Lawmakers in more than two-thirds of the states are considering ways to reduce prescription drug costs, including importing them from Canada, as they strive to balance budgets without knowing for sure what their government’s share of the tab will be. A total of 87 bills in 34 states of all political stripes seek to save money on prescription drugs, according to the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy. Six of those states are considering bills that would allow drugs to be imported from Canada, where they cost an average 30 percent less than in the United States.
Seven months before Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area with a trillion gallons of water and led to widespread criticism of the Red Cross, Harris County adopted a disaster-preparation plan whose key assumption was that the Red Cross would be slow to act. “In a major disaster where there is widespread damage, the local resources of the Red Cross may be overwhelmed and not available immediately,” stated the plan. “It may be upwards of 7 days before the Red Cross can assume a primary care and shelter role.” The 17-page document, entitled the “Mass Shelter Plan,” was unanimously approved by the county’s governing body on Jan. 31, 2017. The Mass Shelter Plan described the Red Cross as the county’s “lead partner” but was unequivocal in assigning responsibility should a calamity occur: “In the event of an emergency that requires evacuation of all or any part of the Harris County population, Harris County is ultimately responsible for the coordination of the evacuation, shelter and mass care of displaced local residents.”The goal, according to a county spokesperson, was to provide shelter for up to 10,000 displaced residents. [Harris County’s population is 4.5 million; roughly half of those people live in Houston.] The plan proposed that county employees be trained as shelter volunteers, outlined specific roles for shelter staff and indicated the county would identify and survey buildings that could be used for emergency housing beyond those already identified by the American Red Cross [ARC].
Mt. Airy, North Carolina, was the inspiration for Andy Griffith’s iconic, fictional town of TV fame. But what’s the story when the tourists go home and small-city economic issues remain? Filmmaker Bill Hayes, a Mt. Airy native, digs into the reality of one American small town, in hopes that it might say something about your town, too. Unlike Mayberry, Mt. Airy (population 10,000) can’t resolve its difficulties in a single half-hour episode. The 68 minutes that constitute Bill Hayes’ documentary, “The Real Mayberry,” take the viewer much further down the road toward understanding a contemporary small city. But like any honest look at small-town America, the engaging film has no pat answers. What it does have are the right questions:What is special about our place? What is here that we can build on? How do we create opportunity while preserving what we love? And how do we pass on our town to a new generation that has new ideas?
Fortunately, there are things we can do to improve opportunity in rural Virginia. We can invest in workforce development training. We can expand Medicaid and improve access to broadband internet; improve the quality of our schools and ensure Virginia kids can access our best universities; make Virginia a place people want to build businesses; upgrade our infrastructure, like our roads and bridges; and address the opioid epidemic head on.Building out our rural broadband infrastructure is critical. Broadband is the new electricity, an essential connection for rural communities. It will help attract and keep new businesses, and encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses.Our community colleges and higher education institutions should be laser-focused on setting people up for jobs that local employers need to fill right now, particularly in rural communities.We need to expand Medicaid to provide health care access to up to 400,000 more Virginians, many of them in rural areas, while helping rural hospitals. It is simply unjust that there are people in Buchanan County who don’t have health insurance, but if they moved across the border to West Virginia or Kentucky, they could get the health care access that everyone deserves.Expanding Medicaid would also help our fight against the opioid epidemic, providing millions of dollars a year for treatment for substance abuse and mental illness. This epidemic is a problem statewide, but it is significantly more difficult to get treatment in rural areas where providers are likely to be a long drive away.
Senate Bill 1496 would increase the maximum state grants for rural economic development in a “rural area of opportunity” from $150,000 to $250,000.
More than $3.75 million is being awarded to help Rhode Island communities and local organizations protect green space throughout the state.The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced Friday that 17 projects will receive matching grants to protect 889 acres of open space and farmland. The funding stems from the Green Economy Bond program, which was voters passed in 2016.The initiative aims to invest $35 million to preserve open space, improve recreational facilities and clean up land and waterways.The grants include $151,500 to acquire 15.6 acres at the headwaters of Little Creek in Portsmouth; $150,000 to acquire 75 acres on Saugatucket Road in South Kingston to help create a 120-acre stretch of protected land; and $400,000 to acquire 211.5 acres abutting Water Supply Board land in Cumberland.
Food has been a topic of conversation for centuries, and now new research from The University of Texas at Austin shows that how we specifically talk about food plays a role in our health. Scientists have found that people in healthier cities talk differently about food — that healthy cities (e.g. Austin, San Diego, Boston) referenced locations, such as grocery stores or farmers’ markets, and used more complex language to describe a variety of cuisines more so than people in unhealthy cities (e.g. Houston, San Antonio, Columbus). In other words, the way people conceptualize and talk about food is related to where they live and the type of lifestyle afforded to them. When describing rich foods, such as dessert and meat, healthy cities used more positive words while unhealthy cities used negative words, indicating that people in healthier cities may be more “aware of” their dessert intake than those in unhealthy cities, researchers speculated.
Even though Trump has talked about the importance of expanding broadband in rural areas, he has not committed any funding to help build networks. Instead, his efforts have been aimed at eliminating red tape and regulation to get infrastructure built. The proposal, which makes no mention of broadband infrastructure, is meant to spur the investment of at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure, according to a White House fact sheet. Under the plan, the feds would contribute a total of $200 billion over the next 10 years. About half that money would be used as part of an incentive program to entice private investors as well as city, state and local governments to invest in infrastructure projects.Rural communities are expected to get $50 billion of the $200 billion in direct federal funding to "rebuild and modernize infrastructure" in rural America, according to the fact sheet. How the funds will be spent will be largely up to individual states. In theory, this could mean that some states could use the money on broadband expansion projects. But the emphasis from the White House seems to be on traditional types of infrastructure, according to the fact sheet
Ohio’s drug overdose deaths rose 39 percent — the third-largest increase among the states — between mid-2016 and mid-2017, according to new federal figures. The state’s opioid crisis continued to explode in the first half of last year, with 5,232 Ohio overdose deaths recorded in the 12 months ending June 31, 2017.
President Trump is proposing to slash crop insurance and other farm programs by $47 billion over 10 years and to dramatically overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, eventually shrinking its cost to taxpayers by one-third. The proposals will be dead on arrival in the House and Senate Agriculture committees but they would provide ammunition to farm bill critics on the right and left who would like to reduce nutrition assistance and farm subsidies.