Health and health care news

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has introduced a bill designed to relieve some of the burdens faced by those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Collins says that as the elder population of the U.S. burgeons, more families will face dementia and the considerable costs that come with it.

“Last year caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s shouldered $10.2 billion in health care costs related to the physical and emotional effects of caregiving,” she says.

Maine will receive a small share in the $25 million in Centers for Disease Control funding to combat the Zika virus.

Maine State Epidemiologist Siiri Bennett says while the mosquitoes that transmit the virus are not found in Maine, the state will get $176,000 for laboratory support.

“We do have a lot of Mainers who do travel down to areas where there is active transmission, that do have the mosquitoes that carry Zika virus, and when they come back they may have symptoms or want to be tested,” she says. “So these supplies are to help us do that testing.”

A federally funded grant is helping Maine’s four Indian tribes implement a new drug program to confront opioid abuse.

Five tribal clinics are now offering take-home naloxone programs to provide abusers with access to the drug, which reverses the effects of an overdose caused by prescription opioids and heroin.

Clare Desrosiers, executive director of Diversion Alert and a partner in the tribal drug program, says all four Maine tribes see a critical need for access to naloxone, also known as Narcan.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Our identity is expressed in many ways, from the clothes we wear and to the way we do our hair to the traits we’re born with, like our voice. Voice communicates our thoughts and emotions. But what if you lose your ability to speak?

Is it possible that human beings may soon live to the age of 150? One of the nation’s leading longevity researchers says “absolutely.”

Dr. Steven Austad is speaking at the MDI Biological Lab at 7 p.m. Thursday. You can hear the entire Maine Calling interview with Dr. Austad and Dr. Aric Rogers by clicking here.

Sanford police responded to six suspected opioid overdoses last weekend, including one death.

The overdoses all took place from Friday to Saturday within about a half a square mile of each other. Sanford Police Chief Thomas Connolly says he suspects that the people who overdosed all purchased heroin from the same individual, and that it was laced with fentanyl, a highly potent narcotic.

Connolly says the spate is a reminder that the state needs to provide more access to medication assisted treatment.

Patty Wight / MPBN

The need for dental care in Maine is overwhelming. According to the state Center for Disease Control, only half of Maine adults have dental insurance. That’s about the same number who have also lost at least one permanent tooth for reasons other than trauma or orthodontia.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine Medical Center will be coordinating a new effort to prevent and detect lung cancer. The effort is being funded, in large part, by a $5 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

Elizabeth Weller / Flickr/Creative Commons

Vermont’s so-called GMO Labeling Law will go into effect July 1. It requires manufacturers to label foods made with genetic engineering. It’s the first law of its kind in the nation, and it has started a trend.

Maine and Connecticut have passed similar laws, but only require labels if nearby states join the labeling bandwagon. New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are also considering labeling legislation.

PORTLAND, Maine - Maine state agencies now have a purchasing preference for gasoline blended with 5 percent or less of ethanol, thanks to an executive order signed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.
The preference is effective when such fuel costs about the same as gasoline blended with a higher concentration of ethanol.
LePage's order says "federal mandates'' have increased domestic ethanol production and use, and that vehicle emissions affect Maine's air quality.

Four health centers across Maine are sharing more than $1.5 million in federal dollars to expand oral health services.

The four are among 19 health centers in Maine that receive funding from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The facilities are designed to serve medically underserved populations.

HRSA Communications Director Martin Kramer says there’s a variety of things the centers can do with the money.

Public health officials in the U.S. have discovered so-called superbugs — antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which the World Health Organization is calling a “global health crisis.”

Keith Shortall spoke with two Maine experts about the issue: Dr. Meghan May, associate professor of microbiology and infectious diseases with the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, and Dr. August Valenti, an infectious disease specialist with Intermed.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Health advocates are asking grocery store chains Shaw’s and Hannaford to stop carrying food products packaged in containers that contain the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA. They say eliminating it from the linings in canned food would go a long way toward protecting public health.

There’s power in being a part of a large grocery store chain. That’s why Emma Halas O’Connor of the Environmental Health Strategy Center wants Hannaford and Shaw’s to leverage their market power to eliminate BPA from food packaging.

PORTLAND, Maine - The Portland City Council is set to vote Monday on a resolution to remove the exclusion for trangender health care services from the municipal employee health plan. 

The resolution is sponsored by Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Manager Jon Jennings and co-sponsored by the  entire City Council. 

Strimling says the resolution makes clear that the city supports health care services for trangender people in order to protect the health, safety and quality of life for all Portland residents.

The Maine State Housing Authority has been awarded $3.4 million in federal dollars for lead abatement efforts.

With the money, the authority says it will address lead hazards in housing units for low- and very-low-income families with children.

MaineHousing spokesperson Deborah Turcotte says that, in addition to getting the lead paint out of homes, the authority will be providing ways to remove lead dust.