Health Care

Ian Donnis / RIPR

A budget proposal is like a map, showing you where an agency wants to invest more money, and where it plans to cut. It reveals an administration’s priorities for the future– and holds them accountable for what they did or didn’t accomplish in the past. I’ll be your tour guide for this year’s health and human services proposal.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

 State officials want to make some changes to the state’s medical marijuana program. Under the governor’s proposed budget, a new tax on marijuana plants would bring in some revenue.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A Massachusetts resident has reportedly returned from a trip to South America infected with the mosquito-borne Zika virus. But is there a risk to Rhode Island?

Zika has sickened more than a million Brazilians since May, and may be the cause – although it’s not certain yet – of a serious birth defect. But Hasbro children’s hospital infectious disease specialist Michael Smit,MD says it’s too early to panic about that kind of outbreak in North America.

Jake Bissaro / The Providence Center

State lawmakers gathered for the signing of the newly reinstated Good Samaritan Overdose Law. The law expired last summer, much to the chagrin of public health advocates.

The law protects people who call 911 for someone who's overdosing from being arrested.

Going forward the law will protect people from being charged for drug possession or use, and from being picked up for violating probation.

Lawmakers put an expiration date on the original bill passed in 2012 in case it conflicted with law enforcement.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

For every Rhode Islander who has died from a drug overdose, someone is left behind to grieve. And that grief can be complicated. Finding help for dealing with that grief in the Ocean State can be tough. 

Aaron Read / RIPR

The House Judiciary Committee has passed a bill that would protect people who call 911 for someone experiencing an overdose. The State Senate already passed the controversial bill.

The bill would encourage bystanders to call 911 in case someone is overdosing. The bill would offer the caller immunity from prosecution for using or possessing illicit substances like heroin. It would also protect them from being arrested for a probation or parole violation.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Ten years ago this month, Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana. Today, nearly 13,000 patients are enrolled, not to mention more than 2000 caregivers. And 100 new applications arrive every week. Is it sustainable?

Kristin Gourlay / ripr

Sixty thousand more Rhode Islanders - Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island commercial health insurance members -  will be enrolled in health care projects designed to save money and improve care. 

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

So-called Good Samaritan legislation now faces a vote in the Rhode Island House, after winning quick passage in the Senate. The bill would protect people who help drug users dying from an overdose.     

The Good Samaritan law would enable bystanders to administer a dose of the overdose rescue drug Narcan without worrying about a law suit. It would also protect people who call 911 from being charged with drug possession. 

Aaron Read / RIPR

Lawmakers and advocates are applauding the speed with which the general assembly has taken up the Good Samaritan Law.

The state senate voted to renew the law, which provides legal protection for those calling 9-1-1 in the event of an overdose emergency. However, the bill does not protect those found to be delivering or selling drugs.

Kristin Gourlay

Rhode Island is entering the second year of a program that repays medical school loans for doctors in underserved areas. The program, which is also open to nurses, aims to attract more doctors to the places that need them the most.

Last year, applicants won an average of $40,000 in repayments for agreeing to serve two years in a needy community. Rhode Island Health Center Association CEO Jane Heyward says the program is attractive to medical school graduates with huge loan debts. But it could be a boon for community health centers, too.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s Department of Health has officially ended its symptom monitoring program for people returning from West Africa. The decision comes as the World Health Organization declares Guinea Ebola-free.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s child welfare agency will be canceling millions of dollars in contracts. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families says the change won’t disrupt services for kids in their care. But the system is in the midst of major changes.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Brown University’s medical school has teamed up with Rhode Island Hospital to teach future doctors how to address opioid addiction and overdose. They’re using a nearly $1million federal dollar grant to create a new curriculum.

And the need could not be more urgent. Just last week the Centers for Disease Control reported that half a million Americans have died from accidental drug overdoses in the past 15 years, mostly involving prescription painkillers and increasingly heroin.

RIPR FILE

Time is running out to enroll in health insurance if you don’t already have it. And, the penalty for not having insurance goes up substantially in 2016.

If you can afford health insurance but don’t buy it, the federal government will charge every adult in your household $695 dollars or two-point-five percent of your annual household income, whichever is higher. 

And if you can’t afford health insurance or don’t get it through work, you’re not alone. Most of the enrollees on HealthSource RI to-date have qualified for some kind of financial assistance.

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