In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, cities, states and the federal government are taking a closer look at the status of water infrastructure in the United States and its ability to deliver healthy and safe drinking water to residents. A recent USA Today report analyzing data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that over the past four years, close to 2,000 water systems in all 50 states showed excessive levels of lead in water testing results. Some of the highest levels of lead were found at schools and day cares. In order to prevent lead contained in these pipes and fixtures from leaching into drinking water, water system operators are required by the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule to treat the finished water to ensure that when the water leaves a treatment plant it is not corrosive.
Pregnant women were warned about Zika virus after an outbreak in Brazil because it was determined that the virus could cause birth defects such as microcephaly, a condition that results in babies born with undersized heads and underdeveloped brains. State and local health departments with limited resources have scrambled to prepare for the virus’ arrival. Zika virus could spread locally if a mosquito bit an infected person, possibly someone who got the virus while traveling, then lived long enough to bite another person.
The June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, one of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy initiatives, included a bit of a surprise for states. Writing the majority opinion of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged Congress’ ability to incentivize states’ participation in programs under the ACA, such as Medicaid expansion, but with a limit. “What Congress is not free to do is to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding,” he wrote. And with that, a major component of the health care reform legislation became an option for the states, leading to a series of new debates in statehouses across the country.
Michael Botticelli serves as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House. In long-term recovery from a substance use disorder for more than 26 years, Botticelli has worked to confront the stigma associated with substance use disorders, which can prevent individuals from seeking treatment. He believes making a variety of treatment options available is key to addressing the opioid epidemic and saving lives.
by Joshua Sharfstein
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the average life expectancy is lower in the United States than in other nations with advanced economies. Within our borders, African-Americans, rural Americans and poor Americans on average die years earlier than others. In fact, for some groups–including poor, white Americans–as a result of suicide, drug addiction and chronic illness, life expectancy is now actually falling. It is no surprise that political leaders across the ideological spectrum increasingly are asking what can be done to protect and promote the health of their communities. In many areas, county and state governments are calling on state and local public health departments to deliver major improvements in health. What does it take to save lives—not one by one through medical treatment, but hundreds of thousands or even millions at a time? This may sound like a crazy question, but it’s the right one to ask. Public health campaigns have in fact saved the lives of millions of people in the United States and around the world from malnutrition, infectious disease, unclean water and air, and other preventable conditions. In the United States, even today, up to half of all premature deaths are preventable.
by Kana Enomoto and Dr. Kimberly A. Johnson
Addiction is a chronic, neurobiological condition with the potential for recovery and relapse. We know that recovery is possible and that treatment works best if it is multi-dimensional, evidence-based, and addresses both the physiological and psychological elements of substance use disorders. When coupled with appropriate psychosocial supports, medication-assisted treatment can provide one of the best paths to long-term recovery. Medication-assisted treatment, also known as MAT, is one of the most powerful tools in the behavioral health toolbox for responding to heroin and opioid use disorders. Methadone, buprenorphine and extended-release injectable naltrexone all reduce opioid use, opioid use disorder-related symptoms, risk of infectious disease and crime, according to The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s 2003 report, Advancing Access to Addiction Medications.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin attracted national attention more than two years ago when he spent his entire state-of-the-state speech describing what he called “a full-blown heroin crisis” in his state. “In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threatens us,” he said. The number of overdose deaths from heroin in Vermont had doubled from the year before. Another indication of trouble in the state, Shumlin said, was the rise in the number of Vermonters in treatment for opiate addictions—up 770 percent since 2000, numbering 4,300 people in 2012. Fast forward to late March 2016, when President Barack Obama appeared in Atlanta before a national summit of almost 2,000 professionals, advocates and people in recovery to discuss prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. He said 28,000 people in the United States died from opioid drug overdoses in 2014.
by Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene
The phrase “evidence-based” has become ubiquitous in state government circles. The concept is simple: Decisions, in an evidence-based system, are made based on validated prior experiences and research, rather than just on opinions, anecdotes and ideologies. But, “often that work hasn’t included health,” said Rebecca Morley, director of the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Morley’s efforts, along with others, have been to encourage and assist states and localities in developing so-called health impact assessments, or HIAs, which are “a very specific tool for bringing health issues to decision making,” she explained. HIAs use a variety of procedures, methods and tools to evaluate the potential health effects of a policy, program or project, according to the World Health Organization.
Experts discussed the legal arguments for and against the Clean Power Plan, or CPP, during a recent eCademy webcast, “What's Next? Legal Perspectives on the Clean Power Plan,” presented by CSG and the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies.
The U.S. Department of Education released its first nationally comprehensive data on chronic absenteeism in June, revealing that about 6.5 million students—or 13 percent of the total student population—were absent at least 15 days during the 2013-2014 school year. The problem is so extensive that in October 2015 the presidential administration launched the Every Student, Every Day initiative to reduce chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning in the current school year.