Kaiser Health News Original Stories
Private Equity Sees the Billions in Eye Care as Firms Target High-Profit Procedures
As private equity groups are swarming into aging America’s eye care, the consolidation is costing the U.S. health care system and patients more money. (Lauren Weber, )
Doctors Rush to Use Supreme Court Ruling to Escape Opioid Charges
After a unanimous ruling from the high court, doctors who are accused of writing irresponsible prescriptions can go to trial with a new defense: It wasn’t on purpose. (Brett Kelman, )
Many Refugees Dealing with Trauma Face Obstacles to Mental Health Care
Refugees are arriving in the U.S. in greater numbers after a 40-year low, prompting some health professionals to rethink ways to provide culturally competent care amid a shortage of mental health services. (Erica Zurek and Alander Rocha, )
Journalists Look Into Wildfire Trauma and the South’s Monkeypox Response
KHN and California Healthline staff made the rounds on national and local media this week to discuss their stories. Here’s a collection of their appearances. ( )
Political Cartoon: 'An H-S-K-T Doctor?'
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'An H-S-K-T Doctor?'" by Dave Coverly.
Covid-19 Crisis
Biden Says 'Pandemic Is Over' — Which May Muddle His Requests For Funding
The president's comments, which aired in an interview Sunday night, were off the cuff and took several of his own health officials by surprise, news media outlets reported. Some Republicans immediately questioned why they should approve millions more for covid funding if the global emergency is done.
The Washington Post: Biden Says ‘Pandemic Is Over’
President Biden declared the coronavirus pandemic “over,” in apparently off-the-cuff remarks that reflect the growing sentiment that the threat of the virus has receded, even as hundreds of Americans continue to die of covid each day. “We still have a problem with covid,” Biden said on “60 Minutes,” which aired Sunday night. “We’re still doing a lot of work on it … but the pandemic is over.” Biden made the remarks Wednesday during an interview at the auto show in Detroit, referencing the crowds at the event. The annual auto show had not been held since 2019. (Diamond, 9/18)
Politico: Biden On ‘60 Minutes’: ‘The Pandemic Is Over’ 
Biden’s insistence on Sunday night that the pandemic is over caught several of his own health officials by surprise. The declaration was not part of his planned remarks ahead of the “60 Minutes” interview, two administration officials familiar with the matter told POLITICO. Later in the interview, Biden was clear that he didn’t take the overall effects of the pandemic lightly. “The impact on the psyche of the American people as a consequence of the pandemic is profound,” he said. (Cohen and Cancryn, 9/18)
The Hill: Biden: ‘The Pandemic Is Over’ 
Biden has in the past argued that the United States had turned a corner on the pandemic, most notably during a speech on Independence Day in 2021, when he asserted the country had the tools necessary to “declare independence” from the virus. But in the weeks that followed, the delta variant contributed to a surge in cases and deaths. And in late 2021 into early 2022, the omicron variant again led to a spike in cases and deaths. Newly available booster shots were designed specifically to shield Americans from severe cases of the omicron variant. (Samuels, 9/18)
NPR: Joe Biden Said The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Over, But The Data Says Otherwise
The National Institutes of Health defines a pandemic as "an epidemic of disease, or other health condition, that occurs over a widespread area (multiple countries or continents) and usually affects a sizable part of the population." So are we really in the clear? (Archie, 9/19)
Some States Have Already Run Out Of Moderna's Bivalent Covid Shots
The company has not given any reasons for manufacturing or shipment delays, Becker's Hospital Review reported.
Becker's Hospital Review: Supply For Moderna's Omicron Booster Hits Snag
Two weeks after the CDC and FDA authorized Moderna's bivalent omicron booster for emergency use, doses are running out in a few U.S. states. Some pharmacies and hospitals in Hawaii, California and Washington, D.C., have reported they're out of Moderna's omicron-targeted vaccine. Despite these hiccups in supply, Moderna has not cited any reasons for manufacturing or shipment delays. (Twenter, 9/16)
In other updates on the covid vaccine rollout —
The Hill: Fauci Fears ‘Anti-Vaxxer Attitude’ Could Cause Outbreaks Of Non-COVID Diseases 
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said in a new interview that the “anti-vaxxer attitude” of some Americans risks causing non-COVID virus outbreaks in the U.S.  “I’m concerned the acceleration of an anti-vaxxer attitude in certain segments of the population . . . might spill over into that kind of a negative attitude towards childhood vaccinations,” Fauci told The Financial Times in an interview published Sunday. (Oshin, 9/18)
New Hampshire Public Radio: N.H. Wants To Get Vaccine Vans Rolling Again, As New COVID Boosters Arrive
The state plans to re-launch its mobile vaccine van program next month. Officials say the four-vehicle fleet will help make COVID-19 boosters available to more people, amid an expected increase in cases this fall and winter. (Cuno-Booth, 9/16)
The Washington Post: Covid Shots For Young Kids Arrived In June. Few Have Received Them.
In June, when the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of coronavirus vaccines for children younger than 5, physicians expected apprehension among parents — after all, 4 in 10 parents with young children said they would definitely not get their youngsters vaccinated, according to a July Kaiser Family Foundation survey. But doctors and public health experts never expected there would be this little interest in vaccines for young children. (Malhi, 9/18)
Bend Bulletin: St. Charles Health System To Welcome Back Unvaccinated Workers 
Hospital administrators have lifted the requirement that all health care professionals at St. Charles Health System must be vaccinated against COVID-19, nearly a year after it had been put in place. The health system said it would now allow workers who had an approved religious or medical exception to work at the health system even if they are not vaccinated against COVID-19. This follows the state’s rules requiring COVID-19 vaccination updated in April. (Roig, 9/15)
Stateline: Pandemic Prompts More States To Mandate Paid Sick Leave
For all the punishment COVID-19 has inflicted in New Mexico, the virus also is responsible for the state enacting one of the broadest paid sick leave laws in the country. “It’s almost completely related to the pandemic,” said Democratic state Sen. Mimi Stewart, who co-sponsored the bill in her chamber. (Ollove, 9/16)
And in global covid news —
AP: Bus For COVID-19 Quarantine In China Crashes, Killing 27 
A bus reportedly taking 47 people to COVID-19 quarantine in southwest China crashed before dawn Sunday morning, killing 27 and injuring 20 others, media said. The bus overturned on an expressway in Guizhou province, a brief statement from the Sandu county police said, without mentioning any connection to quarantine. The injured were being treated, it said. (9/19)
Bloomberg: Moderna Gives WHO’s MRNA Hub Some Help, Pfizer Snubs Request
Moderna Inc. has allowed its Covid-19 vaccine to be used in a World Health Organization effort to develop mRNA shots that would increase production and access for poor countries. (Sguazzin, 9/19)
Reuters: Factbox: Vaccines Delivered Under COVAX Sharing Scheme For Poorer Countries
The COVAX facility, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), has delivered 1.72 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to 146 countries, GAVI data shows. (9/16)
After Roe V. Wade
In Utah, GOP Lawmakers Backpedal Over Abortion Cease And Desist Letters
The letters, which were printed on Utah House of Representatives letterhead, were sent out Thursday to the Planned Parenthood Association, the ACLU, and others and said that anyone who violates the ban during a district court-ordered pause on the trigger law will be prosecuted in the future, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. On Friday, however, the lawmakers said the letters were only “our opinion.”
Salt Lake Tribune: Utah GOP Reps. Birkeland, Lisonbee Say Their Threat To Abortions Providers Was Only Their ‘Opinion,’ Not A Legal Document
Republican state lawmakers backpedaled less than a day after sending cease and desist letters to abortion providers in Utah, threatening prosecution if they violate an abortion trigger law that is currently on hold in the state. (Anderson Stern, 9/17)
Deseret News: Abortion Cease-And-Desist Letters: ‘Political Stunt’ Or ‘Bold Stand?’ 
Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and recipient of one of the letters, said in a statement “This is a political stunt. Full stop. Anti-abortion politicians are trying to circumvent the judicial system by harassing health care providers and instilling a culture of fear. “PPAU is providing abortion care in full compliance with current law and always has. Our lawyers will continue to monitor the situation, but we remain open for our patients and will continue to do all we can to make sure all Utahns can get the health care they need,” she said. (Cortez, 9/16)
In abortion updates from West Virginia, Ohio, and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico —
AP: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Signs Abortion Ban Into Law
Republican Gov. Jim Justice on Friday signed into law a ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy, making West Virginia the second state to enact a law prohibiting the procedure since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning its constitutional protection. The bill will go into effect immediately, except for the criminal penalties, which will go into effect in 90 days, he said. Justice described the legislation on Twitter as “a bill that protects life.” (Willingham, 9/16)
Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Clinics Resume Abortions Up To 20 Weeks Into Pregnancy
Patients and clinics in Ohio are wasting no time scheduling abortions after a judge temporarily blocked the state’s abortion ban, allowing abortions up to 20 weeks into pregnancy to go forward. Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christian Jenkins ruled on Wednesday that the state Constitution might protect Ohioans' right to an abortion. The decision blocks Ohio’s ban on abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected — which is typically around six weeks into pregnancy — for 14 days. (Trombly and Laird, 9/17)
The New York Times: Abortion Helps Realign Puerto Rico’s Politics 
Three years ago, after Puerto Rico’s legislature narrowly defeated new abortion restrictions, the cardiologist and pastor Dr. César Vázquez Muñiz founded a new political party whose mission, he vowed, would include “defending life.” Now, with just one senator and one representative in the Legislative Assembly, Dr. Vázquez’s upstart party, Project Dignity, has helped lead a new attempt to limit abortion on the island, one of only a handful of U.S. jurisdictions where the procedure remains legal at any point during pregnancy. (Mazzei, 9/17)
In news about maternal mortality rates —
The Texas Tribune: State Health Agency’s Maternal Mortality Numbers Will Be Late
For the first time, a state report detailing the latest data on how many Texans die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications will not be ready before the Texas Legislature convenes next year. (Vidales, 9/16)
Graham Abortion Ban Bill Divides Republican Party
Media outlets cover the political consternation stirred up by Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed 15-week abortion ban, with some Republican senators signaling opposition. Other news stories cover how the issue of abortion's legality are impacting midterm elections.
CNBC: Lindsey Graham’s Abortion Ban Bill Baffles Some Republicans As Democrats Sharpen Attacks In Key Midterm Races
Republicans are distancing themselves from Sen. Lindsey Graham’s new proposal to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, as Democrats hold up the bill as proof the GOP seeks to restrict abortion nationwide if it wins control of Congress in the November midterm elections. In Graham’s proposal, Democrats see another chance to leverage an issue that has appeared to boost their chances of holding at least one chamber of Congress. (Breuninger, 9/16)
The Hill: Swing-State Republicans On Defense Over Graham’s Abortion Ban 
Democrats are working to take full advantage on the campaign trail of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) proposed 15-week abortion ban, looking to back their opponents into a corner on an issue Republicans had spent months trying to pivot away from. (Manchester, 9/18)
The Hill: These 15 GOP Senators Have Signaled Opposition To Graham’s Abortion Ban
At least 15 GOP lawmakers have signaled opposition to the legislation, with a majority saying abortion decisions should be handled on the state and local level rather than through a federal law. (Dress, 9/18)
The Hill: Graham Says He’s ‘Confident’ Americans Would Support National Abortion Ban
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday expressed confidence that the public would support his 15-week federal abortion ban proposal but acknowledged it does not have the votes to pass the Senate. “I’m pro-life, even in an election year,” Graham told “Fox News Sunday” anchor Shannon Bream. (Schonfeld, 9/18)
More on how abortion is shaping the midterm elections —
Reuters: Abortion Gives Democrats A Shot At Flipping A Senate Seat In Wisconsin 
Evidence is building that a wave of women voters might be the difference-maker if Democrats are to keep their Senate majority and stem their expected losses in the House of Representatives in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Wisconsin is one of several states where voter registrations among women have surged since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. (Oliphant, 9/16)
Politico: Abortion Ruling Has Put These 5 California House Races In Play
Control of the House will be decided by a handful of races around the nation, and California alone has at least five whose outcome may hinge on a single issue: abortion. … Support for abortion rights is strong in California, where the Democrats who dominate state government have placed an initiative on the ballot to enshrine access in the state constitution. Prop 1, as it’s known, has support from 69 percent of likely voters. That’s expected to drive supporters of abortion rights to the polls in a way that will likely hurt GOP candidates in the tighter races, such as those held by Republican incumbents Rep. Mike Garcia in the suburbs at the northern edge of LA and Rep. Ken Calvert, who now must face voters in Palm Springs because of redistricting. (White, 9/18)
The Courier-Journal: Post Roe V. Wade, Abortion Is The X Factor In Kentucky's 2022 Election
Abortion is now prohibited in Kentucky, with exceptions only for life-threatening health risks, due to a "trigger" ban the Republican-controlled state legislature passed that took effect after the Supreme Court's June ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade. How Kentuckians vote in November could significantly impact the future of abortion access here. (Watkins, 9/19)
CNN: Podcast: How Abortion Could Swing The Midterms
Primary season is over, and we are less than 60 days away from the midterm elections. We examine what’s at stake in November, preview the key races to watch and look at how the abortion issue is galvanizing voters of both parties in a key governor’s race. (9/18)
In other election news —
AP: Sarah Sanders Released From Hospital After Cancer Surgery
Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, a Republican who is running for governor in Arkansas, was released from a hospital Saturday after undergoing surgery for thyroid cancer. “Following successful surgery on Friday to remove her thyroid and surrounding lymph nodes and in consultation with her physician, Sarah was discharged from an Arkansas hospital—cancer free,” said Sanders spokesperson Judd Deere. “She will spend the remaining portion of her recovery at home.” (9/17)
Outbreaks and Health Threats
Monkeypox Cases Decline, But White House Warns Funding Needed
The White House says lawmakers should approve a multibillion-dollar request to combat the ongoing crisis, even as case rates decline. NPR explains the odds of catching monkeypox, Dallas Morning News covers a case at a high school in Fort Worth, among other news on the virus.
The Hill: White House Pushes For Monkeypox Funding As Cases Fall
Monkeypox cases are declining in many areas of the country, but the Biden administration is warning that the virus still poses a danger and pushing for lawmakers to approve its multibillion-dollar funding request to combat it. More than 23,000 infections have been confirmed in the U.S. during the outbreak, but the growth has slowed. Cases have dropped about 50 percent in the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from an average of 440 cases a day on Aug. 16 to 170 cases a day on Sept. 14. (Weixel, 9/18)
More on the spread of monkeypox —
NPR: What Are Your Chances Of Catching Monkeypox — Compared To COVID?
The concerns about catching monkeypox come at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is still in force, with over 300,000 cases reported daily across the globe and over 10,000 deaths per week. So how can people get a clear idea of what their chances are of contracting monkeypox? (Barnhart and Doucleff, 9/16)
Dallas Morning News: Monkeypox Case Confirmed At High School In Fort Worth ISD
A case of the monkeypox virus has been confirmed at a high school in Fort Worth ISD, the district announced Friday. The case involves someone at Arlington Heights High School, but it’s unclear whether the person infected is a student or an employee. The district said it began sanitizing the school immediately to help curb the spread of the virus, and encouraged parents to monitor their children for 21 days to see if they develop symptoms. (Landers, 9/16)
Los Angeles Times: Riverside County Reports Its First MPX Case In A Child Under 10
The child, a resident of western Riverside County, is recovering at home and didn’t require hospitalization, health officials said. The public health department is trying to determine how the child became infected with MPX, also known as monkeypox. (Lin II, 9/16)
CIDRAP: Low Risk Of Monkeypox Spread Noted In Health Workers 
In a report today of 313 healthcare workers (HCWs) exposed to monkeypox in Colorado, none of them contracted the virus, despite few wearing the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) or receiving postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccination. (Soucheray, 9/16)
Reuters: Mainland China Reports First Imported Monkeypox Case 
The Chinese city of Chongqing reported one case of the monkeypox virus infection on Friday in an individual who arrived from abroad, marking mainland China's first known monkeypox infection amid the recent global outbreak of the virus. (9/16)
Bloomberg: China Says No Touching Foreigners Skin-To-Skin After Monkeypox Case
A top Chinese health official warned people against having skin-to-skin contact with foreigners to avoid contracting monkeypox, spurring a backlash among the country’s dwindling expatriate community. (9/19)
On monkeypox treatments —
North Carolina Health News: Shifting Strategies For Monkeypox Vaccines 
Raynard Washington, the Mecklenburg County health director, takes umbrage when he hears people say the monkeypox vaccine clinic staged at the Charlotte Pride celebration last month fell short of expectations. (Blythe, 9/19)
The New York Times: Is There Anything You Can Do To Prevent Or Treat Monkeypox Scars?
Although the scabs are a sign that the painful infection is about to be cleared, there is a possibility that some patients will still have redness or discoloration afterward that will fade with time, said Dr. Mary Stevenson, an assistant professor of dermatology at N.Y.U. Langone Health. In some cases, people may also be left with permanent scars. (Sheikh, 9/19)
Health Industry
Study Links Medical Debt To Threats To Health And Housing
Medical debt is hitting more Americans, driving bad health outcomes regardless of insurance or income, a study finds. NBC News reports that 1 in 5 U.S. households suffers medical debt, including those with private insurance. Other news covers rising health costs, staffing issues, and private equity.
Axios: Study: Medical Debt Threatens People's Health, Housing
Soaring medical debt is setting U.S. adults up for higher risks of eviction, food insecurity and bad health outcomes regardless of insurance or income, a new study found. (Moreno, 9/19)
NBC News: 1 In 5 Households Has Medical Debt. That Includes People With Private Insurance
"The kinds of things we saw in our study are virtually nonexistent in most other wealthy nations," said the study’s lead author David Himmelstein, a professor at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City. The U.S. needs a "real big change." (Lovelace Jr., 9/16)
In related news about rising health care costs —
Axios: Rising Health Care Costs Likely To Crunch Employers Facing Tight Labor Market
All signs are pointing toward significantly higher health costs in the employer market next year, which will translate into larger-than-normal premium increases. (Owens, 9/19)
As financial troubles grow, so do staff shortages —
Axios: Travel Nursing Pay Drops 7% From Last Year
The national average for travel nurse pay in August was $3,045 a week, down 7.4% from the same month a year ago, according to health care staffing company Vivian Health. (Reed, 9/18)
Oklahoman: Dozens Of Oklahoma Families Fight Cuts To Private-Duty Nursing Hours
About 450 SoonerCare members receive private-duty nursing — just a fraction of the more than 1 million Oklahomans on SoonerCare. Since April, about 150 private-duty nursing recipients have gotten notifications that their hours would be scaled back or cut completely. Kevin Corbett, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the state’s secretary for health and mental health, said the reevaluations for private-duty nursing are solely based on the medical necessity of the services and the patients' clinical needs. (Branham, 9/17)
Anchorage Daily News: Many Alaska Pharmacies Are Understaffed, Leading To Sporadic Hours And Patients Turned Away
Signs of a worsening pharmacist shortage in Alaska are everywhere: reduced hours at Anchorage pharmacies. Significant signing bonuses and multiple job offers for newly graduated pharmacy students. Patients being told to come back the next day to pick up prescriptions due to short staffing. (Berman, 9/18)
Missouri Independent: Missouri's Hospitals Face Staff Shortages At Mental Health Facilities
Hospitals across Missouri are facing a “crisis” caring for patients in acute care settings who can’t find long-term care through the Department of Mental Health due to the agency’s chronic shortage of workers, according to hospital officials. (Weinberg, 9/16)
Bloomberg: Nurse Claims Forced Arbitration Was Used To Trap Him In Job Juggling 40 Patients
A staffing agency that serves health-care facilities in New York state was accused in a lawsuit of using hardball legal tactics to stop workers from quitting low-paid jobs. The complaint, filed Friday by a nurse who immigrated to the US from the Philippines, is the latest to allege that employers are resorting to illegal means to trap foreign workers in assignments that burnt-out American caregivers no longer want. (Eidelson, 9/16)
On the shift to private equity firms —
KHN: Private Equity Sees The Billions In Eye Care As Firms Target High-Profit Procedures 
Christina Green hoped cataract surgery would clear up her cloudy vision, which had worsened after she took a drug to fight her breast cancer. But the former English professor said her 2019 surgery with Ophthalmology Consultants didn’t get her to 20/20 vision or fix her astigmatism — despite a $3,000 out-of-pocket charge for the astigmatism surgical upgrade. Green, 69, said she ended up feeling more like a dollar sign to the practice than a patient. “You’re a cow among a herd as you just move from this station to this station to this station,” she said. (Weber, 9/19)
Modern Healthcare: Humana To Spend $550M On CenterWell Clinics
Humana will spend up to $550 million to acquire the first set of clinics it built with a private equity firm, Chief Financial Officer Susan Diamond said during a meeting with investors Thursday. (Tepper, 9/16)
State Watch
Judge Finds Some Michigan Baby Blood Sample Tests Unconstitutional
The newborn blood-testing program has been in the spotlight for privacy and consent concerns, and now a judge ruled some of the program is unconstitutional. Separate news reports cover a new burial option in California, Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, and more.
AP: Parents Win Key Ruling In Michigan Newborn Blood Dispute 
A judge has found key parts of Michigan’s newborn blood-testing program unconstitutional in a challenge by four parents who raised concerns about how leftover samples are used long after screening for rare diseases. The lawsuit is not a class action. But the decision this week is likely to have an impact on how the state maintains millions of dried blood spots and makes them available for outside research. (White, 9/16)
In other health news from across the U.S. —
Los Angeles Times: California's Dead Will Have A New Burial Option: Human Composting
California will begin allowing an alternative burial method known as human composting in 2027, under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday. (Gutierrez, 9/18)
AP: N. Carolina Hospitals Offer New Medicaid Expansion Proposal
North Carolina’s hospitals and hospital systems on Friday unveiled an offer that could shake up stalled negotiations to pass legislation that would expand Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of low-income adults in the state. The North Carolina Healthcare Association said the offer sent to Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also contained reforms to some state laws that require regulatory approval before certain medical buildings can be constructed or services offered in a region. (Robertson, 9/16)
The Boston Globe: West Nile Virus Detected In R.I. 
This year’s first human case of West Nile virus has been detected in a person in Providence County who is currently hospitalized, state health officials said Friday. The unidentified person is in their 70s and reportedly started experiencing symptoms of the West Nile virus almost three weeks ago, according to Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state health department. (Gagosz, 9/17)
New Hampshire Public Radio: Boston Globe Spotlight Team Investigates Former N.H. Surgeon
A prominent cardiac surgeon in New Hampshire has been connected to a string of deaths and injuries over the past two decades. (Furukawa, 9/16)
KHN: Journalists Look Into Wildfire Trauma And The South’s Monkeypox Response 
KHN reporter and producer Heidi de Marco discussed the impact of wildfire trauma on children in Northern California on CapRadio’s “Insight With Vicki Gonzalez” on Sept. 13. … KHN Florida correspondent Daniel Chang discussed the Southern response to the monkeypox outbreak on C-SPAN’s “Washington Today” on Sept. 14. (9/17)
Opioid Crisis
Rally Near White House Highlights Opioid Deaths
Families whose lives have been destroyed by fentanyl rallied near the White House Saturday to draw attention to the ongoing opioid crisis, the Washington Post reports. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports drugmaker Endo is blamed for Tennessee's opioid crisis.
The Washington Post: Families Destroyed By Fentanyl Deaths Rally Near The White House
April Babcock and Virginia Krieger both lost children to the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl and have pleaded with lawmakers and officials to ramp up enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border to stop the flow of illicit drugs. On Saturday, the mothers built a kind of wall. Fifty banners stretched for about 400 feet, nearly spanning the width of the National Mall. They featured faces of nearly 3,500 people who lost their lives to fentanyl. Many were young, even teenagers. Some wore their high school jerseys or graduation caps. They smiled, forever frozen in time on the banners, which Babcock said represented the thousands of people who have died of opioid use. (Kornfield, 9/18)
Philadelphia Inquirer: Endo, A Chester County Drug Maker, Blamed For Tennessee’s Opioid Crisis
Knoxville, a city of about 190,000 people on the Tennessee River with a state university and downtown entertainment district, was a huge market for Endo International’s addictive opioid pain pills. Almost 1 million more of Endo’s Opana ER tablets were sold in the Knoxville area between 2007 and 2014 than in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago combined. (Fernandez, 9/16)
Indianapolis Star: Overdoses Are Marion County Coroner's Office Leading Cause Of Death
In its annual report examining trends among the decedents it takes in, the Marion County Coroner's Office recorded 799 people last year died from accidental drug intoxication. The alarming statistics surpassed the number of people examined by the office who died from heart disease − long at the top of the list − blunt force trauma and firearms for the second year in a row. (Nelson, 9/19)
Los Angeles Times: Student Fentanyl Pill Overdose Death On Campus Spurs Action
Melanie Ramos, a 15-year-old student who died of a drug overdose this week at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood, loved to travel, dreamed of one day joining the Army and was best friends with her sisters. “Full of life,” is how a family member described her — and as far as they knew, Melanie did not use drugs. (Blume, Lin and Winton, 9/17)
AP: Recovering Addicts Work To Help Others In 'Project Recover'
Joy Bogese is one of four peer recovery specialists who have been working in central Virginia this year as part of “Project Recover.” The specialists are embedded with ambulance crews and police officers so they can offer guidance and resources to victims during one of the most difficult times of their lives — immediately following an overdose. (Lavoie, 9/17)
In legal news —
Reuters: Teva Expects To Start Paying U.S. Opioid Settlement In 2023 
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA.TA) expects to finalize an opioid settlement in the United States by year-end and start paying in 2023, its chief executive said on Sunday, while confirming he was unlikely to renew his contract next year. (9/19)
KHN: Doctors Rush To Use Supreme Court Ruling To Escape Opioid Charges
Dr. Nelson Onaro conceded last summer that he’d written illegal prescriptions, although he said he was thinking only of his patients. From a tiny, brick clinic in Oklahoma, he doled out hundreds of opioid pills and dozens of fentanyl patches with no legitimate medical purpose. “Those medications were prescribed to help my patients, from my own point of view,” Onaro said in court, as he reluctantly pleaded guilty to six counts of drug dealing. Because he confessed, the doctor was likely to get a reduced sentence of three years or less in prison. (Kelman, 9/19)
Lifestyle and Health
Through The Pandemic, More Adults Sought Mental Health Care
Fresh data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the percentage of U.S. adults getting mental health care rose from 19.2% in 2019 to 21.6% in 2021. In other news, mounting evidence shows tea drinking is linked to lower diabetes risks, a beef product recall, and more.
USA Today: More Adults Received Mental Health Treatment Over The Past Two Years
More adults are seeking out treatment for mental health issues. The percentage of adults getting mental health treatment increased from 19.2% in 2019 to 21.6% in 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in data published this month. (Martin, 9/18)
In other health and wellness news —
NBC News: Drinking Tea May Lower Risk Of Diabetes, Heart Disease And Death
Mounting evidence suggests that drinking several cups of tea per day has numerous health benefits, including lowering one's risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and overall mortality. (Bendix, 9/17)
Columbus Dispatch: Healthy Choice Recall: 22,000 Pounds Of Beef Product Recalled
A Texas-based frozen food storage and repackaging facility is recalling more than 22,000 pounds of Healthy Choice products that failed to warn consumers that the product contains the allergen milk. (Schulz, 9/18)
Chicago Tribune: Technology Is Making It Possible For Americans To Age In Place
Washburn, 77, knew he needed to find a way to build a social network in retirement. Washburn also knew that he and his wife, Pam, 75, wanted to continue living independently in their own home. He quickly learned that technology could play a vital role in accomplishing both goals. (Bateman, 9/18)
KHN: Many Refugees Dealing With Trauma Face Obstacles To Mental Health Care 
As a young boy living in what was then Zaire, Bertine Bahige remembers watching refugees flee from the Rwandan genocide in 1994 by crossing a river that forms the two Central African nations’ border. “Little did I know that would be me a few years later,” said Bahige. Bahige’s harrowing refugee journey began when he was kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier when war broke out in his country, which became the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997. He escaped at age 15 to a Mozambique refugee camp, where he lived for five years until he arrived in Baltimore in 2004 through a refugee resettlement program. (Zurek and Rocha, 9/19)
Editorials And Opinions
Different Takes: What Is Biden's ARPA-H?; How To Help Kids Battling With Their Mental Health
Editorial writers weigh in on these public health topics.
The New York Times: What Joe Biden Knows That No One Expected Him To 
On Monday, President Biden announced that Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, a biotech executive who previously worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as Darpa, would be the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health, ARPA-H. The alphabet soup here obscures the ambition. Darpa is the defense research agency that was critical in creating the internet, stealth technology, GPS navigation, drones and mRNA vaccines, to name but a few. (Ezra Klein, 9/18)
Cincinnati Enquirer: More Kids Struggling With Mental Health
When I was in high school, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I just didn’t know it at the time. Mental health wasn’t something that was discussed, at least not in my circle of family and friends back in the 1990s. It was only years later that I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. (Kevin Necessary, 9/16)
The Boston Globe: Patients’ Rights In The Live Free Or Die State 
The tale of Dr. Yvon Baribeau is more than the sum of a record-shattering number of medical malpractice settlements, more than the personal pain and tragedy of the families who brought them and more than the crises of conscience felt by some of his colleagues. (9/18)
Dallas Morning News: It’s Time To Overhaul The Organ Donation System
Organ donation is an incredibly selfless act, realized only in the most tragic of circumstances. But it’s not always possible, and the fact that more than 100,000 Americans are waiting for a lifesaving organ makes any gift that much more precious. That’s why those of us in the organ donation community must do everything in our power to get it right every time donation is possible. (Bradley L. Adams, 9/18)
Columbus Dispatch: Ohio's Medicaid Reform Plan Littered With Shortcomings That Must Be Addressed
Medicaid is a lifeline for nearly three and a half million of Ohio’s most vulnerable and underserved residents. In fact,there are more than 400,000 people in our county enrolled in Medicaid who otherwise may not have access to health insurance or be able to afford prescription medication – and who could be impacted by shortcomings of the program.(Erica C. Crawley, 9/19)
Viewpoints: Girls Are Woefully Undereducated About Periods
Opinion writers delve into monkeypox, reproductive rights, and more public health issues.
NPR: With Abortion Bans On The Rise, Kids Need To Know More About Menstruation
One thing few people have been talking about since Roe v. Wade was overturned is how abortion restrictions will affect young girls across the United States. Around the time of their first period, many young people learn the basic mechanics of managing their periods, such as how to put on a pad or tampon and that it happens once a month. (Marni Sommer, 9/17)
Chicago Tribune: Reproductive Health Is About More Than Having Babies
When I first told my doctor that I suspected PCOS to be the culprit for my personal journey with infertility, it was the lack of those cysts that led her to dismiss my claim. “It’s not that,” she told me. “You don’t have any cysts. You should just lose some weight, and things will work themselves out.” (Regina Townsend, 9/19)
Kansas City Star: Abortion Can Be Complex But It Is Always Personal 
Twenty years as a family doctor in Johnson County gave me a close-up view of the abortion discussion as it grew more and more intense. I learned firsthand that an unexpected pregnancy is a shock. Even worse is unexpected bad news during a much-wanted pregnancy. (Dan Murphy, 9/18)
Also —
Modern Healthcare: 'Gold Card' Approach Streamlines Burdensome Prior Authorization
Throughout my nearly three decades practicing medicine and two decades in Congress, I have heard numerous stories from physicians on the negative consequences of the prior authorization process. (Rep. Michael Burgess, 9/19)
Stat: FDA, USDA Need To Reduce Antibiotic Use In Raising Animals For Food
The overuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials in raising farm animals for food may not be equivalent to Covid-19 and climate change as threats to human health, but it is right up there. This practice contributes to antibiotic-resistant infections, which are now a leading cause of death worldwide. (Steven Roach, 9/19)
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Texas, Battling Teen Pregnancy, Recasts Sex Education Standards
Clearing Pollution Helps Clear the Fog of Aging — And May Cut the Risk of Dementia
Centene to Pay $166 Million to Texas in Medicaid Drug Pricing Settlement
Private Equity Sees the Billions in Eye Care as Firms Target High-Profit Procedures
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