Health

Michael Sullivan/Getty Images/Science Source

Epidemiologists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say they’ve identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung disease ever reported, a cluster that was first uncovered by NPR 14 months ago.

In a research letter published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, NIOSH confirms 416 cases of progressive massive fibrosis or complicated black lung in three clinics in central Appalachia from 2013 to 2017.

Creative Commons/Dental Supply

Dentist Garth Bobrowski gives away thousands of dollars in free dental care for patients who can’t afford it in his small town of Greensburg, Kentucky.

“Dentists serve patients in their communities in these rural towns because these folks are our folks. We go to church with them, we go to school with them,” Bobrowski said. “So we do it as a service to the community.”

J. Tyler Franklin

After months of back and forth between Gov. Matt Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear on how to move forward with lawsuits against opioid distributors and manufacturers, both sides are accusing the other of stalling the process.

It began last summer when Beshear announced he would sue Endo Pharmaceuticals and McKesson Corporation for their role in the opioid epidemic. 

As the Trump administration moves to give states more flexibility in running Medicaid, advocates for the poor are keeping a close eye on Indiana to see whether such conservative ideas improve or harm care.

Indiana in 2015 implemented some of the most radical changes seen to the state-federal program that covers nearly 1 in 4 low-income Americans — including charging some adults a monthly premium and locking out for six months some of those who don't pay their premiums.

Trump Takes Enforcement Approach To Opioid Crisis

Jan 31, 2018
c-span video

President Donald Trump addressed the opioid crisis affecting the Ohio Valley region in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge,” he said. “My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

But with few specifics and little money so far to carry out  the president’s plans, the public can only go off of what those in his administration have said. And that indicates an approach emphasizing law enforcement rather than funding for treatment.


Nicole Erwin

A survivor of the 1997 Heath High School shooting in Paducah said she never thought another shooting would happen in the same community.

Paducah is about 20 miles from the Marshall County High School shooting on Tuesday.

More than 20 years ago, Missy Jenkins Smith spent a week in the ICU after a shooter opened fire on his fellow classmates, killing three students. Smith is now a counselor for the Calloway County Alternative Instructional Facility.

In Wake Of School Shooting, A Look At How Kids Get Guns

Jan 25, 2018
Nicole Erwin

Heather Adams sat in a line of cars along Kentucky Route 95, cars filled with parents who had just received the call no parent wants to get: A shooting at her child’s school, Marshall County High in Benton, Kentucky. Two 15-year-old students were killed and another 18 injured. 

Adams was waiting anxiously to pick up her children, a 15-year-old and a ten-year-old. Both were safe and so she could relax enough to talk a bit. Earlier, she was at the high school with other frantic parents looking for answers about their children.


Several advocacy groups are suing the federal government on behalf of 15 Kentuckians who are enrolled in Medicaid, saying that Kentucky’s recently approved Medicaid changes violate the Social Security Act.

The approved Medicaid waiver, as the changes are called, will make many Medicaid enrollees work, volunteer or do other activities for 80 hours a month to keep health coverage. It also will limit access to dental and vision services for some, make other enrollees pay premiums and install lock-out periods for not making those payments.

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing San Francisco-based opioid distributor McKesson Corporation for allegedly “flooding” the commonwealth with opioids.

The lawsuit was filed in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday.

“McKesson had a duty to report when it ships large or suspicious amounts of opioids to a state or region,” Beshear said during a news conference Monday. “They knew that their shipments to Kentucky were excessive, even grossly excessive. But they simply sent them anyways and didn’t notify the authorities.

Mary Meehan

Remember the American Health Care Act, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or the Obamacare Repeal and Reconciliation Act? They were among the many Congressional proposals to end the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

If 2017 was the year of endless Obamacare debates, 2018 could be the year when we see the effects on people who need health care the most. Some health experts in the Ohio Valley are concerned that the “forgotten” folks in rural America could lose access to basic health care as efforts continue to weaken the Affordable Care Act.


White House

Donald Trump told supporters on the campaign trail his plan to combat the opioid crisis. It included stopping the flow of drugs into the country, increase the penalties for drug trafficking, and make treatment more accessible.

“We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need,” then-candidate Trump said.

In the first year of his presidency, that plan has developed partially due to the influence of people working on solutions to the epidemic in the Ohio Valley region. But as the one-year mark for the Trump administration approaches, public health officials in the region offer a mixed view of the president’s action.

Which Kentucky Counties Benefited Most Under Medicaid Expansion? Here’s A Map

Jan 19, 2018
Alexandra Kanik

Starting this July, Kentucky will start making some Medicaid enrollees work, volunteer, take classes or train for jobs in order to keep health care coverage. Last week, the federal government approved the long-awaited Medicaid waiver that Governor Matt Bevin submitted in the summer of 2015.

The waiver includes several changes to Medicaid, and the bulk of these changes will affect people who received coverage under the expansion of the program made possible by the Affordable Care Act. Here’s how many people in each of Kentucky’s counties fall into that group:

Mary Meehan

A small gaggle of reporters points their microphones at reproductive rights activist Marcie Crim as she bluntly decries  the shrinking access to abortion in the region. Crim stands just a few feet from the open door of the office of Governor Matt Bevin near the Capitol rotunda.

Crim and Bevin may be physically close in this situation, but they could not be further apart on the issue. They personify the opposing poles of the decades-old debate surrounding abortion.

The number of drug overdose deaths in Warren County declined slightly in 2017.

Warren County saw 18 drug overdose deaths in 2017, compared to 19 in 2016.

County Coroner Kevin Kirby said toxicology reports also show an increase in people with methamphetamine in their system. Kirby said while there’s more awareness about the risk of addiction with prescription opioids, that hasn’t dramatically reduced fatal overdoses in Warren County.

c-span

The Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget has announced a review of an Obama-era rule that protects coal miners from exposure to the dust that causes black lung disease.

That has some health and safety advocates concerned. The review comes amid a tide of regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration and at a time that black lung disease is on the rise in Appalachian coal country.


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