The Ohio House yesterday offered overwhelming support for a
bill that would authorize local health boards across the state to
establish syringe-exchange programs with fewer roadblocks, which could pave the way for Cincinnati to establish myriad programs across its neighborhoods most afflicted by intravenous drug use and bloodborne pathogens.
House Bill 92, sponsored jointly by Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Sylvania), would remove a restriction that stipulates programs can only be implemented when a local health emergency has been declared and lays out mandates for programs to protect the rights and educate the intravenous drug users who take advantage of the programs.
Syringe exchange programs have been the privy to significant controversy; opposers say that offering addicts the tools they need to fuel drug habits ultimately fuels destructive habits and sends the wrong message to drug abusers.
What’s helped turn the issue non-partisan, however, is overwhelming data supporting claims that the program saves lives. In 2004, the World Health Organization published a study on the effectiveness of syringe programming in reducing HIV/AIDS that found a “compelling case that (needle-exchange programs) substantially and cost effectively reduce the spread of HIV among (injection drug users) and do so without evidence of exacerbating injecting drug use at either the individual or societal level.”
Adam Reilly, who is an HIV project manager for a local
healthcare provider, says that a syringe exchange program is already in
the works for Springdale; the location is expected to open in about a
month. He says that project has been seven years in the making because of how entangled efforts to establish the program become in bureaucracy. Establishing a program is particularly laborious, he explains, because it requires citywide cooperation — including law enforcement — which has proven to be a challenge for programs in other states, where police officers are prone to harass participants entering or leaving an exchange facility.
The current bill would essentially take the issue out of
the political arena, Reilly says, and thrust the responsibility onto
health departments. The city of Cincinnati in 2012 already declared a public health emergency following significant proof of a citywide HIV/Hepatitis C epidemic sourced primarily from heroin abuse.
Cincinnati's now-defunct nonprofit agency STOP AIDS found through focus groups that the majority of intravenous drug users are Caucasian middle-aged males; 145 of 147 study subjects reported using ineffective methods to clean used equipment. Their data estimates that 4,000-6,000 people locally are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
STOP AIDS also estimated that spending $385,000 per year on a syringe exchange program has the potential to save nearly $50 million annually in health costs generated from contracting HIV or HCV infections.
To make the program as effective as possible, Reilly says other exchange programs offer participants assurance in writing that their identities will be protected; the House bill also says that future programs wold be required to encourage drug users to seek medical, mental health or social services, also offer counseling and other educational requirements.
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Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
The ongoing federal government shutdown is keeping thousands of Ohioans from going to work. The federal government closed its doors yesterday after House Republicans refused to pass a budget that doesn’t weaken Obamacare and Senate Democrats and the White House insisted on keeping President Barack Obama’s signature health care law intact. Without a budget, non-essential federal government services can’t operate.
As part of a broader campaign to reduce Cincinnati’s high infant mortality rate, the city yesterday launched another effort that aims to educate parents in the city’s most afflicted zip codes on proper ways to put their babies to sleep. According to the Cincinnati Health Department, 36 babies died from unsafe sleeping conditions between 2010 and 2011. Cradle Cincinnati plans to help prevent these deaths by reminding parents that babies should always sleep alone, in a crib and on his or her back. The education effort is just one of many to reduce Cincinnati’s infant mortality rates, which in some local zip codes have been worse than rates in third-world countries.
Ohioans who tried to use Obamacare’s online marketplaces on opening day yesterday likely ran into some website errors, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is asking participants for patience as they work out the glitches, which appear to be driven by overwhelming demand. The problems weren’t unexpected, given that software launches are often mired in issues that are later patched up. “We’re building a complicated piece of technology, and hopefully you’ll give us the same slack you give Apple,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters at a Sept. 30 briefing.
Domestic violence arrests in 2012 were down from the previous year, but law enforcement officials say they need more help from lawmakers to bring down the number, which remained above 41,000, even further. Officials claim a law on teen dating violence, which, among other things, allows protective orders on accused abusers who are under 18 years old, has helped, but advocates argue protections need to be strengthened. CityBeat covered the advocates’ efforts in further detail here.
The Ohio Libertarian Party asked lawmakers at a hearing yesterday to loosen restrictions in a bill that seeks to limit ballot access for minor political parties. The bill, which is sponsored by State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), requires minor parties to gather an estimated 100,000 signatures every two years to remain on the ballot, which Libertarians say would be difficult and expensive. Instead, Libertarians would like that provision to require the signatures every four years. Libertarians also asked lawmakers to allow voting thresholds, which give minor parties automatic recognition in Ohio if they get 3 percent or more of the vote, to apply to more than the gubernatorial race. Seitz said he’s open to the changes.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced yesterday that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation exceeded its goal of testing 1,500 rape kits in the program’s first year. In total, the agency has tested 1,585 out of 4,053 submitted kits. The program allows local and state law enforcement to analyze and match DNA evidence to verify criminal allegations. So far, it has led to 505 DNA matches.
Cincinnati could make an offer by the end of the year for a currently unused section of the Wasson Way railroad line that the city plans to convert into a five-mile bike and hike trail.
Three more downtown buildings will house apartments. Although the buildings aren’t directly on the streetcar route, the developer said that public transportation, along with bicycles, will play an important role in promoting the apartments because they won’t have dedicated parking.
The Greater Cincinnati Green Business Council is offering an energy benchmarking toolkit that allows small and medium-sized businesses to see how they can improve their environmental performance.
Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati is the No. 1 hospital for delivering babies in Ohio.
The number of induced abortions in Ohio rose between 2011 and 2012 but ended up at the second lowest levels since 1976, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is putting more than $3 million toward purchasing new vehicles and equipment that should help elderly and disabled residents across the state.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first “artificial pancreas” to help diabetics better monitor and control their insulin levels.
According to the Cincinnati Health Department, 36 babies died from unsafe sleeping conditions between 2010-2011. The campaign addresses simple "ABCs" of safe baby sleep to stop infant mortality deaths that otherwise could have been prevented. The most important things to remember, according to the campaign, are that infants should always sleep alone, in a crib and on his or her back. The health department provides other helpful tips here.
It's another step forward in addressing a concern that plagues neighborhoods across the city. Some Cincinnati zip codes in the past have held higher infant mortality rates than those of third-world countries.
The campaign is also donating 1,000 onesies to area birth hospitals that read "This Side Up" on the stomach — a friendly safety reminder to new parents. Kroger is also partnering with the campaign by helping to spread the tenets of the campaign in diaper and baby food aisles at local stores.
According to a Cincinnati.com editorial by Noble Maseru, Cincinnati’s health commissioner, the recent efforts have been working. He says the city’s 2013 infant mortality rates are projected at 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, a 52 percent reduction in fatalities that brings the city drastically closer to the national average.
Previously, the infant mortality rate in Cincinnati was more than double the national average: 13.3 babies out of 1,000, compared with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 nationally.
In June, the city of Cincinnati announced the community partnership spearheaded by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune to lower infant mortality rates, uniting health experts, political leaders and some nonprofits to share ideas and best practices to better overlap city efforts.
University of Cincinnati Health president and CEO Jim
Kingsbury agreed to offer the new collaboration initial funding from the
county’s sale of Drake Hospital.
Mayor Mark Mallory also entered the city into a contest in February to earn a grant to expand the city's Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which monitored the pregnancies of new mothers in high-risk areas across the city with an updated database. The city's entry was a finalist, but ultimately didn't win a grant.
Today, the Infant Mortality Surveillance Network still works with both University Hospital and Christ Hospital to collect data on new mothers from zip codes with the worst infant mortality rates and provides them with information, education, depression screening and home care help, if needed.
Limitations imposed by Ohio lawmakers who oppose the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) have forced Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to give up a $124,419 federal grant that would have gone toward helping uninsured Ohioans navigate new online marketplaces for health insurance.
Specifically, the state law, which Gov. John Kasich signed on April 30 and went into effect on July 30, excludes any organization that receives payments from a health care payer, such as an insurance company, from being designated as a “navigator.”
The designation is necessary for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to receive the federal grant, which is part of national outreach efforts to enroll as many Americans, especially young adults, into Obamacare’s online marketplaces when they open for enrollment on Oct. 1.
Without the designation, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was forced to give up the federal money, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital spokesperson Terry Loftus told CityBeat.
State legislators passed the restrictions to clarify regulations on navigators that avoid potential abuses and conflicts of interest.
But Obamacare’s supporters claim the state law is part of a nationwide effort from state and federal Republicans to make Obamacare more difficult to implement.
The federal government intends to sign up 7 million people into Obamacare’s online marketplaces, but 2.7 million have to be young adults to keep costs low. Otherwise, older, less healthy Americans will fill up the marketplaces, exhaust health services and drive up costs.
Supporters of Obamacare acknowledge that signing up so many young adults will be difficult, so they’ve taken to national and state-by-state education campaigns that tell young adults about the benefits and cost savings made available through the president’s signature health care law. These campaigns are being headed by various organizations that have been dubbed “navigators.”
But opponents, particularly Republicans, are preventing some of the efforts by investigating navigators and passing legislation in state governments that limits what navigators can do and who can be classified as a navigator.
Most recently, Republicans in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to groups participating in the navigator program with a series of accusations and questions.
“This is a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about their new health insurance options and help them enroll in coverage, just like Medicare counselors have been doing for years,” Erin Shields Britt, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told The Hill.
For the uninsured, not knowing about the online marketplaces could mean losing out on opportunities to obtain health insurance at lower costs. Recent reports have found that Obamacare’s online marketplaces and tax subsidies will lower costs for Ohioans in the individual health care market.
An Aug. 29 study from the RAND Corporation, a reputable think tank, found health care premiums will rise to an average of $5,312 under Obamacare in 2016. Without the law, premiums would reach an average of $3,973 that year. But when Obamacare’s tax credits are plugged in, the average Ohioan will only pay a premium of $3,131 — $842 less than he or she would pay without the law.
Avik Roy, a conservative health care economist and prominent critic of Obamacare, found even better results for Ohio. His model found premiums will drop by 30 percent in Ohio, although they’ll rise by 24 percent on average for 13 states, including Ohio, and the District of Columbia as a whole. Unlike RAND, Roy’s calculations don’t take subsidies into account, so the final cost for the average Ohioan is likely much lower.
The numbers only apply to Ohioans in the individual health insurance market. Under Obamacare, individuals will be able to enroll for health insurance through an online marketplace. The majority of Americans who get health insurance through their employers or public programs fall under different rules and regulations.
It’s unclear how much Republican opposition will ultimately play into the numbers. But for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, it means $124,419 less to help its neediest, less knowledgeable patients.
A poll analysis released today suggests more than 1.25 million Ohioans between the ages of 18 and 65 are uninsured, representing about 17 percent of the state’s working-age population.
The poll also found that working-age Ohioans are obtaining health insurance less through employers and more through public insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid and veteran benefits.
About two in 10 working-age Ohioans use public programs in 2013, up from 12 percent in 2006. At the same time, 52 percent now get insurance through an employer, down from 64 percent in 2006.
The numbers are relatively unchanged from 2012, according to the analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.
Nearly one in 10 of those who did have insurance also reported losing it in the past 12 months.
“Certain groups are more likely to experience insurance instability,” said Jennifer Chubinski, director of community research at the Health Foundation, in a statement. “Almost half of adults living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, African-Americans and adults with less than a high school education were uninsured currently or at some point in the past year.”
The analysis also concluded that Ohioans with health insurance are generally healthier than those without it.
The results came from the 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll, which between May 19 and June 2 interviewed 868 Ohio adults by phone. The poll had a margin of error of 3.3 percent. It was conducted by the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research for the Health Foundation.
The poll’s findings could spur efforts to widen Medicaid eligibility in Ohio, which has become a contentious political issue fueled by mostly Republican opposition and Democratic support.
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), states are asked to expand the public insurance program to include everyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a single-person household. If a state agrees, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase its support down to 90 percent, where it would indefinitely remain.
The offer presents a great deal for the state, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. The think tank’s analysis found the expansion would insure roughly half a million Ohioans and generate about $1.8 billion in revenue for the state in the next decade.
But the Republican-controlled General Assembly rejected the expansion in the state budget, despite Republican Gov. John Kasich’s pleas to embrace the Obamacare initiative.
Legislators say they’re concerned the federal government won’t be able to uphold its commitment to Medicaid in the future. That, they argue, would leave Ohioans stranded if the state is forced to pare back benefits.
The federal government and states have jointly funded Medicaid programs around the nation since 1965. About 57 percent of the cost is carried by the federal government.
Still, the legislature will in the fall consider a standalone bill that would take up the expansion. But that bill will likely face continued opposition from tea party groups that are historically opposed to increased government spending at any level.
Whatever the case, legislative approval may be politically prudent: Earlier-reported results from the Ohio Health Issues Poll found 63 percent of Ohioans favor the Medicaid expansion.
Construction to renovate the former IGA in Clifton's Gaslight district will come to a halt soon, and the future for the building remains uncertain; contractors told the Enquirer they'd finish working on the roof and then pull off the project. Steve Goessling, who purchased the property when it was vacated two years ago, says he plans on continuing to build out the building, but he doesn't have the $4.1 million he needs to make it happen. He recently hired Cassidy Turley to market the property to higher-end grocery chains.
It’s Monday, the most un-fun, unhappy day of the week. But smile: Here are 18 signs you’re doing better than you think.
The attorney general for the state of Missouri, Chris Koster, is talking about bringing back the use of gas chambers on death row inmates because he's worried about the state running out of lethal injection drugs.
Cincinnati had an entire month's worth of rainfall over the past week — 3.75 inches as of Sunday. The norm for July is 3.76 inches.
A near-record algae bloom is ensconcing the popular beaches of a coastal Chinese city with thick, bright green “sea lettuce,” as the locals call it. It’s not harmful to humans, but it does suffocate the marine life and kind of scares away tourists.
Two men with HIV now appear to now be virus-free after they received stem-cell transplants to treat their lymphoma.
Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute combed through 18,000 hours of deep-sea video footage and found the ocean seafloor around Monterey Bay is covered in trash.
To honor National HIV Testing Day — a day meant to raise awareness about the virus — Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio region is offering free HIV testing at three locations in the Cincinnati area.
Free HIV testing is available today at from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Cincinnati's VA Medical Center (3200 Vine St.) and from 1-5 p.m. at the Lower Price Hill Health Center (2136 E. Eighth St.). The test is done quickly using a method called rapid HIV testing, which produces results immediately.
About 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV at any given time, and about one in five of those don't even realize they're infected.
That means those one in five could, at any time, be unknowingly transmitting the disease to their partners, or that they're missing out on taking important preventative measures that could keep the infection from developing into AIDS. The HIV virus is most commonly spread through unprotected sexual contact or sharing needles, or can be passed down from mother to child during pregnancy or shortly after birth. For more basic information about HIV, click here.
In 2012, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio provided 1,225 HIV tests amongst its eight facilities, among a number of other preventive services. Currently, Planned Parenthood branches across Ohio are being threatened by Ohio conservatives' efforts to defund the organization, which provides myriad health services in addition to abortion, including cancer and STD screenings, birth control, pregnancy testing and health care for both men and women. State and federal funds used by Planned Parenthood aren't used to fund abortions, which are instead funded by private donations.
If successful, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature could pass a budget this weekend that would put Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for state funds. A separate set of federal funds would also go to crisis pregnancy centers, which have a history of using scare tactics and false information about abortion.
Under Obama's Affordable Care Act, which will go into effect in 2014, insurance providers will be required to cover HIV testing and birth control.
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
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An Ohio House bill introduced June 11 would impose harsher restrictions on legal abortions, and some of the requirements may coerce doctors into giving medically inaccurate information. Among other requirements, the bill would force doctors to explain fetal development and supposed risks to inducing an abortion, while pregnant patients would be forced to undergo an ultrasound 48 hours before the procedure. But research has found that, barring rare complications, the medical risks listed in the bill are not linked to abortion.
Local leaders are beginning a collaborative effort to combat Cincinnati's alarmingly high rate of infant mortality. The effort is bringing together local politicians from both sides of the aisle, nonprofit groups and local hospitals. Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6, while the national average is six. In previous comments, Mayor Mark Mallory explained his moral justification for increased efforts against infant mortality: "In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate."
State Rep. Alicia Reece, who heads the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, sent a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted yesterday criticizing recent efforts to investigate 39 voter fraud cases in Hamilton County. "It is unfortunate that during the past few years, the focus has been on voter suppression instead of voter access and education," Reece said in a statement. "Many of these voters come from African-American and low-income neighborhoods, and they would benefit from a comprehensive voter education program." CityBeat previously covered the 39 "double voter" cases, which mostly involved voters sending an absentee ballot prior to Election Day then voting through a provisional ballot on Election Day, here.
Mayoral candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith squared off at a mayoral forum yesterday. Democrats Qualls and Cranley, who are widely seen as the top contenders, debated the parking plan and streetcar project — both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. CityBeat previously covered the streetcar project and how it could relate to the mayor's race here.
An audit of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) found Ohio's Medicaid program could save $30 million by avoiding fraudulent billing. State officials responded to the audit by highlighting changes in budget plans that supposedly take steps to reduce Medicaid fraud, including Gov. John Kasich's proposal to add five full-time Medicaid auditors to perform additional on-site monitoring in an effort to reduce overpayments.
Ohio lawmakers seem unlikely to approve a federally funded Medicaid expansion, but bipartisan bills introduced in the Ohio House and Senate make sweeping changes to the Medicaid program that aim to lower costs and make the government health care program more efficient. Legislators claim the goal is to bring down costs without reducing services, all while providing avenues for Medicaid participants to move out of poverty. Hearings for the bill will begin next week.
After giving a speech celebrating the resurfacing of a high-speed test track, Gov. Kasich rode a car at 130 miles per hour in a more literal "victory lap."
Scientists are apparently making advancements in helping people regrow limbs.