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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Vermont Senate Approves Raising Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 3:52 PM

  • Mbr Images |
The Vermont Senate advanced legislation Thursday that would raise the legal age for tobacco purchases, including e-cigarettes, to 21.

Sen. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden) said the bill was designed to reduce smoking rates, noting that most people don’t take up smoking after their 21st birthday.

“Only 5 percent of smokers smoking now started smoking after the age of 21,” Ingram said.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Vermont U.S. Attorney Reaches $57 Million Settlement With Health Records Company

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2019 at 3:02 PM

  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • Christina Nolan
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Vermont has reached another large settlement with a health care company accused of defrauding Medicare of millions.

Tampa, Fla.-based company Greenway Health will forfeit $57.25 million to the U.S. government, the second-largest monetary recovery ever in the District of Vermont, U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan said Wednesday during a press conference announcing the settlement.

Greenway's alleged fraud is very similar to a 2017 case prosecuted by the district against another electronic health records provider, eClinicalWorks, that was resolved through the largest-ever recovery, a $155 million settlement.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Turning Point Center Celebrates Its New Digs in Burlington

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 4:16 PM

Gary De Carolis and Mayor Miro Weinberger - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Gary De Carolis and Mayor Miro Weinberger
The Turning Point Center of Chittenden County unveiled its permanent new space Tuesday with plenty of fanfare during a celebratory open house.

The nonprofit organization provides support for those in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. It's in the process of purchasing the building, at the intersection of King Street and South Winooski Avenue, from the Champlain Housing Trust for $850,000, according to the center's executive director, Gary De Carolis.

It's about 60 percent larger than the former location above Phoenix Books on Bank Street, De Carolis said. The center has already completed $350,000 worth of renovations, building an art studio, spaces for yoga and meetings, offices, and a kitchen. Turning Point's 14 staff and roughly 30 volunteers moved into the space last month.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

Chittenden County Sees Spate of Overdoses to Start Year

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 3:51 PM

Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine - DEREK BROUWER
  • Derek Brouwer
  • Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine
Seven people in Chittenden County were treated for drug overdoses during a seven-hour span overnight, the Vermont Department of Health said Friday.

Officials say it's unusual for the University of Vermont Medical Center to see more than one or two such cases on a busy night.

The spate of overdoses, likely opioid related, prompted an afternoon press conference attended by Health Commissioner Mark Levine and UVM Medical Center president Eileen Whalen.

"It's only January 4, and we've already seen multiple overdoses in a short period of time," Levine said.

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Friday, November 9, 2018

Food Shortage, Money Woes Lead to Takeover of Three Senior Housing Facilities

Posted By on Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 2:28 PM

Attorney General T.J. Donovan with Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Commissioner Monica Hutt - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Attorney General T.J. Donovan with Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Commissioner Monica Hutt
A court-appointed receiver has assumed control of three residential facilities that serve the elderly in Chittenden and Franklin counties after food shortages and financial problems caused concerns about residents’ health and safety, state officials announced Friday.

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said Allenwood at Pillsbury Manor and Pillsbury Manor South, both in South Burlington, and Homestead at Pillsbury in St. Albans were in control of a receiver tasked with stabilizing the homes’ finances and keeping them open.

“When you talk about running out of food, that’s when you gotta step in and protect people,” Donovan said. “And that’s what we did.”

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Gobeille Addresses Prison Health Care Spending Concerns

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 6:33 PM

Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille
Vermont Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille is defending the state’s contract with a private prison health care provider after lawmakers and advocates expressed concerns.

At a September 20 legislative hearing, Vermont's chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher, questioned what had happened to $2.2 million that the state paid the contractor, Centurion, in fiscal year 2017. Lawmakers got the impression that Centurion had pocketed the money as profit, which Department of Corrections officials in the room didn't dispute.

But that was not the case, according to Gobeille. The secretary wasn’t at the hearing, but he later told lawmakers that Centurion spent the $2.2 million on other health care expenses. “There’s no missing money,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to think that we paid for a bunch of pharmaceuticals that never got used.”

Fisher raised the money issue while discussing a lack of hepatitis C treatment in Vermont prisons. “Our chief concern is that inmates are getting the care that they need,” Fisher said. Gobeille’s explanation “doesn’t satisfy the concern.”

Centurion did retain about $450,000 in profit in 2017 and received about $2 million to cover corporate overhead costs, according to Gobeille. In the context of the roughly $20 million contract, “I don’t think that’s exorbitant by any respect,” he said.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

UVM Medical Center Nurses Ratify Three-Year Contract

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 10:31 AM

Lead negotiator Molly Wallner, right - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Lead negotiator Molly Wallner, right
University of Vermont Medical Center nurses have ratified a three-year contract that ends a testy labor dispute, their union and the hospital announced Friday morning.

"This has been a long and difficult road for all of us, and we are extremely proud of what we have accomplished," said Molly Wallner, lead negotiator for the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. "We have shown the hospital, our community, and ourselves what we are capable of. "

The agreement gives nurses a 16 percent salary increase over the next three years. Some nurses will get raises of up to 30 percent.

Roughly 1,100 of the 1,800 nurses in the union cast votes, Wallner said, and 70 percent of them favored ratification. Negotiators had reached a tentative agreement on September 19.

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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Few Vermont Inmates Receive Hepatitis C Treatment

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 11:32 AM

  • Matt Morris
In August, 250 inmates in Vermont prisons had hepatitis C, but just eight of them received treatment for the infectious, potentially deadly virus that can damage the liver. The number of those treated is actually an increase over 2017, when the Vermont Department of Corrections appears to have provided hepatitis C medication to just one inmate, according to its own data.

The state’s chief health care advocate, Michael Fisher called the statistics “very, very concerning.”

Fisher was part of a coalition of organizations that successfully pushed the state’s Medicaid health insurance program to start paying this year for hepatitis C medication for patients who don’t yet have liver damage.

Now advocates are turning their attention to Vermont’s prisons, where alarmingly few inmates are receiving the antiviral drugs that can cure hepatitis C, according to Fisher.

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UVM Medical Center, Nurses Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 7:38 AM

Nurses and supporters rallying this summer - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • File: Sara Tabin
  • Nurses and supporters rallying this summer
The University of Vermont Medical Center and its nurses' union have reached a tentative contract agreement after months of failed negotiations, the parties announced late Wednesday.

UVM Medical Center said the agreement with the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals is a three-year contract that includes a 16 percent average base salary increase. The union, in turn, agreed to eliminate proposed increases to certain shift differentials. Pay increases for ambulatory nurses will be retroactive to the first full pay period in September, the hospital said.

"We believe this agreement provides meaningful wage increases and allows us to maintain our commitment to all employees and be responsible stewards of limited health care dollars," hospital spokesman Michael Carrese said.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Health Department Cautions Drug Users After Spate of Overdoses

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 3:30 PM

A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan - COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Courtesy Department of Health
  • A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan
The state Health Department is urging drug users to take precautions, including keeping the overdose-reversing drug Narcan on hand, after a spate of "several" fatal overdoses in Rutland County and other non-fatal incidents across the state.

The department declined to give specific numbers, citing pending autopsies, but said it believes most of the overdoses are tied to fentanyl, a synthetic opiate many times more powerful than heroin.

In 2017, two-thirds of opiate overdose deaths involved fentanyl, and the number of fatal overdoses involving fentanyl has nearly quadrupled since 2014.

The Health Department says it is concerned that the synthetic opioid is now being mixed with other drugs, including cocaine.

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