News Coverage

The US opioid crisis is real and deadly. Trumpcare could make it even worse. (Mic)

Connie Petroski can't remember the exact moment her daughter, Jessica, went from being a sunny 17-year-old who loved dressing up for school dances and hanging out with her friends to a sullen, quiet 18-year-old alternating between falling asleep upside down on the toilet and getting into hysterical shouting matches with her mother.

"She just got with the wrong person and started with cocaine, and it just goes from there," Connie said in a phone interview. "It's just one drug after another and nothing ever gets strong enough, so that's when they turn to heroin."

Jessica is just one of the estimated 2.1 million Americans currently struggling with opioid addiction, and the epidemic is only getting worse. In 2015, the most recent year on record, opioids killed more than 33,000 people — a record. From 2014 to 2015, deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the painkiller that was found to be responsible for the 2016 death of the singer Prince, rose by 75%. 

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I'm Pregnant. What Would Happen If I Couldn't Afford Health Care? (NPR)

On Christmas Day, I found out that I was pregnant. It was the best present I could have hoped for. My husband and I have wanted to start a family for years, and we could not wait to share the news with our loved ones.

 But my initial exhilaration quickly turned to anxiety. As a physician, I knew many of the things that could go wrong. I wanted to do everything I could do to have a healthy baby.

 I found an obstetrician and made an appointment for my first prenatal visit. I was so relieved when I saw the baby's heartbeat on the ultrasound. My blood was drawn to check for anemia and thyroid problems. I had the rest of my recommended first trimester tests, including a Pap smear and testing for HIV and sexually-transmitted infections.

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Six reasons to fight the ACA replacement plan (Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore health commissioner: ACA replacement plan is 'fiscally irresponsible and a national security risk.'

 For months, I have received questions from concerned residents about how repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would impact their health. My patients were worried about whether they could still get medications to treat their heart disease and diabetes, whether they would they lose coverage for mental health and addiction services, and whether they would continue to get basic preventive services such as mammogram, pap smears and blood pressure screenings.

 This week, House Republicans issued their proposed replacement. There are six particularly concerning provisions with drastic consequences to Baltimore's health:

 First, the bill punishes those with lower wages by eliminating subsidies to help pay for insurance coverage based on a person's income. As a physician who has practiced medicine before and after the ACA, I have seen patients forced to make the impossible choice between basic needs, including food and housing, and critical medications. I have seen patients forgo paying for insurance coverage because it is too expensive. I have seen the consequences when people are forced to pay for this "choice" with their lives.

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Health commissioner Wen talks about her pregnancy (Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen thought she was doing a good job keeping her secret.

But when she recently revealed to her staff that she was expecting a baby in August, one colleague responded: "I figured that out when I saw you turn three different colors in 20 minutes."

Yes, it's true. Even the city's top health official suffers from morning sickness and fatigue.

Wen and her husband, who manages an information technology team at Legg Mason, are expecting their first child, a boy, this summer. 

The energetic commissioner known for her nonstop work ethic said she'll take off at least eight weeks to spend time with her son after he is born. 

As a Republican-led Congress moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which aimed to make health insurance available for all American citizens, Wen said she is reminded how fortunate she is to have good benefits.

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Baltimore tech firm tapped to make sure Flint water crisis doesn't happen here (BBJ)

The health department is working with seven private sector teams of experts, designers and engineers to confront public health issues impacting the city with technology solutions. The project is backed by city-sponsored microgrants.

Delali Dzirasa said his software company is working on a tool to make sure Baltimore doesn't become the next Flint, Mich.

Fearless Solutions LLC was tapped by the to develop a data dashboard that maps public health information for the city. The health department collects a lot of data each year — on disease tracking, restaurant inspections, lead levels, etc. — but it is fragmented and there was no way to consolidate it and map trends or anomalies across the city.

That is the problem that Fearless took on, developing a dashboard that could bring all of that data together and give clear, concise picture of health trends in Baltimore. Residents and health officials will be able to look at certain health indicators to see which neighborhoods they most affect and how they interact with other health issues in the city, Dzirasa said. The dashboard will also be able to create predictive models based on past health trends, so the department can start planning how to confront new health problems before they come up.

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Leaders celebrate 1000th pair of glasses given to city students (Video) (ABC2 News)

Baltimore leaders celebrated the 1000th pair of glasses provided under the Vision for Baltimore program.

The citywide partnership launched in May to give elementary and middle schools students access to glasses, regardless of their family's ability to pay.

Mayor Catherine Pugh joined Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen and city schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises Wednesday to mark the milestone.

Vision for Baltimore was launched by the Baltimore City Health Department along with Baltimore City Public Schools and Johns Hopkins University.

Overhaul of health law faces criticism from both sides in Maryland (Baltimore Sun)

Health care advocates and Democratic lawmakers in Maryland called a newly released GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act a threat to coverage for more than 400,000 state residents, while top Republicans, including Gov. Larry Hogan, argued that the law must be changed to preserve access to health insurance.

"The governor doesn't want to see anyone losing health care," said Doug Mayer, Hogan's chief spokesman. "But he wants a system that works."

But even Mayer characterized the plan congressional Republicans released Monday evening as "just a first draft" for replacing the health law known as Obamacare.

Even as Democrats attacked the plan Tuesday for threatening coverage and increasing costs, it was rejected by Republican deficit hawks, panned by party moderates and given only lukewarm support from President Donald Trump. Conservative lawmakers and outside groups, bristling at the creation of a government entitlement, dubbed the bill "Obamacare 2.0" or "Obamacare lite."

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The opioid epidemic continues to ravage Maryland, killing more residents every year than traffic accidents. We are in the midst of a public health emergency.

Across the state, nearly 1500 people lost their lives to drug or alcohol overdose in the first nine months of 2016. The powerful opioid known as fentanyl is driving these high rates; in Baltimore City, fatal overdoses involving the drug have increased 20 times in the least three years.

These deaths are especially tragic because there is one medication — naloxone — that is a complete antidote to an opioid overdose. As an emergency physician, I have used the medication hundreds of times and have seen firsthand that it can bring someone on the verge of death back to life in seconds. Naloxone is safe, with virtually no side effects if given to someone who is not on opioids. It is easy to administer, with two versions, one that’s a nasal spray and one that’s given like an Epi-Pen.

Naloxone gives everyone the power to save a life. And in Baltimore, it has.

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