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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fund More Research for Medical Marijuana as a Solution to the Opioid Crisis - Online Petition

There’s a petition taking off on Change.org, and I think you might be interested in signing it, I did. Jim 

Petitioning National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health: Fund More Research for Medical Marijuana as a Solution to the Opioid Crisis

Sign The Dr. Oz Show’s petition

As a doctor, one of my primary responsibilities is to alleviate pain, and I’m always on the lookout for new and more effective treatments. For years, we’ve used opiates to treat pain and today we are in the throes of an addiction epidemic. Each day the opioid crisis sends over 1000 people to the emergency room and takes 91 lives. Doctors need new pain medications that don't have the ability to kill like opioids do.

I believe medical cannabis could do just that and I’m calling on the federal government to fund the research we need to prove it.

Outdated beliefs and policies have prevented our country from funding medical cannabis research but the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has reviewed other scientific research and found evidence that patients treated with cannabis or cannabinoids were more likely to experience a significant reduction in pain symptoms. Yet the government still says cannabis has no proven medical value.  

About twenty years ago, my colleagues and I were sold a bill of goods on a new strategy to treat people suffering from chronic pain. Opioids were the answer, and we were led to believe that not only were they effective, but that they couldn't be addictive. Unfortunately, it took a national emergency to realize that the quadrupling of opioid prescriptions that resulted from these teachings was actually a problem. Not only are opioids in fact highly addictive,  according to the CDC, there is actually little evidence that they are even effective at relieving chronic pain.

I was duped.  It's hard to admit it, but I have to face the facts. To make sure it never happens again, I’m asking you to sign this petition.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds much of our nation’s medical research, allots only $111 million dollars to cannabis research.  This sounds like a large number, but it represents a mere 0.3 percent of NIH's total spending on research and is only 0.1 percent of the cost of the opioid epidemic. This is a drop in the bucket for something that experts believe could have the potential to help in our fight against the number one killer of adults under 50. Studies already suggest that states with medical cannabis laws have a 25 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.  

Almost half of opioid deaths are due to the overdose of prescription drugs. While heroin is responsible for much of the other half, research suggests that 4 out of 5 heroin users started with prescription drugs. I have traveled around the country and met countless families who needlessly lost their sons and daughters, husbands and wives to addiction. In addition to the obvious emotional costs of this epidemic, the financial burden is exorbitant. The opioid crisis costs our economy over $78 billion per year.    

So please join me in calling on NIH to quadruple its spending on this important research (only 50 percent of opiate epidemic costs) and sign this petition.
Sign The Dr. Oz Show’s petition

The person (or organization) who started this petition is not affiliated with Change.org. Change.org did not create this petition and is not responsible for the petition content.

CDC Opioid Guidelines Violate Standards Of Science Research

If you follow healthcare news, you know that millions of US pain patients are experiencing a world of troubles. If their pain itself wasn’t enough, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added to their agony in March 2016 by issuing a restrictive “Guideline” to primary care physicians on prescription of opioid medications to adults with long-lasting non-cancer pain.

American Council on Science and Health
article by Richard "Red" Lawhern , published by March 25, 2017

The Guideline was phrased as advisory rather than mandatory. But that distinction quickly got lost as the US Drug Enforcement Administration ramped up disciplinary proceedings and prosecution of doctors for “over-prescribing” opioids like OxyContin and hydrocodone. Even before final publication, Congress made the Guideline mandatory for the Department of Veterans Affairs. More recently, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are seeking to turn the Guideline into a mandatory restrictive practice standard for insurance reimbursement.

The new CMS standard will impose legal limits on the maximum amount of opioid pain relievers that a doctor may prescribe to a patient who isn’t actually dying of cancer. A maximum of 90 Morphine Milligram Equivalents per Day (MMED) will be imposed retroactively on patients who have done well on much higher doses for years, with no evidence of addiction or overdose risk. This despite the fact that the methodology of MMED is itself considered a meaningless medical mythology by many experts in the field.

Consequences of these changes are predictable. Even more physicians will leave pain management practice, throwing thousands of patients into the street without medical referral or support when they go into opioid withdrawal. Whole areas of US States are already no longer served by any pain management center. Potentially millions more patients will be forcibly tapered down or cut off cold-turkey, plunging them into agony and disability when they can no longer work or maintain family relationships due to under-treatment of their pain. More patients will be turned away by emergency rooms and family doctors. Suicide rates -- already on the increase -- will soar.

A deceptive bureaucratic maze adds deep insult and possibly criminal intent to this obvious injury.

Many of the core assumptions of the CDC guidelines are supported by only the weakest medical evidence – and others are clearly contradicted by the evidence. Medical professionals have published sharp criticisms of the CDC guideline and of the anti-opioid biases of consultants who wrote the document. A recent paper in Pain Medicine[ref: Pain Med (2016) 17 (11): 2036-2046] offers analysis that shows the writers of the Guideline deliberatelydistorted the evidence they gathered.

CDC consultants performed a literature review on the effectiveness and risks of three classes of treatments for severe chronic pain: opioids, non-opioid medicines like Tylenol, and behavioral therapies like rational cognitive therapy. Based on this review, they declared that there is very little evidence that opioids work for pain over long periods of time. But they neglected to inform readers that they had rejected any study of opioid medications that hadn’t lasted at least a year, then declaring that there was no proof that opioids are effective over the long term. But they did NOT reject studies of non-opioid medications or behavioral therapies that were similarly short.

As the Pain Medicine paper states, “To dismiss trials as “inadequate” if their observation period is a year or less is inconsistent with current regulatory standards… Considering only duration of active treatment in efficacy or effectiveness trials, published evidence is no stronger for any major drug category or behavioral therapy than for opioids.”

This didn’t keep the writers of the CDC Guideline from recommending that non-opioid treatments be favored over opioids, despite lack of evidence that they work. Nor did it keep the writers from exaggerating opioid risks – using the term “overdose” no less than 150 times in their biased and unscientific practice standard.

It is time for the CDC to withdraw its misdirected “opioid guideline” for a major rewrite. This time, the effort should be led by pain management specialists, not addiction psychiatrists. Pain patients or their advocates should be voting members of the writers group.


An expanded version of this article was published on March 15, 2017 after collaboration with Dr. Lawhern, under the byline of Frank Carroll in the Custer County Chronicle (SD), titled “Opioid Guideline Needs a Rewrite”.


Related articles

Jimmy Kimmel Takes Center Stage In Battle To Save Obamacare

Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel has become a leading advocate for maintaining Obamacare.

Washington (AFP) - Sept. 21, 2017                                                                                                          
Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel has emerged as the unlikely town crier against the latest Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare, highlighting his son's heart disease in an emotional new appeal to salvage America's health care system.

For two straight nights he has stood on stage at an ABC studio in Los Angeles and, using his own son's harrowing story as an example of the extraordinary costs of emergency treatment, argued that poor and middle class families would be priced out of health care under the new plan.

"I want you to know I am politicizing my son's health problems, because I have to," Kimmel said in a lengthy monologue Tuesday night in which he blasted a bill unveiled last week by Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham.

Kimmel's wife, Molly McNearney, gave birth in April to William Kimmel, who was born with a serious heart condition that required surgery three days after his birth.

His wealthy parents can easily afford the out-of-pocket costs, but in a tearful on-air appearance in May, the late-night host stressed that "no parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life."

After the 49-year-old comedian publicized his son's plight, Cassidy came on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to promise that the health care reforms he was proposing would "pass the Jimmy Kimmel test," meaning no family should be denied medical care because they cannot afford it.

Kimmel said this week he had felt Cassidy was being honest at the time, and sounded like a "rare, reasonable" Republican voice.

Then came the Graham-Cassidy bill, which converts the Affordable Care Act's complex system of subsidies to help Americans pay for insurance into block grants to the 50 US states.

Several patient advocacy groups have come out in opposition, warning it could lead to millions of people losing health coverage and plunging the health care system into chaos in many states.

Critics say the plan would dramatically slash funding of Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor and disabled; allow states to decide whether insurance companies can hike insurance rates for people with expensive medical conditions or impose lifetime caps on coverage; and no longer require insurers to cover essential health benefits like maternity care.

"This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face," Kimmel said on his show.

On Wednesday Cassidy shot back: "I'm sorry he does not understand" the legislation, the senator told CNN, insisting his proposal fully protects people with pre-existing conditions and will lower premiums.

Kimmel pushed back. "There's a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you," he said. "It's called the lie detector test."

- 'Hollywood elites?' -

Kimmel himself has become a sort of celebrity leader of the opposition, using the tense back and forth with Cassidy, which played out on America's television screens and digital devices, to impact ongoing debate over whether Congress ought to move ahead with Graham-Cassidy legislation.

Vice President Mike Pence and several Republican lawmakers have been asked about whether recent versions of Obamacare repeal efforts would pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.

Graham, frustrated at Kimmel's criticism, said Wednesday he believed Kimmel might have been fed a liberal talking point and "bought it hook, line, and sinker."

Among the critics has been conservative-leaning network Fox News, whose morning host Brian Kilmeade chastised "Hollywood elites" for "pushing their politics on the rest of the country."

"My son had an open-heart surgery and has to have two more -- and because of that I learned there are kids with no insurance in the same situation," Kimmel responded.

"I don't get anything out of this, Brian you phoney little creep."

Republicans control 52 Senate seats, and can afford only two defectors. All 48 Democrats are united against the bill.

Republican leadership has signalled it wants a vote on Graham-Cassidy next week.
# # #

Jimmy Kimmel on Bill Cassidy’s Health “Care” Bill

Illinois Health Plans Frequently Deny Coverage of Mental Health, Addiction Care - 2017 Report

Despite ongoing mental health and addiction crises, Illinois treatment providers responding to a recent survey report frequent claims denials and other barriers to coverage, according to a new report released today by The Kennedy Forum Illinois, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, and Health and Medicine Policy Research Group.
Despite ongoing mental health and addiction crises, Illinois treatment providers responding to a recent survey report frequent claims denials and other barriers to coverage, according to a new report released today by The Kennedy Forum Illinois, Illinois Psychiatric Society, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, the Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, and Health and Medicine Policy Research Group.

The 16-page report, which is available here, raises important questions about health plans’ coverage of mental health and addiction conditions. Further investigation is urgently needed to identify and remove barriers, and ensure that Illinois Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) and commercial insurance plans are in compliance with federal and state laws that require they cover mental illness and addiction care on par with care for other medical conditions.

Key report findings include:
  • Upwards of 75 percent of responding providers reported that Medicaid MCOs sometimes/often/always denied coverage for inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and medication-assisted treatment. Nearly half of responding providers reported commercial insurers at least sometimes denied inpatient treatment.
  • More than 60 percent of responding providers reported that Medicaid MCOs sometimes/often/ always refused to cover the requested level of care and instead approved only a lower level of care, while 54 percent of responding providers reported commercial insurers did the same.
  • With Medicaid MCOs, nearly 65 percent of responding providers reported that they were told often or always that networks were simply closed. Nearly half of responding providers were told this often or always with commercial plans. The result: with mental health and addiction care providers unable to join plan networks, patients have more difficulty accessing care, due to the narrow network. 
  • More than 90 percent of responding providers report that both Medicaid MCOs and commercial plans have refused to provide requested medical necessity criteria, despite clear legal requirements that plans do so.
The organizations responsible for the report call for regulators, legislators, health plans, and providers to investigate what coverage barriers exist to coverage and work to remove them.

"This survey makes clear that Illinois must do more to remove barriers to coverage of mental health and addiction treatment,” said Kelly O’Brien, executive director of The Kennedy Forum Illinois, a leadership a mental health leadership initiative that seeks to eliminate stigma and change public policy. “Unless we make the promise of federal and state parity laws a reality, we will be unable to make the progress we need in ending Illinois' mental health and addiction crises that are ravaging our communities."

The report highlights evidence from around the country, where health plans have been found to not be in compliance with mental health and addiction parity laws that require most plans to cover mental health and addiction treatment on par with other medical conditions. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, founder of The Kennedy Forum nationally and author of the landmark federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, called on policymakers to work to end stigma and discrimination against people living with mental health and addiction challenges.

"The mental health and addiction coverage barriers reported by Illinois providers are giant red flags that elected officials must urgently address,” said Kennedy. “Illnesses of the brain should be treated no differently than any other type of medical condition. To combat our country's mental health and addiction crises, we must enforce our laws and end discrimination against people with mental health and addiction challenges."

In response to the report, State Representative Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park), chairwoman of the House Mental Health Committee, expressed concern and promised the Committee would hold hearings.

"The General Assembly must get to the bottom of these reported barriers to mental health and addiction coverage. The Mental Health Committee will be holding hearings in the coming months to find out what coverage barriers exist and how we can remove them. To address Illinois' ongoing mental health and addiction crises, all stakeholders must work together to dramatically increase access to treatment and to ensure that state and federal parity laws are being followed."

Based on the report’s findings, State Representative Steve Andersson (R-Geneva), member of the Mental Health Committee, filed a resolution urging action that is co-sponsored by Rep. Conroy, House Deputy Majority Leader State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie), and Assistant Majority Leader State Representative Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago).

“This report makes clear that barriers to coverage for mental health and addiction issues remain and need to be addressed so that all people get the benefits of the coverage to which they are entitled,” said Rep. Andersson. "That is why I've filed House Resolution 607 asking the Mental Health Committee to formulate a plan to remove barriers to mental health and addiction coverage and improve coverage parity."

Rep. Lang, author of Illinois’ Heroin Crisis Act and chair of the Subcommittee on Substance Abuse of the Mental Health Committee, called for the General Assembly to pass legislation that increases transparency on whether health plans are in compliance with state and federal parity laws.

"This survey raises numerous red flags about barriers to mental health and addiction coverage. Even though Illinois has a strong parity law on the books requiring health plans to cover mental health and addiction treatment on an equal basis with other types of medical care, there is little transparency on whether health plans are complying with the law,” said Rep. Lang. “That is why the General Assembly needs to pass legislation that increases transparency to ensure consumers can access the coverage they're entitled to."

The report offers recommendations for all stakeholders, including health plans, regulators, legislators, providers, and even consumers to remove barriers to mental health and addiction coverage. Consumers should contact the Illinois Attorney General’s office and Illinois Department of Insurance if they are having difficulty with their commercial insurance plans, and Medicaid MCO consumers should contact the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

“This report raises important questions about whether consumers can access mental health and addiction insurance coverage when they need it,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. “My office is committed to holding insurance companies accountable to our state’s mental health parity laws. Anyone who has problems with their health insurance coverage should contact my Health Care Bureau for help at 1-877-305-5145.”

Jennifer Hammer, Director of The Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), said, “The Illinois Department of Insurance strives to make Illinois families aware of the resources & coverage available to them. Families dealing with mental health issues and substance use disorder deserve support and understanding. Our goal is to ensure consumers learn their rights under state and federal law." DOI encourages Illinois residents to use DOI’s free Consumer Toolkit for Navigating Behavioral Health and Substance Use Disorder Care Through Your Health Insurance Plan or call DOI toll-free at 866-445-5346 for consumer assistance.

The organizations authoring the reports said they have sent copies of the report to all members of the Illinois General Assembly, Governor Bruce Rauner, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Illinois Department of Insurance Director Jennifer Hammer and Department of Healthcare and Family Services Director Felicia Norwood, with the intention of sparking necessary conversation to remove barriers to mental health and addiction coverage and treatment.

Additional expert quotes in reaction to the report’s findings: Meryl Sosa, Executive Director, Illinois Psychiatric Society: "Psychiatrists across Illinois regularly see patients' health plans deny coverage of needed mental health and substance abuse disorder treatment. Plan networks are often very difficult for psychiatrists to join, and plans often don't even provide requested medical necessity criteria, as required by law. To improve patient outcomes, health plans, regulators, and legislators must urgently work to remove these barriers to treatment."

Marvin Lindsey, CEO, Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois: “Access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment is incredibly important for the health and well-being of Illinois. Any barriers to needed behavioral healthcare services harm communities, individuals and their families and must be completely eliminated."

Margie Schaps, Executive Director, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group: “Ensuring health plans cover mental health and addiction care on par with other types of medical conditions is critical to patients being able to access the care and treatment they need to stay healthy. Untreated mental health and substance use disorders drive higher rates of disease and mortality, and contribute significantly to high health care and other social costs.”

Janet Stover, President and CEO of IARF, the statewide association of community-based providers serving children and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, mental illnesses and substance use disorders: “Parity in health care is essential for all of us, and is especially important for individuals with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Barriers to care are not only detrimental to the health and well-being of individuals we serve and support, but to the overall healthcare system as well. IARF looks forward to working with our partners in health and long-term care to eliminate these barriers, resolving issues raised in the report, and ensuring better health outcomes for those we serve and support."

Sara Moscato Howe, CEO of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health: “Compliance with state and federal behavioral health parity laws must be a top priority for managed care organizations and commercial insurance alike. Compliance must be built on a solid foundation of rigorous, transparent, and comprehensive data analysis, which must be mandated by the Illinois General Assembly.”

Click here to view and download complimentary versions of The Kennedy Forum’s policy papers. For more information about The Kennedy Forum and other helpful resources addressing behavioral health and substance use disorders, please visit http://www.TheKennedyForum.org.

# # #
About The Kennedy Forum Founded in 2013 by former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.), The Kennedy Forum focuses on advancing evidence-based practices, policies, and programming in behavioral health. This is achieved through promoting public discourse in health and addiction issues, ensuring equal access for patients living with mental health and/or substance use disorders; and advancing prevention and treatment throughout the entire continuum of the healthcare delivery system. The Kennedy Forum’s collaborative partnerships help to foster greater provider accountability, integration and coordination, cutting-edge technologies, and brain fitness and health. The nonprofit organization publishes frequent issue briefs and is a repository of other educational resources on behavioral health parity issues. To learn more about The Kennedy Forum’s efforts to eradicate the stigma often associated with behavioral health, or to access related materials visit http://www.thekennedyforum.org, http://www.paritytrack.org, and http://www.parityregistry.org.

Source: PRWEB press release http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/09/prweb14713424.htm

Accessing cities with a disability: what have your experiences been? - The Guardian Asks

Inaccessible venues and public spaces are a daily occurrence for most disabled people, whether at home or on holiday. We want to hear from Guardian readers with a disability about your experiences of accessing cities, good or bad.

    A man in wheelchair at a bus stop in London. Photograph: Universal Images Group/UIG via Getty Images

as published in The Guardian | Sept. 20, 2017                                                                                      
Last year Chester was named the most accessible city in Europe, selected from 43 cities in 21 countries for its achievements in creating a disability-friendly environment across many different sectors.

Roman holiday: how Chester became the most accessible city in Europe
“People with a disability should be able to participate in all aspects of life without limitations: social, cultural, economic, touristic, and more,” said Marianne Thyssen, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility in announcing the Access City Award winner in November.
But that there is an Access City Award at all speaks to the fact that inaccessible venues and public spaces are a daily occurrence for most disabled people, whether they are at home or on holiday – as Frances Ryan discussed in her report from Chester.

We want to hear from Guardian readers with a disability about your experiences of accessing cities, good or bad, as well as your general response to the issues and initiatives raised by Ryan.

What are your lasting memories or repeating experiences of urban infrastructure? What has your experience of foreign cities been like? How does your ability affect your approach to urban spaces, or how you spend your time there? What do you wish urban planners or local authorities were more aware of?

Please visit The Guardian and leave your feedback ASAP: CLICK HERE 

Chicago's lack of wheelchair access to many businesses.

Oklahoma City Police Fatally Shoot Man Who Was Deaf In Front Of His Home

Magdiel Sanchez, 35, was shot and killed by a police officer in his front yard Tuesday night. Neighbors say he was non-verbal, waved his arms often when trying to communicate and was deaf. 

# # #
article by Ken Miller, the  Associated Press | Sept.20, 2017                                                             
Oklahoma City police officers who opened fire on a man in front of his home as he approached them holding a metal pipe didn't hear witnesses yelling that he was deaf, a department official said Wednesday.

Magdiel Sanchez, 35, wasn't obeying the officers' commands before one shot him with a gun and the other with a Taser on Tuesday night, police Capt. Bo Mathews said at a news conference. He said witnesses were yelling "he can't hear you" before the officers fired, but they didn't hear them.

"In those situations, very volatile situations, you have a weapon out, you can get what they call tunnel vision, or you can really lock in to just the person that has the weapon that'd be the threat against you," Mathews said. "I don't know exactly what the officers were thinking at that point."

Sanchez, who had no apparent criminal history, died at the scene. The officer who fired the gun, Sgt. Chris Barnes, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Mathews said the officers were investigating a reported hit-and-run at around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. He said a witness told Lt. Matthew Lindsey the address where the vehicle responsible for the hit-and-run had gone, and that Sanchez was on the porch when Lindsey arrived.

He said Sanchez was holding a metal pipe that was approximately two feet (0.6 meters) long and that had a leather loop on one end for wrapping around one's wrist. Lindsey called for backup and Barnes arrived, at which point Sanchez left the porch and began to approach the officers, Mathews said.

Witnesses could hear the officers giving Sanchez commands, but the officers didn't hear the witnesses yelling that Sanchez couldn't hear them, Mathews said. When he was about 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from the officers, they opened fire — Lindsey with his Taser and Barnes with his gun, apparently simultaneously, Mathews said.

He said he didn't know how many shots were fired, but that it was more than one.

When asked why Barnes used a gun instead of a Taser, Mathews said he didn't know. He said it's possible Barnes wasn't equipped with a Taser. Neither officer had a body camera.

Sanchez's father, who was driving the hit-and-run vehicle, confirmed after the shooting that his son was deaf, Mathews said. He said Sanchez wasn't in the vehicle when his father struck something and drove off. It wasn't a person that he struck.

A man who saw Oklahoma City police officers open fire on Sanchez says his neighbor was developmentally disabled and also didn't speak.

Neighbor Julio Rayos told The Oklahoman on Wednesday that in addition to being deaf, Sanchez was developmentally disabled and didn't speak, communicating mainly through hand movements. Rayos said he believes Sanchez became frustrated trying to tell the officers what was going on.

"The guy does movements," Rayos told the newspaper. "He don't speak, he don't hear, mainly it is hand movements. That's how he communicates. I believe he was frustrated trying to tell them what was going on."

Jolie Guebara, who lives two houses from the shooting scene, told The Associated Press that she heard five or six gunshots before she looked outside and saw the police.

"He always had a stick that he would walk around with, because there's a lot of stray dogs," Guebara said.

Guebara said Sanchez, whose name she didn't know, wrote notes to communicate with her and her husband when he would occasionally stop and visit if they were outside.

Police initially said Sanchez was carrying a stick, but Mathews described it Wednesday as a metal pipe.

Sanchez's death is the latest in a string of controversial killings by Oklahoma police in recent years. In 2015, a white Tulsa County reserve deputy fatally shot an unarmed black man who was on the ground being subdued. He said he meant to shoot the suspect with a stun gun but mistakenly used his firearm instead. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

In May, a white former Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby, was acquitted in the 2016 killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man who had his hands up when she fired. Much like in the Sanchez killing, another officer almost simultaneously fired a Taser at Crutcher when Shelby fired her gun. Unlike Sanchez's killing, both Tulsa killings were captured on video.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Sept, 2017 - Chicago - Last winter, as questions swirled about Chicago Public Schools’ ability to care for its special needs students, an autistic teen entered a pool at Kennedy High School and drowned during gym class.

Fourteen-year-old Rosario Gomez (photo) didn’t know how to swim, wasn’t wearing a lifejacket and had significant problems communicating. Just minutes after he entered the water, a lifeguard pulled his body from the pool’s deep end.

Now, as a new school year has just begun, the circumstances that led to the drowning continue to be mysterious and underscore issues about the school district’s ability to care for its highest-need students. Questions remain about how no one noticed Rosario was no longer in the shallow end of the pool even though six school employees were on duty.

This is a very detailed informative article from the Better Government Association (BGA) :

This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Katie Drews and Lauren FitzPatrick with the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sept. 2017 - ABC7 News Chicago reporter Stacey Baca also reported on unfortunate death of Rosario Gomez. 
- shared from ABC7 Eyewitness News.

Jimmy Kimmel on Bill Cassidy’s Health “Care” Bill

Jimmy Kimmel shares his thoughts on Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham’s new health “care” bill including why it doesn’t pass Cassidy’s “Jimmy Kimmel Test.”

YouTube published Jimmy Kimmel Live on Sep 19, 2017

Access Living FY 2018 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Budget Review on Special Education & Students with Disabilities

Chicago – On September 18, 2017 Access Living released the FY 2018 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Budget Review to the public. Near the start of each school year, Access Living publishes a review of the CPS Budget. The publication analyzes the impact of the CPS Budget on special education and students with disabilities, and makes a series of recommendations. The report is authored by Access Living’s Education Policy Analyst, Rodney Estvan . A copy of Access Living’s Budget Review has been sent to CPS.

Access Living was prepared to release the report prior to the CPS Board Meeting on August 28, when the Board approved the CPS Budget. Access Living delayed publication because of funding debate in Springfield and ongoing uncertainty around the CPS Budget. Nearly one month after CPS approved the budget, Access Living remains, “skeptical that there is sufficient revenue in the State budget to fully fund the evidence based model on an ongoing basis, or CPS will receive all the State revenue it is assuming it will in the FY 18 budget.” For these reasons, “Access Living believes CPS needs to amend its FY 18 budget and does not support the budget CPS passed at its August 2017 Board meeting.” 

The FY 18 CPS Budget continues to be published in a format that makes transparency a serious issue. The Chicago Public Schools historically broke down the Special Education Budget into up to 50 specific instructional program codes. Under the current format, CPS continues to merge most categorical district wide special education funding with student based funding. Most special education program codes continue to read zero. Estvan notes that CPS did make some concessions to parents, CPS staff, and principals who objected to the utilization of student-based funding for cluster programs for students with significant disabilities. CPS did so by moving back to direct funding of those programs. CPS also eliminated a four percent special education appeals holdback and distributed those funds to schools proactively at the beginning of the year. Estvan welcomes those changes calling them “an advancement on the part of CPS… (Page14).” 
The Access Living Budget Review notes the extensive borrowing CPS undertook in the last year. The report also discusses the extraordinary rates of interest CPS will be paying for these loans going forward, paying “at least four times what a government body with good credit would pay for short term loans, (Page 17).”

The report also notes extensive borrowing for capital purposes by CPS, so much so that one construction industry trade publication stated CPS was “set to ignite construction boom, (Page 19).” The report recommends that CPS limit its capital program to repair, maintenance, life safety, environmental, ADA compliance and accommodations in the future due to its fiscal situation, (Page 31).

The Budget Review offers budgeting process recommendations. It recommends Chicago Board’s budget or audit subcommittee hold numerous public sessions starting in May of each year. These sessions should establish expected revenue estimates for the next school year’s budget, expected expenditures, and potential savings for the school district. If revenue estimates are unclear
, CPS needs to put forward multiple analyses using different revenue estimates and not utilize just the most favorable estimate available. Cash flow projections and required short term borrowing on the part of CPS should be publicly revealed using multiple revenue estimates. These subcommittee meetings should result in a budget proposal that would go before the Board and public hearings required by the State School Code. Any proposed cost savings involving layoffs of school or administrative staff should be discussed prior to the release of the budget in subcommittee meetings. There should be an impact analysis done of all position reductions and that analysis should be made public.
The CPS Board approved the budget on August 28 amidst negotiations in Springfield to end the school funding impasse. Negotiations led to passage of PA 100-0465. Despite this agreement, funding uncertainty remains because, “There is no way around the fact that the assumed City funding was reduced by $189 million…, (page 27).” In the Budget Review, Access Living concludes, “It’s impossible to create a balanced CPS budget with that reduction in the City’s commitment to CPS, (page 27).”

Access Living’s Budget Review also addresses the “Invest in Kids Act.” The program allows donors to dedicate revenue in the form of scholarships for students to attend private schools. Access Living does not support the “Invest in Kids Act,” which was approved by the Illinois General Assembly. The funding proposal will leave behind students in Special Education because in private schools students with disabilities and their families will not be provided with the rights they currently have under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The full Budget Review report is available for download on the Access Living website. 

(right of press release, mid level - click for PDF download)
Established in 1980, Access Living is a non-profit, Chicago-based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer-based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is committed to challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers. For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 312-640-2199(voice), garnold@accessliving.org, 312-640-2102(TTY). 
source: press release Access Living

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2017 Poster Now Available

The official poster for National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2017 is now available to order for free in print or electronic copy in English and Spanish from the ODEP website! Show how "Inclusion Drives Innovation" by displaying these colorful and dynamic posters in your business, organization, classroom or wherever you would like to share the message of NDEAM.

Observed each October, NDEAM is a national campaign that celebrates individuals with disabilities and their contributions and achievements to America's workforce. Reflecting the important role that different perspectives play in workforce success, ODEP created this year's theme with input from a wide variety of its partner organizations, including those representing employers, people with disabilities and their families, and federal, state, and local agencies. ODEP offers a range of resources to help organizations plan NDEAM observances, including not only the official poster in English and Spanish, but also sample articles, a news release, proclamation and social media content These resources can be found on ODEP's website at www.dol.gov/ndeam.

Celebrating Disability Inclusion for More than 70 Years

Reflecting the important role that different perspectives play in workforce success, this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme is “Inclusion Drives Innovation.” Observed each October, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. The official 2017 NDEAM poster is available for downloading and to order in hard copy.
Also Available in Spanish.
source: press release - Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)

Social Security Disability Backlog Tops 1 Million; Thousands Die On Wait List

WASHINGTON — More than 1 million Americans are awaiting a hearing to see whether they qualify for disability benefits from Social Security, with the average wait of nearly two years — longer than some of them will live.
article by Stephen Ohlemacher , for the Associated Press | Sept. 18, 2017

All have been denied benefits at least once, as most applications are initially rejected. But in a system where the outcome of a case often depends on who decides it, most people who complete the appeals process will eventually win benefits. The numbers come from data compiled by the Social Security Administration.

About 10.5 million people get disability benefits from Social Security. An additional 8 million get disability benefits from Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for poor people who don’t qualify for Social Security. The disability programs are much smaller than Social Security’s giant retirement program. Still, the agency paid out $197 billion in disability payments last year.

Recipients won’t get rich as the average benefit is $1,037 a month — too small to lift a family of two out of poverty.

For some, the benefits come too late.

Chris Hoffman worked as a mason, laying bricks and tile and pouring concrete. He had terrible back pain for much of his life, but he kept working until a series of heart attacks. He applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2014 but was denied. He appealed to an administrative law judge.

In November, Hoffman died at 58, following his fourth heart attack. Ten months later, the judge ruled that he was entitled to benefits.

“It wasn’t that he was limited, it was that he wasn’t able to do anything,” said Hoffman’s son, Dustin.
Last year there were 7,400 people on wait lists who were dead, according to a report by Social Security’s inspector general.
For someone to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, a doctor must determine that the disability is severe enough to prevent an applicant from working. The disability must last at least a year or could result in death.

If applicants can’t perform their old jobs, officials see if they can adapt to new ones.

The Social Security Administration said it is working to reduce the backlog by hiring 500 new administrative law judges and more than 600 support staff. The judges, who now number about 1,600, hear appeals from people who were initially denied benefits.

The agency is also expanding a program that quickly awards benefits to people with serious illnesses and conditions, including certain cancers, said Bea Disman, the agency’s acting chief of staff.

But advocates say budget cuts over the past five years have frustrated efforts to reduce the disability backlog.

Last year, the agency’s budget was $12.6 billion, roughly the same as it was in 2011, even though an additional 6 million people receive either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security.

“No search for efficiencies, reprioritization of tasks or technological improvements can substitute for adequate resources,” said Lisa Ekman of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives.

To get benefits, applicants first apply to state agencies that work with the Social Security Administration. These agencies approve, on average, about one-third of the applications they receive, Disman said. In most states, applicants who are denied benefits can ask the same state agency to reconsider, though very few of these applications get approved.

The next step is to file an appeal with an administrative law judge. This is where the backlog swells, with 1.1 million applicants waiting for a hearing before a judge. That’s slightly down from last year, but a 31 percent increase from 2012.

The average wait for a hearing is 602 days. Five years ago, it was less than a year.

The delay is an “unfair hardship for people already living with disabilities,” said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of Allsup, a firm that represents applicants.

Chris Shuler couldn’t attend his hearing.

Shuler was working as an airplane mechanic in Oklahoma when he was exposed to some chemicals and developed severe respiratory problems, said his wife, Elizabeth. The medicine he took for his lungs affected his bones and he eventually had two hip replacements, she said.

Chris Shuler applied for Social Security disability payments in 2012 and was denied almost immediately, his wife said. He died in July 2015 from an infection that started in his hip, just before his 40th birthday.

Four months later Elizabeth Shuler attended her husband’s hearing on his behalf.

“I wanted to make sure I at least saw a judge,” she said. “The judge said it was a no-brainer.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

2017’s States with the Best & Worst Dental Health : WalletHub Study

The website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of the Best & Worst States for Dental Health for 2017.

Many people dread visiting their dentist — let alone brushing and flossing once or twice a day. Some even fear seeing a dental professional, evident in the sheer number of websites, articles and support forums devoted to the topics of dental anxiety and phobia. Others simply can’t afford dental work.

Despite the hassle, expense and sometimes pain of maintaining them, a healthy set of chompers can go a long way. A brilliant smile is known to do wonders to a person’s self-esteem, and oral health tends to speak volumes about one’s general well-being.

But you won’t achieve a killer smile just by brushing and flossing. Where you live can directly affect your dental health, too — especially if you’re a woman. According to researchers at Columbia University, “women who resided in communities with fluoridated water during childhood earn approximately 4% more than women who did not,” adding that they found “no effect of fluoridation for men.” The loss of a tooth, on the other hand, can cost “an urban-residing woman earning $11/hour and working full time” approximately $720 in annual earnings. Besides that, oral diseases result in global productivity losses and treatment costs totaling an estimated $442 billion per year.

In order to determine which places boast the best teeth in the U.S., WalletHub’s data team compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 23 key indicators of dental health. Our data set ranges from “share of adolescents who visited a dentist in the past year” to “dental treatment costs” to “share of adults with low life satisfaction due to oral condition.” Read on for WalletHub's findings, additional insight from dental experts and a full description of our methodology.

For the Full WalletHub Study: CLICK HERE

Source: WalletHub

2017’s Best & Worst States for Health Care : WalletHub Study

The website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of the Best & Worst States for Health Care for 2017.

More Americans have access to health care today, but cost and service quality can vary widely from state to state. The overall health of the population, more advanced medical equipment and a general lack of awareness regarding the best types of treatment, for instance, can all drive up costs. Today, the average American spends nearly $10,000 per year on personal health care, according to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and that figure is expected to increase over time.

But higher costs don’t necessarily translate to better results. In its latest analysis of global health care quality, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the U.S. remains outperformed by several other wealthy nations on several measures, such as health coverage, life expectancy and disease burden, which measures longevity and quality of life. However, the U.S. has progressed in others, particularly “its ability to promote health and provide high-quality care, with some recent improvement in the accessibility of that care and a slowing of spending growth.”

To determine where Americans receive the best and worst health care in the U.S., WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 35 measures of cost, accessibility and outcome. Read on for WalletHub's findings, expert insight on the future of American health care and a full description of our methodology.

For the Full WalletHub Report: CLICK HERE

Source: WalletHub

2017’s Healthiest Cities in America : WalletHub Study

The website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of the Healthiest Cities in America for 2017.

Location matters when it comes to health. Some places promote wellness by expanding access to nutritious food and recreational facilities. Others strive to keep treatment costs affordable for everyone or protect green space that encourages an active and healthy lifestyle.

Absent such essentials, good health can be difficult to maintain, what with the rising cost of care in the U.S. and uneven standards for health education in public schools. Add to those factors the myriad health advice cluttering the web and the “groundbreaking” diet programs promising quick and easy results

To determine which areas prioritize residents’ well-being, WalletHub’s data team compared 150 of the most populated U.S. cities across 34 key indicators of good health. Our data set ranges from “cost of doctor visit” to “fruit and vegetable consumption” to “fitness clubs per capita.” Read on for WalletHub's findings, sound health advice from trustworthy experts and a full description of our methodology.

For the Full WalletHub Report: CLICK HERE

Source: WalletHub

2017’s Best & Worst States for Children’s Health Care : WalletHub Study

The website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of Best & Worst States for Children’s Health Care for 2017.

Raising a child in America is more expensive than ever, and health care accounts for a big chunk of the bill. And while more kids are insured today than at any other point in history, the higher coverage rate hasn’t translated to lower health costs for parents. Per-capita spending on children’s health care in 2014 reached $2,660 — having increased by more than 5 percent every year since 2010 — due mainly to rising health costs, according to a recent report from the Health Cost Institute.

But it’s a different story in every state. WalletHub’s data team therefore compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 28 key indicators of cost, quality and access to children’s health care. Our data set ranges from share of children aged 0 to 17 in excellent or very good health to pediatricians and family doctors per capita. Read on for WalletHub's findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.

For the Full WalletHub Report: CLICK HERE

Source: WalletHub

Join Friedman Place at Edgewater Arts Festival in Chicago Sept. 23rd, 2017

Friedman Place: A Community for Adults Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
Edgewater Arts Festival Logo
Friedman Place’s Therapeutic Weaving Program will be one of 100 artisans participating in this year’s Edgewater Arts Festival

Saturday, September 23 – Sunday, September 24


Come see what our weavers have been working on all summer and enjoy an afternoon at the Festival! 
Photo of two residents weaving on looms
Photo of colorful woven items
The Edgewater Arts Festival is located on Granville Ave. between Broadway and Sheridan, Friedman Place will be at Booth 4, near the entrance and stage at Broadway and Granville.

In addition to the fabulous art, there will be food, music and children’s activities, bring your friends!

For more information contact: Laura Roth (773) 409-6129 or laura.roth@friedmanplace.org

Friedman Place is a non-profit supportive living community that provides high-quality programs, services and affordable housing that is safe, clean and engaging for our residents who are blind or visually impaired.  Located on the northwest side of Chicago and accessible to its many cultural, social, and educational opportunities, Friedman Place encourages residents' self-determination and independence. We are not just a residence but a vibrant community in which people with impaired vision can reach their full potential.

We appreciate charitable gifts and are a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.  We accept cash gifts as well as those of stock, real estate, and life income vehicles.  Please call Laura Roth, Director of Development and Communications, 773-989-9800, to make a gift over the phone or click the button below to donate now.  Thank you kindly for considering a gift in support of Friedman Place.

Medicaid Policy and Advocacy in Changing Times - Chicago Workshops Sept. 28th, 2017

Learn about the role of Medicaid in funding disability services, possible threats to Medicaid and the importance of advocacy around this issue. We"ll show you "how and "why"! Intended audience includes people with disabilities, family members/caregivers, and professionals. Tickets are free. Click on the title above to register. Choose from two opportunities to hear from three important Illinois advocacy groups! This is the afternoon training session. For more information please call Meg at 815-464-1832 or email Meg@thearcofil.org.

September 28, 2017 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. -- A full workshop/training.
September 28, 2017 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. -- Information and discussion.

University of Illinois at Chicago, 1640 West Roosevelt Road, Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois. (Parking Garage at 915 South Paulina Street, Chicago, Illinois)

To register and for more information, visit this link:  www.thearcofil.org/events

Friday, September 15, 2017

2017 Disability Equality Index names the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion"

Washington, D.C. (August 23, 2017) – US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) are proud to release the 2017 Disability Equality Index (DEI) – the third year measured by the Index. 110 companies participated in the 2017 DEI, with results indicating where companies are excelling in their commitment to inclusive environmental, social, and governance policies. DEI results also indicate areas in which companies must improve and close the policy and practice gaps for disability inclusion. This year a record 68 employers have earned the top rating of 100 – signaling to corporate America that becoming inclusive to people with disabilities drives positive results across the business.

Since the commencement of the DEI, corporate America has significantly advanced efforts to be inclusive of people with disabilities. In fact, the DEI report shows external employee recruitment has become even more inclusive with 95% of all 2017 DEI companies report having recruitment efforts in place that are specifically geared toward hiring individuals with disabilities; an 11 percentage point increase since 2014.

Companies are also becoming more inclusive internally to employees with disabilities. 88% of reporting companies have a specific disability-focused employee resource group or affinity organization; an 18 percentage point increase since 2015. In addition, 86% of DEI companies reported a senior executive proactively acts as a champion or sponsor of these resource/affinity groups; a 17 percentage point increase since 2015. Both points signal corporate culture is gradually shifting to be more inclusive; from various directions of the company.

Conversely, the DEI results show where corporate America still lags in the journey towards disability inclusion. For example, although many participating companies recognize USBLN certified disability-owned business enterprises, only 51% of reporting companies report having disability included in their supplier diversity programs – up slightly from 49% in 2016.

Another opportunity for improvement is in interview accommodations. Only 39% of DEI companies communicate the option to request an accommodation(s) for the interview. Another barrier towards inclusivity is accessibility. Despite the recent momentum gained with web accessibility efforts (including the #a11y initiatives), just over half of the DEI companies audit their external websites for accessibility. This number drops to 26% when it comes to their internal websites.

“We applaud those companies that are advancing their disability inclusion efforts across the business,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO of USBLN. “Taking the DEI is an important step within the journey, backed with concrete data and insight. The release of this report, and the 68 leading companies, challenges other companies to fill in those critical gaps, and realize the possible results by being inclusive to people with disabilities, throughout the workforce, marketplace and supply-chain.”

"AAPD proudly recognizes this year's top DEI scorers," said Helena Berger, President and CEO of AAPD. On the heels of the 27th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we should celebrate our achievements but also reflect on the fact that employment outcomes for Americans with disabilities have remained unchanged. Employment is a pathway to the American Dream, and the DEI is an effective, non-punitive tool that builds partnerships between the disability and business communities to ultimately expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and embrace the talents and skills we bring to the workplace. Working together, we can help ensure no one is left behind or unable to pursue their dream because of a disability."

The recognition of being a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” is reserved for those companies that have scored 80 or above on the DEI. The full company list can be accessed here: http://www.usbln.org/what-we-do/disability-equality-index/2017-DEI-top-companies

The companies participating in the 2017 DEI represent 21 different sectors of the American economy, and have a total U.S. workforce of approximately 7.2 million workers—or approximately 5% of all American workers. In addition to their impact on the American workforce, these companies have a substantial financial impact on the American economy, with all publicly held corporations totaling representing nearly $6 trillion in market value.

The 2017 DEI Report dives deeper into the insights of the 2017 DEI results, and serves as a tool for the business community to recognize areas where they can continue to improve their support for their employees with disabilities and learn best practices and policies from other Fortune 1000-scope businesses. The 2017 DEI Report is public and can be accessed here: http://www.usbln.org/what-we-do/disability-equality-index/2017-DEI-report

Companies that are interested in taking the 2018 DEI can sign up for the mailing list to be notified of the open registration period: http://bit.ly/2wjRiRM

About the DEI
The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is a unique, joint project of US Business Leadership Council and The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). It serves as the nation’s most trusted annual benchmarking tool allowing America’s leading corporations to self-report their disability policies and practices. This evolving survey then scores each corporation on a scale from 0 to 100—100 representing the most inclusive. The DEI was developed by the two national leaders in consultation with the appointed DEI Advisory Committee, a diverse and voluntary group of experts in business, policy, and disability advocacy.

About the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the 56+ million Americans with disabilities.

About the US Business Leadership Network® (USBLN®)
USBLN (US Business Leadership Network) unites business around disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace. USBLN has more than 130 corporate partners spanning the technology, healthcare, financial, transportation, entertainment, and retail industries. USBLN serves as a collective voice of nearly 50 Business Leadership Network Affiliates across the United States, representing over 5,000 businesses. USBLN has various nationally recognized tools and programs, such as the Disability Equality Index and the leading disability-owned business enterprise (DOBE) certification program, to bridge inclusive companies with people and organizations within the disability community.

source: press release