www.charlestondailymail.com Health http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Anti-vaccine mother's children catch disease http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/ARTICLE/150419489 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/ARTICLE/150419489 Wed, 15 Apr 2015 20:44:33 -0400 By LENNY BERNSTEIN and REBECCA SCHATZ The Washington Post WASHINGTON — In the ongoing skirmishes between public health officials and vaccine skeptics, I’m scoring this one for the pro-immunization forces. A Canadian woman who had declined to have her children immunized against pertussis, better known as whooping cough, has changed her position now that all seven of her children have come down with the disease.

Yes, Tara Hills was stuck in isolation at her Ottawa home for more than a week with her sick children and her regrets about refusing to vaccinate them against the highly contagious respiratory disease. Whooping cough, a bacterial infection, causes violent, uncontrollable coughing and is best known for the telltale sound victims make as they try to draw breath. Occasionally, it can be fatal, especially in infants less than a year old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Hills kids completed a course of antibiotics and were released from isolation Tuesday.

“I set out to prove that we were right,” Hills said in an interview with The Washington Post, “and in the process found out how wrong we were.”

Vaccination rates in Canada, like those in United States, have waned in some communities, mostly as a result of increased skepticism about the dangers of immunization that have spread on the Internet despite overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. A debunked 1998 study linked the measles vaccine to autism. Both Canada and the U.S. have suffered large outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in recent years.

In an April 8 post she wrote for the blog TheScientificParent.org, Hills offered many of the most common reasons for skepticism about vaccines. She and her husband had partially immunized their first three children, but decided against any vaccines for the next four.

“We stopped because we were scared and didn’t know who to trust,” she wrote. “Was the medical community just paid off puppets of a Big Pharma-Government-Media conspiracy? Were these vaccines even necessary in this day and age? Were we unwittingly doing greater harm than help to our beloved children? So much smoke must mean a fire, so we defaulted to the ‘do nothing and hope nothing bad happens’ position.”

But when a small measles outbreak hit nearby, Hills was terrified. “I looked again at the science and evidence for community immunity and found myself gripped with a very real sense of personal and social responsibility before God and man. The time had come to make a more fully informed decision than we did 6 years ago. I sat down with our family doctor and we put together a catch-up vaccination schedule for our children,” she wrote.

But before that could happen, all her children came down with whooping cough. A vaccine for the disease has existed in Canada for 70 years.

“Right now my family is living the consequences of misinformation and fear,” Hills wrote. “I understand that families in our community may be mad at us for putting their kids at risk. I want them to know that we tried our best to protect our kids when we were afraid of vaccination and we are doing our best now, for everyone’s sake, by getting them up to date.”

The only silver lining about learning the hard way is the knowledge that minds can be changed on this subject, she said.

“People like me who were hesitant, who were confused, who froze, we can be reached if people use the right approach,” she told The Washington Post.

US Attorney sets up site for potential chemical leak victims http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/DM0104/150419501 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/DM0104/150419501 Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:30:23 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Potential victims of the Jan. 9, 2014, chemical spill now have a central location to access information.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced the website www.justice.gov/usao-sdwv/chemical-spill Wednesday. In accordance with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, the site will provide information to people who may be victims of the spill, which leaked thousands of gallons of coal processing agent MCHM into the Elk River last year.

The site will include links to all documents charging Freedom Industries officials with crimes, dates and times of upcoming public criminal proceedings and a list of resources available to those who think they may have been harmed by the chemical.

The spill compromised West Virginia American Water’s Elk River intake, affecting about 300,000 customers in a nine-county area. The spill prompted a do-not-use order from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and many in the affected area drove outside the region to bathe or shower and purchase bottled water. Several businesses were forced to close during the time, including restaurants.

Health officials have said nearly 400 people were treated for symptoms associated with exposure to the licorice-scented chemical.

Various charges against executives for the now defunct Freedom Industries, which owned the tank that stored the MCHM, have been filed with several entering guilty pleas. The company’s former president and owner will face separate trials later this year related to the spill and the company’s subsequent bankruptcy.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of the spill or wants to receive notice of future developments in cases related to the spill, submit written information concerning the effect the chemical had on them or attend criminal court proceedings should visit the website or speak with one of the office’s Victim-Wellness Coordinators by calling 304-345-2200 or 800-659-8726.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

Advocates decry proposed change to waiver program http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM0104/150409177 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM0104/150409177 Thu, 9 Apr 2015 22:14:49 -0400 By Marcus Constantino By Whitney Burdette Whitney Burdette Parents and advocates for the developmentally disabled are speaking out against a proposal by the Department of Health and Human Resources to change the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver.

More than a thousand concerned citizens gathered at the steps of the West Virginia Capitol on Thursday to speak out against the changes they fear could prevent families of individuals with special needs from working a full-time job. The proposed changes would affect the 4,534 people currently served by the program and their families.

The waiver provides community-based and in-home services for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities who would otherwise qualify for placement in an institution.

Under the proposal, person-centered support would be cut from an eight-hour maximum to four hours on school days and six hours on non-school days. The current eight-hour maximum allows parents to work outside of the home and rely on a trusted care giver to look after a child with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Ashley Orndorff, 29, of Charleston, and her husband both work full-time jobs to support their one-year-old child, Hannah, who has Down syndrome. Orndorff said Hannah qualifies for the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Waiver now, but the proposed changes would prevent her from qualifying for the waiver until she's three years old.

Orndorff said Hannah has about eight doctor's appointments a month, and that they struggle to make ends meet because she has to take so much time off work to attend the appointments.

"We would probably have to prioritize," Orndorff said. "My paycheck obviously takes a cut if I'm not at work, and I'm having to attend different appointments and services for my daughter, and the waiver would help with that as it is now. But with the cuts, it would strain us financially to supplement that time that I'm not able to work."

The DHHR spent $385 million on the program last year, at an average cost of $85,000 per person. But according to a DHHR press release, the state appropriates $89 million each year from the general revenue fund and for the past three years, the state has spent more than $41 million over the allotted budget. Since fiscal year 2010, the amount spent for the waiver has increased by more than $110 million. The proposed changes aim to rein in the program while allowing some of the 1,000 people on the wait list to be placed in the program.

"By making adjustments, we believe that we will be able to assist more state residents who qualify for these services," said Jeremiah Samples, DHHR deputy secretary of Public Health and Insurance.

Although the changes could lead to more people participating in the program, advocates say families already receiving services would be adversely affected by any adjustments. Steve Wiseman, executive director of the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council, said his organization has heard from many parents and advocates opposed to the change.

"I think families and advocates, but particularly families of people with disabilities served through these services, are really starting to understand what the implications might be," Wiseman said.

Reducing the maximum hours of support per week may mean parents have to give up those full-time jobs in order to be home with their child. Respite care would also be cut by about 58 percent.

"That's not something people are loosely saying," Wiseman said. "I think people realize they took jobs because they had this opportunity that valuable Medicaid services have provided."

Dreama Denver, of Princeton, attended the rally for her 31-year-old son, Colin, who she said is severely disabled and requires around-the-clock care. She said families who have never taken care of an individual with special needs simply do not understand how the proposed changes to the Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities waiver program would affect families.

Denver said she took care of Colin on her own for five years after her husband, "Gilligan's Island" actor Bob Denver, died in 2005. Denver said she almost went broke and had a heart attack due to the stress of the situation, but that the waiver program has helped her and her son have better quality of life.

"A lot of people are going to be affected physically and financially, and it's terrifying to me," Denver said.

Wiseman said West Virginia was out front in the 1980s and 90s, closing state-operated institutions that housed intellectually and developmentally disabled people and enacting the IDD waiver program to increase in-home services and allow parents and other trusted adults to care for disabled children in their own homes and communities.

"DHHR can be credited with being steadfast in keeping that program going the way it has," Wiseman said, noting the program is reauthorized every five years.

In 2010, advocates pushed for more self-directed care, Wiseman said. But that could be part of what has lead to the financial problems the program faces, though his group isn't so sure that's the case.

According to the DHHR news release, the department's Bureau for Medical Services compared other states' IDD benefits to West Virginia's and saw a large disparity. West Virginia offers a much more generous IDD benefit than surrounding states and most other states in the nation. The proposals, they say, aligns West Virginia with other states, controls state spending and allows more people to benefit from the program.

"The IDD Waiver program was never intended to support the family financially," the release reads. "It is based on the assumption that natural supports, such as family and friends, would provide some services without being paid for them."

"There are many, many facets to it," Wiseman said. "On the money side, is it much more economical today for people who are living at home and the vast majority of people live at home in the program who have several disabilities - it is more economical to be in the approach we have now with personal options where parents and other trusted loved ones are responsible for some of the care than it is to go with the traditional service provider option and rely on strangers to come into the house. It is more economical to continue and expand what we're doing today rather than retreating from it."

Denver said all special needs children and adults are different, and that the DHHR should not approach the situation with a one-size-fits-all solution. She said although the families of higher-functioning individuals with disabilities may not be affected as much by the proposed changes, severely-disabled individuals like Colin would lose out on much-needed services.

"My son has to have eyeballs on him 24-hours a day, and they are proposing an across-the-board cut that's going to affect children that are severe, like my child, the same way it's going to affect a higher-functioning child that doesn't need as much support," Denver said. "Having done this and knowing what it's like, I am here in support of all the families who are terrified by this change and here to beg that you understand that our children, we love ours exactly like you love yours and we have to be their advocates."

To submit a comment on the proposed changes, email IDDWComment@wv.gov or mail to the WV Bureau for Medical Services, HCBS Unit, 350 Capitol Street, Room 251, Charleston, WV 25301.

Kanawha Valley YMCA to host 'Healthy Kids Day' http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM01/150409181 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150409/DM01/150409181 Thu, 9 Apr 2015 21:03:33 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith The YMCA of the Kanawha Valley will host the 16th annual "Healthy Kids Day" 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday to show youth fun ways to be active mentally and physically throughout the summer.

The event, part of a national YMCA initiative, is free and open to the public. Millions of children along with their families are expected to participate in the YMCA's Healthy Kids Day at more than 1,300 locations across the country.

Among a variety of activities at the local event will be tennis, basketball, martial arts, yoga and healthy cooking. Weather permitting, there will be an outdoor program called Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit and Run.

Officials from more than a dozen organizations will be on hand to inform parents and children about available resources throughout the community. Among participating organizations are Kanawha County Public Library Bookmobile, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Charleston Police Department Bike Unit and Raze, an initiative to combat the high rate of youth tobacco use.

Radio station 96.1 the Wolf will provide disc jockey entertainment. Healthy food samples from Panera Bread will be offered.

The first 200 kids will receive a nylon sport pack. Several bikes and helmets will be given away through random drawings, along with prizes such as soccer balls, footballs, basketballs and hula hoops.

Healthy Kids Day has been an ongoing program with several hundred kids attending each year, said Jason Keeling, public relations specialist for the YMCA.

Cathy Capps-Amburgey, healthy living coordinator, and other officials have been planning activities for several months, Keeling said.

Word has been spread about the event through local media, advertising and social media. YMCA employees visited about a dozen area schools on Thursday to tell kids about activities, he said.

"As the school years wraps up, we want children and parents to have resources to stay active throughout the summer," Keeling said. "Youth development and healthy living are two of the YMCA's main areas of focus. Healthy Kids Day is an effort to help our children and community by promoting fitness, learning and wellness throughout the year."

Children should dress comfortably and wear appropriate shoes for participating in sports activities. Activities are designed for elementary school children up to age 12. Parents are asked to accompany children during the event.

The YMCA is located at 100 YMCA Drive off Hillcrest Drive in Charlestons. For more information go to ymcawv.org/hkd or call 304-340-3527.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

VA official in W.Va. to retire; 38 years in veterans system http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150408/ARTICLE/150409308 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150408/ARTICLE/150409308 Wed, 8 Apr 2015 16:45:58 -0400


Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The director of the Clarksburg Veterans Affairs health care system, which endured scrutiny for long wait times, will retire next month after 38 years in federal veterans work.

Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center Director Beth Brown will retire May 31, hospital spokesman Wesley Walls told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

In an emailed statement, Brown said it has been her long-term plan to retire this year.

"Hundreds, if not thousands, of Veterans have impacted my life and have served as my motivation throughout my career," Brown said in an email.

A June 2014 audit said the Clarksburg VA had some of the longest wait times in the country, particularly in mental health and specialty care. The medical center serves about 22,000 veterans, a number that has stayed relatively flat, Brown has said.

Brown questioned last year's audit numbers for the Clarksburg hospital. She says delays have improved.

Brown was appointed the Clarksburg director in March 2012.

She served as associate medical center director for operations at the VA Medical Center in Louisville from 2007 to 2012.

She filled various roles at VA centers in Northampton, Massachusetts; San Antonio and Temple, Texas; Butler, Pennsylvania; and Iron Mountain, Michigan.

She earned a master's degree in health care administration from South Texas University.

Once eligible candidates are referred to a hiring official, it could take a minimum of six weeks to select a replacement, said VA spokeswoman Kerry Meeker.

VA medical center director salaries range from $120,749 to $181,500, or from $145,000 to $265,000 for qualified physicians, Meeker said.

CAMC receives grant for HIV clinic http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150408/DM01/150409335 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150408/DM01/150409335 Wed, 8 Apr 2015 15:27:54 -0400 The Charleston Area Medical Center Ryan White Part C Outpatient Program HIV/AIDS Clinic was awarded a grant totaling $453,303 a year for two years from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

These funds will support the clinic's ongoing comprehensive patient care to southern West Virginians who are HIV positive.

"It is with much gladness of heart I can report to you that the CAMC Ryan White Program has survived another competitive grant renewal cycle amid an uncertain, changing health care landscape," said Dr. Christine Teague, program director. "This weekend we received our Notice of Award, which includes the project period April 2015 to March 2017. We were fully funded and will receive an additional supplemental award later in the year when the IAHCT (Increasing Access to HIV Care or Treatment) funding levels have been determined.

"This funding allows us to continue our mission to increase access to services for individuals at-risk, or infected with, HIV disease and to provide culturally sensitive, quality, comprehensive HIV-related primary care, regardless of an individual's ability to pay."

The clinic is located on the fourth floor of the CAMC Heart and Vascular Center, 3200 MacCorkle Ave. S.E.

For more information call 304-388-9677 or 800-348-9677.

WVU Hospitals temporarily closes lab, asbestos found in dust http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150403/ARTICLE/150409720 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150403/ARTICLE/150409720 Fri, 3 Apr 2015 11:30:21 -0400 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - A lab in West Virginia University Hospitals' Health Sciences Building has temporarily closed following the discovery of asbestos in dust.

WVU Hospitals risk management and safety director Roger Osbourn tells The Dominion Post that the asbestos is an isolated incident. He says it most likely resulted when a pipe was bumped during renovations on the floor above the lab.

University environmental health and safety director John Principe says tests showed trace amounts of asbestos fibers. Air sample tests were negative.

Photos: Final steel beam placed for hospital expansion project http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150402/DM01/150409817 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150402/DM01/150409817 Thu, 2 Apr 2015 16:52:35 -0400 Charleston Area Medical Center marked a milestone in its efforts to increase the number of beds to better serve the needs of patients at its Memorial Division.

Many watched Thursday as a crane hoisted the final steel beam into place at CAMC Memorial Hospital in Kanawha City. Employees, doctors, patients and visitors took turns signing the beam before it was bolted onto the frame of the expansion.

See more photos from the beam raising ceremony.

Three floors are being added above the existing surgery department at CAMC Memorial. One new floor will have 32 private ICU rooms and 16 private intermediate care rooms. The third, top floor will contain empty space for an additional 48 beds to potentially be added in the future. The three floors total about 109,830 square feet. Construction began last summer on the project, and patients are expected to move into the new unit in the first quarter of 2016.

Survey: West Virginia is the capital of mind-altering drug use http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150401/ARTICLE/150409919 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150401/ARTICLE/150409919 Wed, 1 Apr 2015 18:28:52 -0400


The Washington Post

From the Summer of Love in the '60s to a thriving marijuana scene today, you might consider California the epicenter of American drug culture. But a study from Gallup finds that among the states, the use of "mood-altering drugs" is highest in West Virginia. California had the third-lowest rate of drug use on this measure.

Researchers posed the following question to at least 450 adult respondents in each state: "How often do you use drugs and medications, including prescription drugs, which affect your mood and help you relax - almost every day, sometimes, rarely or never?" Crucially, the exact meaning of "drugs and medications" was left to the respondents. "While the question specifically refers to drugs that 'affect your mood or help you relax,' the interpretation of that description is left up to respondents and could include prescription drugs, recreational drugs, alcohol or nicotine," the Gallup researchers write.

According to the survey, 28.1 percent of West Virginians said they altered their mood with drugs almost every day, the highest percentage of any state. They were followed by Rhode Island, Kentucky, Alabama and Louisiana. Six of the top 10 drug-use states are in the South. At the other end of the spectrum, Alaska had the lowest rate of frequent use at 13.5 percent, followed by Wyoming, California, Illinois and North Dakota.

Nationally, 18.9 percent of Americans say they take drugs to relax almost every day, while 62.2 percent say they never do.

But before we draw any broad conclusions let's go back to that question wording, because it's really important here. It's almost certain that a large number of respondents didn't consider alcohol or tobacco when answering the survey. We know, from the most recent National Survey of Drug Use and Health, that at least 71 percent of American adults drank in the past year, and 56 percent drank in the past month. So that 62.2 percent abstinence number doesn't jibe with what we already know about American drinking - to say nothing about tobacco or illicit drug use.

So if the question doesn't measure drinking, exactly what kind of behavior is it measuring? That's harder to say. The Washington Post's Philip Bump notes that there's some correlation between state drug use and median age, although the linkage isn't particularly tight. Gallup found that high rates of drug use are linked to lower measures of happiness, as measured in its Well-Being Index. The most likely explanation there? Americans who are less happy are more likely to be taking drugs - prescription or otherwise - to address that problem.

But illicit drugs like marijuana clearly aren't driving these numbers. Colorado and Alaska have some of the highest marijuana use rates, but among the lowest percentages on this question. And the Southern States scoring the highest on the Gallup question have some of the lowest overall illicit substance use rates.

The best guess is that the question is capturing some combination of prescription anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication use, along with a fair share of recreational drug use. But that's only a guess, and it's impossible to tell for certain.

Kanawha judge denies Mylan injunction http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150331/DM01/150339830 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150331/DM01/150339830 Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:43:50 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Effective April 1, EpiPen will no longer be the preferred agent for Medicaid patients with allergies, according to the Department of Health and Human Resource's new preferred drug list.

That's because a motion to grant a preliminary injunction against DHHR on behalf of drug company Mylan Specialty was denied Tuesday.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman said attorneys for Mylan failed to prove DHHR's Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee broke the state's open meetings law by deciding to remove Epinephrine Auto Injectors, manufactured by Mylan Specialty, from the state's preferred drug list for Medicaid patients behind closed doors. Vicki Cunningham, director of Pharmacy Services for DHHR, said the committee tabled a motion to approve Auvi-Q, a voice-activated auto injector approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012, at its October meeting before finally approving the drug Jan. 28.

But Cunningham said DHHR's consultant, Magellan Medicaid Services, urged the DHHR to provide at least three months' of education to physicians and other health care officials who would be prescribing Auvi-Q so they could learn how to properly use it. A newsletter circulated in early January, weeks before the final decision was handed down, compared Auvi-Q and EpiPen, but Cunningham said her department provided no other education or training for the new drug.

James Walls, an attorney with Spilman Thomas & Battle in Morgantown, argued the newsletter and an email Cunningham sent a Magellan official shows the DHHR decided to replace EpiPen with Auvi-Q some time between the October and January meetings, in violation of the state's open meetings law.

"The problem isn't they made the decision on January 28 at the open meeting. They can do that," Walls said. "The problem is they made the decision before January 28, between October 22 and January 28 in a closed meeting."

But Cunningham testified she was absent from the Oct. 22 meeting and emailed Magellan in early November seeking clarification about the type of education they wanted doctors to receive and that the January newsletter in no way showed a final decision had been made at that time.

"We did not know what would happen in January, so we published a newsletter that was factual about both products," Cunningham said.

Roger Graham, president of Mylan Specialty, a subsidiary of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, said about 22,000 EpiPens are prescribed in West Virginia, with 7,000 of those specifically for Medicaid patients. He argued his company will "undoubtedly" experience irreparable harm both to its bottom line and reputation if DHHR is allowed to replace Mylan's product on the preferred drug list.

"We've already heard back from some of our doctors in the state of West Virginia asking why this change is happening," Graham said.

He went on to say removing drugs from a preferred drug list hurts the company's market share.

The preferred drug list works like this: The state negotiates with pharmaceutical companies to place a medication on the list in exchange for lower costs, which are then passed on to the taxpayer. Having only one preferred agent in a class of drugs gives the state more negotiating power, effectively saving more money and lowering costs. Cunningham said replacing EpiPen with Auvi-Q saves the state about $ 1 million. While Walls said Mylan supports sharing its place on the list with Auvi-Q, the state's attorney argued two drugs sharing preferred status diminishes the state's negotiating power.

A company's market share is harmed any time a drug is removed from the list, Assistant Attorney General Chris Dodrill said, but that's not enough to stay DHHR's decision.

"If that were the case, if that were enough to stop DHHR from making these decisions, no drug would ever be removed from the (preferred drug list)," Dodrill said. "If that were the case, the state would lose all of its leverage in the PDL process and its ability to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers. It weighs against the public interest.

"Mylan's market share should not be supported on the backs of West Virginia taxpayers," Dodrill said.

Kaufman gave Mylan until April 10 to respond to the motion to dismiss and for each side to file its findings.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

W.Va. Medicaid switching from monthly to annual cards http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150331/ARTICLE/150339849 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150331/ARTICLE/150339849 Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:31:26 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia Medicaid recipients are being switched from a monthly card to an annual card.

The change takes effect Wednesday. The state's Bureau for Medical Services says it will save the state about $2.5 million a year.

For the first year, the Medicaid card will be printed on paper. State officials will consider alternative forms for future years.

New cards will be issued every January.

W.Va.'s well-being, broken down by county http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150325/DM01/150329460 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150325/DM01/150329460 Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:25:25 -0400 By Samuel Speciale The healthiest counties in West Virginia have some of the best college-going rates, preventative health options and job opportunities while the least healthy have more children living in poverty, smokers and violent crimes, says a national report released Wednesday.

The 2015 County Health Rankings, prepared by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, is an annual report that measures the overall health of nearly every county in the country by using more than 30 different metrics like access to healthful food, smoking rates, obesity and teen births.

The report is divided into two rankings - one measuring the length and quality of life and another that measures influencing factors like health behaviors, clinical care, socioeconomic status and physical environment.

Jan O'Neill, an associate researcher who is a community coach with the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Program, said the first ranking represents a county's present length and quality of life while the second shows what future health may look like.

In terms of present length and quality of life, Pendleton County was listed as the state's healthiest county. Putnam County also scored well and came in first in the second ranking for limiting negative health behaviors, providing access to clinical care and having favorable socioeconomic factors and physical environment.

Kanwaha County also received a high ranking in that category, coming in seventh, but its overall score was sunk by an increased number of premature deaths and a poor showing in quality of life indicators.

However, the high score on future health means Kanawha County could one day move up the ranking, O'Neill said.

"What that ranking means is that outcomes will improve if partners in your county are working together to improve health," she said.

For Kanawha County to improve its ranking, O'Neill said the institute has suggested that health officials focus on decreasing the adult smoking and obesity rates, which are 23 and 31 percent, respectively. While lower than the state average, the county's smoking and obesity rates are much higher than what the institute considers healthy.

Other targeted areas of improvement are increasing the 72 percent high school graduation rate, lowering the number of children living in poverty and reducing the number of violent crimes.

Those socioeconomic factors are the biggest indicator of a county's quality of life, O'Neill said, so much that they are weighted more in the ranking process. This comes a day after a similar report by West Virginia Kids County detailed the effect socioeconomic status has on student achievement.

The report says its intention is to inform communities so their members can identify and garner support for local health improvement initiatives.

The full report can be viewed at www.countyhealthrankings.org.

Contact writer Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4886. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wvschools.

Patients say Alzheimer's cases go undiagnosed http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150324/DM01/150329637 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150324/DM01/150329637 Tue, 24 Mar 2015 06:27:35 -0400 By Whitney Burdette According to new statistics from the Alzheimer's Association, only 45 percent of patients are told from the get-go they suffer from the debilitating disease.

Physicians delay telling patients they suffer from Alzheimer's disease for a variety of reasons, researchers found. But any delay in making an accurate diagnosis is detrimental to the patient, said Beth Kallmyer, senior director of constituent relations for the Alzheimer's Association.

"It's an issue when people are told later because they lose the ability to plan for the future, make legal plans, name health care advanced directives, even make decisions on how they want to live their lives," Kallmyer said in a conference call with reporters. "As the disease goes on, they may be unable to participate in those decisions."

Physicians often delay making the diagnosis for fear of causing families emotional stress, researchers found. But Kallmyer pointed out doctors are forced to give grim news to patients all the time about a variety of ailments. Alzheimer's should be treated no differently.

"Nobody wants to give this diagnosis," she said. "If you've seen Alzheimer's, you know it's a tragic and awful disease to watch. They don't want to give the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer either which generally means the person will die in a couple of months. There are other fatal diagnoses the doctors are giving, but Alzheimer's is different."

Uncertainty, lack of support and stigma are other reasons doctors delay giving a diagnosis, according to the report. Kallmyer said doctors' attitudes toward Alzheimer's is similar to the low rates of cancer diagnoses in the 1950s and '60s.

"These really low diagnosis disclosure rates are reminiscent of what happened in the '50s and '60s into the '70s with cancer," Kallmyer said. "It was called the 'C-word.' It wasn't talked about in doctors' offices, it wasn't talked about in public. ... it is that way for Alzheimer's disease. It's not something people are talking about."

Although Alzheimer's cases aren't diagnosed right away, the number of Americans living with the disease continues to grow. As of this year, 5.3 million Americans have been diagnosed, including about 200,000 cases of early-onset Alzheimer's. But by 2050, things are projected to change drastically if a cure is not found by then.

"By the time we get to 2050, if nothing is done to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease or to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, we estimate this number will nearly triple and by 2050, there will be 13.8 million people in the united states with Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Keith Fargo, director of Scientific Programs and Research for the Alzheimer's Association.

About 500,000 people each year develop Alzheimer's disease, or one person every 67 seconds.

"By 2050, given the growing number of people who will develop Alzheimer's disease as the population ages, we estimate that to be every 33 seconds," Fargo said.

As the number of diagnosed cases increases, so does the economic impact. Alzheimer's disease is the most costly to the American economy, Fargo said, in terms of health care costs associated directly to the patient, and also their caregivers.

"Unless something is done to stop Alzheimer's disease or at least delay its onset, it is expected to cost more than $1 trillion by 2050," Fargo said. "That's in today's dollars." Alzheimer's currently costs about $226 billion.

Kallmyer said research has found each Alzheimer's patient has an average of three caregivers, usually unpaid family members.

"The estimated value of that (care) is $217 billion at an hourly rate of just over $12 an hour," she said. "A lot of time and energy is put toward caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease."

The Alzheimer's Association is asking the federal government to increase the funding it receives for research. Comparatively, Fargo said, Alzheimer's research is "woefully underfunded."

"Alzheimer's disease research this year is expected to receive only $586 million in federal funding whereas federal spending on care for people with Alzheimer's disease ... is $153 billion, which we think is out of line."

Kallmyer said increased federal funding and more research will help patients already living with the disease and those at risk of developing it some time in the future.

"We need to make it a different story so people can talk about the disease," she said. "It is a disease. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

USDA program hopes to partner with housing agencies http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM01/150329671 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM01/150329671 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 20:42:55 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Low-income children in West Virginia may soon not have to go very far to receive nutritious meals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is hoping to facilitate a partnership with the state's housing agencies in an effort to allow students better access to healthful meals when school is not in session. Schools, child care centers and churches already serve as feeding sites in West Virginia.

"We have a special challenge in rural areas - getting students to come to sites that offer these meals," said James Harmon, regional director of the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. "This partnership started about two years ago with Rural Development to bring the meals to where the children are. We saw a perfect opportunity to have the meals come to these feeding sites, the housing developments where these children are."

Harmon will speak Tuesday to property managers at a conference put on by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. He'll join officials with the West Virginia Department of Education, which serves as the state administering agency for the program.

"We want to encourage the property managers here in West Virginia to participate in our program."

Food and Nutrition Service focuses mainly on providing healthful meals to children during the summer months when school is not in session. Throughout the school year, children are served nutritious breakfasts and lunches that meet federal guidelines, but some children, especially those from low-income families, don't have access to healthy meals when school is out for the summer. Harmon said his agency has been working with housing authorities since December to facilitate a partnership.

"We've had a number of meetings already, but this is the first time to get them all in one room together," Harmon said.

West Virginia has been identified as a "Strike Force" state. Strike Force is yet another USDA program that supports rural America by creating job opportunities and strengthening the rural structure of America. Part of that includes increasing the number of meals served to children both in the summer and during the school year.

USDA partners with a variety of nonprofit entities, including school districts, government agencies and churches, to serve prepare and send meals to feeding sites that serve children. Those agencies then receive federal funding. Feeding sites include individual schools, community centers and eventually housing agencies.

"There is an application process and they go to the state Department of Education," Harmon said. "As a federal agency, we oversee the program but we have state administering agencies and here in West Virginia it's the Department of Education. So anybody interested in becoming a sponsor should contact the state Department of Education."

Last summer, 560,000 meals were served to children in West Virginia. Harmon said the USDA compares the number of meals served during the summer to the number of children served during the school year. West Virginia runs in the middle of the pack in terms of meals served during the summer.

Harmon said there's a huge gap in the number of children eating healthful meals during the school year versus the summer.

"Nationally, we serve about 22 million free and reduced priced meals in schools, but in the summer we're only reaching about 3.6 million," he said. "We're reaching only 16 or 17 percent of children in the summer program, so there is our challenge we're trying to overcome, in particularly in rural areas where it's so difficult. So that's why we're reaching out and it's such a great opportunity here for rural development and multi-family housing units."

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

New director named for Kanawha-Charleston Health Department http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM01/150329714 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150323/DM01/150329714 Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:26:26 -0400 Dr. Michael R. Brumage has accepted the position of executive director for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

He is currently Col. Brumage serving as deputy commander at BG Crawford F. Sams U.S. Army Health Clinic Camp Zama, Japan. Brumage, a Fairmont native, is retiring from the U.S. Army in August when he will begin his new position with KCHD.

The announcement was made in a press release from the Health Department. Brumage is now in Japan and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Power Walking 150 program returns for a second year http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150317/DM01/150319229 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150317/DM01/150319229 Tue, 17 Mar 2015 15:09:35 -0400 By Charlotte Ferrell Smith A joint effort is kicking off the second year of Power Walking 150, an initiative to move Charleston toward better health.

A news conference was held Tuesday morning with Mayor Danny Jones and other officials involved in the effort to get area residents involved in 150 days of exercise. The program officially begins April 6 when participants are encouraged to log 150 miles in 150 days by walking, running or biking.

“In our first season last year, more than 1,100 people registered for the program, and together, we took big steps toward better health individually and as a community,” Jones said. “Power Walking 150 is about getting people moving by walking, jogging, running, or cycling, and I hope that by the end of the season, we will be adding up the hundreds of thousands of miles we move together toward better health.”

The 150-mile, 150-day challenge coincides with the West Virginia Power baseball season from April 6 when the players are scheduled to arrive for spring training to the last home game of the regular season on Sept. 2.

“The Power is once again thrilled to be involved with the city of Charleston and so many great partners,” said Adam Marco, director of marketing and media for the West Virginia Power. “Year one was very good. Now it is time to get Charleston moving forward and get more people involved with this healthy initiative.”

Participants may register for $10 and will receive a commemorative T-shirt upon completion of the program. A T-shirt design competition was held this year and the winner was Roch Herrick, a graphic artist originally from New Martinsville who now who now lives in Kansas. He learned about the contest on the West Virginia Power Facebook page.

The shirts are being produced at cost by Tgraphics where President Claudette Hudson said she is happy to be involved in a program that is so important to the people of Charleston.

“We hope to build on the 1,132 people who registered last year, and get everyone who participates to register their mileage for a final, and impressive, grand total,” said Jordan Paul, a University of Charleston student who is serving an internship in the mayor's office and is this year's coordinator for the walking program. “We are encouraging our sponsors and other groups to set regularly scheduled group walks, runs, and rides, so we can reach the goal together and get even more people past the 150-mile finish line.”

Paul, a quarterback on the University of Charleston football team, said exercising together is motivational.

One of last year's participants said his most faithful walking companion was his dog.

The Rev. Monty Brown, pastor of St. Marks United Methodist Church, lost 40 pounds last year through diet and exercise. He said enrolling in Power Walking 150 gave him extra incentive to keep moving.

The program is sponsored by the city of Charleston, West Virginia Power, Tgraphics, University of Charleston, Charleston Area Medical Center, BrickStreet Insurance, Charleston Town Center, and West Virginia Radio stations V100, 58WCHS, 98.7 the Beat and 96.1 the Wolf.

Ashley Showen, media buyer for CAMC, was on hand at the news conference and said holding each other accountable contributes to the success of an exercise program.

CAMC also helps sponsor the Mall Walkers Program at Charleston Town Center. At the Mall Walkers next monthly meeting 8:30 a.m. April 21 additional information will be available about Power Walking 150.

More information and updates on the program may be found on the PowerWalking150.com website.

Also, at 5:30 p.m. April 6 participants are encouraged to meet at Power Park to register and walk the first mile together.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.

Feds say number of uninsured dropping http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150316/DM01/150319289 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150316/DM01/150319289 Mon, 16 Mar 2015 19:44:33 -0400 By Whitney Burdette More than 16 million adults have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report, released Monday, shows the number of uninsured American adults has dropped 35 percent since October 2013, and 2.3 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 gained insurance under the provision of the law that allows them to remain on a parent's policy until the age of 26.

"That's quite simply a historic reduction in the uninsured rate," said Dr. Meena Seshamani, director of DHHS' Office of Health Reform.

Health insurance gains were larger in Medicaid expansion states, which saw a 7.6 percent drop in the uninsured rate. As of Monday, 154,783 West Virginia residents are enrolled in the expanded program, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Information available earlier in March from DHHS showed 33.421 West Virginians enrolled or were automatically re-enrolled in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans as of Feb. 22. State residents also are covered under plans available on the private market and through employers, so the number of West Virginians who have health care coverage is likely much greater.

The report also found that the number of uninsured is dropping across all demographics, with 6.6 million whites, 2.3 million African Americans and 4.2 million Latinos gaining coverage since the first quarter of 2014. Additionally, a total of 5.7 million young adults between the ages of 19 and 25 have signed up for some form of health insurance coverage since 2010.

"The reason is actually quite simple," said Dr. Richard Frank, DHHS assistant secretary for Planning and Evaluation. "The drop in the uninsured rate is because of the Affordable Care Act, both through the marketplace and Medicaid expansion."

The DHHS report comes a week ahead of the five-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act's passage. Experts say the statistics in the report show Americans benefit from the controversial law.

"As we approach the five year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act on March 23, we continue to see signs the law is working," Seshamani said.

Frank said information about the number of children now insured is not yet available, but he expects more figures to be available by the end of the year. Government officials also aren't sure how the numbers will change going forward.

"We're in entirely new territory here," he said. "We've never come close to this. We're treading new areas and we're just really starting to understand who we really brought in and who is left uncovered. As we develop that understanding in more detail, we'll probably have a better fix of where we can land the plane in a sense."

Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010, in an effort to expand the availability of affordable health care coverage. The law includes several provisions, such as requiring maternity coverage for women and prohibiting insurance companies for denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. It hasn't been without controversy, however. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law's individual mandate, but later found states cannot lose their Medicaid funding if they refuse to participate in Medicaid expansion.

A case before the Supreme Court now, King v. Burwell, challenges the law's tax subsidy language. Plaintiffs argue the text of the law only allows for subsidies on state-run exchanges and the IRS' regulations allowing for subsidies on both state and federal exchanges exceeds congressional authority. Defendants claim if the Court rules in favor of King, millions of Americans could lose their tax subsidies and their health insurance coverage. It hasn't yet been announced when the Court will issue its ruling.

West Virginia is one of just a few states that opted to establish its own marketplace exchanges.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

Coalition digging against West Side drug abuse http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150315/DM02/150319379 DM02 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150315/DM02/150319379 Sun, 15 Mar 2015 19:56:49 -0400


daily mail staff

The Partnership of African American Churches is digging into Charleston's West Side to help substance abuse recovery and prevention. And, they could use a little help.

"There are a lot of needs that aren't really being met here," said Wendy Lewis, director of the substance abuse program with the partnership's West Side Ward 4 Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.

That coalition is a community-based extension of the group's presence on the West Side. It aims to bring community members, clergy, law enforcement, educators, medical professionals and others together to combat the rampant drug abuse in the area.

"The coalition is a policy and environmental studies driven coalition," Lewis said. They use what they learn about needs in the community and use that information to facilitate recovery and abuse prevention.

Recovery coaches on staff help recovering addicts take advantage of their desires to quit.

"I just help people with barriers, what they need to move forward," said Tony Lee, a recovery coach. "I check up on 'em, make sure they're doing what they're supposed to."

Lee started working for the coalition six months ago, and he himself is in long-term recovery. He celebrates eight years of sobriety in June.

"God delivered me from alcohol," he said.

"We see a lot of people who've been in the system so long that they think there's no other way," he said. "The coalition supports all forms of recovery."

Lee primarily works with men. Kelly Chandler, another recovery coach, works with women.

"My passion is these women," she said. Part of the process is helping the addicts learn to love themselves again.

"I was an addict for almost 24 years," she said. "I've been in long-term recovery for almost six years now."

The recovery coaches aren't counselors or therapists; they help by connecting people with the resources they need to recover.

"We're going to help them determine what pathway they're going to choose for their recovery," Lewis said.

The coaches are certified through a five-day-long academy that provides participants with "the tools and resources necessary in providing recovery support services," according to a Recovery Coach Academy pamphlet.

"They're pretty much resource agents," Lewis said.

"(Recovery coaches) have been trained through the Connecticut Community for Addiction and Recovery Program," Lewis said. "And, they also have been trained to train other recovery coaches."

The Partnership office at 1514 Kanawha Blvd. W. hosts Narcotics Anonymous meetings Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 10 p.m.

The Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition hosts community meetings every other Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to get feedback from residents, and has a children's room for visitors with kids.

Despite all they offer now, the church group expects to expand its services. They presently have almost 20 employees, about 10 to 12 of which work specifically with their after-school programs.

The Partnership's original goal was simply to provide tutoring, said Rev. James Patterson, chief executive officer. He helped found the group in 2000.

"We wanted to help kids that were struggling and help kids that were doing well do better," he said. The organization eventually grew and decided to take on health issues, specifically smoking.

"People would say, 'Smoking is a problem, but the real problem is drugs,'" Patterson said. "The church has to have some answers when they ask, 'What am I supposed to do?'"

The organization has since garnered support from numerous governmental and non-governmental agencies.

"We partner with a lot of organizations to get things done," he said.

And, they need that help to keep up with their ambitions.

The substance abuse coalition wants to create its own recovery housing by the end of this year, and looks to launch a low-power FM radio station next month.

The housing is for people in emergency situations, he said, to prevent them from slipping into relapse after - for instance - release from a treatment program. He expects about four to eight units.

The FM station is part of a broader goal.

"We were awarded a construction permit for a low-power FM station here in the West Side," Patterson said. They'd use the station to promote advocacy and inform the public. "The challenge to that is going to be raising the funds to get it up and running by the deadline,"

That deadline is April 15.

"We have to be on air by then," he said. "We need people to make contributions."

Check PAAC2.org or search on Facebook for Partnership of African American Churches for more information, or call 304-768-7688.

"We're on the West Side because we want to be," Patterson said.

New cholesterol medicines promising http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150315/ARTICLE/150319393 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150315/ARTICLE/150319393 Sun, 15 Mar 2015 18:35:25 -0400



SAN DIEGO - New research boosts hope that a highly anticipated, experimental class of cholesterol drugs can greatly lower the risk for heart attacks, death and other heart-related problems. The government will decide this summer whether to allow two of these drugs on the market.

People taking one of these drugs had half the risk of dying or suffering a heart problem compared to others who were given usual care - typically one of the statin drugs such as Lipitor or Zocor, doctors found. Many people cannot tolerate statins or get enough help from them, so new medicines are badly needed.

The results are "really impressive and very encouraging" for the new drugs, said one independent expert, Dr. Judith Hochman of NYU Langone Medical Center.

The studies were published online Sunday by the New England Journal of Medicine and discussed at an American College of Cardiology conference in San Diego.

They are fresh analyses from older studies designed to look at how much the drugs lower cholesterol, so they can only suggest that the drugs also lower heart problems, not prove that point. Definitive studies will take about two more years, so the federal Food and Drug Administration will be deciding the drugs' fates with only results like this in hand.

The drugs are evolocumab, which Amgen Inc. wants to call Repatha, and alirocumab, which Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sanofi SA have named Praluent.

They lower LDL or bad cholesterol more powerfully and in a different way than existing drugs, by blocking PCSK9, a substance that interferes with the liver's ability to remove cholesterol from the blood.

Side effects remain a question, though, especially on thinking, confusion and memory - problems the FDA has already voiced concern about and asked the companies to track.

The problems affected only 1 or 2 percent of patients and may be temporary, but they were twice as common among people taking one of the new drugs and need to be closely monitored as studies continue, said Dr. Anthony DeMaria, a University of California at San Diego heart specialist and past president of the American College of Cardiology. As a patient facing potential side effects, "the last one I want" is one that affects the brain, he said.

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, said the new results show "an unquestionable signal" of a potential safety issue. More side effects typically turn up once a drug is approved and used in a wider population, he said.

Two other heart experts - Drs. Neil Stone and Daniel Lloyd-Jones of Northwestern University in Chicago - wrote in the medical journal that "it would be premature to endorse these drugs for widespread use" until the definitive studies are done in a couple of years. Other drugs that initially seemed good failed when put to the most rigorous test, they wrote.

Still, the results so far suggest that the drugs "appear to be on track" to be important new medicines, they wrote.

Dr. Clyde Yancy, cardiology chief at Northwestern University in Chicago and a former American Heart Association president, agreed.

"Science has revealed a brand new approach to treating cholesterol," and there is "reasonable enthusiasm" it will be a big boon to patients, he said.

House passes amended immunizations bill http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150315/DM0104/150319459 DM0104 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150315/DM0104/150319459 Sun, 15 Mar 2015 00:01:00 -0400 By Whitney Burdette UPDATE:

The House voted to concede it's position and pass Senate Bill 286 as it arrived from the Senate, rejecting Lane's amendment. The bill passed 87-10 and will now go to the governor.


Although the state's top health officer has aired concerns about provisions in an immunizations bill, the West Virginia House of Delegates on Saturday passed the legislation.

Senate Bill 286 passed 62-36. Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, offered a controversial amendment to the bill adopted by the Judiciary Committee that Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of the state's Bureau for Public Health, called problematic. The amendment changes the way parents can obtain medical exemptions for their children and prohibits the Bureau for Public Health from adding to the list of required immunizations for school children without legislative ruling.

Democrats joined Gupta in opposing the bill, saying changing the exemption process puts children at an increased risk.

"Now we want to pass a bill that says because of a court case that was not won, we're going to use a piece of legislation as a tool to upend the good statistics we have on immunization," said Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha. "We don't have a whole lot of good public health statistics in this state. This is one of them. The Senate bill accomplished the task. If we cannot take the Senate bill, leave it alone. We should just kill this bill right now."

Lane, however, argued the bill does nothing to change the immunization time line or prevent the Department of Health and Human Resources from acting in emergency situations. Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, said the arguments against the bill are "fallacies" and the version of the bill passed by the House actually broadens the scope of mandated vaccinations to children in day care centers.

"I think its absolutely irresponsible to pontificate that we're trying to spread measles or rubella or other things," she said.

West Virginia has a 97 percent vaccination rate among school-aged children, among the best in the country, but an even lower rate among preschoolers. Under current law, children attending day care centers aren't required to be fully vaccinated, but children entering school must have received numerous immunizations in order to enroll.

Lane's amendment, among other things, allows for a child's doctor to submit a medical exemption request to the county health officer, who can then approve or deny the request. If the request is denied, it is reported to the state Bureau for Public Health. The Bureau has 10 days to investigate the child's health records and conduct any necessary testing. If that 10-day period runs out before the Bureau rules, the child's exemption becomes permanent.

Under current law, the decision to approve or deny a medical exemption lies solely with the Bureau for Public Health. Gupta said under the amended version, the Bureau wouldn't be able to track the number of unvaccinated children and collect other data because approved medical exemptions would not have to be reported to the state.

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-5149 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.