Category: General

The Opioid Prescribing Problem: A JR Long Read

Blame for the opioid crisis in the U.S. often falls squarely on pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies or rogue prescribers — like the Virginia doctor who prescribed more than half a million opioid doses in two years.

But the whole story is more complicated, and it implicates a large portion of health care providers. Research shows that many doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants across the nation have oversupplied patients with opioids, spurring a national crisis that each year claims tens of thousands of lives.

“This isn’t just a story about rogue prescribers and pill mills,” says Caleb Alexander, co-Director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “A much broader swath of the medical profession is responsible for the oversupply of opioids in clinical practice.” Read more.

Bluesman Henry “Gip” Gipson Dies at 99

Alabama native and blues musician Henry “Gip” Gipson is dead. Gipson died Tuesday at a nursing home in Bessemer. He was 99. Gipson was known worldwide for his Saturday night backyard parties. “Gip’s Place,” his Bessemer juke joint, has been the gathering spot for blues since the early ’50s. Read more.

The Mighty Wurlitzer Returns to Its Roots at Sidewalk

WBHM

Visit the Alabama Theatre in downtown Birmingham, face the stage and you might notice the red and gold console to the left. It’s a theater organ known as the Mighty Wurlitzer. It’s an instrument whose heyday has long passed. But this weekend, as part of the Sidewalk Film Festival, it’ll return to its original purpose: accompanying silent films. Read more.

DC BLOX Sponsors a $10,000 Computer Lab at Memorial Park Rec Center in Titusville Community

When Sheila Tyson asked DC BLOX CEO Jeff Uphues what his company could do for the Titusville Neighborhood it was joining, he offered a fun day in the neighboring park.

Tyson, the Jefferson County commissioner in whose district the company sits, had other ideas. “We want you to invest in our children’s education,” she said.

As DC BLOX held the grand opening of its data center on Thursday, Uphues talked about a $10,000 investment in a computer lab just across Sixth Street at Memorial Park Recreation Center. He said the lab is set for use by the entire community.
Read more.

Rural Counties’ Vaccination Rates Highlight Need for More Access to Care

Multiple times in the past four years, three rural Alabama counties — Perry, Pickens and Russell — have reported having students without immunization documents at more than four times the statewide rate.

Health providers say a main reason for that gap is a general lack of health care in sparsely populated areas. Those counties are short on health care providers, and county health departments are understaffed. A lack of knowledge about the need for vaccines also is a factor.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 764 cases of measles were confirmed this year across 23 states. According to the agency, that’s the highest number since 1994 — for a disease that was eradicated in the U.S. in 2000. Read more.

Chris McNair, Former Local Official and Father of One of the ‘4 Little Girls,’ Dies at 93

Chris McNair, a former legislator, Jefferson County Commission member and father of one of the four girls killed in the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, died Wednesday afternoon. He was 93.

The family in a statement called McNair a “devoted husband, father, brother and friend.”

“We are grateful for the life and legacy of our father, J. Christopher McNair. He was a man who loved his family and this community. We ask for prayers and privacy as we prepare to lay him to rest,” the family said in its statement, released by McNair’s daughter Lisa.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin shared some of those thoughts in a press release he issued with condolences for McNair’s family.

“Mr. McNair and his family are forever tied to our country’s civil-rights legacy,” Woodfin wrote. “When he tragically lost his daughter Denise in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, his courage and fortitude fueled our march for peace. He was the consummate family man, showcasing an unconditional love for humanity that paved the way for social justice in Birmingham and in our nation.” Read more.

Health Department Still Investigating 30 Cases to Determine Whether Those Patients Have Measles

The Alabama Department of Public Health is working on 30 open investigations into possible measles cases, but the state still had only one presumptive positive measles case as of Friday.

A St. Clair County infant has the only presumptive positive case in the state, meaning she has tested positive for measles but more testing is being done to verify the diagnosis.

Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris had hoped to have an update Friday on the St. Clair investigation, including where the infant had been, but a press release from the health department late Friday said there was no update yet. Read more.

St. Clair County Infant Has First Case of Measles in Alabama

Alabama has its first confirmed case of measles.

An infant in St. Clair County has been confirmed as having measles, Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, said in a press conference this morning.

The infant is less than a year old and so was not old enough to be vaccinated.

Harris said the Alabama Department of Public Health is continuing to investigate and test to make sure the measles diagnosis is accurate and to define the risk of exposure for others. He said more information would be available in the next 24 hours to help people determine whether they might have been exposed and advise them on the next steps they should take. Read more.

Gas Tax Proposal Punishes Clean-Fuel Vehicles, Ties Alabama For Nation’s Highest Fees, Groups Say

Environmental groups are alarmed that the gas tax bill filed in the Legislature today would make owners of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles pay more to the state than owners of gas-fueled vehicles.

A summary version of the special session bill makes it less onerous than an earlier version but still is causing concern that the EV and plug-in hybrid owners would be penalized for using technology that pollutes less or not at all, conservation advocates say. After the concessions, Alabama’s fee would be tied with Georgia for the highest in the nation.

The gas tax would fund the Gov. Kay Ivey-backed infrastructure bill, called the Rebuild Alabama Act, and is estimated to cost the average driver an additional $55 a year in gasoline tax, according to authors of the legislation. But EV owners would pay a $200 annual license and registration fee; plug-in hybrid vehicle owners would pay $100. There would be no fee for conventional hybrid vehicles.

That’s down from the original bill’s $250 for EVs and $150 for hybrids. Read more.

Gun Violence Through the Eyes of a Trauma Surgeon

By WBHM

A Thanksgiving night shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover has brought more attention to the issue of gun violence. Dr. Jeff Kerby sees the effects of guns every day. He’s a surgeon and head of the trauma service at UAB Hospital. He says the number of gunshot wound cases at UAB has almost tripled over the past four years. Curbing that, he argues, requires input from the medical community.

Kerby’s comments come as the National Rifle Association recently criticized doctors speaking out about gun issues, tweeting they should “stay in their lane.” WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with Kerby. Read more and listen to the interview.