The Cincinnati Enquirer dispatched more than 60 reporters, photographers, and videographers across the region for a week in July to produce “Seven Days of Heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like.” The minute-by-minute report includes scenes from streets, court houses, recovery meetings, clinics, and emergency dispatchers. “My children’s librarian is asking for Narcan,” a caller from a local library says. “She thinks that he [a patron] may be overdosing.” A frantic young caller pleads: “Yes, please sir, my brother and his friend have overdosed… in the car… Their lips are blue.”
According to a new report from the Sentencing Project, the disparity between black and white youth in juvenile detention grew by more than 20% between 2001 and 2015. “Black youth were more than five times as likely to be detained or committed compared to white youth, according to data from the Department of Justice collected in October 2015 and recently released.1) Racial and ethnic disparities have long-plagued juvenile justice systems nationwide, and the new data show the problem is increasing. In 2001, black youth were four times as likely as whites to be incarcerated… In six states, African American youth are at least 10 times as likely to be held in placement as are white youth: New Jersey, Wisconsin, Montana, Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Five states saw their racial disparity at least double: Maryland, Montana, Connecticut, Delaware, and Wisconsin.”
On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders, accompanied by 16 Democratic co-sponsors, released his plan for ‘Medicare for All,’ a proposal that would transform the health system into a single-payer system with the goal of achieving universal coverage. The bill would overhaul Medicare as it currently exists, expanding what’s covered, as well as eliminating premiums, deductibles, and co-payments, and would gradually lower the Medicare eligibility age over four years until everyone would be covered. In a New York Times op-ed, Sanders called on the US to “join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right. Currently, there’s no legislative pathway for ‘Medicare for All,’ but single-payer healthcare is becoming a rallying point for progressive policymakers, including several potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. The ‘all’ remains to be defined, as ThinkProgress points out, making the case for expanding healthcare coverage without regard to immigration status.
The same day, senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy introduced another attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy’s (R-LA) proposed bill would block-grant, then phase out, health insurance subsidies and the Medicaid expansion; cap Medicaid funding, leading to steep cuts in coverage and benefits; rescind consumer protections and narrow what’s covered by health insurance; defund Planned Parenthood for one year; and eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, effective October 1, 2018.
Vox summarizes the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement approach: “fear itself.” “On January 25, Trump signed an executive order addressing immigration enforcement in the interior of the United States. Among other things, the order officially rescinded a series of Obama administration memos that laid out which immigrants should be considered priorities for deportation — and which should not. Under the new policy, the following types of immigrants are among those prioritized for deportation: immigrants who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” (which includes driving without a license in states that don’t give licenses to unauthorized immigrants); immigrants who engage in “fraud or willful representation in any official matter” (which could include paying taxes under a fake Social Security number); and immigrants who, despite not having committed any act that constitutes a “chargeable criminal offense,” are still a “risk to public safety or national security” in the eyes of the ICE agent arresting them. Under the new policy, the following types of deportable immigrants are low priorities for deportation: none.”
The Guardian reports on the new Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, launched by Philip Morris International, which claims that the tobacco industry’s future lies in e-cigarettes, and the concerns raised for tobacco control activists. Corporate Accountability International’s Cloe Franko said, “With more and more countries implementing the lifesaving measures of the global tobacco treaty and institutions like the UN Global Compact severing ties, one has to wonder if this is simply another attempt by PMI to regain a lost foothold in international and public health arenas. At the very least, this is clearly an attempt to lock in e-cigarettes and other ‘reduced harm’ products as the solution to the public health epidemic that PMI continues to drive and profit from. Simply put, if Exxon Mobil launched a foundation to combat climate change, would anyone take it seriously?”
A program at the Veteran’s Administration in Cleveland has helped reduce opioid prescribing by a quarter since 2010. An opinion piece in STAT highlights how the VA in Cleveland linked primary care physicians with pain management specialists to foster consistent prescribing guidelines, help taper patients off opioids, and explore alternative approaches to pain management.
Writing in the The New Yorker, Sheelah Kolhatkar argues that if President Trump wants to spark an economic revival, addressing the opioid epidemic should be on the top of the to-do list. She cites analyses calculating the epidemic’s toll on the nation’s workforce, and health care and criminal justice systems, and notes that these calculations do not include the substantial economic consequences of the lives lost to drug overdoses.
The authors of an opinion piece in Frontiers in Public Health make the case for bolstering the evidence for the mental health benefits of exposure to nature so more public health programs will incorporate “green prescriptions.”
Although President Trump deemed the opioid epidemic a national emergency more than a month ago, as his opioid commission recommended, he has yet to issue a formal declaration, which would pave the way for more federal resources to address the problem. According to the New York Times, Trump aides have indicated they’re fast-tracking the process. In the meantime, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have emerged on the national scene, increasing demands for federal emergency resources.
The regions affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are taking steps to address immediate needs for people managing health challenges such as addiction by minimizing disruption to treatment and connecting people with supports to cope with the trauma and loss, the Associated Press reports in STAT .
As many as half of the people who survive hurricanes are at risk of experiencing post traumatic stress disorder, according to an article in JAMA. The stress, loss, and hardships caused by the storms can produce mental health consequences for survivors that endure long after the winds, waters, and emergency response efforts recede. At the same time, the authors write, intentional responses that focus on rebuilding in a way that supports features such as equitable housing, environmental protections, and economic opportunities can mitigate these mental health risks and foster greater community wellbeing.