KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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State Highlights: State Prisons Bear Burden Of Elderly Inmates; N.C. To Consolidate State-Funded Mental Health Services

News outlets report on health issues in North Carolina, Mississippi, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Missouri, Texas and Maryland.

Stateline: Elderly Inmates Burden State Prisons
Walter Melvin Atkinson is a bit vague about how long he has been in the assisted living portion of the Deerfield Correctional Center and how long he has left on his sentence. He claims to not even remember the crime — pedophilia — that landed him here. At 92, “Speedy,” as he is called ironically by fellow prisoners and guards, is frail enough to require a wheelchair to get around, and his inmate caregivers rushed to his side to grab from his shaking hand a coffee mug that seemed destined to spill all over his cot. A huge, bright orange star has been sewn on to the white blanket that covers the cot — an idea the unit manager, Kathy Walker, dreamed up to help Atkinson spot his own bed among the six rows of beds in the spotless unit. (Ollove, 3/17)

The Associated Press: Agency Unveils Plan To Consolidate Mental Health Networks
North Carolina's eight managed-care networks for treating people with mental health and substance abuse needs and providing services for people with developmental disabilities using public funds are becoming more consolidated. The Department of Health and Human Services laid out a plan Thursday to merge the eight over time into four — two in central North Carolina and one each in the east and west. (3/17)

The Sun Herald: Grant Delay Could Leave Mississippi HIV/AIDS Patients Homeless
Nine Coast households with a family member suffering from HIV/AIDS could find themselves homeless next month after a federal housing grant was delayed -- again -- and sluggish fundraising rendered a local agency unable to make up the shortfall. Though the South Mississippi AIDS Task Force is aggressively seeking funding sources, it is also looking for ways to cut its expenses so other programs don't suffer. (Zilbermints, 3/17)

The Star Tribune: St. Cloud Clinic Merger Under Antitrust Review By State
Attorney General Lori Swanson is raising concerns about the impact on competition from a possible merger between two large primary care providers in the St. Cloud area. In an interview this week, Swanson said her office has launched an antitrust review of a potential acquisition by CentraCare of St. Cloud Medical Group, and asked the parties to delay any closing. (Snowbeck, 3/16)

The Associated Press: NC Reverses Safety Warning On Well Water Near Duke Ash Dumps
North Carolina is reversing warnings about water that health officials said was too polluted to drink and now reassuring residents who live near pits that hold waste from decades of coal-burning for electricity that their well water is safe. The state health agency issued written warnings last April to the owners of 330 water wells near eight Duke Energy power plants that their well water was too contaminated with vanadium and hexavalent chromium to use. Now a new letter is being sent to homeowners who draw from 235 of those wells suggesting more confidence in the safety of the water. The remaining 95 water wells will continue to carry a "do not drink" warning because of the presence of arsenic, cobalt or other pollutant, an agency spokeswoman said. (Dalesio, 3/17)

The Seattle Times: Seattle Doctors Buck Trend, Would Allow Vaccine Opt-Outs -- Except For Measles
Amid growing calls to limit vaccine exemptions for children in public schools, several Seattle doctors have come up with a controversial plan: Allow personal and religious opt-outs for all shots — except the one that prevents measles. The proposal, published Friday in the journal Pediatrics, flies in the face of current thinking by many medical experts and some lawmakers, like those in California, who passed one of the nation’s strictest vaccination laws, prohibiting nonmedical exemptions. (Aleccia, 3/17)

The Associated Press: What You Need To Know About Medical School Opening In Meredith
A new for-profit osteopathic medical school is opening in Idaho, promising to bring more doctors to the rural Intermountain West. The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine is a private, for-profit company, but it is affiliated with the public Idaho State University and its students will have access to ISU's campus in Meridian. Supporters say the new school will bring an economic boost and improve health care across the state, while opponents worry that it could tax existing infrastructure for Idaho medical students and that profits could take precedence over training. (Boone, 3/17)

The Associated Press: Miss. Health Officials Urge Tetanus Shots In Flood Areas
Mississippi's health department says free vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are being offered at county health offices in 29 counties affected by recent floods. Health officials say tetanus vaccinations are recommended for anyone who hasn't had one in more than 10 years. People dealing with floods or storm cleanup are deemed at greater risk for tetanus infections. (3/17)

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Sees A Late Surge In Flu Cases
As spring and the end of the flu season approach, state health officials say they are seeing a surge in cases of the virus. The increase began in late February and continues, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Officials say the type of flu recorded is covered by this year's vaccine and it's not too late to get a flu shot, which are commonly available in doctors' offices, drug stores and other retail outlets. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone older than six months old get vaccinated. (Cohn, 3/17)

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