State Highlights: NYC Mental Health Task Force

A selection of health policy stories from New York, Delaware, Minnesota, North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin and Georgia.

The Associated Press: Task Force To Aid NYC’s Mentally Ill Inmates
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new task force Monday to overhaul how New York City’s corrections system treats the mentally ill -- both in jail and out -- following the grisly deaths of two inmates with psychological problems (6/2).

Pioneer Press:  Minnesota Seeks Medical Marijuana Boss
Wanted: A medical marijuana chief. The Minnesota Department of Health is seeking a director for its new Office of Medical Cannabis, which will implement the medical marijuana bill signed into law last month by Gov. Mark Dayton. About 10 people are expected to work for the Office of Medical Cannabis, which will operate a patient registry to track whether people are helped by the treatment. About 5,000 people per year are projected to use Minnesota's medical marijuana program, which will be available to people with certain terminal illnesses or any of eight medical conditions (Snowbeck, 6/2).

North Carolina Health News: Research Indicates Health Disparities For Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community 
Results released recently from a study conducted by researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health indicate that lesbian, gay and bisexual North Carolinians face heightened health risks in several regards. Stress-related mental health issues are of particular concern. The report, titled “A Profile of North Carolina Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Health Disparities, 2011”  was published in the American Journal of Public Health, offering the first statewide evidence of these disparities. In 2011, the state asked about sexual orientation for the first time in its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System polling (Sisk, 6/3).

The Associated Press: Del. Lawmakers Eye Heroin Overdose Antidote
Delaware lawmakers are eyeing legislation to help drug addicts survive heroin overdoses. State officials last year adopted a pilot basic life support protocol that allows emergency responders to treat suspected narcotic overdoses with naloxone, a heroin overdose antidote known by the brand name Narcan (6/2).

North Carolina Health News: Deadline For Eugenics Compensation Program Quickly Approaches 
As the June 30 deadline to file a claim in the state’s eugenics compensation program draws near for victims of North Carolina’s dark history of forced sterilizations, advocates hope for an extension of the deadline so people have more time to file claims. In what has been described as one of the most aggressive and enduring sterilization programs in the country, an estimated 7,600 people were sterilized by force or uninformed consent under the authority of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina program from 1929 to 1974. Last year, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to offer compensation for victims of involuntary sterilization (Hoban, 6/3).

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Robot Helps Save The Day At Rural Hospital 
Some small, rural Kansas hospitals are using highly sophisticated medical robots in ways that are helping ease the shortage of specialists in their areas and -- in at least one instance -- boosting the bottom line. Hamilton County Hospital here was on the brink of closing little more than a year ago because of financial and staffing problems, but use of a robot has been a key factor in the facility’s dramatic turnaround, according to chief executive Bryan Coffey. First order of business for Coffey when he became the administrator in June 2013 was hiring doctors for a hospital that had none. He recruited a primary care physician and a cardiologist (Shields, 6/2).

Texas Tribune: Uncertain Future At Institutions For Disabled Texans
The debate over the future of Texas' institutions for the disabled is a perennial one; advocates for community living want them closed, while families of their residents fight to keep them open. But a groundbreaking recommendation from the state's Sunset Advisory Commission to shutter six of Texas' 13 state-supported living centers has reopened a giant divide in the disability community that had seemed to narrow in recent years.  Ahead of the 2015 legislative session, staffers at the Sunset Commission, which is charged with highlighting inefficiencies at state agencies, have called for closing the Austin State-Supported Living Center and forming a panel to pinpoint five other centers statewide for closure. The facilities provide around-the-clock residential services for people with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities (Ura and MacLaggan, 6/3).

Baltimore Sun: Social Security Disability Backlog In Md. Among Highest In Nation
The Social Security Administration office that reviews disability claims for Central Maryland has the third-longest processing delay in the nation -- a backlog that prompted a member of the state's congressional delegation on Monday to call for action. Disability claimants with appeals at the Baltimore office wait an average of 17 months for a hearing, agency data show. That's longer than in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and more than 150 other offices. In Chicago, by comparison, the average wait time is one year. Only the offices in Miami and Fort Myers, Fla., have longer waits (Fritze, 6/2).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Infant Mortality Rates Heading In Wrong Direction
Troubling increases in the rate at which babies continue to die in Milwaukee before their first birthday, and especially the rate at which African-American babies die, are moving the city further away from goals it set in 2011, according to new data the city will release Tuesday. Black infants are still about three times more likely than white infants to die in Milwaukee, and the city is in danger of not closing the racial gap of infant mortality within the next few years as multiple ongoing community initiatives battle to reverse the trend, according to Geoffrey R. Swain, chief medical officer for the Milwaukee Health Department and a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health. Historically, Milwaukee has had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Last year, 117 babies died in the city -- the equivalent of about four classrooms of schoolchildren, Swain said Monday (Herzog, 6/3).

Georgia Health News: Cost Is A Big Question, And Here’s An Answer
Millions of Americans have no health insurance. Millions of others have health coverage that includes high deductibles. Both these groups often have to pay upfront for the whole cost of a medical procedure or a visit to a doctor. And these prices can have wide variation, even within a single community (Miller, 6/2).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.