Fifty-eight people were killed and nearly 500 wounded in a mass shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night. TalkingPointsMemo penned a powerful piece about gun culture in the US, including the rising trend of extreme gun ownership and the idiom of gun violence. “Hardware and the prevalence of guns can’t be separated from culture. The two underpin and catalyze each other. Guns have been embedded in American culture, particularly though not exclusively rural culture, for centuries. But what we might call extreme gun ownership – individuals owning large numbers of often quasi-military firearms – is quite new. The mass casualty shooting is no longer a random freak out by a troubled person: it’s an established American idiom of violence, a way certain people choose to make a statement to the society at large… More than thirty thousand Americans die every year from firearms injuries because we find that an acceptable price to pay for unregulated, mass gun ownership. … It is also important to accept that to really change the prevalence of firearms deaths in the United States and the scourge of mass casualty shootings would require many fewer guns, a culture of regulation of gun ownership and less prevalence and less social acceptance of people who find their identity and sense of well-being intrinsically tied to the free and mass ownership of firearms… Do I think this is likely anytime soon? No, I don’t. But the US has undergone numerous revolutions of values, social acceptability, and laws before. So is it possible? Absolutely.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a draft proposal (known as the Champion Act) to reauthorize community health center funding and other critical health programs, and proposed paying for these programs by raiding $6.35 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Senate may similarly propose the use of the Prevention Fund as an offset to pay for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Approximately 36,000 DACA recipients did not or were not able to renew their applications by this week’s short-notice deadline. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus expressed their concerns: “We are very concerned that because DACA recipients were not individually notified of their eligibility for renewal, tens of thousands of DACA recipients could lose their work authorization and DACA status protections” in a recent letter to the Department of Homeland Security. ThinkProgress reports on a “troubling trend in places hard hit by the recent spate of hurricanes. In Texas, 2,682 people in Hurricane Harvey-affected areas, or 28 percent of DACA recipients in the area, did not submit their applications in time. In Florida, 2,052 people in Hurricane Irma-affected areas, or 35 percent of recipients, did not submit their applications in time. In Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria left a widespread trail of destruction, 15 out of 28 total DACA beneficiaries did not renew in time. And in the U.S. Virgin Islands also hit by Hurricane Maria, one person out of a total of nine DACA recipients did not renew in time.”
The Guardian tells the story of a successful campaign by Lakota Sioux tribe members to close four liquor stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska, a tiny town that existed primarily to purvey alcohol to the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe members of the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The sale and possession of alcohol is illegal in Pine Ridge; before the stores closed, they were selling some four million cans of beer a year. The Nebraska state liquor commission voted to temporarily revoke the stores’ licenses in April after a series of murders and other crimes; late last month, the state supreme court made it permanent.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama-era federal policy that extended protection from workplace discrimination to transgender employees.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency removed public information about electricity and drinking water access in Puerto Rico this week, following Trump’s visit to the island. The Washington Post reports that, on Wednesday, “half of Puerto Ricans had access to drinking water and 5 percent of the island had electricity, according to statistics published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on its Web page documenting the federal response to Hurricane Maria. By Thursday morning, both of those key metrics were no longer on the Web page.”
The US House passed a 20-week ban on abortion this week, which Senator Lindsey Graham has now introduced in the Senate, where it is not expected to pass. According to Rewire reporting, “20-week abortion ban is based on medically unsupported and unscientific claims that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks’ gestation. Major medical groups, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, agree that a fetus does not develop to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester, which begins around week 28 of pregnancy. Doctors who testify otherwise are often “false witnesses” with a history of anti-choice activism.” A new study released this week by the Guttmacher Institute revealed huge disparities in geographical access to abortion providers. “For many women in America, especially in urban areas, the nearest abortion provider is relatively close by — in Brooklyn, New York, (Kings County), for instance, half of women live within about 2 miles of a clinic. But in large parts of Wyoming, the Dakotas, Texas, and elsewhere — as well as some surprising places, like eastern California — someone seeking an abortion would have to travel more than 180 miles. The study reinforces concerns reproductive rights advocates have long had about abortion access in rural areas. It also shows the real-life impact of restrictive laws that make abortion a completely different prospect in some parts of the country than in others.”
The Massachusetts attorney general’s office is investigating addiction treatment scams in which people were recruited for their insurance benefits and then dispatched to treatment centers out of state that often provided substandard care, STAT reports. An earlier report by STAT and the Boston Globe revealed a national network of “brokers” who exploited patients on private insurance. Meanwhile, thousands of consumers will be receiving refunds for their purchases of a powdered drink mix promoted under false claims that it eased withdrawal from opiates, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced. In 2015, the FTC sued manufacturer Sunrise Nutraceuticals for marketing Elimidrol as an effective remedy for addiction to opiates without proof of its effectiveness. As part of the settlement, Sunrise paid $235,000 to refund consumers who bought Elimidrol.
The number of people treated at hospitals for heroin poisoning increased significantly from 2008 to 2014, while the number of people treated for misuse of opioid prescriptions has been declining since 2010, according to a study published in Health Affairs. STAT reports that the study’s authors suggest that the decline may be related to policies and practices designed to curb opioid misuse, and the increase may reflect that some patients have been resorting to heroin and synthetic opioids.
A blog in Health Affairs introduces Well Being Trust, a foundation created in 2016 to foster more comprehensive, responsive approaches to advancing mental health and wellness in the U.S. Chief Executive Tyler Norris and Chief Policy Officer Benjamin F. Miller note the importance of including mental health in larger health and policy discussions and of partnering with communities to address systemic factors that affect wellbeing. They conclude by urging health foundations to “come together and transform mental health in this county.”
Writing in the Times-Colonist, Dr. Trevor Hancock of the University of Victoria highlights some of the factors that can foster mental wellbeing across communities. Citing the recent Prevention Institute report on community-based approaches to reduce the incidence and intensity of mental health challenges and help activate resilience, Dr. Hancock discusses how conditions related to People, Place, and Opportunity can enhance community wellbeing. “Like Rome, mentally healthy communities cannot be built in a day — but they can be built,” he writes.