First Edition: Dec. 1, 2022

Linda Rider

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Her Apartment Might Have Put Her Son’s Health At Risk. But ‘I Have Nowhere Else To Go.’ 

When Louana Joseph’s son had a seizure because of an upper respiratory infection in July, she abandoned the apartment her family had called home for nearly three years. She suspected the gray and brown splotches spreading through the apartment were mold and had caused her son’s illness. Mold can trigger and exacerbate lung diseases such as asthma and has been linked to upper respiratory tract conditions. But leaving the two-bedroom Atlanta apartment meant giving up a home that rented for less than $1,000 a month, a price that is increasingly hard to find even in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods. (Rayasam and Clasen-Kelly, 12/1)

Addiction Treatment Proponents Urge Rural Clinicians To Pitch In By Prescribing Medication 

Andrea Storjohann is glad to see that she’s becoming less of a rarity in rural America. The nurse practitioner prescribes medication to dozens of patients trying to recover from addiction to heroin or opioid painkillers. The general-practice clinic where she works, housed in a repurposed supermarket building, has no signs designating it as a place for people to seek treatment for drug addiction, which is how Storjohann wants it. (Leys, 12/1)

Montana’s New Sex Ed Law Ensnares English And History Lessons, Too

A Montana law requiring public schools to notify parents of lessons that mention human sexuality — and allowing parents to pull their children from those lessons — has reached further and been more cumbersome than anticipated, according to two school district leaders. School districts across the state have spent months consulting with attorneys and retooling their policies to ensure they are in compliance with the law passed in 2021. Senate Bill 99 requires parents to be notified at least 48 hours in advance about lessons related to sexual education, as well as other topics, including anatomy, intimate relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity, contraception, and reproductive rights. (Graf, 12/1)

U.S. FDA Gives First-Ever Approval To Fecal Transplant Therapy 

The U.S. health regulator on Wednesday approved Switzerland-based Ferring Pharmaceuticals’ fecal transplant-based therapy to reduce the recurrence of a bacterial infection, making it the first therapy of its kind to be cleared in the United States. The therapy, Rebyota, targets Clostridium difficile, or C. difficile – a superbug responsible for infections that can cause serious and life-threatening diarrhea. In the United States, the infection is associated with 15,000-30,000 deaths annually. (11/30)

The Wall Street Journal:
FDA Plans To Allow More Gay, Bisexual Men To Donate Blood 

Gay and bisexual men in monogamous relationships would be allowed to donate blood without abstaining from sex under guidelines being drafted by the Food and Drug Administration, people familiar with the plans said. The change would be a departure from U.S. policy that for many years barred men who have sex with men from donating blood. (Whyte and Marcus, 11/30)

Biden Administration Prepares To End Monkeypox Emergency Declaration 

The Biden administration is eyeing an end to its public health emergency declaration for mpox, a sign that officials believe they’ve brought the monthslong outbreak under control. Health officials are likely to issue a 60-day notice later this week for winding down the declaration, two people with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO. Such a move would put it on track to officially expire by Jan. 31. (Cancryn, 11/30)

Los Angeles Times:
Babies’ COVID Hospitalizations As High As Seniors’ Amid Omicron

Infants younger than 6 months had the same rate of hospitalization as seniors age 65 to 74 during this summer’s Omicron wave, according to a new report. The findings, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that COVID-19 can still cause severe and fatal outcomes in children too young to be vaccinated. (Lin II and Money, 11/30)

Bill Clinton Reports Mild Symptoms After Testing Positive For Covid-19 

Former President Bill Clinton announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms. “I’m grateful to be vaccinated and boosted, which has kept my case mild, and I urge everyone to do the same, especially as we move into the winter months,” Clinton said in a tweet. The former president, 76, added that he is “doing fine overall and keeping myself busy at home.” (LeBlanc, 11/30)

The Hill:
GOP Governors, Senators Take Aim At Pentagon COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate 

Nearly all Republican governors and 13 GOP Senate lawmakers are taking aim at the Biden administration’s military COVID-19 vaccine mandate, with the two groups on Wednesday urging congressional leadership to try to alter or altogether dismantle the ruling. The 21 GOP governors, led by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, issued a joint letter to top lawmakers asking them to “take immediate action to remove and prohibit” the mandate. (Mitchell, 11/30)

West Virginia To End COVID-Related Emergency Order In 2023 

Republican Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that West Virginia’s state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic will end at the start of the new year. The state of emergency has been in effect since March 16, 2020. It allows the governor to suspend certain rules on personnel and purchasing. (Willingham, 11/30)

Oklahoma Citizen-Led Initiative Would Codify Abortion Access

Roger Coody has no legal training and his political experience until recently had been limited to registering people to vote. Now, the Oklahoma hairstylist is pushing a ballot proposal he wrote that would make abortion access a constitutional right in his deeply red state, where Republican lawmakers have banned the procedure in nearly all circumstances. It’s part of a growing trend across the nation to put reproductive freedom to a popular vote after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed the right to abortion nationwide for nearly 50 years. (Coronado and Murphy, 11/30)

The New York Times:
New York’s Plan to Address Crisis of Mentally Ill Faces High Hurdles

William J. Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner, said that Mr. Adams was trying to do the right thing, but that his plan would be very difficult to carry out. “There’s no place to put a lot of these poor souls,” he said. “It’s a well-intended measure and long overdue to try to deal in a more humane way with this seemingly intractable problem.” Mr. Adams has acknowledged that New York did not have enough psychiatric beds to accommodate everyone. (Fitzsimmons and Newman, 11/30)

NYC Mayor Adams Faces Backlash For Move To Involuntarily Hospitalize Homeless People

“Mayor Adams continues to get it wrong when it comes to his reliance on ineffective surveillance, policing, and involuntary transport and treatment of people with mental illness,” Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Homeless people are more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators, but Mayor Adams has continually scapegoated homeless people and others with mental illness as violent. (Heyward, 11/30)

Modern Healthcare:
Cleveland Clinic’s Net Loss Tops $1.5B For First 3 Quarters Of 2022

Cleveland Clinic’s net losses for the year so far have exceeded $1.5 billion as labor costs remain elevated. The Ohio-based nonprofit reported $316.3 million in operating losses in the first three quarters of 2022, compared with a $549.44 million gain in the year-ago period, according to financial statements released this week. Investment losses totaled $1.26 billion. (Hudson, 11/30)

The Wall Street Journal:
General Electric Sets Healthcare Division Spinoff Plans 

General Electric Co. set the terms for the spinoff of its healthcare division, putting an initial value of roughly $31 billion on the soon-to-be-public company. GE said current shareholders would get one share in the new GE HealthCare Technologies Inc. for every three shares they hold in GE. The separation is set for Jan. 3 after the markets close, and the new shares will trade on Nasdaq under the symbol GEHC.  (Gryta, 11/30)

Afraid Of Pharma Pushback, A Health Data Broker Puts Up A Barrier To Drug Pricing Information

At a time when many Americans are clamoring for more transparency into prescription drug pricing, one key provider of that data is making it harder to access the information. A new venture called Merative — which was formed recently from the ashes of IBM’s Watson Health division — has decided it will no longer provide the media with pricing changes for specific medicines. (Silverman and Ross, 12/1)

NBC News:
Medical Terms Used By Doctors Often Baffling To Patients

In a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, University of Minnesota researchers found that the language doctors often use tends not to translate easily into everyday English. A positive test result, for example, generally suggests something negative: A disease like Covid, for example, has been detected. (Edwards, 11/30)

US Officials Say 2 More Places Will Test Sewage For Polio

Philadelphia and Oakland County, Michigan, are joining the small list of U.S. localities that are looking for signs of polio infections in sewage, U.S. health officials said Wednesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the communities will test for polio in sewage for at least four months. Communities in New York state began testing earlier this year after a man was diagnosed with paralytic polio outside New York City. CDC officials say they have been talking with other communities about also starting polio wastewater testing. (Stobbe, 11/30)

Ohio House Passes Bill To Decriminalize Fentanyl Test Strips

Fentanyl testing strips would be decriminalized under a bill the Ohio House passed Wednesday with overwhelming bipartisan support, advancing a proposal that proponents say would help prevent fatal overdoses and save lives. The strips, which are used to detect the powerful synthetic opioid often found laced in other drugs, would no longer be classified as illegal drug paraphernalia under the measure. (Hendrickson, 11/30)

Roll Call:
Older Adults Face Medicare Hurdles For Substance Use Treatment 

For the staff at the Senior Recovery Center in Maplewood, Minn., helping older adults overcome substance use disorders is a calling, said Christine Martinek, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor there. But it’s a more challenging calling when the adults who need treatment are on Medicare. (Hellmann, 11/30)

The Washington Post:
Poison Pill: How Fentanyl Killed A 17-Year-Old

When his father opened the door to Zach Didier’s bedroom, the boy seemed asleep at his desk, still wearing plaid pajama bottoms and a yellow T-shirt. His head rested in the crook of his left arm, near his soccer trophies and the computer where he played Minecraft with friends. But Chris Didier sensed something was terribly wrong. “As I got within two feet of him, I didn’t feel what I would normally feel,” he said. “When you approach a dead body, there is a void there, and I’d never sensed that before, and that’s when my world was destroyed.” (Barrett, 11/30)

Weed From Illegal NYC Shops Found With E.Coli, Salmonella

About 40{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of cannabis products purchased from 20 illicit stores in New York City were found to contain harmful contaminants such as E. coli, lead and salmonella, according to a report commissioned by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association. One of the products purchased also included double the amount of advertised THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. (Pollard, 11/30)

Contractor: Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Net Will Cost $400M 

A suicide prevention net on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge that is already years behind schedule will cost about $400 million, more than double its original price, because of problems sparked by the government agency that manages the span, the lead contractors allege. (Rodriguez, 11/30)

Yale Sued By Students For Violating Americans With Disabilities Act

For decades, Yale has “treated unequally and failed to accommodate students with mental health disabilities, including by modifying policies, in violation of federal law,” according to the suit filed Wednesday by two students and a mental-health advocacy group, Elis for Rachel Inc. They seek class-action status for complaint filed in New Haven, Connecticut, where Yale is located. (Maglione, 11/30)

NC Health Agency Appealing Ruling On Services For Disabled 

North Carolina’s government is appealing a trial judge’s order that demands many more community services by certain dates for people with intellectual and development disabilities who otherwise live at institutions, the top state health official said Wednesday. (Robertson, 11/30)

Laid-Off Workers Can Now Get A Free Month Of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy Services To Help With Their Mental Health 

One company on the cutting edge of psychedelic-assisted therapy is hoping to minimize the negative mental health impact of a layoff with a free month of ketamine therapy. You heard that right—Field Trip Health, a company that provides psychedelic-enhanced therapy virtually, in person, and hybrid, announced today in an exclusive with Fortune that it will offer services free of charge to people who got laid off from a host of companies—including Twitter, Meta, Stripe, and others. (Mikhail, 11/30)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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