Health and health care news

Maine Senator Susan Collins talked today about bills she's co-sponsoring to address the nation's opioid crisis. At a hearing in Washington, Collins said that one measure deals with pain medications given to hospice patients after the patients have died.

"Hospice staff are not allowed to dispose of these unused medications, even after the patient has died,” she says. “So, this opens the door to diversion, to theft, to abuse."

Collins says the legislation she's cosponsoring would allow hospice staff to retrieve such leftover medications.

Maine law enforcement officials are warning of bad batches of heroin after nine overdoses across four counties in a single night.

The Bangor Daily News reports that police assume the heroin was laced with fentanyl, which is far more powerful that heroin.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department posted a warning on its Facebook page after three overdoses in Washington County and one in Hancock County. Officials say all of those victims were revived with the overdose antidote Narcan.

A two-question screening tool that's now being used at primary care doctor's offices in southern Maine, is helping families experiencing food insecurity to find resources they need.

Maine Medical Partners, a division of Maine Health, is using the "Hunger Vital Sign," to find and help those families. Pediatrician Dr. Lucy Amory says since late January, all kids ages one to five get the two-question screener when they come in for their annual physicals.

The Maine Legislature moved closer Thursday to approving $6.6 million bill to fight a deadly opioid crisis that claimed the lives over 400 Mainers last year. Both the House and Senate have given initial approval to the bill that would direct treatment funding to those without insurance.

The city of Portland filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cumberland County Superior Court against 26 opioid manufacturers and distributors. Attorney Adam Lee says the lawsuit alleges that the companies orchestrated a campaign of fraud and misinformation about the addictive qualities of opioids.

Lee says the suit alleges that opioid manufacturers and distributors orchestrated a campaign of fraud, deceit, and misinformation to shape the public's perception of the addictive qualities of the drug.

Maine Public

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills says that she has a solution to the funding stalemate between Gov. LePage and lawmakers that is blocking Medicaid expansion. At the State House Tuesday, Mills announced that Maine will receive millions in additional funds from a settlement with tobacco companies that could pay for expanding health care coverage, which voters approved last year.

The parent company of Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital in Portland is changing its name.

In October, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems will become Northern Light Health. EMHS Senior Vice President Matthew Weed says the name change acknowledges that the organization no longer just operates in the eastern part of the state.

Weed says what’s more important is that the new name reflects efforts over the past several years to bring different areas of expertise, technology and access together in a system.

The Maine Senate has voted unanimously to increase availability of the anti-overdose drug naloxone in pharmacies.

About two years ago, the Legislature passed a bill that temporarily allowed pharmacists to prescribe naloxone over-the-counter to those suffering from addiction. WMTW-TV reports the bill passed this week would remove the "sunset provision" from the previous bill and would make the legislation permanent.

Repbulican Gov. Paul LePage has 10 days to sign the bill.

Emerus and SCL Health / NPR

Central Maine Healthcare unveiled plans Thursday to open what it is calling a first-of-its-kind outpatient health center in the state. The Topsham Care Center is something between a hospital and an urgent care clinic. Officials say the model embraces a more contemporary approach to health care that will offer high quality services at a lower cost.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine health officials are warning residents about an unlicensed tattoo artist who may have exposed multiple people to hepatitis C.
WGME-TV reports the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention received information about an unlicensed tattoo artist who had been working out of their East Machias home for the past six months. The state CDC says at least one client has been infected with hepatitis C.
Officials aren't sure about the number of clients the tattoo artist has worked on.

Maine Senator Susan Collins is among a group of republicans urging colleagues in Washington to include several measures to lower health insurance costs in the budget bill up for consideration this week.

Collins says the package of bills she has crafted with Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander would lower insurance premiums by 40 percent. She is also downplaying opposition to language banning the use of federal funds for abortions, saying the so-called Hyde language has been in use since 1976.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has joined with Republican colleagues to introduce a bill that they say aims to stabilize health insurance premiums in the individual market.

Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public

President Trump, speaking in New Hampshire yesterday, detailed plans for confronting the country's opioid epidemic. In broad strokes, it calls for prevention and education advertising, improved funding for treatment and the death penalty for drug trafficking in certain instances. Dr. Mary Dowd is medical director at Milestone Recovery and has treated people suffering from opioid addiction for years. Dr. Dowd spoke with Maine Public Radio’s Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz.

President Donald Trump unveiled his initiative to tackle the opioid crisis in New Hampshire Monday afternoon.

His multipronged plan would increase prevention efforts, enact stiffer penalties on drug traffickers — including the death penalty — and expand access to treatment.

The director of Grace Street Recovery Services in Lewiston, Marty O’Brien, says one of the biggest barriers to getting more people into treatment is a lack of insurance.

“If expansion to treatment includes federal funding for the poor to have access to treatment, that works,” he says.

Across the globe, about one in 10 women have endometriosis. It’s a painful, chronic disease that can be difficult to treat.

Maine writer Abby Norman was first diagnosed with it seven years ago, but she says the disease was never really explained to her, and as it’s progressed she’s struggled to convince doctors that the pain she feels is real. Norman says it’s a problem for women that has a long history in medicine, and she’s written a book about her experience, Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain.