Jazzmon Wilson with her son Timothy, 6, who has autism and has benefited greatly, Wilson says, from Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, now covered by Medi-Cal. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)
By David Gorn
California health officials today are launching a new benefit for thousands of children with autism who are covered by Medi-Cal, California’s low-income health program.
“He’s doing things other kids can do. And it’s those little moments, it makes you just so grateful.”
That makes California the first state in the nation to implement new federal standards on autism care.
The new benefit includes coverage of the clinical standard of care for autism treatment — Applied Behavior Analysis, also known as ABA therapy. That treatment has shown significant results for a cross-section of children with autism.
Of the 5 million children on Medi-Cal in California — that’s roughly half the state’s total children — there are an estimated 75,000 who likely have autism spectrum disorder. Of those children, experts expect about 12,000 children to access the new benefit, based on utilization figures from programs in other states. Continue reading
(David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
A new Field Poll shows voter support dropping for two propositions on the November ballot.
Prop. 45 would give the state insurance commissioner the authority to reject excessive rate hikes. Support has dropped from 69 percent early in the summer to 41 percent in the current poll. Twenty-six percent are opposed and 33 percent are undecided.
Prop. 46 would require drug testing of doctors and increase the cap on pain and suffering awards in medical negligence lawsuits from $250,000 to $1.1 million. Early this summer, support stood at 58 percent; today it is 34 percent, with 30 percent opposed and 29 percent undecided.
“This current poll is relatively big news on Prop. 46. I don’t think its chances of passage are all that great,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo told the San Francisco Chronicle. He added that it’s harder to predict what might happen with Prop. 45. Continue reading
Randen Patterson left a research career in physiology at U.C. Davis when funding got too tight. He now owns a grocery store in Guinda, outside Davis. (Max Whittaker/Prime for NPR)
By Richard Harris, NPR
Ian Glomski thought he was going to make a difference in the fight to protect people from deadly anthrax germs. He had done everything right — attended one top university, landed an assistant professorship at another.
“I shouldn’t be a grocer right now. I should be training students. I should be doing deeper research. And I can’t. I don’t have an outlet for it.” Former UC Davis professor
But Glomski ran head-on into an unpleasant reality: These days, the scramble for money to conduct research has become stultifying.
So, he’s giving up on science.
And he’s not alone. Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them. Continue reading
By David Gorn, CaliforniaHealthline
At the first stakeholder meeting last week to review California’s new autism Medi-Cal coverage, state health officials said many details have yet to be worked out. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program.
New benefits, which include coverage of applied behavior analysis — also known as ABA therapy — begin next week.
Department of Health Care Services officials said many details — including the crucial figure of what the reimbursement rates will be — still need to be worked out. Rates will be discussed at the next stakeholder meeting Oct. 16, officials said. Continue reading
(Philippe Hugue/AFP/Getty Images)
By Ina Jaffe, NPR
A federal lawsuit against two Watsonville nursing homes may offer a new approach to dealing with the persistent problem of such facilities overmedicating their residents.
The lawsuit details multiple cases when the government says these drugs were inappropriately administered to patients. Watsonville is northeast of Monterey, in Santa Cruz County.
For instance when an 86-year-old man identified in the lawsuit as Patient 1 was admitted to Country Villa Watsonville West, he could speak clearly and walked in under his own power. Within days the facility began giving him Haldol and Risperdal, drugs used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and he became bedridden, stopped eating and developed bedsores and infections. Continue reading
Christina Selder and Chris Murphy of Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform in San Diego conduct their crusade from a modest home office. (Rachael Myrow/KQED)
Many of us dream of starting a revolution. Few of us make it happen. One of the most dramatic stories of the last year belongs to a loose collection of activists, working to reform assisted living oversight in California. Together with lawmakers, these activists launched 17 bills in Sacramento, 12 of which passed, 2 of which have become law, so far.
It’s a big story, but let’s break off one piece, involving a couple women in San Diego with a passion for raw data, strong coffee and home-baked muffins.
About a decade ago, Chris Murphy’s mom was suffering from Stage 4 ovarian cancer. She couldn’t live on her own. Someone suggested Murphy check out an assisted living facility, and so she took a tour.
“This is really a cool place,” Murphy says she thought at the time. “Maybe my mother would like to live here. I would like to live here. I was sucked in by the chandeliers, and by the garden, and by the apparent appearance of the facility.”
Update September 2, 6:05 p.m.: A judge ruled Tuesday that Berkeley officials must change the soda tax measure language because it is currently misleading.
Soda tax advocates say this change “doesn’t concern us at all.”
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said the city’s statement that the tax would only be imposed on “high-calorie, sugary drinks” is “a form of advocacy and therefore not impartial.”
Grillo ordered the city to change the summary to say that the tax would apply to “sugar-sweetened beverages,” which he said is more neutral and less likely to create prejudice for or against Measure D.
Anthony Johnson and Leon Cain filed the lawsuit in August. Cain has previously attended Berkeley council meetings on behalf of the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign. Continue reading
Two buildings at the Veterans Hospital in San Fernando collapsed during the 1971 Sylmar quake. (Photo: USGS)
One thing about an earthquake: It focuses the mind.
In the wake of the Aug. 24 South Napa Quake, I became focused on hospital safety.
Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa sustained only minor damage from the earthquake — falling items and leaks. A statement released 13 hours after the earthquake said that “(n)one of these issues have prevented the hospital from triaging and treating patients. Queen of the Valley remains operational and continues to be able to accept and treat patients.”
Legislation passed 20 years ago, in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, seeks to make Queen of the Valley’s performance the norm for hospitals statewide after a major earthquake. That 1994 legislation was itself an update to the 1973 Seismic Safety Act, which in turn was written in the wake of the Sylmar earthquake when several hospitals collapsed. Continue reading
A psychiatric segregation cell at Sacramento Prison. (Julie Small/KQED)
By Julie Small
In response to a court order, California prison officials proposed a new approach Friday to how they treat mentally ill inmates who break rules or commit new crimes. The judge who ordered the change immediately approved the plan.
Right now, if a mentally ill inmate refuses to follow orders or attacks another inmate or guards, the prison sends him to a segregation unit. In segregation, prisoners spend more time confined to their cells and must submit to routine strip searches for weapons and drugs. Advocates for inmates have long insisted the conditions only worsen mental illness. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton unequivocally backed them up.
In an April ruling, the judge wrote, “placement of seriously mentally ill inmates in California’s segregation housing unit can and does cause serious psychological harm” by worsening symptoms, inducing psychosis and increasing suicidal urges. Continue reading
Chino State Prison. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
By George Lauer, California Healthline
It’s the drug that can cure most people with hepatitis C in 12 weeks — but comes at a high cost: $1,000 a pill. Now, California Correctional Health Care Services, which oversees clinical care and drug prescriptions for 125,000 inmates at 34 prisons across the state, began using Sovaldi last month.
Made by Gilead Sciences of Foster City, Sovaldi has become part of the “community standard” for medical professionals treating patients with hepatitis C, according to prison officials. A full course of treatment runs about $84,000.
Hepatitis C, a viral infection that can lead to liver failure, cancer or other health problems, is often associated with intravenous drug use. Many of the estimated 3.2 million Americans living with hepatitis C in the U.S. are poor, imprisoned, elderly or all of the above, giving public systems a disproportionate share of hepatitis C patients. Continue reading