Health

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Garrett Vonk

To appreciate the severity of the backlog facing New Hampshire hospitals right now, consider that John Eddy, the pharmacy manager at Weeks Medical Center in Lancaster, recently underwent his own surgical procedure and came back with this story.

“You know, they knock you out before you go in, and all the way down the hallway all I talked about was the drug shortage. [The doctors] got quite a kick out of that,” Eddy said. “It’s weighing heavily on me.”

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A bill that would strengthen rules to prevent childhood lead poisoning is one step closer to the governor’s desk.

The New Hampshire House passed the proposal by a wide margin on the first session day of the year Wednesday.

The bill, which was a holdover from last year, mandates lead testing for all New Hampshire kids aged 1 and 2, though parents can opt out.

It also lowers the blood-lead level at which the state will intervene, and creates a loan fund to help landlords deal with lead paint issues.

Valerie Everett, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s been 100 days since Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, knocking out power for much of the island — including to major suppliers of IV solutions and other medical products.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan says a bill she co-sponsored to help stop the flow of illegal fentanyl into the United States is on its way to the president's desk.

Hassan, a Democrat, says the bipartisan bill will provide scanning devices and other technology to Customs and Border Protection workers, and will boost funding for staff such as scientists to interpret screening results. Senate passage of the bill comes as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report finding that for the first time, fentanyl rather than heroin is now the deadliest opioid drug.

Flickr | frankieleon

Nashua is now the second New Hampshire city to sue pharmaceutical giants over their alleged role fueling the community’s opioid crisis. The city’s complaint is almost identical to one filed on behalf of the city of Manchester in September.

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A key player in the state’s fight against drug addiction has gone under financially, after running a deficit of more than half a million dollars.

A new report from UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy is sounding alarm over the growing number of New Hampshire infants born dependent on opioids.

FILE

New Hampshire ranks near the bottom in the country when it comes to funding anti-smoking programs and prevention. 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults in New Hampshire, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Exeter Hospital recently endorsed an initiative for suicide prevention as a part of a five-year strategy to address the on-going issue in the state.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Debra Vasapolli, director of community relations for the hospital, about the Zero Suicide initiative.

  (Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

Ben Harvey / Flickr Creative Commons

A bill authored by New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs' prescription drug monitoring program is headed to President Donald Trump's desk.

Kuster, a Democrat, says under current law, when Veterans Health Administration providers prescribe a controlled substance, the VHA is required to disclose that information to state-controlled substance monitoring programs. But it is currently only transmitting data for patients who are veterans. About 10 percent of VHA's patient population is left out, including dependents and other non-veterans.

Twenty-thousand people who have insurance through Minuteman Health are getting more time to pick new plans.

Minuteman announced in June that it would stop offering plans in 2018. Current members were initially told they should choose a new plan through healthcare.gov during the Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 open enrollment period, but the federal government on Monday said they have been granted more time. Those who want more time should indicate on the website that they are selecting a plan through special enrollment, and then will have until March 1.

The U.S. senators from New Hampshire and West Virginia have introduced a bill to prioritize federal funding for states that have been hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

It would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to take into account mortality rates and lack of access to treatment and services when allocating grants to states, rather than making determinations based on population size.

KOMUNews | Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/aDWgGW

Anthem is planning to get tougher about covering ER visits for ailments that could be treated outside of an emergency room.

Allison Quantz for NHPR

A committee of lawmakers, health and insurance officials studying the future of New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion voted unanimously on Wednesday to recommend moving the program toward a managed care model in 2019 and beyond.

Casey McDermott, NHPR

The Executive Council approved contracts Wednesday with 10 separate reproductive health providers and community health centers across the state.

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Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act began on Wednesday, but consumers are more confused than ever given the uncertainty over healthcare policy in Washington this past year.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department will host its annual public hearing on health insurance premiums and medical care cost drivers Friday at the UNH School of Law in Concord.

New Hampshire's Democratic U.S. senators are reminding residents that open enrollment starts Wednesday under the Affordable Care Act, and that they object to the Trump administration's efforts to dismantle the health care law.

Residents of a Vermont nursing home are looking for new places to live after learning the facility is closing at the end of November.

The Valley News reports that Brookside Health and Rehabilitation Center in White River Junction notified residents Wednesday, five days after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it would end payments for patient care at the 67-bed facility.

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New Hampshire’s Medicaid program will no longer ban insurance coverage for sex reassignment surgery.

Until now, New Hampshire's Medicaid program explicitly blocked such coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services asked lawmakers for permission to take out the language, citing anti-discrimination mandates within the Affordable Care Act. 

pixabay.com

Cancer has traditionally been treated with some combination of radiation and chemotherapy. But these treatments, which often cause pain and take a great deal of time to complete, don't necessarily increase the quality of a patient's remaining years.

But new treatments are emerging that approach cancer in different ways, and Granite Geek David Brooks is here to discuss them.

Listen to the conversation:

Flickr/ Anne and Tim (Creative Commons)

At least for now, New Hampshire seems to be in a better position than other states to weather a lapse in federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, after Congress failed to reauthorize it by last week’s deadline.

NAMI New Hampshire, via Facebook

Just three days ago, New Hampshire set a grim record: 74 adults and kids stuck waiting in ERs across the state because there wasn’t a place for them to get mental health treatment. That’s the highest number since advocates started tracking.

New Hampshire officials are welcoming an expansion to a substance use disorder treatment center in the northern part of the state.

The Friendship House facility in Bethlehem provides housing, treatment and support services for people suffering from an addiction. Federal, state and local officials are gathering at the site Friday.

There also are Friendship House outpatient satellite sites in Berlin, Colebrook, North Conway, Tamworth and Woodsville.

New Hampshire has one of the highest drug overdose rates nationally.

An analyst hired by the state to study trends in its insurance markets told lawmakers on Wednesday that people who receive subsidies to help pay for coverage on the individual market are likely to pay about the same — maybe even less — for coverage next year, on average. But people who don’t receive subsidies could see an average increase of 52 percent.

Repetitive hits, which do not cause concussion symptoms, may be causing long term harm in athletes who participate in contact sports up to the age of 12, according to a new study from Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.

New Hampshire lawmakers are getting more information about their options as they consider the fate of the state's expanded Medicaid program.

Medicaid expansion, made possible through President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, subsidizes health care for low-income people. Federal officials recently expressed concern that the state may be out of compliance with federal rules because it relied on voluntary contributions from insurance companies and hospitals to cover some of the state's costs to put people on private insurance.

Centers for Disease Control

Over the last week, state health officials have detected West Nile Virus in mosquito samples from Brentwood, Madbury, and Rye.

Sarah MacGregor, president of Dragon Mosquito Control says in response her crews have sprayed for mosquitoes near schools and in public parks in Rye. Her company is working with the other towns as well.

“The past three weeks we’ve seen an increase in the mosquito population, particularly in the Seacoast – which, we’d want to see mosquitoes waning this time of year.”

School districts, municipalities and other community groups across New Hampshire are in line to receive a boost of federal funding for programs related to fighting the opioid crisis. 

In all, local groups are slated to collectively receive more than $2 million, most of it coming from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

Thomas Fearon

The Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services is preparing for a new role: CEO of New Hampshire Hospital. But it won’t be Shibinette’s first time working there.

One of her first jobs out of nursing school was as a charge nurse and relief shift supervisor, working primarily with geriatric patients at Thayer Building, part of the hospital campus.

At least 226 people have died from drug overdoses in New Hampshire so far this year. That number is likely to grow, with at least 100 more likely drug deaths still awaiting review by the state medical examiner.

Echoing a pattern we've seen for the last few years, fentanyl is responsible for most of the deaths seen so far in 2017 — almost three-quarters, to be exact.

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