NEWSSTAND

Oh, Poo! San Francisco Hires Cleanup Crew for Sidewalk Contamination

In the wake of a public defecation crisis in the Golden Gate City, San Francisco has hired a crew of cleanup workers to literally clean poop from the city streets. In exchange for the messy work, these government employees can make more than $184,000 a year in pay and benefits.

The city will pay these workers $71,760 annually, which amounts to $112,918 when including benefits health insurance and retirement accounts. Although that sounds like a pretty penny, San Francisco also has a very high cost of living. The city is so pricey that a 4-person family living on $117,400 is considered “low income.”

The city’s Department of Public Works assigned 5 workers to the Tenderloin District. The clean up effort could stop a public health crisis and prevent one of the richest cities in the world from looking more like a hazardous mess.

These workers are armed with steam cleaners and other equipment to remove the feces and sanitize each contaminated area. The city government hopes this will help stop the spread of disease – as well as unsightly messes around town. Besides hiring a cleanup crew, the city is also spending over $1 million to expand access to public toilets. City officials say that the problem stems from desperation. They theorize that no one wants to defecate in public, but will do so when they have no other option.

A Massive Problem

Over 14,500 calls have come in to San Francisco’s public service line about human feces on public sidewalks this year. Past attempts to discourage public defecation haven’t stopped the problem. In fact, a project mapping requests for cleanup shows a city nearly overtaken by human waste.

After the city decriminalized public urination and defecation in 2016, the city saw an uptick in reports of human feces on pedestrian walkways. The messes could make tourists think twice about spending their vacations in San Francisco. In addition, the poo is more than just an unsightly mess – it’s a health hazard, especially in a densely populated city.

Past attempts to undo the poo problem haven’t fixed it. Since 2005, San Francisco’s government has sent more than 10,000 homeless people to other cities by handing out bus tickets. Critics acknowledge that this doesn’t fix any problem; it only exports homelessness and forces the participants to find their way somewhere new.

Can the five workers in the Tenderloin district make a difference? While the city certainly hopes so, residents outside the district are also complaining about feces on their sidewalks. The cleanup crew can only stop the problem after it happens. People will still use public spaces to conduct private “business” – but the cleanup crew can at least get rid of the mess.

Trump Pushes CHIP Funding in Budget Showdown

President Trump wants Congress to fund CHIP in their new budget bill. Trump is looking toward the long-term future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He tweeted, “CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!”

A temporary fix would leave low-income families in limbo, wondering if they can afford health coverage for their kids. The program enjoys bipartisan support, and it delivers results at a low cost: the government spends only $14.4 million each year to keep CHIP running.

The House GOP revealed a budget bill that would have funded the program through the middle of February. However, Trump says that’s not enough – and many people agree.

By the Numbers

8,900,074 kids received health care coverage through CHIP during Fiscal Year 2016. California has the highest number of program participants, followed by Texas and New York. When will CHIP funding run out? It depends on each individual state’s program. Some states started to run out of money in January 2018. According to a study by Georgetown University, 25 states will run out of CHIP funding by the end of January.

Those states will have the option of putting kids on Medicare, but that comes with its own bureaucratic hurdles. Thousands of people have signed a petition on StandUnited to support CHIP. One of the signers, a pediatric occupational therapist in Bedford, Texas, made the economic case: “The lack of insurance will put children at risk, increase costs, and increase the burden on families and healthcare systems.”

Funding this program costs the government less than $15 million each year, out of the $980 billion the federal government spends annual on health services.

Budget Showdown

Congress must decide to either pass a funding bill or shut down the government. Trump wants CHIP included in that funding bill. Even the GOP’s Continuing Resolution – a stopgap measure to keep the government running in the short term – would protect the program for the time being. But Trump won’t leave the program’s fate up to chance. He’s solidifying his commitment to kids in need, one tweet at a time.

 

Department of Veterans Affairs Continues To Fail Our Veterans

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs continues to fail America’s best and brightest as it consistently fails to ensure that veterans receive quality healthcare. According to US News & World Report, a recent investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that the VA did not report poor quality providers in at least 90% of cases. The VA operates more than 150 hospitals nationwide, and its ineffectiveness has been harmful to America’s veterans for years. VA officials stated in response to the report that they wished to reform their practices to provide quality care.

The GAO’s report found that the VA has serious problems at every level that prevent it from properly serving those who risked their lives to keep the nation safe. Investigators detailed a failure of accountability that is so poor that the VA could not determine specifically how many of its staff members had been reported. Under existing policy, VA hospitals must report concerns about specific providers to a national database, but GAO auditors found that many VA employees lacked any detailed knowledge of how these policies worked. In some cases, VA employees were even caught deleting negative information about certain doctors from official records. The VA’s poor track record causes problems for veterans because unreported malpractice cases cannot be investigated, which means that the doctors in question cannot be disciplined.

GAO officials recommended that the VA fix its system by making sure that hospitals sufficiently report bad conduct by medical professionals. Representatives of the VA pledged to implement the needed changes by this time next year. Congress has also moved to motivate the VA to do its job. The VA Provider Accountability Act, a bill proposed by Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), would force the VA to notify state medical boards of alleged malpractice within 30 days. In the past, this process has taken anywhere from months to years. President Trump’s Veterans Affairs Secretary, David Shulkin, has also ordered the reform of an outdated policy that mandated only doctors and dentists be documented in the national database. Shulkin wishes to expand the scope of the database to encompass other medical professionals such as nurses and physician assistants. Going forward, members of Congress and employees of the VA appear to be taking active steps towards keeping President Trump’s promises to better serve America’s veterans.

“Jane Doe,” Illegal Immigrant, Gets Abortion

Earlier this year, a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant crossed the United States-Mexico border. Authorities apprehended the girl, known only as Jane Doe, at the border. They brought her to a detention center that houses unaccompanied minors. At the center, Jane Doe underwent a medical exam and learned that she was pregnant.

Many Americans would argue that Jane Doe should simply never have crossed the border illegally. Even so, the fact remains that she did make it across the border. Though authorities do not release the details of her case, public statements hint that Jane learned she was pregnant only from the detention center’s medical examination.

Jane wanted an abortion. But detention centers do not allow people to simply walk out and hope that they will return later. Jane would need permission to leave the detention center. The Trump Administration argued that it need not grant such permission. Granting permission, in their view, meant facilitating an abortion for a minor.

The court battle went on for an entire month. In the end, a federal judge ruled that the government could not prevent Jane from leaving the detention center to have an abortion. The judge’s verdict sets a precedent for illegal immigrants to have abortions while under the care of the U.S. government.

Hyde Amendment Doesn’t Protect Taxpayers

By one estimation, United States taxpayers pay for nearly one-quarter of all abortion costs. When this percentage is applied to the aggregate number of abortions in our country, it equates to taxpayers footing the bill for a quarter-million abortions every single year.

The Hyde Amendment bans any federal funding directly for abortion, but it fails to stop federal funding of organizations like Planned Parenthood, which perform abortions. Many Americans believe that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortions at all, let alone an abortion for someone who entered this country illegally.

Illegal immigration exacerbates several social problems, including the welfare state and the loss of American jobs. Now, we must unfortunately add one more to the list. Illegal immigration can make all American taxpayers complicit in facilitating abortions.

Trump Declares Emergency to Fight Opioid Crisis

President Donald Trump made good on the promise he made in August to declare a state of emergency regarding the opioid crisis.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis. It is a serious problem the likes of which we have never had,” he stated over the summer.

Yesterday, President Trump officially declared the problem as a national public health emergency. Health and Human Services (HHS Secretary) Eric Hargan made the President’s plan official shortly after.

What Public Agencies Should Expect

Public health officials will have more resources at their disposal to resolve the opioid crisis. According to Politico, the declaration will reduce common “bureaucratic delays” and allow some medications to be prescribed remotely. Doctors will not always have to meet a patient to provide them with counteractive medicine. This is a visit many addicts can’t afford, because opioid addiction has left them without any money or health insurance.

HHS Secretary Eric Hargan will increase federal grants to help fight the epidemic nationwide. Additionally, states can now use federal funds to fight the opioid crisis, through a fund dedicated to combating HIV, since the two conditions are interconnected.

President Trump has established a new framework for how officials will move forward at the state and federal level. Now, both tiers of government will have more money and flexibility to create meaningful change.

Maximizing the Welfare of Society

Some Americans are concerned that this particular declaration does not release automatic, additional federal funds. Trump would have needed to use Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money if he had gone through the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Using the Stafford Act would have reappropriated money needed to recover from a devastating hurricane season. Instead, Trump chose to leave the disaster relief funding intact.

Substance abuse has touched the lives of so many families, including the President’s own. He spoke fondly of his older brother, Fred, who passed away from alcoholism at the age of 43.

America’s Opioid Epidemic Spreads to College Campuses

Not long ago, common wisdom held that drug addiction was a disease of the hopeless. People with opportunity and potential typically did not turn to painkillers or street drugs, according to this thinking.

We now know that those stereotypes are wrong. The opioid epidemic has infiltrated all socioeconomic strata, and has even hit young Americans just embarking on their futures. The next frontier of the fight against addiction has arrived on college campuses.

A Nationwide Problem

Drug overdoses are the number one cause of accidental death in the United States.  More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the last year alone, and the rate of overdose deaths have nearly tripled since 2003.

America’s colleges and universities are prestigious institutions, home to many of our nation’s future leaders.  Unfortunately, however, they are also often places where young people experiment with drug and alcohol abuse. As prescription opioids become more prevalent across the nation, so do their

Recklessness and Prescription Drugs

Despite growing concern over America’s opioid crisis, young people on and off college campuses commonly have access to opioid pain medications.  In a recent survey, over 15% of college-age youth reported using pain killers that a doctor did not prescribe to them. Unaware of the dangers, young people commonly share pain pills. This spreads the dangerous side effects, including possible addiction, to their friends.

University staff members, including campus police and residence hall staff, usually receive no training on how to deal with prescription drug and heroin abuse. They interact with students every day, and yet may not recognize the signs of addiction. First responders may not know what to do in the event of an overdose. Students sometimes hesitate to call emergency services out of fear that the school might punish them or the person in need of medical help. When someone overdoses, a drug called Naloxone can save their life – but only if someone administers the Naloxone before the overdose claims the patient’s life.

Government-Sponsored Healthcare Worsens the Problem

Doctors prescribe opioids to Medicaid recipients at twice the rate they prescribe the same drugs to individuals with private insurance. This creates a staggering impact: Medicaid enrollees die of opioid-related causes at 5.7 times the rate of privately insured patients. Regardless of insurance, in 2012 doctors wrote enough opioid prescriptions for every man, woman, and child in America to have their own bottle of pills.

Addiction exists in all ages, races, and economic classes. Trying new things is a time-honored part of the college experience. When kids abuse drugs, however, they set themselves on a path to addiction. University staff members work in the perfect position to spot an addiction and intervene to stop it.

Protesters Disrupt GOP Health Care Hearing

U.S. Capitol Police removed protestors from a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Monday, as they tried to shut down a hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill. The hearing was an opportunity for Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to rally support for their bill among Senate colleagues.

Though Democrat protesters tried to shut the hearing down, Democrats in Congress actually called for the hearing. Republicans agreed to the hearing as a chance to share more information about the bill, amid calls for additional transparency.

If passed, the Graham-Cassidy bill would change the funding system for the entitlement program Medicaid, and eliminate the individual mandate requiring Americans who choose not to purchase health insurance to pay a tax penalty. Although the bill received a hearing, it does not enjoy the full support of Republicans. Republican senators including Susan Collins, John McCain, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul do not support the bill in its current form, and Democrats continue to oppose any attempt to repeal Obamacare.

Progressive activists assembled outside the committee chamber in advance of the meeting, and heckled Republican senators on their way in. Chants of “No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty” and other interruptions could be heard throughout the proceedings. The repeated disturbances prompted Hatch to direct U.S. Capitol police to remove no fewer than 20 individuals from the committee chamber. “If this hearing is going to devolve into a sideshow or a forum simply for putting partisan points on the board, there’s absolutely no reason for us to be here,” Hatch said.

Monday’s protests came ahead of the Senate’s September 30 reconciliation deadline, after which Democrats can filibuster any repeal bill. Under reconciliation rules, the Senate can pass a bill with only 51 votes, but only if the bill will help reduce the federal deficit. If progressive opponents of repeal get their way, negotiations on the bill will drag on past September 30, and Democrats will be able to obstruct new efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Opioid Addicts Aren’t Who You Think

Last year alone, opioid overdoses killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50. In 2016, it outranked deaths from car accidents and homicide by shooting, combined. More people are dying now from drug abuse than died at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The White House has taken notice of this unprecedented killer.

In August, President Trump said “The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency…We’re going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of money on the opioid crisis.” This sounded like a promise of decisive action, and anti-addiction advocates are still waiting for an official declaration of emergency.

Nationwide emergencies are not declared by verbal statement, but by a written and signed official declaration. That declaration has not yet happened. Opioids have crept into American life on a different pattern than any other drug before them.

A New Pattern

Unlike people who use other illicit drugs, roughly 80% of heroin users began using it when their prescription painkillers ran out. No other addiction typically starts with doctors’ orders. Geographic differences exist as well. The illicit drug craze of the late 1980s and 1990s mainly affected young people in urban areas. The map of opioid abuse looks almost exactly opposite. According to the CDC, white males and females age 45 to 54 are by far the fastest-growing and largest demographic being killed by overdose. Suburban overdose deaths outpace urban ones by more than 25% per capita.

It’s no wonder that people whose lives have been touched by these drugs – the addicted, their families, and their friends – are desperate for radical change. Should Trump officially declare a state of emergency, the federal government will be able to use more federal money to combat the crisis. This could mean greater access to overdose-reversing drugs like Naloxone, expanded prevention efforts from the CDC, and loosened insurance regulations to allow more people to receive inpatient treatment.

Meanwhile, the crisis continues. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also released its 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health in September. According to the report, accidental drug overdose deaths are expected to exceed 71,600 in 2017.

Obamacare Deadline Looms Large

This month, Congress must decide whether or not to fund Obamacare insurance subsidies. Insurance companies have submitted the estimated costs of their 2018 plans, and in many cases, the cost of insurance will rise considerably.

Insurers hope that the federal government will pay at least part of those costs, and that consumers will only have to pay the remainder. The companies get money, and people get insurance. But this scenario has political consequences.

Funding Dilemma

Insurers, customers, and even President Trump cannot control what Congress decides. If the government funds the subsidies, Obamacare continues – but more tax dollars get spent to prop up the program. Insurance companies make more money, while taxpayers spend more money. In addition, many members of Congress ran on a promise to repeal Obamacare. If they plow more money into it instead, the GOP stands to lose many seats in the House and Senate next year.

Without the subsidy, the cost of insurance will spike for thousands of Americans. This could lead companies to withdraw from state exchanges, leaving people with fewer options for insurance. Obamacare would remain intact, but virtually unrecognizable. The Affordable Care Act would make insurance far less affordable.

A Way Out?

If Congress repealed Obamacare, this whole debate would end. There would be no Obamacare left to subsidize. Supporters of the health care law claim that the economy would suffer without it. However, Obamacare opponents believe Congress should stop plowing more tax dollars into an astronomically expensive program. What do you think?

 

 

Trump to Declare State of Emergency on Opioid Addiction

President Trump has announced his intention to declare a state of nationwide emergency concerning the opioid crisis. Following the White House Commission’s interim report, Trump’s announcement shows progress to the millions of people whose lives have been touched by this epidemic.

What does “State of Emergency” mean?

The White House is currently drawing up the official declaration of a nationwide emergency. By signing the declaration, Trump will give the federal government access to funding. The money may fund rehabilitation facilities and prevention programs, among other things.

Challenges Ahead

A state of emergency won’t be enough to halt the epidemic, which claims over 140 American lives every single day. The commission also recommended that the White House direct every police department in America to carry Naloxone. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can stop an overdose before it becomes fatal.

In October, the commission will release its final report. Right now, however, the White House can save lives by directing all police departments to carry Naloxone.

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