• Opioid Maker Funds Efforts To Fight Addiction: Is It ‘Blood Money’ Or Charity?
    A program to give naloxone overdose-antidote kits and training to front-line officers. Funding for pill disposal boxes in pharmacies, clinics and police stations across North Carolina. A radio campaign in Connecticut warning of the dangers of opioid abuse. A new medicine to treat opioid-induced constipation. The money behind these efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and its side effects comes from a perhaps unlikely sponsor: Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the top-selling opioid, OxyContin. After years of aggressively promoting OxyContin as a safe and effective way to combat pain, the company is — equally aggressively — recasting itself as a fundamental... Read more »
  • California’s Tax On Millionaires Yields Big Benefits For People With Mental Illness, Study Finds
    A statewide tax on the wealthy has significantly boosted mental health programs in California’s largest county, helping to reduce homelessness, incarceration and hospitalization, according to a report released Tuesday. Revenue from the tax, the result of a statewide initiative passed in 2004, also expanded access to therapy and case management to almost 130,000 people up to age 25 in Los Angeles County, according to the report by the Rand Corp. Many were poor and from minority communities, the researchers said. “Our results are encouraging about the impact these programs are having,” said Scott Ashwood, one of the authors and an associate policy... Read more »
  • Oregon Medical Students Face Tough Test: Talking About Dying
    The distraught wife paced the exam room, anxious for someone to come and tell her about her husband. She’d brought him to the emergency department that afternoon when he complained about chest discomfort. Sophia Hayes, 27, a fourth-year medical student at the Oregon Health & Science University, entered with a quiet knock, took a seat and asked the wife to sit, too. Softly and slowly, Hayes explained the unthinkable: The woman’s husband had had a heart attack. His heart stopped. The intensive care team spent 45 minutes trying to save him. Then Hayes delivered the news dreaded by doctors and family members alike. “I’m... Read more »
  • A Battered Doctor, A Slain Patient And A Family’s Quest For Answers
    BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The police report is all David Cole Lang’s family has to describe his last moments on Earth. Fifty pages of officer narratives and witness interviews filled with grisly detail, it lacks any explanation for his death. Ten months later, Lang’s widow, Monique, says she still has no clue as to why the 33-year-old combat veteran and father who struggled with opioid addiction ended up fatally shot by a doctor whom — as far as Monique knew — he hadn’t seen in over a year. “I didn’t understand why he was there,” she said. “I still don’t.” On that April evening... Read more »
  • Health Care Revamped At L.A. County Jails
    Michael Callahan, an outgoing 43-year-old carpenter, landed in a Los Angeles County jail last September because of what he said were “bad decisions and selling drugs.” He had uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure when he arrived, but his health was the last thing on his mind. Consumed by a meth addiction, he hadn’t taken his medications for months. “When I got here, I was a wreck,” said Callahan, who is stocky and covered in tattoos. “My legs were so swollen that if I bumped them they would break open.” By January, however, his diabetes was improving and his blood pressure had... Read more »
  • Mind Over Body: A Psychiatrist Tells How To Tap Into Wisdom And Grow With Age
    Navigating Aging Navigating Aging focuses on medical issues and advice associated with aging and end-of-life care, helping America’s 45 million seniors and their families navigate the health care system. To contact Judith Graham with a question or comment, click here. Join the Navigating Aging Facebook Group. See All Columns We’ve all seen it happen: An older friend or family member retires, is diagnosed with a serious illness or loses a spouse. Suddenly, this individual’s world is altered, sometimes seemingly beyond recognition. He has reached a fork in the road; will he get stuck or find a way to regroup and move on? In a new book, “The End... Read more »
  • Mental Health Funding Tied To Florida’s Controversial Gun Legislation
    [UPDATED March 8] A bill passed by the Florida legislature Wednesday has received huge attention because of a controversial provision that would allow some teachers to have guns in schools. But the measure, now headed to the governor’s desk, would also designate an influx of cash for mental health services. The state has seen three mass shootings in 20 months — at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Fort Lauderdale airport and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. And the need for increased mental health funding has come up twice before — with no cash forthcoming. In today’s dollars, Florida is spending... Read more »
  • Trump’s Perfect Score On Brain Test Spawns DIY Cognitive Exam
    When Donald Trump aced a cognitive test in January, scores of people tried to take it, too, based mostly on media reports that invited them to match wits with the president. Casual users puzzled over line drawings of animals, while others wondered what it meant if they were bad at subtracting by sevens. That was a mistake, according to the scientist who created the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, or MoCA, a popular screening tool designed to spotlight potential problems with thinking and memory. The MoCA was never meant for general use and it requires a health professional to monitor the test and interpret... Read more »
  • Ten ERs In Colorado Tried To Curtail Opioids And Did Better Than Expected
    DENVER — One of the most common reasons patients head to an emergency room is pain. In response, doctors may try something simple at first, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If that wasn’t effective, the second line of defense has been the big guns. “Percocet or Vicodin,” explained ER doctor Peter Bakes of Swedish Medical Center, “medications that certainly have contributed to the rising opioid epidemic.” Now, though, physicians are looking for alternatives to help cut opioid use and curtail potential abuse. Ten Colorado hospitals, including Swedish in Englewood, Colo., participated in a six-month pilot project designed to cut opioid use, the Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative. Launched... Read more »
  • Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ The Long Wait Ends For Short-Term Plan Rules
    The Trump administration finally released a long-awaited rule that would allow significant expansion of health insurance policies that do not meet all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, both in terms of what they cover and how much they charge. The administration says it wants to broaden the availability of so-called short-term insurance plans to give people who buy their own insurance more choices of lower-cost coverage. Critics say that the plans would draw the healthiest people out of the plans that meet the ACA’s requirements, driving up premiums for those who remain in that market. And in the wake of... Read more »