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Mom says TSA made special needs daughter choose between …

DENVER — A Colorado mom says TSA needs to change its screening protocol for special needs children. Stephanie Griggs says her 13-year old daughter, Bella has been diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a chromosome breakage disorder that can lead to bone marrow problems and early cancer.

“Doctors have told her to avoid any unnecessary radiation,” Griggs said. On Tuesday, the Griggs family began a cross-country journey to Maine, to attend Camp Sunshine, a retreat for kids with life-threatening diseases, and their families.

As they were going through security at Denver International Airport, Bella had to face something she d never experienced before.

I always let TSA know that we re traveling with medical liquids, Griggs said. I also request that Bella be allowed to go through metal detectors, as opposed to a full-body scanner. I reiterated that [the scanner] could be detrimental to her health. Griggs said the agent told her that if the daughter opted out of the full-body scan, she would be patted down. Griggs told Denver7 that she and her husband have always taught their kids that no one should touch them on private parts of their body, except a physician.

She asked to talk to a supervisor and said she was told that her daughter had three choices. She could go through the metal detector and be patted down, go through the full body scan or leave the airport and not go to camp.

I was understandably upset, she said. Bella was very, very upset. Griggs said they ve traveled through DIA and other airports multiple times and never ran into this issue.

It s unfair, she said. Bella s got enough crap in her life to deal with; she doesn t need this. To avoid the pat down from a stranger, Bella opted to go through the full-body scan.

It just kind of felt scary to me, Bella said. So, I just decided to go through the full-body scanner.

During the scan, there was an alert, so Bella ended up being patted down anyway.

Every other time she has flown, she s been deemed safe, Griggs said. Nothing has changed. Griggs said nothing was found during the pat-down, which makes her wonder if the machines weren t calibrated appropriately. She said she also wonders if the security officer was on a power trip.

A TSA spokeswoman provided Denver7 the following statement:

We regret that the passenger and her family found their screening experience stressful. After an internal review, we determined that screening protocols were followed. TSA s screening procedures have been developed to ensure that passengers can be screened regardless of their disability or medical condition. In this case, the passenger elected to go through Advanced Imaging Technology when presented with her options, and required further screening to clear an alarm.

Last March, TSA issued this statement about pat-downs, which applies to passengers 12 and over:

Effective March 2, 2017, TSA consolidated previous pat-down procedures into one standardized pat-down procedure at airport security checkpoints and at other locations within the airport. This standardized pat-down procedure continues to utilize enhanced security measures implemented several months ago, and does not involve any different areas of the body than were screened in the previous standard pat-down procedure. Individuals transiting the TSA security checkpoint who have opted out of technology screening, or have alarmed certain technology or a canine team, will undergo a pat-down. Passengers may also receive a pat-down as part of our unpredictable security measures. TSA continues to adjust and refine our systems and procedures to meet the evolving threat and to achieve the highest levels of transportation security.

Troubled Colorado state mental hospital can’t keep up with inmate competency evaluations

The state mental hospital cannot keep up with an unexpected surge in court-ordered competency evaluations for accused criminals, the Colorado Department of Human Services said Thursday in asking for relief from a long-standing lawsuit. The department filed to invoke special circumstances in a case lodged against the state by Disability Law Colorado. State officials informed the advocacy group in a letter Thursday that the mental hospital cannot hold up its end of the settlement agreement, which requires jail inmates to receive mental health evaluations or treatment within 28 days of receiving paperwork from a judge. The action means inmates whose mental competency is in question could sit longer behind bars as they await evaluation.

These inmates are presumed innocent, being held in pretrial status, probably receiving little if any mental health care, said Mark Ivandick, managing attorney for Disability Law Colorado, which first sued the state over the issue in 2012 and revived the case in 2016 when there was a backlog of 100 inmates not receiving timely evaluations. They are just relegated to languishing in jail before they get admitted.

The problem, said human services Chief Medical Officer Patrick Fox, is a major increase in court orders for mental health competency exams from judges across Colorado, particularly in the last two months. Competency evaluation orders were up 44 percent in May compared with May 2016. And orders for restoration treatment with the aim of restoring a defendant s mental health in order to face charges were up 89 percent compared with a year ago.

We are basically grabbing the oxygen mask right now and saying, We need relief, Fox said. It s straining our resources beyond the point of being able to manage it presently. The recent spike is the latest in a 15-year struggle to keep up with mental health evaluations and treatment for inmates in Colorado and across the country. In 2000, the state mental health institute performed 429 competency evaluations and 87 restorations. Compare that with 1,871 competency exams last year and 671 restorations, an increase of 336 percent and 671 percent. The rise has been attributed by experts to a greater awareness among judges about the impact of mental health on defendants, as well as laws that critics say criminalize mental illness. Defendants awaiting competency or needing restoration have been charged with anything from misdemeanor trespassing to capital murder.

The safety-valve provision in the settlement temporarily suspends the time-frame requirements until December. Fox said the department will not consider the action a timeout or a relaxation of its efforts to promptly evaluate inmates for mental health issues. Rather, the state mental health system will perform evaluations and begin restoration treatment as soon as we can with our current resources and constraints, he said. State officials plan to meet soon with Disability Law Colorado to discuss the department s filing.

A compromise reached in 2012 required the department to complete in-jail evaluations within 30 days, or admit people to the state hospital for in-patient evaluations within 28 days. It also required that if defendants were found incompetent to face criminal charges, the hospital or an in-jail treatment program must admit them within 28 days. The state was required in 2016 to hire an independent consultant[1] to track how quickly it completes mental competency evaluations. Documents filed in the case last year revealed a 2015 memo directing department staff[2] to admit only one person per day at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. That order led to a backlog of an estimated 100 inmates, Disability Law said. The department s request for relief from the settlement requirements is not related to staffing issues at the Pueblo mental hospital[3], state officials said. The 449-bed hospital was recently placed on a termination track by federal authorities critical of nursing staff levels.

The evaluations are conducted by therapists with the state Office of Behavioral Health, part of the human services department.

References

  1. ^ to hire an independent consultant (www.denverpost.com)
  2. ^ memo directing department staff (www.denverpost.com)
  3. ^ staffing issues at the Pueblo mental hospital (www.denverpost.com)

Senate’s proposed Medicaid cuts worry Alabama health care providers

Alabama health care organizations and advocacy groups Thursday expressed concerns about possible cuts to Medicaid in the Senate health care bill, saying it could affect hospitals and pediatric offices.

Senate's Proposed Medicaid Cuts Worry Alabama Health Care Providers CLOSESenate's Proposed Medicaid Cuts Worry Alabama Health Care Providers

More than 178,000 Alabamians purchased individual plans on the federal insurance exchange over the winter time. HHS statistics show who’s buying them, where they live and how much they earn. Brian Lyman / Advertiser

Senate's Proposed Medicaid Cuts Worry Alabama Health Care Providers

Michael Reynolds, European Pressphoto Agency Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says the Republican working group on Obamacare repeal includes all 52 GOP senators, not just the all-male group drafting the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference alongside Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on Capitol Hill on May 9, 2017. (Photo: MICHAEL REYNOLDS, Michael Reynolds, European Press)

The Senate version of legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act appears to make even deeper cuts to federal funding[1] for Medicaid than a version that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May. That could mean trouble for Alabama s health care system, which relies on Medicaid.

Our initial impressions are that it s going to be devastating for Alabama s hospitals, our Medicaid, our health care delivery system, said Danne Howard, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the Alabama Hospital Association. Requests for comment were sent on Thursday to the offices of U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Luther Strange, both R-Alabama. Medicaid covers over 1 million Alabamians, despite strict coverage requirements. Childless able-bodied adults almost never qualify. Parents of children eligible for Medicaid can receive benefits if they make 18 percent of the poverty line about $3,629 a year. The program chiefly covers children who make up more than half of recipients the elderly and the disabled. The program covers about half the births in the state and plays a major role keeping hospitals open and pediatricians seeing patients.

Senate's Proposed Medicaid Cuts Worry Alabama Health Care ProvidersBuy Photo

Photos by Mickey Welsh / Advertiser Dr. Cathy Wood works with young patients at her practice, Partners in Pediatrics, in Montgomery on Wednesday. Dr. Cathy Wood works with young patients at her practice, Partners in Pediatrics, in Montgomery, Ala, on Wednesday June 24, 2015. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)

A large portion of their practice is Medicaid, said Dr. Cathy Wood, president of the Alabama chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It s getting harder and harder to provide care in rural communities generally, just because of medicine in general. Take away the financial security of saying these patients are going to be funded, and you re going to get fewer and fewer. The federal government and the state split the costs of the program. The state has struggled to pay for its share, due to rising costs and legislators unwillingness or inability to raise taxes or create new revenues for the General Fund. But the federal match is generous: Alabama gets about $2.35 from the federal government for every state dollar it spends. The Alabama Medicaid Agency says the state in fiscal year 2015 received $4.1 billion from the federal government for the program. The bills in Congress would drop the match and replace it with a per capita block grant that would provide a fixed amount of money per enrollee. The House version would have used 2016 as a baseline, which could cut funding to the state because Alabama already spends less on Medicaid than other states and did not take a Medicaid expansion.

The Congressional Budget Office has yet to score the bill and its specific effects. According to The Washington Post[2], the Senate version would put the block grants in place in 2021 and would allow them to grow more slowly than the House version, which could mean deeper cuts. The loss of federal money would require the Alabama Legislature to raise taxes to replace the lost funds, or reduce services. The Republican-controlled bodies have never shown any willingness to increase taxes[3]. That would likely mean cuts to the program[4], which could extend waiting times for patients, even those with private insurance, and lead to closures of hospitals and primary care practices, particularly in rural areas that count on Medicaid.

Senate's Proposed Medicaid Cuts Worry Alabama Health Care ProvidersBuy Photo

Alabama House of Representatives gather during the legislative special session on Tuesday, August 23, 2016, at the State House in Montgomery, Ala. (Photo: Albert Cesare / Advertiser, Albert Cesare / Advertiser)

Kimble Forrister, executive director of Alabama Arise, a group which works on poverty issues, called the bill bad for Alabama and bad for America in a statement.

The Senate bill would be devastating for children, seniors, working families, and people with disabilities across Alabama, the statement said. This mean-spirited plan would slash Medicaid and force millions of low and middle-income Americans to pay more for insurance that covers less. Howard said with few services offered by Alabama Medicaid already, the state would have to cut reimbursements to doctors in Medicaid or adult prescription services, which she called unconscionable.

Strange and his opponents in this summer s Senate primary have, for the most part, expressed wariness[5] about block granting Medicaid but not said if that would be a deal killer for them. Wood said providers were uneasy at the thought of Montgomery having fewer dollars for health care, and more control over how it s spent.

It seems like if you had federal participation the way we had it, there was some security there, she said. It made us feel like OK, we can scratch here. The federal government holds the state government accountable. Now it may not.

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References

  1. ^ appears to make even deeper cuts to federal funding (www.montgomeryadvertiser.com)
  2. ^ to The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
  3. ^ never shown any willingness to increase taxes (www.montgomeryadvertiser.com)
  4. ^ cuts to the program (www.montgomeryadvertiser.com)
  5. ^ expressed wariness (www.montgomeryadvertiser.com)