www.wvgazettemail.com Health http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Latest MCHM test results raise more questions http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150805/GZ01/150809737 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150805/GZ01/150809737 Wed, 5 Aug 2015 12:54:37 -0400 By Ken Ward Jr. Two new findings from the federal government's examination of the January 2014 chemical leak at Freedom Industries raise new questions about the toxicity of MCHM and other materials involved in the incident.

The study updates from the National Toxicology Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found evidence that some of the leaked chemicals could affect neurological function or be related to genetic mutations, according to materials recently posted on the program's website.

Agency officials said in those materials that the findings, based on studies involving a type of minnow and several strains of bacteria, did not prove that the leaked chemicals caused such effects in humans, especially at the levels Kanawha Valley residents might have been exposed to when Freedom's leak into the Elk River in Charleston contaminated the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of residents across the region.

One study update, dated August 2015 and posted Monday, evaluated the movements of zebrafish, a type of minnow, in response to light in the presence of one of the leaked chemicals, 4-MCHM. The study found that both 4-MCHM and a similar chemical that was not involved in the leak "altered" the zebrafish response at doses as low as 4.5 parts per million.

The update said, "the finding that MCHM exposure caused neurotoxic effects in zebrafish is consistent with clinical signs of neurotoxicity" found in rat studies conducted by Eastman Chemical, the maker of MCHM.

"In the rat studies, the dose levels where these effects were observed are more than 1,000-fold higher than the estimated human exposure levels during the spill," the study update said. "Notably, outward signs of neurotoxicity were not observed in rats exposed to doses that are in the range of human exposure during the spill."

In another study update, dated July 2015 and posted online Friday, federal scientists used bacteria to test for the potential for two additional chemicals that were "minor constituents" from the leak to cause genetic mutations. They found that one of those chemicals, dimethyl 1,4-cyclohexanedicarboxylate, "caused mutations in two of the bacterial strains that were used in the test."

The update said that finding "does not establish" that the chemical's presence in the leak "would result in DNA mutations in humans."

"Factors such as the amount of exposure and differences in how the human body handles the chemical compared with bacteria would determine whether similar effects might occur in humans," the update said.

Previously, federal officials had reported that they found no mutagenic effects when they conducted similar tests on eight other chemicals from the leak, including 4-MCHM, the primary leaked material. The two new chemicals included in the July update accounted for less than 2 percent of the leaked material, officials said.

A third new study update, also dated July 2015 and posted Friday, found no developmental effects in zebrafish related to exposure to six chemicals from the leak.

West Virginia public health officials said Wednesday that they had not yet reviewed the findings, which were quietly posted on the Internet without a news release or any of the public fanfare that accompanied the mid-June publication of earlier study results that were touted as proof the state responded appropriately during the water crisis that followed the Freedom leak.

In those earlier results, federal scientists said their testing thus far had found evidence of potential long-term health effects from the leaked chemicals only at exposures greater than the government's 1-part-per-million health advisory, but they also conceded that their work didn't consider inhalation of Crude MCHM or fully account for health impacts during the "flushing" of home plumbing systems.

Federal officials abandoned a plan in the immediate aftermath of the leak to come up with a limit for how much MCHM was safe in the air. No air sampling was done in homes or public buildings. Additionally, follow-up research has warned that residents could have been exposed to dangerous levels of chemicals during flushing procedures.

The most common health problems reported after the leak were rashes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, and the most common way affected residents were exposed to the chemical was through skin contact while bathing, showering or washing hands - routes not considered in the government's screening level during the crisis or studied by federal officials since the incident.

During a meeting Wednesday of the West Virginia Public Water Supply System Study Commission, Barbara Taylor, a deputy commissioner at the state Bureau for Public Health, summarized previous National Toxicology Program studies for the commission members, but she indicated that the most recent results were those made public in mid-June. Taylor and Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Rahul Gupta said after the meeting they did not know that the July and August updates had been posted online. Gupta said his agency would review the results and discuss them with federal officials.

Robin Mackar, communications officer for the National Toxicology Program, said a notice announcing that the reports had been posted was distributed via a mass emailing on Monday.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

Community-supported agriculture produces satisfied customers http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150728/GZ01/150729485 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150728/GZ01/150729485 Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:07:22 -0400 By Wade Livingston "You know the worst part about this?" Pam McDevitt joked Tuesday as she picked up her weekly load of produce. "The pressure to use up all this" - she gestured to the corn and cantaloupes and tomatoes - "before Sunday!"

Really, she was just half joking. She's had to get creative with her Sunday meals. The other day she used up some peppers by adding them to her corned beef cabbage. Before that, she added zucchini to stuffed peppers - a new recipe that ensured nothing went to waste.

McDevitt, an oncology pharmacist with the CAMC Cancer Center, participates in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program the medical center offers in conjunction with Gritt's Farm, of Buffalo.

She and 99 other Charleston Area Medical Center employees have ordered varying shares of produce over an 11-week period, which began in late June.

Gritt's Farm supplies the produce; customers like McDevitt make the pickups. Folks from CAMC and Gritt's Farm will tell you it's a mutually beneficial partnership - consumers get healthful, locally grown produce, and the farm gets a more stable revenue stream.

On Tuesday, Brad Gritt stood in the shade of a pop-up tent directly behind the open double doors of his produce truck parked in the Cancer Center parking lot. Inside, small, medium and large boxes of produce - valued between $10 and $30 per week but selling for less - were stacked up. Around 3:30 p.m., a steady stream of customers started picking them up.

If the weather and the crops cooperate, CSA can be a more stable revenue stream for local farmers like Gritt, whose family has owned and operated Gritt's Farm since 1927. It's not like selling stuff at the farmers market, where you predict - hope - customers show up and buy enough of your crop. No, the CSA model relies on a farmer's knowledge of the growing cycle and projected crop yield to produce an agreed upon amount of food, of which customers pledge in advance to buy shares.

Gritt first encountered CSA in Salt Lake City, where he worked for six months at a bank. He got "farm sick," as he calls it, and decided to go back to the family business. His marketing and finance coursework at Marshall University gave him some new business ideas, and he convinced his father that CSA could be profitable endeavor. Today, "30 to 35 percent" of Gritt's Farm's produce goes to the CSA venture. Gritt credits Buffalo High School's Future Farmers of America chapter with thinking to approach CAMC regarding a CSA partnership.

Anna Sutton, health and wellness coordinator for CAMC, said the medical center was able to jump on board at the last minute with Gritt's current 11-week growing cycle.

"It helps local business," Sutton said, "and encourages healthy eating. And it's convenient - and that's a big struggle for folks who try to eat healthy."

Sutton said the program has been so popular that there's a waiting list of people wanting in on the action. She hopes the size of the program will double.

"I've eaten more vegetables in the past month than I have in my entire life," Derek Hancock joked as he picked up a box of produce. Then, he grew more serious.

"I've lost 5 pounds" in the last two weeks, he said.

"The quality is better. You're helping people, farmers in your community. And you're keeping your money closer to home."

Reach Wade Livingston at wade.livingston@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5100 or follow @WadeGLivingston on Twitter.

VA director tells lawmakers Greenbrier clinic will reopen http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150717/ARTICLE/150719329 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150717/ARTICLE/150719329 Fri, 17 Jul 2015 14:47:25 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia's congressional delegation says the top Veterans Affairs official has committed to reopen a health clinic in Greenbrier County.

In a news release Friday, Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Evan Jenkins say U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald made the commitment recently.

The Greenbrier Community Based Outpatient Clinic closed in April after air quality tests found formaldehyde levels above the recommended exposure limit. The clinic in Maxwelton has been shut three times since June 2014 because of air quality.

The clinic serves about 2,400 veterans in Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas and Summers counties in West Virginia, and in Alleghany County, Va. Now, they must travel to the Beckley VA Medical Center for care.

The release says McDonald committed to a town hall meeting in Greenbrier County.

W.Va. ag officials: discard produce tainted by flood waters http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150717/ARTICLE/150719361 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150717/ARTICLE/150719361 Fri, 17 Jul 2015 11:12:33 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia agricultural officials are advising growers to discard vegetables that have had contact with flood waters.

The advice comes after weeks of rain that promoted Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to declare states of emergency in 10 counties this week.

West Virginia extension agent John Bombardiere says the safest way to deal with lettuce, tomatoes or potatoes that have been tainted by flood water is to toss them. He says they should not be consumed by humans or animals.

The advice is based U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, which state there is no practical way to salvage the product.

Bombardiere says flood waters can contain e-coli, heavy metals or other contaminants.

CAMC Cleft Center treats common birth defect http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150716/DM01/150719408 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150716/DM01/150719408 Thu, 16 Jul 2015 19:22:21 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith Kacie Strother, who was born with a cleft lip, is grateful for the challenges she has overcome.

"It has made me who I am," said Strother, 17. "If I didn't have a cleft lip I wouldn't be where I am today."

Strother, Miss Northern West Virginia Outstanding Teen, recently drove from Hampshire County to Charleston to visit youth aged 6 to 17 at the Charleston Area Medical Center Cleft Center where she shared her story and listened to theirs.

One out of 700 children born in the United States each year has a cleft lip and/or palate, making it the most common birth defect in the country.

At the CAMC Cleft Center, it is referred to as a "facial difference" by the team of professionals working with families, said Dr. Bruce Horswell, director of the center.

A cleft lip and palate are birth defects that occur while a baby is developing in the womb. Tissues of a baby's developing lip, upper jaw and nose do not come together as they should, resulting in a defect in the lip, upper jaw and palate.

"Most cases are spontaneous and sporadic," Horswell said. "In 80 percent of the cases it just happens."

In other instances there could be a genetic cause, or a connection to the use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy.

The condition may now be detected through an ultrasound, allowing parents and physicians to prepare in advance for medical needs. Treatment may require several surgeries and dental work over the years.

Cleft lip and palate may affect a child's speech, hearing, jaws, teeth and overall facial development. Aside from physical issues, a child often faces emotional challenges.

"We use a multidisciplinary team approach," Horswell said of the work he does with partner Dr. Paul Kloostra and a team of medical professionals.

Among multiple specialists are maxillofacial surgeons, neurosurgeons, ENT (ear, nose and throat) physicians, dentists, orthodontists, geneticists, speech pathologists, nutritionists and social workers.

On a recent day, Strother was happy to be part of the team as a person who has experienced a cleft lip.

Hers was repaired with surgery when she was 12 weeks old and left a scar that led to taunting during childhood and middle school. She endured teasing, bullying, anxiety and depression.

"Some people would pick on me and some would help me," she said. "It hurt. I cried myself to sleep."

The turning point was when she met someone else who was born with a cleft. She realized she was not the only one and that made all the difference.

"It changed my view," she said. "I started feeling confident and could express the real me. God gives you a cleft lip or palate for a reason. I am proud that it has made me the person I am."

Strother, who will be a senior at Hampshire High School in the fall, is a varsity cheerleader, a pageant winner and a lecturer who goes into schools and talks to kids about the challenges of having a cleft.

She was named Miss Northern West Virginia Outstanding Teen last August and two weeks ago was among the top 12 in the Miss West Virginia Outstanding Teen competition.

She loves talking to kids about her personal challenges, listening to their stories and offering encouragement. She is thankful for the support of parents, Chris and Dorinda Strother. She also has a sister, 5-year-old Alyssa, who is "a mini me."

"I get random calls from people asking about my story," she said. "It is a blessing. I am so blessed to have the honor to talk about it."

She has set up a website, letsfaceitwithkacie.org, and can be contacted at kacie.strother@gmail.com or 304-851-4887.

Meanwhile, the CAMC Cleft Center is ready to help.

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, a good time to draw attention to services available through CAMC Physicians Group Cleft Center/First Appalachia Craniofacial Deformity Specialists (FACES). Cleft Center/FACES is located in Women and Children's Hospital Medical Staff Office Building, Suite 302.

Financial assistance may be available for children without adequate insurance. The Cleft Center receives some help through the CAMC Foundation and donations.

For more information, call 304-388-2958.

WIC updates approved foods list http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/DM01/150719544 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/DM01/150719544 Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:51:58 -0400



Women, infants and children receiving federal assistance will have some healthier grocery options when they visit the store this month.

Changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (known as WIC) were made in response to a demand for items that better meet the nutritional needs of those using the program. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health announced the changes, which went into effect July 1, on Wednesday.

Items added to the list of WIC-approved foods include whole-wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole-wheat hamburger and hot dog buns, a vast selection of breakfast cereals, soy-based beverages and canned beans.

"The food list is a cornerstone in efforts of child retention and participant acceptance of WIC foods, including fully maximizing their benefits, and evaluation of participant shopping habits," Cindy Pillo, director of the office of nutrition services with West Virginia WIC, said in a news release.

"We also hope to minimize the burden on WIC authorized vendors (grocery stores) and participant confusion while shopping," she said.

The WIC program, founded in 1972, works to provide its recipients with food assistance and proper health education. The program was created in the United States as a response to a survey that found children are more likely to suffer from anemia and inadequate growth if they come from low-income families, according to the program's website.

Officials made the July changes as a direct response to feedback received in survey format, as well as feedback from retailers. The changes to the WIC-approved list are the first since 2010. Pillo said more than 3,000 surveys were submitted throughout the month of May 2013. More than 500 applications for product consideration were submitted by vendors, she said.

In West Virginia, a total of 46,402 pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women used the program from October 2012 to September 2013, as well as their children and infants, according to the program's website. Each participant received an average of $42.33 in total food benefit value each month during that time frame.

"For the 2014 federal fiscal year, there was an average of 43,763 participants served a month," Pillo said.

In the state, a total of $35,886,439 was spent from October 2012 to September 2013 in food and rebates to assist WIC recipients.

Nearly 76 percent of that funding was spent on food assistance alone, nearly 9 percent was spent on program management, about 8.3 percent was spent on "other client services," about 5 percent was spent on nutrition education and about 2 percent was spent on breastfeeding promotion, according to data from the organization's website.

Contact writer Megan Kennedy at 304-348-4886 or megan.kennedy@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/wvschools.

Public health impact task force to meet Wednesday http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/ARTICLE/150719596 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150715/ARTICLE/150719596 Wed, 15 Jul 2015 11:03:50 -0400 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - State officials are meeting again in a push to redefine the mission of public health in West Virginia.

The Bureau for Public Health will hold another meeting of the public health impact task force Wednesday afternoon.

The group will hear presentations on the future of public health, survey results and work by the panel's subgroups.

The task force includes members of the Bureau for Public Health, local health departments, private and public partner organizations and policymakers. It was authorized by Dr. Rahul Gupta, the state's health officer.

The task force will recommend structural and organizational changes for the state's public health system to work more effectively with communities.

The meeting at the Monongalia County Health Department in Morgantown is open to the public.

Health departments offer back-to-school vaccinations http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/DM01/150719772 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150713/DM01/150719772 Mon, 13 Jul 2015 12:42:57 -0400 Students entering school for the 2015-16 year are, in most cases, required to have up-to-date vaccinations before they will be allowed to attend classes.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and the Putnam County Health Department will be offering vaccinations through the month of July. Although walk-in clinics are planned in August for the week prior to school starting in each county, health department officials are encouraging parents or guardians to have their children vaccinated during the month of July and avoid the rush of the walk-in clinics.

Those seeking vaccinations are requested to bring all vaccine records to the health department, so the determination can be made about what vaccines are needed. Appointments are recommended. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is located at 108 Lee St. in Charleston. The telephone number for appointments is 304-348-8080. The Putnam County Health Department is located in Winfield at 11878 Winfield Road. The telephone number for appointments is 304-757-2541.

Charleston neurologist under fire changes prescribing habits http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/DM01/150719815 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150712/DM01/150719815 Sun, 12 Jul 2015 20:30:29 -0400 By Joel Ebert Charleston neurologist Iraj Derakhshan says he's changed his ways but not because he's facing a disciplinary hearing before the West Virginia Board of Medicine in just three weeks.

He says it isn't the board or the charges against him that has forced him to change his approach to prescribing powerful painkillers to his patients.

Derakhshan was one of the top prescribers of hydrocodone-acetaminophen, a Schedule II drug, in West Virginia in 2013, according to Medicaid Part D data.

But in an interview last month, Derakhshan said he's been forced to alter how he helps his patients deal with chronic pain because "pharmacies have said they're not filling (Schedule II) prescriptions."

Last month the Daily Mail confirmed many area pharmacies are refusing to fill the prescriptions Derakhshan writes for his patients for painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

As a result, Derakhshan says he is now prescribing patients Tylenol 3, a Schedule III drug, which is a combination of codeine and acetaminophen. It is less addictive than hydrocodone.

This isn't the first time Derakhshan has modified his choice of drugs to prescribe.

He said when he was facing a previous complaint by the state Board of Medicine, he cut the recommended dosage for some of his patients from 240 milligrams a day to 180 milligrams.

"Many of these patients came back with their headaches returned," he said.

Because of that, Derakhshan said he had to add a fentanyl patch "because they require that."

Despite the latest change, the doctor said he has not been able to prescribe all of his patients Tylenol 3, including one who has biliary cirrhosis, a liver disease.

Tylenol can cause liver disease if taken in large doses.

And while he faces a case before the Medical Board that includes 15 charges in a 40-page complaint, Derakhshan said he remains dedicated to helping his patients, many of whom suffer from migraines.

"To me, migraine is not a benign disease, so I give them whatever I am able to," he said.

Discussing his upcoming hearing, Derakhshan said he hopes that the state Board of Medicine remembers their education.

"The law that governs writing narcotic medication is that you increase it until the pain stops or the patient is asleep," he said. "I'm hoping they remember that."

When asked what will happen if the board doesn't agree with him, Derakhshan said, "Then I'm in bad shape."

After discussing the latest changes he's made in what drugs he prescribes, Derakhshan, citing concerns expressed by his lawyers, asked to have the information he provided and his comments omitted from this story.

Many of Derakhshan's current patients have contacted the Daily Mail in the last few weeks offering praise of the doctor while also expressing concern about what they should do now in light of the fact that they can't obtain their painkillers. The patients have all said they are not addicted to opioids and need the medications for legitimate purposes.

Richard Stevens, executive director of the West Virginia Pharmacists Association, offered Derakhshan's patients who are worried about obtaining their medication a solution.

"Those patients need to seek the care of another physician so that their current medical needs can be thoroughly and adequately assessed by another practitioner," he said.

Stevens said some pharmacists have ceased or reduced the amount of Schedule II drugs they have in their inventories for a number of reasons.

Noting that there has been a move from the federal level to reduce inventories of Schedule II drugs, he said wholesalers have limited quantities today.

In addition, Stevens said the recent state Supreme Court ruling that allows addicts to sue physicians and pharmacies has caused concern among pharmacists.

The state medical board's complaint includes details of their investigation that found that Derakhshan wrote more than 14,000 original and/or refill prescriptions for controlled substances from July 1, 2013, to Feb. 12, 2014.

Investigators examined the records of 10 of Derakhshan's patients and found the doctor had significantly escalated each patient's dosage over time.

And while many of his current patients have expressed support for the doctor's methods, several of Derakhshan's former patients have questioned his actions.

The doctor has denied any wrongdoing and said he is confident he will be vindicated when he appears before the state Board of Medicine's hearing examiners on July 28 and 29.

The board will not comment on the case until it has been adjudicated and the doctor's fate has been decided.

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

Camden Clark Medical Center to start $20M expansion project http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150710/ARTICLE/150719973 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150710/ARTICLE/150719973 Fri, 10 Jul 2015 09:39:02 -0400 PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - Camden Clark Medical Center says it will start a $20 million expansion project next week.

Media outlets report a new emergency department and medical and surgical unit will be added to the south tower of the Parkersburg hospital's main campus.

Construction is scheduled to start Monday. It's expected to be completed in 12 to 16 months.

Huntington mayor responds to derogatory comments by television producer http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709250 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150709/DM01/150709250 Thu, 9 Jul 2015 18:57:31 -0400 By Lexi Browning A production company's plans for a television series featuring Huntington's heavier residents are kaput after a production staffer's insensitive approach and insulting remarks about the community and the mayor.

Jamie Parks, a development producer for the proposed television series "Large and Proud," emailed Huntington Mayor Steve Williams with intentions to display rural towns with plus-sized residents, but assured the mayor she had no interest in poking fun at the residents. The show would focus on obese people who celebrate their bodies and have no interest in losing weight, thus being "Large and Proud."

"This country is sometimes overwhelming neurotic about being 'healthy,' 'skinny' and 'fit,' to the point where it belittles and judges those who are not," the email read.

Parks continued to relay her personal concerns about the blanketed mindset that outweighed obesity itself.

"Not everyone wants to be healthy. Our body, our choice - and I've noticed that the town of Huntington, WV chooses to embrace their plus-size attitude," Parks said.

Parks acknowledged Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver's visit to implement healthy living and eating, and praised the frustration and disinterest of residents who were "too concerned with enjoying their food and enjoying their life," to have their habits revoked by Oliver.

Parks encouraged the mayor to display and distribute her flyer, calling citizens who were considered obese and content to explore acting in the series.

Williams responded to the email and expressed his frustration.

"Your characterization that you make ... is not a fact, is indeed insulting to the sensibilities of our residents and a total mischaracterization of the culture of our community," Williams said.

Williams informed Parks that the city would not be participating in the series.

Parks took to Twitter to blow off some steam:

"Trying to create a tv show about the fattest town in American & just got an email from their obese mayor & homeboy is HIGHLY offended. #yikes," Parks' tweet read.

Loud Television released a statement Thursday morning following the "unprofessional" outburst of a now former employee, Jamie Parks.

"We apologize for the unprofessional and offensive comment tweeted yesterday by a casting associate. She is no longer with the company and her comments do not reflect the views of Loud Television or its parent company, Leftfield Entertainment," the statement said.

The company also issued an apology to the mayor himself and the city of Huntington for the "rude and insensitive" comment.

Parks soon deleted her Twitter account.

Williams said the combination of the negative introduction and the series' content as a whole led to his decision to turn down the publicity.

"It was easy to say no because it was insulting, obnoxious and condescending. If this is how someone is going to be acting toward us putting a best foot forward to introduce themselves - Lord have mercy - it would be disastrous when you got into the nitty gritty of things," Williams said.

Williams, who implemented a frequent Walk with the Mayor series to promote physical fitness and chats with residents in each district of the city, said the producers had not done their homework on Huntington's healthy living.

"It was clear to me that the email's claims were not factually based, they were based on rumor and innuendo, again, the production of a television episode or series is going to require collaboration between community and production," Williams said.

Since 2009, the metro-area, including the city of Huntington, has experienced an eight percent drop in obesity rates, which translates to approximately 24,000 residents of region that encompasses more than 300,000.

Williams said the negative publicity only encouraged him to work harder to promote fitness in his city, which has become known as "Runington" in the running community.

"When things like that happen, the momentum develops, and continues at that pace," Williams said. "We're going in the right direction, and we will continue to do so to get to where we need to be, but thank god we're not where we've been."

Williams said he was gracious that the production company had issued the statement directly to the city and said that he certainly accepted their apology.

"We are proud people," Williams said. "The nature of Huntington folks - if someone attacks our family, I pity the poor fool that steps in our way. As mayor of his city, these people are my family. I don't think I didn't do anything that any mayor wouldn't do; I feel like a proud poppa, and I'm going to protect my family."

According to Williams, Loud Television has withdrawn pursuing casting in Huntington.

Contact writer Lexi Browning at 304-348-7917 or lexi.browning@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/_galexi.

Students taking proactive approach to fall prevention in seniors http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150707/DM01/150709432 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150707/DM01/150709432 Tue, 7 Jul 2015 19:41:15 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith RIPLEY - It only takes a second for a fall to take a toll on health and independence.

West Virginia University students are working with older adults in rural communities to educate on fall prevention and assess individuals to see if they are at risk for falls.

Students in the physical therapy, occupational therapy and pharmacy programs along with clinician supervisors were at the Ripley Senior Center in Jackson County on Tuesday. Seniors who participated in the free program were screened for balance and strength, vision and blood pressure. They also received reviews of any medications they may be taking.

The program is funded through the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and is presented through the WVU Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center.

"We did a similar program in Morgantown at an assisted living facility," said Ralph Utzman, physical therapy professor. "We applied for the HEPC grant to get it started in rural communities. We have done one in Preston County and the next two will be in Romney in the eastern panhandle."

Officials hope the program will be offered in other communities in the future.

Utzman said statistics show falls have increased among the elderly over the past decade, and each year one in three older adults experiences a fall.

"Every 15 seconds an older adult goes to the emergency room," Utzman said. "Billions are spent every year in direct medical costs for people injured in falls."

Assessments and education can play a role in reducing falls while helping people remain independent in their own homes.

Chelsea Anderson, physical therapy student, said falls are often associated with aging but added that does not have to be so. She said it is important to stay active and professionals can offer tips for improving balance.

Ryan Ruben, of Evans, has been a physical therapist for two years and works with all ages. He said various issues contribute to falls such as changes in vision, muscle weakness, medications or neurological problems.

"We see balance issues in people of all ages," Ruben said. "It's important to stay active. Do your 20 minutes a day of physical activity."

Also, proper nutrition can improve health while reducing the risk of disease, he said.

"Getting older doesn't mean you have to get weaker and more frail," said Steve Armitage, physical therapy student. "People need to know there are many things you can do to combat these changes."

Ginny Dunbar, director of the Jackson County Commission on Aging, said when clients are visited in their homes it is not unusual to find someone has suffered a fall.

"Any program like this is beneficial to help reduce that risk," she said.

Evelyn Carpenter, 85, of Ripley, said she tripped at a yard sale and shattered bones in her right arm. This left her in a cast for nine weeks, which meant depending on assistance from her daughter.

"I try to be really careful where I put my feet," said Carpenter, who participated in the program on Tuesday.

William Westfall, 91, of Ripley, looked over a list of suggested precautions for making the home safe. The World War II veteran said he already had everything in order at home.

"These are good people," he said of the students. "They asked if I had a non-slip thing in my bathtub. I do. That is where a lot of people fall. They couldn't give me what I need - 20 years of youth back."

He did well with the balance test and even offered a little clogging demonstration.

Information issued by the WVU Division of Physical Therapy says about one-third of those over 65 and half of those over 80 will fall at least once this year.

Among things that may contribute to falls are leg muscle weakness, difficulty with balance or walking, vision problems, medical conditions, medications, depression, low blood pressure and home hazards such as throw rugs or pets underfoot.

A physical therapist can design programs to improve balance and strength.

Things that may improve home safety are railings, marking steps with contrasting paint or tape, improved lighting, grab bars and wheelchair ramps. The home should be clutter free with adequate space for moving around. Frequently used items should be placed on lower shelves. Comfortable shoes with non-skid soles are recommended.

Email rutzman@hsc.wvu.edu for more information about the Fall Risk Screening program.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at 304-348-1246 or charlotte@dailymailwv.com.

Cabell needle exchange program could guide other communities http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150705/DM02/150709656 DM02 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150705/DM02/150709656 Sun, 5 Jul 2015 20:37:25 -0400 By Tyler Bell HUNTINGTON - State and local officials announced a year-long pilot syringe exchange program in Cabell County Thursday that could, if found successful, become a precursor program for counties throughout the state.

"It's important for us to follow evidence-based approaches," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Public Health, at a press conference Thursday. The conference, held at the Huntington City Hall and attended by law enforcement, medical professionals and media outlets from across the state, brought together state and local officials to announce the state's first-ever syringe exchange program.

Syringe exchange programs address two difficult symptoms of the intravenous drug use epidemic. First, they combat the spread of infectious disease by getting dirty needles off the street, and second, they create an opportunity for health care workers to connect with addicts.

"We see the need and we know the need is out there," said DHHR Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling.

The state's heroin epidemic creates a host of secondary problems for West Virginia, not least of which is a steadily increasing rate of hepatitis and HIV infections.

The Centers for Disease Control reported 3.1 cases of acute hepatitis C infection per 100,000 people in West Virginia in 2013. More than four times the national total of .7 cases of infection per 100,000 people in 2013.

Hepatitis and HIV are spread via bodily fluids, according to the CDC. Sexual contact and intravenous drug use are both diseases' most common vectors.

"These are lifelong diseases," Gupta said. "Very expensive to treat, very difficult to treat."

"Hepatitis" is literally inflammation of the liver, the A, B and C designations are for the viral infections that cause said inflammation. The diseases are especially virulent and can lead to severe health complications and liver damage over time.

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. It is also relatively invisible, having few external symptoms until the onset of liver failure.

The Cabell County program will provide screening and testing for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis, amongst other infectious diseases, Gupta said. Aside from mitigating the spread of the diseases by securing and destroying dirty needles, the program will also gather information on the diseases at the ground level.

Gupta said the information garnered from this initial program could be used to start similar programs in other counties, depending on the outcome.

"While this is the first syringe exchange program in the state of West Virginia, the DHHR is funding this project as another innovative approach to addressing the challenges associated with intravenous drug use," he said in a press release. "We look forward to a thorough evaluation that will help guide other communities looking for a similar evidence-based approach."

The Daily Mail wrote about local and state leaders' support for potential programs in the future last Tuesday.

"I know about (syringe exchange programs) in general terms," Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming, previously said. "Generally speaking, I think it's probably a good idea to support a needle exchange program."

Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper said on MetroNews Talkline last month that he would be in support of such a program in Kanawha County and added that he would monitor Cabell's program.

The Cabell County program will likely begin the first week of September, said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, the Cabell Huntington Health Department's physician director. His department is heading the program.

"We developed a plan in collaboration with the local partners that we thought was a good idea," he said.

He added the final program borrowed heavily from the CDC's advice on syringe exchanges.

"I think we'll have significant influence in one year," Kilkenny said. He said the program will have one facility at the outset, but could potentially spread as the project gains momentum.

He expects the facility will assist 100 clients per session at the outset, but that number could increase or decrease depending on the availability of funds and manpower.

The Cabell County program is receiving $10,000 in funding and an additional $10,000 in technical support from the DHHR, Bowling said.

The largest obstacle to this program and programs throughout the state, aside from funding, seems to be public opinion.

Nearly every speaker at the conference, including Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, made sure to mention the program wasn't intended to support drug use.

"The properties of our past no longer apply to our present need," Williams said during the conference. "We have to act."

"Syringe exchange programs are supported by numerous organizations," Gupta said, reiterating the need to follow a fact-based approach.

"We got a lot of concern about needles and syringes in public areas," Kilkenny said. He said that was "never shown to occur" during other exchange programs.

Despite the success of needle exchange programs throughout the United States, only time will tell if similar programs will help in the heroin-beleaguered Mountain State. Kilkenny said they'll shut the program down if it doesn't live up to expectations.

"If we show no benefit, if we cause harm, we'll end the program," he said.

Contact writer Tyler Bell at 304-348-4850 or tyler.bell@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Tyler_Bell87.

Cabell County to have state's 1st syringe exchange program http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150702/ARTICLE/150709824 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150702/ARTICLE/150709824 Thu, 2 Jul 2015 14:54:56 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Cabell County will be the site of West Virginia's first syringe exchange program, which officials say will help reduce infectious diseases within the county's population of intravenous drug-users.

"When the use of intravenous drugs increases, we also see increases in communicable diseases," Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health, said Thursday at a news conference held in Huntington to announce the program.

West Virginia's rate of hepatitis B cases is 10.6 per 100,000 people, compared to the national rate of 0.9 percent. The hepatitis C rate is 3.1 cases per 100,000 people, while the national rate is 0.6, Gupta said.

"These are lifelong diseases, very difficult to treat and very expensive to treat," he said.

Cabell County's rates of hepatitis B and hepatitis C are projected to be 12 times the national averages, said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

"Make no mistake about it. We are in the midst of a serious health crisis in our community," Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said.

Williams said past policies no longer address present needs.

"This is moving forward in a businesslike manner so we can determine what works and what won't work and be able to constantly adjust accordingly," he said.

The state will provide $10,000 to the local health department to launch the program. Another $10,000 will be provided for technical support, said Karen L. Bowling, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources.

"This pilot program highlights the partnership of DHHR, the city of Huntington and the Cabell-Huntington Health Department coming together to not only acknowledge the seriousness of intravenous drug use, but to take action in helping to reduce the spread of infectious diseases in our communities caused by sharing needles," Bowling said.

Delegate Matthew Rohrbach said program organizers also want to help drug users get treatment and then get them back in the mainstream.

"When they see that someone cares about their health, they'll eventually realize that person also cares about them," said Rohrbach, R-Cabell.

The program is expected to be launched by late summer to early fall.

Some state, local officials support needle exchange programs http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150630/DM02/150639932 DM02 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150630/DM02/150639932 Tue, 30 Jun 2015 20:45:22 -0400 By Tyler Bell In yet another development in West Virginia's ongoing war against intravenous drug use, state and local officials are beginning to voice support for needle exchange programs.

Needle - or syringe - exchange programs let intravenous drug users exchange the dirty needles with which they've injected themselves for fresh syringes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended needle exchange programs to combat the spread of infectious disease to Congress since at least 1997, and numerous state and local agencies throughout the United States have implemented exchange programs to great effect.

"I know about (syringe exchange programs) in general terms," said Daniel Hall, R-Wyoming. "Generally speaking, I think it's probably a good idea to support a needle exchange program."

The programs aren't meant to condone drug use, but rather accept the fact that it happens and try to mitigate the epidemiological effects of widespread intravenous drug abuse. In West Virginia, the state that leads the nation in overdose deaths, state- or even county-wide exchange programs could end a serious outbreak before it begins.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus are the two most prevalent sicknesses spread by dirty needles, according to a 2005 report from the CDC detailing the risks of HIV and hepatitis C co-infection. Users infected with HIV have a roughly 80 percent chance of co-infection with hepatitis C, which can exacerbate the liver damage caused by the hepatitis C virus.

Unlike hepatitis A and B, hepatitis C has no antidote.

"We have an epidemic," Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said of the state's heroin abuse crisis. "We know that. There's no arguing."

Carper came out in support of a future syringe exchange program in Kanawha County on Metro News' Talkline program last week.

"You can try to arrest your way out of it," he said, but that alone isn't effective.

Carper praised the work of the Heroin Eradication Associated Taskforce, or HEAT, in providing a robust police presence against the heroin trade. He said that, while the police pressure is an incredible asset, by itself it isn't enough to put an end to the heroin crisis.

Another upside of syringe exchange programs is the increase in face-to-face contact between health care providers and users. It's not a guarantee somebody will seek treatment, but it drastically increases the odds.

"The people opposed to it are probably gonna say you're condoning drug use," Hall said.

Indiana lawmakers passed a measure in May allowing communities severely affected by HIV outbreaks to institute needle exchanges. The Indianapolis Star reported that Gov. Mike Pence, despite being vehemently opposed to needle exchange programs, declared a state of emergency in Scott County, Ind., after roughly 80 new HIV cases were reported in just weeks.

Permanent needle exchanges on either state- or county-wide levels won't happen overnight, but the state's Department of Health and Human Resources has announced a pilot syringe exchange program in Cabell County.

"The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is partnering with the City of Huntington and the Cabell-Huntington Health Department to announce the state's first-ever pilot Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) to assist with the reduction of illness/infection within the intravenous drug-use population in Cabell County," the department wrote in a press release.

"SEPs are considered part of a Harm Reduction Program to reduce the risk of spreading diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS."

The program will be announced during a joint press conference at 10 a.m. Thursday at Huntington City Hall.

Carper said a good deal of planning would precede launching such a program in Kanawha County. He added he's aware of the DHHR's Cabell County pilot program and would monitor it closely.

"The pill-mill epidemic did this and this caused by greedy pharmaceutical companies, greedy pharmacists and the occasional greedy doctor," he said.

The state and the county are still cleaning up the mess started by pill-mills more than a decade ago, and this is just another step authorities will have to take to finish the job, he said.

"It's just a question of whether public funds can be allocated and whether this is a good thing to do," Carper said. He said a county program would likely fall under the direction of HEAT.

The DHHR is reluctant to comment on the specifics - including costs - of the pilot program ahead of Thursday's official announcement.

Contact writer Tyler Bell at 304-348-4850 or tyler.bell@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Tyler_Bell87.

Health officials call for better communication about vaccines http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150617/DM01/150619335 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150617/DM01/150619335 Wed, 17 Jun 2015 20:12:20 -0400 By Samuel Speciale Better communicating vaccine safety and effectiveness is key to addressing the growing public concern over immunizing children, health officials said Wednesday during the closing session of the 2015 West Virginia Immunization Summit.

While West Virginia has the second highest immunization rate of school-aged children in the country - about 96 percent - parental hesitancy and sometimes outright refusal to vaccinate their children has public health officials on edge and looking for ways to combat what they call campaigns of misinformation.

"It's a consequence of success," said Kristen Feemster, a research director for the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She was the two-day summit's Wednesday keynote speaker.

"Many people haven't experienced diseases and don't understand their severity," she said.

Feemster, who also is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, went on to say that people who aren't worried their children will contract a disease take up other concerns like vaccine safety.

"It fills that void," she said.

While vaccines have all but eradicated diseases like diphtheria, polio and measles, Feemster said that blanket of security actually has helped create hesitancy, which in some pockets of the country has turned to religiously motivated anti-vaccination movements.

That void also can be filled with distrust in science, misinformation about vaccines, distortion of disease risk and a focus on naturalism, Feemster said.

Because of this, Feemster said health care providers are tasked with the difficult job of assuaging parents' concerns.

"They just want what's best for their children," she said.

That's why doctors need to address concerns and find common ground with parents, Feemster said.

"The majority of parents really do listen to their health care provider," Feemster said, citing medical studies that found parents are more likely to sign off on vaccinating their children if their doctor strongly recommends doing so.

Part of the process of selling a parent on vaccinating their child, Feemster said, is taking a presumptive approach where a doctor uses declarative statements in their recommendation instead of asking them to participate. She said parents are 17 times more likely to refuse a vaccination if they believe they have the option to do so.

All but two states - Mississippi and West Virginia - allow parents to opt their children out of mandatory vaccinations for anything other than a serious medical condition a doctor verifies. Religious conviction or philosophical belief is not a valid exemption in West Virginia.

Health officials cite West Virginia's ironclad vaccination laws as a reason for the state's high immunization rate of school-aged children. Younger children, however, have fallen behind.

Jeff Necuzzi, director of Immunization Services for the state Bureau for Public Health, said vaccination of school-aged children is steady but it is lacking in kids ages two years and younger.

While he said hesitancy is at play, there are other reasons parents are refusing or unable to vaccinate their children.

"I believe hesitancy is overstated in West Virginia," he said. "It's not the main cause of under-immunization."

Studies indicating that only about 2 percent of parents refuse to vaccinate their children seem to confirm Necuzzi's claim.

"It's part of it, but socioeconomic factors are the problem," he said.

Despite vaccines for children being an entitlement in West Virginia, much of the state remains medically under-served, something Necuzzi blames on economics and geography.

"Providers need to recognize we have a population that is less affluent and less educated," he said, adding that some doctors are not able to stock vaccines and must refer parents to another doctor. He went on to say parents in rural communities may not be able to take their children to another city, which drives lower vaccination rates.

"We're trying to fix that," Necuzzi said. "Providers need to disseminate information better so parents are aware of their children's immunization appointments. There needs to be extra effort in communicating."

Public health officials say a 90 percent immunization rate is critical to minimizing the potential for disease outbreaks.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/samueljspeciale.

Report: West Virginia has highest drug overdose death rate http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150617/ARTICLE/150619390 ARTICLE http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150617/ARTICLE/150619390 Wed, 17 Jun 2015 10:12:55 -0400




West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S., according to a report released Wednesday, further spotlighting Appalachia's festering drug abuse problem that is also fueling a rise in hepatitis C in one of the nation's poorest regions.

There were about 34 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 West Virginia residents from 2011-13, up dramatically from 22 deaths per 100,000 people in 2007-09, according to the report released Wednesday by the nonprofit groups Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

West Virginia's drug overdose death rate was more than double the national average, the report says. Citing statistics from the CDC, it found that West Virginia's rate far surpasses the second-highest state, New Mexico, which was at 28.2 deaths per 100,000. The national average was 13.4.

"It's more than disappointing. It's devastating," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin in Charleston. "Can I say that I'm shocked? I'm not, because I know the depth of this problem."

The reasons why vary, but they are intertwined, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, West Virginia's state health officer.

He cited the impoverished region's history of poor education, along with the isolation of people and communities in its rugged mountainous terrain. There's a limited offering of substance abuse programs, though it's growing, but services may be far away and hard to reach.

Those factors similarly drive West Virginia toward the bottom of many other health and quality of life indicators, Gupta said.

"Whether it's drug use, whether it's mental health, it's physical health, a number of those things are going hand-in-hand," Gupta said.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that hepatitis C cases across four Appalachian states - Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia - more than tripled between 2006 and 2012. Kentucky now has the nation's highest rate of acute hepatitis C.

The recent outbreak of hepatitis C, which can be transmitted by injecting drugs or having unprotected sex, is centered in rural areas among young, white drug users.

Gupta said West Virginia has seen 3,000 drug overdose deaths in the last five years, or an average of 600 a year.

In Cabell County alone this year, there were at least 32 overdose deaths and 360 drug overdoses, including heroin and prescription drugs, said Jim Johnson, the city of Huntington's director of drug control policy.

While police have tried to cut down on the supply side of illegal drugs with at least 406 drug-related arrests in Huntington this year, leaders in the Ohio River county of 97,000 residents have also have turned to addiction treatment programs.

"The drug problem is our No. 1 problem," Johnson said. "We're a community that's hitting it head on. We're not trying to sweep it under the table. We're trying to be aggressive.

West Virginia's drug woes reflect a national trend.

The report said drug overdose deaths have more than doubled in the past 14 years nationally and have resulted in 44,000 deaths per year, half of which are prescription-drug related. Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of injury in 36 states, including West Virginia, surpassing motor vehicle-related deaths.

In West Virginia, two state agencies have an ongoing lawsuit seeking to unseal court records about drug shipments from 11 pharmaceutical distributors. The suit alleges the companies have helped fuel the state's pain pill epidemic by shipping excessive amounts of prescription painkillers to southern West Virginia pharmacies.

Authorities also have cracked down on doctors who run pill mills. A Clarksburg pain doctor was sentenced last month to five years in prison. A 2010 FBI raid shut down a Williamson clinic and resulted in six month prison sentences for two physicians and an office manager for misusing Drug Enforcement Administration registration numbers.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and other senators have asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to reinstate a national program where people can turn in expired and unwanted prescription pills to police agencies on designated days. Manchin also wants to reclassify certain prescription drugs to limit the amount and frequency that can be dispensed without a person being rechecked by a physician.

"It's a whole gamut of things that we have to start," Manchin said. "But if we don't start, and we don't have a systematic way of approaching it, this is going to continue to consume our nation at a price we can't afford to pay."

Food pantries encourage donations straight from your garden http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150615/DM06/150619547 DM06 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150615/DM06/150619547 Mon, 15 Jun 2015 18:03:47 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith If a garden produces more vegetables than your family can eat, consider sharing the bounty with the less fortunate.

Summer can be lean regarding donations to local food pantries.

Jean Simpson, executive director for Manna Meal, is encouraging anyone with a garden to donate extra produce to any local food pantry. Donations are lean this time of year and fresh vegetables would be welcome.

"We are all struggling," she said. "If you grow a garden and have an abundance, bring it to a local food pantry, any food pantry."

While many pantries do not have refrigerators, she suggests calling ahead and delivering fresh vegetables on the days they are open so those who visit them may have the benefit of nutritious food.

She notes that November and December are busy with many donating food during the holidays. But donations then tend to decline.

Also, donated items throughout the year are generally processed and packaged,

"Nobody gets fresh vegetables," she said. "Another thing pantries don't get is eggs."

Manna Meal, housed at St. John's Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, serves two meals a day, seven days a week to anyone, with no questions asked.

Manna Meal is in the process of moving its garden from private space on Rutledge Road in Charleston to a new site at Rock Lake Community Center owned by Rock Lake Presbyterian in the Spring Hill section of South Charleston. Email jsmannameal@wirefire.com or call 304-345-7121 for more information or to volunteer to help with the garden.

Meanwhile, John Roberts, executive director of Mountain Mission on Charleston's West Side, said a gentleman started a small raised bed garden in an effort to help the food pantry but it has not been too successful so far. Additional space is available for those who would like to plant fresh vegetables to help stock the pantry.

Those with extra produce in their home gardens are also asked to contribute any extra vegetables.

"It would help tremendously if we had vegetables for our clients in need," Roberts said. "We are in dire need."

While people tend to donate food during the holidays, they get busy with family activities during the summer and tend to forget, he said.

"It isn't that they don't care," he said. "Their minds are busy with other things."

In addition to fresh produce, a food drive by any church or organization would be appreciated for stocking the shelves, he said.

"The demand for food is pressing every day," he said.

Families are given boxes of food with staples and are then permitted to choose some items. Dairy and meat products are limited and given to those with the greatest needs. A volunteer has been putting together recipe ideas to help clients stretch the contents of a food box into as many meals as possible.

Contact Mountain Mission at 304-344-3407 or info@mountainmission.com for more information about donating food or helping with a garden. The address is 1620 Seventh Ave., Charleston.

Pocatalico/Sissonville Community Food Pantry, housed at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, could use "anything from the garden," said Judy Stanley, a longtime volunteer.

She said an elderly gentleman who is a client of the pantry has previously brought his extra produce to share with others in need. "Anything anyone has from the garden would be wonderful," she said. "We need meats and vegetables. A lady who used to bring us eggs has started bringing eggs again."

Nonperishable foods may be dropped off any time and placed in barrels located outside the church, 6823 Sissonville Dr. To make arrangements for dropping off garden vegetables or other perishable items, call the church office at 304-984-1164.

Major Darrell Kingsbury, area commander for the Salvation Army, said garden produce is a welcome addition to the food pantry and also helpful for feeding lunch to children participating in the Boys and Girls Club.

In some instances, groups of neighbors have joined forces to tend a community garden and donate the bounty, he said.

Donations may be dropped off at 301 Tennessee Ave. in Charleston as well as the thrift store on Wyoming Street. Those who would like to donate food and wish to have it picked up may contact the Salvation Army 304-343-4548.

He said many people are struggling economically and the need for donations is great at food pantries.

Contact a local food pantry for information regarding donations of nonperishables as well as the best time to drop off any extra garden vegetables this growing season.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

Area pharmacies refuse to fill embattled neurologist's prescriptions http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150614/DM01/150619617 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150614/DM01/150619617 Sun, 14 Jun 2015 21:20:04 -0400 By Joel Ebert A local pharmacy chain has decided to stop filling prescriptions written by Dr. Iraj Derakhshan after it was revealed the neurologist is facing a disciplinary hearing before the West Virginia Board of Medicine that could result in a license revocation.

Jerry Leonard, vice president of pharmacy services for Drug Emporium, said his company, which has two locations in Charleston, changed its policy after the Daily Mail's examination of Derakhshan's history of writing opioid-based pain killer prescriptions by the thousands.

The Daily Mail reported Derakhshan was one of the top prescribers of hydrocodone-acetaminophen in West Virginia in 2013, according to Medicaid Part D data. That year, he wrote 3,462 hydrocodone prescriptions for 437 beneficiaries, totaling 103,265 days supply, far outnumbering any other drugs he prescribed. Derakhshan also wrote 1,540 oxycodone prescriptions for Medicaid Part D patients in 2013.

"We're willing to fill a month's worth of (Dr. Derakhshan's) patient's prescriptions one more time, if the pharmacist on duty feels it's medically appropriate, for select patients who are already established with Drug Emporium," he said. "But if they haven't filled a prescription regularly over the last 6 months, we will refuse them."

Leonard said the decision to stop filling Derakhshan's opioid prescriptions was also based on the preponderance of evidence outlined in the West Virginia Board of Medicine's complaint that confirmed suspicions the company already had about the doctor's practices.

"Our upper level management reviewed prescription activity from reports out of our own prescription processing system for hydrocodone and oxycodone. We found that Dr. Derakhshan wrote many times more prescriptions for those two products than any other prescriber in our database, and more importantly, not much of anything else," Leonard explained.

Drug Emporium's policy change was necessary in order to accommodate patients who regularly fill their prescriptions with the company and not simply cut them completely off, according to Leonard.

The decision was made "to protect our pharmacists and our pharmacies however that had to be handled on a case by case basis," Leonard said, noting that the company has not been able to give proper notice to all its patients.

"I didn't have a real good feeling about cutting people off cold turkey, but in some cases it was warranted," he said.

The local neurologist's patients, Leonard said, have the choice of either staying with him or going to another practitioner.

He said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has put the onus on pharmacists for identifying whether a patient is in legitimate need of opioids rather than putting that burden entirely on the prescriber.

"The pharmacist is always on the back end of the spectrum," said Leonard.

According to the DEA's pharmacist manual, "a pharmacist also needs to know there is a corresponding responsibility of the pharmacist who fills the prescription.

"A pharmacist is required to exercise sound professional judgment when making a determination about the legitimacy of a controlled substance prescription," the manual says, noting that both the pharmacist and the issuing practitioner can be prosecuted for knowingly and intentionally distributing controlled substances.

A lack of complete clarity from the DEA has put pharmacies in a position where they can be held responsible if something happens to a patient, Leonard says.

For that reason, many large companies, such as Wal-Mart, are unwilling to fill many opioid prescriptions.

"Pharmacies need to be given better direction from the DEA," he said.

Leonard said although Drug Emporium pharmacists will look at each Derakhshan prescription on a case-by-case basis, the company would maintain the current policy until the doctor appears in front of the Board of Medicine in late July.

But Drug Emporium is not the only local pharmacy frequently refusing to fill prescriptions written by Derakhshan.

Several of the doctor's current patients contacted the Daily Mail to say they have been unsuccessful in filling his prescriptions for opioid-based pain medication.

Bernerd Slater, a West Side resident and a patient of Derakhshan's, said he has tried going to every pharmacy in the Kanawha Valley region to get his prescriptions for oxycodone, Xanax and Topamax.

"Everywhere that I tried to get them filled said he was locked out when they looked on the system," he said.

The system, Slater believes, is the controlled substance monitoring database, which provides pharmacists an overview of how frequently a patient is filling their prescriptions and whether or not they are doctor shopping - a practice where one patient visits several doctors to get pain medication.

Slater, who says he suffers from numerous maladies including migraines, said, "I'm one of them that needs pain medication that can't get it."

He credits Derakhshan for helping him get to a point where he can function normally.

In light of the difficulty he's faced with obtaining his pain medication, Slater said he's planning to meet with his family doctor later this month in hopes of having her refer him to a new doctor.

In the meantime, Slater says he's suffering.

"I'm in constant pain," Slater said. "Now I'm back to laying in bed."

In addition to Slater, several other patients said they've tried to fill Derakhshan's prescriptions anywhere they could - Wal-Mart, Rite Aid and Kroger, to name just a few - but they have been denied at each location.

The Daily Mail attempted to speak with numerous pharmacies but only three - Rite Aid, CVS and Trivillian's Pharmacy, in addition to Drug Emporium - responded to requests for comment for this story.

"Pharmacists have a legal obligation under state and federal law to determine whether a controlled substance was issued for a legitimate purpose and they consider a variety of factors when exercising their professional judgment as to whether or not to fill a controlled substance prescription," said Mike DeAngelis, public relations director for CVS.

"We do not comment on individual prescribers, however as part of CVS Health's efforts to combat prescription drug abuse, we are committed to identifying physicians who exhibit extreme patterns of prescribing high risk drugs such as pain medications, and in some cases we will not fill controlled substance prescriptions they write," he said.

Rite Aid confirmed that they no longer fill prescriptions written by Derakhshan.

"In March of 2014, Rite Aid made the decision to no longer dispense prescriptions for controlled substances for this provider," said Ashley Flower, a company spokesperson.

Stephanie Saunders, a pharmacist at Trivillian's Pharmacy in Kanawha City, said the company's three locations have decided to deny some of Derakhshan's patients.

"We are no longer taking patients of Dr. Derakhshan's seeking narcotic prescriptions," she said, while noting that the doctor's patients would still be able get prescriptions for non-narcotic medications filled.

Saunders recently became a co-owner of Trivillian's. Last September the Kanawha City location was raided by federal authorities and the company's former owner, Paula Butterfield, subsequently pleaded guilty to charges related to healthcare fraud.

"There is some sort of conspiracy not to fill his (Derakhshan) prescriptions," said Clendenin resident Mack Walker, another one of the doctor's patients.

Walker said if it weren't for a pharmacist he has known for over 35 years, he would not be able to get his painkillers.

"Pain medication is the only hope that I have," he said. "I've had a headache day and night nonstop for 40 months."

Walker admitted some people misuse opioids, adding a negative light to medication he says helps him and many others get through the day. As a result of the widespread abuse, people who legitimately need prescription painkillers are left suffering, Walker said.

Derakhshan is currently facing 15 charges outlined in a 40-page complaint filed by the state medical board. The complaint includes details of an investigation that found that the doctor wrote more than 14,000 original and/or refill prescriptions for controlled substances from July 1, 2013, to Feb. 12, 2014.

Investigators examined the records of 10 of Derakhshan's patients and found the doctor had significantly escalated each patient's dosage over time.

Several of Derakhshan's former patients have called his actions into question but the doctor has denied any wrongdoing and is confident he will be vindicated when he appears before the state Board of Medicine's hearing examiners on July 28 and 29.

The board will not comment on the case until the doctor's case has been adjudicated and his fate has been decided.

Contact writer Joel Ebert at 304-348-4843 or joel.ebert@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on twitter.com/joelebert29.

Times changing for baby changing tables http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150610/DM01/150609196 DM01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20150610/DM01/150609196 Wed, 10 Jun 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Andrea Lannom By Marcus Constantino Marcus Constantino It's inevitable. Any parent who is out with a baby will eventually have to find a place to change a diaper.

For women, it can be as simple as visiting the nearest restroom.

For men, options might not be as reliable.

We decided to see what changing options are available in a pinch for Kanawha Valley dads. The results were spotty.

Most businesses visited in Charleston and surrounding towns offered either changing tables in both restrooms or had family or unisex restrooms. However, most of the restaurants we visited did not.

See also: Some states consider changing tables laws

Out of 21 places we visited in town and the surrounding area - which included a mix of government buildings, activity centers, public buildings, retail stores, grocery stores and restaurants - 13 had them in both and seven had changing stations only in the women's restroom. Only one place didn't have changing tables in either restroom.

All but one chain retail store visited offered changing stations in both restrooms. With restaurants, four out of the five visited, including chains and locally-owned places, only had them in the women's restroom.

Some fathers still said they have trouble finding a place to change their children's diapers.

"My experience in public restrooms, the vast majority don't have changing tables in restrooms," said Mark Brown, a Charleston father of 1-year-old twins. "If I'm somewhere out with the kids, if I have to change them, I kind of think of it as I need a flat surface. I mostly change the kids in the car."

Other fathers recounted similar stories and even some mothers talked about how difficult it was for their spouses to find a changing table. Frank Constantino, a Beckley father, said he had a similar experience.

"I would say that most men's restrooms don't have changing tables," Constantino said. "That does pose a problem when taking our son out. Megan (Constantino's wife) almost always has to be the one to make the diaper change. I don't worry about taking him out, but if I were out with him alone I would have to take him back to the car to change his diaper. It's possible that the lack of changing tables in men's restrooms stems from views of the past that women primarily raised a child. While those views have greatly changed, restrooms haven't."

Some of the businesses that offered either changing tables or family restrooms include Yeager Airport, Kanawha County Circuit Court, the Kanawha County Courthouse, the Kanawha County Public Library, the Culture Center, the Civic Center, the South Charleston Memorial Ice Arena and Charleston Town Center.

Amy Shuler Goodwin, commissioner with the West Virginia Division of Tourism, confirmed all eight welcome centers have changing tables in both restrooms.

Terri McDougal, head of children's services at the library, said there have been changing tables in both restrooms on the children's floor for about 10 years.

"When we didn't have baby changing stations, it was a challenge for parents with babies and infants," she said. "I can remember some changed their children on the couches in the play area. They would spread out pads but yes, that was something we really felt we needed to address with our patrons."

Ray Burke, board member of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, a trade association representing food service and travel industries, said whether a man will find a changing table in restaurants depends on a few factors such as the size of the restroom and how new the building is. He said he has seen changing tables in the men's restrooms in restaurants but noted he hasn't seen very many in gas stations.

"Basically, in a lot of restaurants, you're adding them but again, it depends on the size of the restaurants. You see them more in bigger dining rooms than you do in carry-out places."

"As you see restaurants that are newer, they have them in both the men's and women's restrooms. I've seen that more. In the past, you didn't see a lot of them," he said.

Burke said about 15 years ago, he stayed at home with the baby and said at that time, it was "unheard of."

"The man would have to change the baby in the car," he said. "It is nice that times have changed."

"We will work to add them in where we can," he later added.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department had changing tables and a child's toilet in the women's restroom but did not have either in the men's restroom. After asked why the health department didn't have them, spokesman John Law said the department intends to install them.

"We are going to install baby changing stations in our men's room," he said. "No one had ever pointed out the need before, but they should be in both of them. They will be there as soon as we can get them."

The state Capitol Complex also had tables in the women's restroom but not in the men's.

Diane Holley-Brown, communications director with the Department of Administration, said there are no baby changing tables in the men's restrooms in buildings at the Capitol Complex but there are some in the women's restrooms. She said there are no plans to add these stations right now, but officials are "always evaluating potential changes to various aspects related to our buildings."

"As to why these amenities are not found in the men's restrooms on the state Capitol Complex, most of these restrooms are in buildings that were constructed decades ago (1930s to 1950s) and most likely the specifications did not include having these features," she wrote.

She did say changing tables are included in specifications for both men's and women's bathrooms in new state office buildings under construction in Fairmont and Clarksburg.

"We plan to make every attempt to include these amenities in all new construction projects," she wrote.

Some businesses have gone the way of using family restrooms, which are not only targeted for parents but also for people who may need to assist another adult in using the restroom.

Lisa McCracken, spokeswoman with Charleston Town Center, explained the mall's family room was part of a recent renovation. The family restroom has two private rooms and a lounge. She said ideally, mall managers would like to have a second one in the mall and it's something officials are looking at down the road.

"It was one of the most requested amenities we received in the last six to seven years," she said. "More people requested a family restroom. ... We all had that experience where you either have an aging parent or a small child or grandchild and need access to a family restroom. For dads with little girls or moms with little boys, it takes that worry out of going to the restroom with one or the other with going with a different sex."

Caryn Gresham, spokeswoman for the Culture Center, said there are changing stations in the men's restroom and there are two family bathrooms. She said the first family restrooms were installed in the 1990s.

Although she said she wasn't there when they were installed, she said the reason officials decided to go with family restrooms is all the events hosted at the center. She said the changing table in the men's bathroom was installed in 2009.

"I wasn't there at the time but I guess it was because at the time, we recognized it's a good practice," she said. "We bring people here of all ages - from 2 months to 102. We recognize, as a public facility, we want to be as service-oriented as possible."