs for other diseases, now accounting for about 10% of new drug approvals. (Walid F. Gellad and Aaron S. Kesselheim, 5/25)

San Jose Mercury News: Mentally Ill Kids Shouldn’t Languish In Juvenile Halls
California’s mentally ill children need clearer laws when going through the juvenile court system… While competency laws exist for juveniles suffering from mental illness, there are no clear, prescriptive guidelines for juveniles on the delivery and duration of services like those that exist in the adult system. Because of this gap in the law, these very vulnerable children languish in juvenile halls, unable to receive the mental health treatment they desperately need. (Mark Stone and Laura Garnette, 5/25)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Continued Federal Investment In Science Is Critical For Lake Erie And The Region
Scientific research is a critical national investment, providing strong economic and societal benefits that improve our quality of life. In Northeast Ohio, investments in scientific research and environmental protection have helped spur the growth of our local biotechnology and fuel cell industries, enhance our world-leading hospitals and universities, and revitalize the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. Yet the White House’s budget proposal seeks to walk away from these investments, threatening our nation’s ability to ensure a more prosperous future, healthy people, and a healthy environment. (Anne Jefferson, 5/26)

Health Affairs Blog: The Burgeoning “Yelpification” Of Health Care: Foundations Help Consumers Hold A Scale And A Mirror To The Health Care System
From flashy tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to modernized insurers in New York, everyone wants to “disrupt” health care. In practice, this is immensely more challenging than it sounds. Electronic health records (EHRs), more than a decade ago, were expected to revolutionize how health information is stored and shared. Yet, even today, 36 percent of office-based EHRs don’t permit secure messaging between patients and physicians, and 37 percent do not even allow patients to view their records. (Paul Howard, Yevgeniy Feyman and Amy Shefrin, 5/25)

RealClear Health: Health Heart 101
For millennia the heart was thought to be the seat of emotions — the source of love, of course, but also kindness and courage. To lose heart is to lose the fight, and perhaps even one’s life. In a literal sense, a weak heart means death. Unfortunately, sudden cardiac arrest is the leading natural cause of death in the United States. (Kamal Patel, 5/25)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

State Highlights: Calif. Legislature Steps Into Tense Fight Over Tobacco Tax; Mass. Agency Finds Avoidable ER Visits Are Driving Up Costs

Media outlets report on news from California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Kansas, Minnesota, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Maryland, Arizona, Florida.

Los Angeles Times: California Senate, Assembly Advance Their Own Plans On How To Spend Tobacco Tax Revenue
Perhaps the biggest budget skirmish that remains unsolved this year is how California should spend revenue from the tobacco tax voters approved last fall. Gov. Jerry Brown wants to put that money to expand overall spending on Medi-Cal, which provides subsidized healthcare for the poor. But the some of initiative’s backers, namely doctor and dental groups, have cried foul, arguing that money is meant to go to increasing payments for providers. (Mason, 5/25)

WBUR: Tip No. 1 For Taking Charge Of Mass. Health Care Costs: Avoid The ER 
Forty-two percent of emergency room visits in Massachusetts in 2015 were for problems that could have been treated by a primary care doctor, according to the state’s Health Policy Commission. This state agency, which is charged with driving down costs, says a 5 percent cut in avoidable emergency room trips would save $12 million a year; 10 percent fewer such visits would save $24 million. (Bebinger, 5/25)

The CT Mirror: Advocates: Disabled Children Stranded In CT Hospital ERs 
Insufficient services, a complex funding system and deep state budget cuts have increasingly stranded developmentally disabled children in hospital emergency departments over the past year, often for weeks at a time, two state advocates told legislators Thursday. Sarah Eagan, Connecticut’s child advocate, and Ted Doolittle, the state’s healthcare advocate, said the problem is centered almost exclusively on children with “complex diagnoses,” meaning they face a combination of developmental and intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions. (Phaneuf, 5/25)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Lawmakers Hear Opposition To Lead Amendment From Doctors, Parents, Elected Officials And Healthy Home Advocates
Doctors, parents, city leaders and healthy home advocates took turns Wednesday telling the Ohio Senate Finance subcommittee on Health and Medicaid why they oppose an amendment to the state budget that would strip municipalities of authority to create local efforts to address childhood lead poisoning… Rep. Derek Merrin, a Republican who represents parts of Lucas and Fulton counties, proposed the amendment last month and has argued that a fractured system of rules that change from city-to-city is not only unfair to landlords but doesn’t give all children in Ohio equal protection from lead exposure. (Dissell and Zeltner, 5/25)

Los Angeles Times: No One Knows How Many Untested Rape Kits There Are In California. This Bill Aims To Fix That
ens of thousands of rape kits are sitting on shelves in police and sheriff’s department evidence rooms nationwide. And no one has tested them to see what crimes they could help solve. A bill by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would help determine how many of those unanalyzed exam kits exist in California, part of a national backlog that federal officials have grappled with for nearly two decades. (Ulloa, 5/26)

KCUR: Kansas Crisis Centers Say New Law Creates Mental Health Funding Need 
A new law will allow Kansas crisis centers to treat involuntary mental health patients for up to 72 hours, but it isn’t clear if lawmakers will fund it. Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed House Bill 2053, which allows crisis centers to treat people deemed a danger to themselves or others because of a mental health or substance use disorder. The bill had passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 27-12 after some amendments. Lawmakers didn’t allocate funding for additional crisis center beds before they left for the Memorial Day weekend, although they have yet to finalize a budget. (Wingerter, 5/25)

California Healthline: For California Hospitals That Don’t Pass Quake Test, Money’s Mostly At Fault
With a state deadline looming, some California hospitals still need to retrofit or rebuild so that their structures can withstand an earthquake — and money remains a challenge. Some hospital officials are turning to voters to raise money, while others are pursuing more innovative financing schemes.About 7 percent of the state’s hospital buildings — 220 — are still designated as having the highest risk of collapse following an earthquake, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. That’s a slight drop from 251 buildings a year ago. (Ibarra, 5/26)

The Star Tribune: HCMC Seeks To Ease Patient Bottlenecks With New Mental Health Crisis Center
To ease chronic bottlenecks in countywide mental health services, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) is nearing completion of a new 16-bed home that will help people with mental illnesses transition back into the community after acute hospital stays. The Victorian-style home, located at 3633 Chicago Av. in south Minneapolis, will provide short-term housing and treatment for adults who are stable enough to be discharged from a hospital psychiatric unit but who may need more therapy and social support before returning to their regular homes and jobs. (Serres, 5/25)

New Orleans Times-Picayune: She Saved $3,786 By Shopping Her MRI; Here’s How You Can Save, Too 
It was only after her doctor recommended she get an abdominal MRI that a New Orleans woman learned just how costly it can be to have a medical procedure without first shopping around. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous in order to discuss her health, said her doctor suggested the MRI to help her understand a hereditary condition that might affect her years from now. A month later, the day before the test, she got a call from Tulane Medical Center asking how she planned to pay for it, she said. (Lipinski and Zurik, 5/25)

Texas Tribune: Behind Closed Doors, Texas Lawmakers Strip Funding For Sex Trafficking Victims
In recent private negotiations between the Texas House and Senate about which public programs to fund and how to fund them, state lawmakers opted to kill a $3 million initiative to rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking. That ended hopes from child welfare advocates that 2017 would be the first year in recent memory in which state lawmakers might set aside funds specifically intended to help victims who were sold for sex. (Waltersn, 5/25)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: AxessPointe Offers Healthcare Clinic For North Hill Refugees, Immigrants 
To serve the refugee community in Akron’s North Hill, AxessPointe Community Health Centers will provide a weekly healthcare clinic at the Exchange House. The Exchange House, created by the Better Block Foundation, serves as a community center for the large refugee population, predominantly Bhutanese, which travels mostly on foot and has a large number of children and senior citizens. (Conn, 5/25)

Georgia Health News: Not Just A School Clinic, But A Clinic That’s At A School
Five days a week, a team of nurses and a rotating cadre of pediatricians, nutritionists and dentists at the Gilbert Community Clinic see not just schoolchildren but Walker County residents of all ages… Although the idea of a general medical clinic on the grounds of a public school sounds novel, it’s not a new idea in Georgia. (Park, 5/25)

Georgia Health News: Meals On Wheels: Volunteers Deliver Food As They Fret About Funding
Last year, Meals on Wheels programs brought nearly 4 million meals to 28,000 seniors living in Georgia. But federal support for this program could shrink under President Trump’s proposed budget. If the federal portion of funding for the program is cut, the effects will reverberate in tiny towns like Chickamauga, where Betty Richardson delivers lunches every week. (Male, 5/25)

The Baltimore Sun: Emerging Hopkins Center Harmonizing Music And Medicine 
[Alex] Pantelyat, 34, a Johns Hopkins University neurologist (and, not so incidentally, an accomplished violinist) is a co-founder and co-director of the Center for Music & Medicine, an emerging collaboration between the Johns Hopkins medical community and the Peabody Institute. The mission, he said, is to combine the expertise of faculty members in both camps toward a pair of ends: integrating music and rhythm into medical care and improving the health of musicians worldwide. More than 80 Johns Hopkins faculty members across dozens of disciplines have affiliated themselves with the center, the first of its kind in the eastern United States. (Pitts, 5/26)

Arizona Republic: What To Know As Arizona’s Mandatory Paid Sick-Leave Law Takes Effect
Arizona’s new law mandating paid sick leave starts July 1, and employers had better be prepared for it. Businesses and non-profit groups could face penalties for failing to keep adequate records or post sufficient notice, and they could incur damages for failing to provide paid sick time. Employers who retaliate against workers exercising their rights could face fines of at least $150 per day, say attorneys at Gallagher & Kennedy, a Phoenix law firm that held a workshop to alert employers of the requirements. (Wiles, 5/25)

Miami Herald: Valley Children’s Hospital Has Volunteer Baby Cuddling Program 
Lynne Meccariello, unit support supervisor of the neonatal intensive care unit and a liaison for the hospital’s volunteer services department, describes the cuddling program as providing “developmental care and comfort to babies when their parents can’t be there.” Meccariello says holding a sick baby reduces pain and provides warmth, and the cuddler encourages “self-soothing” – children’s ability to comfort themselves when they aren’t being held. (George, 5/25)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

State Highlights: Vt. Gov. Vetoes Pot Bill; Pa. Gov. Taps Teresa Miller To Head Proposed Health And Human Services Department

Media outlets report on news from Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Texas, California, Virginia and Arizona.

WBUR: Vermont’s Governor Vetoes Recreational Pot Bill
Vermont Governor Phil Scott, a Republican, said on Wednesday he was vetoing a bill to legalize marijuana, and sending it back to the legislature for changes… Though he said he views the issue “through a libertarian lens,” Scott vetoed the bill due to concerns about detecting and penalizing impaired drivers, protecting children, and the role and makeup of a Marijuana Regulatory Commission. (Wamsley, 5/24)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Nominee For New Pa. Health And Human Services Dept. Digging In
Teresa Miller, nominated Tuesday by Gov. Wolf to be the inaugural secretary of the proposed Pennsylvania Department of Health and Human Services, said she is a big believer in her boss’s “government that works” mantra.“…Advocates worry that initiatives, such as heightened oversight of nursing homes by the Department of Health, could fizzle because of the proposed consolidation of the departments of health, human services, aging, and drug and alcohol programs. (Brubaker, 4/24)

ProPublica: In A Lonely Corner Of Coney Island, A Fight Over Care For The Vulnerable 
Today, Oceanview has taken on a distinctive role in the latest act of the legal saga surrounding the adult homes. Lawyers for the adult home industry have sued the state on behalf of a single former resident at Oceanview, a man who had taken advantage of the judge’s plan and moved into alternative housing, but who the lawyers say now wants to return. The man missed his friends and the conveniences of the Coney Island neighborhood, the lawyers argue. (Sapien, 5/24)

The Star Tribune: Annandale Nursing Home Is Faulted In Patient’s Death 
An Annandale nursing home resident developed internal bleeding and died after being denied crucial blood-thinning medication for 15 days, according to a state investigation that blamed the death on the facility’s procedural shortcomings. The state Health Department’s investigation into the stroke patient’s Nov. 28 death concluded that the nonprofit Annandale Care Center “had no system, policies or procedures in place” to ensure that certain medications and some other services were being provided as prescribed. (Walsh, 5/24)

Boston Globe: Surgeon Who Raised Concerns About Double-Booked Surgeries Faced Retaliation, Judge Rules 
A prominent Boston neurosurgeon was illegally forced out of his previous job at a New York hospital for strongly objecting to a policy that allowed another surgeon to perform complex spine surgeries on two patients simultaneously, a judge ruled. Double-booking, as the practice is sometimes called, triggered a fierce dispute among doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in recent years, leading to the 2015 dismissal of an orthopedic surgeon who opposed it. But Dr. James Holsapple may be the first doctor to win a lawsuit alleging he faced retaliation for challenging the practice. (Saltzman, 5/24)

The Star Tribune: 26 Patients Die After Upgrading Abbott Blood Pump At Home 
At least 26 patients in advanced heart failure have died after replacing the controller for an Abbott Laboratories blood pump while out of the hospital. Abbott has issued an alert for 28,882 HeartMate II controllers that includes new software and alarm guides, after reports of 70 incidents in which the life-preserving device malfunctioned after a patient changed out the controller at home. Those incidents included 26 deaths and 19 injuries. (Carlson, 5/24)

Austin American-Statesman: Texas Senate Approves Priority House Bills To Address Foster Care Woes
The Texas Senate unanimously passed a priority House bill Wednesday that would make several changes to the foster care system, including keeping children at risk of entering foster care with their parents. House Bill 7, filed by Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, would, among several other provisions, bar a court from taking children away from parents on the grounds that they home-schooled their children, were economically disadvantaged, had reasonably disciplined their children or had been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor. (Chang, 5/24)

San Jose Mercury News: Second Botulism Death Unrelated To ‘Extremely Rare’ Nacho Cheese Botulism 
The country’s foremost researchers on botulism in dairy products are calling the recent outbreak at a gas station in Walnut Grove a “perfect storm” of circumstances that left one dead and nine sickened… Although extremely rare, Northern California has seen two deaths from foodborne botulism in the last few months. Within the last month, Napa County has had one death from botulism related to canned goods, according to county health officials. (Davis, 5/24)

San Francisco Chronicle: Nearly 1 In 4 San Franciscans Struggle With Hunger 
According to the SF-Marin Food Bank, 23 percent of San Francisco residents struggle with hunger. The number is a striking amount, and much higher than the city’s homeless population, which the city said was 6,886 in 2015 (though others estimate it to be much higher), making it less than 1 percent of the population. (Duggan, 5/24)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: McAuliffe Signs Bill On Jail Deaths Related To Jamycheal Mitchell On Same Day Portsmouth Prosecutor Requests Special Grand Jury Into His Death At Hampton Roads Regional Jail 
In the name of Jamycheal Mitchell on Wednesday, the state’s highest elected official signed a bill in Richmond strengthening oversight of Virginia’s 60 local and regional jails, and a prosecutor in Portsmouth requested a special grand jury convene to investigate how the mentally ill 24-year-old wasted away behind bars… Still, no information has been provided publicly that explains what led to Mitchell’s death. His family has said he was physically healthy but had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Kleiner, 5/24)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: ‘This Is A Public Health Epidemic:’ Experts Speak To State Commission On Preventing Childhood Trauma In Virginia
Childhood traumatic experiences have strong links to dozens of adult health conditions, such as HIV, heart disease and cancer. In states that track such data, childhood trauma is considered a cause in between 11 and 89 percent of those health conditions. On average, whenever a toxin impacts more than 10 percent of health conditions, awareness grows and lawmakers, advocates and public health officials become interested in how to stop it to save lives, said Allison Sampson-Jackson. (O’Connor, 5/24)

Arizona Republic: Would Legalizing Marijuana Bring Money To Arizona Schools?
A fact sheet presented by the anti-marijuana group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which helped defeat Prop. 205 last November, mentions projected social costs outweigh the revenue provided by legalization… Merilee Fowler, vice chair of ARDP, said via email that “there are many unintended consequences of legalization that produce costs for the state.” (Jarvis, 5/24)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

Patients Seeking Aid In Dying Driven More By Psychological Suffering Than Physical Pain, Study Finds

“It’s what I call existential distress. Their quality of life is not what they want.” says researcher Madeline Li, an associate professor at University of Toronto. Today’s other public health news stories cover so-called “conversion therapy,” Zika, tuberculosis, fitness trackers, knee arthritis and “high-intensity” drinking.

The Washington Post: It’s Not Pain But ‘Existential Distress’ That Leads People To Assisted Suicide, Study Suggests
A few decades ago, doctor-assisted suicide was considered a fringe idea despite surveys showing many physicians support the idea under certain circumstances. The face of euthanasia at that time was Jack Kevorkian, a Michigan pathologist nicknamed “Dr. Death.” By his own admission, he helped 130 people end their lives. He was convicted of homicide and served eight years in prison. While doctor-assisted suicide remains a polarizing issue, some countries and states have begun to accept it. Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland have legalized voluntary euthanasia. In 2016, Canada legalized “medically assisted death.” Australia, France, South Africa and the United Kingdom are considering similar measures. (Cha, 5/24)

The New York Times: Nevada And Connecticut Are Latest To Ban Discredited ‘Conversion Therapy’
At least nine states now ban “conversion therapy” for minors, a discredited method meant to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, after Nevada and Connecticut this month joined others in prohibiting the practice. Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada last week signed Senate Bill 201, making it illegal for any licensed medical or mental health care professional to provide sexual orientation or gender conversion therapy to anyone under 18 years of age, a statement from his office said. (Hauser, 5/24)

NPR: The Zika Virus Made Its Way To Miami Earlier Than Thought
Last year’s Zika outbreak in Miami likely started in the spring of 2016, with the virus introduced multiple times before it was detected, researchers say. And most of those cases originated in the Caribbean. The study, published Wednesday in Nature, examined more than 250 cases of local Zika transmission in three Miami neighborhoods. Researchers analyzed 39 Zika virus genomes isolated from 32 people who had been infected and seven Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species that carries Zika. (Allen, 5/24)

WBUR: Tuberculosis And Rural Healthcare In America 
In most places tuberculosis is a disease from the past. But in the small county of Perry, Alabama it’s a near outbreak… It was so bad, the county finally paid residents to get tested. It all comes down to racial divides. (Yellin, 5/24)

NPR: Some Fitness Trackers Give Inaccurate Measurements Of Calories Burned
Sleek, high-tech wristbands are extremely popular these days, promising to measure heart rate, steps taken during the day, sleep, calories burned and even stress. And, increasingly, patients are heading to the doctor armed with reams of data gathered from their devices. “They’re essentially asking us to digest the data and offer advice about how to avoid cardiovascular disease,” says cardiologist Euan Ashley, associate professor of medicine at the Stanford University Medical Center and Stanford Hospital and Clinics in northern California. (Neighmond, 5/24)

Houston Chronicle: New Study Shows Increase In ‘High-Intensity’ Drinking, Defined As Consuming 10 Or More Drinks
With a three-day weekend upon us, several Texans will be stocking up on beer and wine for weekend cook-outs. That also means more drunk drivers on the road. One new study suggests that young drivers could be more dangerous on roadways today than ever before, since they’re engaging in “high-intensity” drinking, which is defined as consuming 10 or more drinks in a row…The May 2017 report indicates that “one in nine young adults (11 percent) were classified as high-intensity drinkers from 2005 to 2015” with “similar prevalence” among high school-aged students. (Guillen, 5/24)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

In Snapshot Of How Bad Opioid Crisis Has Become, Counselors Overseeing Halfway House Die Of Overdoses

“The staff members in charge of supervising recovering addicts succumbed to their own addiction and died of opioid overdoses. Opioids are a monster that is slowly consuming our population,” Pennsylvania’s Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said.

The Washington Post: Residents Of Halfway House Found Two Men Dead From Overdoses — Their Drug Counselors
The man’s losing battle with heroin was laid out right there on the nightstand of the halfway house. There were three morning devotionals, including “God Calling,” geared toward keeping a person’s thoughts pointed heavenward. Then there was the nicotine: two packs of cigarettes, a vaporizer and a case of snus to quell cravings. And near the edge: empty packets of heroin, a spoon and a syringe half full of the last hit the man would ever inject. (Wootson, 5/24)

Meanwhile, in Tennessee —

Nashville Tennessean: State Data Confirms Overdose Deaths Are Primarily White Opioid Users
A new report from the Tennessee Department of Health on drug overdose deaths sheds new light on the opioid epidemic plaguing the state, darkening the lines of an emerging portrait of the typical abuser killed by the powerful painkillers. The drug overdose fatalities are overwhelmingly white, mostly male and increasingly less likely to have prescriptions for the drugs that kill them. And, across Tennessee, those killed are more likely to overdose on opioids — including heroin and fentanyl — than on any other kind of drug. (Fletcher, Nelson and Wadhwani, 5/24)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

State Highlights: Aid-In-Dying Case To Be Heard In N.Y.; Mass. Hospital Revises Plan To Close Psychiatric Beds After Criticism

Media outlets report on news from New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Texas, Connecticut, Florida, California, Colorado and Missouri.

The Wall Street Journal: New York Appeals Court To Hear Case On Doctor Aid In Dying
Eric Seiff says his mother begged his father to end her life throughout the two years she suffered from breast cancer before dying in 1955. Mr. Seiff told himself at the time he would never prolong his death. Mr. Seiff, an 84-year-old lawyer, is among those plaintiffs arguing that doctors should have the right to prescribe a fatal dosage of medication, in most cases barbiturates, to mentally competent terminally ill people. Their case against the state is scheduled to be heard May 30 in the New York Court of Appeals in Albany, the state’s highest court. (Kanno-Youngs, 5/22)

Boston Globe: UMass Memorial Seeks To Quell Criticism Of Psychiatric Bed Cuts 
UMass Memorial Medical Center, responding to sharp criticism from mental health advocates and the state, has revised its plan to close 13 psychiatric beds in Worcester and transfer patients to other Central Massachusetts hospitals. Worcester’s largest hospital submitted the updated plan late last week in response to officials at the state Department of Public Health, who said they were deeply concerned that the hospital’s original proposal would curtail patients’ access to services. (Dayal McCluskey, 5/22)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: New Mental Health Care Program Launched In Virginia
The Virginia Health Care Foundation has announced a new $1.5 million behavioral health program that is designed to increase access to mental health care for uninsured Virginians and those with little to no access to medical care… The foundation is a public-private partnership that helps uninsured Virginians and those who live in areas without robust medical, dental and mental health services. (Kleiner, 5/22)

The CT Mirror: Healthcare Union Ad Protests Ongoing State Layoffs 
The state’s largest healthcare workers’ union launched a new online ad Monday to protest the latest layoffs ordered by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The governor, who warned unions recently that he might have to order as many as 4,200 layoffs if concessions are not granted, has issued 113 pink slips in recent weeks. (Phaneuf, 5/22)

Health News Florida: Mosquito Control Ramps Up As South Florida Prepares For Zika 
Last summer’s wave of local transmission of the Zika virus hasn’t yet bled into 2017 , but officials from Key West to West Palm Beach are gearing up for another round of mosquito control by creating new staff positions, adding more equipment and increasing outreach efforts. In 2016, Florida saw more than 250 cases of locally transmitted Zika, the mosquito-borne virus spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito that can cause fevers, rashes and joint pain. (Stein, 5/22)

Sacramento Bee: Nacho Cheese From Gas Station Blamed For Botulism Death 
One person has died of botulism after eating nacho cheese sauce from a Walnut Grove gas station, California health officials confirmed Monday. The man was one of 10 people who fell ill with the rare form of food poisoning in recent weeks after eating food purchased at Valley Oak Food and Fuel. (Caiola and Chang, 5/22)

Denver Post: Centura Health’s Longtime CEO To Step Down, Assume Special Advisor Role 
Centura Health’s chief executive will step down Sept. 1 after leading the Centennial-based healthcare network for nine years. Gary Campbell, the longest tenured CEO in Centura’s history, will be succeeded by chief operating officer Peter Banko, officials announced Monday. “Centura Health has been truly blessed with Gary’s visionary leadership,” Centura Health board chairwoman Patricia Webb said in a statement. “His faithful commitment to our ministry and efforts to transform the delivery of health care have allowed us to optimize health value across our region and meet the needs of consumers.” (Rusch, 5/23)

Texas Tribune: Bill On Certification Pits Doctors Against Hospitals 
A bill moving through the Legislature in the last week of the session is pitting doctors against hospitals over how much testing doctors should have to undergo to maintain their certification… Senate Bill 1148 would ban the Texas Medical Board from using the MOC as a requirement for physicians to obtain or renew their medical license. (Mansoor, 5/23)

San Francisco Chronicle: Evictions From Residential Care Home Disrupt Lives
The owner and operator of the Fulton Rest Home, an independent living facility for men with disabilities in Berkeley, told residents last month they had 60 days to clear out… A private operator of a residential care facility can close the business and evict the tenants with only a 30-day notice, according to Disability Rights California, an advocacy group that runs a website listing tenant rights for people in care homes. (Taylor Jr., 5/22)

Sacramento Bee: Norovirus Stomach Illness Spreads In Yolo County Schools 
That vomit- and diarrhea-inducing illness spreading through schools has reached more than 2,800 people in Yolo County as of Monday and could linger on campuses through the end of the academic year, health officials say… Kristin Weivoda, emergency medical services administrator for the county, said the spread of norovirus will be difficult to overcome before school is out because of the ease of transmission among children. (Kalb, 5/22)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

Women Who Drink Just One Glass Of Alcohol A Day Face Increased Breast Cancer Risk

Researchers also, for the first time, concluded evidence is strong that vigorous exercise reduces that risk. In other public health news: sun damage, opioid addiction medication, baby boxes, intelligence genes, gender-confirmation surgeries, and more.

The Washington Post: Just One Alcoholic Drink A Day Increases Risk Of Breast Cancer, Study Says
Just one glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day significantly raises the risk of breast cancer, while vigorous exercise such as running and bicycling reduces it, according to an expansive review of research on the effects of diet, nutrition and physical activity on the disease. The report, which was issued Tuesday, concluded that drinking the equivalent of one small glass of wine, beer or other alcohol a day — about 10 grams of alcohol — is linked to an increased cancer risk of 5 percent for pre-menopausal women and 9 percent for post-menopausal women. A standard drink has 14 grams of alcohol. (McGinley, 5/23)

Stat: Creating A Sensor To Stop Sun Damage Before It Happens
A day in the sun often means slathering on sunscreen to stave off sunburns — but it can be a guessing game as to when SPF coverage is starting to dwindle. Now, scientists are working to develop a stick-on patch that can tell wearers when they’ve had too much time in the sun. … The new sensor is a smart material sandwiched between two thin layers of silicone. The smart material contains a small molecule that splits in half in response to UV. That reaction causes the patch to turn orange, letting the user know when it’s time to reapply sunscreen or head indoors. The researchers can also tune the response rate — making it turn orange faster — to tailor the patches for people who are more UV sensitive. (Thielking, 5/23)

The Associated Press: Science Says: Medications Prevent Opioid Addiction Relapse
Remarks by a top U.S. health official have reignited a quarrel in the world of addiction and recovery: Does treating opioid addiction with medication save lives? Or does it trade one addiction for another? Health Secretary Tom Price’s recent comments — one replying to a reporter’s question, the other in a newspaper op-ed — waver between two strongly held views. Medication-assisted treatment, known as MAT, is backed by doctors. Yet it still has skeptics, especially among supporters of 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous, because it involves opioid-based medications. (Johnson, 5/22)

NPR: Face-To-Face Sleep Education Plus ‘Baby Boxes’ Reduces Bed Sharing
Giving new moms face-to-face education about safe sleep practices — and providing them with a cardboard “baby box” where their newborns can sleep right when they get home — reduces the incidence of bed sharing, a significant risk factor for SIDS and other unexpected sleep-related deaths, a study from Temple University in Philadelphia has found. (Pao, 5/22)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Temple Study: Baby Boxes Help Improve Infant Sleep Safety
A Temple University Hospital initiative that coupled “baby boxes” – portable cardboard bassinets – with personalized safe sleep instruction cut down on the hazardous practice of parents and infants sleeping in the same bed, according to study results released Monday. Temple researchers found the hospital’s SAFE-T program – Sleep Awareness Family Education at Temple – reduced the rate of bed sharing in the first eight days of life by 25 percent. (Giordano, 5/22)

The New York Times: In ‘Enormous Success,’ Scientists Tie 52 Genes To Human Intelligence
In a significant advance in the study of mental ability, a team of European and American scientists announced on Monday that they had identified 52 genes linked to intelligence in nearly 80,000 people. These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule, the researchers said, suggesting that thousands more are likely to be involved and still await discovery. Just as important, intelligence is profoundly shaped by the environment. (Zimmer, 5/22)

The Washington Post: Gender-Confirmation Surgeries Increase After Social Changes
More than 3,200 transgender surgeries, from “facial and body contouring” to actual “gender reassignment,” were performed in the United States last year, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said Monday in releasing the first such numbers ever reported. The 2016 total, reflecting a rapid evolution of public attitudes and health coverage, represented a 19 percent increase from the previous year, the data show. (Nutt, 5/22)

Miami Herald: How To Spot The Symptoms Of Teenage Depression 
Nearly 18 percent — or about 1 in 5 students between ninth and 12th grades — had thought about attempting suicide over a 12-month period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, 14.6 percent of students nationwide had a plan detailing how they would kill themselves… Unlike adults, children may not admit to feeling depressed. Rather, they may be irritable, angry, have physical complaints or behavior changes. (Saltz and Furst, 5/22)

WBUR: Graduating Medical School? Get A Therapist. 
Mental health disorders during medical residency are more like the rule than the exception. One study found that 26 percent of graduates were depressed during their following medical internships. That was the experience of Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, a primary care physician in Everett. (Chakrabarti, Goldberg and Mitchell, 5/22)

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Carfentanil Intensifying Already Deadly Opioid Epidemic

The synthetic drug is 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

NH Times Union: Manchester Officials Gather To Battle Carfentanil 
Leaders in law enforcement, government, health care, public health, addiction recovery and emergency services huddled Friday over the lessons learned and the challenges that lie ahead following the carnage the new drug, carfentanil, caused in Manchester last month. Catholic Medical Center President and CEO Joe Pepe said his emergency room dealt with 10 overdoses in a single day, and in some cases overdoses required five times the usual dose of Narcan used to revive an unconscious addict. (Landrigan, 5/19)

In other news on the crisis —

NPR: Poll: Doctors Are Prescribing Back Pain Treatments That May Do More Harm Than Good
More than half of people say they’ve suffered lower back pain in the past year, according to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll. That’s not a surprise; low back pain is very common, and one of the biggest reasons that people seek medical care. But people told us that they’re making very different choices in how they treat that pain, with some stark differences among age groups and income levels. (Shute, 5/19)

The Associated Press: Philadelphia To Mull Safe Injection Sites In Opioid Fight
A task force charged with outlining ways for Philadelphia to combat its opioid epidemic has recommended the city consider allowing safe sites, where drug users could inject heroin. Gov. Tom Wolf was on hand Friday as Mayor Jim Kenney outlined the task force’s findings. Kenney convened the 23-member group in January. (de Groot, 5/19)

The Washington Post: A Devastating Story Of Lives Ruined And Ended By Opioids
America’s opioid crisis is starkly laid out in the opening moments of HBO Documentary Films’ “Warning: This Drug May Kill You.” There’s a guy slumped over on a bus. A woman passed out on a street. Another guy collapsed backward across a bench. Then there’s a doctor, in a Perdue Pharma promotional video from 1999, explaining that “we doctors were wrong in thinking that opioids cannot be used long-term. They can be. And they should be.” (Hallett, 5/20)

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Longer Looks: A Grandmother’s Abortion; Exploding Obamacare; And Doctors In China

Each week, KHN’s Shefali Luthra finds interesting reads from around the Web.

The New Yorker: My Grandmother’s Desperate Choice
Some friends and I had got into a long after-school discussion about abortion, prompted by the gruesome posters that a protester had staked in front of the Planned Parenthood in our Vermont town. I had already begun reading my mother’s Ms. magazines cover to cover, but this was the first time I’d encountered a pro-life position. When I hopped into my mom’s car after school, I was buzzing with new ideas. I had almost finished repeating one friend’s pro-life argument when I saw the look on Mom’s face. That’s when she told me: the “household accident” that had killed her mother had, in fact, been a self-induced abortion. (Kate Daloz, 5/14)

Vox: What Does It Look Like When Obamacare Explodes? This Interactive Graphic Explains.
The biggest risk when health insurance plans quit Obamacare is that some areas could end up with no plans at all. This would mean that, while the law was still technically standing, people there would not have access to the program. They’d have no place to use the financial help the government provides to buy coverage on Healthcare.gov. (Sarah Kliff and Sarah Frostenson, 5/15)

The Economist: Shod, But Still Shoddy: China Needs Many More Primary-Care Doctors
Queues at Chinese hospitals are legendary. The acutely sick jostle with the elderly and frail even before gates open, desperate for a coveted appointment to see a doctor. Scalpers hawk waiting tickets to those rich or desperate enough to jump the line. The ordeal that patients often endure is partly the result of a shortage of staff and medical facilities. But it is also due to a bigger problem. Many people who seek medical help in China bypass general practitioners and go straight to hospital-based specialists. In a country once famed for its readily accessible “barefoot doctors”, primary care is in tatters. (5/11)

WIRED: The WannaCry Ransomware Hackers Made Some Major Mistakes
The WannaCry Ransomware Attack has quickly become the worst digital disaster to strike the internet in years, crippling transportation and hospitals globally. But it increasingly appears that this is not the work of hacker masterminds. Instead, cybersecurity investigators see in the recent meltdown a sloppy cybercriminal scheme, one that reveals amateur mistakes at practically every turn. (Andy Greenberg, 5/15)

The Atlantic: Does Depression Contribute To Opioid Abuse?
It can sometimes seem strange how so much of the country got hooked on opioids within just a few years. Deaths from prescription drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the CDC. But pain doesn’t seem to be the only culprit: About one-third of Americans have chronic pain, but not all of them take prescription painkillers for it. Of those who do take prescription opioids, not all become addicted. (Olga Khazan, 5/15)

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Research Roundup: Medicaid Wellness Programs; Preexisting Conditions; Changes In Subsidies

Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.

Health Affairs: Iowa’s Medicaid Expansion Promoted Healthy Behaviors But Was Challenging To Implement And Attracted Few Participants
As part of Iowa’s Medicaid expansion, the Healthy Behaviors Program was designed to provide members with incentives to complete specified healthy activities in return for waiving monthly premiums. We used claims data and interviews to document the first year (2014) of the program’s implementation. Healthy activities completion rates did not exceed 17 percent. Interviews with members and clinic managers revealed low levels of awareness of the program’s existence, deficits in knowledge about how the program works, and a variety of barriers to activity completion. … The results suggest that efforts by federal and state governments to reform Medicaid by shifting responsibility onto program members for healthy behaviors are unlikely to succeed. (Askelson et al., 5/2)

JAMA: Trends And Patterns Of Geographic Variation In Cardiovascular Mortality Among US Counties, 1980-2014
In this study of small area estimation models applied to death records from the National Center for Health Statistics, the difference between county-level mortality rates declined substantially over the past 35 years for both ischemic heart disease and stroke; however, large differences remained in 2014. The largest concentration of counties with high cardiovascular disease mortality extended from southeastern Oklahoma along the Mississippi River Valley to eastern Kentucky, and several cardiovascular disease conditions were clustered substantially outside the South, including atrial fibrillation (Northwest), aortic aneurysm (Midwest), and endocarditis (Mountain West and Alaska). (Roth et al., 5/16)

The New England Journal of Medicine: Aerobic Or Resistance Exercise, Or Both, In Dieting Obese Older Adults
In this clinical trial involving 160 obese older adults, we evaluated the effectiveness of several exercise modes in reversing frailty and preventing reduction in muscle and bone mass induced by weight loss. Participants were randomly assigned to a weight-management program plus one of three exercise programs — aerobic training, resistance training, or combined aerobic and resistance training — or to a control group (no weight-management or exercise program). … Of the methods tested, weight loss plus combined aerobic and resistance exercise was the most effective in improving functional status of obese older adults. (Villareal et al., 5/18)

JAMA Internal Medicine: Perceived Discrimination Experienced By Physician Mothers And Desired Workplace Changes
In a large cross-sectional survey of physician mothers, we found that perceived discrimination is common, affecting 4 of 5 respondents, including about two-thirds of the respondents who reported discrimination based on gender and more than a third who reported maternal discrimination. The overlap of groups reporting gender and maternal discrimination was less than half, suggesting that they are somewhat different phenomena. (Adesoye et al., 5/8)

International Journal of Health Services: Availability Of Outpatient Mental Health Care By Pediatricians And Child Psychiatrists In Five U.S. Cities
The authors sought to assess the availability of outpatient mental health care through pediatrician and child psychiatrist offices in the United States and to characterize differences in appointment availability by location, provider type, and insurance across five cities. To do so, the authors posed as parents of a 12-year-old child with depression, gave a predetermined insurance type, and asked to make the first available appointment with the specified provider. They called the offices of 601 individual pediatricians and 312 child psychiatrists located in five U.S. cities and listed as in-network by Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the largest private insurers in the United States. Appointments were obtained with 40% of the pediatricians and 17% of the child psychiatrists. The mean wait time for psychiatry appointments was 30 days longer than for pediatric appointments. (Cama et al., 5/9)

The Kaiser Family Foundation: Gaps in Coverage Among People With Pre-Existing Conditions
The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which has passed the House of Representatives, contains a controversial provision that would allow states to waive community rating in the individual insurance market. In this brief we estimate the number of people with pre-existing conditions who might be affected by such a policy. … Using the most recent National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), we estimate that 27.4 million non-elderly adults nationally had a gap in coverage of at least several months in 2015. This includes 6.3 million people (or 23% of everyone with at least a several-month gap) who have a pre-existing condition that would have led to a denial of insurance in the pre-ACA individual market and would lead to a substantial premium surcharge under AHCA community rating waiver. (Levitt et al., 5/17)

Urban Institute: Premium Tax Credits Tied To Age Versus Income And Available Premiums: Differences By Age, Income, And Geography
This paper compares tax credits offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with those in the American Health Care Act (AHCA). They examined the premium levels in 10 cities, five of which have relatively low premiums and five of which have relatively high premiums. The authors find that younger people typically receive larger insurance premium tax credits under the AHCA, while older adults typically receive larger premium tax credits under the ACA. The analysis also shows that lower-income older adults currently receive higher tax credits under the ACA than they would under the AHCA regardless of where they live. (Holahan, Blumberg and Wengle, 5/17)

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Flushing Fallopian Tubes With Poppyseed Oil May Help Infertile Women Conceive

A small study shows a “clear” difference between oil-based and water-based solutions. In other public health news: breast cancer survival rates, pelvic exams, cancer treatments, internet addiction and gun safety.

Stat: Can Poppyseed Oil Help Infertile Couples Conceive?
Here’s something you don’t see in the New England Journal of Medicine every day: Flushing fallopian tubes with a poppyseed oil-based solution may help a woman to conceive — and one of the key researchers of the paper thinks he’s likely living proof of the technique’s efficacy. For decades, doctors have noticed that some couples who had previously been struggling to conceive became pregnant shortly after an imaging study of the woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes. Now, a randomized study strongly suggests a particular chemical used in that procedure may be to thank. (Sheridan, 5/18)

The Washington Post: Women With Advanced Breast Cancer Are Surviving Longer, Study Says
The number of women living with advanced breast cancer is rising substantially in the United States, reflecting improved survival among all ages, according to a study published Thursday. The study found that between 1992 and 1994, and 2005 and 2012, the five-year survival rate among women under age 50 initially diagnosed with advanced disease doubled from 18 percent to 36 percent. The median survival time for that group increased from 22.3 months to almost 39 months. For women ages 50 to 64, the survival time grew from a little more than 19 months to almost 30 months. (McGinley, 5/18)

NPR: Women Skip Pelvic Exams When Told They Have Little Health Benefit
This is a story about conflicting medical advice. One group of doctors, represented by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommends yearly pelvic exams for all women 21 years of age and older, whether they have symptoms of disease or not. But the American College of Physicians, representing doctors of internal medicine, says that potential harms of the exam outweigh benefits and recommends against performing pelvic examinations unless a woman is pregnant or has symptoms of disease such as bleeding, pain or signs of infection. (Neighmond, 5/18)

KCUR: MU Researcher Explores Cancer Treatments Inspired By Traditional Indian Medicine 
In some ways, the consultation isn’t that different from a regular doctor’s checkup. [Sarah] Kucera asks about the patient’s health history, diet and exercise regimen while typing notes on a laptop. But there are differences. The Ayurvedic remedies that Kucera prescribes are mostly plant-based – things like herbs and oils which are thought to be beneficial to various parts of the body. Ayurveda isn’t typically used to treat critical illness or injury. Kucera explains that it focuses more on prevention and wellness. (Smith, 5/18)

NPR: Is Internet Addiction A Thing?
When her youngest daughter, Naomi, was in middle school, Ellen watched the teen disappear behind a screen. Her once bubbly daughter went from hanging out with a few close friends after school to isolating herself in her room for hours at a time. (NPR has agreed to use only the pair’s middle names, to protect the teen’s medical privacy.) “She started just lying there, not moving and just being on the phone,” says Ellen. “I was at a loss about what to do.” (McClurg, 5/18)

Los Angeles Times: When States Have Strong Guns Laws, They Also Have Fewer Fatal Police Shootings
Fatal shootings of civilians by police officers are less common in states with stricter gun laws than they are in states that take a more relaxed approach to regulating the sale, storage and use of firearms, new research says. A study published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health has found that fatal police shootings were about half as common in states whose gun laws place them in the top 25% of stringency than they were in states where such restrictions ranked in the bottom 25%. (Healy, 5/18)

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On Heels Of Opioid Crisis, Officials See Early Warning Signs That Meth Will Be Next Epidemic

Officials say a methamphetamine crisis could be even further reaching than the current opioid epidemic. In related new, senators introduce a bill to modify rules about Medicaid money and substance abuse treatment centers, Aetna is sending letters to dentists and oral surgeons who are “superprescribers,” and more out of the states.

Stateline: A New Meth Surge Gathers Momentum
The opioid epidemic has killed tens of thousands over the last two years and driven major reforms in state and local law enforcement and public health policies for people with addiction. But another deadly but popular drug, methamphetamine, also has been surging in many parts of the country. And federal officials say that, based on what they learned as opioids swept the U.S., methamphetamine is likely to spread even further. (Vestal, 5/18)

Modern Healthcare: New Senate Bill Aims To Boost Medicaid Addiction Treatment Access 
A bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday introduced a bill that would allow more substance abuse treatment center to receive Medicaid payments. The legislation would enable treatment facilities with up to 40 beds to be reimbursed by Medicaid for 60 consecutive days of inpatient services. If passed, the bill would modify the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Disease law, which currently only allows Medicaid coverage for facilities with less than 16 beds. (Castellucci, 5/18)

Modern Healthcare: Aetna Targets Dentist ‘Superprescribers’ In Latest Opioid Initiative 
After a root canal or wisdom tooth removal, it’s not unusual for a patient to walk away from the dentist’s chair with a prescription for Vicodin or Percocet, even though ibuprofen would easily relieve the pain. Dentists are among the highest prescribers of highly-addictive prescription opioids—a driving factor in the worsening opioid epidemic. National health insurer Aetna hopes to keep these opioids out of medicine cabinets and off the street by encouraging dentists and oral maxillofacial surgeons that prescribe abnormally large amounts of opioids to change their behavior. (Livingston, 5/18)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Aging, Addiction Advocates Worried About Consolidation Plan
Advocates for the elderly and for drug and alcohol programs on Thursday raised alarms that the voices of their constituents will be lost in Gov. Wolf’s proposed consolidation of the state departments of health, human services, aging, and drug and alcohol programs — especially as the state grapples with what experts call the worst addiction epidemic ever. Speaking at a joint Pennsylvania Senate hearing in Northeast Philadelphia, Michael Harle, chief executive of Gaudenzia Inc., a nonprofit addiction-treatment provider, described a decades-long process, starting in the early 1970s, to get a state department devoted to drug and alcohol addiction with a direct line to the governor. (Brubaker, 5/18)

New Hampshire Public Radio: With No Oversight, How Sober Is ‘Sober Living’ In New Hampshire? 
When recovering from an opioid addiction, one important step is finding safe, drug-free housing.There are a lot of places in New Hampshire that call themselves ‘sober living.’ But with no state oversight there’s no real way to check how sober these houses actually are…With the demand for this type of housing so high, places like this have been running under the radar – some maybe not for the right reasons. If you do the math, with an average rent of $150 a week and 12 people in a house, that comes out to $7,200 a month or more than  $86,000 a year. So the profit is definitely there. (Sutherland, 5/18)

Health News Florida: State Officials Begin Divvying Up Federal Opioid Grant Funding 
State officials will use the federal dollars to fund six new positions working with child protective services, drugs to counteract overdoses and prevention outreach programs. Nearly $4 million will go the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association to purchase a drug called Vivitrol that helps people in recovery stay clean by blocking the effects of opioids. (5/18)

Arizona Republic: AG: Tucson Podiatrist Pleads Guilty To Forging Prescriptions For Painkillers
A Tucson podiatrist has pleaded guilty to forging narcotics prescriptions for painkillers that he was addicted to, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said. In June 2016, Dr. Loren Wessel made a purchase of more than 5,000 oxycodone tablets, officials said. Shortly after, the veterinary-supply company that issued Wessel the drugs contacted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Phoenix. (Destin, 5/18)

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What Goes Awry In The Brain To Lead To Alzheimer’s? Scientists Still Aren’t Quite Sure

The Los Angeles Times’ series looks at dementia, Alzheimer’s and aging.

Los Angeles Times: When The Memory Flickers Out
Facts, faces, experiences: Our brain’s capacity to learn new things, store the memories and summon them up on demand is a marvel. Yet we take it all for granted until the skills start to crumble in those we love, or in ourselves. What goes awry in the brain to make this happen? (Dance, 5/18)

Los Angeles Times: Why Exercise Is The Best Medicine For Your Brain
Given time, any brain can succumb to dementia — memories fade, thoughts scatter, basic abilities wither on the vine. Brains don’t come with lifetime guarantees, but there is one major step you can take to protect yourself from Alzheimer’s or other causes of mental decline: exercise your body. Nothing protects the brain quite like regular exercise, says Jennifer Heisz, a cognitive neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. Not crossword puzzles, not supplements, not prescription medications. Exercise seems to beat them all, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or cognitive decline by about 35% to 45%, according to the latest evidence. (Woolston, 5/18)

Los Angeles Times: Eight Things You Can Do Now That Might Reduce Your Odds Of Dementia Later
It’s a safe bet that you’d like to avoid getting Alzheimer’s. But you probably haven’t done the one thing that could make you five times more likely to reach the age of 85 without getting the disease and 7.5 times more likely to have suffered no memory loss or other major cognitive decline. Don’t kick yourself. The only way you could have achieved this spectacular risk reduction was to be born with a genetic variant that’s been found in fewer than 0.5% of people studied. (Ravn, 5/18)

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State Highlights: N.Y. State Assembly OKs Single-Payer Bill; Ga. Scrambles To Address Nursing Shortage

Media outlets report on news from New York, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Oregon.

The Wall Street Journal: N.Y. Single-Payer Health-Care Bill Passes State Assembly
Democrats in the New York Assembly are relaunching a push for a statewide single-payer health-care program in hopes that the national debate over health care will give their legislation new momentum. The “Medicare-for-all” bill—designed to provide health insurance to all state residents—passed the predominantly Democratic Assembly Tuesday afternoon following several hours of partisan back-and-forth on the chamber floor. (Vilensky, 5/16)

Georgia Health News: Re-Entry Program Brings Former Nurses Back Into The Profession
According to the Georgia Nurses Association, more than 50 percent of the nursing workforce is nearing retirement age. Meanwhile, the aging of the population as a whole means that more nurses and health professionals are needed to act as caregivers. In the Northwest Georgia mountains, Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is scrambling to relieve the nursing shortage. (Thomas, 5/16)

KXAN: Report: Texas Falling Short On Police Safety During Mental Health Crises 
This investigation involved a 10-month analysis of court and police records, medical histories, media reports and dash and body camera footage, much of it obtained under the Texas Public Information Act. The research revealed shortfalls in police protection statewide: a need for improved mental health training for officers and better communication between law enforcement agencies about potentially violent individuals with mental health issues. (Hinkle and Barer, 5/16)

Orlando Sentinel: Dead Optometry Bill May Be Seen Again
The optometry bill, which for a few weeks reignited the so-called “eyeball wars” between doctors of optometry and doctors of medicine, died in the Legislature this year, but that doesn’t mean the war is over. The state optometry association will decide later this year if it’s going to once again pursue efforts to expand the scope of practice for optometrists in Florida. (Miller, 5/16)

Chicago Tribune: Seniors Seek Affordable Dental Care Options
Like many older people on a fixed income, Ed Slavik knew he couldn’t keep up with the high cost of dental care. So a few years ago, the retired school teacher was relieved to find the Dental Division at Stickney Public Health District, where he had fillings and other routine dental work done for free…But public health researchers are hoping to persuade legislators to add a dental benefit to Medicare by highlighting the many seniors forgoing care until their dental health has deteriorated, sometimes causing trouble eating, swallowing or speaking, and igniting other health problems. (Newumann, 5/16)

The Baltimore Sun: State Approves Apprenticeship Program For Hospital Workers 
State officials have approved Maryland’s first apprenticeship for environmental care supervisors, who work in hospitals cleaning areas such as surgical rooms…Apprentices will receive technical instruction through the Community College of Baltimore County and be paired with mentors Baltimore-area hospitals. Trainees’ wages will increase when they show proficiency in a list of predetermined job functions. Johns Hopkins Hospital will be the first institution to offer the on-the-job training. (Mirabella, 5/16)

Orlando Sentinel: Global Cyberattack Spares Local Health Systems 
The malicious software that quickly spread across six continents last week and locked more than 200,000 computers, including U.K.’s National Health Service, has not affected Central Florida’s two major health systems, officials told the Orlando Sentinel. But their relief is by no means a reassurance for protection from future cyberattacks. (Miller, 5/16)

Sacramento Bee: Botulism Outbreak From Gas Station Nacho Cheese Prompts Lawsuit 
Sacramento County health officials have confirmed five cases of botulism in patients who ate at the Valley Oak Food and Fuel gas station, and are investigating three other probable cases and one suspect case, with all nine patients still hospitalized. Officials believe the outbreak is linked to nacho cheese sauce that was served at the station, but the exact cause of the poisoning is still under investigation, officials said. (Caiola, 5/16)

Pioneer Press: HealthEast, Fairview Merger To Be Completed June 1
The boards of Fairview and HealthEast have approved the merger of the two metro-area hospital systems, and the deal is now expected to be completed June 1, the two organizations announced Tuesday. The combined system will be led by Fairview President and CEO James Hereford. HealthEast CEO Kathryn Correia will join the senior executive team as chief administrative officer. (5/16)

Miami Herald: How Profitable Will Medical-Marijuana Shops Be? Very, Says Confidential Pitch For Investors
A private equity firm’s confidential pitch deck obtained by the Miami Herald shows that only days ago Surterra Florida was seeking investors to buy a $10 million minority stake while also arguing against limits on the number of retail outlets any licensed operator can open. Some potential investors were lured with projections that show Surterra grossing $138 million in sales by 2021 thanks largely to the operation of 55 retail outlets — nearly four times the cap desired by the Florida Senate. (Smiley and Auslen, 5/16)

The Oregonian: Oregon Day Care Closes As Kids Fall Sick After Insecticide Exposure 
A Coos Bay day care center shut down Monday in the aftermath of an insecticide-spraying incident that left at least a half-dozen children and two staff members suffering from inflamed eyes and breathing problems. State regulators opened an inquiry into the May 5 incident but have not sent anyone to visit the Coos Bay Children’s Academy Inc., which had an enrollment of about 80 kids. Instead, the owner voluntarily closed the center Monday as several key employees quit and parents pulled children en masse over concerns about transparency and safety. (Schmidt, 5/16)

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Test Strips Allow People Using Opioids To Test Their Supply For Fentanyl

The synthetic drug is extremely powerful and is contributing to the high number of overdoses across the country. These kits could help people determine if what they are about to take is stronger than they thought it was. Meanwhile, IBM and MAP Health Management are teaming up to create software to help identify and treat addiction.

NPR: Heroin Test Kits For Purity Are Aimed At Preventing Overdose
In the day room at St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, which runs a needle exchange program in the Bronx, a group of guys are playing dominoes and listening to salsa music while they wait for lunch. And Van Asher, one of the staffers in charge of “transactions” — that means he gives out needles — is talking up his latest idea for how to keep the users here safe. He wants to tell them what’s really in their stash. “If you’re doing dope,” he says to one client, “we’ll give you a test strip so you can test and see if there’s fentanyl.” (Harris, 5/16)

Modern Healthcare: IBM Watson Health, MAP Health Management Join Forces On Addiction Treatment 
IBM Watson Health and MAP Health Management, a population health software maker, have teamed up to create new software that uses cognitive computing to treat long-term addiction and substance abuse. The new version of the MAP Recovery Network platform is driven by IBM’s Watson technology, which adds cognitive computing and machine learning to the population health software, allowing it to process unstructured data and to learn as it goes, thereby becoming more and more accurate. (Arndt, 5/16)

And in other news on the opioid epidemic —

Stat: After An Officer’s Accidental Overdose, A Police Chief Calls For Stronger Laws
After one of his officers accidentally overdosed during a search and seizure, the police chief of the opioid-besieged town of East Liverpool, Ohio, is calling for stronger penalties for transporting fentanyl and related drugs, and his officers are no longer field testing what they find while on duty. “It’s just too dangerous,” East Liverpool Police Chief John Lane told STAT on Tuesday. “It’s not worth the risk.” It’s been eight months since the town’s opioid crisis made national news, and Lane said very little has changed. Patrolman Chris Green collapsed on Friday after brushing a small amount of white powder from his shirt hours after a field test. (Ross, 5/16)

NPR: HHS Secretary Contradicted Scientific Evidence On Opioid Treatment
Addiction experts are up in arms over remarks by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in which he referred to medication-assisted treatment for addiction as “substituting one opioid for another.” Nearly 700 researchers and practitioners sent a letter Monday communicating their criticisms to Price and urging him to “set the record straight.” (Harper, 5/16)

Roll Call: Senators Push Back On Trump Drug Abuse Actions
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump pledged to tackle prescription drug abuse and the flow of illegal drugs into the country. But his White House efforts are off to a rocky start so far. … while Republican members continue to hold out hope Trump will keep his pledge to combat the opioid epidemic, a number of GOP senators are becoming more vocal in their criticism of his early actions on the issue. “I am alarmed at the defunding [of ONDCP] because that, to me, signals less emphasis on what I think is a deep problem,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said. “I think we need an overarching policy and I would like to see it remain in the White House where it would get the ultimate attention.” (Williams, 5/16)

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Viewpoints: ‘Biomedical Ecosystem’ Requires Care; How Smart Phones Could Revolutionize Medical Care

A selection of public health opinions from around the country.

Boston Globe: Nurturing The Biomedical Ecosystem
There is no better example of the power of the innovation produced by this biomedical ecosystem than Massachusetts, which is the envy of the world. … But like any ecosystem — on a local or national scale — care is required. If we nurture and support it through continued NIH funding, meaningful intellectual property protections and appropriate rewards for breakthrough innovations, great things will happen for patients, the health care system and our economy. If we don’t, the opportunity in front of us to cure the next wave of serious diseases will be lost. (Jeffrey Leiden and David Torchiana, 5/16)

RealClear Health: Paging Dr. Siri
Smart-phone apps are about to revolutionize medical care. These technologies can predict when cancer patients are about to relapse, detect rare side effects of experimental drugs, and prod patients to maintain healthy behaviors. Pharmaceutical firms could temper widespread concerns about high drug prices by incorporating these technologies into treatment regimens. Doing so would unlock the full potential of existing treatments. It would result in healthier patients and lower medical spending. (Vidya Ramesh and Sandip Shah, 5/15)

The Wall Street Journal: Trump And Christie’s First Steps To Solving The Opioid Crisis
President Trump has tapped New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to tackle America’s opioid crisis—a complicated task to say the least. Because the root cause of rising addiction and overdose is still unclear, any government response must be flexible and nuanced. The single biggest question regarding the opioid epidemic remains: Is it driven mainly by patients who become addicted to their prescriptions? Or are recreational users the underlying cause? This is difficult to figure out. Among the many heartbreaking personal anecdotes, hard data is scant and contradictory. (Josh Bloom and Alex Berezow, 5/15)

The Des Moines Register: Anti-Abortion Law Disrespects Women, Tramples On Rights
Now Iowa is left to deal with the aftermath of the 2017 legislative session. For understaffed state government, that means writing administrative rules, changing policies and enforcing new laws. State attorneys will try to muster a legal defense for Senate File 471, a morally indefensible Republican-crafted statute that imposes significant restrictions on access to abortion. (5/15)

Sacramento Bee: California Must House Its Mentally Ill 
A report by the nonpartisan Stanford Justice Advocacy Project finds that 30 percent of California state inmates receive treatment for serious mental disorders, a 150 percent increase since 2000. … Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, one of the few current members of the Legislature to take an interest in the issue, is carrying Senate Bill 142 to require that judges consider a defendant’s mental health history when imposing sentences and provide counties incentives in the form of payments if they can find ways to reduce the number of mentally ill felons they send to state prison. … For the bill to work, however, there must be places to house people in need. Too few humane options exist. (5/15)

The Kansas City Star: Secondhand Smoke’s Hidden Risks For Kids
With the recent push to increase the tobacco tax in the state of Kansas by a dollar or more per pack of cigarettes, citizens should remember that this issue is not just about reducing the number of people who smoke and improving their health. It is also about the children who are involuntarily exposed to tobacco smoke. (David A. White, 5/15)

Los Angeles Times: No Sanctuary For Marijuana In California
When Californians approved Proposition 64 to legalize marijuana in California last November, it was no secret that the drug would remain illegal under federal law. But that fundamental contradiction seemed manageable at the moment …. Now, however, we have President Trump, who seems to have forgotten his laissez faire stance on marijuana, and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who comes from the “Reefer Madness” school of law enforcement. Proponents of Proposition 64 … rightly worry that the federal government may decide to crack down on cannabis operators even if they fully comply with state rules. It’s understandable that state lawmakers want to resist potential federal intervention. But a proposal to make California a so-called sanctuary state for marijuana is not the way to go. (5/16)

Stat: An End To Pandemics Is Within Reach, But We Must Redouble Efforts Now
At the end of May, World Health Organization member states will convene their annual meeting in Geneva and elect a new director-general. This leadership transition at WHO unfolds at a defining moment, when shifting demographics are forging a new global public health landscape. Competing priorities — from non-communicable diseases to universal health coverage and polio eradication — will drive the agenda. But perhaps none is more suited to the health mandate of a community of nations as the existential threat of a pandemic. When the new director-general takes the helm on July 1, at the top of his or her list should be a focused and targeted approach to ending the pandemic era. (Daniel Schar, 5/15)

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Viewpoints: Mental Health Issues And Schools; Electronic Medical Records — The Bane Of Doctors’ Existence?

A selection of public health opinions from around the country.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mental Health Issues Becoming Pervasive For Schools
There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of precise numbers, but experts in the field say there has been an increase nationwide in mental health needs of kids. Possibly, a factor may be that we’re paying more attention and doing more about problems. The statement is frequently made that one in five school-age children have mental health issues that go beyond normal, and 80% do not get professional help. (Alan Borsuk, 5/13)

WBUR: Death By A Thousand Clicks: Leading Boston Doctors Decry Electronic Medical Records
Electronic medical records, or EMRs, were supposed to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care, and provide instant access to vital patient information. Instead, EMRs have become the bane of doctors and nurses everywhere. They are the medical equivalent of texting while driving, sucking the soul out of the practice of medicine while failing to improve care. To fix them, hospital administrators and clinicians need to work together to demand better products from EMR manufacturers and to urge government to relax several provisions of the HITECH Act, the 2009 law that spawned many of the problems with EMRs. (John Levinson, Bruce Price and Vikas Saini, 5/12)

Austin American-Statesman: Amid Shift In Healthcare, Nurses Remain A Constant
During our combined 74 years working in this field, medical advances have revolutionized healthcare, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled level of care. At the same time, these changes have presented new challenges. Regardless of what happens with our nation’s healthcare system, one thing has not changed — the steadfast support provided by nurses. (David Huffstutler and Sheila Fata, 5/15)

The Washington Post: The Simple Moment When My Autistic Son Was Treated Like Any Other Person
Unlike with most of the important changes I go through, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I stopped grieving a recent traumatic event in my son’s life. This unexpected shift happened during one of those crazy-hot days we had in April. The sky was hazy with the new green from baby leaves; the cherry trees were bursting with pink confetti. I had taken my son, Nat, home with me for the afternoon — he lives in a group home with other intellectually disabled adults. He’s supposed to stay at the home on weekends, to get used to this new house, to become independent of us. But on that sunny Sunday, I just wanted him with me. (Susan Senator, 5/12)

Stat: Failing In Public Can Teach Doctors Much-Needed Lessons In Humility
Beyond the immediate guilt of overlooking a diagnosis, I felt the shame that comes from the professional exposure of failure. I pulled aside my supervising resident physician, who was attending to the baby. We talked about my assessment of the baby and where I had fallen short. She discreetly but directly covered the consequences of moving too quickly and viewing an X-ray through the dingy overhead light of a county hospital. She recognized that I had learned from my failure the most important lesson it could have taught me. Medical internship is a remarkable time. In the course of a year, a person moves from being a brand-new medical school graduate to an almost independently thinking physician. The transformation brings a level of confidence that has you believing you can see a sliver of air between the chest and lung through the glare of a fluorescent light. (Bryan Vartabedian, 5/12)

The New York Times: Why Marathons Are More Dangerous For Nearby Residents Than Runners
At least 21 runners died in United States marathons from 2000 through 2009, most from heart problems. Seven more died a day later. Those results from a study published in 2012 sound scary, until you consider that this was out of more than 3.7 million participants. A recent study suggests that the far bigger cardiovascular danger is not faced by runners, but by older people who live in the cities where marathons are occurring and might be delayed from receiving care. (Aaron E. Carroll, 5/15)

Los Angeles Times: Make Good On A Tobacco Tax Promise To Pay Higher Rates To Medi-Cal Doctors
The $183.4-billion revised spending plan Brown unveiled Thursday restores some things that were on the chopping block in January and even finds a little more money to hand out. There’s $1.4 billion more for education above the amount required by Proposition 98. There’s $500 million more to pay child care providers. There’s about $400 million more to help counties pay for in-home health services and $6.5 million more for the California attorney general to fight President Trump. But no more for Medi-Cal providers? (5/12)

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Federal Tough-On-Crime Drug Policy Sparks Criticism In State Hit Hard By Opioid Epidemic

“We should treat our nation’s drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ problem,” says Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Meanwhile, after HHS Secretary Tom Price angered advocates last week, Stat offers a look at the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment.

The Associated Press: Appalachia’s Approach To Drugs At Odds With AG Policy
In Appalachian states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, the tough-on-crime policy announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions runs counter to a recent emphasis on treatment and less prison time for low-level drug offenders. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul strongly opposed the Department of Justice directive, which reverses an Obama-era policy that prescribed leniency for nonviolent, low-level drug offenders. “We should treat our nation’s drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ problem,” Paul said in a statement released shortly after Session’s announcement. (Lovan, 5/13)

Stat: How Effective Is Medication-Assisted Treatment For Addiction?
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price sparked a firestorm last week with his comments about medication-assisted treatment, saying that “if we’re just substituting one opioid for another, we’re not moving the dial much” in the nation’s opioid epidemic. Notably, the former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, took him to task on Twitter for, as he put it, moving away from evidence-based treatment protocols. (Sheridan, 5/15)

And in the states —

The Associated Press: Virginia Gets Nearly $10M To Fight Opioid Crisis
Virginia is getting nearly $10 million in federal money to help in its fight against the opioid epidemic. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office announced Friday that the state has received a $9.76 million grant. It will be used to purchase medication, support the medical staff necessary to prescribe and oversee clinical treatment, and remove barriers to access, such as transportation. (5/13)

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Virginia Receives Nearly $10 Million To Fight Opioid Epidemic 
In its effort to stifle the ongoing opioid epidemic that continues to claim lives, Virginia has received $9.7 million to increase medication-assisted treatment for addiction and to purchase the overdose-reversal drug naloxone. The state received the one-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of the funds, $5 million will be doled out to Community Services Board throughout the state. (O’Connor, 5/12)

Cincinnati Enquirer: Jail Recovery Pod Gives Addicted Inmates A Way Out
The Hamilton County Detention Center’s women’s recovery pod, which opened to inmates in the fall, was designed with an exit strategy. County officials seem sold on the concept. The Hamilton County commissioners this year approved a $200,000 boost to the program in the budget. Men will soon have their own recovery pod, and a detox unit is expected to be created for inmates who experience withdrawal when they arrive at the jail. (DeMio, 5/12)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Against The Odds, Emergency Rooms Are Getting People Into Addiction Treatment
In what some call a “warm handoff,” a patient is transferred directly from the ER into a treatment program without cooling off for days in the old neighborhood, around old using buddies, one fentanyl-tainted bag of heroin away from death. The emergency room seems an ideal place to intervene. A revived patient has just experienced a potentially life-changing event. Hospitals have resources, including doctors and nurses who are passionate about saving lives. It turns out not to be that easy. Treatment beds are in short supply almost everywhere, forcing a wait of several days even for those who would jump at the chance to get clean. (Sapatkin, 5/14)

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