State highlights: NYC plan for treating mentally ill; Kan. town gets abortion services again; Iowa medical marijuana

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Kansas, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina and California.

The New York Times: Panel To Create Plan To Reduce Number Of Mentally Ill People In New York City Jails
Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked several of his commissioners and aides to provide him with a plan by September to reduce the rate of incarceration among New Yorkers with mental illness. The effort, which City Hall will announce on Monday, is the administration's first major criminal justice initiative. Named the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System, it will include recommendations from the police and correction commissioners, the Manhattan district attorney, hospital administrators and judges (Goldstein, 6/1). 

NPR: Abortion Services Return To Town Where George Tiller Was Murdered
Five years ago, Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed at the Wichita, Kans., church where he was an usher. Tiller was widely known for performing abortions in late pregnancy and had become a target for protests. ... But in April of last year, South Wind Women's Center opened in the very same building where Tiller's clinic was. Executive Director Julie Burkhart worked for Tiller for seven years. Her clinic now offers abortion care for pregnancies less than 22 weeks along. "About 1 in 3 women are going to have abortions in their lifetimes -- so we all know somebody. If you think about women who are having abortions, nationally about 60 percent of women who are having abortions are already mothers," Burkhart says (Leblanc, 5/31).

The Des Moines Register: Branstad Signs Limited Medical-Marijuana Bill
A few months after their hopes seemed dashed, parents of Iowa children with severe epilepsy cheered Friday as Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill allowing them to purchase a cannabis oil extract to lessen the effects of their kids' seizures. Branstad and many Republican legislators were steadfast opponents of previous medical-marijuana proposals. Even the bill's main sponsor declared on the day of its introduction that it had no chance of passing. But the parents were undeterred. They cornered lawmakers, talked to reporters and met with the governor. They calmly recounted their children's plight and explained that the extract has very little of the chemical in most marijuana that makes people high (Leys, 5/30).

The Boston Globe: Support To Keep A Loved One At Home
There's plenty of structure at Great Days for Seniors, which occupies several rooms on the ground floor of a building at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center's campus. In a typical day, 30 or so participants might play games or solve puzzles, sing in a group, join a current events discussion group, practice Tai Chi, and participate in crafts or baking classes. Nurses monitor their health conditions, and they have access to physical and speech therapists and a gym. Adult day health centers -- informally called adult day care -- have been around for more than 30 years. But demand for them has risen, driven by a growing population of older adults and a desire for people to live with family members, not in institutions (Humphries, 6/2).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Jury's Out On Programs Intended To Reduce Medicaid Costs 
In 2008, Centene Corp. took on a contract to manage health care for 30,000 foster children in Texas -- a tough new challenge for the Clayton-based Medicaid contractor. Texas state caregivers had been prescribing a lot of psychotropic drugs to these children and adolescents. As these youngsters were shuttled from one house to another, Centene executives said, state authorities often lost track of which medications the children were taking. But in Texas and other states, managed care of Medicaid continues to spark debate (Doyle and Young, 6/1).

The Associated Press: New York Medical Database Aids Doctors, Patients 
New York is quietly building one of the nation's largest computer databases of medical records, a system that when finished will allow patients and doctors alike to see complete health histories in one place and promises to save millions in costs by avoiding redundant tests and unneeded hospital admissions. People who visit emergency rooms are less likely to be admitted when they're enrolled in the program, and repeat radiological scans and hospital readmissions are also less likely, according to initial limited studies done around Rochester, New York's third-largest city (Virtanen, 6/1).

Pioneer Press:  The Doc Will See You Know, And So Will The Scribe
When Ron Meyer visits his doctor, there's always a third person in the room. Last week, it was Allyson Untiedt, 24, of Minneapolis, who is one of the small but growing number of "scribes" working in medical clinics and hospitals across the Twin Cities. Scribes accompany physicians in exam rooms and help document what happens during a patient's visit. They tend to a patient's chart before the exam -- so doctors can quickly find the lab and test results they need -- and help physicians complete documentation chores afterward (Snowbeck, 6/1).

North Carolina Health News: Parallel Epidemics: Living With HIV And A Criminal Record 
People who are HIV positive who have been in prison face challenges accessing services. Once released, former prisoners are provided with a 30-day supply of antiretroviral drugs and are linked up with HIV care coordinators who help them make appointments on the outside. But the sudden transition from prison to the outside can be a jarring experience for some, especially people who have little social support. Tasks such as getting transportation for doctor's appointments, paying for health care and achieving some semblance of financial security can be difficult for people who are both formerly incarcerated and HIV positive (Hoban, 6/2).

Modern Healthcare: Hospitals Offering Patients No-Interest Payment Plans 
Novant Health long has had a financial assistance program for patients with incomes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. But in recent years, more patients who are eligible for assistance still have gotten overwhelmed by thousands of dollars they owe for deductibles and coinsurance. Novant wanted a way to give patients more time to pay their bills without facing high interest costs. At Novant's 12 hospitals, patients previously had the option of a payment plan carrying a 12 percent interest rate. But early last year, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based system, working with vendor ClearBalance, started offering a no-interest plan with a flexible repayment time frame. It combined that with an online cost estimator so patients can get a good idea of how much they will owe before receiving health care services. (5/31).

WBUR: Poor Get Poorer But Babies Get Healthier, Thanks To Help For Moms
(Patricia) Wornum and over a hundred other home visitors in Massachusetts are trying to combat a known phenomenon: If you are born to a poor mother, that overwhelmingly raises the chances that you will grow up to be poor. The odds are stacked against you in several ways: Poverty can mean stress and anxiety, poor nutrition and environmental toxins, higher risks of obesity and heart disease. An entire issue of the journal Science on "The Science of Inequality" this month rounded up some of that bad news. But it also shared what Janet Currie, an economics professor at Princeton, calls a "bright spot" -- though inequality has been rising, the health of newborns born into the poorest families has been improving (Emanuel, 5/30).

The California Health Report: Sacramento Heroin Addiction On The Rise, Affordable Care Act Opens Doors For Recovery
Kurt Wagner was 12-years clean when his life began to unravel. He lost his job, his wife left and the money ran out. Homeless and alone, the uninsured Wagner had to pay $300 a month for methadone treatment. When he could no longer afford it, it was only a matter of time before he fell off the wagon… And this was how he lived for years after: on and off of methadone, then relapsing whenever money for treatment ran out. It wasn't until three months ago, when he joined the millions of Californians who have signed up for Medi-Cal since last year, that Wagner was able to clean up for good. He is among 7,774 Californians taking advantage of addiction services newly available to them thanks to the expanded coverage and services mandated under the Affordable Care Act (Kempa, 6/1).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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