Opening Day: Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care

April 4th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

openingdayThis was a milestone week for our behavioral health program.  Tuesday marked the start of our contract with Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care as the regional behavioral health authority in Maricopa County.  The transition has gone well this week.  Literally 100s of things had to go right in order to have a smooth transition- including Information Technology, eligibility, pharmacy, medical records, claims management, network capacity and a host of other things.  A big thanks go out to the folks at Magellan, MMIC, AHCCCS and our DBHS, IT, and procurement teams for the weeks and weeks of hard work that it took to have a smooth transition for our members.  Well done!

Mercy Maricopa’s core mission is dedicated to providing its members access to care for their behavioral and medical health needs — focusing on the whole person, taking a holistic approach and empowering members to take charge of their health care. A new, secure health information exchange will help physical and behavioral health care providers to share information- leading to better care coordination, improved health outcomes, and reduced costs. Folks interested in learning more about Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care can visit their website, which has a host of resources for members and health care providers.

We’re optimistic that our collective hard work over the last couple of years to develop this new system of care will continue to result in better public health outcomes consistent with our Vision of Health and Wellness for all Arizonans.

Prom Tools for Parents

April 3rd, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

PromIn the next few weeks many AZ teens will be attending proms.  While proms can have positive memories, the experiences can turn tragic when alcohol is part of the mix.  Alcohol impairs judgment…  potentially leading to sexual assault, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and deadly car crashes.  Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens… and 1/3 of traffic deaths of 15 to 20 year olds are alcohol-related.

A national survey of more than 1,000 adolescents by the Guttmacher Institute found that 80% of first sexual experiences occurred under the influence of alcohol and about ½  of all nonconsensual sexual experiences involve alcohol use by the perpetrator, the victim or both.  Another recent report called Girls and Drugs found that 1/3 of girls and young women 14 to 21 years old with unplanned pregnancies were drinking when they had sex, and 91% said they hadn’t planned to have sex.

Despite knowing all the reasons why teens shouldn’t drink, it can be challenging for them to stay clear-headed when all  their friends are drinking. No one likes to feel left out, and teenagers especially feel the need for acceptance by their peers. So what can we do as parents?

You can help by finding effective ways to say no in a peer pressure situation.  Self-esteem is critically important because it gives kids confidence in themselves and decisions.  Talking to them leading up to the prom and graduation is also important.   Take a look at the website 15 Ways a Teen Can Say No to Alcohol to learn how you can play a role in helping your teen make responsible decisions.  You can also find great tips about talking to teens about alcohol use from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

 

Farm Bill Provides Public Health Intervention Options

April 1st, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

farmbillThe passage of the Farm Bill  (the  Agricultural Act of 2014)  includes some changes and reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.  In Arizona, SNAP benefits help put healthy food on the table for more than one million people each month, with more than half of the benefits going to children and teens.

The new Farm Bill promotes healthier options by requiring SNAP retailers to provide healthy choices.  When fully implemented, any store that accepts SNAP must offer at least seven foods in each of the USDA’s four categories of staple foods.  The law also provides grant programs to encourage people that receive SNAP benefits to buy more fruits and vegetables, provide funding for loan programs for healthy food retailers, and create opportunities for schools to add different kinds of vegetables as part of school menus.

In terms of education funding for SNAP… we’ll be able to promote physical activity in addition to nutrition education. This is great news because the combination of healthier foods and physical activity are powerful tools in fighting the obesity epidemic.  And it fits so well with our Winnable Battle to promote nutrition and physical activity to reduce obesity.  Many studies show there’s a link between obesity and low-income families, so adding nutritional criteria to SNAP is a significant improvement on the status quo and a positive springboard for improving health outcomes moving forward.

Ebola

March 31st, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

ebolaIf you’re like me, your introduction to Ebola virus came in the 1990s with the bestseller nonfiction thriller The Hot Zone and loosely-based film Outbreak.  The descriptions of a deadly hemorrhagic fever that quickly spread through the population were terrifying, as were the life-threatening dangers posed to the intervening infectious disease personnel.

The Guinea Ministry of Health has a total of 103 suspect and confirmed cases with 66 deaths.  They announced today that the disease has spread to the capital, Conakry.  Also, reports of suspected cases in neighboring countries are being investigated: Liberia reported to the WHO 8 suspected cases, including 6 deaths, in individuals with recent travel history to Guinea. Sierra Leone has reported 6 suspected cases, including 5 deaths.

Bats appear to be a reservoir and hosts for the ebolavirus. Initial infections in humans result from contact with an infected bat or other wild animal. Ebola spreads by contact with other patients’ infectious secretions and from consuming the meat of infected animals.  For Guinea’s particular strain, the fatality rate is nearly 90%, and is heralded by fevers and internal bleeding.   Doctors Without Borders and WHO both have teams in Guinea, working with the Health Ministry to contain the spread.

In countries with weak medical infrastructures, an outbreak like this can be devastating.  Historically, countries with poorer infrastructures and health status suffer far worse than more bolstered nations.  So while Arizona is under no threat from Ebola, maintenance of a strong public health and emergency preparedness program remains a top priority.

Case Dismissed: Jason K v. Humble

March 28th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

Most of you know that we’ve reached a final agreement with the Plaintiffs in the 32 year-old Arnold vs. Sarn lawsuit.  We expect to have a dismissal hearing later this year- which will officially end the Arnold lawsuit.  We got some other good news on a different behavioral health case last week.

Last Friday marked the end to the 22+ year JK v. Humble lawsuit.  It was a class action lawsuit filed in 1991 by children eligible for or in need of behavioral health services under Medicaid.  We were Defendants in the case along with AHCCCS.  Last week the Plaintiffs asked that the case be dismissed… and the court followed suit by officially dismissing the case right away.  You can learn more about the children’s system of behavioral health services on our website.

Severe Dog Bites Up Sharply in AZ

March 27th, 2014 by Will Humble 1 comment »

When I heard about what happened to the 4 year old boy that was attacked by a Pit Bull a couple of weeks ago, I asked our public health statistics team to look at our surveillance data and see whether severe dog maulings are really up- or whether it just seems that way.  It turns out that they really are up over the last few years.  In fact, our report (released yesterday) found that severe dog bites requiring inpatient hospitalization have more than doubled over the last 5 years in AZ. 

The most striking finding was that there’s been a 139% increase in inpatient hospitalizations (requiring at least 1 overnight stay) in the last 5 years in Arizona.  Overall, there were 34,151 emergency department visits and 2,358 inpatient hospitalizations from 2008-2012 for dog-bite related injuries.   The total healthcare charges during this time-period were $55,000,000.   The median cost for a dog bite inpatient stay was $17,000…  emergency department visits averaged $1,150.  Interestingly, more than 70% of the dog bite injuries happened in homes. 

Probably the most important safety tip for folks is to pick a dog breed and dog that match your lifestyle- especially if you have or think you might have kids.  

Other helpful tips are to avoid running from or approaching an unfamiliar dog (remain motionless).  Never try to break up a dog fight by yourself.   If you’re knocked over by an unfamiliar dog you should roll into a ball and be still.    Don’t disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.  Kids should avoid playing with unfamiliar dogs unless supervised by an adult- and ask questions about family pets before sending your kid on a play date or sleepover at a friend’s house.

Dogs can be great family companions- but just like your mom probably taught you- they also come with responsibilities.

Now Hiring – Licensing Assistant Director

March 26th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

Once in a while we have a tremendous opportunity for a great leader to join our team, but not very often.   We just posted the Assistant Director for Public Health Licensing.  The person we’re looking for will be able to take a great team and make it better.  This person will be collaborating with partners on the local, state and national level on everything from reducing healthcare-associated infections to quality improvement to managing a $17 million dollar budget.

This position is a real leverage point for improving public health outcomes in Arizona.  Our licensing area handles most of the licensed facilities in the department including medical, long-term care and residential facilities and childcare homes and centers.  There are also a few specialty licenses that fall into the division like speech-language and hearing therapists and midwives.  

If you feel you’re the right person at the right time, visit azstatejobs.gov and check out the Assistant Director posting.

ICM Spring Cleaning Drive Final Push

March 25th, 2014 by Will Humble No comments »

 If you’re a regular blog reader, you’ve probably seen posts about our water drives in the spring to prepare for the summer heat and the food drive in the fall to help our food banks for the holiday season.  We also do an annual spring cleaning drive that benefits ICM.  This is a great opportunity for those who like to do spring cleaning to get rid of old clothes, household items and even non-perishable foods. This year our drive ends on March 31st and we’re almost at 1,000 pounds of items donated to the charity. 

ICM does much more than just provide “stuff” for people in need.   The facility which is located in South Phoenix provides an immediate response to basic human needs including clothing, toiletries and financial assistance. ICM serves 60,000 clients each year, including families with children. All of their donations go directly to people that need them and for free.  Its website says, ”Our services are provided by volunteers, with an emphasis on hope and dignity for the individual. While helping the very poor be fed and clothed, we encourage their self-sufficiency with specific assistance and education.”

So if you’re looking for a place to donate your spring cleaning bounty or looking for an opportunity to volunteer – ICM is always looking for donations.

 

Tuberculosis & Mankind

March 24th, 2014 by Will Humble 1 comment »

Tuberculosis and mankind share a dramatic and intertwined history.  TB has caused millions of deaths every year for centuries, been found in Egyptian mummies, has placed patients into sanatoriums, and has  even has a folklore link relating it with vampires,  The drama continues into this decade: in 2012, there were 8.8 million new cases of TB diagnosed worldwide and around 1.2 million deaths. 

Public health departments have been fighting for TB elimination since their creation.  Efforts in the 1950s decreased mortality by nearly 90%, but a resurgence in cases and deaths occurred after drug-resistant strains emerged in the ‘80s.  Soon after, the WHO declared TB a global health emergency, and the next decade saw TB control targets developed in an attempt to eliminate TB. 

Arizona continues to strive to hit these targets.  In 2013, there were 184 TB cases reported in the state, a 13% decrease from the year before.  Arizona also has a lower case rate compared to the nationwide average.  Our programs use “directly observed therapy”, evidence-based policies, and partnerships with counties and Cure TB to ensure patients are completing treatment and reducing their risk of developing drug-resistant TB

Our Arizona State Public Health Laboratory also supports TB control.  In 2013, we adopted the Cepheid GeneXpert, a test that detects TB in only 2 hours while identifying mutations associated with drug-resistant TB.  Specimens found to have these mutations are forwarded to the CDC for a full battery of molecular tests to confirm drug resistance. 

World TB Day is coming up on March 24th, which is commemorated annually to bring global awareness about the effects of TB.  You can join us for a Twitter Chat at 10 a.m., March 24, 2014 to discuss TB in Arizona.  Follow us on Twitter and follow the chat using #azhealthchat.

Improving Newborn Screening Turn-around Times

March 24th, 2014 by Will Humble 3 comments »

Last December I wrote about an investigation done by a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about newborn screening program turn-around times across the country.  When I saw where Arizona stood relative to the other states in the article, we set a new goal of making sure that our Lab gets 95% of all newborn screening bloodspots from hospitals within 3 days of collection.  Our Lab team immediately responded to the challenge, creating a task force to help the 43 Arizona birth hospitals reach the statewide goal.  For the past 3 months the task force developed an aggressive project plan including educational webinars, hospital site visits, increased courier services and a new webpage.

This week we launched the transit time webpage that features hospital performance reports- providing  soon-to-be parents and the general public with information about progress towards the goal.  The site also recognizes 4 hospitals as top performers for their respective level based on the January 2014 reports- Little Colorado Medical Center, Banner Ironwood Medical Center, Flagstaff Medical Center, and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Special thanks to Celia Nabor, Sondi Aponte, Isaac Lee, Gannon Wegner, Jesse Lewis, Kirsten Hushagen, Rose Halberg, and Ward Jacox for their continued commitment to the success of the project.