Health and health care news

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Say you want to pick up a ripe apple or a head of fresh lettuce. Typically, that means a trip to the grocery store, or maybe a farmer’s market. But in some Maine towns, there’s another place to find produce now: convenience stores.

Macroscopic Solutions / Flickr/Creative Commons

After a seeming respite from Lyme disease earlier this year, the number of cases in Maine has surged.

There have been more than 1,300 cases of Lyme disease reported in the state so far, compared with 1,200 this time last year. Dr. Siiri Bennett, an epidemiologist at the Maine Centers for Disease Control, says outbreaks of the sometimes debilitating disease in Maine follow closely the geography of deer tick prevalence.

She says people need to be alert to tick bites even in the cold months.

Mainers worried that President-elect Donald Trump will follow through on his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act are urging members of Congress to improve the law rather than dismantle it.

At a press conference in Portland Thursday, those who have benefited from the ACA said dropping the law would create a health care crisis.

LEWISTON, Maine - At a press conference in Portland today, consumers expressed alarm about losing health coverage if President-Elect Donald Trump follows through on his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Katie McDonald is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine who currently has a marketplace plan.  As she prepares to graduate in three semesters, she says she faces many uncertainties.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

In just a few weeks, new limits on opioid prescribing will take effect in Maine.

Prescription pain medication continues to play a role in overdose deaths across the country, and a state law is designed to reduce abuse by curbing doses. But some lawmakers say the new restrictions in Maine will actually cause more harm to some patients, and they plan to introduce legislation to soften the law that was recently passed.

Noreen Alton-Jones of Standish knows the power of opioids.

“They make the pain go away, which is a good thing,” she says.

The City of Bangor announced late Friday that it has settled a lawsuit brought by Metro Treatment of Maine, a Bangor methadone clinic that wants to expand.

In August, the city denied the expansion plans, saying that the methadone clinic failed to demonstrate a need for the expansion as required by a local ordinance dealing with methadone treatment. Metro Treatment filed suit, alleging that the ordinance was discriminatory.

The University of New England and Apothecary by Design have teamed up to offer a residency program in specialty pharmacy.

UNE pharmacy professor Dr. Kenneth McCall says the residency will give pharmacists hands-on training on how to care for patients with conditions such as organ transplantation, hepatitis C and rheumatoid arthritis.

Fewer American families are struggling to pay their medical bills, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Though the number has been in steady decline for the past five years, health advocates in Maine say there are still too many who can’t afford health care. And the problem of paying medical bills may affect more families in Maine than those in other states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control say expanding needle exchange programs can help prevent HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks.

A CDC issue brief highlights the need to prevent health problems from shared needles as states grapple with a heroin and opioid abuse epidemic.

According to the CDC, HIV diagnoses have decreased in recent years, but progress is uneven: the number of diagnoses among blacks and Latinos has dropped in half. Among whites, it’s dropped 28 percent.

Corrections Commissioner Dr. Joseph Fitzpatrick will convene a panel of experts in Maine this week to review suicide prevention and LGBT policies at the Long Creek Youth Development Center.

The meeting follows the recent suicide of a transgender teen at the facility, the first death of a child in state custody in more than 20 years.

Fitzpatrick says he’s open to any and all suggestions, and he also says it may also be time to consider creation of a state psychiatric facility for mentally ill youth.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

A year and a half ago, we told you about Lewiston Army veteran Christy Gardner, just days before she was to get one of her legs amputated below the knee. Gardner was injured in 2006 in the line of duty, and ever since, she had been in constant pain, which often relegated her to a wheelchair.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Exercise is something that most of us don’t get enough of. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 80 percent of Americans fail to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

As challenging as it can be to squeeze in time for exercise, for some in this country, the obstacle is more about culture. In Lewiston, the YWCA is helping refugees and immigrants overcome health hurdles by offering a women’s-only swim class, part of a wider effort to improve the health of new Mainers and help them prevent chronic disease.

The Cedars in Portland has received a $4 million donation from a Waterville couple to build a first-of-its-kind “household” model of senior homes in Maine.

Cedars’ president Kathy Callnan says the households will look and feel like private homes, starting with a front door that opens into a foyer.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Attorney General says the number of drug overdose deaths in the state through September already exceeds the total number for 2015.

Attorney General Janet Mills says 286 Maine residents died of drug overdoses through the first nine months of this year. The total for 2015 was 272. The 2015 total was a record at the time.

Mills says the increase is mainly due to illegally manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. She says the number of deaths due to other drugs is also increasing.

During his campaign for president, Donald Trump vowed that on his first day in office he’ll ask Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That puts insurance coverage for 20 million Americans, including 84,000 Mainers, into question.

Trump also promised to implement reforms that will make health care more affordable, broaden access and improve quality. But some health advocates in Maine question whether the president-elect’s proposals will actually fulfill those promises.