Thanks to a new law that went into effect at the start of the year, whenever Dr. Amanda Bisol, owner of The Animal Medical Clinic in Skowhegan, writes an opiate-type painkiller prescription for one of her patients, she has to first run a background check on its owner. Public Law Chapter 488: An Act to Prevent Opiate Abuse by Strengthening the Controlled Substance Prescription Monitoring Program was signed by Gov. Paul LePage in 2016 and went into effect Jan. 1. In addition to establishing limits on the amount and dosage of specific painkilling drugs can be prescribed by medical professionals, the law also required all prescribers check the state’s prescription monitoring program before writing any prescription for opiate or benzodiazepine drugs.
Republican lawmakers in the Arizona Legislature are attempting to fast-track a plan to eventually offer vouchers to every public-school student and, in separate legislation, privatize oversight of the public money given to parents to pay private-school tuition and other expenses. The Legislature is training its sights on the plan to broaden eligibility for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, a school-choice program created six years ago for disabled children. Under the legislation, all of Arizona's 1.1 million students would be eligible for the program by 2020. SAs allow families to use public-school dollars on private-school tuition and other educational expenses. ESAs would be offered to four grades in 2017-18 and incrementally to all public-school students by 2020-21.
Communities throughout rural Maine are up against no shortage of challenges. Facing geographic isolation, aging and declining populations, paired with the loss of traditional manufacturing or mill jobs, it can be easy to feel pessimistic about the prospects of the state’s rural backbone.But pessimism was not the mood that filled a Cross Insurance Center conference room Friday, as a daylong discussion about the future of Maine’s rural economy stoked hope and advocated for a collaborative approach to revitalizing these rural communities. “What makes us Mainers is our collectivism,” Vaughan Woodruff, owner of Insource Renewables, said. “Our future is bright, and I just want to say to everyone in rural Maine, we’ve got this. We’ve got this.”
The National Weather Service says a dam has failed in northern Nevada, causing flash floods and life-threatening situations for residents near the Utah border. The weather service stated there were reports of at least 2 to 3 feet of water rapidly moving downstream Wednesday night. The Elko Daily Free Press reports the depth of water may increase as the dam continues to fail. The National Weather Service in Elko has extended the flash-flood warning. Significant flash flooding was reported in Montello and authorities have closed State Route 233.
Eight states lost population between 2015 and 2016, and 12 others recorded their lowest population increase of the decade, as economic woes and lower birth rates hit some states harder than others. Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming lost population. The last time so many states registered a drop in population was from 1986 to 1987, when oil prices collapsed. Twelve Western and Southern states, along with the District of Columbia, lost population then. Meanwhile, Alabama, California, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Virginia saw anemic growth of between 0.02 and 0.66 percent in the number of people living inside their borders. That’s less than the nation’s increase in population of 0.7 percent and the lowest growth those states had experienced since 2010.
In the three years since the Affordable Care Act took effect, its federally funded expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults has become the states’ most powerful weapon in the battle against the nation’s worsening opioid epidemic. Now, as Congress and President Donald Trump debate potential replacements for the law, governors, health care professionals and advocates for the poor are cautioning that any cut in federal funding for addiction treatment could reverse much of the progress states have made. “The current plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would cut health care for our most vulnerable residents, including children, seniors and individuals suffering from opioid and heroin addiction,” Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania said last month. “This will have a devastating impact for many Pennsylvanians.” The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offered states the ability for the first time to provide Medicaid coverage to adults without children, with the federal government paying most of the bill. That change, and the law’s mandate that all insurers cover addiction treatment at the same level as medical and surgical procedures, has allowed states to ensure that low-income people can get the care they need, said Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents nonprofit addiction treatment organizations.
Antiparasitic medicine for endangered Key deer and an abundance of sterile New World screwworm flies continue to help fight the screwworm situation in South Florida. More than 101 million sterile screwworm flies have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Marathon and the Lower Keys since October. In Homestead, where a stray dog was found with a screwworm infestation in December, nearly 2 million have been released. They help to drive down the number of fertile flies by mating with wild flies to produce eggs that never hatch. Screwworms feed inside the open wounds of any warm-blooded living animal, which has resulted in the deaths of 135 endanger Key deer found only in Monroe County. Some have had to be euthanized and others have died from their screwworm-inflicted conditions.
In an effort to prevent opioid overdose deaths, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) plans to distribute more than 8,000 naloxone rescue kits. The state-level naloxone distribution project is a partnership of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BBHHF) and Bureau for Public Health (BPH). The project is being funded primarily through a $1.07 million federal block grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment. The grant is being managed by the BBHHF, and is being administered by the BPH as part of its statewide harm reduction efforts. West Virginia ranks No. 1 in the nation for drug overdose deaths.
Amid the uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act, states still have to manage their insurance markets. Most states have muddled through the 2017 enrollment season without making changes. Minnesota, for its part, took three unusual actions that are worth a closer look. In January, Minnesota:passed a one-time bailout for some consumers in the individual insurance market dealing with skyrocketing premiums;rejected an attempt to let insurers offer cheaper, bare-bones coverage;laid the groundwork for a sort of homegrown "public option" insurance plan.
The College of Veterinarians of British Columbia has voted overwhelmingly to ban cosmetic tail docking of dogs, horses and cattle. The Vancouver-based licensing body declared cosmetic ear cropping of dogs to be unethical about a year ago. Cosmetic tail docking and cosmetic tail alterations, such as nicking and blocking horses, came up during an update of the Canadian group’s bylaws in November, said President Brendan Matthews, DVM. More than 91 percent of voting members opted to make both practices unethical.