August 22, 2014

Most Missouri children have their school shots (AUDIO)

Most of the school children starting classes in Missouri have gotten their required immunizations.  But many have not. Most of the children got their first immunizations before they were three years old. Some have had booster shots before the opening of their schools.

State Health Department figures say better than eight in ten children get immunizations for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus immunizations early on.  More than nine out of ten have their anti-polio shots as well as those for measles and mumps.  The same for hepatitis B and chickenpox.

The state school immunization law allows people with religious objections or with health conditions to be exempt.

Health Department spokesman Ryan Hobart says there are some shots that people might want to get even if they’re not required.  College students, he notes, might want to get anti-meningitis shots, especially if they will be living in dormitories.  A new state law effective next July will require students living in dormitories at state institutions of higher education to have those shots.

The Health Department web page lists the immunizations that are required and when they should be administered:

Historic Mount Vernon rehab center closing (Audio)

Time has run out for a state hospital that has served Missourians in several ways for more than a century. The Mount Vernon State Sanatorium opened in 1907 to take care of tuberculosis patients at a time when victims were isolated to prevent spread of the disease and treated with bed rest, fresh air, sunshine, and nutrition. Its function changed as new TB treatments were found. It became the State Chest Hospital for the treatment of all kinds of lung disorders took place. About 30 years ago it became a center for long-term treatment of head injuries and gained its present name, Missouri Rehabilitation Center.

The Center became the center of the national debate about the right of families to let someone in a persistent vegetative state die when Nancy Cruzan died there in December, 1990, eight years after a car crash had left her with irreversible brain damage.

The hospital has been part of the University of Missouri Health system since 1996. But Professional Services Director David Parker says budget uncertainty, low patient counts and the opening of other long-term care facilities make the old sanatorium expendable.

“At one time we were the only long-term care facility in Missouri and now there are several others in the state including two that are very close to us in Springfield and in Joplin…We also have a physical plant here …that is old and very large and it’s very expensive to upkeep,” he says.

The hospital has a 130-patient capacity but now has only 29 patients, down from 42 patients five years ago.

Discussions are starting with a Veterans Administration outpatient clinic that rents space to see what the VA wants to do. He says continued rental of 35,000 square feet of hospital space is one discussion issue.

More than 320 employees, 286 staff, a half-dozen doctors and 31 managers will lose their jobs on October 31. Parker says relocation and re-employment efforts are already starting.

AUDIO: Parker interview 7:47

Senators support veterans bill (AUDIO)

Missouri’s Senators agree the Veterans Affairs funding bill approved by Congress can solve a lot of problems for veterans and for the Veterans Administration.

Senators McCaskill and Blunt are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and have been involved in the long investigation of failures in the Veterans Administration.

The bill puts millions of dollars into veterans services programs, gives powers to the new VA Secretary to clean house of administrators who have failed to do their jobs, and requires independent assessments of hospital care.

McCaskill sees improved care. “We are wanting to make sure that veterans living in rural communities who are very sick don’t have to drive  a hundred  miles to get health care,” she says, “or that veterans who live nearby a veterans facility are not having to wait months to see a doctor when they are ill.”

Blunt agrees, but says this bill sets the stage for the  next one: “This is a step toward looking at new ways to deliver services, and hopefully the next veterans bill will say, ‘Okay, this  is how we create even more choices for veterans’ and looking at facilities that no longer make sense.”

Both say pressure on the VA should continue.  Both have introduced legislation calling for  improved service.   Blunt likes to say the goal should be what’s good for veterans, not what’s good for the VA.

AUDIO: McCasKill 3:44

AUDIO: blunt 4;20


It’s a nice summer for ticks (AUDIO)

The mild summer has made the woods a little more dangerous in Missouri.  The Conservation Department has warned summertime hikers, hunters, campers, bikers, and fisher folk  that this is a good time to pick up ticks  on those outdoor excursions.  The  Health Department says three tick-borne diseases are particularly troublesome, and the mild summer has made ticks more dangerous than they were in last year’s scorching heat.

The Health Department’s Coordinator of Vector-borne Diseases, Karen Yates,  says mild weather brings  them closer to people. In hotter weather, she says, the ticks “retreat and they’re back in the woods waiting until they can come out again.”

She says ticks carry three diseases that grow more threatening the longer they go untreated–ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tularemia.  There are no vaccines against diseases from tick bites.

She says DEET-based insecticides are good protections.  And an inspection for ticks after going  back indoors is a good idea even if an insecticide has been used.

AUDIO: Yates interview 19:50




Not all agree that Missouri should monitor prescription drugs

As a New York Times article highlighted this week, Missouri is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), but not everyone agrees on how big a problem that is.

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) calls it embarrassing that Missouri doesn’t maintain a database of the prescription drugs Missourians buy, a database that doctors, hospitals, pharmacists and others could access. Proponents say such a program could help identify individuals who “doctor shop,” and stockpile prescription medications to sell illegally.

She says Missouri has now become, “a Mecca for opiate dealers all over the country. Every opiate dealer in the country knows they can come to Missouri and avoid detection.”

Some opponents of such a program say the database it would create could be abused or hacked into.

Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) says those arguments are weakened by the lack of problems in the 49 states that have a monitoring program.

“You’ve had years of experience from these other states that have not resulted in a breach of security on the database, or [a registry] hasn’t been shown to be the way police are going after people or going after doctors,” says Engler. “It’s simply used to try to stop, at the start of the process, the abuse of legal drugs.”

Representative Kevin Engler (left) and Senator Rob Schaaf (right)

Representative Kevin Engler (left) and Senator Rob Schaaf (right)

However, Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) says other states have had problems.

“The database has been hacked in five states; in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Utah and Washington,” says Schaaf.

Schaaf also points to stories of abuse of a database, such as that of a police officer in Utah who used the registry to go into a couple’s home and take their prescription pills, and of a Utah man who says immediately after his wife died of cancer, police showed up at his home asking to confiscate her pain medication.

Schaaf says there are also questions about the effectiveness of a monitoring program. He says studies of monitoring programs, “do not consistently show that they reduce deaths from opioid overdose, and at least one shows that when the PDMP is enacted, heroin use actually increases.”

Schaaf thinks a database would violate Missourians’ liberty, and says they should ask themselves whether they want the government to know what prescriptions they are taking. Still, he’s proposed versions of a registry and says he’s willing to compromise.

McCaskill believes a registry will fight prescription drug abuse, and hopes state lawmakers “wake up” about the issue soon.

“We’re killing Missourians by not doing this database,” says McCaskill.