Health & Science

Photo: Joanie Tobin/100 Days in Appalachia

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’re dedicating our episode to all the children who are affected by substance abuse before they're even born. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is a topic that is heartbreaking, but critically important for us to spend some time understanding. The stigma that follows mothers, and their unborn babies, is keeping them from getting the prenatal care, and help for recovery, that women across our region desperately need. 

Fairmont Regional Medical Center

A West Virginia hospital announced that it is laying off 25 employees due to a reduction in patients and revenue.

News outlets report Fairmont Regional Medical Center made the announcement Wednesday in a statement.

In this Dec. 20, 2018, photo, Dr. Jeffrey Clemons, a pelvic reconstructive surgeon, holds a sample of transvaginal mesh used to treat pelvic floor disorders and incontinence in women as he poses for a photo in Tacoma, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / Associated Press File Photo

West Virginia on Wednesday, Sept. 18, sued Johnson & Johnson over its marketing of a surgical mesh used to treat pelvic conditions in women after regulators halted sales of the device in the U.S.

In the first three months after getting his Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, Ric Peralta managed to reduce his average blood sugar level by three percentage points.

"It took me from not-very-well-managed blood sugar to something that was incredibly well managed," says Peralta, a 46-year-old optician in Whittier, Calif., who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2008.

Updated on Sept. 27 at 7:06 p.m. ET to reflect the latest information from federal agencies

An outbreak of severe lung disease among users of electronic cigarettes continues to spread to new patients and states.

The Green Bank Telescope at Green Bank Observatory
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope in Pocahontas County have discovered a massive neutron star. Scientists believe this is the largest neutron star ever discovered. 


Pallottine Sisters Find A New Legacy In Community Healthcare

Sep 17, 2019
From left to right, Sisters Mary Grace Barile, Mary Terence Wall and Joanne Obrochta.
Eric Douglas / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

When Vincent Pallotti was ordained a priest in 1818, he wrote, “I ask God to make me an untiring worker.” He set about to offer “food for the hungry…medicine and health for the sick.”

Pallotti, who lived simply, in Rome, his entire life, worked in fellowship. He established schools and shelters for women, orphanages, night schools for laborers. “Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams,” he wrote. “Let there be few words and many deeds, and let them be done well.”

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the opioid drug OxyContin, said it reached a tentative deal last week that would settle some of the thousands of lawsuits brought against them by state and local governments in the wake of the opioid crisis. But the company now says it will delcare bankruptcy in the face of their potential legal liability.

As Kara Lofton reports, some are arguing any money recovered from Purdue and other defendents shouldn’t go to state governments. Instead, they say it should go directly to providers and hospitals.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid drug OxyContin, has reached a tentative deal worth billions of dollars that would resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by municipal and state governments who sued the company for allegedly helping to fuel the opioid crisis.

The pending settlement likely means Purdue will avoid going to trial in the sprawling and complicated case involving some 2,300 local governments across 23 states.

Daniel Breen

Last spring, we put out an episode called “Farm Wars.” It was about Arkansas farmers' never-ending battles with “pigweed” or as some call it “Satan’s Weed.” It’s incredibly hard to get rid of. There’s a controversy in that state over a herbicide called “dicamba” that’s used to keep the weeds at bay, but has divided the farming community. 

Adobe Stock


Fayette County has been designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA. The designation allows for more resources to combat the opioid epidemic.

The Appalachian Regional Commission held six recovery-to-work listening sessions throughout the region, including this session in March in Pineville, Kentucky.
Courtesy Appalachian Regional Commission

 


The Appalachian Regional Commission put the stamp of approval this week on recommendations to help people struggling with substance use disorder get back into the workforce.

The Axis 1 is an adaptive controller that was created by BlueTip Gaming. Adaptive controllers like this one help people with disabilities play video games.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


For people with disabilities, video games can help them feel more included and accepted in social circles. 

“In a video game, you don't know that I have a disability,” Mark Barlet, the founder of The AbleGamers Charity in Kearneysville, Jefferson County, explained. But not everyone with a disability can play video games with a traditional controller. 

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, video games can help who have disabilities feel more included and accepted among their peers in social circles. But not everyone with a disability can play video games with a traditional controller. As Liz McCormick reports, one nonprofit organization in Kearneysville, West Virginia, has been trying to change that.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, citizens are taking pipeline construction regulations into their own hands. We hear the latest on the Mountain Valley Pipeline and pipeline monitoring, and we hear reports on two rural hospitals and the epidemic of black lung disease.

Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET

Confronted with a torrent of lawsuits across the U.S., several major drug companies are in discussions with authorities to resolve thousands of opioid-related suits filed against them. A government source close to the negotiations tells NPR that Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International and Allergan are looking to cut deals.

Brittany Patterson / WVPB

 


Lawyers, lawmakers, about two dozen foster families, and others put their heads together Tuesday evening to discuss what’s working and what could be better inside West Virginia's foster care system. 

The forum is one of a series of listening sessions being hosted across the state by the non-profit child welfare organization, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. 

hospital bed
Blogotron / wikimedia commons

Notices filed in West Virginia and Ohio reveal that 1,079 workers will lose their jobs when two hospitals are closed this fall.

More teens and young adults — particularly girls and young women — are reporting being depressed and anxious, compared with comparable numbers from the mid-2000s. Suicides are up too in that time period, most noticeably among girls ages 10 to 14.

These trends are the basis of a scientific controversy.

One hypothesis that has gotten a lot of traction is that with nearly every teen using a smartphone these days, digital media must take some of the blame for worsening mental health.

Updated at 7:04 p.m. ET

An Oklahoma judge has ruled that drugmaker Johnson & Johnson helped ignite the state's opioid crisis by deceptively marketing painkillers, and must pay $572 million to the state.

Oklahoma sought $17.5 billion, blaming Johnson & Johnson for fueling the crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in the state.

Gee delivers his 2017 State of the University address.
West Virginia University

West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich are creating a nonprofit that will fight to steer cash from any national opioid settlement to hospitals, rather than to local and state governments already sparring for control of the dollars.

Adobe Stock

A regional chapter of Planned Parenthood is hosting a pair of bar crawls in West Virginia to spread the word about upcoming changes to the organization.

On Monday, national Planned Parenthood leaders announced they were stepping away from Title X funds they’ve been receiving from the federal government for roughly 50 years. The decision came after the Trump administration made some changes to Title X rules that would’ve prohibited Planned Parenthood from referring patients to abortion clinics. 

Water
Jasonanaggie / Wikimedia Commons

A West Virginia town that spent the past 17 years living under a boil water advisory finally has access to clean water.

HIV Infection ‘Clusters’ Put Focus on Harm Reduction Programs

Aug 19, 2019
needles
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

Health officials in Huntington, West Virginia, say a cluster of HIV infections has grown to 71 confirmed cases. That’s in a city that usually sees about eight HIV infections in a year. As with an earlier such cluster in northern Kentucky, officials say the primary cause of infection is needle drug use.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Health officials in Huntington, say a cluster of HIV infections has grown to 71 confirmed cases. That’s in a city that usually sees about eight HIV infections in a year. As with an earlier such cluster in northern Kentucky, the primary cause of infection is needle drug use.

Health officials say harm reduction programs are an effective tool against HIV, offering needle exchanges and health screening services. 

But as the Ohio Valley ReSource’s Mary Meehan explains, many people are wary of syringe exchanges. And in some places, that means programs are closing just when they’re most needed.

needles
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

West Virginia officials say the number of HIV cases in Cabell County has risen to 71.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources posted the figure on Monday, saying the virus has spread primarily among intravenous drug users.

Louis Morano knows what he needs, and he knows where to get it.

Morano, 29, has done seven stints in rehab for opioid addiction in the past 15 years. So, he has come to a mobile medical clinic parked on a corner of Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood, in the geographical heart of the city's overdose crisis. People call the mobile clinic the "bupe bus."

Nearly $37 million in general revenue surplus money will be given to West Virginia’s Medicaid program as well as the state’s Rainy Day emergency reserve fund.

Back home in Iowa for the August recess, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley is making the case in this conservative state for a sweeping drug bill, even though many in his party do not support it.

"One of the few times, if it isn't the only time, that I've been chairman of various committees that I haven't had at least a majority of Republicans on my side," Grassley conceded at a town hall meeting in Aurelia this week, but he added: "It's probably more valuable to have the president on your side."

Priscilla Bogema lives in a rural town called McGregor, Minn., in a part of the state that has more trees and lakes than people.

She came here about 20 years ago seeking solitude during a major crisis in her life. She had just gotten divorced and was dealing with some health problems. "So I came to a place where nobody could see me," she says.

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