www.wvgazettemail.com Health http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2016, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Marshall student diagnosed with bacterial meningitis http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ01/160509827 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ01/160509827 Tue, 3 May 2016 21:59:05 -0400 A Marshall University student who became ill over the weekend has been diagnosed with bacterial meningitis, the school announced Tuesday night.

University health officials are working under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and are consulting with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department to help ensure the safety of the Marshall community, spokesman Dave Wellman said in a news release. The student has been hospitalized since Monday.

Bacterial meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Although bacterial meningitis is contagious, it is not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where an infected individual has been, according to the CDC. The disease is usually transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory secretions such as when coughing, sharing drinks, kissing or being in close proximity to someone affected for an extended period of time.

A course of antibiotics is normally recommended for those who have had such contact with an individual with a confirmed diagnosis. Antibiotics are not recommended for casual classroom contact.

People who may have been in sustained, close contact with the Marshall student are being identified, screened and advised if they should begin a dosage of preventative antibiotics, according to the news release.

Bacterial meningitis is treatable but requires medical attention. The CDC says symptoms typically develop within three to seven days after exposure and include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rash, sleepiness, increased sensitivity to light and altered mental state.

Amy Saunders of Marshall's Student Health Education Program said the risk of contracting meningitis is low and additional cases are unlikely. She added that the risk is even lower for people who have received the vaccination, which is recommended, but not required, for students.

School health department officials will be available from noon to 3 p.m. today to answer questions from students, faculty and staff in the Counseling Center on the first floor of Pritchard Hall.

Students with questions or concerns can also contact Student Health Services. Information about the hours and location of Student Health is available at www.marshall.edu/studenthealth.

Addiction recovery center planned for Parkersburg http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ01/160509885 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ01/160509885 Tue, 3 May 2016 10:10:46 -0400 PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia organization is planning to open an addiction recovery center in Parkersburg, its fourth in the state.

Recovery Point of West Virginia will open a peer-operated recovery facility for between 60 and 100 men, using recently approved funding by the Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, news outlets report.

The recovery center will be housed in a former National Guard armory. Site renovations will take between six months and a year once they start, said Recovery Point Executive Director Matt Boggs.

The center will, at no cost to the individual, house men suffering from alcohol and substance abuse for between eight and 12 months.

"We are confident the addition in Parkersburg will ... add another pathway of recovery and become an integral part of the continuum of care, providing hope and recovery to those suffering from the vicious cycle of substance-use disorders," he said.

Individuals participating in the program complete a 12-step program, attend life skills training and are given an opportunity to become a peer mentor. Residents contribute to their room and board through food preparation, housekeeping, building and grounds maintenance, security, peer-mentoring, and teaching.

Recovery Point already has locations in Huntington and Bluefield. A Charleston facility for about 100 women is scheduled to open in September.

Volunteers aware of risks, take precautions in Zika-affected areas http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ05/160509899 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ05/160509899 Tue, 3 May 2016 00:01:00 -0400 Lori Kersey By Lori Kersey While Zika continues to spread in parts of South America, Central America and the Caribbean Islands, that isn't stopping some West Virginians from traveling there.

The Center for Disease Control has in place a Level 2 alert in affected countries, which doesn't outright tell people to avoid those places, but advises travelers to "practice enhanced precautions" when traveling there.

Whitney Godwin, a Morgantown resident and a recruitment specialist for the Reed College of Media at West Virginia University, is leaving on a mission trip to Haiti on June 1. She's been on mission trips to several countries, but this will be her first trip to Haiti.

Godwin said she feels called to go to there. She and the group she's going with have been planning the trip since late last year.

"It doesn't really bother me," she said of the threat of Zika.

Godwin said she will be taking precautions and using mosquito spray to avoid getting bit.

"I think there is always gonna be something to be afraid of when you travel," she said. "I think you have to look at it from a positive aspect and focus on what you're going for. And really if something happens there's nothing you can do except respond correctly," she said.

In pregnant women, Zika virus has been known to lead to microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder that occurs during fetal development and causes abnormally small heads and impaired brain development in affected children. There have been 426 cases of Zika reported in the 50 U.S. states - all linked to travel to outbreak areas. Besides through mosquito bites and from a mother to a child, the disease can also spread through sexual contact and by blood transfusion, according to the CDC.

In West Virginia, six cases of the virus have been confirmed, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health commissioner. The state is also waiting for results of Zika testing for two pregnant women, Gupta said.

Officials think it's likely some small clusters of Zika infections will occur in the U.S. when mosquito numbers boom.

Last week a Puerto Rican man in his late 70s became the first known United States casualty of the virus, according to media reports. The man died of complications related to the virus. Deaths from the virus are rare, officials say.

There is so far no vaccine for the virus.

Betsy Shaak, family life minister at River Ridge Church in Charleston, returned April 1 from her latest mission trip to Haiti. Shaak led a group of eight people from the church. She's going back in November with a team of about 15 people.

Shaak, 45 and the mother of teenagers, said the threat of Zika won't keep her from traveling to Haiti, though it would if she were planning to be pregnant. She has been traveling to Haiti on mission trips since 2010 and said there's always a threat of illness when traveling to a third-world country.

"If you go over there and don't get sick you're the exception," Shaak said. "I just kind of expect it. Chances are you're going to get sick."

Gupta said before traveling to a country affected by a Zika outbreak, people should think it over.

"They should balance the risk and benefits of that and talk to their families," Gupta said. "Especially those who are pregnant ... I think people need to actively think about traveling to impacted areas."

The CDC has warned pregnant women not to travel to areas affected by Zika. Travelers to affected areas should take precautions to reduce their risk of being bitten by mosquitoes, Gupta said. Precautions include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using mosquito repellents. Apply sunscreen before using bug repellent, he said.

Travelers should take their mosquito repellents and other supplies with them as opposed to waiting until they get to their destination to buy it.

Being in air-conditioning can also be a deterrent to mosquitoes, which prefer warmth and moisture, Gupta said. Air conditioning keeps the air drier and at a lower temperature. Mosquito netting is also a good idea, he said.

The most important thing for travelers to remember is that just because they don't feel sick doesn't mean they aren't, Gupta said. Four out of five people who get Zika don't have symptoms of the illness, he said.

Gupta advises travelers to continue to avoid mosquito bites for at least three weeks after they return to the United States. That's because if a mosquito here bites someone with the illness, it can give it to the next person the insect bites.

Women who travel to affected areas should wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive, while men should wait at least six months, he said. The virus has been known to persist in semen for that long, Gupta said.

While so far, all the cases in the United States have been in people who have traveled elsewhere, Gupta said it's only a matter of time before the illness is transmitted in the United States.

"We know it will happen, we just don't know when and where domestic transmission will start," Gupta said. More information on Zika-affected areas is being compiled by the CDC and is available at http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.

Jody Murphy, executive director of the Pleasants County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is planning a family trip to Puerto Rico this summer with his wife and three school-age sons. They typically go to the Outer Banks but decided to do something different this year. Murphy's wife is a nurse practitioner. She had heard the warnings but wasn't too concerned because she's not planning to get pregnant. The family lives along the river so they're used to battling mosquitoes, he said.

"I hope we're not out there in beekeepers outfits at the beach because of this," Murphy said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1240 or follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

Marshall to open new department of dentistry http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ05/160509900 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160503/GZ05/160509900 Tue, 3 May 2016 00:01:00 -0400 Lydia Nuzum By Lydia Nuzum The Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine has created a department of dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery that will eventually oversee three dental residents and allow the school to expand its services to the public.

The school recently announced it would partner with Cabell Huntington Hospital on a new one-year, general practice dental residency program beginning July 1. Two residents have already been chosen to participate in the program's inaugural year, and the school will begin accepting three each year next year.

"In order to maximize success of the new residency program, the School of Medicine and Marshall Health have created dedicated departments for dental residency training and the practice of dentistry," said Dr. Joseph Shapiro, dean of the school of medicine. "This new structure will allow us to address oral health disparities in our region and the serious health problems that may come as a result."

Dr. Raj Khanna, a professor and board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon, will serve as the department's chairman. Khanna has served as the division chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery under the department of surgery since 2002, and said the creation of the department is meant to fill a gap in dental care for residents who may need more intensive care or who have other complex medical issues.

"I've been here 14 years with the department of surgery, and we've been so busy that it's unbelievable," he said. "We get calls every day, not just for oral surgery patients, but for normal dental patients. That gave us the idea that there was an unmet need for care in the local community and in the Tri-state area."

In West Virginia, 56 percent of children experience tooth decay by the third grade, and about 43 percent of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 have lost six or more teeth, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. In its 2016 Oral Health State Plan, the DHHR noted that "although most oral diseases are preventable, not all individuals and communities benefit fully from the available preventative measures."

West Virginia is the second most rural state in the nation, and 49 of its counties have healthcare shortages or are medically underserved. Nearly half of the state's counties have fewer than six practicing dentists; the state has 4.7 dentists for every 10,000 residents, according to DHHR.

The new department, Marshall Dentistry & Oral Surgery, will begin offering comprehensive general dental services for adults and children, including adults and children with special needs, in late summer 2016. Khanna, two other dentists and the program's residents will staff the department.

Khanna said the school hopes to prioritize West Virginia dentists and dentists who plan to practice in the state for the program. He estimates the department will be able to see between 30 and 40 patients a day once it's fully operational.

"We wanted to do something other than just another dental practice - the idea was not to just set up another dental practice inside Marshall. It was to do something special to meet the unmet need for a lot of people in the area because people just aren't comfortable treating them," he said.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.

Innerviews: Nursing career rooted in divine intervention http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160502/GZ05/160509978 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160502/GZ05/160509978 Mon, 2 May 2016 00:01:00 -0400 Sandy Wells By Sandy Wells She didn't choose nursing. Nursing, she said, chose her. She calls it divine intervention.

A spine-tingling tale about her acceptance into nursing school fuels her conviction that a higher power orchestrated the direction of her life's work. Coincidence? She thinks not.

Drema Pierson's long nursing career covers virtually every phase of the profession - bedside care, head nurse, teaching, administration. Her role as the first certified health care compliance officer landed her on the cover of a national magazine.

She holds two master's degrees, one in nursing, one in business administration. An impressive resume cites numerous achievements in her field and dozens of academic, professional and civic affiliations. A cherished honor was the Heart of Gold award from the American Heart Association.

Obviously, once the nursing ball bounced her way, she ran with it. Just as God intended.

At 62, she's still honoring her destiny. As administrator of the West Virginia Center for Nursing, she oversees an organization that provides workforce stats and scholarships, all aimed at easing a shortage of nurses.

The passion she has poured into every facet of her career reflects a spiritually inspired commitment. Nursing is, after all, a godly thing.


"I grew up on Rutledge Road. I came from a big, hardworking family. Dad was an operating engineer and mother stayed at home. We were first-generation college [students], the generation that was expected to go to college.

"I had it in my mind that I might like to be a nurse because I was a candy striper at Charleston General. I went to Charleston High School and right after school, I would go across the street to work in rehab.

"There was this one nurse there who was just beautiful and so kind. She had on that crisp white uniform. One day, somebody brought her roses. Seeing her standing there in that white uniform with those red roses, I thought, 'I want to be her!'

"I'm a caretaker. I'm southern and that's what we do. My mom was that way.

"In high school, I was working at the Bible Book Shop on Hale Street. I sold hundreds of Bibles. I graduated in '71.

"I was the oldest of three. I felt I needed to go to college to set an example. I went over to Morris Harvey (now the University of Charleston) to register for part-time classes. I couldn't afford to go full time. I had a small scholarship.

"When I went to the registrar's office, I said I was thinking of becoming a nurse but I just wanted to take a few classes. She asked why I wouldn't go full time. I told her my scholarship wouldn't cover it. She took me over to talk to the registrar.

"He was convincing me to go full time. There was a nursing shortage. By the time I left, I had a Nursing National Defense Loan and scholarships.

"He said somebody had just dropped out of the nursing program, and he had a slot if I wanted it. So I got that slot. Because of the nursing shortage, they even gave me money for books and a stipend. How could I not feel that I was destined to be a nurse?

"I ended up with an associate degree, so I was out in two years and I was only 19. They entrusted people's lives to us and we were just kids.

"I was scared. They were going to have us taking care of sick people all by ourselves! At least we were smart enough to be scared.

"I felt God put me there, for that to have happened the way it did. Being a nurse has defined me. I've had a wonderful career. All because I started with that one degree.

"I went back and got a bachelor's and master's and MBA. I was about three chapters away from my Ph.D. in health care administration and my husband was sick with kidney cancer and died, and I just couldn't get back to it. So then I got the MBA.

"After I got the two-year degree, I went to Kanawha Valley Hospital to work. I married my high school sweetheart, Chuck Pierson. We had a son, Ben.

"At Kanawha Valley, I was in med-surge. I found an old check stub. I had gotten up to $5 an hour. Big money. Minimum wage was like $2.75 then.

"It was a small private hospital. We had a little nursing unit. When the doctor walked on the unit, we stood up and gave him our chair. I've come a long way.

"The older nurses mentored. But they were hard on you. There's a saying, 'Nurses eat their young.' It is sadly still true. They think if they aren't tough on you, you aren't going to be a good nurse. It's a little less like that now, but it was passed on.

"You weren't allowed to cry. I went for years and never shed a tear, even when it was appropriate. You were ridiculed if you were taking care of a patient and got emotionally involved. They taught us not to cross that line. Now compassion is a virtue and valued.

"When my grandmother died, I could finally shed a tear. I had blocked it off. Now I cry all the time.

"I was part of Kanawha Valley's move to the new hospital, what is now [CAMC] Women and Children's. I was part of the welcoming committee. I was standing at the door, saying 'Welcome to the new Kanawha Valley Hospital!'

"I was only there a couple of years because it became part of CAMC and I was busy doing my bachelor's degree. A friend who was about to have a baby said she worked in education at Thomas [Memorial Hospital] and she thought I would be good at it. I was there 30 years.

"I was director of education for nursing. We did patient care symposiums. I taught CPR and advanced life support. I was a diabetes educator.

"About 15 years ago, health care compliance became required. The federal government says they need to know you are making a good faith effort to follow all the rules and regulations. By then, I had gotten a master's and I understood health care. And the clinical part has benefited me in anything I've done.

"I love to learn, so I started studying and went to an academy the government put on. I was the first person certified in health care compliance. Now it's a field unto its own and usually attorneys do it.

"When I left the clinical arena of bedside nursing, there was a grieving period for that instant gratification of knowing you have made a difference in your patient's life, easing their pain or teaching them how to better take care of themselves. It took me a while to realize I could still have that same feeling.

"I ended up hiring new nurses. I would go out and recruit them. I picked up pizzas and drove all over the state to the different nursing programs. They would come listen to you if you fed them. I would tell them they would want to work at Thomas because we had the best orientation in the state. They would have 12 weeks and would have a preceptor, an experienced nurse, a new concept at the time.

"I'd hire second-year students, too. It gave them the chance to see if they wanted to work for us and gave us a chance to see if they were going to cut it. I felt that gratification again because I knew if I helped them be a good nurse, I was still helping patients.

"Our housekeeping director came to me and said her daughter was finally graduating from nursing school. She had enrolled in the '70s but ran off and got married and had kids. Now she'd graduated, she was thinking of working at Thomas. The mother asked if I would I talk to her. Her daughter came to see me.

"It turns out that when I went to register that day and the registrar said he'd just had somebody cancel, that somebody was my friend's daughter. Can you believe that? How could I not feel God put me in the right profession? Whether I wanted to be a nurse or not, God opened the door for me.

"I did compliance for 15 years. Last fall, I was going to retire. My dad was sick. He would have been 90. He wanted to stay in his home and we were able to do that.

"When he died, my girlfriends all said, 'You cannot sit home. You will go nuts and drive everybody crazy.'

"One of them heard about this job at the West Virginia Center for Nursing. I did a little research. It was an interesting program legislated to help nurses. How could I not want to do that? Somebody helped me.

"I get to give out scholarships. I feel like the luckiest person ever. I manage this program. I get to apply all the things I've learned as a nurse and administrator and through my MBA, like learning how to do spreadsheets.

"Every nurse, when they renew their license, pays an extra $10 to support the program and the scholarships. How cool is that? Nurses helping nurses. I'm just a lucky duck.

"We do workforce data analysis. When nurses renew their licenses - we have all these data points. How old are you? When do you think you will retire? And then we do an analysis and projections. That's stuff I learned getting an MBA.

"I lost my husband in 2003. He had kidney cancer. We learned he was sick June 23 and he was gone Nov. 5. Hospice helped us the last week.

"[My husband] Chuck started Mountain Masonry Technologies, historical preservation. He preserved the facades of almost all those buildings on Capitol Street.

"I work now in Boulevard Towers, a pretty art deco building. It's kind of cool that I get to have an office in an historical building. I'm on the 11th floor. I have the best view of all these steeples my husband restored.

"I will retire again in the next year or two. In 2010, I married Bill Chambers. He's teaching me how to flyfish and golf. We're looking forward to traveling more and spending more time at our cabin near Snowshoe.

"I feel really blessed that I can come full circle. As I wind down my nursing career, I get to give back and help other nurses attain their goals and help our state have more nurses.

"I'm also working with schools to encourage kids to take the math and science [courses]. Nursing is an art and a science. It's not just the touchy feely part.

"I have four nieces that are nurses. My granddaughter is in her second year of nursing. I like to think I am contagious in a good way. Even if you don't want to work in a hospital, nursing is a wonderful basic degree.

"You will always have a job. There is always a need. And a lot of us boomers are retiring. There is coming another wave of shortages because not only are we retiring, we are going to be patients."

Reach Sandy Wells at sandyw@wvgazette.com or 304-342-5027.

Moms hold 'nurse-in' to promote public breastfeeding http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160429/GZ01/160429456 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160429/GZ01/160429456 Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:20:58 -0400 Lydia Nuzum By Lydia Nuzum Sarah Ellison admits she sometimes chickens out when it comes to feeding her daughter in public.

"Sometimes I do chicken out and hide - I'll feed her when I'm out to eat, but I'll get nervous when people look at me," she said.

But on Friday, Ellison joined a handful of other women on the state Capitol steps for a "nurse-in" to help erase the stigma that sometimes comes with mothers nursing their children in public.

Madison Fitzwater, a mother from Belle who nurses her 18-month-old son, said she helped organize the event to hopefully change perceptions and make breastfeeding in public commonplace.

"If people don't see it, it isn't going to be normalized, and if people keep nursing in corners and in bathrooms, people are going to think that's where you're supposed to nurse," Fitzwater said. "My goal is that when people see nursing moms, it will be so normal that it will be like when you see someone feeding their child with a bottle."

Stories of moms getting pushback for trying to nurse their children in public have become frequent in recent years - from the mother who was barred from using a Victoria's Secret dressing room to nurse and instead directed to a nearby alley, to the North Carolina woman kicked out of her own custody hearing for nursing her infant.

In response, proponents of breastfeeding in public have started organizing "nurse-ins," where women gather to nurse their children in a show of support for other breastfeeding mothers.

Julie Wells, from Belle, has chosen to bottle feed her baby, but she said she supports moms who choose to breastfeed and would like to see the practice of breastfeeding in public become more accepted.

"It's kind of hard on women. Women in my mom's generation didn't breastfeed, and now more people are starting to do it, and I think we should support them as much as we can," Wells said. "If it's legal for them to do it in public, they should be able to do it in public without any fear."

West Virginia did not pass legislation expressly protecting breastfeeding in public until 2014. The law calls breastfeeding "an important, basic act of nurturing that is protected in the interests of maternal and child health" and states that "a mother may breast feed a child in any location open to the public." The law also notes that "it is not considered indecent exposure for a mother to breast feed a child in any location, public or private."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card, only 59 percent of West Virginia mothers began nursing their newborns, and that rate dropped to roughly 15 percent for 1-year-olds.

In contrast, 79 percent of infants nationwide were ever breastfed, and nearly 27 percent were still breastfeeding at 1 year old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life and that mothers continue to supplement their children's diets with breast milk through the first year or "as long as mutually desired by mother and infant."

Despite its known benefits, some mothers experience additional stigma for choosing to nurse their children beyond the first year, Fitzwater said.

"I haven't had a lot of problems in public, but I get the question a lot from family, 'When are you going to quit?,'" said Ellison, whose daughter is 8 months old.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren't breastfed. Studies have also shown that colostrum, the milk produced in the weeks after a baby is born, gives added immunity to babies based on the germs the mother has been exposed to.

"My son doesn't eat a lot of table foods, and he still gets the nutrients and energy he needs," Fitzwater said. "We just hope it can be normalized and people will be OK with it."

Reach Lydia Nuzum at


304-348-5189 or follow

@lydianuzum on Twitter.

Holistic Health and Wellness Fair: A day of healing in Charleston http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ05/160429487 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ05/160429487 Thu, 28 Apr 2016 20:29:25 -0400 Douglas Imbrogno By Douglas Imbrogno Dr. Hassan Amjad doesn't hold back when he speaks of the reigning medical system in the United States.

"Health care is America is totally broken. It's too expensive and the system is too corrupt," said the Beckley-based internist and medical botanist.

Amjad is a self-described "naturalist" who emphasizes herbal remedies and alternative remedies in the face of a corporate medical system that emphasizes expensive interventions and costly procedures and medicines.

Amjad, who has written scores of books, monographs and articles about natural remedies, will be a featured speaker at Saturday's free Holistic Health and Wellness Fair, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 520 Kanawha Blvd. West.

The event features four other guest speakers, more than 30 vendor booths, specialty foods, raffles and free demonstrations and group practice from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. to mark World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day (Qi Gong is a Chinese moving meditation exercise).

Amjad will speak at 11:30 a.m. and then again at 1 p.m., on the topic "Treating Common Illnesses with Herbal and Natural Medicine."

He has written on such subjects as "Medical Botany of the Eastern United States," "Common Medicinal Plants of Appalachia," "Wild Flowers of West Virginia," "Pomegranate: Anatomy of a Divine Remedy," and "Tea: Elixir of Life." (See his website for more titles: www.jmcnaturalmedicine.com.)

Amjad also wrote a book on "Catfish, Man of the Woods," the legendary West Virginia herbalist Clarence Frederick Gray, titled "Life and Thymes of an Appalachian Herbalist."

"I encourage patients and in my lectures to look at natural cures," Amjad said.

Natural and alternative medicinal practices are common around the world, he added.

Yet in today's corporate-driven medical system, Amjad said, many doctors are not able to fulfill the Hippocratic Oath, which in its classical form required a new physician to swear to uphold specific ethical standards, and in its modern version, specifically notes that: "I will not be ashamed to say 'I know not,' nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery."

"Instead of the Hippocratic Oath, to worry about the patient, now, because they are owned by corporate medicine, it's more of a 'veterinarian' ethic," he said. "Because if you go to a veterinarian, whoever is paying the bill tells you what to do. I mean you never ask our dogs whether they need to be neutered.

"It is the bottom line: medicine has become a trade, a commodity. And it is really time for change. Less expensive therapies and options should be given," Amjad said. "I'm hoping we have a better understanding that there are simple cures and you don't have to have expensive methods to treat common ailments."


Other speakers at Saturday's event include:

10 a.m.: Pam Litz, a nutrition and wellness adviser and consultant and distributor for Young Living Essential Oils. Topic: "Essential Oils from Ancient Times to our Modern Age."


10:40 a.m.: Dr. Peggy Burkhardt, an Associate Professor Emerita at WVU School of Nursing in Charleston and former president of the American Holistic Nurses Association. Burkhardt has authored and published numerous articles and books relating to holistic nursing, spirituality and ethics in nursing. Topic: "Mindfulness."


1:45 p.m.: Kasabez Maakmaah, an instructor, social activist, and regional director of the Earth Center located in Charleston, one of nine Earth Centers in the world. He teaches the importance of understanding the complete human being and the role of nature in the process of healing, especially from addictions. Topic: ''Addiction Recovery: Healing the Whole Person and How Addictions are Byproducts of Psychological Imbalances." For more, visit theearthcenter.org.


2:30 p.m.: Alecia Rice, an ordained minister and counselor who serves as a spiritual adviser, guiding clients to an awareness of the 'divine feminine' within. Her topic is "Nurturing the Holistic Goddess."

For more information on the event, contact Ron Wilkerson at 304-395-7671.

Advocates make renewed call for $1 tobacco tax increase http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ01/160429490 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ01/160429490 Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:54:11 -0400 Lydia Nuzum By Lydia Nuzum Proponents of a $1 increase in West Virginia's tobacco tax said Thursday that the struggling proposal is a "no-brainer" for the state with some of the highest rates of smoking among both teens and adults and an existing tax lower than that of 45 other states.

On Thursday, a coalition representing members of the state's health care and education systems, faith-based groups, public health agencies and citizens renewed the call for a $1 tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products sold in West Virginia.

The state's adult smoking rate is the highest in the nation - 26.7 percent of West Virginians smoke, according to 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data. Its adult smoking rate has not declined significantly in nearly two decades, despite a marked decline in surrounding states and across the nation.

Between 1995 and 2010, the daily smoking rates of adults in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee dropped to below 20 percent of the population and below 15 percent of the population in Virginia and Pennsylvania. West Virginia's rate never fell below 20 percent during that period, and it even increased between 2005 and 2010 to nearly the level recorded in 1995.

Its current taxation rate for tobacco is one of the lowest in the country at 55 cents per pack - lower than the tax rate for every state that borders it except Virginia, which, because it allows municipalities to impose a tax on top of the 30-cent state tax, has several cities with higher tax rates than West Virginia.

Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the tax increase could help make up for the state's revenue shortfall and continued budget cuts in the short term and discourage people from smoking in the long term. The state's current deficit for this year is an estimated $270 million. Combined with roughly $100 million in budget cuts and other proposed cuts and losses, it could mean a total shortfall of nearly half a billion dollars, Boettner said.

"I think raising the tobacco tax to $1.55 from 55 cents, while it's not going to solve all of our problems, will help us deal with our shortfalls today and improve our long term physical health," he said. "The whole goal is that it will be a declining source of revenue over the long term, because that means people are quitting smoking."

Opponents of the increase have argued it would hurt the state economically by discouraging out-of-state residents from crossing into West Virginia to buy cheaper tobacco products, but Boettner said that concern should take a backseat to the economic stimulation that would likely come from increased worker productivity.

"Why does West Virginia need to be known as the cheap place to buy tobacco? That's not a very good economic development strategy," he said. "We're trying to make sure West Virginia has more long-term customers, and that means increasing productivity by improving people's health."

In January, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed a $71.5 million tobacco tax hike, or an additional 45 cents to every cigarette pack purchase, raising the total tax to $1 per pack. Tomblin said the increase would "strike a balance, protecting retailers in West Virginia counties that border other states, while discouraging people from smoking."

Dr. Paula Taylor, president of the West Virginia State Medical Association, said that strategy, which ultimately failed to gain support from the Legislature, would prove ineffective because the tobacco industry is prepared to absorb small tax increases to keep tobacco products affordable.

"We get into these arguments: 'You can't have your dollar, but you can have 20 or 30 cents.' Studies have shown that these small increases are diluted by manufacturers and companies who can offset them by special promotions and couponing," Taylor said.

Nearly a quarter of pregnant women in West Virginia reported smoking during their pregnancy in 2014, and that rate jumps to 42.4 percent among women covered by Medicaid, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

The coalition believes an increase to the tobacco tax would help curb those rates and could help stabilize the state's expanded Medicaid program. Earlier this week, the state sent letters to health care providers warning Medicaid payments would be delayed as a result of the continued uncertainty surrounding the budget.

Program cuts, including cuts to the state's PROMISE scholarship program and the elimination of thousands of positions across several state-level departments, have been floated as solutions to the problem.

Patricia Rouse Pope, executive director of the West Virginia Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, said the state's 10 free clinics are in danger of funding cuts, despite serving more than 40,000 uninsured and under-insured residents every year.

"All told, the $2.75 million [we receive] yields about $68 million in health care for needy West Virginians," she said. "The tobacco tax could serve as one of the solutions to the state's budget crisis, which we all know how devastating those could turn out to be ... the free clinic line item has taken almost a 50 percent hit over the last three years, and the clinics have continued to tighten their belts."

Reach Lydia Nuzum at


304-348-5189 or follow

@lydianuzum on Twitter.

YMCA's Healthy Kids Day encourages families to be active this summer http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ01/160429491 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ01/160429491 Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:53:33 -0400 Laura Haight By Laura Haight YMCAs across the country will celebrate Healthy Kids Day this weekend.

The YMCA of Kanawha Valley will hold its Healthy Kids Day starting at 5:30 p.m. today, and the Tri-County YMCA in Scott Depot will have its event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Andreea Slusarciuc, business development director at the YMCA of Kanawha Valley, said children will be given an event passport and asked to attend four mandatory events: a youth CPR demonstration, a summer camp demonstration, a tennis activity and a pitch, hit and run Major League Baseball activity.

"This exposes the kids to all kinds of sports and activities we have here at the YMCA," Slusarciuc said. "This is helping the kids and their parents realize summer is just around the corner, and it's kind of like a warm-up - they have to figure out what they're going to do this summer."

There will also be optional stations, including a children's obstacle course, volleyball, kids yoga and more.

Slusarciuc said research has shown that children are more at risk to gain weight over the summer, so keeping them active is the best way to stay healthy.

The first 300 children will get free backpacks, and there will also be more than 250 prize giveaways, including 30 bikes.

Joe Stevens, community relations director with the Tri-County YMCA, said all families are welcome to explore summer activities.

"We want to make sure they understand there's lots of outdoor activities out there," Stevens said.

There will be demonstrations from Marshall University soccer, Hurricane High School baseball players and coaches, Hurricane Middle School track and the West Virginia Golf Association.

Representatives from the Secretary of State's Office and the State Treasurer's Office will also be there. Adults can register to vote for the November election or change their voter information.

Stevens said it's important for children to see adults exercising their democratic rights, and he said his 12-year-old son is already asking about when he can vote.

Officials with Putnam County Schools will be at the event to answer any questions parents with children entering the school system may have.

There will also be deputies from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department for a K-9 unit demonstration.

"It's important for parents to find out, besides having the opportunity to play video games, there's great chances for kids to get out and exercise and get active with school coming to an end here real soon," Stevens said.

Stevens said he doesn't think children staying indoors to play video games is a problem, but rather a continuing education scenario. He said it's important for children to realize they can have fun outside right in their own backyard.

"As long as we continue to educate people, we'll continue to have boys and girls having fun outside," Stevens said.

Reach Laura Haight at


304-348-4843 or follow

@laurahaight_ on Twitter.

Marshall announces new dentistry department http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ01/160429509 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160428/GZ01/160429509 Thu, 28 Apr 2016 17:11:02 -0400 The Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine announced Thursday that it has created a department of dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Dr. Raj Khanna, a professor and board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon, will serve as the department's chairman. Khanna has served as the division chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery under the department of surgery since 2002.

"I am honored to lead this new initiative at the School of Medicine," Khanna said. "Oral health is my passion and such a critical component of health care, especially in our region. By combining oral and maxillofacial surgery with general dentistry, we are now able to provide the comprehensive oral care that so many patients need."

The new department will offer continued services in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and will begin offering comprehensive general dental services for adults and children, including adults and children with special needs, with the addition of several dentists in the late summer of 2016.

Khanna will continue seeing patients at his current Marshall University Medical Center office until the new Marshall Dentistry & Oral Surgery office opens Aug. 1. The newly renovated dental clinic will be housed in the Fairfield Building, located at 1616 13th Ave. in Huntington, adjacent to Cabell Huntington Hospital.

CAMC Cancer Center strong on support, needs more physicians, board told http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429551 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429551 Wed, 27 Apr 2016 20:30:19 -0400 Lydia Nuzum By Lydia Nuzum Nearly one year after its opening, Charleston Area Medical Center's Cancer Center is working to expand its support services for cancer patients, but the hospital will need to work in the coming months to replace four of its outgoing oncologists, hospital administrators told the CAMC Board of Directors on Wednesday.

Jeff Goode, vice president of ambulatory services for CAMC, told board members Wednesday that programs like the cancer center's nurse navigator program, which allows patients to receive individual attention from a trained oncology nurse navigator, and its Comprehensive Assistance to Resource and Education Program will help make the center more competitive on a national scale.

"If we're going to be a top-tier cancer program, these are the types of services you have to have in place, and you have to have them in an interdisciplinary, comprehensive manner on-site," Goode said. "We've been able to make good progress over the least year with these types of programs."

Currently, the cancer center has 90 staff members, with seven physicians, Goode said. A new physician has already agreed to join the cancer center in the summer, Goode said, and the hospital system has more interviews scheduled in the coming months.

"We are very focused on getting to 10 physicians and maintaining 10 physicians," he said. "We have spent a considerable amount of time thinking through how to not only attract the best talent, but to retain talent. We are confident we can recruit; the key now is retention."

Goode said the center is also working to reduce its wait for new appointments, which currently averages more than 10 days. The center is an active cancer research site, Goode said, and currently has more than 300 patients enrolled in 30 different treatment protocols.

"We are also focusing on our multidisciplinary care team; the ability now, with the building and the specialty providers we have in the community, to continue to coordinate care better, and to bring all of the resources to the individual as soon as possible after they receive a diagnosis," he said.

Larry Hudson, chief financial officer for CAMC, told board members that revenue was up for both the month and the year-to-date, thanks to a shift in the number of patients with commercial insurance. Hudson also noted that emergency department visits were up by more than 1,000 over the prior year, and that nearly all of those visits occurred during March.

"Of course, you get a lot of readmissions out of your [emergency department] visits," Hudson said. "We were up 110 [in readmissions] over the previous year - a conversion rate of 10 percent."

CAMC President and CEO Dave Ramsey said the hospital system received a letter from the state's Medicaid program a couple of days ago warning that the program would not be able to reimburse the hospital at the same level it has, likely due to continued budget struggles at the state level.

"We're hopeful it doesn't last too long," Ramsey said. "We're worried for ourselves certainly, but more importantly, for hospitals around us that don't have the cash reserves that our organization has. Hopefully this will be a short-term issue that will be resolved once they can get the budget situated at the state level so that there isn't any harm done to institutions."

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or follow

@lydianuzum on Twitter.

Family Dinner Project encourages creativity in mealtime togetherness http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429553 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429553 Wed, 27 Apr 2016 19:04:16 -0400 Lydia Nuzum By Lydia Nuzum Time spent around the dinner table doesn't have to be perfect - it doesn't even have to be spent at a table or during dinnertime, and one national initiative is out to help West Virginians find the recipe for their perfect family dinner.

When it comes to having dinner with loved ones, "good enough" is often more than enough for families to see positive results, said Lynn Barendsen, executive director of the Family Dinner Project, a nonprofit organization headquartered at Harvard University that offers tools and tips to help families establish a family dinner routine.

According to Barendsen, studies link regular family meals with many positive outcomes for children, including better grades, resilience and self-esteem, as well as lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression.

"We're really a movement about food, fun and conversation about things that matter," she said. "There are many benefits to family dinner that are well-documented; there are academic benefits, believe it or not - for families who eat dinner together, kids develop vocabulary faster than when you read to your kids. It's a surprising fact, but true.

"There are social and emotional benefits for families, and obviously, nutritional ones - when you sit down and eat, people typically eat more fruits and vegetables. There are many, many reasons we should do it."

Barendsen and others from the project visited Charleston this week to help launch the project in West Virginia, where a number of the health problems the Family Dinner Project hopes to impact are prevalent.

More than one-third of the state's residents are obese, and West Virginia's teen birth rate ranks among the top 10 highest in the country. The state's substance abuse statistics are staggering, with the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation, and the Charleston and Huntington metropolitan areas have consistently ranked among the "most miserable cities in America," according to Gallup Healthways.

According to Barendsen, the project considers time spent with friends or family while engaging each other over a meal to fit within the definition of "family dinner" it tries to promote, and she encourages people to approach the concept in creative ways.

"If you can't manage dinner together - maybe someone works late - maybe a late-night snack. When that last person comes home, sit with them," she said. "It's about finding that time and being creative. It doesn't necessarily have to be dinner."

April Hamilton, a Charleston resident and author of the food blog April's Kitchen Counter, has worked for the last two years to launch the Family Dinner Project in West Virginia. On Wednesday, Hamilton, who was working with Americorps VISTA volunteers from KEYS 4 Healthy Kids to prepare food for the project's family dinner event in Kanawha City, said she hopes to help the initiative take root in the state and remind residents to be more mindful of their time spent together.

"I hope we can remind ourselves to slow down and make plans to have dinner at home, or to have a more engaging dinner out, rather than just having fast food in the car as almost an afterthought," she said. "More than just 'oh, shoot, we're late and we're starving.' I think if people could come to enjoy it - if they had the tools and resources - it could become part of their routine.

"It doesn't have to be fancy; it could be a can of soup."

Only roughly one-third of American families eat dinner together, Barendsen said. To combat that, the project has created programs like Food, Fun & Conversation, a free guide that includes healthy recipes, conversation starters and games, and the 21 Dinner Challenge, which asks families to plan and hold 21 dinners together to cement the practice as a habit.

"We're hoping we can really jump start something here," Barendsen said. "If there's one message I can get out to all of you, it's that it doesn't have to be perfect. We've talked to so many families who have rekindled their family dinners, and it's made a huge difference in their lives."

To learn more about The Family Dinner Project, visit www.thefamilydinnerproject.org.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.

Federal judge gives Beckley doctor 8 years for prescribing habits http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429565 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429565 Wed, 27 Apr 2016 17:25:08 -0400 Kate White By Kate White A federal judge on Wednesday went well beyond what advisory sentencing guidelines called for and handed down an eight-year prison sentence to a Beckley-based nephrologist, who admitted he improperly distributed addictive prescription drugs to patients.

Dr. Jose Jorge Abbud Gordinho, 67, had asked U.S. District Judge Irene Berger to sentence him to three years in federal prison for distributing hydrocodone without a legitimate medical purpose and continuing to prescribe controlled substances to patients who tested positive for illegal drugs and medications they were not prescribed.

Gordinho "likely contributed to the abuse of prescription opioids in a region that has been devastated by that behavior," wrote his attorney, Michael Hissam, in a sentencing memorandum earlier this month. The doctor, though, his attorney continued, "has paid dearly - and will continue to do so - for his extraordinarily poor judgment."

Advisory sentencing guidelines called for a prison sentence between 46 to 57 months. Prosecutors wrote to the judge earlier this month that a sentence within the range provided by the guidelines would be reasonable.

Instead, Berger sentenced Gordinho to nearly double that amount.

Still, the deal the doctor made dropped 20 other counts of illegitimate distribution he was originally charged with. Gordinho could have faced a maximum 30 years in prison, but the agreement exposed him to a 10-year maximum prison term.

Gordinho was also ordered to pay about $48,400 in restitution and a $15,000 fine, Berger ordered.

As part of the deal he made with prosecutors, Gordinho had to forfeit his DEA registration number, which is required to write prescriptions. He also agreed to forfeit his medical license, according to his attorney, which would be revoked anyway by the West Virginia Board of Medicine.

As owner of Responsible Pain & Aesthetic Management on George Street in Beckley, Gordinho required patients to sign a "pain management contract" in which patients agreed to drug screenings. If illegal drugs or medications not prescribed were found in a patient's system, they were to be automatically discharged, according to the contract. Pain treatment patients were therefore required to submit urine samples each time they visited the clinic, before being seen by a doctor, according to prosecutors.

On Oct. 2, 2015, Gordinho prescribed hydrocodone to a long-time patient, even though the patient had failed at least 16 prior drugs screens, the doctor's plea agreement states.

Other patients mentioned in the charges against Gordinho, had been prescribed medication despite failing 10 or more drug screens, Gordinho admitted.

The prescriptions Gordinho wrote to the patients he should have discharged from his practice when they failed drug tests were not for legitimate medical purposes and were beyond the bounds of medical practice, federal prosecutors wrote in their agreement with the doctor. The failed drug tests were indicative of abuse, Hissam wrote.

Gordinho also defrauded Medicare and Medicaid by obtaining reimbursement for services that were not medically necessary, he admitted in January.

"Due to a combination of greed and Dr. Gordinho wanting to believe that his patients were in pain and needed treatment, Dr. Gordinho continued to see and prescribe powerful controlled substances to these patients even though he knew that their medical records reflected clear evidence of diversion or abuse," Hissam wrote.

Among state nephrologists - doctors who specialize in kidney care - Gordinho wrote the sixth-most hydrocodone-acetaminophen Medicare Part D prescriptions, including refills, in 2013. That year, Gordinho handed out 1,577 hydrocodone prescriptions, according to ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization that tracks doctors and drugs in the United States.

Gordinho wrote almost 2,000 oxycodone prescriptions to Medicare patients in 2013.

Besides his clinic in Beckley, Gordinho also operated small practices in Glen Daniel, Rupert and in Low Moor, Virginia, according to Hissam.

Gordinho, his attorney wrote, was unlike other pill mill doctors in that his practice didn't allow patients to pay cash, required drug tests, checked vital signs and had doctors meet with patients during their appointment time.

"Understands first-hand the plague of prescription pill abuse that is currently gripping the region and that his participation in that public health crisis is very serious. But Defendant did not operate the sort of fly-by-night operation which has typified past 'pill mill' prosecutions in this District."

Gordinho has been incarcerated since his arrest last November. He was returned to jail Wednesday.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

'Jessie's Law,' named for local woman killed by opioids, introduced in Senate http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429575 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429575 Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:39:20 -0400 David Gutman By David Gutman West Virginia's two U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would try to prevent the misunderstanding that led to a Charleston woman's overdose on opioid pain pills earlier this year.

"Jessie's Law," named after Jessica Grubb, would require a hospital patient's history of opioid addiction to be prominently featured in his or her medical records, if the patient gives permission.

Grubb died in March after she went to a hospital for a fairly routine surgery. She and her parents repeatedly told doctors that she was in recovery from heroin addiction and shouldn't be given opioids, except under the strictest supervision.

But her discharging doctor never got the message.

He prescribed Grubb 50 oxycodone pills. She filled the prescription at the hospital pharmacy, and she overdosed that night.

"It's just too great a temptation and it's just a thing that never, ever should have been put in front of her," her father, David Grubb, said at the time. "She went home with, in essence, a loaded gun."

The new legislation, spearheaded by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, would try to put an end to such miscommunication.

"You just can't believe that this could have happened, that common sense couldn't have prevailed," Manchin said in a conference call Wednesday. "The dispensing doctor, the doctor that discharged, he had no way of knowing because that information wasn't passed down."

Grubb's story gained national attention after her father, a former West Virginia legislator, told President Barack Obama of her struggle with addiction at an event in Charleston last fall.

At the time, she was in her fourth stint of rehab.

Grubb's story, by all accounts, had a profound impact on the president, and played a significant role in his administration's recent effort to devote more resources to the opioid epidemic.

"Your willingness to share your family's story left a powerful impression on me, and has helped accelerate efforts to deal with this national epidemic of addiction," Obama said in a handwritten note to David Grubb last month.

The new bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to come up with standards for how a patient's addiction history should be displayed on medical records.

David Grubb said that, after Jessie's death, the family was told that her addiction history was in the records but that it was buried near the back and the discharging doctor never saw it.

"It wasn't prominently displayed, the way an allergy would be, on the front page," he said Wednesday. "If he'd known, he would not have prescribed oxycodone."

Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is co-sponsoring the bill and noted addiction's effect on entire families.

"It's not just that person, it's not just that child; it's the whole family," she said. "This law will not just rely on a recovering addict to bring forth that information, but it does open the doors for parents and support groups to get that information onto a hospital record."

Manchin said he expects the bill to have overwhelming bipartisan support and hopes it will be passed by the end of the year.

It is the latest effort by West Virginia's congressional delegation to combat the opioid epidemic.

Republican Rep. Alex Mooney recently introduced a bill that aims to eliminate an incentive that might be causing doctors and hospitals to over-prescribe pain medication. The bill removes some mandatory questions from a survey that patients receive when they leave the hospital.

The Affordable Care Act, in an effort to improve hospital performance and quality of care, used the survey answers, in part, to determine the level of Medicare and Medicaid payments that hospitals get.

Because three of the questions asked about pain management, they could place pressure on doctors and hospitals to prescribe pain medication, pleasing patients and improving survey results for the hospital.

Mooney's legislation, co-sponsored by Manchin, Capito and Reps. David McKinley and Evan Jenkins, both R-W.Va., simply removes those three questions from the survey.

On Wednesday, a House committee passed a Jenkins-sponsored bill that aims to improve access to care for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome to drug-addicted mothers.

The bill would identify obstacles to care for such babies.

Additionally, the Obama administration has proposed more than $1 billion in new funding for drug treatment while, at the same time, taking steps to increase private-sector funding and to reduce over-prescription of opioids.

"We've got many steps to go to fight this epidemic; it's a multi-faceted approach we have to take," Manchin said. "How do we put the genie back into its box?"

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.

Man charged with murder in heroin case pleads to lesser charges http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429588 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160427/GZ01/160429588 Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:42:09 -0400 Kate White By Kate White A Charleston man, who faced a murder charge for allegedly giving a woman the dose of heroin that killed her last year, pleaded guilty Wednesday to much lesser charges.

Kanawha County prosecutors had charged Steven Craig Coleman with murder in the death of Melody Ann Oxley. On Wednesday, prosecutors dismissed that murder charge when Coleman pleaded guilty to a felony drug charge and involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor.

Coleman - who had faced life in prison if convicted of murder - now faces a maximum one-year sentence for the misdemeanor and a possible one- to three-year sentence for attempting to deliver a controlled substance.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey will sentence Coleman on June 6. He already has served nearly a year in jail and was taken back there after Wednesday's hearing.

Attorney Rico Moore, who represents Coleman, asked the judge to set a bail amount for Coleman after he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges. Moore noted Coleman has barely any criminal history and strong ties to the area.

Bailey refused, saying she wasn't clear on who Coleman would live with while awaiting sentencing. She also noted the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding the charges Coleman admitted to, despite the deal.

"I'm not satisfied with where he would go or who he would be around or where he would live. Based on descriptions of the events that have occurred, his family's conduct surrounding the events, I believe, at this time, even though this is a misdemeanor offense, it does involve a death," the judge said.

On Wednesday, prosecutors wouldn't say why they agreed to the deal with Coleman on the lesser charges. Kanawha First Assistant Prosecutor Don Morris said he didn't want to comment until after Coleman is sentenced.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to make Coleman's sentences run consecutively, one after the other.

When they filed the murder charge, prosecutors said they hoped it would send a message to heroin dealers.

Under state law, first-degree murder can include "murder . . . by a felony offense of manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance." Kanawha prosecutors haven't used that provision much, but Prosecuting Attorney Charles Miller has said his office is trying to send a message.

Coleman's attorney has said prosecutors got it wrong in filing the murder charge against his client. After a hearing last year, Moore said Coleman is a heroin addict and speculated that, faced with the threat of prosecution, drug users might not call 911 when a person they are sharing drugs with overdoses.

Last month, Moore filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge, arguing that police didn't follow the law in questioning Coleman after Oxley's death.

Charleston police said last year that Coleman provided them with a statement in which he admitted to providing the heroin to Oxley. Moore wrote in the motion to dismiss that police never read Coleman his Miranda rights before taking the statement and did so without his attorney present. Bailey had not yet ruled on the motion. Moore also has argued during previous hearings that the statement was taken while Coleman was high on heroin and Xanax.

Wednesday's hearing was supposed to be a pre-trial hearing. Coleman's trial had been scheduled for May 16.

Prosecutors spent more than an hour speaking with Oxley's family members before Coleman pleaded guilty. He also spent time with his attorney and several of his family members before accepting the deal.

On Feb. 14, 2015, Oxley went to the house that Coleman and his father, Steve Slater, shared on Charleston's West Side. Police say Coleman gave Slater and Oxley heroin after they begged for it.

Oxley's body was found in a back bedroom of the 7th Street house. Coleman called 911 and then went to the house next door.

Coleman admitted that he had purchased about 20 grams of heroin for $1,000 about a week before the woman's death. The drug was for his personal use, Morris said Wednesday, reading from the deal Coleman signed.

The night Oxley died, Coleman put a line of heroin on a plate for a woman who had also been staying at the house and then another for his father. Slater then took his line to the bedroom where Oxley's body was found by paramedics, the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors waited to charge Coleman until after Oxley's autopsy. The report from the state Medical Examiner's Office, according to police, showed that her death was caused by an overdose of heroin, alprazolam and clonazepam. Moore has been quick to point out the other drugs in Oxley's system. On Wednesday, Morris said a toxicology report proves it was heroin that killed Oxley.

"But for the heroin, Mrs. Oxley would not have died," he said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

West Virginia below average in threat preparedness, study says http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160426/GZ01/160429610 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160426/GZ01/160429610 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 21:37:18 -0400 Lydia Nuzum By Lydia Nuzum Hospitals and health care providers in West Virginia have made significant improvements in their emergency preparedness since 2013, but the state lags behind in areas of surveillance that could help prevent an emergency, according to a new study.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its 2016 National Health Security Preparedness Index this week, and West Virginia and 15 other states scored below the national average. The index, which measures emergency readiness across six domains, looks at factors ranging from the number of epidemiologists in the state to the state's ability to monitor emergency medical services response time.

The state earned a score of 6.3 on a 10-point scale, below the national average of 6.7. West Virginia improved in four of the six domains measured, but has lost a lot of ground in health security surveillance, even has the rest of the country has improved - the state scored a 6 in the most recent index, compared to its score of 7.2 when the index started three years ago. The national score was 7.5, up from a score of 7 for the first year of the study.

"Surveillance, the domain that seems to have trailed off for West Virginia, is important when looking at the detection of health risks and emergencies," said Glen Mays, a professor at the University College of Public Health and a lead researcher for the index. "We evaluate lots of different organizations across different sectors and the roles they play - everything from whether schools are required to have disaster preparedness plans and test them regularly to look at what capabilities hospitals and nursing homes have... to look at state and local government agencies and what they bring to the table."

Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health, said there were a few factors measured in health security surveillance that were blows to the state's score - West Virginia does not have a state veterinarian, for example, and instead collaborates with the Department of Agriculture on the surveillance normally assigned to a state vet.

Gupta said the state is also still in the process of giving local health departments access to electronic health reporting, including health records, so that they are better able to transmit communicable disease data.

"Having said that, there are still the challenges of [lack of] high-speed Internet and things like that, but we're working through that," Gupta said.

The state's biggest improvement was in health care delivery, where it scored well above the national average, with a 6.4 to the U.S.'s overall score of 5.1. According to Gupta, the state's improvement in delivery is important, because it shows that greater coordination and improvement is possible.

"That's notable in that it was an area that was really stagnant across the country, and West Virginia saw an improvement in emergency preparedness activities among health-care providers and hospitals, and that's an area of progress we haven't seen in a lot of other states," Mays said. "That's something that should be very reassuring to the state."

Gupta said the state has made significant progress in threat preparedness and response following the 2014 Freedom Industries chemical leak into the Elk River, and has been proactive in developing responses for various health threats, including developing an Ebola response plan and, more recently, a Zika action plan, in spite of continued uncertainty surrounding the state budget and cuts to threat preparedness funding on the federal level.

"All of this progress is being made in light of the fact that we face federal funding cuts in emergency preparedness," he said. "I think that's a very important part of the equation, because even this year, we're going to see cuts to that funding."

To access the full index, visit www.nhspi.org.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5189 or follow @lydianuzum on Twitter.

Could marijuana help treat opioid addiction? http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160426/GZ01/160429632 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160426/GZ01/160429632 Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:53:43 -0400 By Michael Casey The Associated Press By By Michael Casey The Associated Press CONCORD, N.H. - The growing number of patients who claim marijuana helped them drop their painkiller habit has intrigued lawmakers and emboldened advocates, who are pushing for cannabis as a treatment for the abuse of opioids and illegal narcotics like heroin, as well as an alternative to painkillers.

It's a tempting sell in New England, hard hit by the painkiller and heroin crisis, with a problem: There is very little research showing marijuana works as a treatment for the addiction.

Advocates argue that a growing body of scientific literature supports the idea, pointing to a study in the Journal of Pain this year that found chronic pain sufferers significantly reduced their opioid use when taking medical cannabis. And a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that cannabis can be effective in treating chronic pain and other ailments.

But the research falls short of concluding that marijuana helps wean people off opioids - Vicodin, Oxycontin and related painkillers - and heroin, and many medical professionals say it's not enough for them to confidently prescribe it.

In Maine, which is considering adding opioid and heroin addiction to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, Michelle Ham said marijuana helped her end a yearslong addiction to painkillers she took for a bad back and neck.

Tired of feeling "like a zombie," the 37-year-old mother of two decided to quit cold turkey, which she said brought on convulsions and other withdrawal symptoms.

Then, a friend mentioned marijuana, which Maine had legalized in 1999 for chronic pain and scores of other medical conditions. She gave it a try in 2013 and says the pain is under control. And she hasn't gone back on the opioids.

"Before, I couldn't even function. I couldn't get anything done," Ham said. "Now, I actually organize volunteers, and we have a donations center to help the needy."

Bolstered by stories like Ham's, doctors are experimenting with marijuana as an addiction treatment in Massachusetts and California. Supporters in Maine are pushing for its inclusion in qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, and Vermonters are making the case for addiction treatment in their push to legalize pot.

Authorities also are desperate to curb a sharp rise in overdoses; Maine saw a 31 percent increase last year, and drug-related deaths in Vermont have jumped 44 percent since 2010. Vermont officials also blame opioid abuse for a 40 percent increase over the past two years of children in state custody.

"I don't think it's a cure for everybody," said Maine Rep. Diane Russell, a Portland Democrat and a leader in the effort to legalize marijuana in the state. "But why take a solution off the table when people are telling us and physicians are telling us that it's working?"

Most states with medical marijuana allow it for a list of qualifying conditions. Getting on that list is crucial and has resulted in a tug of war in many states, including several in which veterans have been unsuccessful in getting post-traumatic stress disorder approved for marijuana treatment.

"It's hard to argue against anecdotal evidence when you are in the middle of a crisis," said Patricia Hymanson, a York, Maine, neurologist who has taken a leave of absence to serve in the state House. "But if you do too many things too fast, you are sometimes left with problems on the other end."

In New Hampshire, where drug deaths more than doubled last year from 2011 levels, the Senate last week rejected efforts to decriminalize marijuana.

There are some promising findings involving rats and one 2014 JAMA study showing that states with medical marijuana laws had nearly 25 percent fewer opioid-related overdose deaths than those without, but even a co-author of that study said it would be wrong to use the findings to make the case for cannabis as a treatment option.

"We are in the midst of a serious problem. People are dying and, as a result, we ought to use things that are proven to be effective," said Dr. Richard Saitz, chairman of the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.

Cannabis could have limited benefits as a treatment alternative, said Harvard Medical School's Dr. Kevin Hill, who last year authored the JAMA study that found benefits in using medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, neuropathic pain and spasticity related to multiple sclerosis. But he urged caution.

"If you are thinking about using cannabis, as opposed to using opioids for chronic pain, then I do think the evidence does support it," he said. "However, I think one place where sometimes cannabis advocates go too far is when they talk about using cannabis to treat opioid addiction."

The findings in the Journal of Pain study that found chronic pain sufferers reduced their opioid use when using medical pot were limited because participants self-reported the data.

Other research is forthcoming, including a study by the Rand Corp. that has found states with medical pot dispensaries saw reductions in admissions to treatment centers for opioid abuse and dependence.

Substance abuse experts argue that there already are approved medications. Also, it would be wrong to portray marijuana as completely safe, they say, because it also can be addictive.

But supporters point to doctors like Dr. Gary Witman, of Canna Care Docs, who has treated addicts with cannabis at his offices in Fall River, Stoughton and Worcester, Massachusetts.

Since introducing the treatment in September, Witman said, 15 patients have successfully weened themselves off opioids.

None have relapsed.

"When I see them in a six-month follow up, they are much more focused," Witman said. "They have greater respect. They feel better about themselves. Most importantly, I'm able to get them back to gainful employment."

Experts' new prescription for health: Walk the malls http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160425/GZ05/160429874 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160425/GZ05/160429874 Mon, 25 Apr 2016 02:53:00 -0400 By Anna Gorman Kaiser Health News By By Anna Gorman Kaiser Health News Flora Yang is small, spry and not afraid to tell you her age: "90-something." She walks twice a week at the Mazza Gallerie mall in Northwest Washington and says mall walking keeps her young and fit.

Health officials are starting to notice that effect too and say more malls should open their doors to walkers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out a guide saying the mall is a perfect place for seniors to get in their steps.

It's no secret that getting up and moving makes people healthier and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But unpredictable weather and unsafe streets sometimes get in the way, especially for seniors.

That's where shopping malls come in.

Mall walking began decades ago, when heart doctors began recommending it to their patients, said Basia Belza, a professor at the University of Washington's nursing school. She estimates that hundreds of programs exist around the country, but they aren't widely known.

"They are the best-kept secret," Belza said.

The CDC's resource guide, released last year, encourages malls to expand walking clubs and set up new ones. The guide, co-authored by Belza, said indoor shopping centers are ideal for walking because their level surfaces make seniors less likely to slip and fall. Malls are also well-lit and have water fountains, restrooms and places to rest. And seniors can walk in malls regardless of the weather.

The U.S. Surgeon General cited mall walking last year in a national call to action to improve the nation's walkability and to get more people moving.

Mall walking clubs are often partnerships between a shopping center and providers, hospitals and community groups that serve seniors. They are typically free for walkers, and some include organized warm-up exercises, health screenings and lectures about healthy eating.

Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington runs the walking club at Mazza Gallerie. In addition to helping seniors get exercise, participating in the club reduces their isolation, said Marti Bailey, director of the hospital's senior association.

"It's so much more than walking," Bailey said. "It's walking, talking, sharing life together in a real way. It's the beauty of the walking club."

Bailey said such clubs are more important now than ever, given the aging of the population and the number of seniors living with chronic diseases.

Yang says she believes she was the first member of the Mazza Gallerie walking club. She said she started walking there in 1992, back when she could carry her granddaughter in her arms. Soon, she said, people started walking with her, and the numbers grew. She has benefited greatly, she said.

"Still I can fight you," she said, chuckling.

Members of the club come and go. Ann Morales, the secretary of the group, pulled out a photo of its walkers from several years ago. "This is the doctor who used to be here," she said. "He passed away. ... Marlene, Flora are here. We haven't seen this lady for a long time."

On the mornings that they gather, the seniors start with a blood pressure check by a retired doctor.

"Let's take a peek," Aric Schichor said as he wrapped the cuff around Yang's arm. "140 over 80."

Then Yang stood up and headed down the hall, holding hands with another longtime walker, Marlene Jordan. "My doctor says I need a cane," Jordan said. "I don't think I need it."

"I'm her cane," Yang said, giving her a squeeze.

The group strolled past a T.J. Maxx and a jewelry store and turned the corner at a Subway sandwich shop. Seven times around made a mile.

Helga Fox, 87, has been walking with the group for a few years. She lives in a condo with a fitness center, but she prefers to come here. She likes the company.

"It's a nice way to start the day," she said.

Most of all, Fox said, she appreciates being able to visit with the doctor. She has hypertension and feels better after having her blood pressure checked.

Walking groups also benefit the malls, which have struggled to attract people as more consumers turn to online shopping.

Nicole Schade, a spokeswoman for Mazza Gallerie, said the walkers there often visit the stores, see a movie or grab breakfast.

"We have seen an uptick in business thanks to the mall walking program," Schade said.

Jagannathan Murli, for example, always heads to McDonald's afterward. He and a friend always order the same thing: two coffees and two hash browns.

"It's not healthy, but it's allowed," Murli said. But, he added, only after walking.

DHHR says 1,566 will lose food stamp benefits next month http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160424/GZ01/160429722 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160424/GZ01/160429722 Sun, 24 Apr 2016 17:45:59 -0400 Lori Kersey By Lori Kersey Under new requirements to either work or be in training, 1,566 West Virginians will lose their food stamp benefits beginning next month, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources. Meanwhile the state is reviewing a request from legal advocacy group Mountain State Justice to exclude the chronically homeless from the requirements.

The DHHR announced late last year it would reinstate a federal requirement that recipients of the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program meet a monthly work or training requirement of 20 hours per week, or lose benefits after three months. The changes took effect in January.

The changes affect recipients in the counties with the lowest unemployment: Berkeley, Cabell, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, Monongalia, Morgan and Putnam. It affects those who fall into the category of "able-bodied adults without dependents" - those who are between the ages of 18 to 49, are not disabled, don't have dependents and don't qualify for an exemption.

SNAP recipients who don't comply with the guidelines after three months are removed from the program.

Advocates have argued the changes would affect low-income recipients, many of whom don't have access to transportation, which will hinder them in finding work. They say many recipients are homeless or lack a high school diploma. Others are returning from military service or have criminal convictions that would affect their employment, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

DHHR spokeswoman Allison Adler said next month's cancellations follow an "outreach campaign" that started in October in an attempt to contact the approximately 7,000 people who were initially determined to be at risk for losing their benefits.

"An outreach campaign was launched, including mailings and phone calls to individuals at risk, media interviews and posters in the pilot county offices," Adler said. "As a result of these outreach efforts, it was determined that 4,300 individuals had not met an exemption or work requirement. On April 15, 2016, there were 1,566 cases closed, meaning that these individuals will not receive SNAP benefits in May.

"The remaining of the 4,300 met a requirement or exemption or no longer needed the benefits," Adler said.

She noted that the state's effort exceed federal requirements of sending one notification letter about the changes prior to Jan. 1, 2016.

The 1,566 people may contact their local DHHR before April 30 to have their case reviewed, she said.

Betty Rivard, a volunteer citizen advocate, said while she's relieved the state was able to reach at-risk people and reduce the number of people who will lose benefits, even one person going without food is too many.

"We are still handicapped by not knowing what county these recipients live in," she said in an email to the Gazette-Mail. "This makes it extremely difficult to target outreach to try to reach the remaining recipients and make preparations for the extraordinary demands this places on the food banks, food pantries, feeding programs and churches who will do whatever they can to get food to their neighbors."

Rivard said the state should take more time to reach the recipients and allow private organizations in the efforts.

"It is critical that we not label these 1,566 recipients as fraudulent just because the state's outreach activities couldn't connect with them," she said. "We know that many of the poorest of the poor may not be receptive to communications due to not having phones or internet, possibly changing addresses, being illiterate or not comprehending the impact of legalistic notification letters, and other factors."

The West Virginia Council of Churches has also requested the state take another six months to a year to find at-risk recipients.

"We believe that with additional time and effort, we will better realize the desired outcome of more people working while also ensuring that the poorest among us continue to be fed," the council wrote in an April 21 letter to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

In a letter dated April 15, Sam Petsonk, an attorney with Mountain State Justice, asked Nancy Exline, commissioner of the Bureau for Children and Families, to exempt chronically homeless people from the new requirements. At least 10 other states have exempted their homeless people from the requirements, the letter says.

"The homeless population - especially in a predominantly rural state like ours - faces high structural barriers to participating in the workplace or in E&T programs, and should be included among the categorical exemption from the SNAP work requirements," the letter reads in part. "By definition, homeless individuals do not have a secure place of their own in which to store their personal possessions. This means that participating in an E&T program or holding a job will necessitate that they leave their belongings unsecured for extended periods of time."

Exline wrote back that policy staff members have been in contact with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Nutrition Service on the matter.

Adler said the Bureau for Children and Families is reviewing the request and consulting with federal officials about the options available for homeless people.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1240 or follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

'Girls on the Run' find cheerleaders in Malden http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160422/GZ05/160429788 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160422/GZ05/160429788 Fri, 22 Apr 2016 17:50:11 -0400 Lydia Nuzum By Lydia Nuzum The girls stood in a loose circle outside Malden Elementary School, near the "starting line," as their coach gave them a pre-race pep talk.

"I want to tell you how grateful I am. Anyone grateful for anything today? Josie," Lou Newberger said, pointing to a blonde fourth-grader dressed in pink.

"I'm grateful that we're here and we can do this. This is my first 5K I've ever run," Josie Johnson said.

Next door, a handful of the residents of Good Living Assisted Living sat outside, armed with paper towel rolls filled with beans - homemade noisemakers - and decorated signs, ready to cheer on their young neighbors, who ran a practice 5K through their school's neighborhood this week in preparation for a Girls on the Run 5K race Tuesday at the University of Charleston.

James Thibeault, co-owner of Good Living, said the assisted living home and the elementary school have had a good relationship for decades, and its residents serving as "cheerleaders" for the girls is just another way for the seniors at the center to connect with their community.

"It's about community involvement - it's about inter-generational activities, and about making the younger kids comfortable being around other people, because there are plenty of situations that cause them to be away from older people. We're lucky to be right here in the community; these sorts of places tend to be sitting on a hillside somewhere," Thibeault said.

Girls on the Run, a nationwide 12-week program for girls ages 8 to 13, is designed to teach girls self esteem while training them to run a 5K, a little over three miles. Lyndsey Coleman, the second-grade teacher at Malden Elementary, said she and another teacher applied to bring the program to Malden Elementary because she wanted to give students the opportunity to learn to love exercise while becoming more confident in themselves.

"They play games, run sprints, and do different things to build up to being able to run a 5K," Coleman said. "It teaches a really good lesson in a safe environment, and it allows these girls to talk and bond with other girls in different grades."

More than 30 girls signed up for the program, and nearly all of them have stuck it out, Coleman said. Coleman said she hopes the school will be able to bring the program back next year, and that many of her own students are excited to enter third grade and sign up for the program.

"We thought that for the girls in this area, that it would be wonderful. They don't really have a lot of after-school activities, and we really liked the message of the program," she said.

As Good Living residents Jean Skiles and Gladys Keeney sat on their porch and waited for the girls to finish their first mile, both said they were excited to support the kids having fun and exercising.

"I just think it's good to cheer them on, so they might continue on to the Olympics someday, and then we could say we helped them," Skiles said.

More than 179,000 girls participated in the Girls on the Run program across the U.S. in 2015, and the program hosted more than 350 end-of-season 5K events last year, making it the largest 5K series in the country.

To learn more about Girls on the Run, visit www.girlsontherun.org.