Blogs from Center MD - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:40:53 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Cory McCray's Story is Baltimore's Story
Baltimore has shaped Cory since the day he was born. Now Cory is working hand-in-hand with our neighborhoods to shape Baltimore. Cory is running for Senate so that he can continue expanding our opportunities, listening to our needs, and figuring out how to serve them. He asks for your support, as he continues to work on our behalf in Annapolis.]]>
info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Sun, 17 Sep 2017 20:43:32 -0400
Dr. Leana S. Wen: Five Issues for the White House Opioid Commission to Address Yesterday, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued its draft interim report on fighting the national opioid crisis.

I support the draft recommendations included in the Commission’s report, especially the call for declaring a national state of emergency. Imagine if there were hundreds of people dying from a disease such as Ebola or a natural disaster every day—there would be no question about the necessity of such a declaration.

I am also heartened to see that the recommendations follow the best available evidence, including support for medication-assisted treatment, which has been scientifically shown to be effective in treating opioid addiction. This is similar to the use of insulin for treating diabetes, and reinforces what we know in medicine to be true; addiction is a disease, treatment exists, and recovery is possible.

In completing this report, I urge that the Commission focuses on the following five issues: 

First, the Commission must call attention to the pervasive stigma that surrounds the disease of addiction and the importance of combating stigma with science. This can be done through public education initiatives such as Baltimore's Don’t Die campaign and our focus on hiring people who are in recovery to be outreach workers and case managers.

Second, the Commission must advocate for taking all necessary steps to expand health insurance. This includes protecting Medicaid, which covers 1 in 3 patients who have a substance use disorder, as well as ensuring that essential health benefits covering addiction and mental health treatment remain as part of every insurance plan. There should also be coverage for other wraparound services that are critical for treating addiction, such as supportive housing and reimbursement for peer recovery specialists. Block grants are helpful, but cannot be depended on for treatment of such a widespread disease. No other disease is treated through grants alone.

Third, the Commission must highlight and encourage the development of innovations in cities and counties that are on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic. In the last two years, Baltimore City’s blanket prescription for naloxone, accompanied by targeted outreach efforts, have resulted in more than 1,000 lives saved by everyday residents. Unfortunately, a shortage of funding has forced us to ration this life-saving antidote. We look to the federal government to assist us through aggressive price negotiation. In addition, every one of our city hospitals conducts screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment, and we are starting a 24/7 crisis center—an ER for patients with substance use disorders. Such successful efforts are limited by funding constraints, but their success should be rewarded through innovative funding mechanisms with the intention to be scaled across the country.

Fourth, the Commission must go beyond incentivizing physicians to become more judicious with opioid prescribing—they should also be required to integrate substance use disorder treatment into their medical practice. This includes requiring all eligible physicians to obtain the waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and approving state-level pilots for integrating primary care and behavioral health treatment. Medication-assisted treatment should be offered not only in existing facilities that offer such treatments, but it should be the standard of care for all treatment centers that offer addiction services.

Finally – and most importantly – the Commission must specifically state how much more funding the federal government should put forth to treat this national epidemic once and for all. Rhetoric alone is not enough, and the Commission should not allow for this report to add to the collection of reports that have already been unequivocal in calling for additional funding. The science is clear. We know what works to overcome this crisis. We just need the resources and the will to get there.

Dr. Leana Wen is the Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Twitter: @DrLeanaWen and @BMore_Healthy.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 01 Aug 2017 17:40:04 -0400
Jamie Fontaine: Fear 2.0 Trump’s Twitter announcement Wednesday that the U.S. will no longer “accept or allow” transgender people to serve in our military may well be his most blatant and outrageous attack on the LGBT community yet.

Along with many peers in the political and LGBT communities, my immediate response to Trump’s win was to question what impact his presidency could have on my marriage, my children – my civil rights. Perhaps naively, I surmised the answer was likely very little.

Of course, the LGBT community was not alone on November 9th in our forced calculation of the consequences of a Trump presidency on our lives and our families. We stood alongside a dizzying number of minority, ethnic and faith-based organizations and individuals in a surreal resurgence of collective fear – something that’s always been with members of the LGBT community to varying degrees, but in my adulthood, never so close to the surface.

The shock and incredulity we’ve felt since Election Day is not only because Trump’s victory has given validation to the actions of hate groups across the country, but specifically because his conduct thus far amounts to no less than a direct assault on the civil rights of LGBT Americans. His statements yesterday couldn’t make this clearer.

In addition to Trump’s blatant expression of transphobia Wednesday, the tremendous representation in Washington of anti-LGBT sentiment no doubt offers activists more of an opening to affect public policy than they’ve had in decades and is a backstop for Trump, who could potentially nominate another Supreme Court Justice. Across the country, anti-LGBT groups are pursuing legal actions in the states to take rights away from LGBT Americans in the name of issues like religious freedom.

Anyone who still questions what rights could be up for grabs in a post-marriage-equality America should consider the totality of circumstances since Trump took office:

1. Mike Pence.
2. Steve Bannon.
3. One day after Trump was sworn in, all LGBTQ content was removed from White House and Department of State websites.
4. Trump chose Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, to lead his transition team.
5. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ family helped fund the offices of the Family Research Council.
6. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a vocal, lifelong opponent of gay rights. Under his watch, the Justice Department in February withdrew guidance issued to schools on the treatment of transgender students, signaling that it would no longer consider their rights to be protected under a 1972 civil rights law.
7. The Department of Health and Human Services is now led by Tom Price, a vocal opponent of gay rights in Congress. The agency’s civil rights office is now run by Roger Severino, “an ultraconservative activist who last year accused the Obama administration of attempting to ‘coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.’ ”
8. New Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, last year called being transgender a “disease."
9. According to ProPublica, recently hired Department of Agriculture employee James Renne helped orchestrate an anti-gay purge of longtime LGBT government employees during George W. Bush’s presidency.
10. Questions relating to sexual identity and gender have been removed from both the Census and from surveys conducted via the National Survey of Older Americans Act (NSOAAP).
11. All this, plus Trump’s implied commitment to the Republican Party Platform, which includes opposition to same-sex marriage and support for anti-transgender policy and for a parent’s right to subject gay and transgender children to “conversion therapy.”

While LGBT Americans across the country now rush to make sure the birth certificates of our children properly reflect their parents, that our same-sex parent adoptions are complete, our passports updated and our living wills are properly executed, we sit in the shadow of so much progress, knowing that we can’t afford blind faith in the process to protect our civil rights – but otherwise not clear on what, if anything we can do about it.

As an organizer at heart and by trade, I believe the answer – and the only thing many of us have the power to do – is that we must organize.

We must come together – one friend, to one colleague, to one family member – each motivated by our very personal stories and relationships, to learn and prepare.

Very different from the competing agendas, egos and ideas of so many large, well-meaning but over-burdened organizations vying for their place in history and their claim to a win in 2020 – it is incumbent upon all LGBT Americans to drive an almost underground insurgence - something that can’t be co-opted, something that creates commitment through hand-to-hand organizing. No website, no digital ads, no public declarations of strength.

Instead, a dedication to engaging as many LGBT and allied people as we can– one-on-one, in something bigger. This could take many forms and evolve in many ways, but at its core, it can be hundreds of thousands of people - each connected to one another through our existing networks – who are informed, educated and more motivated than your average name in a database to advocate ferociously in 2020 and beyond for whatever it is that will make our futures more secure.

Fear is the supreme motivator. On that unfortunate, but solid foundation, we can rise – and we must.

Jamie Fontaine is Managing Partner at KOFA Public Affairs.

jfg [AT] kofapublicaffairs [DOT] com

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Fri, 28 Jul 2017 16:34:21 -0400
Dr. Leana Wen: Baltimore City Health Commissioner Condemns New Senate Healthcare Proposal A Senate bill revealed today – the so-called the Better Care Reconciliation Act – is even worse than the initial proposal and will result in loss of healthcare for millions of Americans.

This plan maintains deep, devastating, and dangerous cuts to Medicaid. Millions of children, mothers, older adults, people with disabilities, and hard-working families will lose their health coverage. In Maryland, 1.3 million children, adults, and seniors rely on Medicaid for critical health services such as treatment for asthma and infectious diseases, prenatal care, glasses, hearing aids, prescription medications, nursing home care and much more. Gutting Medicaid would force families to choose between basic needs—such as paying for food and rent—and life-saving care.

In addition, this bill allows bare-bones insurance plans that do not cover essential health benefits. Essential health benefits are called essential for a reason. They include coverage for ER visits, hospitalizations, mental health, and preventive care. Allowing insurance companies to offer bare-bones plans for the healthy and complete plans for the sick, will effectively create two separate insurance markets. This strategy would price those with pre-existing conditions out of the marketplace, negating protections that currently prevent insurers from denying coverage.

There are some new provisions that sound promising, but actually are disingenuous ways to bleed those most in need. For example, while the bill today has additional funding for the opioid crisis, the new funding does not come close to covering the cost of all those who will be unable to get care for their addiction due to loss of health insurance. In Maryland, one-third of patients with substance use disorder are insured through Medicaid. These patients—and those who receive coverage through plans that guarantee essential health benefits and preexisting conditions—will be priced out of the ability to receive care. For the millions suffering from the disease of addiction, there is no margin of error, and many will end up overdosing and dying. At a time of a public health epidemic, this is an unscientific and unconscionable proposal.

The Senate’s new plan removes needed provisions for poor and middle-class Americans. Access to health is access to life, and this plan will result in the loss of lives. I urge our national leaders to stand up for the basic human right of health.

Dr. Leana Wen is the commissioner of health in Baltimore City. Twitter: @DrLeanaWen and @BMore_Healthy.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Thu, 13 Jul 2017 23:44:29 -0400
National Brain Tumor Society: 2nd Annual Baltimore Brain Tumor Walk Kelsey sat in the doctor’s office with her family looking at an MRI that showed a visible white mass. Her doctor confirmed the diagnosis and said the four words she feared most: it’s a brain tumor. Overcome with anxiety and confusion, she asked the doctor about her options and what would happen next. 

There are nearly 700,000 Americans who have faced this scenario and are living with a brain tumor. The diagnosis does not discriminate – it afflicts men, women, and children of all races and ethnicities. Yet there continues to be a lack of treatment options, causing the average survival rate for brain tumor patients to be 34.4%. 

National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) is the largest nonprofit dedicated to the brain tumor community in the United States and is working to catalyze public interest and support for the brain tumor cause. The organization is asking individuals and groups,  both internal and external to the community, to join its “Brain Tumor Team (BTeAM)” as they seek to overcome this devastating disease that affects millions worldwide. National Brain Tumor Society is focusing on the importance of teamwork and collaboration to defeat brain tumors and is providing many awareness, engagement and action opportunities to be part of the BTeAM in 2017.

“Like any effective, winning team, everyone has a role that they can play or contribution they can make toward a shared goal,” said David F. Arons, JD, Chief Executive Officer, National Brain Tumor Society. “We’re grateful and fortunate to have the dedicated support of many volunteers, partners, advocates, and donors who contribute to our mission every day. But this year, we’re seeking to rally even more to our cause by providing opportunities for engagement for the rest of the country to experience the strength, courage, inspiration and determination of the all-too-many men, women, and children who bravely represent the brain tumor community every day of the year. We encourage everyone to consider a way they could join our Brain Tumor Team and help support those for whom participation wasn’t an option.”

Baltimore Brain Tumor Walk

Saturday, September 9, 2017, Canton Waterfront Park, Baltimore, MD

The 2nd Annual Baltimore Brain Tumor Walk is hosted by the National Brain Tumor Society as an event to raise awareness and much-needed resources to fund critical brain tumor-specific programs to improve the lives of all those affected by brain tumors. The Baltimore Brain Tumor Walk raised more than $200,000 in the fight against brain tumors in 2016 and cannot wait to see what we can accomplish this year. 

What you can do

There are numerous ongoing ways individuals or organizations compelled to support brain tumor research and treatment development can get involved, including:

  • Volunteering at an NBTS fundraising event to help deliver an exceptional experience for participants.
  • Registering a team for an NBTS Brain Tumor Walk, Ride, Race, or Polar Plunge fundraising event. Check out the entire list of events HERE.
  • Creating their own community event in for their town, city, or state – and raising money for brain tumor research.
  • Reading and sharing NBTS’ informative blog content with their own networks, friends, and family – “get up to speed” on the latest content from the brain tumor experts.
  • Learning about the aggressive, unique Defeat GBM and Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumors Research Collaboratives and directly impacting groundbreaking discoveries.
  • Becoming a public policy advocate, and aligning with more than 38,000 NBTS volunteer advocates across the country giving brain tumor patients a voice in Congress.
  • Considering clinical trials as a way to participate directly in the research process, while having access to potentially breakthrough treatments, by using the new Clinical Trial Finder to search for studies that might be a good match.
  • Supporting critical research and policy initiatives by DONATING to NBTS

By joining the BTeAM, you can work with the community to advocate for patients, discover better treatments, and ultimately find a cure, for people living with brain tumors. As we take action to make a change for those living with this deadly disease, doctors will be able to provide patients with options for a better quality of life when they hear the words, “it’s a brain tumor.” 

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 27 Jun 2017 16:53:41 -0400