Note: The next Health & Justice in the News will come out on Tuesday, October 17.
HEALTH & JUSTICE IN THE NEWS
Date: October 12, 2017
Around the Nation
Foiled in Congress, Trump Signs Order to Undermine Obamacare
The New York Times, 10/12/17
President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday that clears the way for potentially sweeping changes in health insurance, including sales of cheaper policies with fewer benefits and fewer protections for consumers than those mandated under the Affordable Care Act. But most of the changes will not come until federal agencies adopt regulations, after an opportunity for public comments - a process that could take months. The order resulted from Mr. Trump's frustration with his inability to persuade a Republican-controlled Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a pillar of President Barack Obama's legacy. Supporters of the current health law called the order "sabotage," a way to destroy the Affordable Care Act without winning a majority in Congress. Mr. Trump directed three cabinet agencies to develop rules that would expand access to less expensive, less comprehensive insurance, including policies that could be sold by trade associations to their members and short-term medical coverage that could be offered by commercial insurers to individuals and families. Many of the new insurance products could be exempt from requirements of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans say have contributed to sharp increases in premiums but that supporters say have created a baseline of care that has protected consumers from "junk insurance."
House GOP delays vote on children's health care funding to negotiate with Dems
The Hill, 10/10/17
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health have agreed to return to negotiations with Democrats on a bill to continue funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Monday he would delay floor consideration of the bill passed by the committee last week "in hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement on offsets." The bill last week passed with no support from Democrats, who complained that the bill took money from Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to offset the costs of the program.
ObamaCare enrollment groups likely to decrease services after Trump funding cuts
The Hill, 10/11/17
Local and state groups that help with ObamaCare enrollment say they will likely have to reduce their services following funding cuts from the Trump administration. Funding for the "navigator" groups, which provide outreach, education and enrollment assistance, was cut in half this year for being "ineffective," Trump officials have said. Now most of the navigator programs say they will have to limit their services this year, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
In New Test for Obamacare, Iowa Seeks to Abandon Marketplace
The New York Times, 10/10/17
Iowa is anxiously waiting for the Trump administration to rule on a request that is loaded with implications for the law's survival. If approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, it would allow the state to jettison some of Obamacare's main features next year - its federally run insurance marketplace, its system for providing subsidies, its focus on helping poorer people afford insurance and medical care - and could open the door for other states to do the same. Iowa's Republican leaders think their plan would save the state's individual insurance market by making premiums cheaper for everyone. But critics say the lower prices come at the expense of much higher deductibles for many with modest incomes, and that approval of the plan would amount to another way of undermining the law.
West Virginia gets approval to expand substance use treatment coverage
The Hill, 10/1017
The Trump administration has approved a request by West Virginia to expand Medicaid coverage for treatment of substance use disorders, state officials announced Tuesday. West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country, and officials said the waiver will contribute to a "comprehensive statewide strategy" to combat prescription drug misuse and opioid use disorders.
Trump announces Eric Hargan as acting HHS secretary
President Donald Trump named Eric Hargan as the acting Health and Human Services Secretary on Tuesday after the resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price over controversy surrounding his air travel. Hargan was sworn in last week as deputy HHS secretary, and takes the place of Don Wright, who had been serving as acting secretary since Price's departure. "Eric Hargan brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise and leadership experience to HHS," Wright said in a statement when Hargan was sworn in as deputy secretary. "His commitment to public service and vast experience in the health care field will help guide the department as we advance President Trump's agenda on behalf of the American people. We look forward to working with deputy secretary Hargan to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans."
Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner host bipartisan dinner on criminal reform
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have begun working with a bipartisan group of senators weighing legislation on criminal justice reform, an issue that's emerged as a priority for lawmakers of both parties in recent years but without getting very far on Capitol Hill. "The reason for having us there was to try to find a path forward for the bill, and a bipartisan path, a consensus path forward," Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who attended a dinner at the couple's home last week, told reporters Tuesday. Whitehouse said it was the second such meeting hosted by Kushner, a top adviser to President Donald Trump who is also the president's son-in-law and has taken a personal interest in the issue. The first meeting was several weeks ago at the White House.
Fentanyl Is Now The Leading Cause Of US Overdose Deaths
BuzzFeed News, 10/10/17
Fentanyl and other synthetic opioid painkillers are now the leading cause of overdose deaths nationwide, killing more than 21,000 people last year, according to provisional CDC data. "Shocking numbers," epidemiologist Daniel Ciccarone of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine told BuzzFeed News. "I see only growing problems in my field work," he added, with fentanyl becoming the new normal for heroin buyers in places like Chicago and Charleston, West Virginia. The US is in the midst of an epidemic of drug overdose deaths, with nearly 65,000 people killed by heroin, cocaine, and prescription painkillers in 2016, a 21% jump from a year earlier. Underneath the total increase is the surge in deaths dues to fentanyl and related synthetic opioids, more powerful relatives of heroin and morphine. Widely tainting the illicit drug supply of heroin and counterfeit pain pills, these synthetic opioids doubled their share of the previous year's already alarming overdose toll, according to the new data, which is provisional, with final mortality figures expected in December.
In New Jersey, 14 OD on Fentanyl-Laced Heroin in 4 Hours: Police
NBC New York, 10/11/7
Fourteen people overdosed in Camden in a four-hour period Wednesday from what the New Jersey attorney general described as "fentanyl-laced heroin." None of the overdose victims died, but most of them were taken to Cooper University Medical Center. All of the overdoses occurred in the South Camden area, Camden County Police Department spokesman Dan Keashen said.
In Kentucky, jail is becoming an last-resort rehab
PBS NewsHour, 10/8/17
Despite high levels of drug use among the jail population nationwide, few facilities offer drug treatment programs. They don't have the funds or the physical space. But the Kentucky Department of Corrections reports that statewide, half the people who went through a substance use program in jail say they stayed off illegal drugs for at least a year.
The Bronx's Quiet, Brutal War With Opioids
The New York Times, 10/12/17
The dramatic rise in opioid-related deaths has devastated communities around the United States in recent years, and has stirred concern among law enforcement and public health officials alike in New York City. Here, the reports about the epidemic and its ravages have mostly centered on Staten Island, where the rate of deaths per person is the highest of the five boroughs. But perhaps nowhere in the city has the trajectory of opioid addiction been as complex as in the Bronx, where overdose deaths were declining until a new surge began at the turn of the decade, and where more residents are lost to overdoses than anywhere else in the city. On Bronx streets, the epidemic's devastation is next door, down the street, all around.
Opioid task force hears from recovering addicts, first responders, medical professionals
The opioid task force in Illinois is getting to work. WGN first reported about the decisive plan to fight opioid addiction in the state when the task force was convened a month age. On Wednesday, members got together for the first time in an emotional and powerful gathering. In Chicago, health experts and political leaders are touring the state. They want to know how the opioid addiction crisis is impacting people.
Researchers to study opioid crisis in Southern Illinois
Associated Press, 10/7/17
Two medical universities are teaming up to study how the opioid epidemic is affecting southern Illinois. Southern Illinois School of Medicine and the University of Chicago have received a $1.1 million federal grant to study the impact of the drugs in Illinois' 16 southernmost counties. Researchers say people who use opioids such as prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl are more vulnerable to other diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. The team hopes their research will make it easier for people struggling with addiction to get help. Wiley D. Jenkins is an associate professor at the SIU School of Medicine. Jenkins says the grant provides an opportunity to find strategies most appropriate for the community. He says "Programs designed for large cities do not necessarily transfer well to rural areas."
Dixon Safe Passage celebrates two successful years, plans to expand
"In two years, we've placed 200 people directly into treatment," says Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss. He helped launch the program in 2015, a few months after the city of a little more than 15,000 saw three heroin overdose deaths in just ten days. Through the program, anyone struggling with a heroin addiction can come to the Dixon Police Department and ask for help. They're sent to treatment instead of jail. "We generally know within an hour of where they're going to go," says Langloss. "We have a bed secured for them at a treatment facility and within two hours, they're on their way to treatment." Langloss calls Safe Passage a success. In fact, Dixon police also work with 60 Illinois police departments that are trying to create similar programs. Using a 74,000 dollar grant it received this summer, the Dixon Police Department hopes to expand the program. That expansion will cover five part-time employees and create new partnerships that will help participants find jobs and housing. Langloss credits the program's success so far to volunteers and partnerships with ten local treatment facilities.
When The Rigid Justice System Gives A Bit
Aaron Taylor's life was almost derailed for having a gun. But his story doesn't end with him sitting in jail. Last year, police made nearly 4,000 gun arrests for "weapons violations" - not including arrests for violent crimes where a gun was used, according to a report from the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which studies violence in the city. For Taylor, being caught with an illegal gun meant he faced between one and three years behind bars. But Taylor didn't go to prison. Now, instead of sitting in a cell, Taylor is sitting in a classroom. Many who study the criminal justice system say Taylor's case illustrates why it's important for judges and prosecutors to have flexibility when doling out punishments.
Research, Reports, and Studies
Study identifies a brain pathway involved in drug relapse after cessation of contingency management
National Institute on Drug Abuse, 10/11/17
A team of researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has identified what may be the crucial brain circuit involved in relapse to drug use when an effective behavioral treatment for drug addiction, known as contingency management, is discontinued.
State Trends Show Fewer Young People Tried As Adults, New Report Says
Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 10/11/17
The number of young people locked into adult jails and prisons has plummeted nearly two-thirds since 2009 and the number automatically sent to adult courts for criminal trials has fallen by nearly half from 2007 to 2014, a new report says. The numbers of youth tried as adults will likely fall even further by 2020, when four states - Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina and New York - fully implement reform laws passed over the last few years, said the new report from the Campaign for Youth Justice, a Washington-based nonprofit group.
Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Sever Anxiety
The New York Times, 10/11/17
Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase - to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 - of undergraduates reporting "overwhelming anxiety" in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they "felt overwhelmed by all I had to do" during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent. Those numbers - combined with a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall - come as little surprise to high school administrators across the country, who increasingly report a glut of anxious, overwhelmed students. While it's difficult to tease apart how much of the apparent spike in anxiety is related to an increase in awareness and diagnosis of the disorder, many of those who work with young people suspect that what they're seeing can't easily be explained away.
Health & Justice in the News
is a summary of recent news stories relating to criminal justice, mental health, addiction, recovery, and related issues. It is compiled and published by TASC each Monday and Thursday.
Some headlines and text have been altered by TASC for clarity or emphasis, or to minimize discriminatory or stigmatizing language. Opinions in the articles and op-eds do not necessarily express the views of TASC or our staff or partners.