by Yuki Naguchi
“For many years, Jessica Duenas led what she calls a double life. She was the first in her immigrant family to go to college. In 2019, she won Kentucky’s Teacher of the Year award. That same year, Duenas typically downed nearly a liter of liquor every night.
“By the time she was 34, she was diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis, a serious inflammation of her liver that doctors warned could could soon lead to irreversible scarring and even death if she didn’t didn’t stop drinking, and quickly.
“‘I couldn’t keep down any food,” Duenas says. ‘My belly was supersensitive, like if I pressed on certain parts of it, it would hurt a lot. My eyes were starting to get yellowish.’
“Cases of alcoholic liver disease — which includes milder fatty liver and the permanent scarring of cirrhosis, as well as alcoholic hepatitis — are up 30% over the last year at the University of Michigan’s health system, says Dr. Jessica Mellinger, a liver specialist there.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet compiled data on any overall increase in severe cases of alcoholic liver disease since the pandemic began. But, Mellinger says, ‘in my conversations with my colleagues at other institutions, everybody is saying the same thing: “Yep, it’s astronomical. It’s just gone off the charts.”‘”
“I held my love for my father close, afraid of letting it show, as I waited for the call to tell me he had died.”
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]
by Brianna Bell
“My mother packed her bags and left my father when she was seven months pregnant with me, her belly swollen under her loose-fitting maternity dress. She planned to stay with her parents until my father ‘got his act together.’ But he never did, and she never returned.
“She raised me on her own, with the help of her parents. My childhood was quiet and simple. I read books in my spare time and went to camp every summer. For vacation we would take the train for free to Montreal, or New Brunswick, enjoying our frugal travels thanks to my mum’s employment with a railway company.
“Most weekends she was at work, so I spent Saturday and Sunday with my Maltese grandparents. My Nanna would cook stuffat-tal fenek (rabbit stew), and tell me it was Maltese chicken. I would watch hockey for hours with my Nannu, while we cracked peanuts into a bowl, shovelling handfuls of them into our mouths.
The first goodbye
“When my grandparents were not able to watch me, my mum would reluctantly drive me across town to visit my father. Our visits were rare and stilted, our relationship like a broken car that fails to ignite.
“I do not recall an affectionate hug or a tender word between us. I do remember empty beer cans piled high in a rubbish bin, the smell of cigarette smoke that coated the back of my throat, and the weight of my dad’s dog curled up in my lap.
“I felt lonely at my father’s house.”
Read this story in its entirety at Al Jazeera – click here.
WEBINAR | Be sure to let people you know about this special presentation on August 19; there will be morning and evening presentations.
The hazards of drugs in our communities is staggering. It’s not just about those who use drugs anymore. This presentation is a safety awareness program that is far-reaching.
The program is designed to provide the general public with current information on the Drug Crisis. This program is not just about those illegally using drugs, but innocent parties that need to understand the dangers of accidental exposure and health hazards of prescriptions, illicit opioid drugs, methamphetamine, BHO / Marijuana and designer drugs that are a safety risk.
“In Chapter 14, author David Nutt describes the opioid crisis currently besetting the US.”
“The current US prescription-opioid crisis is one of the most remarkable examples of medicine going wrong. Last year in the USA more people died from an opioid overdose than died from road traffic accidents, and more than the total casualties in the whole of the Vietnam war. The reasons for this are complex. They reflect a perfect storm of good intentions coupled with prescriber ignorance and commercial greed, occurring in a context of growing economic problems in some parts of the country, lack of social support systems, and individual despair, sometimes manifested by pain syndromes, in people who may well have been depressed. A vicious cycle of overprescribing of strong analgesics such as hydrocodone and oxycodone then developed that began the current opioid problem which has now morphed into the massive use of illicit opioids.”
“Deaths classified as drug-related for 15- to 64-year-olds hit 9% in 2016, up from about 4% about two decades prior, but new research suggests the true number is actually more than double that.”
“Activists and family members of loved ones who died in the opioid/heroin epidemic take part in a ‘Fed Up!’ rally at Capitol Hill on September 18, 2016 in Washington, DC.”(Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)
posted by Michele Berger-Penn
“‘It’s obvious that the drug epidemic is a major American disaster,’ says Samuel Preston, a professor of sociology and member of the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. ‘The basic records being kept are annual reports on the number of deaths from drug overdose. But that’s only part of the picture.’
“Among this group of Americans in 2016, 63,000 deaths attributed to drug-related causes—mostly poisonings—but Preston and coauthor Dana Glei from Georgetown University estimate that the overall number of drug-associated deaths is far higher: around 142,000.
In 2017, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that the state with the third highest overdose rate was Pennsylvania (44.3 per 100,000).
“The opioid overdose epidemic is the worst public health crisis in Pennsylvania, and the nation, in almost a generation. The Wolf Administration takes an all-hands-on deck approach to preventing addiction, saving lives and getting Pennsylvanians into treatment. This dashboard provides data behind Pennsylvania’s response to the crisis collected through the Governor’s Opioid Disaster Declaration.”
“Estimated Number of Drug Overdose Deaths in Pennsylvania in 2017 | Preliminary data is showing a decline in drug overdose deaths, but there is more work to do. Pennsylvania continues to focus on saving lives, expanding treatment access and getting patients into treatment.”
In 2017, the drug overdose deaths (by county) are:
- Berks – 85
- Lancaster – 108
- Lebanon – 25
A new National Council on Aging report synthesizing the results of a national survey taken earlier this yearreveals that the aging network is spending more time addressing effects of the opioid epidemic, and older adults face increased financial concerns as a result of the crisis. Read the full issue brief for more findings and recommendations to address these issues.
“Starting January 1, 2020, under the Calendar Year (CY) 2020 Physician Fee Schedule final rule, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will pay Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) through bundled payments for opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment services in an episode of care provided to people with Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance). OTPs must enroll in the Medicare program in order to receive reimbursement when these services are provided to Medicare patients.” – Medicare Website
“The new Medicare benefit for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) treatment includes counseling, as well as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and related items and services. This benefit was established by Congress in the SUPPORT Act of 2018 and is now being implemented by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Medicare beneficiaries, including those dually eligible for Medicare & Medicaid, are the fastest growing group of OUD patients. Beneficiaries may access one of two types of providers: Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) (e.g., methadone clinics) or physicians and other health professionals. Providers offering these services will receive a bundled payment, either weekly or monthly depending on the type of provider, that can repeat as long as a patient needs treatment. Based on early guidance, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have already created 2020 benefit packages that provide a level of access to OTP services that is “consistent with prevailing community patterns of care.” Now that the new benefit is final, MA will need to cover both OTP and Physician OUD treatment for Now that the new benefit is final, MA will need to cover both OTP and Physician OUD treatment for 2021.
Please click here or on the image above to review the HMA Insights for additional details and key questions that HMA has identified and continues to monitor.