Appalachia Health News

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“We have a problem that’s bringing us to our knees,” said West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch at a press event in Charleston. A representative from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration visited West Virginia Monday to announce an additional $330,000 of funding for opioid abuse prevention and treatment.

“The opioid problem and substance abuse problem affects virtually every family in West Virginia,” he continued.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we explore attempts to finding solutions to the region’s opioid epidemic, and we hear a story from the Ohio Valley ReSource on the potential impacts of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

WVU

The Center for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a study on the largest cluster of complicated black lung cases ever reported. Kara Lofton spoke with WVU School of Public Health physicians Carl Werntz and Anna Allen about the study and what it means for West Virginia.

ALLEN: We actually have been noticing this trend over the last, about 18 years, that it has been going back up. And I think this might have just been the study that captured it in a, in the big picture.

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A new study has found that women with high physical fitness at middle age were nearly 90 percent less likely to develop dementia decades later, compared to women who were moderately fit.

 

The study measured women’s cardiovascular fitness based on an exercise test. When the highly fit women did develop dementia, they developed it an average of 11 years later than women who were moderately fit, or at age 90 rather than 79.

 

WVU

LOFTON: So, you are the new director of the Drug Control Policy Office. Previously, you were executive director and health officer of the Kanwaha-Charleston Health Department. You did deal with a lot of opioid issues at the Health Department previously. Will your strategy change in this new position?

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Saturday March 17th is “Mountain State Maple Day” in West Virginia. Sugar shacks and maple operations around the state will open their doors to the public. Maple syrup has a long tradition in the high mountain regions of our state, and the industry is growing. As part of our ongoing series called “Appetite Appalachia”, this morning, we’ll hear two stories about maple syrup farmers in the Mountain State. It’s part of a new collaboration between West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. In this episode of West Virginia Morning, we meet Brandon Daniels, a producer who has been making maple syrup for nearly 30 years.   


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The 2018 County Health Rankings report was released today. It found significant health disparities across the state, particularly between the north and south.

Kara Lofton

The new Public Employee’s Insurance Agency task force met today at the Capitol. The task force was mandated by the governor in response to recent striking by teachers who demanded the state Legislature to “fix PEIA.” Teachers protested increased premiums and health costs, as well as a pay raise.

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A new survey of women from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that coverage rates for women are at all-time highs, but many women still face affordability and access challenges.

In 2013, nearly one in five women were uninsured. In 2017, after the Affordable Care Act was implemented, that number dropped to one in ten. Nationally, more than 60 percent of women were insured through private insurance. 14 percent of women were insured through Medicaid. More than a third of West Virginians – male and female - are on Medicaid.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After nine long days of a teacher and service personnel work stoppage, it looks as if it’s come to an end. Lawmakers agreed Tuesday to a five percent pay raise for teachers as well as a five percent pay increase for all public workers. Following the signing, union leaders say they are readying teachers and other school workers to get back on the job. 


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Loud dance music pours out of a historic church in downtown Bluefield, West Virginia, around 7 on a Friday evening. About 30 people are eating barbeque, beans and chicken at a newly formed support group for lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and queer people. 

Kara Lofton

A West Virginia prevention program targeted at high risk diabetes patients is showing almost immediate results for participants such as Selena Hanshaw, a working mom of four kids ages 6 to 20.

“As a mother of four, I know for myself, you just kind of forget about yourself. You’re just so worried about care for everyone else, you kind of neglect yourself,” said Hanshaw. “I just didn’t want to accept the fact that I had diabetes. I wanted to pretend that it didn’t exist.”

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A Charleston-based law firm has filed a class action suit against 21 medical companies, including the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma to sue for damages incurred by prenatal exposure to opioids

The suit was filed this week by the firm Thompson and Barney. Kevin Thompson said the intent is to create a fund for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, meaning infants born dependent to opioids.

“In this case the equitable relief would be a medical monitoring fund,” Thompson said.

Kara Lofton

Several West Virginia health organizations, including West Virginia Prevention First and the state's Department of Health and Human Resources have joined together to launch the Health & Hope WV Initiative. Prevention First is a conglomeration of organizations that collect and disseminate information and facilitate communication, according to a press release.

Organizers say they hope the new site and media content will both serve as a comprehensive resource and help combat some of the stigma addiction still faces.

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A group of West Virginia agencies launched their year-long campaign, “Year of the Child” at a kickstart event at the WV culture center yesterday. The initiative is designed to address the impact of the opioid crisis on West Virginia’s children.

Speakers represented groups such as the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia and the National Association of Social Workers.

On The Legislature Today, thousands of teachers and state workers again showed-up at the Capitol to protest low salaries and rising health care costs, as their work stoppage entered a third school day – tomorrow will be the fourth. We bring you the latest on the work stoppage. Also, in this episode, we look at a variety of health-related legislation and chat with Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha and Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone.

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Analysis of recent hospital billing records across the country found that charges for outpatient cancer services vary widely from facility to facility, but on average, exceed what Medicare patients are charged by two to six fold.

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A new study from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has found that a significant number of e-cigarette devices generate aerosols with potentially unsafe levels of lead, chromium, manganese and/or nickel. Chronic inhalation of these metals has been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, as well as cancers.

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Taking as little as a 15-minute walk after each meal can help you lose weight, lower blood sugar, improve circulation and aid in digestion among other things, according to Mon Health family medicine doctor Gabrielle Sakellarides.

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A group of Marshall University students, faculty and staff have assisted in stopping child trafficking cases in Latin America. The work was done through a partnership with the nonprofit Operation Underground Railroad.

The work involved sex trafficking cases in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Select students in Marshall’s Open Source Intelligence Exchange program worked to provide open source intelligence collection and analysis for law enforcement and other clients. Open source refers to data collection from publicly available sources.

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Outside of a 4th Avenue bus stop in Huntington, Ronni Stone is smoking a cigarette. She started when she was 15 years old and has been smoking for 35 years. She says she’s tried to quit about four times but was only able to last for about a week before the withdrawal symptoms made her light up again.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, tension continues to mount at the Statehouse over education-related issues. Thousands of teachers and public service personnel rallied on the Capitol steps over the weekend demanding change. On last night’s episode of The Legislature Today, host Andrea Lannom spoke with Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso. We have an excerpt from that interview.

Pills, Drugs, Prescriptions, prescription drugs
RayNata / wikimedia

The West Virginia Attorney General's office is sponsoring a contest among schoolchildren to promote awareness of prescription painkiller abuse.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says in a news release that the "Kids Kick Opioids" contest is open to elementary and middle school students. It can include poems, drawings, letters or anything that promotes awareness of painkiller abuse.

Marshall University
Wikipedia / en.wikipedia.org

A Marshall University physician has been awarded a five-year almost 11 million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate obesity and obesity-related conditions in West Virginia.

Uma Sundaram, vice dean for research at the Marshall University School of Medicine and a gastroenterologist, will be the grant’s principal investigator.

CDC

The prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically in the U.S. A new study explores the economic cost of treating diseases associated with obesity.


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West Virginia will be the first state in the nation to allow Medicaid to fund treatment for newborns exposed to opioids in the womb.

When their exposure to opioids ends at birth, infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome experience withdrawal symptoms. They include tremors, vomiting, seizures, excessive crying and sensitivity to loud noises, lights and colors. Infants are weaned from opioid dependence by using small doses of morphine or methadone.

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Eight years ago, Chelsea Carter was facing up to 20 years in federal prison for burglary and conspiracy charges. Instead, her judge sent her to drug court where she was able to get treatment.

 

She has since completed a master’s degree in counseling and earlier this month, petitioned the Boone County court to expunge her record, a request that was granted. Here’s Carter telling her own story of addiction and how drug court, “saved her life,” as she puts it.

The OberPorts via https://www.drrainbow.org/

The social justice advocacy organization Covenant House has launched a health care website linking LGBTQ West Virginians with statewide resources and providers. 

The site, called DrRainbow, includes tabs on finding a “LGBTQ friendly” provider and community health resources. In an email, Covenant House said the website is an attempt to address the rising health disparities in the LGBTQ community. About 30 percent of transgender patients report delaying or not seeking care due to discrimination, according to a report published in the June edition of the journal Medical Care.

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Congress passed a bipartisan budget deal early this morning that, among other things, authorizes funding for several health care programs. Here’s what West Virginians need to know about the bill.

In September, the funding for community health centers was allowed to run out – there are 30 of these centers in West Virginia. The budget bill not only reauthorized funding for the centers but increased their allocation to 3.8 billion dollars for the current fiscal year and 4 billion in 2019, up from 3.6 last year.

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A new study of more than 6,000 first graders across the U.S. has found that the number of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is larger than previously thought. 

Over a six-year period, researchers collected data from more than 6,000 children in four communities in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain, Southeast and Pacific Southwest that were thought to represent an accurate sampling of the United States. There is no state-by-state specific data available.

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