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Obama joins Rogers at National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, says it's time to focus on treatment over incarceration

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The fifth annual national summit on prescription drug abuse, started by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, was the largest, broadest and highest-profile yet.

A non-prescription drug was added to the title of the four-day event, making it the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. It drew more than 1,900 to Atlanta, including President Barack Obama, who joined an hour-long panel to talk about new ways to deal with a growing opioid and heroin epidemic.

"The rapid growth of this summit is truly a testament to the power of unity. Everyone here has one common goal - to save lives from the dark clenches of drug abuse," Rogers, a Republican from Somerset, said in a news release.

The summit was hosted by Operation UNITE, a Kentucky non-profit created by Rogers that leads education, treatment and law enforcement initiatives in 32 counties in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. The acronym stands for Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the U.S. someone dies every 20 minutes from an opioid overdose and Kentucky has one of the nation's highest rates, with more than 1,000 deaths a year from it.

The University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare, which helped sponsor the summit, sent a delegation of executive, clinical and research leaders, including President Eli Capilouto as one of the keynote presenters, according to a UK news release.

“Too many Kentucky families are too often confronted by the dark and painful scourge of prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction," Capilouto said. "It’s an epidemic that penetrates communities across the nation, both urban and rural, but has especially intractable roots in Appalachia and the regions served by the University of Kentucky.”

Obama opened his remarks on the panel by thanking Rogers,who is also co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse, and UNITE, "the organization that has been carrying the laboring oar on this issue for many years now. We are very grateful to them."

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.


Appalachian cuisine catching on, could help revitalize region's economy...

Appalachian cuisine, which is quickly growing in popularity, could help revitalize a struggling economy, Jane Black reports for The Washington Post.

"The foods of Central Appalachia constitute America’s own cucina povera, as rich and unexplored in the American culinary scene as Tuscan food was in the 1980s. It’s a scrappy, intelligent way of cooking that, out of necessity, embraced preserving, canning, fermenting and using every part of the animal long before all that was trendy.

There are leather britches, beans that are strung up whole to dry, then brought back to life with water and a smoky ham hock. There is vinegar pie, a mountain version of the South’s lemon chess pie, with vinegar providing the acid in place of expensive or hard-to-find citrus."

"Last fall, scholars, chefs and activists hosted an Appalachian food summit in Abingdon, Va., to examine how the region’s food heritage can boost local economies," Black writes. "In February, the James Beard Foundation hosted its first-ever salon for Appalachian chefs." The Blind Pig, an Asheville, N.C. supper club, hosted six chefs for a dinner called Appalachian Storytellers, in which Tennessee chef Travis Milton served smoked venison, drizzled with a sauce made of malted sassafras and black birch syrup, and smoked collard greens (see photo above). The event, which hosted 140 people, sold out in a day.

Milton, who later this year will open Shovel and Pick, an Appalachian restaurant in Bristol, Tenn., is seeking traditional Appalachian ingredients by growing them himself, Black writes. He "is sowing 10 acres with greasies and other heirloom beans, cowpeas, creasy greens (a type of field cress), Candy Roaster squash, goosefoot (an Appalachian cousin of quinoa), blackberries, huckleberries and more.

What he doesn’t use at his restaurant he will pickle and preserve, or share with other chefs who also are committed to promoting Appalachian cuisine.

It’s all part of Milton’s grand plan to use food to ignite economic development in the region and end, once and for all, the pervasive stereotype of Appalachians as a bunch of toothless hillbillies." Milton told her, “There’s real beauty in these dishes. They yield amazing flavors, the flavors of a subsistence culture. A humble pole bean tastes like a pot roast. You work with what you have because you have to eat.”

Written by Tim Mandell

Medical marijuana info meeting is Monday

Though 23 states and Washington, D.C. permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes –and four of which permit it for recreation purposes – the legalization of the plant is still a highly conflicted topic for the commonwealth.

Next week, local supporters can learn how they can help the state progress toward legalization.

On Monday, representatives with Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana will host a town hall meeting at the Shelby County Public Library from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. to discuss the medicinal values of cannabis and educate the community about the facts of the plant’s uses, said organizer John Adcock.

“Our aim is to overthrow the prohibition [of marijuana],” he said.

Adcock said marijuana could be used to treat numerous ailments including PTSD, asthma, diabetes and dementia.

“There are all sorts of problems that it can treat,” he said. “It slows the progression of Alzheimer’s – glaucoma, it takes the pressure of the back of the eye.”

In addition, Adcock said the drug could help curb the local heroin problem.

“We looked at states that have legalized [marijuana] and there was a twenty-five percent decrease in overdose deaths,” he said.

“Once a person is on heroin and they try to get off they have the withdraws. Methadone has always been used to battle the withdraws but its just as toxic as the heroin,” he said. “Why not use a marijuana that can calm them down and get them through and they can move on?”

He explained that there are 40 different strands of marijuana that could be blended together to specifically treat various needs.

“Every strand does something different,” he said, noting that some strands can reduce nausea and encourage a cancer patient to eat and some are even believed to kill cancerous cells in the body.

In fact, Adcock said families are known to uproot and relocate to states were the use is legal in order to treat issues such as seizures in children.

“In Colorado there are over three thousand families that were refuge families –I think ten were from Kentucky– just so they can get the cannabis oil for their kids they cant get here,” he said.

Monday’s meeting will kick-off with a presentation and thereafter guests will have the opportunity to voice their questions and have their concerns addressed.

Adcock said attendees would learn how they can get involved and how the legalization could be done in Kentucky.

He explained that a doctor would not prescribe marijuana for an ailment, only offer a recommendation. The patient would then give that recommendation to the health department who would in turn give them a card to take to a dispensary.

“They would make up the marijuana they need for their ailment,” he said.

The organization has already hosted several of these town hall meetings and Adcock said they have all been well attended, several with more than 100 guests, and they hope to have another great turnout Monday.

Adcock said the topic is a very meaningful issue and residents need to hear the facts.

“We could save a lot of lives by legalizing marijuana,” he said.

Staff Report

A Day to Honor Our Doctors

Health care is always changing, brought on by scientific breakthroughs, technological advancements, government regulation and reform. But there is one constant: physicians still shoulder the ultimate responsibility for a patient’s care whether it be in the emergency room, on the operating table or in a clinic. From the days of Hippocrates, doctors held the fate of their fellow human beings in their hands – and certainly in their hearts.

It’s why we pause on Doctors’ Day each year to thank the men and women who made the decision to travel down that long road to becoming a physician. We at Three Rivers Medical Centerare grateful for the nearly 100 physicians who work in our hospitals, offices and clinics.   

We celebrate and honor their commitment to their field, their patients and their community. Be it a primary care doctor fresh out of residency, or a veteran surgeon who continues to hone skills by adopting the latest technology, we thank you.

It is so easy to marvel at the almost miraculous life-saving tools that medicine employs. And just as easy to become frustrated with medicine when chronic disease, terminal illness and horrific accidents win the battle over the doctor’s most drastic life-saving measures.

It is too easy to forget that the physician – the healer, the comforter, the saver of lives – is a human.

The same doctor who was triumphant in making a diagnosis in a perplexing case has to deliver the grim prognosis to the patient and his family.

The pediatrician who is treating a severely injured or ill child has to go home to tuck in her own little ones. 

The longtime family doctor who has watched a patient evolve from a vibrant and active lifestyle to an aging, weakened state may be facing the same dilemma with his own elderly parent.

On March 30 we take time to thank our doctors – newcomer and veteran, primary care and specialist -- for their unwavering care to the thousands of lives we at Three Riverstouch each year.

We acknowledge their lives outside the hospital though we realize that their chosen career path often makes it difficult to separate the two worlds. We appreciate the obstetrician who ventures out in the middle of the night to bring a new life into this world. We thank the emergency room physicians and hospitalists for the personal sacrifices they make by staffing our facilities on weekends and holidays. We are grateful to those doctors who answer emergency calls from our hospital staffs and patients while out for dinner with their spouses or during a child’s birthday party.

The physicians who serve our hospital and numerous clinics all have their own stories to tell, tales of heroic measures inside our walls and in their community. They are all part of the Three Rivers family of physicians who work with us and the other members of our health care team of professionals to provide our region with outstanding medical care.

We are fortunate to have these men and women. Today we acknowledge their contributions, sacrifices, skills and unwavering concern for our community.

Gregory A. Kiser is Chief Executive Officer of Three Rivers Medical Center. For over 20 years, he has worked hard to continually improve the scale and scope of the hospital. Whether it is recruiting a strong group of physicians or building new service lines and services, he is focused on making Three Rivers Medical Center the number one choice of care for those in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. “As your CEO at Three Rivers Medical Center, I believe that leadership is driven by honest decisions, teamwork, and continuous performance improvement.”

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 Flu season hitting Lawrence County hard

While many were up and cheering our boys basketball team in the recent state tourney game game, many others will be sick as the other kind of dog.

When it comes to the flu, strep throat and as many varieties of flu like illness as candy in a bag of mixed jelly beans, Lawrence County is undergoing a disease filled March Madness. For those who have been suffering, there hasn’t been anything The nurses at the Lawrence County Health Department have great suggestions about how you can help avoid getting sick. Give us a call at 606-638-4389. We want to keep all, our Dawgs as healthy as we can.sweet about the last sixteen days. 

Late winter/early spring is a traditional time for flu upswings, but this year the virus team is scoring way too many free throws.

If you are one who has been sick, it really underscores the importance of getting your annual flu shot. For those of you who haven’t had the flu shot and would like one, remember that it takes two weeks to become effective.  Furthermore, the flu shot won’t protect you now from all the other nasty things slithering through the nooks and crannies of our county.

So what can you do to end up on the winning team this March? For the most part, bad things can’t get to you unless you let them. You probably wouldn’t think about taking a swim where a “Danger Sharks” sign was posted on the beach, right? Well going into a store or other public place where thousands of infected hands have gone before you isn’t much different than taking your chances with the sharks.  Wiping down your buggies with sanitized wipes, washing your hands as soon as you get back home is a great way to score a winning hoop. Avoiding places where large crowds are assembled is also a good idea. Viruses love being up close and personal. You can also be a community hero by staying home if you have the flu or flu like symptoms.

The bottom line is not to stop doing what you’re doing, but be a little more aware of what is going around you, and how you can save your routine without it getting you benched during the big game. The nurses at the Lawrence County Health Department have great suggestions about how you can help avoid getting sick. Give us a call at 606-638-4389. We want to keep all, our Dawgs as healthy as we can.