Schools Helping Families Enroll in Covered California and Medi-Cal

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children's Partnership)

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children’s Partnership)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

With huge numbers of California children still uninsured, schools are beginning to take the lead in letting families know that affordable health care coverage is available.

The deadline to sign up for a Covered California plan is this Sunday.
In school libraries and courtyards from Sacramento to Los Angeles and beyond, trained enrollment counselors have been invited to set up folding tables, commandeer desk space and corral parents before the Feb. 15 sign-up deadline for Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.

And the outreach will increase. Under a new state law, all California schools must include in their 2015-16 enrollment packets information about options for health care coverage and how to get help with the sign-up process. The law, Assembly Bill 2706, authored by Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, is intended to reduce the number of children who are eligible for health insurance subsidies but remain uninsured. Continue reading

Marin School District Considers Endorsing Ban of Vaccine ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: Carl Krawitt)

Rhett Krawitt with his oncologist, Dr. Rob Goldsby, taken Monday at an appointment at UCSF. (Courtesy: the Krawitt family)

Update Feb. 10, 10:00pm: The board of the Reed Union School District voted 4-1 to “encourage the state of California” to eliminate the personal belief exemption.

Original post:

As first reported on State of Health, the face of the vaccine debate in southern Marin’s small Reed Union School District is Rhett Krawitt. He’s a first grader at Reed Elementary in Tiburon. Rhett was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 and went through three years of chemotherapy.

Rhett is in remission now, but cannot yet be vaccinated, for medical reasons. A small percentage of school children statewide — 0.19 percent — have such medical exemptions. They depend on everyone around them being vaccinated to protect them from disease. This community protection is called herd immunity.

But Marin County has a much higher rate of “personal belief exemptions” — a way for parents to lawfully refuse vaccines on behalf of their children.

In large part because of prodding from Rhett’s parents, the district’s board at its regular meeting tonight will consider whether to formally endorse a new bill that would abolish the personal belief exemption in California. Continue reading

Licensed Midwife Opens Birth Center in Fresno

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

Detrah Hele (left), a licensed midwife, opened The Birth Place in Fresno last fall. Alex DePastene (right) works with her. (Courtesy: Mike DePastene)

By Alice Daniel, CaliforniaHealthline

Even as licensed midwife Detrah Hele explained why she recently opened a birth center in Fresno, she was in her car heading to a client’s home in Visalia.

Her client was a labor and delivery nurse who had already had two home births and was about to have a third one under Hele’s supervision. Hele has caught hundreds of babies since she got her license 10 years ago. She said it had been a dream of hers to establish a place where pregnant women could give birth outside a hospital setting.

After months of searching, she found the right property in downtown Fresno, a home on the historic register that was most recently the office of the Fresno Women’s Medical Group. She dealt with all the necessary city codes and opened The Birth Place in October 2014. It is the only birth center in the San Joaquin Valley. Another licensed midwife, Alex DePastene, works with her. Continue reading

Health Officials Discourage ‘Measles Parties’

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Vial of Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. (Geoff Caddick/AFP/Getty Images)

Julie Schiffman is a mother of two in Marin County. The choice to not vaccinate her kids, now 6 and 8, was a long and difficult one, she said. But deciding whether to intentionally expose them to measles was easy.

“I would never do that to my kid,” she said.

She was approached recently by a friend who knew her kids were unvaccinated. The friend offered to help set up a play date with another child who was sick.

“She said, ‘I know someone who has the measles, would you like to be connected with them?’” Schiffman said.

Continue reading

Mental Health ‘Warm Line’ Helps Prevent Crises With Good Listening

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Daisy Matthias is a counselor at the San Francisco-based Mental Health Triage Warm Line. Most callers are struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. (Jeremy Raff /KQED)

Editor’s note: a warm line is a place where people struggling with mental illness, but not in an acute state of crisis, can call and talk to a trained counselor as long as they need to. As part our community health series Vital Signs, we caught up with Daisy Matthias, a counselor at San Francisco’s new warm line, in between phone calls.

By Daisy Matthias

The majority of the people call about anxiety, depression, loneliness, or even stress.

We’ll be there for as long as you need us. We don’t have a time limit. And other warm lines sometimes will have a time limit of 20 minutes, 30 minutes.

Every counselor has a history of dealing with mental health. Continue reading

New Vaccination Bill Would End ‘Personal Belief Exemption’

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, known commonly as MMR. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Fenit Nirappil
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers are proposing legislation that would require parents to vaccinate all school children unless a child’s health is in danger, joining only two other states with such stringent restrictions.

Parents could no longer cite personal beliefs or religious reasons to send unvaccinated children to school under a proposal introduced Wednesday after dozens of people have fallen ill from a measles outbreak that started in late December at Disneyland.

Mississippi and West Virginia are the only other states with such strict vaccine rules, though the California bill’s chief author said he would consider including a religious exemption, as allowed now. Continue reading

Once A Vaccine Skeptic, This Mom Changed Her Mind

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left). (Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

Juniper Russo walks her dogs with her daughter Vivian (left).
(Courtesy of Juniper Russo)

By Jon Hamilton, NPR

The ongoing measles outbreak linked to Disneyland has led to some harsh comments about parents who don’t vaccinate their kids. But Juniper Russo, a writer in Chattanooga, Tenn., says she understands those parents because she used to be one of them.

“I know what it’s like to be scared and just want to protect your children, and make the wrong decisions,” Russo says.

When her daughter Vivian was born, “I was really adamant that she not get vaccines,” Russo says. “I thought that she was going to be safe without them and they would unnecessarily introduce chemicals into her body that could hurt her.”

That’s a view shared by many parents who choose not to vaccinate. And in Russo’s case, it was reinforced by parents she met online. Continue reading

Despite Major Efforts, Suffering at Life’s End Getting Worse, Not Better

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News

It’s been more than 15 years since the Institute of Medicine released its seminal 1997 report detailing the suffering many Americans experience at the end of life and offering sweeping recommendations on how to improve care.

Throwing more medical care at patients who are “on their way to dying.”    

So has dying in America gotten any less painful?

Despite efforts to build hospice and palliative care programs across the country, the answer seems to be a resounding no. The number of Americans experiencing pain in the last year of life actually increased by nearly 12 percent between 1998 and 2010, according to a study released Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In addition, depression in the last year of life increased by more than 26 percent.

That’s the case even though guidelines and quality measures for end-of-life care were developed, the number of palliative care programs rose and hospice use doubled between 2000 and 2009. Continue reading

Got P.E.? Settlement Says Schools Must Prove They Provide It

Recess at Cox Academy in Oakland. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

Recess at Cox Academy in Oakland. (Jane Meredith Adams/EdSource)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

As schools tout the importance of exercise in an era of childhood obesity, a California parent and his lawyer have agreed to a settlement with dozens of districts across California that will force elementary schools to prove they are providing at least the minimum amount of physical education required by state law.

Now there’s another lawsuit against Oakland Unified and other districts.

“We think it’s a huge accomplishment and it’s going to benefit public health in California,” said attorney Donald Driscoll, who represents Alameda parent Marc Babin and the advocacy group Cal200 in a 2013 lawsuit that alleges 37 school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, the largest district in the state, are out of compliance with state physical education law.

The districts, which educate more than 20 percent of elementary students grades 1 through 6 statewide, have agreed to a settlement that requires elementary school teachers to publicly document how many minutes of physical education students receive, according to lawyers involved in the case. Continue reading

California Ranks Dead Last in Spending on Diabetes Prevention

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Barbara Feder Ostrov, Kaiser Health News

California spends less per person than any state on diabetes prevention programs, even as one in 12 California adults is estimated to suffer from the chronic disease, according to a new report from the California state auditor.

Using only federal grants, California spent just 3 cents per person on diabetes prevention in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, compared with New York’s 42 cents per person in state and federal money that year, the report noted.

No state funding is available for diabetes prevention in California, although the Department of Public Health has solicited the federal grants for programs in some counties, according to the report. The audit takes the agency to task for not doing more. Continue reading