Health and health care news

Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public

Friday is the last official day on the job for Maine Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais. He's been at his post a record seven years, and he shared lessons learned on the job with Maine Public’s Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz.

Maine's highest court has granted the LePage administration's request to delay expanding Medicaid, at least temporarily.

Medicaid expansion is supposed to take effect July 2, but the law is on hold until oral arguments in a lawsuit are heard in mid-July.

In a one-page order issued Wednesday, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley granted a temporary stay that gives the LePage administration more time to file a Medicaid expansion plan with the federal government, at least until after oral arguments on the matter are heard.

Maine Leads Nation In Decline Of Prescription Opioid Sales, Report Finds

Jun 19, 2018

Sales of prescription opioids in Maine fell nearly 25 percent from 2016 to 2017, the steepest drop of any U.S. state amid a nationwide decline, according to a new report.

On average, the country saw an 11 percent drop in the volume of pills prescribed, according to research by the Washington-based firm Avalere Health. Every state except Idaho saw its numbers go down, the research found.

In 2016, Maine distributed nearly 40,000 grams of prescription opioids per 100,000 people, researchers found. In 2017, the number sank to slightly over 30,000 grams.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Mainers with pre-existing medical conditions are worried they will lose health insurance under the Trump administration's latest attempt to unravel the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Consumers, providers and health advocates shared their concerns with independent Sen. Angus King at a roundtable discussion in South Portland Monday.

State data shows that 42 Maine children are living outside the state, receiving treatment they can't access in Maine.

The Bangor Daily News reports that the state wants to fill in the gaps with proposed psychiatric residential treatment facilities for children and teenagers with intensive mental health needs.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration last month released proposed regulations governing psychiatric residences that would be a step-down from psychiatric hospitals.

These Eighth-Graders From Old Town Invented A Filter To Keep Your Water Safe

Jun 11, 2018
Bangor Daily News

Five eighth-grade students from Old Town’s J.A. Leonard Middle School have invented a mobile, backpack-sized water filtration kit that has earned them a coveted spot in an international West Coast robotics competition later this month.

Suicide rates are increasing in nearly every state, and the rate in Maine has increased by nearly 30 percent since 1999, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control report released this week.

Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state over the past two decades, and half of the states have seen suicide rates go up more than 30 percent.

Suicide is a major public health issue, accounting for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016 alone. That is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta decided to take a comprehensive look at suicides from 1999 to 2016.

Why Fentanyl Is Killing So Many Mainers

Jun 4, 2018

Fentanyl was basically nonexistent on Maine streets two years ago, and now it’s killing more people than heroin, according to police and policy experts.

Eighty-six people in Maine died from drug overdose deaths in the first quarter of the year, according to a new report released by the state attorney general’s office.

The number of drug overdose deaths is a slight drop from the 89 deaths during the same timeframe last year. But increasingly, it’s illicit drugs that are the cause, compared to pharmaceutical opioids.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Maine’s medical examiner’s office has been named one of the best in the country. The pronouncement from the National Association of Medical Examiners came earlier this month in the form of full accreditation — a major accomplishment for an agency that was struggling with a backlog of cases just a few years ago.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is in a small brick building in Augusta, tucked back from the street. This is where the staff conducts about 300 autopsies a year.

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

A growing number of parents in Maine are opting against having their school-aged children vaccinated against disease.

Maine health officials say vaccination opt-out rates for the state's kindergarteners increased during the 2017-2018 school year.

According to a report released this week by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, 5 percent of kindergarteners were opted out by their parents this year for philosophic of religious reasons. The Portland Herald Press reports Maine's rate last school year was more than twice the national average of 1.8 percent.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

Senator Susan Collins used a committee hearing Wednesday to highlight one aspect of the opioid epidemic that she thinks deserves more attention: addiction in older adults.

Allen G. Breed / Associated Press

Dog and deer ticks are well-established in Maine and cause an a number of illnesses. Now, another species — the lone star tick, typically found in the southern U.S. — appears to be making inroads here, and it brings with it a surprising reaction.