On Wellness in WV

AP file photo

National news outlets are reporting that President Trump invited a group of senators to the White House tonight, to convince them to support the GOP plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But at about 8:30 p.m. Monday, two additional senators, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah, said they would not even vote to begin debate on the legislation. Two other senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, had already said they could not support the bill, and without Democratic support, GOP leaders could only lose two votes and still pass the bill.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who would have cast a key vote, “didn’t receive an invite” to the meeting with Trump, according to spokeswoman Ashley Berrang.

Berrang said, via email, that Capito’s absence at the meeting doesn’t indicate a position and referred to last week’s statement.

Berrang said Capito “intends to review the CBO score when it is released, and that has not happened.”

Compared to the previous version, the bill makes similarly deep cuts to Medicaid. Capito has said the previous version cut that program “too deeply.”

It adds $45 billion to combat the opioid crisis. Capito has said she advocated for that funding, but health policy experts have said it won’t be enough to make up for other detrimental provisions of the bill.

Politico reports: “Aides to key swing-vote Republicans including Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said they were not attending.”

From the Hill: “a White House official said the following GOP senators were attending: No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn (Texas), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Steve Daines (Mont.), James Lankford (Okla.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), and John Thune (S.D.).”





In late March, I wrote about how an adolescent abortion bill had been amended into a “compromise” in the House of Delegates.

Under current law, a physician can decide that a girl is mature enough to make the decision on her own, or that telling her parents would not be in her best interest, before a second physician performs the abortion.

The bill, House Bill 2002,  made it so physicians could no longer do so, requiring them to go to court instead for a judicial bypass – a process the American Academy of Pediatrics, among numerous other opposed medical organizations, has said “poses risks of medical and psychological harm.”

After sexual abuse survivors testified during a public hearing, three lawmakers, including Delegate Kayla Kessinger, Barbara Fleischauer, and Amy Summers, worked in a House of Delegates judiciary subcommittee to amend the bill so that most physicians could no longer waive parental notification, but that licensed psychologists and psychiatrists would be able to do so.

But as the compromise bill continued to make its way through the Legislature, leading supporters of policies restricting abortion, including Karen Cross, of the National Right to Life Committee, said they couldn’t speak to the bill because they didn’t know what was in it, and that it was moving so quickly.

So, I wondered what they were telling lawmakers, and supporters.

When the Senate reverted the bill back to its original version during a evening meeting that was not announced and was not added to the video archives that night, dispensed with another committee reference, and sent the bill to the floor for another vote, it certainly seemed like there was never a compromise.

But a few emails, obtained through an open records request, can tell us a little more about how it happened.

On March 30, Karen Cross and Mary Anne Buchanan, of West Virginians for Life, emailed lawmakers, saying there were “changes that need to be made to the bill. Please support the strike and insert.”


In a previous email to Delegate Tom Fast, R- Fayette, Cross had said she believed working with the Senate on the bill would be “easier.”

When asking senators to vote for the final bill, they said it had “undergone a number of compromises.”

The sentence wording is vague, and I don’t know if any senators took the language to mean the final bill was approved by the medical community or women’s health advocates.

It wasn’t.

I’m reminded that when the Senate passed the original version of the bill, Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV Free, told me they had supported the amended version because compromise on abortion legislation was “almost unheard of.”

I’ve emailed both Cross and Kessinger, the lead sponsor, for comments and will update this post if/when they respond.






In case you missed this one: The Senate Commerce Committee Chairman is concerned with the potential risks associated with kids drinking energy drinks.

The press release from Rockefeller’s office:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Jay Rockefeller said pediatricians have been raising red flags about the serious health problems energy drinks could pose for children, and questioned the wisdom of manufacturers’ marketing their potentially harmful products to young people.

Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, on July 31, held a hearing titled, “Energy Drinks:  Exploring Concerns about Marketing to Youth.” The hearing comes on the heels of a Congressional report issued in April that found several leading energy drink manufacturers are targeting young people with their marketing practices.

“I’m concerned that energy drink companies are aggressively marketing their products to teens on television, and through social media and event sponsorships even as public health experts are raising some serious, disturbing questions about these drinks,” Rockefeller said. “With doctors saying that energy drinks pose risks of heart arrhythmia, increased blood pressure and dehydration—particularly among young people—I want to explore whether companies are being responsible in the way they market energy drinks.”

Witnesses for the hearing included Dr. Marcie Schneider, a pediatrician representing the American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Jennifer Harris, a marketing expert from Yale University’s Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity; Dr. William Spencer, a Suffolk, County, New York, legislator and physician who spearheaded both a County ban on energy drink marketing to youth and the AMA resolution endorsing such a ban; and representatives of energy drink companies Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar.

According to a 2011 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there was a more than tenfold increase between 2005 and 2009 in emergency room visits involving energy drinks.  Of these visits, 11% were made by youths aged 12 to 17 and 45% were made by young adults aged 18 to 25. As a result, the American Medical Association at their annual policy meeting in June adopted a resolution calling for a ban on marketing energy drinks to anyone under the age of 18.

Rockefeller last month wrote letters to the heads of four leading energy drink companies asking for information on their marketing practices ahead of the hearing.

On Monday, a release was sent out noting that U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, along with Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin announced funding awarded to Prestera Center to help with substance abuse and mental health.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, along with Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin (all D-W.Va.), Monday announced Federal funding has been awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to Prestera Center to expand and increase patient access to mental health treatment and substance abuse recovery support services.

“The hard work of addressing the problems of prescription drugs in our region is underway, and funding like this can go a long way in addressing the treatment needs and demand in our communities,” said Rahall, who is a co-chairman of the Congressional Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus. “I will keep right on working side-by-side with our communities to fight for federal resources that will save lives and ensure needed access to care in our State.”

“Giving our community organizations that specialize in substance abuse support for their work is vital to combating our statewide prescription drug abuse problem. This is a much deserved and needed boost for Prestera Center in Huntington, and for the dedicated staff that’s working so hard to help people in their community who are battling addiction,” said Rockefeller. “This is a heartbreaking epidemic for our state, and I won’t stop looking for ways to help those suffering until we end this problem.

“Drug addiction hurts more than just the person abusing drugs; it hurts loved ones, hinders job creation and destroys communities,” said Manchin. “To combat our drug abuse epidemic around West Virginia and across America, we must continue funding critical programs like these that will improve mental health services to those who are seriously struggling with addiction. The bottom line is that the toll drug addiction is taking on jobs, families and communities must stop.

Prestera Center for Mental Health Services, headquartered in Huntington, will receive a $280,000 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service Grant to expand its Technology Assisted Care (TAC) telemedicine capabilities to reach clients throughout its eight-county catchment area, providing improved access to services and coordinated recovery support to improve health outcomes for 2,000 clients over the course of the three year program. Prestera expects a minimum of 900 individuals will utilize its expanded telemedicine capabilities to manage their medications, access their care provider or receive specialty services which are otherwise unavailable to them.  Through the Center’s existing certified electronic behavioral healthcare system clients can obtain treatment and specialty care without barriers such as transportation, lack of qualified provider, or stigma which may be inhibiting their access to care.