Health Care

Felicia Lesnett / The Providence Center

In less than 20 years, a quarter of the state’s population will be older than 60.  In a series we call “The Silver Boom: Aging in Rhode Island,” we’re looking this week at how the state will take care of this expanding older population, and how it can benefit from it. Here’s an in-depth look at the growing problem of substance abuse and addiction among seniors, beginning at a community recovery center in Pawtucket.

Sam Bynum wasn’t born an alcoholic. But, like many alcoholics will tell you, the signs were there early on.

Are you caring for aging parents, or an aging spouse? Have you had to find a long term care option? What was helpful? What do you wish you had known before you started?

Please share your experiences and join the discussion in our comments section below.

Division of Elderly Affairs

Catherine Taylor, Director of Rhode Island's Division of Elderly Affairs, joined us in our studio earlier to help us kick off our series, The Silver Boom: Aging in Rhode Island. You'll find a link to listen to that interview below.

She also sent us these thoughts about how Rhode Island seniors can break out of isolation and find help.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin wants to institute a national background check for nursing home workers. Federal grant money – and some extra costs for nursing homes – are at stake.

Rhode Island Sen. Josh Miller has introduced a wide-ranging health care reform bill he hopes will give consumers more information about the costs and quality of the care they receive.

Miller’s bill tries to tackle several major health care reform goals the state has been moving towards in one package. It includes strategies to rein in health care costs and boost consumer access to information about those costs.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The General Assembly is scheduled to hear testimony today on legislation banning drugs like synthetic marijuana and bath salts. The proposed legislation comes from Rhode Island's Attorney General.

National Program of Cancer Registries / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has helped pass a new cancer research law that targets pancreatic and other hard-to-treat cancers. Whitehouse lost his own mother to pancreatic cancer several years ago. The legislation aims to boost early detection and treatment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates this year’s flu vaccine was effective about fifty percent of the time. But the vaccine was much less protective for older adults.

The CDC found that vaccinations against influenza types A and B were about 56 percent effective overall. But in people aged 65 and older, the vaccines only worked 27 percent of the time. But Rhode Island Department of Health director Doctor Michael Fine says that’s no reason NOT to get vaccinated.

In Rhode Island, medical marijuana is already legal, through people who are so-called “caregivers” selling to patients. The state has established three “compassion centers” that haven’t opened yet. In Massachusetts, regulators are still considering how to implement the law. Doctors there want tighter controls.

A bill that would protect doctors from legal action if they tell their patients they’re sorry has been filed once again in the General Assembly. The bill faces an uphill battle.

Rhode Island Department of Health

While flu season is technically still here, Rhode Island’s Department of Health has lifted its declaration of “widespread” flu. More on the state’s response to a tough season.

Department of health head Dr. Michael Fine says he’s pleased that more health care workers and members of the general population got vaccinated against the flu this year than last. But he says the state can do better than 50%.

“If we had vaccinated instead of 500,000 Rhode Islanders, 900,000 or more, we would have expected to see many fewer hospitalizations and many fewer illnesses.”

Rhode Islanders’ health insurance rates will be rising again in 2013. One reason is an unexpected dip in actual medical costs.

Rhode Island’s health insurance commissioner recently approved rate increases for Blue Cross Blue Shield and Tufts. For Blue Cross, those increases will be an average of about 3.7% for small group plans and 7.9% for large groups. The state’s biggest insurer had initially applied for a much lower increase. But Blue Cross vice president of legal services Monica Neronha says that was based on what they paid out for members in 2011.

A proposal is taking shape to divert frequent users of emergency rooms into a substance abuse treatment facility, instead. Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare has pitched a pilot program for Providence that would transport drunk or high people to a sobering center. Staff there could then connect them with more treatment or housing and job services. Dale Klatzker heads The Providence Center, one of the state’s largest community mental health organizations. He says marshaling the resources to address this social problem will be difficult.

Photo by: Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A new partnership between The Providence Center and the Greater Providence YMCA launches today to help people recovering from drug addiction lead healthier lives. The second Anchor Recovery Community Center is now open for business.

Catherine Welch / RIPR

Rhode Island officials say Prime Healthcare’s application to buy Landmark Medical Center is incomplete.

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office and the Department of Health are telling Landmark and its suitor, Prime Healthcare, that Prime’s initial application to buy the struggling hospital is missing "a significant amount of information."