Health and health care news

Patty Wight / Maine Public

A coalition of patients, providers and advocates rallied in Augusta Tuesday to publicly release a letter to the Trump administration, opposing what they call a proposed 'gag rule' on the Title X program.

AP Photo

Addressing skyrocketing drug prices has been one of Maine Senator Susan Collins' priorities. During a speech to the Pew Charitable Trust in Washington Monday Collins says one big reason for the hike is the failure of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce anti-monopoly laws.

“It’s really the FTC that’s the lead on this," Collins says. "I think we need to figure out why they are not doing more and rectify that problem.”

Patty Wight / Maine Public

It's not just law enforcement that is lamenting the lack of funding for treatment of substance use disorders. A 16-bed residential treatment center in Portland is ending its program Friday due to fiscal challenges.

Gov. Paul LePage once called the center, Serenity House, a model for treatment. But Serenity House's executive director says insufficient state reimbursements and restrictions on the number of treatment beds forced the program to end.

Troy R. Bennett / Bangor Daily News

Thursday's Bangor Daily News - and Maine Public's Maine Calling program Thursday afternoon - will be focusing on so-called "sober houses." Haven't heard that term before?  You're not alone.

Bridgton town officials have reopened a local pond to swimming after it passed a water quality test.

Last Friday swimming was prohibited at Woods Pond. The town says it was contacted by the Maine Center for Disease Control about several people who reported abdominal illnesses after swimming in the pond last week. Town officials say the pond water was found to be safe, but water from the bathroom sinks failed for e coli levels and was shut off.

Fourth Of July Temperatures Pose Health Risk

Jul 4, 2018
Peter Merholz / Flickr

You're going to want to find a shady spot to watch this year's Fourth of July parade. This week's heat wave will continue with high temperatures and poor air quality through Thursday.

Spokesperson Emily Spencer of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services warns that the heat can cause serious health issues, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and sunburns.

Brunswick Police say four wild animals have tested positive for rabies in the past three weeks.

Officials say, on Friday, a fox attacked a man who was gardening. He was able to fend off the animal with a shovel.

Brunswick Animal Control Officer Heidi Nelson says it's not known why these incidents have taken place in a relatively small area.

“If you were to pin all the four occurrences on the map, it's about a two mile area, but a fox can travel anywhere up to 25-square miles for its territory, so we are putting the whole town on alert.”

MDI Lab Gets $12M Grant To Study Aging, Body-organ Regrowth

Jul 2, 2018
MDI Biological Laboratory

A Mount Desert Island laboratory announced Friday that it has been awarded a $12 million federal grant to aid in researching the aging process and the regrowth of human body parts.

The National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant will support the work of several scientists at MDI Biological Laboratory’s Kathryn W. Davis Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine. It follows a $13 million grant to the Bar Harbor-based laboratory campus awarded in 2013, MDI Lab officials said.


It seems that whenever warm temperatures and muggy weather return to Maine, air quality warnings follow. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) often issues air quality alerts and warnings when the temperatures increase, advising those with respiratory problems to stay indoors and take other precautions. So far in 2018, the Maine DEP has issued two air quality warnings. In 2017, they issued six.

The annual Kids Count survey of child wellbeing shows fewer Maine kids are living in poverty, but rates of child poverty vary widely across the state and by race and ethnicity.

In Piscatiquis County, 30 percent of children live in poverty; in Cumberland county, it's 12 percent. More than half of Maine's african-american and native american children live in poverty -- compared to 17 percent of white children.

Maine Children's Alliance executive director Claire Berkowitz says poverty can impact kids in a variety of ways as they develop.

Robert F. Bukaty / Maine Public

A sweeping overhaul of Maine's medical marijuana law is on its way to Republican Gov. Paul LePage. The bill makes it easier for Mainers to qualify as medical marijuana patients by removing current qualifying medical conditions such as epilepsy, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

ORONO, Maine - Researchers with the University of Maine are using an award of more than $430,000 from the National Institutes of Health to research immune responses to influenza.
The University of Maine says the scientists believe novel treatments that work independently of the effectiveness of current vaccines are important to controlling the spread of flu. Flu vaccines vary from year to year in effectiveness.

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.