The Federal Communications Commission is proposing to launch a new three-digit hotline for people who are feeling suicidal or are going through any other mental health crisis. It recommends making 988 the new national number to call for help, replacing the current 10-digit number.

The agency presented the idea to Congress in a report earlier this month and is expected to release more information and seek public comment about the proposal in the coming months.

Danielle Steelesmith

A new county-level study sheds further light on factors that increase risk for suicide. The study by The Ohio State University also shows that in many places in the U.S., the rate of suicides has gradually exceeded the national average over the past 16 years. This includes many parts of Kentucky, especially in rural areas.

The research shows counties that have higher rates of residents who are low income, are veterans or aren’t married all contribute to higher than average rates of suicide. Suicide rates also increased more rapidly in rural areas than in urban counties. 

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Kentucky is investigating one potential case of a mysterious vaping-related lung illness that’s linked to a nationwide outbreak, the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced Friday. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating 450 cases across 33 states, including the 215 cases reported last week. At least three people have died in Indiana, Illinois and Oregon.

A Louisville doctor says that despite Kentucky having no official record of patients with a mysterious vaping-related lung illness, he’s recently treated two people that may be part of the nationwide outbreak. 

As of August 27, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported 215 cases of a severe lung disease associated with e-cigarette and vaping products across 25 states, not including Kentucky. 


How Cultural Training Helps Doctors Treat Refugees

Sep 4, 2019
Carter Barrett I Side Effects Public Media

Across the United States, there’s a push to give new doctors cultural training to work with refugees and other immigrants. And some say it’s the difference between healthy and sick patients.

On a block on Indianapolis’ southside, there are three international grocery stores -- Saraga international grocery, Tienda Morelos and Chinland Asian Grocery. 

This area once was almost all-white and hostile to minorities, according to a newspaper clipping from 1965. Now, a community of Burmese refugees, along with a growing subset of Congolese and Syrian refugees, call this southside suburb home. 


A new federal government report shows that mines that changed ownership had worse safety records than mines where ownership did not change. According to an audit from the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, mines that changed ownership during a 17-year period were nearly twice as likely to have safety violations, and five times as likely to report severe accidents in the same period. 

Mines that changed hands had on average 134 safety violations, compared with 43 safety violations at mines that did not change hands.

J. Tyler Franklin

The University of Louisville is in talks with the state for potential help in buying the flailing downtown Jewish Hospital and other affiliated Louisville health practices. A spokesman with the University confirmed information Tuesday that the Courier Journal first obtained in a draft document.

As the CJ reported, under the terms of the draft proposal, University of Louisville Hospital would buy Jewish Hospital for $10 million, and receive $40 million from Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital Foundation. The Kentucky Economic Development Authority is also considering loaning U of L Hospital $50 million (which would be “partially forgivable”) to support a sale.


Blake Farmer WPLN

State Senator Shane Reeves of Murfreesboro says he wasn’t surprised to see his pharmacy as the top recipient of opioids in Tennessee — more than double the next highest pharmacy in the state according to a Washington Post database.

Over a six year period, more than 45 million pain pills passed through what is now named Twelve Stone Health Partners. But Reeves also rejects that his business contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Asked to explain how the company became such an outlier on opioids, Reeves insists on giving a tour of the company's new facility.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital Vanderbilt

Electronic medical records are starting to talk back to doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The hospital is test-piloting a system where computers can analyze patient health data and spit out a brief summary.

Vanderbilt has been developing this digital assistant for the exam to solve a real sore spot across the health care system — distracted doctors.

Yaa Kumah-Crystal, a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in clinical data, is leading the creation of VEVA, Vanderbilt's EHR Voice Assistant. And the hope is that physicians will actually look up from their laptops and really pay attention to the person in front of them.

In modern medicine, the mind and body often stay on two separate tracks in terms of treatment and health insurance reimbursement. But it's hard to maintain physical health while suffering from a psychological disorder.

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A new report ranks Kentucky in the top 20 for states with the most underprivileged children.

The commonwealth has the highest percentage of maltreated children, with Indiana ranked second in that category. 


Overall, the Hoosier state is ranked ninth for states with the most underprivileged children, and Tennessee is 20th. 

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Kentucky Medicaid enrollees who work now have the option to enroll in their employer’s health plan — with Medicaid picking up the tab for premiums. State officials say the voluntary program will save Kentucky money, but some health advocates say it has the potential to limit options and add a financial burden for Medicaid recipients.

“It allows them to get access into their employer-sponsored insurance,” said Carol Steckel, Commissioner of Kentucky’s Department for Medicaid Services. “And the biggest thing is, it helps the Medicaid budget so that we’re more financially stable.”


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Some Kentuckians living in central and eastern counties with medical debt may find out soon their bills have been paid off.

A large donation from two families with Kentucky ties — in collaboration with a debt forgiveness nonprofit — will pay off about $8 million in debt in Appalachian counties from New York to Alabama.

“We’ve already started sending the letters out — people can look for these yellow envelopes with RIP Medical Debt on them,” said Craig Antico, co-founder of nonprofit RIP Medical Debt. “And what it says inside is that these accounts have been abolished: they’ve been bought from the hospital or a collector, and they no longer are owed. And it is a gift from a donor.”


About 48,000 Kentuckians wouldn’t have met the community engagement requirements — otherwise known as work requirements — if Gov. Matt Bevin’s changes to Medicaid had gone into effect as planned last year. That’s a smaller number than the 95,000 people over five years that were originally estimated by the state to be at risk of losing coverage.

The new estimate comes from a study from the University of Pennsylvania released last month. Those proposed community engagement requirements include making some enrollees work, volunteer, take GED courses or other activities for 80 hours a month to keep Medicaid insurance.

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Kentucky’s health departments have another year to figure out if their workers will stay in the state retirement system or exit, following the passage of Gov. Matt Bevin’s pension bill on Wednesday. But the decision won’t be an easy one, and it may not even be feasible for many health departments to leave the system.

For years county health department workers got a pension — a guaranteed benefit retirement account. Employees hired since 2014 have already been moved into 401k-type plans. And now older workers are at risk of having their pension benefits frozen if the health departments they work for choose to exit the pension system under Bevin’s bill.