Tennessee

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Fisk University is looking to reclaim its status as a thought leader in race relations in America. It plans to resurrect a defunct but venerable racial justice program.

Fisk’s Race Relations Institute was launched in 1942 by Charles S. Johnson, a well-known African American sociologist and a president of the University.

The once-prominent department helped draft strategies around the desegregation of public schools and the armed forces.  

But it was essentially shuttered around 2005, and now Fisk is re-launching it as the school’s Social Justice Institute.

 


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Tennessee is not going to reach an ambitious educational goal set by the state in 2015, data released Wednesday shows. 

The state had hoped to outperform the national average by the end of the decade. But Nation's Report Card shows that student growth in the state has remained stagnant.

In 2015, the Tennessee Department of Education set a 5-year goal to move the state academically from the bottom half to the top half of all states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest standardized test administered nationally by the federal government.

 


Hannah Norman/KHN Illustration

TennCare will soon cover ride-hailing services to ferry patients to and from doctors visits. On Thursday, Lyft announced an expansion of its medical transports in five states, including Tennessee.

Medicaid programs like TennCare already fund transportation for patients. But many have complained of rigid schedules and rules, like not allowing parents to bring along their kids. The issue was a key takeaway in Gov. Bill Lee’s health care listening tour over the summer.

Megan Callahan, vice president of health care at Lyft, says her drivers can’t accommodate every patient with special medical needs.

 


While thousands of cities and counties have banded together to sue opioid makers and distributors in a federal court, another group of plaintiffs has started to sue on their own: hospitals.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Members of the United Auto Workers union in Spring Hill cited the future of temporary workers at General Motors as a main reason why many of them voted against a deal meant to end the weeks-long strike with the automaker.

The Spring Hill local has rejected the proposal 51% to 49%, in one of the first votes on the contract nationwide.

Beth Bigley, 44, has been in the picket line for the last six weeks. She voted against the tentative agreement presented on Monday, mostly because she feels temporary workers are still not getting what they deserve.

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Tennessee's top lawyer and his counterparts in three other states announced Monday that they've negotiated a deal with the opioid industry worth nearly $50 billion, a pact that they hope will change the behavior of opioid makers and distributors.

The proposed legal settlement includes about $22 billion in cash and nearly $29 billion in opioid addiction treatment, including suboxone provided free of charge. And the deal would set new rules for drug companies, says Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, such as having to set up compliance departments that look for red flags, like suspiciously large purchases.

 

  

ANNE MARSHALL / WPLN

Tennessee's incarceration rate is on the rise — defying a nationwide trend. A new task force appointed by Gov. Bill Lee hopes to change that.

But for now, the group's focus is narrow: reducing the number of felons who end up back behind bars after they're released.

The Criminal Justice Investment Task Force says new data revealed at its first meeting will inform policy proposals. And the numbers were striking.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Gov. Bill Lee is defending his decision to declare Oct. 10 a "day of prayer, humility and fasting."

The announcement of the declaration has been received with mixed emotions, and some groups are pushing back on it.

Lee says the idea of a day of prayer is to create unity across the state. 

 


Brian Latimer/WPLN

The Tennessee Valley Authority is preparing to move decades of coal ash sitting near the Cumberland River in Gallatin, after a settlement with environmental groups.

And before the relocation process begins, TVA says it's hoping for more public involvement.

The utility is forming a new community action group that it says will be made up of Sumner County residents who can bring concerns to TVA. Spokesman Scott Brooks says TVA’s approach will be hands-off.

 


Blake Farmer WPLN

Tennessee’s two-day waiting period to get an abortion is on trial this week in Nashville's federal court, and abortion rights supporters say the stakes are much higher than when the law took effect four years ago.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled waiting periods of one day are constitutional, even they require two trips to the abortion clinic. But the abortion providers challenging Tennessee's law argue in a pre-trial brief that each previous case challenging a waiting period has depended on the circumstances in that state.


Tennessee Abortion Clinics Hope to Defeat Waiting Period

Sep 23, 2019
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The former medical director of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi testified on Monday that Tennessee's 48-hour waiting period for abortions actually delays the procedure by up to a month.

Dr. Sarah Wallet was testifying in the federal trial challenging Tennessee's 2015 law. Tennessee is one of 14 states with laws requiring women to make two trips to an abortion clinic, first for mandatory counseling and then for the abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

Alex Rieger of the state attorney general's office said in opening statements that Tennessee's law is similar to laws in other states that have been upheld by the courts. He said the waiting period "offers women a chance to make a different choice."

Blake Farmer WPLN

Vanderbilt cardiologists are finding some benefits in keeping things simple to reduce the risk of heart disease. Their study of a four-in-one pill was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Vanderbilt researchers had to make their own "polypill," as they’re known. They put three kinds of low-dose blood pressure medication and a cholesterol drug in a purple capsule.

And participants, like Lula Williams, 65, of Gautier, Miss., found it much easier to take as prescribed than her current cocktail of medication.


TN photo services

States have been divided over whether Purdue Pharma should be allowed to use Chapter 11 protection as part of a $10 billion settlement. But Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery says the state needs that money now to address effects of the opioid crisis, like funding addiction treatment and buying overdose reversal drugs.

"It’s not just the traditional dollar settlement on a claim that could sit out there forever and ever," he tells WPLN. "This has some real, public health urgency to it."


TN photo services

Tennessee’s Medicaid program is preparing to finalize the country’s first block grant application within days. The plan would reimagine the way the federal government funds health care for low-income Tennesseans, and according to TennCare officials, it envisions expansion of service rather than cuts.

The block grant proposal is not just a request for a lump sum, as critics feared. TennCare has come up with a formula that gives the state even more incentive and flexibility to keep medical costs down. That’s something TennCare has already done better than most state Medicaid programs.


Blake Farmer WPLN

Tennessee’s largest recipient of opioids from 2006 to 2012 wants a recount. A federal database found a pharmacy in Murfreesboro owned by state Sen. Shane Reeves sold 46 million pills over six years. But the company now believes that figure is way off.

TwelveStone Health Partners, which was known during the period as Reeves-Sain Extended Care, has done its own audit for the period covered by the database. The count came up with 2.5 million opioid pills — which is a fraction of the reported total.


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