New State Funding Improves County Mental Health Services

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Elaine Korry

The Joslyn Center in Burbank is a place where older adults come for low-cost healthy meals and activities ranging from fitness and computer classes to music lessons.

But several times lately, the normally placid environment of the center has been disrupted. One client who uses the services was showing signs of mental illness. Renee Crawford coordinates social services at the Center.

“She gets very loud, very aggressive and very anxious,” Crawford said, in reference to the troubled client. “And then we have to go in and tell her, ‘Calm down, relax, you can’t be this loud,’ Then she gets very upset and very irate.”

The woman seemed to be suffering from paranoid delusions, and Crawford says the workers here aren’t trained to help her. Continue reading

Study Shows Childhood Trauma a ‘Hidden Crisis’ Across California

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Sara Hossaini

A first-of-its kind report released Wednesday suggests Californians are facing a hidden public health crisis that stems from childhood trauma.

“People sometimes assume this is a low-income issue. This is everybody’s burden.”   

Researchers from the San Francisco-based Center for Youth Wellness and Public Health Institute in Oakland aim to shed light on how early adverse experiences, such as abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction — including divorce and parental incarceration — might impact a child’s health for a lifetime.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is a pediatrician and founder of the Center for Youth Wellness. She says the study looked at data from more than 27,000 surveys conducted by the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System over four years between 2008 and 2013.  Continue reading

Prop. 45 Defeated by Health Insurance Industry

The law would require health insurers to publicly disclose and justify their rates. (Getty Images)

The law would require health insurers to publicly disclose and justify their rates. (Getty Images)

Update, 12:30 a.m.
At first glance, Proposition 45 seemed like a no-brainer for consumers. The measure would have given the state’s insurance commissioner the authority to reject excessive rate hikes in health insurance sold on the individual and small-business markets.

Consumers who had seen their premiums go up by double digits year after year clung to Prop. 45 as the savior.

“I felt like a frog in hot water that got hotter and hotter until it was boiling,” says Josh Libresco, a market researcher who has bought health insurance for his family on the individual market for 20 years.

Continue reading

Money a Huge Factor in Defeat of Proposition 46

The central fight in this complex initiative is whether to raise California’s 39-year-old cap on the amount of money that courts can award for pain and suffering to a victim of medical malpractice.  (Getty Images)

The central fight in this complex initiative is whether to raise California’s 39-year-old cap on the amount of money that courts can award for pain and suffering to a victim of medical malpractice. (Getty Images)

Update, 10:50 p.m.
By far the most expensive race in the state this election was Proposition 46. The three-part “patient safety measure” inspired close to $60 million in spending from the No side, seven times the spending on the Yes side. Medical malpractice insurers wanted to make sure this one went down – and early voter returns indicate that it will.

“It’s apparent that people are being influenced by biased advertising,” says Daniel G. Newman, president and co-founder of MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks the influence of money on politics. “These political ads have very little to do with the substance of the measure. They have very simple messaging that is often misleading.”

The key piece of Prop. 46 would have adjusted the cap on medical malpractice awards for inflation, from $250,000 – an amount set in 1975 – to $1.1 million. This would have applied only to pain and suffering awards. Victims of medical malpractice, and their lawyers, pushed to raise the cap because they say it limits victims’ ability to find representation, especially when that victim is elderly or a child and cannot claim lost wages or other economic damages. Insurers said this would drive up the costs of premiums. Continue reading

Berkeley Passes Soda Tax; San Francisco Effort Fails

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Update: 2:30am 11/5/2014

Voters in Berkeley have passed the nation’s first soda tax with a resounding 75 percent of the vote. More than 30 cities and states across the country have attempted such a tax, but have failed, at least in part because of big spending by the soda industry to defeat these measures.

But across the bay in San Francisco, a similar proposal failed to get the two-thirds supermajority it needed.

Berkeley’s Measure D needed only a simple majority to pass. It will levy a penny-per-ounce tax on most sugar-sweetened beverages and is estimated to raise more than a million dollars per year. Proceeds will go to the general fund; Measure D calls for the creation of a health panel to advise Berkeley’s City Council on appropriate health programs to receive funding. Continue reading

For Families with Mixed-Immigration Status: Some Insured, Some Not

Jessica Bravo, 19, of Costa Mesa was granted DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status, but didn’t know she could also qualify for Medi-Cal. (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

Jessica Bravo, 19, of Costa Mesa was granted DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status, but didn’t know she could also qualify for Medi-Cal. (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Heidi de Marco, Kaiser Health News

Jessica Bravo walks house-to-house in the piercing Southern California heat. Over and over, at doorsteps around Orange County, she asks the same question: “Are you insured?”

Getting an answer isn’t always easy. Doors slam in her face. She gets shooed from porches. And sometimes people cut her off mid-spiel.

Bravo is a paid health outreach worker for the Orange County Congregation Community Organization, a faith-based nonprofit. Her job is to inform people about getting health insurance under the nation’s landmark health law, the Affordable Care Act.

“A lot of people don’t know about this new law … this opportunity for health insurance,” said Bravo, a 19-year old Costa Mesa resident. Continue reading

Seeing Red During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Anne Loeser, NPR

The lump first surfaced in my breast in 1989, when I was 36 years old.

Despite decades of awareness months, survival has remained depressingly flat.

To many young women, a small lump like that wouldn’t be cause for alarm because most breast lumps are benign. But there’s a long history of breast cancer in my family, so I immediately consulted a renowned breast surgeon. “It’s nothing to worry about,” she said. My mammogram was completely normal. She thought the lump was merely normal breast tissue.

But four years later I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.

My treatment was among the most aggressive available: surgery (a double mastectomy), chemotherapy and five years of hormonal therapy to keep my hormone-sensitive breast cancer quiescent.

Since there was no further sign of my cancer after my surgery, I hoped that my hard-hitting trio of treatment had succeeded in blasting every last cancer cell. And whenever I made my annual visit to my oncologist, I was comforted by his reassuring words: “There’s no sign of your disease.” Continue reading

In Oakland, Students Bite Back at Undead in Zombie Health Symposium

Craig Elliott, assistant VP of student services at Samuel Merritt University, encouraged grief counselors for families dealing with undead loved ones. (Courtesy: Samuel Merritt University)

Craig Elliott, assistant VP of student services at Samuel Merritt University, encouraged grief counseling for families dealing with undead loved ones. (Courtesy: Samuel Merritt University)

By Isabel Angell

Just in time for Halloween, health science students at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland were learning about an understudied demographic in health care: zombies.

That’s right, zombies.

Students packed the hall at the first-ever Zombie Health Symposium and learned some crucial information, should these fictional beings ever show up in real life. In a presentation Dr. Sharon Gorman, a physical therapy professor, described which gait will improve your survivability during a zombie apocalypse. She said it’s important to realize there are different kinds of zombies.

“Use your observation skills that you’ve honed as health care providers, because those are key,” she said. “You need to determine what is the threat of that zombie and figure out quickly what your best evasive maneuver might be. If it’s a fast zombie, I suggest being quiet and running, very, very fast and very, very far away. If it’s a non-ambulatory zombie, just give it a wide berth.” Continue reading

State Issues ‘Tailored’ Quarantine Guidelines for Travelers from Ebola-Affected Countries

Gov. Jerry Brown meets with state officials, including Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer, on

Gov. Jerry Brown met last week with state officials, including state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman, center left. (Brad Alexander/Office of the Governor)

Joining other states across the country, California’s health officer has now added guidelines for a “risk-based quarantine order” for people traveling to California from one of the three Ebola-affected West African countries, Guinea, LIberia and Sierra Leone.

California’s guidelines consistent with those from the Centers for Disease Control

At present there are no known or suspected cases of Ebola in California.

The state’s order is directed at anyone traveling to California from one of the affected countries who has also had contact with someone who has a confirmed case of Ebola.

Dr. Ron Chapman, California’s health officer, said the state is establishing a “standard protocol requiring some level of quarantine for those at highest risk of contracting and spreading Ebola.” Continue reading

Here’s What Would Be Taxed — or Not — in SF, Berkeley Soda Tax Measures

(KJM-427/Flickr)

(KJM-427/Flickr)

Both San Francisco and Berkeley have measures on their November ballots that would institute a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. With less than a week to go until Election Day, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. People want to know exactly what will be taxed — and what won’t.

First things first: The tax is on sugar-sweetened beverages, so diet sodas would not be taxed. After all, they do not have sugar or any other sweetener that has calories. Maybe the moniker “soda tax” is misleading here.

To find out if your favorite beverage would be taxed, ask yourself the following:

  • Does this drink contain added sugar (or another caloric sweetener such as high-fructose corn syrup)?
  • Does this drink have significant nutritional value (such as, say, milk does)?

If you answer “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, your beverage is most likely subject to the proposed tax.

Here are drinks that are subject to the tax (farther down are exempt drinks):

(Kaleb Fulgham/Flickr)

(Kaleb Fulgham/Flickr)

Sodas — such as regular Coke, Pepsi, 7 Up, etc. (But not diet sodas.) This includes sodas in bottles and cans, as well as  fountain drinks. Both the Berkeley and San Francisco measures call for taxing the syrup used to make fountain drinks. The syrup is taxed according to the largest volume, in fluid ounces, that could be produced from the sugar-sweetened syrup. For example, if a distributor sells a 12-ounce bottle of syrup and that syrup can be used to make 144 ounces of beverage, the tax is levied on the 144 ounces of beverage. Continue reading