Shore Health: Maryland to Offer Online Shopping Tool for Medical Procedures

Share

The Maryland Health Care Commission, the state’s independent regulatory agency, is unveiling a website on which people scheduling a hip replacement, knee replacement, hysterectomy or vaginal delivery can see price differences among different providers for the same procedure.

The site is launching amid rising health-care costs and as some consumers turn to insurance plans with high deductibles.

The state site is meant to give consumers a tool to compare prices and quality on four common medical procedures at hospitals around the state that patients otherwise would have difficulty finding on their own.

Read the full story in the Washington Post here

Winter is Coming: Got Your Flu Shot?

Share

by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Have you had your flu shot yet?

The beginning of flu season is rapidly approaching, and now’s the time to get this year’s flu shot. I got mine last Thursday at the Kent County Health Department at 125 South Lynchburg Street in Chestertown. It was fast, about a five-minute wait with only one person ahead of me. There was only virtually no hassle, just one quick form to fill out.  Bring your insurance or Medicare/Medicaid cards and the cost is covered with no co-pay, in most cases.  So it’s basically free and the vaccine gives me a good chance of getting through the upcoming flu season without any of the all-too-familiar symptoms of the virus.

But does a flu shot really help?  Many people say that they got the shot one year but still got the flu. Yes, that happens.  But the Center for Disease Control (CDC) does a study each year to determine how effective that year’s flu vaccine was and how it compares to previous years.  What they have found is that, while it varies from year to year, vaccination reduces the chance of catching the flu by between 40% and 60%.  Thus there’s no guarantee that you won’t get the flu but you have a much better chance of resisting it than those who don’t get the flu shot.  For every one hundred unprotected persons who get the flu, only 40-60 vaccinated persons come down with it.  So with the vaccine, you have a decent chance of avoiding the flu.  Without it, you may be sniffling and missing work for one to two weeks – or more.  So, yes, the flu shot helps.

The flu hits suddenly, no gradual buildup of symptoms like the common cold often has. You don’t wonder if you might be coming down with something; you know when it hits.  Fortunately, the severe symptoms usually last no more than 2-3 days.  However, other symptoms such an intermittent low fever, cough, weakness, and fatigue may last a week or more. Sometimes, there is a lingering dry cough that lasts or returns again and again over the course of a few months.  Catching the flu can end up with you not feeling up to par for the whole winter. So avoiding the flu is really a good thing!  And the flu shot improves your chances.

Peter Heck, your intrepid Spy reporter, receives his lollipop from  Rita Kulley, RN, program manage of the Flu Clinic, after she gave him his flu shot. (As proof, note the band-aid on upper arm.) 

The Kent County Health Department is holding walk-in flu clinics every Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon through the end of December.  No appointments necessary. Tell ’em the Spy sent you.

Regular flu shots cost $30; while high-dosage shots for seniors are $50. But in most cases, it’s free, no money changes hands. Medicare and Medicaid pick up the entire cost while most insurance companies pay all or most of the cost. The clinic accepts Medicare and MCOs for payment, as well as cash, checks and credit cards.  MCOs are the Managed Care Organizations that provide services to Medicaid recipients.

The strains of flu virus in circulation change each season, so last year’s inoculation is unlikely to be effective against this year’s bugs, which the current vaccine is tailored to protect you from. October and early November are the best times to get your vaccination. That way your immune system can develop antibodies before the flu season kicks in around Thanksgiving. Good idea to develop immunity before those big family gatherings followed by the frenetic shopping and festive parties of December. There’s no better time to visit a qualified health care provider and get your shots updated than now.

In addition to the Health Department, flu shots are available at many local pharmacies. No appointments are needed, just walk-in.  Usually there is no or very little wait.

Rite Aid Pharmacy in Chestertown offers the shots Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m, Sat 9 to 6, Sun 10 to 9.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Chestertown offers the shots from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 8 to 6 Saturdays and 10 to 6 Sundays.

Edwards Pharmacy at 102 S. Commerce St. near the Centreville courthouse, offers the shots from 8 a.m to 6 p.m. weekdays, 8 to 2 Saturdays.

Edwards has just opened a pharmacy in Chestertown but they are not yet geared up to offer flu shots. Next year, they said, Edwards Pharmacy Chestertown will have flu vaccines.

Prices tend to be similar to the Health Department; most insurance plans pick up the entire cost. For those without insurance, the standard shot is around $30, and $50 to $60 for the high-dose senior shot. Bring your insurance cards when you go for the shot.

Rite aid Pharmacy in Kent Plaza shopping center in Chestertown at the intersection of Washington Ave. (Rt 213) and Morgnec Rd. (Rt. 291) Flu shots available M-F from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sat 10:00 am-6:00 pm. Sun.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Chestertown at the corner of Washington Ave. (Rt 213) and Morgnec Rd. (Rt. 291)

It’s also possible your family doctor can give you the inoculation. But the point is to get it. It takes about two weeks after the injection for the vaccine to become fully effective, so getting your shot before the flu season begins is important.

In fact, everyone older than six months should get a shot, unless they have a life-threatening allergy to the vaccine or one of its ingredients. A flu shot doesn’t just protect you — it also helps protect the community as a whole, a phenomenon called herd immunity. The more people who have immunity to this year’s virus, the less likely it is that a dangerous pandemic can get a foothold.

And make no mistake — flu can be a killer, especially to those in vulnerable segments of the population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this group includes children under 5 years and adults over 50 years old; anyone with chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular disorders; pregnant women; residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; American Indians; and anyone who is extremely obese. Family members and caregivers of those in the vulnerable categories should also be sure to get immunized so they don’t expose someone at high risk for complications to the disease.

Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu are helpful in mitigating flu symptoms once a patient is infected with the virus, but they are not a substitute for the vaccination. Nor do they prevent the infected person from spreading the virus to others around them.

Kent County Health Department at 125 South Lynchburg Street in Chestertown.  Walk-in flu shot clinic on Thursday mornings 9-noon.

The Kent County Health Department also has numerous other services for individuals.  They have informational pamphlets in both English and Spanish on almost every health issue.

Flu clinic forms are available at the Health Department website or at the clinic. Call 410-778-1350 ext. 3 for more information.

###

Affordable Care Act: One Young Cancer Patient in Maryland

Share

Presents sat unopened in her family’s Davidsonville house in April, while at Johns Hopkins Hospital her parents told her she had Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancerous tumor growing in her stomach. The disease is so rare that only about 225 children in the United States are diagnosed each year.

Ella Edwards, 9, holds the opening page of a story she is writing about her fight with cancer. Ella was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma on her birthday. Capital News Service photo by Aaron Rosa.

The Edwards family entered a new reality of oncologists and treatments.

“It was crazy fast,” Jen Edwards said. “We were taken up to oncology, and I was thinking, what are we doing here? There are kids with cancer here.

“At that point we weren’t even thinking of insurance.”

The Edwards family hadn’t been following the congressional debates over the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” But now they, like millions of other Americans, would have to deal with a pre-existing condition — which before the Affordable Care Act meant companies could refuse insurance.

Though Congress and the Trump Administration have tried — and failed — to repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, these patients remain worried about their future.

“The ACA was something I never paid attention to,” Jen Edwards said. “You just assume your child is never going to get sick and be healthy all their lives.”

Brian Edwards runs Hague Quality Water, a water treatment company, owned by his father, that has been in his family over 20 years. He purchased health insurance for his children, which, he said, cost less than what he would have to pay through work.

A week before Ella’s birthday, a stomach flu hit the family, but Ella did not respond to the usual medications.

Ella Edwards walks into the room where she will receive the third of six proton radiotherapy treatments. Capital News Service photo by Aaron Rosa.

Doctors at Anne Arundel Medical Center found a grapefruit-sized tumor pressing against her bladder and transferred her immediately to Johns Hopkins University for further testing.

There, the doctors diagnosed the cancer. And two days after her parents took her to the hospital for what they thought was a stomach bug, Ella began receiving chemotherapy.

At Hopkins, Jen Edwards recalls, hospital administrators made a crucial discovery: Ella had been admitted through the emergency room. If Ella was discharged, Johns Hopkins would not readmit her because, though the emergency visit was covered, Hopkins did not accept her insurance for continuing treatment, a staff member confirmed.

They stopped the family from leaving. The administrators recommended that Brian Edwards purchase a new plan, under “Obamacare,” that would cover Ella’s future treatment — avoiding a bill of $80,000.

In a stroke of luck, Hague Quality Water was in a two-week period where the business could choose a new insurance provider for their employees. Brian Edwards switched his company’s coverage to Evergreen Health, a plan on the state health exchange that offered in-state health insurance for Ella’s condition.

Ella’s newly diagnosed cancer is included on a list of declinable conditions that would have caused her application for insurance to be automatically denied in all but five states before the health care law, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Evergreen Health’s monthly premium is $1,900, nearly 30 times the $66 premium he previously paid for insurance covering all his children — the policy from a company that Johns Hopkins would not accept.

“Even if you can’t pay the bills in that moment, you’re still going to do the treatment,” Jen Edwards said.

She leafed through a thick, worn binder filled with letters from doctors, scraps of paper with hastily jotted notes, and bills — dozens of bills.

Ella’s initial seven-day hospitalization topped $41,000, including $17,000 for room and board, and $20,000 for her first round of chemotherapy.

Four months of cancer treatments, visits with specialists, and hospitalizations racked up over $200,000. All but their $1,500 deductible was paid by their insurance company.

Before the Obama health care law, those costs led many families to bankruptcy.

A study conducted by Harvard University and published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that from 2001 to 2007, bankruptcies attributable to medical problems increased by 50 percent and comprised 67 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States.

Cost of life, a metric used to quantify one year of life with cancer treatment, rose from $54,100 in 1995, to $207,000 in 2013. This statistic does not include expenses like surgery or home care, nor does it account for the loss of income resulting from a chronic illness.

Brian and Jen Edwards held a different view of the health care law before Ella’s diagnosis. Back then, they viewed “Obamacare” as socialization of health care.

“For me, Ella’s cancer changed my perspective about the Affordable Care Act,” Jen Edwards said.

“Knowing some of these children that are also at Hopkins, I know their families can’t afford it,” she trails off. “Every child should get care.”

Jen Edwards has quit her job at a local church to care for Ella.

Brian Edwards supplements his work-provided policy with an additional policy to cover the more expensive drugs not covered by Evergreen.

The additional policy is income-based. With five children and a single income, the Edwards family qualifies for its insurance. But if Jen Edwards were to resume working and the family income increased, they would be ineligible.

But even with government subsidies, the Edwards family’s health insurance policies cost him over $2,500 a month.

“It’s overwhelming,” Brian Edwards said. “I don’t know how people do it without insurance.”

Ewing’s sarcoma has a good prognosis if it has not spread. Ella’s has spread to her lungs.

Ella has completed nine of 14 rounds of chemotherapy and is undergoing an eight-week proton radiotherapy treatment plan in lieu of a surgery that would have removed two of her vertebrae.

The family’s life is now shaped by cancer.

Ella and her siblings manned a lemonade stand on the side of a nearby road this summer to raise money for Ewing’s sarcoma research. The family visited Hershey Park. And Ella attended a special week-long camp sponsored by Johns Hopkins University Hospital and staffed by medical personnel.

What they did not do this summer was watch the healthcare debate on television.

Brian Edwards canceled their cable TV subscription. The Edwards children watch cartoons on Netflix.

“Nothing good comes from watching the news,” Brian Edwards said.
But the next wave of bad news didn’t come through the television. It came in the mail.

As a non-profit, Evergreen could no longer cover the costs of its clients, and in a final desperate measure, converted to a for-profit model and sought an outside investor.

Investors dropped out of the Evergreen acquisition deal this summer. In August, the Edwards family received a letter from Evergreen Health announcing that it would be going out of business, honoring existing contracts but closing its doors for good in 2018.

“We’ve been lucky to have coverage so far,” Brian Edwards said softly. “But with Evergreen going out of business, next year is going to be very different.”

Brian Edwards again switched his company’s insurance from Evergreen to Maryland Blue Cross Blue Shield.

His monthly premium increased by $400.

By Aaron Rosa

St. Martin’s Ministries – Lighting the Way

Share

Lighthouses by Dick Swanson displayed in his workshop. Both are included in the auction.

The 12th annual Arts Dinner Dance and Auction to benefit St. Martin’s Ministries (SMM) will be held Friday, Oct. 13 in the Chesapeake Room of Rock Hall firehouse. Works by more than two dozen artists will be available for bidding.

This year’s theme is “America the Beautiful, From Sea to Shining Sea.” To highlight the theme, this year’s featured artist, master wood craftsman Dick Swanson has created six replicas of classic lighthouses from all over the country. Each lighthouse, in addition to being a finely detailed work of art, contains several internal compartments suitable for storing jewelry, keys, or other small items. To get a preview of all six models, check out the front window of the Finishing Touch in Chestertown, where they will be on display until the day of the event.

Dick Swanson in his workshop shows book with photograph of the lighthouse that one of his is modeled on.

In addition to raising money for a very worthwhile charity, the dinner and auction is a lot of fun with good food, good conversation, and good art. The evening begins with cocktails and the silent auction at 6:00 pm.  As you stroll the Chesapeake Room in Rock Hall, you can examine the lighthouses up close along with the other works of art and decide what you might want to bid on. Maybe you’d prefer to bid on one of the glamorous get-aways for an exciting trip to the city or a relaxing weekend in the country.  Dinner is at 7:30 pm followed by dessert and a few after-dinner remarks by the staff and leaders of St Martin’s Ministries as they share stories of the work and progress in the past year.  Then the live auction will begin about 8:45 pm when you can defend your bid against your friends who would try to take home just the item you want the most – unless you can top their bid!  At 9:15, the dance begins with music by DJ Marc McCallum. His special program of musical selections entitled Dancing through the Decades provides both lively and romantic dancing to the oldies while it brings back all those memories!  At 10:00 pm, it’s time to check out and collect your winnings. It’s a lot of fun, and all in all, a wonderful evening.  Many people come back year after year.  Each year’s dinner has a different theme and a new featured artist. And all proceeds support St. Martin’s Ministries’ work with women and children. There is more information on St. Martin’s Ministries below.

Lighthouses shown in their original setting.

In addition to Swanson, contributing artists include Marjorie Aronson, Evie Baskin, Jayne Hurt Bellows, Paul Bramble, Robyn Burckhart, Nora Carey, John Carey, Laura Cline, David B. Giffort, Charlotte Guscht, Pegret Harrison, Lynn Hilfiker, Mary Averill James, Jonathan King, Marlayn King, David Lyon, Joyce Murrin, K. Chrisgtine O’Neill, David O’Neill, Mary Pritchard, Marcy Dunn Ramsey, Lani Seikaly, Lolli sherry, Linda Sims, Nancy R. Thomas and Dennis Young. While the emphasis is on beautiful and unique works of art, there are also other items available for bidding at the silent auction.

All the lighthouses are currently being displayed in the window of Finishing Touch on High Street in Chestertown, just across from Fountain Park.

Tickets for the SMM Arts Dinner and Auction are $110. To make reservations, go to the Mid-Shore Foundation’s website.  You can also make donations at the site to help SMM in their work with women and children and in the process become an official St. Martin’s Ministries Angel, Archangel, Seraphim, or you can join the Heavenly Chorus, each for various levels of donations.

Three of the six lighthouses that up for auction at the St. Martin’s Ministries’ arts Dinner and Auction on Friday, October 13.

Those who would like to bid on a lighthouse but cannot attend the dinner on Oct 13, can submit a bid by email to Anne Donaghy at Donaghy.Ja@gmail.com. Include the word LIGHTHOSE in the subject line of your email.  Then in the text, give your name, telephone, email address, and the name and number of the Lighthouse you’re bidding on, plus the amount of your bid. There is a minimum bid of $150 for a lighthouse. (So bid high if you can’t be there during the auction to raise your bid as needed!) A few days before the dinner, someone will call to verify your bid and request credit card information.  Should you win, you will be notified the next day. Credit cards will not be charged unless your bid wins. This information is also on a sign in the Finishing Touch window.

Saint Martin’s Ministries

Saint Martin’s Ministries began in 1973, when The Benedictine Sisters of Ridgely founded St. Martin’s Barn – an outreach ministry to Christ’s poor. The Barn provided food, clothing and limited funds for preventing evictions and electricity cutoffs. Ten years later, June, 1983, Saint Martin’s House became a reality – a transitional residence which seeks to empower homeless women and children to work towards self-sufficiency in a safe and stable environment.

Today Saint Martin’s House in Ridgely provides up to 2 years of transitional housing for single women and women with children. The program also provides appropriate support services to persons who are homeless or who are close to homelessness. The transition is to help them be more self-sufficient so they can move towards living on their own. The ministry also provides clothing, emergency food, eviction prevention assistance and utility assistance for those in need. St. Martin’s Ministries administers the Rental Assistance program for Caroline County.

For example, in one recent year, SMM reported that the residences had housed 29 persons, 15 women and 14 children.  They came from all over the Mid-Shore.  This amounted to 7,368 bed-nights valued at $92, 100.  In another year, SMM housed 14 women and 44 children for a total 4,685 bed-nights.  With careful administration and efficient volunteers, the cost per person has run around $40 per day.

The St. Martin’s Barn program provides emergency food and clothing. In one year, they distributed 3, 672 food packages, averaging over 300 per month.  The same year, SMM provided over $100,00 to save 171 families from eviction.

In order to keep these services going – to help more women and children –  SMM runs several other fund raisers in addition to the annual Arts Dinner and Auction,. They just finished their 2nd annual golf tournament and also hold an Authors’ Luncheon in the spring.  SMM has been awarded over $150,000 in government grants.  Altogether, St. Martin’s Ministries has been a life-changing and life-saving influence in the lives of hundreds of women and children over the years.

SMM is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

You can be a part of this.

###

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Into Mental Health

Share

Mental Health Awareness Week is Oct. 1-7, 2017. Each year, the first full week in October provides an opportunity to fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for equal care.

One in five adults experiences mental illness problems every year, and 50 percent of chronic mental illness begins by age 14. Although many people today understand that mental illness is a medical condition, individuals and families affected by mental illness are still often subjected to stigma and discrimination.

This year the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is calling on everyone to get “Into Mental Health” and replace stigma with hope.

Locally, NAMI Kent & Queen Anne’s (the newest affiliate of NAMI Maryland) is now offering the NAMI Family Support Group program on the first and third Monday in Centreville, and the first and third Tuesday in Chestertown, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

In addition, as part of Mental Health Awareness week, National Depression Screening Day will be held Thursday Oct. 5. Organizations around the world are encouraged to offer free, anonymous questionnaires that can help individuals identify potential signs of depression. Learn more at www.mentalhealthscreening.org/programs/ndsd.

“We are calling on everyone to join NAMI and replace stigma with hope by pledging to be #stigmaFree,” said Lainie Surette, steering committee co-chair of NAMI Kent & Queen Anne’s.

To take the #StignaFree pledge, visit www.NAMI.org/stigmafree. NAMI offers information about mental illness conditions, symptoms and treatment at www.NAMI.org or through its HelpLine at (800) 550-NAMI (6264).

For more information about the Kent and Queen Anne’s Support Groups call (443)480-0565.

To Counter Opioid Epidemic Leads State Panel to Revisit “Recovery Schools

Share

A fire led to the eventual end of Phoenix — a groundbreaking Maryland public school program for children with addiction that closed in 2012 — but the state could see institutions like it rise again from the ashes.

Recent spikes in the Maryland heroin and opioid epidemic have triggered calls for substantial changes in education systems statewide, and a state work group is weighing the return of recovery schools after a Sept. 7 meeting.

For Kevin Burnes, 47, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, attending a recovery school separate from his hometown high school was life-changing.

Burnes said in a public letter that he began to experiment with drugs and alcohol at age 10, and his addiction to alcohol quickly escalated to PCP. He found himself homeless and was admitted into a psychiatric institute, he wrote.

However, after finding Phoenix, a recovery program for secondary school students with addiction, and attending for two years, his whole life turned around.

“What I can tell you is that this program undeniably saved my life,” said Burnes, now a full-time musician living in Frederick, Maryland. “The largest part of Phoenix’s success was due to the fact that everyone was involved. It was a community effort. It’s a community issue.”

State legislation that passed this year — known as the Start Talking Maryland Act — came into effect in July and directed schools in Maryland to take precautionary measures against opioid exposure and abuse. It also established the work group.

The panel is charged with evaluating and developing behavioral and substance abuse disorder programs and reporting their findings to the General Assembly, according to a state fiscal analysis.

The legislation additionally requires:

–To store naloxone in schools and train school personnel in the drug’s administration
–Public schools to expand existing programs to include drug addiction and prevention education
–Local boards of education or health departments to hire a county or regional community action official to develop these programs
–The governor to include $3 million in the fiscal 2019 budget for the Maryland State Department of Education for these policies
–Schools of higher education that receive state funding to establish these similar policies and instruction in substance use disorders in certain institutions

The Phoenix program and similar secondary schools that followed it were created specifically for students in recovery from substance use disorder or dependency, according to the Association of Recovery Schools.

“What we’ve known anecdotally for a while, we are starting to finally see with data. These high schools have positive effects on preventing and reducing adolescent alcohol and drug use as well as supporting the abstinence of kids post-treatment and seeing a positive impact on academics,” Dr. Andrew Finch, Vanderbilt University researcher and co-founder of the Association of Recovery Schools told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.

The first of its kind in the United States, the original Phoenix I school opened in 1979 as an alternative program in Montgomery County, Maryland, that provided both an education and a positive peer culture centered on recovery. Phoenix II followed, also in Montgomery County.

Since then, about 40 schools have opened nationwide, according to Finch, but none remain in the state of Maryland.

“It was amazing the support that the students gave to each other. We would have weekly community meetings where they would praise each other for their commitment, but if they weren’t working toward sobriety these kids were the first ones to rat on each other,” Izzy Kovach, a former Phoenix teacher told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “It was a real sense of family…”

Critical to the Phoenix schools were outdoor challenges, said Mike Bucci, a former Phoenix teacher for 20 years, in a report. Along with regular days of classes and support groups, students would go from climbing 930-foot sandstone cliffs at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, to biking the 184-mile length of the C&O Canal to sailing the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

“These trips helped form lifelong bonds along with an ‘I can’ attitude,” Bucci wrote.

The Phoenix schools at their largest enrolled about 50 students each at a time, according to a state report.

After years of successful work, the Phoenix schools began to lose their spark. Tragedy struck in 2001 when the Phoenix II school burned down.

However, instead of remaining a standalone recovery school, Phoenix II continued on as an in-school program, and eventually Phoenix I followed, according to Kovach.

“The program lost its validity with this model (with students back in traditional high schools). The students knew it, the parents knew it, and eventually key staff left because they also saw it was ineffective,” Kovach said.

Eventually, enrollment dwindled down to only three students and the Phoenix program closed its doors in 2012, according to a report compiled by a community advocacy group Phoenix Rising: Maryland Recovery School Advocates.

Five years later, with the rise in drug use throughout the state, talk of bringing back recovery school programs have reemerged.

“Whenever you have a program where there aren’t many of them, like recovery schools, people just don’t don’t think of them as an option. But, it is slowly changing and it’s even starting to be picked up by the media,” Finch said.

The epidemic is gathering attention and resources in Maryland — Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency from March 1 to April 30 and committed an additional $50 million over five years to help with prevention.

From 2014 to 2017, the number of opioid-related deaths reported in Maryland between Jan. 1 and March 31 more than doubled — taking the death toll up to 473, according to state health department data. Since then, the work group has begun to look at these numbers and is beginning to discuss various models for these new recovery programs.

Lisa Lowe, director of the Heroin Action Coalition advocacy group, said she fears that the work group will not be able to understand how to move in the right direction without having students, parents or teachers with lived experience contributing.

“Instead of just guessing what’s going to work, why not ask the people who are living it?” Lowe said.

The work group has considered either creating a regional recovery school or bringing the recovery programs into already existing schools — both models in which Burnes, Lowe and many others are not in favor.

Lowe said students in recovery need to get away from “people, places and things,” a common phrase that is used in 12-step programs. With a regional school or an in-school program, Lowe said, it is more difficult to maintain after-school programming and local peer support groups, and it will bring recovering students back to where their problems started.

The start-up costs for Year 1 for one recovery school are estimated to range from approximately $2,258,891 to $2,473,891 depending on whether the school is operated only for Montgomery County students or as a regional recovery school, and again should enroll about 50 students age 14 through 21 years (or Grades 8 through 12), according to a state report.

“The overdoses are not occurring as much at the high school level, but that’s where they start. They start in high school and they start in middle school. We have to get the program in place so that we don’t have the deaths later on,” said Kovach, the former Phoenix teacher.

Rachelle Gardner, the co-founder of Hope Academy, a recovery charter high school in Indiana, said that these recovery schools are needed all over the country to help battle this substance abuse crisis.

“Addiction is addiction, when you walk into a 12-step meeting you’re in a room of addicts. You have to treat the addict in itself and we have to meet everybody where they’re at regardless of their drug of choice,” Gardner said.

The workgroup is continuing to develop their ideas for recovery schools and are expected to present their findings to the State Board of Education on Oct. 24.

By Georgia Slater

Pink Polar Bear Golf Tourney Raises $2,550 for the Women’s Center

Share

Pink Polar Bear Tournament participants paused for a group photo after coming in from the links at Chestertown Yacht and Country Club.

The sixth annual Pink Polar Bear Golf Tournament, held August 6 at the Chester River Yacht & Country Club, raised $2,550 to benefit patient care in the Eleanor & Ethel Leh Women’s Center at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.

According to tournament co-chair Gwinn Derricott, who also is a hospital volunteer, 66 members and guests of the club, which is located just outside Chestertown, participated in this year’s event. “Everyone says that this is the most fun tournament they play in because of the format and the camaraderie,” Derricott said. “We’ve come a long way from a group of nine and 18-hole lady golfers and we’re looking forward to many more tournaments.”

Jane Hukill, tournament co-chair and also a hospital volunteer said, “We call it the Pink Polar Bear tournament because early on, it was explained to us that finding breast cancer can be like trying to find a polar bear in a blizzard.  When we saw the capabilities of the tomosynthesis in mammography, we had to do our part to support the continued availability of this technology in Chestertown.”

Kelly Bottomley, regional manager, Imaging, for UM Shore Regional Health, said that mammography is the medical “gold standard” to identify breast cancer. The Eleanor & Ethel Leh Women’s Center, which opened in October 2013, was the first facility on the Delmarva Peninsula to offer 3-D digital mammography with tomosynthesis, which can identify breast cancer at the earliest possible stage; in 2016, the Center performed 2,643 mammograms.

“On behalf of both the staff of the Leh Women’s Center and the patients who come to us for treatment, I am humbled to thank everyone who helped make the Pink Polar Bear tournament such a great success this year as in the past – in fact, their support grows larger every year. Their generosity and commitment is making a positive difference for women’s health here in Kent County and beyond, and we are proud to have them as part of our family of care,” Bottomley stated.

The Leh Center also offers bone density testing. A plastic surgeon is on site at the Center two days a week for breast surgery, reconstruction, consultation and other services.

Save Our Hospital Group Responds to Workgroup Report

Share

Leaders of the Save Our Hospital group and other concerned citizens have sent a letter about recommendations of the Maryland Rural Health Workgroup’s in the draft report on the future of the Chestertown hospital. The letter cites a number of potential problems with the report, especially as its recommendations would affect Kent County residents. Signers include a number of doctors, the mayor of Chestertown and two town council members, the president of Washington College, the director of Heron Point and board members of the hospital foundation along with other business and community leaders.

The hospital,  a branch of University of Maryland Medical System, has been the focus of community concerns since UMMS acquired it in 2007. While the UM Shore Regional Health board, the immediate parent facility, has committed to keeping the hospital open through 2022, its future beyond that date remains uncertain, Many community members interpret recent staff cuts and other reductions in services as preliminaries to downsizing the facility with an eye to closing it shortly after 2022.

The Rural Health Workgroup is in the final stages of writing its report, which the legislators will then turn into law.  The final report will be presented at the last full workgroup meeting, Sept. 28 in Annapolis.

Here is the Save Our Hospital letter as submitted.

To:        Members of the Rural Health Workgroup and staff of the Maryland Health Care Commission

From: Leadership, Save Our Hospital physicians and citizens group

Date:    August 10, 2017

Re:        Concerns about the draft recommendations  

Dear Workgroup Members and Staff:

As members of the physician-led Kent and northern Queen Anne’s community volunteer group Save Our Hospital, we write to share our reaction to the draft recommendations discussed at the July 25 meeting of the Rural Health Workgroup.

We are grateful to the Health Care Commission staff and the Workgroup members, especially chairs Deborah Mizeur and Joseph Ciatola, for the time and thought they have dedicated to the process of rethinking and redesigning a health-care delivery plan that works for rural communities like ours.

We wholeheartedly endorse the majority of the recommendations, which concern greater coordination and clustering of health-related services, providing in-home or close-to-home care for patients, incentives for attracting and retaining physicians and other health-care professionals, reducing re-admission rates, avoiding unnecessary visits to emergency rooms, and exploiting the power of telemedicine and other innovations to increase timely access to the highest quality diagnostic and treatment expertise.

But we have serious concerns.

Since our original 2015 meetings (which sparked Maryland’s General Assembly and the State Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene to create your Workgroup), the Save the Hospital citizens group has continued to focus on the viability and vitality of the acute care hospital in Chestertown, now part of University of Maryland Medical System’s Shore Regional Health System. Most of our concerns for the Workgroup recommendations therefore revolve around the concept of the special Rural Community Hospital. That designation is outlined on page 11 of the draft recommendations under item 10: “Create a special hospital designation for Rural Communities.”

While we applaud the creation of a new category of hospital if it will help ensure the continued financial success of our county’s second largest employer, we have specific concerns about the defining characteristics and longevity outlined in the draft recommendations:

Item 10. b. states that the hospital must be “located 35 miles or more from the nearest general acute care hospital.” While we understand that the mileage figure comes from the federal designation for a Critical Access Hospital, it is not a safe measure for rural Maryland communities such as Kent County.  The current hospital in Chestertown is approximately 34 miles from the site of the proposed Easton medical center on Route 50 near the Easton Airport. Thousands of residents, tourists, beach-goers, boaters, students, campers and staffers from marinas, summer camps and environmental education programs in remote parts of Kent County, notably Rock Hall, Betterton, Still Pond Neck and Galena, are 45 to 50 miles or more from the Easton site.

To use the 35-mile figure would be cruel, cynical and dangerous.

We believe a safer criterion would be one based not on mileage but on travel time. That would allow for considerations such as beach traffic on Route 50 and other seasonal issues that lengthen the trip to another hospital.

Item 10. f.  states, “The program would last for five years and would be renewable by agreement of HSCRC and the hospital.” By leaving the renewal option solely up to the hospital board and executives, this clause threatens to put the Chestertown hospital (and any designated Rural Community hospital) right back into the untenable situation that first sparked community outrage and led to the creation of the Rural Health Workgroup in the first place.

A hospital is too important to the health, economy and social wellbeing of a community to be redefined and converted into a lesser facility without vigorous community and legislative debate and input.  The State must require a review process that ensures public discussion and input from the affected hospital’s medical staff and guarantees that the hospital decision makers are hearing and acting on community and physician concerns.  The procedure for altering a Rural Community Hospital’s status should be similar in scope and as rigorous as Maryland’s existing Certificate of Need process for building or significantly altering health-care facilities.

Need for a local hospital board. Another concern is the continued lack of a truly local board to serve as a liaison, watchdog and advocate for our hospital. While the Workgroup’s deliberations and recommendations have invested in the concept of regional and system-wide collaboratives and oversight, we strongly endorse the idea of a community-based board for any rural community hospital or health complex.

Yes, there is a board of directors for the regional health system (in our case, UMMS Shore Regional Health System), but board members from smaller communities will never have a decisive voice on a regional board.  It is, after all, the almost total disregard for our community’s interests and the diminished status of our hospital by the Easton-based regional board that led us to appeal to the General Assembly for respect and attention. Residents will always be more closely connected to, loyal to, and more likely to donate to, a hospital with its own board drawn entirely from neighbors, friends and civic leaders they know and trust.

(Such a local board would give voice to community concerns about hospital policies such as Shore Regional Health’s “white paper” proposal to eliminate the ICU unit and to reduce inpatient beds based on projected rather than recent  patient data.)

“Put some teeth in it.” Given the severity of the physician shortage in rural areas and the pressure and cost of outspending competitors to attract top medical staff, our group suggests building significant incentives and disincentives into any recommendations that will encourage University of Maryland Medical School to develop more family physicians and general practitioners who will train and eventually practice in Kent County and other rural communities. This was a promise—broken immediately and never fulfilled—that UMMS made nine years ago when it was a suitor seeking ownership of the hospital in Chestertown.

Thank you for giving our concerns your serious consideration. The Kent and northern Queen Anne’s community will remain engaged. We are eager to support Senators Middleton and Hershey and Delegates Jacobs, Ghrist and Arentz as they shepherd the Workgroup report through the halls of the General Assembly and into law.  We know that, despite the long road that brought us to this point, we still have a long way to go to ensure that our future includes a robust hospital at the center of a healthy, equitable, prosperous community.

Sincerely,

Save the Hospital Leadership

Dr. Jerry O’Connor

Dr. Wayne Benjamin

Dr. Michael Peimer

Dr. Ona Kareiva

Dr. Susan Ross

Margie Elsberg, SOH Coordinator, past president of Chester River Health Foundation

Kurt Landgraf, President of Washington College

Chris Cerino, Mayor, Town of Chestertown

Garrett Falcone, executive director, Heron Point CCRC

Glenn Wilson, President and CEO of Chesapeake Bank & Trust, President of United Way     of Kent County

Kay MacIntosh, economic development coordinator, Town of Chestertown

And the following citizens in attendance at the August 10 meeting:

(professional or community affiliations provided as known)

Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver, community leader

Marty Stetson, Chestertown Town Council

Linda Kuiper, Chestertown Town Council

Fred Harmon, representing the residents of Heron Point

Leon Irish

Bill Mohan

Shelby Strudwick

Jim Twohy

Charles Lerner, board member, Chester River Health Foundation

Sandra Bjork, board member, Chester River Health Foundation

David Foster, former Chester River Riverkeeper

Nancy Carter

Zane Carter

Beryl Kemp

Michael McDonnell

Stuart Elsberg, past president, For All Seasons

 

 

 

Mainstay Names Carol Colgate Managing Director

Share

Carol Colgate

When Carol Colgate first attended a concert at the Mainstay, the intimate storefront performing arts center in the waterfront village of Rock Hall,  her initial impression was, “It felt like home.” Today, as the managing director of the friendly and popular live music venue on Main Street, Colgate says that first impression continues, and she would like everyone to feel that they have a home here.

“What I love about the Mainstay is that it grew organically from the time it was founded by Tom McHugh and the core group of original stakeholders, and that the synergy between the music, the audience, the room and the performers has been a natural development. It really is the home of musical magic,” she said, referring to the tagline that accompanies the venue’s logo.

The new managing director position, created in a management reorganization by the Mainstay’s board of directors, is a natural progression for Colgate. She has 30 years of business and arts administrative experience, having worked primarily in theater. Recently, she was a team member in the Kent County production of the new musical, “Red Devil Moon,” where some of her original paintings were featured.

Colgate’s tenure with the Mainstay began as administrative assistant to former executive director Rory Trainor a year ago.  “Rory re-invigorated my love of performance and gave me the opportunity to combine my management skills with imaginative concepts and creativity,” she notes.  All the while, she took on more and more administrative responsibility.

She is enthusiastic to be working with The Mainstay’s very motivated board members on all the operations that keep the venue a vital, thriving part of the local arts scene.  She sees her job as “maintaining the artistic integrity of a long-standing tradition while continuing to grow and expand by keeping our pulse on what’s exciting in the larger community.” Now that the managing director position is filled, Colgate and the board will be hiring staff to work on the programming and marketing for The Mainstay.

Mainstay board president Dan Seikaly says Colgate was a natural fit for The Mainstay.  “For the first 20 years, The Mainstay operated on the energy of Tom McHugh and a few volunteers,” Seikaly noted. “Following Tom’s departure, everyone became aware of the complexity of running a non-profit entertainment venue that presented over 50 concerts a year.  Carol was undaunted and enthusiastic. She learned, adapted or developed methods to grow The Mainstay without losing sight of what made it unique.”

Beyond her demonstrated executive skills, grants management experience and flexible approach to the multi-faceted needs of The Mainstay, Colgate has an innate understanding of the culture that marks the Mainstay’s popularity with its audience and supporters. “Maintaining that culture is important as we continue to move forward with all the creative strengths that bring everyone together,” she said.