Some of the public health law and policy stories that made headlines in March include a call by physicians for policy changes to better address the opioid epidemic, states’ efforts on oral health care access for the elderly, the effects of gun laws on suicide rates, and a new federal law requiring water companies to notify customers of lead and other dangerous contaminants in water.
District First in NY to Stock Nebulizers – Newsday.com
Under a new law, New York schools are now allowed to stock nebulizers, a small machine that serves as a rescue aid for those experiencing a severe asthma attack by administering the asthma medication albuterol in the form of a mist. Sponsors of the law hope increasing access to this medication will help save lives.
The American College of Physicians recently called for several policy changes to improve outcomes regarding the national opioid epidemic, including better education for physicians regarding pain management therapies and guidelines to reduce the risk of inappropriately prescribing pain medications. The group also called for several public health policy changes, including further expansion of access to naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses.
With Age Comes a Mouthful of Trouble – New York Times
Many Americans find it difficult to obtain adequate dental care, but the problem is particularly acute among older Americans. With the exception of certain medical conditions, Medicare has never covered dental care and Medicaid coverage varies among states but generally pays for limited procedures. Some states are hoping to reduce the cost of dental care for seniors, while improving access to care, by expanding the types of care that mid-level dental therapists can provide, along with other measures.
A growing number of states are considering legislation that will help residents make it clear to medical professionals that they do not want to be prescribed powerful opioid painkillers. “Non-opioid directives” can be added to patient medical files to formally notify health care professionals that a patient does not want addictive opioid medications. While patients typically have the right to decline certain medications, proponents of the measure say that such documents make a patient’s wishes clear, especially if the patient is in addiction recovery.
Some Gun Laws Tied To Lower Suicide Rates – New York Times
A new study has found that laws requiring background checks and waiting periods for new gun purchases are associated with lower suicide rates. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the national suicide rate is currently at a 30-year high, at 13 per 100,000. Researchers found that from 2013 to 2014, states with either one or both laws saw a decrease in suicides while those without such laws showed an increase.
A new federal law requires public water systems to notify their customers within 24 hours of detecting dangerous levels of lead in the water supply. Under the previous rule, they had 60 days to do so. The change in the federal law adds lead to a list of other contaminants, including E. coli, waterborne diseases and high levels of nitrates, that public water utilities are already required to notify their customers about if dangerous levels are detected.
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