Ferret out root causes of opioid epidemic

Ferret out root causes of opioid epidemic

Gazette Column
Locals gathered at diners and other venues, I thought, would be abuzz with news of a man who crashed into a parked semi-trailer only moments after injecting heroin. I was wrong. The crash happened one sunny afternoon in Manchester, N.H., a town I was visiting for a work-related conference. When a 33-year-old man inexplicably drove his Chevy head-on into a parked truck, an eye witness came forward to say the driver had injected heroin before the incident. Both the driver and a 26-year-old male passenger were taken to a hospital with serious injuries, and the driver later was charged with operating while using. The driver of the truck was making a delivery at a nearby business and not present when the crash occurred. I was gobsmacked by the news, both for the…
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Is it too late to snip the fuse on fireworks?

Is it too late to snip the fuse on fireworks?

Gazette Column
Once you open Pandora’s box of booming missiles and colorful starbursts, it’s impossible to completely refasten the lid. But maybe we can agree it needs better hinges. Iowa’s new fireworks freedom was hastily crafted by an “alpha male” Legislature wanting to show off its muscles. Quickly signed into law by then-Gov. Terry Branstad, the law allows Iowans to buy, use and sell fireworks from June 1 through July 8 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 3. Unlike previously discussed versions of legalization, the new rules began immediately. State law allows any Iowan above the age of 18 to purchase and light a broad array of fireworks from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. — and even later closer to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve holidays — within the…
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Can Iowa maintain high rank?

Can Iowa maintain high rank?

Gazette Column
Boosted by past policy decisions, Iowa has become a leader in child economic well-being. according to one national study. But the Hawkeye State is beginning to lag on children’s health. Iowa is among the top five states in the 2017 Kids Count Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study ranks states based on 16 indicators in four areas — health, education, economic well-being and family and community. The group says these are key factors in determining a child’s ability to thrive. Nationally, Iowa ranks third among states in economic well-being. It’s also among the top 10 for education (sixth), health (seventh) and family and community (eighth). The Hawkeye State’s composite ranking is fifth in the nation, following New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota. [caption id="attachment_1234" align="alignleft" width="640"]…
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Wrongful birth suits get Iowa court nod

Wrongful birth suits get Iowa court nod

Gazette Column
Physicians who don’t inform pregnant women and their partners of fetal anomalies can be sued, the Iowa Supreme Court decided this month. These “wrongful birth” cases involve pregnancies in which physicians or other medical professionals have access to test results, not disclosed to parents, indicating the child will face severe disabilities. For instance, in the case before the Iowa Court, parents Pamela and Jeremy Plowman say their prenatal doctors failed to inform them of abnormalities discovered during an ultrasound. Instead they were led to believe “everything was fine” with the pregnancy, and recommended follow-up testing was never completed. Severe cognitive defects were diagnosed after their son was born. His medical condition requires lifelong oversight and intervention. Now six years old, their son does not speak or walk, and he is…
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Partisan messaging won’t help rural Iowa

Partisan messaging won’t help rural Iowa

Featured, Gazette Column
Maybe I set too high a bar for former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge’s initiative to engage rural Iowa voters. The first news release from the organization, Focus on Rural America, arrived Tuesday afternoon. It contained a summary of the group’s revelations following a series of focus groups with rural Iowans who switched their presidential vote from Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 to Republican Donald Trump in 2016. None of the findings are earth shattering. • Both Obama and Trump were considered agents of change, candidates the broke the status quo. • Messaging by the Hillary Clinton campaign was described as murky; the Trump campaign messaging was clear. • Democrats generally were perceived as focusing too heavily on entitlements and social programs, which voters translated into a lack of interest for…
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Resignation can’t stymie DHS probe

Resignation can’t stymie DHS probe

Gazette Column
Two of three teens the state pledged to protect were placed in homes where they were subsequently neglected and abused to death. The third fled her torturers. More than 4,000 other Iowa children are overseen by this most likely flawed system. A retirement announcement Wednesday by Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer does not absolve him of any failed obligations to these minors, living or dead. The move should spark renewed commitment to bring the truth to light. Known victims of the state system are 16-year-old Natalie Finn of West Des Moines, 18-year-old Malayia Knapp of Des Moines, and 16-year-old Sabrina Ray of Perry. [caption id="attachment_1221" align="alignleft" width="300"] Iowa DHS Director Charles Palmer speaks at a Johnson County Task Force on Aging forum at the Coralville Public Library in…
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Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Iowa winnowing of health care begins

Gazette Column
News that health care advocates had been dreading came Thursday: Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will shutter a third of it’s Iowa clinics. Locations in Bettendorf, Sioux City, Burlington and Keokuk will close at the end of June. Only one of those locations offered abortion services, and it will continue to provide those procedures until the building is sold. Soon to be lost is what more than 70 percent of Iowans supported — access to family planning services like contraceptives, prenatal vitamins and cancer or other disease screenings. More than 14,000 Iowans utilized the clinics now slated for closure. Planned Parenthood clinics statewide serve nearly half of residents who use publicly-funded family planning services. Looking only at the four counties impacted by the closures, Planned Parenthood clinics served, at a…
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In turbulent times, Des Moines’ Roosevelt gets it right again

In turbulent times, Des Moines’ Roosevelt gets it right again

Gazette Column
Fairness isn’t owned by any political party, which sometimes trips up adults who aim to keep their political footing firmly on the side of justice. Those who often find themselves straddling divergent political views could learn a lot from Roosevelt High School in Des Moines. The school is in the news again, this time for a message from Principal Kevin Biggs. Delivered via the school intercom and shared with parents via email, the message came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s executive order to prohibit immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States at least for now. “To all of our students who are immigrants or refugees — and to their friends and classmates and teachers who are also concerned because of these recent events —…
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Extreme measures rarely last

Extreme measures rarely last

Gazette Column
In politics, there’s at least one thing you can always count on: Power exists on a pendulum. Public sentiment is always shifting. For years this inconvenient fact kept most politicians, and especially the dominant political parties, tilting toward center. They’ve understood that whenever massive force is applied in one direction, the back swing is as equally severe. Iowa’s Republican Majority is brazenly testing fate. [caption id="attachment_411" align="alignleft" width="640"] Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, gives opening remarks Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, at the start of debate on Senate File 2. The bill ends a long-standing federal-state cooperative program for family planning, and creates a solely state-funded program. The new program, if approved, will exclude health providers that provide abortion services. The bill passed the Iowa Senate on a party-line vote and will…
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Vaccine bill risks health for freedom

Vaccine bill risks health for freedom

Featured, Gazette Column
A bill working its way through the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature casts public safety concerns aside, and relies on “freedom” as justification for putting children’s health at risk. On Thursday, a three-member House subcommittee approved a bill sponsored by Iowa Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids. The bill inserts a “personal conviction” clause into state law regarding childhood vaccinations. If passed, no parent will be required to vaccinate children enrolled in care facilities or public schools. A news article in The Gazette noted “Republicans argued the immunization mandate violates Iowans’ religious liberties and personal freedoms.” Hogwash. Iowa Code 139A.8 addresses vaccination requirements for children enrolling in “any licensed child care center or elementary or secondary school.” It lists the various immunizations children are required to obtain before enrolling — diphtheria, whooping cough,…
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