Drought: It Doesn’t Have to Leave Us High and Dry (and Unhealthy)

Law & Policy InsightsEnvironment, Climate and HealthRural Health

September 8, 2021
by Betsy Lawton

Nearly half of the United States is experiencing abnormally dry conditions this year. The public health implications of drought cannot be underestimated: drought can lead to a lack of clean drinking water, food insecurity, poor air quality, water-borne diseases, mental health concerns, wildfire, and poor sanitation. Solutions that prevent non-essential uses of water, increase natural storage of water in the soil and aquifers, or maintain water and lake levels, may help limit the public health impacts of future droughts by increasing the overall supply of useable water.

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The Network’s Harm Reduction Legal Project Recognizes International Overdose Awareness Day

Law & Policy InsightsSubstance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction

August 31, 2021
by Amy Lieberman

Like many others, we recently recognized the 20th International Overdose Awareness Day, and we are especially somber, as we know that the past year has seen more people die from preventable overdose than ever before. The Biden administration acknowledged the gravity of this moment by issuing a proclamation declaring Overdose Awareness Week. Over 94,000 families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors in the United States lost someone they loved. Many more folks faced the trauma of experiencing an overdose, reversing an overdose, or witnessing an overdose.

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Structural Racism and Public Health: News Round-Up

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityRacism as a Public Health Crisis

August 25, 2021
by Charles Truong and Mosalewa Ani

Long existing health disparities in the U.S. have been further exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. States, cities, and counties are increasingly recognizing the role that structural racism plays in perpetuating and maintaining these disparities. A sampling of recent news articles highlights both the advances that are being made, as well as some of the challenges that remain.

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Cannabis Voter Initiatives Meet Opposition in State Courts

Law & Policy InsightsCannabis Legalization and Regulation

August 25, 2021
by Mathew Swinburne

During the 2020 election cycle, several states utilized voter initiatives to legalize medical and/or adult-use cannabis. While these policy changes align with the nation’s changing perception of cannabis, voter initiatives have met serious legal opposition. Three of these court  cases in particular emphasize the need to understand state constitutional restrictions on voter initiatives and the impact these restrictions can have on the success of an initiative.

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Acknowledging the Profound Health Impact of Vaccines and the Critical Need to Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy

Law & Policy InsightsEmergency Legal Preparedness and ResponseMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

August 25, 2021
by Jennifer Piatt and Leila Barraza

August is recognized as Immunization Awareness Month to acknowledge and create awareness of the significant life-saving impact vaccinations have had on the public’s health.  However, despite the fact that eradication of certain vaccine-preventable diseases and development of vaccines to prevent cancer are revolutionary achievements, current challenges continue to demonstrate that the importance of vaccination awareness cannot be understated.

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Childhood Blood Lead Testing Rates Dropped Drastically During 2020: We Need to Sound the Alarm

Law & Policy InsightsInjury Prevention and Safety

August 10, 2021
by Colleen Healy Boufides

Testing rates for blood lead levels (BLLs) in children were alarmingly low before the pandemic and the rates have only decreased since. This is of particular concern given the possibility of increased lead exposure among children due to significantly reduced lead inspections and remediation efforts as a result of the pandemic, along with the increased time children are spending at home. Part of the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic must include a focus on reconnecting kids with the screening, services, and care needed to detect and mitigate lead poisoning’s lifelong consequences.

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Are Nonprofits Liable for the Actions of Medical Contacts Shared with Emergency Volunteer Registration Systems?

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

August 10, 2021
by James G. Hodge, Jr.

Nonprofit membership organizations representing specific medical specialists like ER doctors, nurses, and mental health counselors are often asked by managers of volunteer registration systems to share names of members willing to provide assistance during public emergencies. While these registries are an important vehicle for mobilizing specialists during a crisis, the question arises as to whether the organization providing the names of individuals for the registry might be liable if harm is caused as a result of the actions taken by the volunteers whose names they submitted.

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Job Opportunity: Public Health Legal Fellow

Network NewsMid-States Region

July 28, 2021

The Network is hiring a Public Health Legal Fellow to work with the Mid-States Region Office, located at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Public Health Legal Fellow will focus on legal issues regarding public health authority, social determinants of health, health equity, and collecting, sharing, and protecting data for public health purposes. The goal is to provide a wide range of projects and opportunities that will build the Fellow’s knowledge of public health law and foster connections in the field. For best consideration, apply by August 31, 2021.

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New DEA Rule May Increase Access to Mobile Methadone Services

Law & Policy InsightsHarm Reduction Legal ProjectOpioid Misuse and Overdose PreventionSubstance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction

July 26, 2021

The rate of opioid overdose in rural areas has continued to rise, spurred in part by lack of access to treatment for opioid use disorders in underserved communities. Citing a need to respond to an increased need for methadone treatment in remote and rural areas, populations at particular risk of opioid use disorder, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a new rule allowing registered narcotic treatment program facilities to dispense methadone for opioid use disorder treatment through mobile units.

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A Deeper Dive on the Interests and Needs of Individuals and Organizations Engaging in Racial Equity Work

Network News

July 15, 2021

The Network is committed to working with our partners and constituents to identify laws, policies and actions that can advance equity and address the barriers to good health in our communities. We invite you to contribute to this growing body of work by completing a brief survey. Your responses will provide valuable insight into the interests and needs of people and organizations working to advance racial equity in the communities they serve. The survey is anonymous. No identifying information will be connected to your survey responses. We also invite you to join us for one of our virtual focus group sessions where we will have a deeper conversation about this topic.

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The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Reasonable Accommodations to Keep Pregnant Workers Safely Employed

Law & Policy InsightsMaternal and Child HealthMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

July 15, 2021
by Kathleen Hoke

Congress is poised to do something few of us expect of them—pass bi-partisan public health legislation: The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA is intended to “eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security by ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.”

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Fulton v. City of Philadelphia: A Recent Supreme Court Ruling Could Have Serious Implications for Public Sector Vaccine Mandates

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19Emergency Legal Preparedness and Response

July 15, 2021
by Jennifer Piatt

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred an unprecedented national vaccination campaign, prompting new legal challenges to vaccination mandates. While vaccine mandates have been upheld since Jacobson v. Massachusetts, recent court decisions indicate the potential for a change in the form of a requirement that all public sector vaccine mandates include a religious exemption.  Studies show that states with religious exemptions tend to have much lower vaccine rates, making the possibility of required religious exceptions of significant concern for public health.

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