The Pulse

The Pulse is written by Kristin Gourlay, an award winning health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Full archive of The Pulse can be found here.

Jim Gillen

I first met Jim Gillen, who died over the weekend after a long battle with cancer, a couple of years ago. I was reporting on skyrocketing rates of opioid addiction and overdose. And if you wanted to know about addiction and recovery in Rhode Island, you sought out Jim.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket has won federal funding to train more primary care doctors. The program is focused on caring for kids in poor communities. And the hope is that trainees will decide to stay on after their residencies. The grant will help residents see more children in the hospital's family medicine clinics, add mental health services, and teach residents more about the social determinants of health.

Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay joins Elisabeth Harrison in the studio to talk about the growing importance of primary care in the health care industry.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

State lawmakers introduced a bill requiring Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs, in all middle and high schools. But the legislation never made it past a House committee.

Leaving that legislation on the table could have consequences.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Note: I've added a point about the Good Samaritan law, thanks to comments from readers. It's up for consideration now at the Statehouse.

A group of state and federal leaders gathered yesterday for a roundtable discussion on Rhode Island's seemingly intractable drug overdose crisis. Present for that discussion: Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), health dept. director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, behavioral health dept. director Maria Montanaro, Gov. Gina Raimondo, and head of the state police, Col. Steven O'Donnell. Reporters were invited to listen in, then ask a few questions.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee / Webcast

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says sharing electronic health records should be easier. But it isn’t. Most systems aren’t linked to one another and they don’t collect the same data. Whitehouse told a Senate committee today that Rhode Island’s system for sharing patient data, CurrentCare, and similar systems in other states, could help overcome some of those obstacles.

EOHHS

House lawmakers will vote next week on an $8.7 billion dollar state budget. More than a third of it pays for health care and other related services. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay joined host Dave Fallon in the studio to walk through some of the highlights. Listen to the audio or read a transcript of their conversation, below.

DAVE: Kristin, welcome. So a major centerpiece of the budget is Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan to quote “Reinvent Medicaid.” Recap for us what that’s about and tell us, did she get what she wanted?

General Mills

School is nearly out for the summer. And that means thousands of children who rely on free or reduced price school meals are at risk of going hungry. That's why there's a USDA-funded summer meals program. In Rhode Island, the program serves an average of 300,000 meals each summer.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded another round of millions of dollars in research funding to two of Rhode Island’s major teaching hospitals. Rhode Island Hospital and Women and Infants are using the money to study cancer and fetal development.

This is the third and final phase of NIH funding for programs called Centers for Biological Research Excellence, or COBRE, at each hospital.

Rhode Island’s Department of Health announced a sharp uptick in cases of sexually transmitted infections. Some have chalked it up to the increasing popularity of so-called hook-up apps like Tinder and Grindr. But I've been discovering that the evidence for that is not so clear-cut. I joined Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison to talk about it. Here's a transcript of our conversation, plus a link to listen to the audio.

Or... they could be. Insurers have just filed their requests for premium rate increases with the state’s health insurance commissioner. They’re only preliminary. And in years past the health insurance commissioner has denied some increases. But if experience is any guide, the average monthly premium for most plans will probably go up - in some cases by two-digit percentages.                                                         

It all depends on how you buy your insurance - on your own, through a small business, or through a large business.

Patient-centered medical homes. Community health teams. Accountable care organizations. Integrated medical and behavioral health care practices. Case management.

Jargon?

Congratulations, class of 2015! You've got your diploma, and you're headed out into the world to start your life as an adult. Well done. If you've already lined up a job, with health insurance, doubly well done! But if not, don't worry. And don't assume you have to go without coverage. You have options.

Rhode Island Department of Health

More than half of Native American children in Rhode Island live in poverty. The infant mortality rate for blacks is twice that of whites in Rhode Island.

RIPR file photo

The Rhode Island House Committee on Finance (Subcommittee on Human Services) heard testimony today about the revised FY '15 and recommended FY '16 budget for the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. That's Rhode Island's child welfare agency, responsible for thousands of children who have been abused or neglected. They provide services to families to help stabilize them and work through a crisis so kids can stay in the home, place kids in foster care, group homes, or residential treatment if needed, and supervise the Training School, Rhode Island's juvenile detention facility.

In 2013, the top prescribed drug for Rhode Islanders with Medicare drug plans was Omeprazole, a treatment for heart burn, ulcers, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Health care providers wrote about 190,000 prescriptions for it.

(Reminder: Medicare is the health benefit plan for people over the age of 65 or disabled adults.)

That's followed by atorvastatin calcium (brand name Lipitor), used for lowering cholesterol - prescribed to 27,000 individuals.

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