county served by regional program that is shutting down
Konrad Surowiec, Staff Writer
May 7, 2004
CENTREVILLE - The Queen Anne's County Commissioners asked county Health
Officer Dr. Chinnadurai Devadason to provide an estimate by Friday, May 7,
on how much it would cost the county to run a public mental health
regional public program that provides outpatient mental health services
for Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne's counties is being shut down. Regional
Mid-Shore Mental Health Services is operated by the Caroline County Health
Department. Dr. Leland Spencer, health officer for Caroline and Kent
counties, said last week the regional program will cease to exist,
although the outpatient clinics in each county will remain open during a
cited a debt of about $500,000 owed to the state as a main factor in
ending the regional program. He said in a previous interview that a public
mental health agency has a hard time running a "fee for service" program
at a break-even level. Spencer is worried that Caroline County, as
administrator of the regional program, will be solely responsible for
paying off the debt to the state.
Devadason and Gary Fry, director of alcohol and drug abuse services for
the Queen Anne's Health Department, spoke to the Queen Anne's County
Commissioners on May 4 about the pending closure of the regional program.
Fry is administrator for the regional program. Devadason said Spencer
wants to know by May 11 what Queen Anne's plans to do once the regional
program ends. Devadason said the options boil down to having Queen Anne's
County run its own public program, or privatizing mental health services.
Commissioner Gene Ransom suggested the county provide $100,000 for a
county-run mental health program in fiscal 2005. Devadason said it was
hard to predict how much a county program would cost in comparison to a
program that serves three counties. Devadason, saying it was a very rough
estimate, said Queen Anne's County's share of the expenditures in fiscal
2004 was $800,000 to $900,000. Fry said total expenditures for the
regional program in fiscal 2004 are estimated at $2.5 million. The
commissioners asked Devadason to provide an estimate on the cost of
running a Queen Anne's County program in fiscal 2005 to County
Administrator Paul Comfort on May 7.
very serious issue. ... We want to work with you," said Commission
President Ben Cassell. But it's hard to put a 'blank' in a budget line.' "
Hill resident Matthew Pascocello thought it was odd when the water in his
80-year-old house and a friend's two-year-old house had the same test
results for lead, 0.2 parts per billion.
became more concerned last week when he discovered that two residents in
other parts of the city received the same result from Florida-based
Professional Laboratories Inc., the nation's largest manufacturer and
distributor of environmental testing kits.
discovery of increased lead levels in the drinking water of District homes
in the past few months led to more than 10,000 D.C. homes being tested by
the District's Water and Sewer Authority. Several hundred had levels
higher than the 15 parts per billion government safety standard, according
to WASA figures released this week.
Pascocello had turned to Professional Laboratories, which sells its tests
under the Pro-Lab brand name, because he "wasn't fully trusting WASA to
have a nonbiased test." The city test had found lead levels as high as 21
parts per billion in his water, he said.
called the company this week about the "too weird" identical 0.2 results,
Pascocello triggered an internal inquiry that found errors. Professional
Laboratories is now offering refunds to affected customers.
reading, it turns out, meant there was less than 200 parts per billion of
lead in the drinking water; the test wasn't specific enough to determine
if that meant more or less than the 15 parts per billion government
Yesterday, Professional Laboratories' chief executive, James McDonnell,
said he is reviewing the 975 tests the company sold over the past three
months to see how many homeowners received the 0.2-parts-per-billion
readings. He did not know how many tests that would involve, but in each
case, he said, he would mail out a letter refunding $25 to cover the
entire cost of the kit, which costs between $9 and $12, and the $15 lab
analysis fee. The company is also offering a new kit and new test, free,
at a different lab.
bottom line is I'm refunding everyone their money," McDonnell said.
blamed the problem on Richmond-based Schneider Laboratories Inc., which
served as its subcontractor for the water testing. McDonnell said
Schneider conducted the wrong test, failing to use a more sophisticated
and costly procedure required to measure very low levels of lead in water.
Schneider's lab manager James Vescio, disputed that. "The results Pro-Lab
was getting were not drinking-water results and Pro-Lab knew that," Vescio
said. Those tests, he added, would have cost at least twice the $15 that
consumers paid Pro-Lab to get their water analyzed, Vescio said.
McDonnell said Vescio was "100 percent wrong."
retailers around the area said sales of the Pro-Lab kit were brisk in
February and March, when initial reports about the lead problems first
surfaced. At Strosnider's in Bethesda,
for example, manager Craig Smith said that he sold about 300 kits in the
past three months, compared with about 50 in the same period a year ago.
It was the only water-testing kit he sold.
McDonnell said that although his company conducts a million lab tests a
year, usually measuring the amount of radon in a home, it typically sells
no more than 900 tests for lead in drinking water annually.
Side Elementary School was evacuated yesterday after a "moldy" odor,
possibly related to an air conditioning unit, made several adults and
students ill, a county Fire Department spokesman said.
Chief John Scholz said two women and a 7-year-old boy were taken to Anne
Arundel Medical Center after they complained of being dizzy and nauseated.
Hazardous materials teams did tests, but couldn't find the source of the
odor yesterday, Chief Scholz said. School system maintenance workers will
inspect the building over the weekend.
school's 400-plus students walked to nearby Discovery Village, where they
had water and snacks until buses picked them up about 3:30 p.m.
day. Nothing happens like this in Shady Side," said a harried Adam Hewison,
Village's founder, who spent the afternoon dealing with the controlled
chaos that is a few hundred 5- to-11-year-olds.
Firefighters were called to the school at 11:11 a.m. and found seven
people with flu-like symptoms, Chief Scholz said.
felt better once they got outside, but three were taken to the hospital.
conditioner in the school's "core," which houses the main offices, had
been turned on not long before people began to feel sick. Those affected
included a school nurse and a secretary, parents said.
Glumsic, a parent who was volunteering at the school yesterday, said she
felt some of the same symptoms when she walked in certain areas.
noticed like a slight burning in my throat, but I didn't even think
anything of it," she said.
Firefighters left the scene about 12:45 p.m. Meanwhile, many parents had
gone to Discovery
Village either to pick up their kids or find out what was happening.
munched on bag lunches brought over from Southern Middle School.
students were "packed" inside, but behaved well, said Ron Russell, another
Shady Side Elementary parent. He said he works at Discovery Village and
suggested taking the children there.
don't usually have 500 kids indoors," Mr. Hewison said. "We're coping the
best we can."
writers E.B. Furgurson III and Carmen Mauriello contributed to this story.
Published May 08, 2004,
The Capital, Annapolis,
N.J. - State and federal health officials said yesterday that an
investigation showed nothing unusual about the number of deaths from a
rare brain-destroying disease among people linked to a now-closed
is no cluster. There is no outbreak," Dr. Clifton R. Lacy, commissioner of
the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, said after
releasing a report on the investigation. "It is well within what's
expected." The investigation was prompted by a businesswoman's research
into the deaths of several people who worked at or frequented the Garden
State Racetrack in Cherry Hill between 1988 and 1992. All died of
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a brain-destroying disorder, or neurological
Accountant Janet Skarbek says the deaths were caused by eating
mad-cow-tainted meat served at the track, which closed in 2001. Lacy said
top scientists in his department, other states, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention and the top U.S. research center for such
nerve-destroying diseases have investigated 17 deaths since 1995. Tests
show three people had other diseases, three investigations are not
complete and 11 cases have been ruled as naturally occurring, or sporadic,
cuts, poor coordination and a lack of attention from high-ranking federal
health officials have "left America still too vulnerable to a possible
bioterror attack," Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) wrote yesterday in a
scathing iteration of gaps in the nation's preparedness.
years after Congress passed legislation outlining specific steps for
preventing, detecting and responding to terrorist incidents, Lieberman
said the Bush administration "has not come close to complying with the
basic requirements and goals" of the measure.
Specifically, he said, key staff positions have gone unfilled, public
health laboratories are poorly equipped, mandatory progress reports have
not been filed, hospitals do not have the beds or equipment to handle mass
casualties, and there remains confusion over the roles and
responsibilities of various local, state and federal agencies. And the
National Preparedness Plan "is merely a listing of bioterrorism-related
activities" underway, Lieberman wrote to Health and Human Services
Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
hours, Thompson fired off a response, calling the accusations "erroneous"
and "absurd." Lieberman's assessment "is absolutely laughable on its
face," Thompson said in an interview. "We are being criticized for what
states have not done."
Lieberman cited one independent analysis last year that concluded "the
level of preparedness was actually declining in many states" because they
are trimming public health departments' budgets.
notably, the senator said, the administration has proposed cutting more
than $150 million from bioterrorism-related projects such as hospital
surge capacity, mental health care, emergency response training, and
assistance to city and state health departments. Given such a "disturbing
record," Lieberman said, "you'd think the threat was diminishing."
problem, Thompson responded, is that states have not spent almost half of
the $3.7 billion in current grants. Rather than cutting the budget,
Thompson said, he is simply shifting money away from cities and states and
giving it to federal bioterrorism programs.
said Patrick M. Libbey of the National Association of County and City
Health Officials, "is misinformation." He said 92 percent of the grant
money has been obligated by states, which in many cases are simply waiting
to receive bills.
two-page HHS fact sheet noted that the administration has proposed a $65
million increase for food safety and an additional $121 million for
biodefense research. Thompson touted efforts to expand food inspections,
the construction of a "war room" at HHS headquarters, the purchase of
millions of doses of smallpox vaccine and a new surveillance project the
agency is developing with the Department of Homeland Security.
closing his response, Thompson chastised Lieberman for failing to tour the
HHS command center and promised the senator that he would personally give
him a tour if he did make a visit.
Lieberman's criticism echoed several government and independent audits
that have cited shortcomings in the government's bioterrorism
failed to show prospect of fraud
Saturday, May 8, 2004
- A federal judge has denied the tobacco industry's request to dismiss the
Justice Department's $280 billion lawsuit against the nation's top
tobacco industry argued in a motion that the case should not be brought to
trial this fall because the Justice Department has failed to show that the
companies were likely to commit fraud in the future.
answer that question, the court must hear and weigh the evidence, which is
properly done at trial," U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a
written ruling issued late Thursday.
Anti-smoking groups applauded that decision and said it significantly
moved the case forward. "I do think it makes it clear that there is going
to be a trial," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for
Justice Department filed the civil racketeering case against the industry
for allegedly conspiring to deceive the public about the dangers of
tobacco and the addictive nature of nicotine. The government also claims
the companies targeted children through advertising and then lied about
lawsuit was filed under the Clinton
administration. The Justice Department, under the Bush administration,
initially sought to settle the case but has pursued it since those talks
rejected an argument by the tobacco companies that the case should be
dismissed because a 1998 legal settlement with 46 states restricted the
industry's ability to commit future wrongdoing. The companies noted the
numerous restrictions the settlement imposes on them, such as a ban on
cartoon characters and ads on public transportation or billboards.
is no question that Philip Morris USA and other tobacco companies have
dramatically changed the way their products are marketed," said William
Ohlemeyer, a lawyer for Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest cigarette
said the companies were asking her to assume that the industry has
complied with the settlement and will continue to comply with it,
assumptions she said she would not make at this stage in the case.
noted that the government is seeking remedies not provided under the
settlement with the states. They include new marketing restrictions,
funding of nicotine replacement therapy for smokers and the $280 billion
allegedly earned through fraud.
still must respond to a motion filed by the tobacco industry in which the
cigarette makers argue that the government should not be allowed to recoup
the billions sought.
say in the latest round of rulings that all the tobacco companies could be
on the hook for the entire amount of damages if the government proves its
case and payments are ordered. That means if one company can't pay, the
others would be responsible for its share.
defendants are Philip Morris USA Inc. and its parent, Altria Group Inc.;
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.; Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co.; British
American Tobacco Ltd.; Lorillard Tobacco Co.; Liggett Group Inc.; Council
for Tobacco Research-U.S.A. Inc.; and the Tobacco Institute.
Denies That Politics Blocked Contraceptive's Over-the-Counter Status
Saturday, May 8, 2004;
and Drug Administration acknowledged yesterday that it rejected
over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B against the
advice of its own staff -- as well as two expert advisory panels -- who
recommended that it be approved.
officials denied that the decision was made to satisfy the political
wishes of social conservatives, who lobbied President Bush by saying that
increased accessibility to emergency contraception would lead to greater
promiscuity among teenagers.
teleconference yesterday, Steven Galson, acting director of the FDA's
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said he made the decision in
consultation with the FDA commissioner's office but without other outside
decision I made had to do with looking at all the data and reading all the
transcripts," said Galson, who was named deputy director of the FDA's drug
evaluation office in 2002 after more than 10 years with other federal
agencies. He said he was especially concerned about the lack of
information about "the younger age group between 11 and 14, where we know
there is a substantial amount of sexual activity."
decision was an unusual repudiation of the agency's expert advisory panel,
which voted 23 to 4 that the drug should be sold over the counter. FDA
observers said it was extremely uncommon, if not unprecedented, for the
agency to overrule its reviewers and expert panels.
campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry quickly
attacked the decision. "Women's health should not be held hostage to
election-year politics and pandering to anti-choice extremists," Kerry
said in a statement. "In this White House, politics trumps sound science
every time. The Bush Administration is clearly more interested in
appealing to its electoral base than it is in protecting women's health."
Stanzel, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, referred questions to the
letter Thursday to Barr Laboratories, the agency said it denied the
application because only 29 of the 585 people who used the medication in
the company's study were younger than 16 -- a sample that it said was too
small to assess safety for that group. Proponents of the application said
the study reflected the ages of the women and girls who use Plan B.
said the FDA wants to increase the availability of contraception for
American women and would work with Barr to resolve outstanding issues. In
its letter to Barr, the agency said the company has to prove the drug is
safe for girls through research or devise a plan that would keep Plan B on
prescription-only status for girls younger than 16. Galson also referred
yesterday to the possibility that the drug might be sold as a
nonprescription but behind-the-counter drug.
consists of two high doses of a hormone used for birth control called
levonorgestrel, which has been shown to prevent pregnancy if taken within
72 hours after sex. More than 100 nations have approved it, and 33 allow
its sale without a prescription. Galson said yesterday, however, that none
of the nations has an over-the-counter drug system the same as that in the
United States, and so their experiences could not be used to assess the
safety of Plan B for American girls.
Mifeprex, or RU-486, the medical profession does not consider emergency
contraception an abortion pill, because it prevents a pregnancy from
starting. Some critics of Plan B disagree and consider it an abortifacient.
Asked the FDA's view, Galson said "the primary mode of action" of Plan B
is as a contraceptive.
bipartisan group of 37 members of Congress who support abortion rights
wrote a letter yesterday to the FDA protesting its decision, which evoked
a range of strong reactions.
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists finds the [FDA's] failure to
approve over-the-counter status for Plan B, despite the nearly unanimous
recommendation of its own advisory panels, morally repugnant . . . ,"
organization president Vivian M. Dickerson said in a statement. The FDA's
"action is a tragedy for American women, and a dark stain on the
reputation of an evidence-based agency like the FDA."
that represents female Republican candidates who support abortion rights,
the Wish List, called the decision a lost opportunity to narrow the divide
over the abortion issue. There is broad agreement that emergency
contraception can significantly decrease the number of abortions, perhaps
cutting in half the 3 million unintended pregnancies each year in the
a bridge issue; one in which reasonable people on both sides, those who
support abortion rights as well as those who oppose, can find common
ground because Plan B can reduce the number of abortions in this country,"
Chairwoman Karen Judd Lewis said in a statement.
Judie Brown, president of the antiabortion American Life League, supported
the decision and urged the FDA denial.
we are quite pleased that the Food and Drug Administration has advised
Barr Laboratories that it will not grant over-the-counter status for Plan
B at this time, the action is far from being totally satisfactory," she
said in a statement. "The FDA should never have approved the various
concoctions described as morning-after pills, erroneously labeled as
'emergency contraceptives' in the first place.
". . .
The best thing the FDA can do now for American women and their progeny is
to take the next logical step and remove these pills from the market
Department of Veterans Affairs announced a major revamping of its
sprawling health care system yesterday that will bring the closure of
three hospitals in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Mississippi, the building of
ones in Florida and Nevada, and changes in medical services at many other
restructuring, unveiled by VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi at a Las Vegas
news conference, is intended to streamline an operation that treated
nearly 5 million patients last year. But the plan has been criticized by
the General Accounting Office as wasting more than $1 million a day on
unused or unneeded facilities.
concludes a process known as Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced
Services, which began in 2002 as an effort to find ways to shutter
unneeded facilities and deliver health care more efficiently. The changes,
expected to cost more than $6 billion, will shift services to areas with
growing veteran populations in the South and West.
commit to providing greater access to quality care closer to where more
veterans live," Principi said. "We pledge our facilities will be modern
and more functional. . . . Our physical infrastructure has not kept pace."
the plan, the VA will close hospitals in Pittsburgh; Gulfport, Miss.; and
Brecksville, Ohio. It will build hospitals in Las Vegas
and Orlando. None of the hospitals will close before 2007, Principi said
in an interview.
will open 156 new outpatient clinics by 2012, he said. The plan calls for
two new rehabilitation centers for blind veterans, in Biloxi, Miss., and
Long Beach, Calif. The department also will create new spinal cord
centers, in Denver; Minneapolis; Syracuse, N.Y.; and a still-undetermined
changes affect the national capital region.
Seventy-seven domiciliary beds from the VA Medical Center in Martinsburg,
W.Va., and 22 psychiatric beds from Maryland's
Perry Point VA Medical Center will be transferred to the Washington VA
Medical Center. The plan also calls for the VA to take part in a joint
venture with the Armed Forces Retirement Home for transitional housing for
homeless veterans, Principi said.
Virginia, 13 outpatient clinics will open in Fort
Belvoir, Norfolk, Charlottesville, Emporia, Staunton, Radford, Lynchburg,
Pennington Gap, Thompson, Haysi, Davenport,
Davis and Lee County.
Maryland, officials will explore ways to reduce underused space on the
Perry Point campus, including construction of a new nursing home facility.
Three new community clinics will open, in Baltimore,
Owings Mills and southern Prince
Officials expect the plan when implemented will reduce vacant or obsolete
space from 8.6 million square feet to slightly more than 4 million square
feet. It would trim maintenance costs from $3.4 billion to $750 million by
2022, Principi said.
will have to decide whether to fund all or part of the plan. The VA is
seeking more than $1 billion for the effort next year.
think, generally speaking, everyone realizes that the future of the VA is
at stake," Principi said.
James T. Walsh (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Appropriations panel that
funds the VA, said: "This effort will strengthen our veteran healthcare
network nationwide, especially in rural areas. . . . While we may take
issue with specific recommendations listed in the plan, overall it is an
important step forward for the VA."
Brieden III, national commander of the American Legion, said the plan is
superior to a draft the VA circulated last year. That draft recommended
closing seven hospitals. It also lacked language included in the final
document that veterans at facilities that are being phased out will not
lose services until alternative care sites are ready, he said.
MONDAY, seniors without other prescription drug coverage have been able to
purchase Medicare drug discount cards. According to government estimates,
the cards could save seniors as much as 25 percent of their prescription
drug costs. According to a Harvard study, the cards will save seniors, on
average, 17.4 percent of their drug costs. According to House Minority
Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), "some seniors will be able to save on
their medications when they use the cards. But many will not."
a reason these estimates vary: The cards are not being issued by the
government but rather by more than 70 companies, including pharmacies,
pharmacy benefit managers and insurance companies. The issuers are
negotiating and setting the prices, and, by doing so, they are creating a
market that does not yet exist -- largely due to a lack of information --
and whose behavior cannot be predicted. Once the program is fully up and
running, it will, theoretically, be possible for seniors to shop around
and compare the prices offered by various discount cards, not only to one
another, but to Internet prescription drug companies, which seem to be
offering prices lower than most of the discount cards. Tommy G. Thompson,
secretary of health and human services, predicts that the higher quality
of information will force prices down as companies compete with one
another for seniors' business.
nobody knows how or whether a market will work for drugs. The sheer
quantity of information may drown seniors unused to choosing from dozens
of plans. Medicare has set up a hotline, 1-800-Medicare, and a Web site to
help seniors pick plans, but how well will an aging and disabled
population be able to use them? Once seniors have chosen a plan, they have
to stick with it -- even if the prices change -- at least until November.
Will the companies selling the drug cards really compete to push prices
down permanently, as Mr. Thompson predicts?
answers to these questions matter, not so much because of the 25 percent
or 17.4 percent that seniors might or might not save on their drugs over
the next year and a half, but because many of these issues will arise
again, on Jan. 1, 2006, when the prescription drug benefit itself finally
kicks in. At that time, seniors will be asked to choose not just discount
cards, but entire drug plans, also on a competitive basis, also weighing
vast amounts of information. If Mr. Thompson is wrong, and the discount
card program produces confusion, or fraud, or rising prices, then Congress
and the country should seriously consider whether to go through with the
drug benefit plan at all.
Politicians and seniors alike should monitor this smaller program to see
whether it is really possible to inject competition into the strange
prescription drug market. If it isn't, they should be prepared to say so.
remarkable that anyone can write a column criticizing Montgomery County's
ban on smoking in restaurants ["Hold Your Fire on Smoking: Compromise Is
Possible," Close to Home, May 2] without even mentioning the reason it was
overwhelmingly adopted by the County Council: the well-documented dangers
of secondhand smoke, including life-threatening asthma attacks, impaired
heart function within 30 minutes and increased risk of lung cancer.
considering what is necessary to protect the health of restaurant workers
and patrons, the County Council specifically rejected the "air-filtration
technologies" advocated by a few restaurant owners, and now by Margot
Machol. The council heard expert testimony that the American Society of
Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has concluded that
"acceptable indoor air quality cannot be achieved in the presence of
second-hand smoke." Filtration systems create the illusion of safety by
reducing odor and visible smoke -- making people feel more comfortable --
hardly an "enlightened" approach that any community should model.
evidence is also against those who imply, as Machol does, that restaurant
smoking bans are bad for business. Objective studies of the economic
impact of such laws in California
and New York City show growth in the restaurant industry since their
implementation. Montgomery County has received more than 30 applications
for new restaurant licenses since the law took effect in October, a rate
of more than one a week. There's a huge market for nonsmoking restaurants
County, because 90 percent of adult residents don't smoke.
county's law, the first in the region, has proved influential. Rockville,
Takoma Park, Gaithersburg and Talbot County have approved and implemented
laws requiring smoke-free restaurants. During the recently concluded
session of the Maryland General Assembly, a bill to ban smoking in
restaurants came within one vote of passing in the Senate Finance
question isn't whether the District of
or Maryland should approve such a law but which jurisdiction's officials
will be the next to fulfill their duty to protect the public health.
writer, a member of the Montgomery
Council, was the lead sponsor of the county's smoke-free-restaurant law.