Friday, January 20, 2017

New citizen watchdog group to push for answers and action on water contamination

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 11:54 AM

An early meeting of the FVCWC gave opportunity to share experiences with contaminated drinking water. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • An early meeting of the FVCWC gave opportunity to share experiences with contaminated drinking water.

You're not the only one pissed to find out that your water was poisoned for years. You’re not the only one who’s frustrated at weak answers and thin information. You’re not the only one who’s anxious about your family’s health over the long-run. 

That's the message of the newly-formed Fountain Valley Clean Water Committee wants to send residents affected by water contamination in Security, Widefield and Fountain. The committee hopes to unite over their shared concerns and thirst for solutions.

Co-organized by former El Paso County Commissioner candidate, local café owner and community activist Liz Rosenbaum and Venetucci Farm co-manager Susan Gordon, this nascent citizen watchdog group will hold its first meeting on  Jan. 24 at the Fountain Library, located at 230 S. Main Street. The goal, they say, is to bring neighbors together to share information and develop goals and a plan of action.

As we’ve reported over the last half year, nearly 80,000 people discovered their drinking water contains high levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) back in May. Multiple class-action lawsuits were filed in September, but will take years to resolve. Residents of the communities, located to the south of Colorado Springs, are demanding the state pay for blood testing, but to no avail. Water districts turned off their groundwater wells and are now scrambling to get their systems pumping clean water by the time summer rolls around, but water rates are almost sure to rise.

The areas represent the largest affected community in the whole country and, until recently, were one of the few without a community organization actively pursuing remedies.

Visit the event page for more information about the meeting and the group’s page to stay in the loop going forward. Email Liz Rosenbaum at to get involved.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

New hospital is like "a nice hotel"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 3:37 PM

  • Courtesy UCHealth
The newest hospital in Colorado Springs has only 18 rooms, but is likened to "a nice hotel" by an official representing the owner, UCHealth, which leases Memorial Hospital from the city.

Here's the news release:
Colorado’s newest hospital, UCHealth Grandview Hospital, is now open and providing advanced, community-focused care with highly skilled and experienced physicians and nurses.

The Joint Commission, an independent organization that evaluates and accredits healthcare facilities nationwide, has certified the new hospital, a step that also allows all four freestanding UCHealth Emergency Room locations in the region – three in Colorado Springs and one in Fountain - to now accept Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare patients.

Located at 5623 Pulpit Peak View, adjacent to the University Village shopping center near North Nevada Avenue and Interstate 25, UCHealth Grandview Hospital provides the highest quality care in a smaller, more personal and convenient environment. Each patient will receive the expert care they need, delivered with exceptional service.

  • Courtesy UCHealth
“UCHealth Grandview Hospital was designed to provide personalized service and care similar to a nice hotel,” said President and CEO Derek Rushing. “Our warm, community atmosphere, combined with the highest quality and most advanced medical care, will help ensure our patients receive the very best medical outcomes and are able to go home as soon as possible.”

The hospital is opening with:
· 18 spacious, private, inpatient rooms
· Three advanced operating suites for general and orthopedic surgeries, such as appendectomies and joint reconstruction.
· Four-bed intensive care unit
· High-quality laboratory services
· 24/7 emergency department staffed by board-certified emergency medicine physicians
· Comprehensive outpatient surgical center
· Advanced imaging technology
· 24/7 respiratory therapy techs

“UCHealth is nationally recognized for providing the highest quality care along with advanced treatments including clinical trials through our partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine,” said Dr. Richard Zane, UCHealth’s Executive Director of Emergency Services and Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the CU School of Medicine. “UCHealth Grandview Hospital will continue that tradition of excellence in this comfortable and convenient location.”

Amenities like free Wi-Fi, a play area for children, a coffee station and comfortable waiting areas will help patients and visitors feel welcome.

UCHealth Grandview Hospital is helping to address Colorado’s need for improved access to emergency medical care with this new hospital as well as with freestanding UCHealth Emergency Rooms located in the Pikes Peak region. The American College of Emergency Physicians gave the state of Colorado a D+ grade for access to emergency care in 2014 on their Emergency Medicine Report Card. This report shows the need for increased access to emergency medicine, not just in Colorado, but also across the nation.

The four UCHealth Emergency Room facilities in the region that now accept Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare are located at:
· 13510 Meadowgrass Drive, Colorado Springs
· 2770 N Powers Blvd., Colorado Springs
· 3790 E. Woodmen Colorado Springs
· 7890 Fountain Mesa Road, Fountain

UCHealth Grandview Hospital is operated through a partnership with Adeptus Health, a patient-centered health care organization dedicated to expanding access to the highest quality emergency medical care.

About UCHealth
UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. UCHealth combines Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies, Colorado Health Medical Group, Broomfield Hospital, Grandview Hospital and University of Colorado Hospital into an organization dedicated to health and providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. With more than 100 clinic locations, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Win a $10,000 bike for $10 and support a good cause

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 10:59 AM


The American Diabetes Association of Colorado
has their work cut out for them.

Yes, Colorado is usually rated as one of the healthiest states in the nation. But that doesn't mean that we don't have a problem with diabetes. As the Association notes, "Coloradans are increasingly feeling the effects of diabetes as 410,312 Coloradans suffer from the disease, and an additional 1.3 million more have prediabetes. It is estimated that one out of every three children born after 2000 in the United States will be directly affected by diabetes."

Since diabetes causes more death in a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined — and is a major risk factor for heart attacks — that's a serious problem. A number of factors contribute to a person developing Type 2 diabetes (by far the most common type), including genetics and ethnic heritage. Being overweight, as most Americans are, is a contributing factor as well. 

Thus, eating healthy and exercising regularly is a good way to lower your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, as well as managing the disease if you already have it. Which brings me to this $10 bike.

On Oct. 7, the American Diabetes Association of Colorado is hosting a Cycling Social at Bar K,  124 E. Costilla St., at 6 p.m. Attendees can buy $10 raffle tickets for the "Johnson & Johnson Bike," which was made locally by  Jeff Tessier of Tessier Bikes at the show, but they can also buy them in advance. It's all a part of the 2016 Tour de Cure event. 

Here's a little more information about this beautiful bike from the Tour de Cure:

• The bike is made out of Stainless Steel, which DePuy Synthes uses to create trauma products.
• The headset is made from highly polished stainless steel which represents the material and processes used by DePuy to create joint reconstruction parts.
• The red paint represents the American Diabetes Association and the Red Riders (cyclists riding with diabetes) and Red Striders (walkers or runners with diabetes) that we support! Go Red Rider!
• The chevrons on the top tube represent the lancets that people with diabetes use every single day.
• The red drops on the top tube and chainstays represent the blood needed to test blood sugar every single day.
• The wheels represent that DePuy Synthes is a one world company.
• The head tube badge represents our commitment to quality and living our CREDO
• Life with diabetes isn't always easy - but you aren't in it alone! Team DePuy Synthes participates in Tour to make a difference in the lives of people living every day with diabetes.
• The bike includes Enve Fork, White IND Hubs, Custom-Made Head Set, FSA Stem & Bar, Custom Seat, Seat Bag, & Handlebar Tape, and Campagnola Super Record 11 Groupset - total worth is over $10,000!

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Doctor who rid the world of smallpox dies

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 12:48 PM

Dr. Donald Henderson in 2002 with his Presidential Medal of Freedom. - WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikipedia Commons
  • Dr. Donald Henderson in 2002 with his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 2015, the Independent interviewed Dr. Donald Henderson, the man responsible for ridding the world of smallpox.

Back in the 1960s, Henderson led World Health Organization’s Global Smallpox Eradication Campaign, which eradicated smallpox worldwide. He was also a major proponent for other immunizations, which saved many children from needless deaths or disabilities.

Henderson said he wasn’t a fan of the anti-vaxxer craze, saying that he didn’t think parents these days realize how serious the diseases that vaccinations prevent are. If they did, he said, he hoped they would feel obligated to protect not only their own children, but children who are too young or sickly to be vaccinated themselves.

“The feeling is, you are part of a social community,” he said at the time, “and it’s not just your child that’s going to be affected.”

According the to the New York Times, Henderson died on August 19 in a hospice in Maryland, where he suffered complications from a hip fracture. He was 87.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

UCH comments on disinfection procedures

Posted By on Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 10:41 AM

Memorial Hospital is accused of violating protocols in handling medical devices. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Memorial Hospital is accused of violating protocols in handling medical devices.
In Wednesday's edition of the Independent, we published a story about a lawsuit filed against the University of Colorado Health by a former worker, who contends she was fired after calling attention to a patient safety issue.

We'd reached out to UCH for a comment on Monday afternoon but didn't get a statement until the Indy went to press.

Here's that statement:
Patient care and safety are top priorities for Memorial Hospital.

Memorial regularly works closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to ensure that we provide the very best and safest care for our patients.

Earlier this year, the CDPHE conducted a survey and found that certain steps in a complex cleaning process for a type of ultrasound device were not always being followed or properly documented. While we are not aware of any infections associated with the devices or any patients who have been impacted, Memorial Hospital immediately retrained staff members and put in place new processes to ensure the devices were being properly cleaned.

Memorial Hospital teaches disinfection procedures in new employee orientations, through regular employee education and through rounding and direct observation by supervisors and hospital executives. UCHealth also has a system-wide committee specifically dedicated to high-level disinfection processes.

The hospital urges employees to “Speak up for Safety”, to coach coworkers on best practices, and to anonymously report any concerns so all issues can be quickly investigated and corrected. In addition, Memorial Hospital has a dedicated team of infection prevention experts whose sole job is to ensure the safest possible environment for our patients.

We cannot comment on personnel issues or potential litigation.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Noam Chomsky endorses ColoradoCare

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 1:44 PM

  • Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky, famous political activist, author, and linguistics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has endorsed ColoradoCare.

Voters will decide this November whether to approve ColoradoCare, which would act like near-universal Medicaid in Colorado. The proposal hasn't received a lot of support from business organizations, but many activists for health care support it. To learn more, check out our list of answers to common questions about ColoradoCare  or read my cover story to learn more about why Colorado has become the test market for universal health care this November

Here is the ColoradoCare press release on Chomsky's endorsement:

World Renowned Noam Chomsky Gives Enthusiastic Endorsement of ColoradoCare
Influential Author, Speaker, Political and Social Activist Joins Supporters of Amendment 69

DENVER — Noam Chomsky, widely considered one of the great minds of our time and a man the New York Times called "the most important intellectual alive today," came out as a strong supporter of ColoradoCare Monday, calling Colorado's "Medicare-for-All" type health care plan "a great idea, which should be extended to the whole country."

Chomsky is one of the most influential figures of the past half century, inspiring generations of people around the world to emulate his political and social activism. He has a long record of standing up for universal health care, and the need for a solution to America's health care crisis is familiar territory for Chomsky.

"The US health care system has about twice the per capita spending of other developed societies and relatively poor outcomes," Chomsky said in endorsing Amendment 69 Monday. "There is ample evidence that this unfortunate state of affairs is related to the fact that the US is alone among these societies in lacking some form of universal health care."

Citing years of national polling that have shown Americans "favor a universal health care system of the kind found elsewhere," Chomsky gave a hearty endorsement of Colorado's trailblazing efforts to establish universal health care.

"Quite often, significant progress has been initiated at the state level, then extending beyond," Chomsky noted. "For such reasons the ColoradoCare initiative is very much to be welcomed. It will not only be of great benefit to the people of Colorado, but may also be an opening wedge to substantial progress for the country as a whole."

Chomsky joins an impressive roster of thousands of endorsers of ColoradoCare, including small business owners, the self-employed, physicians, nurses, and organizations ranging from The League of Women Voters of Colorado to Together Colorado, from the Public Health Nurse Association of Colorado to being supported by name in the party platform of the Colorado Democratic Party.

"We couldn't be prouder to have Noam Chomsky's ringing endorsement of ColoradoCare," said Owen Perkins, Director of Communications for the ColoradoCareYES campaign. "If anyone can recognize a good idea, it is Professor Chomsky, and we couldn't ask for a more meaningful stamp of approval than his."

Chomsky has been on the faculty at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1955, and is now Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT. He distinguished himself as a game-changer in the field of linguistics and cognitive science early in his career, and he rose to widespread prominence through his opposition to the Vietnam War. He is the author of over 100 books, reflecting his groundbreaking work in linguistics, politics, media, analytic philosophy, and cognitive science. His most recent work includes the 2016 book Who Rules the World? and the 2015 documentary Requiem for the American Dream. He continues to actively publish articles on politics, the 2016 presidential campaigns, nuclear weapons, climate change, class warfare, the refugee crisis, and much more.

ColoradoCare, Amendment 69 on the November ballot, covers every Colorado resident — picking up hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who are not covered under the current corporate insurance system — with enhanced benefits and reduced costs, saving Colorado families and firms over $4.5 billion a year. There are no insurance premiums, no deductibles, and no co-pays on primary and preventive care. The system is primarily paid for through a 3.33% payroll deduction for employees and 6.67% of payroll for employers, representing savings of thousands of dollars annually for over 80% of Colorado residents.

For more information on Amendment 69, please visit

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

$2.5 million in health grants awarded

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 10:29 AM

Memorial Hospital: Lease payments provide grants.
  • Memorial Hospital: Lease payments provide grants.
Lease payments made by UCHealth for city-owned Memorial Hospital are funding grants to mostly local agencies to improve community health.

The Colorado Springs Health Foundation recently approved $2.5 million in grants to 40 agencies serving El Paso and Teller counties, with the biggest amounts going to institutions. The largest grant, $500,000, went to Peak Vista Community Health Centers to address the foundation's goal of reducing the "workforce shortage" in health care through its family medicine residency program. The same goal was the basis for a $350,000 grant to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

UCHealth pays $5.6 million annually to the city under the 40-year lease executed in 2012, which funds the foundation. It also pays a market share payment once a month depending on revenue levels.

Here's the list of recipients and amounts provided:

From the foundation's news release:
These [recipient] organizations address one or more of the Foundation’s funding focus areas:
· Access to care for those in greatest need;
· The workforce shortage of primary care and psychiatric providers;
· Suicide prevention;
· School-based efforts to improve child and family healthy eating and/or active living

These funding focus areas were developed based on the Foundation’s mission; local need; focus group and key stakeholder input; and evidence behind what drives the health of a community.

“This is a significant initial milestone for the Colorado Springs Health Foundation and our community. We are privileged to invest in so many excellent organizations that do the hard work of improving health every day, and we look forward to the impact that they will make using these funds,” said BJ Scott, board chair.
About Colorado Springs Health Foundation
The Colorado Springs Health Foundation was established in 2012 through the lease of Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health. The Foundation’s mission is to provide grants that target immediate healthcare needs and encourage healthy living.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Addressing our high rate of suicide

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 1:23 PM

Suicide is a huge problem in Colorado and the trend doesn't seem to be letting up. 

Back in February, I wrote a story about youth suicide following the deaths of four local teens. Recently, another rash of teen suicides in our county has led to more concern. If the trends tell us anything, suicide will continue to be a problem. Check out what I wrote a few months ago:
Colorado has the distinction of having the nation's seventh highest suicide rate. The statistics get a little trickier on youth suicides, though that number is also high. (We're third in the nation for youth suicides, ages 10 to 18, though Kirk Bol, interim vital records registrar for the Colorado Center for Health and Environmental Data, says statistically there is no real difference between the rates of the top 20 states.)

El Paso County isn't exactly a role model. While statistically speaking, there's no difference between the county and state suicide rates, it's reasonable to assume that El Paso County is nowhere near the low end for the state — and our rate has been going up. Between 2012 and 2014, the county recorded 24 youth suicides (ages 10 to 18) for a rate of 9.39 deaths per 100,000 youths, while the state had 140 youth suicides, for a rate of 7.41 deaths per 100,000 youths.
On the bright side, several things are being done to combat the problem locally and statewide. Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention is offering these free suicide prevention trainings to the public: Penrose Library 6/14 6-7 p.m.; Tri-Lakes YMCA 6/17 10-11 a.m.; East Library 6/27 6-7 p.m.; Tri-Lakes YMCA 6/28 6-7 p.m.; Fountain Library 7/8 6-7 p.m.; and Sand Creek Library 7/27 6:30-7:30 p.m.

On the state level, Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed a bill that will change how health providers address mental health conditions that can lead to suicide. Read on for more on the bill: 
Implementing Zero Suicide in Colorado
Hick Signs Pettersen Bill to Implement Successful National Zero Suicide Model

(June 10) – A bill by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood to implement the Zero Suicide model in order to reduce the rate of suicide in Colorado was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper this morning.

“Whether you know someone personally or know a family going through the loss of a loved one, suicide is something that has touched everyone,” said Rep. Pettersen. “This week my brother would have turned 44 years old. I often wonder if the health professionals who were in contact with him at the time had been trained in prevention if he would still be here today.”

“I’m so happy to know that the Zero Suicide model, which has been shown to decrease suicide by 80 percent, will be implemented in Colorado. Suicide is a complex problem in Colorado and demands a proven solution.”

Colorado has the seventh highest suicide rate in the nation and the Zero Suicide model has been shown to decrease suicide by up to 80 percent when implemented in health systems. More than 30 percent of people who die of suicide are receiving mental health care at the time of death and 25 percent go to the Emergency Department in the month before death, demonstrating that coordinated care by professionals trained in the Zero Suicide model can have a significant impact.

SB16-147 creates the Office of Suicide Prevention which will collaborate with health agencies and private healthcare systems to foster the national Zero Suicide model. A wide variety of health and behavioral health systems (including community mental health centers, HMOs, hospitals, substance abuse treatment facilities, and the statewide crisis services system) will be encouraged to adopt suicide prevention best practices known as the seven tenets of Zero Suicide: leadership, training, identification and assessment, patient engagement, treatment, transition, and quality improvement. 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Doctor who inspired "Concussion" to speak at UCCS

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 10:51 AM

Dr. Bennet Omalu, who is the inspiration behind the movie Concussion,  will speak at The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on April 19 as a part of the university's Significant Speaker series.

While the event is still a ways off, those who are interested in attending may want to pick up their tickets early, while they're still $2-$5. 

In case you're unfamiliar, Omalu is the scientist who researched chronic brain injuries in football players.

Scientist who inspired “Concussion” movie to speak at UCCS

COLORADO SPRINGS — Dr. Bennet Omalu, a renowned physician whose research on 
Dr. Bennet Omalu
  • Dr. Bennet Omalu
chronic brain injuries in football players inspired the 2015 movie “Concussion,” will speak April 19 at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

Omalu is the headliner for this year’s annual Significant Speaker series. Tickets are on sale at the University Center information desk, $2 for UCCS students, faculty and staff and military with ID. Tickets are $5 for general admission. Ticket prices will increase closer to the event. Omalu will speak at 7 p.m. at Gallogly Events Center on the UCCS campus.

Omalu is credited with discovering Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in deceased NFL players in 2002. He was the first to diagnose and publish peer-reviewed research about CTE, findings that were initially discredited by the NFL. In “Concussion,” Omalu is played by actor Will Smith.

“We’re very excited,” about Omalu’s appearance, said Stephen Cucchiara, assistant director, Office of Student Activities, which sponsors the series with Residence Life and Housing. “I think there’s a good buzz about it on campus.”

A student group last summer came up with a list of dozens of speakers they would like to see visit campus. Their list included Will Smith, as well as Lisa Ling of CNN and author Jose Antonio Vargas. From there, a planning group narrowed the group of possible speakers and swapped Omalu for Smith, who wasn’t available, and polled the student body. Omalu came out on top.

It was a happy coincidence that by that time, interest in “Concussion,” as well as Omalu’s research, had picked up. Meanwhile, football fever is high after the Denver Broncos Superbowl 50 win, Cucchiara said.

Before his speech, Omalu will take part in a dinner that recognizes UCCS students who live on campus and earned a 3.2 or better grade point average for the fall semester. Those students will receive dinner and a ticket to his speech.

Previous Significant Speakers include Jerry Greenfield, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Randi Zuckerberg and LeVar Burton.

For more information on the event, call 255-3470. To learn more about Omalu, visit

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs, located on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs, is one of the fastest growing universities in Colorado. The university offers 39 bachelor’s degrees, 20 master’s and five doctoral degrees. UCCS enrolls about 11,300 students on campus annually and another 2,000 in online programs. For more information, visit

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Planned Parenthood will reopen Feb. 15

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 10:18 AM

  • Nat Stein

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic will reopen on February 15.

Parts of the building are still under construction, so only a portion of the building will be in service. The clinic plans to offer the full range of services at the location, though appointments will be limited until the rest of the building reopens, which should happen in a few months. 

 Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain President and CEO Vicki Cowart stated in a press release: 
On February 15 we will open the doors to serve our community just as we have done for generations. We are in awe of our healing and resilient colleagues in Colorado Springs. They are eager to get back to the mission they so deeply care about and the people they so compassionately care for. We welcome our team and our community back into the space with open arms and full hearts.
The local Planned Parenthood has been closed since November 27, when Robert Dear opened fire at the clinic, killing three people and wounding nine. Patients have had to travel to other Planned Parenthoods in the state since then. 

In her statement, Cowart said that the Colorado Springs clinic has increased security since the shooting. But she also stressed that patients shouldn't have to be afraid when they go the a health care clinic.

"We stand, stronger than ever," she wrote, "for the belief that every person in this community, this country, and around the world deserves access to reproductive health care without fear of harassment or violence." 
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How to save a life for $20

Posted By on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 at 4:22 PM

Every winter, the warnings about carbon monoxide poisoning resurface.

Kelly Murphy, left, died in 2008. - FILE PHOTO
  • File Photo
  • Kelly Murphy, left, died in 2008.
The colorless, odorless gas often leaks from malfunctioning furnaces, causing symptoms like headache, dizziness, sleepiness, confusion and slurred speech. Memorial Hospital, which offers the only 24/7 hyperbaric oxygen therapy in a five-state region, generally treats the patients, who breath pure oxygen to lower the carbon monoxide in their blood.The hospital recently announced that it had treated several patients for carbon monoxide poisoning in the past month. Of course, not everyone recovers from the poisoning. 

When I read about carbon monoxide every year, I think about Kelly Murphy. I wrote about her in 2008, when she died of carbon monoxide poisoning that almost killed her husband and young child as well. She was 22. 

The sad thing is that Murphy's death, along with many others, could have all been prevented with a simple contraption that can be purchased for as little as $20 at the hardware store: A carbon monoxide detector.

After I wrote about Murphy, I plugged in my first carbon monoxide detector. It sits in an otherwise unused outlet in my home. Most of the time I forget it's even there. 
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

UCHealth pays city revenue sharing

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 12:29 PM

Memorial Hospital North is one revenue center the city leased to UCHealth three years ago. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Memorial Hospital North is one revenue center the city leased to UCHealth three years ago.

For the first time since the city leased Memorial Hospital to University of Colorado Health in October 2012, the city will share in the revenues produced by the hospital.

In a news release, UCHealth announced it will pay the city $1.345 million. "more than $1.3 million" but didn't give a specific number.

UCHealth also pays a set lease fee of about $5.6 million annually, and paid $259 million up front, $190 million of which went to settle a lawsuit with Public Employees Retirement Association, which needed the money to assure Memorial's workers' pensions already earned are paid over time.

Here's the news release:
Colorado Springs (November 18, 2015) — After a successful year with significant patient care and financial improvements at Memorial Hospital, UCHealth will pay the City of Colorado Springs more than $1.3 million. Revenue-sharing payments like this will be made each year the hospital experiences earnings in excess of a baseline percentage outlined in UCHealth’s lease of Memorial Hospital from the city.

UCHealth has also invested more than $90 million in infrastructure and service improvements during the past three years. These investments include remodeled, private patient rooms, a new radiation oncology center under construction at Memorial Hospital North, six new primary care locations and the addition of new, advanced imaging equipment. Memorial Hospital North has also opened a new cardiac catheterization lab while adding services including trauma surgery and oncology chemotherapy infusion.

“Memorial has changed significantly since our lease began in 2012,” said George Hayes, president and CEO of Memorial Hospital. “We are proud of the advancements that we’ve made in patient care. We’ve seen significant improvements in the quality of our care, and our patient satisfaction scores reflect these enhancements. Memorial is also seeing an increase in patient volumes and additional revenue, making this payment possible.”

Memorial Hospital’s partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado provides the highest-level neonatal intensive care unit in southern Colorado, the only pediatric intensive care unit, and many expert specialists who provide the very best care for pediatric patients. The hospital also added a pediatric neurosurgeon to its team in September, the only such specialist in the region. Children’s Colorado will break ground soon on their new children’s hospital on the Memorial North campus.

In addition, physicians, nurses and staff members at Memorial have taken on initiatives to increase patient safety. Since 2012, this focus has led to:
• Fewer patients experiencing a fall
• Excellent patient outcomes with fewer patients being readmitted to the hospital
• Fewer patients experiencing infections and pressure ulcers

“Most importantly, more patients are alive and healthy today because of these improvements in quality and safety,” said Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Patrick O. Faricy. “This is a tribute to the entire team of dedicated and highly skilled nurses, physicians and staff members at Memorial Hospital Central, Memorial Hospital North, and all of our clinic and urgent care locations.”

Multiple, national accreditation bodies have recognized Memorial’s increases in quality and safety, naming the hospitals as a Chest Pain Center, Primary Stroke Center and Level III Trauma Center at MHN. Further, U.S. News and Word Report now ranks Memorial as #4 in its list of Colorado’s Best Hospitals.

“What’s exciting is that this is only the beginning,” said Hayes. “We will continue to advance the innovative and expert care we provide patients in southern Colorado, and residents of El Paso County can expect us to continue adding new services, locations and specialists.”

Higher numbers of patient visits, surgeries and admissions in fiscal year 2015 helped lead Memorial to the $1.345 million revenue sharing payment for the City of Colorado Springs.

About Memorial Hospital:
Memorial Hospital, part of UCHealth, has been part of the Colorado Springs community since 1904. Memorial has two hospitals, Memorial Hospital Central and Memorial Hospital North, and more than a dozen facilities throughout the Pikes Peak Region. UCHealth is a Front Range health system that delivers the highest quality patient care with the highest quality patient experience. UCHealth combines Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies, Colorado Health Medical Group, and University of Colorado Hospital into an organization dedicated to health and providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. Separately, these institutions can continue providing superior care to patients and service to the communities they serve. Together, they push the boundaries of medicine, attracting more research funding, hosting more clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

E-free Act would ban problematic birth control Essure

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 2:36 PM

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick announces the introduction of The E-Free Act. - COURTESY REP. MIKE FITZPATRICK'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick's Office
  • Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick announces the introduction of The E-Free Act.

In today's news article "Side effects may include...", I told the story of four local women who have joined a nationwide fight against the birth control method Essure.

Essure is a non-surgical sterilization method that's been available to women for more than a decade. But a lot of women say it's caused serious side effects. Like, really serious. Here's an excerpt from my story:

The FDA reports that it received 5,093 reports on Essure, mostly from women who received the implant, from Nov. 4, 2002, to May 31, 2015. The most common complaints included "pain/abdominal pain (3,353), heavier menses/menstrual irregularities (1,408), headache (1,383), fatigue (966) and weight fluctuations (936)." The most frequent device problems were "patient device incompatibility (941) (for example, possible nickel allergy), migration of the device or device component (482), device operating differently than expected (301), device breakage (259) and malposition of the device (133)."
The women I talked to reported far more problems, like cysts, hair and tooth loss, heart problems, vomiting, panic attacks, and loss of mental function. I mentioned in the article that U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., was planning to introduce a bill to address those concerns called "The E-Free Act." At the time, his office wouldn't give details on exactly what the bill would do.

Well, Rep. Fitzpatrick has introduced the bill, and it's pretty straightforward. file:///Users/reporter/Downloads/E-Free%20Act%20Bill%20Text.pdf" target="_blank">The E-Free Act would compel the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval of Essure no later than 60 days after the bill's passage.

Here's the release from Rep. Fitzpatrick:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) joined women harmed by the medical device Essure Wednesday outside the United States Capitol to announce the introduction of the E-Free Act - legislation to remove the product from the market.

“Can you imagine such debilitating pain, fatigue and depression that you feel as if your children have lost you as a parent? For women impacted by the medical device Essure and its documented damaging side effects, this unimaginable situation is a stark reality,” said Fitzpatrick. “That’s why, 13 years to the day after Essure was given pre-market approval, I’ve introduced the E-Free Act to remove this device from the market before it can hurt any more women.”

Essure is a permanent sterilization device for women produced by Bayer. This medical device is a nickel-based metal coil designed to be inserted in the fallopian tube and cause tissue scarring. Since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on November 4, 2002, the FDA has received over 5,000 formal complaints related to the device. Tens of thousands of women have reported symptoms including extreme pelvic and abdominal pain, migraines, autoimmune reactions, loss of teeth and hair, the metal coil breaking and migrating throughout the body, and the coil cutting into the uterus and other organs in the abdominal cavity. The deaths of at least four women and five unborn children have been attributed to Essure.

“The failures of Essure are well documented and wide ranging. Yet, in the face of all these facts, this device remains on the market; certified with the FDA’s stamp of approval. That’s unacceptable to me and unacceptable to the tens of thousands of “Essure Sisters” who are living with this device’s effects,” said Fitzpatrick. “If the FDA or manufacturer aren’t willing to act in the best interest of these women, Congress must.”

Essure Problems, a group of over 23,000 women who joined together online to share stories of how Essure impacted their lives, has led a grassroots lobbying effort to bring awareness to the issue and stop the harm caused by the device.

“The Essure Problems group is so very grateful for the support of Congressman Fitzpatrick. The women harmed represent every party, every nationality, every color, and every walk of life. We have been able to stand side by side and unite and work together for this cause,” said Amanda Rusmisell, victim and Legislative Liaison of the Essure Problems group. “Tens of thousands of otherwise healthy young women have been significantly harmed by the medical device Essure - most of them requiring multiple surgeries, most often, hysterectomy. We are asking Congress to help push the FDA to revoke the approval for this dangerous and ineffective medical device.”

Fitzpatrick is an outspoken advocate for medical device safety and has previously pushed back against the FDA’s approval process for power morcellators which have been proven to spread undetected cancer in women. After receiving a bipartisan letter led by Fitzpatrick, the Government Accountability Office is in the process of investigating the device and its approval process.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Medicaid covers drug that saves addicts' lives

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 11:08 AM

  • Psychonaught

Colorado Medicaid has taken a major step toward preventing overdose deaths from heroin and other opioids, announcing that it will now cover the overdose antidote nasal spray, Naloxone.

In drug treatment circles, increasing access to Naloxone is seen as a major harm reduction strategy, akin to distributing clean needles to prevent transmission of diseases like HIV. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Chicago is experiencing a tainted heroin crisis, but that many lives are being saved due to increased access to the lifesaving drug.

Chicago isn't the only place with a problem. In a press release, Colorado Medicaid notes that opioid overdose deaths have been increasing in Colorado.

"Each year, about 300 Coloradans die from opioid overdoses and another 17,000 people die nationally," it stated. 

In 2013, The New York Times wrote a story about the effort to increase access to Naloxone in New York City, and explained the way the drug works as follows:

Opioids function in the body by attaching to specific proteins, called opioid receptors. When opioids attach, the body relaxes and breathing slows. But too much of an opioid can cause respiration to slow to a lethal level.

Naloxone acts by competing with opioids for the receptor sites, essentially pushing the opioids out of the way and reversing the effects of the drugs.
The drug isn't brand new. In fact, it's been around for many years. But it's been slow to catch on in law enforcement and public health circles, in part due to controversy. The main point of contention seems to be concern that a drug that can stop a heroin overdose death will make heroin use more attractive. (The Huffington Post ran an article about that argument a couple years ago.)

Some health care professionals may have also been hesitant to prescribe the drug due to fear of criminal or civil prosecution if there are negative outcomes with the drug. That problem was solved in Colorado during the last legislative session with the passage of Colorado Senate Bill 053, which granted immunity to licensed prescribers and dispensers of Naloxone.

The recent availability of Naloxone as a nasal mist, rather than a traditional injection, has likely also helped increase its popularity.

Colorado Medicaid notes that the state isn't expecting Naloxone to solve the drug problem. Gov. John Hickenlooper launched a new public awareness campaign earlier this year aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse called "Take Meds Seriously." (Anecdotally, it's common for heroin users to say that they became addicted to pain medications that were prescribed to them and moved on to heroin to feed their cravings.) 

"This benefit supports the Governor's initiative to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Colorado," Susan E. Birch, MBA, BSN, RN, and executive director for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, stated in the Medicaid press release. "We are hoping to save lives and encourage other health plans to follow this lead."

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Meditation, suicide, and mental health

Posted By on Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 9:26 AM

  • Courtesy AspenPointe
  • Dan Harris

Hundreds showed up to laugh and cry at AspenPointe's Heroes of Mental Health Luncheon on Thursday at the Broadmoor Hotel.

Keynote speaker Dan Harris, the co-anchor and Nightline and the weekend edition of Good Morning America on ABC News, gave the keynote address, sharing a personal story of his own struggle with panic attacks and drug use. Harris, who had the audience laughing throughout his speech, started off by showing an on-air panic attack that he had on Good Morning America about 10 years ago. 

He went on to explain that his star had risen quickly when he was still quite young. Early in his career, he took trip after trip to war zones in the Middle East following 9/11 without ever considering the effect it had on his mental health. He ended up turning to ecstasy and cocaine to ease his anxiety, only to have panic attacks.

After the on-air episode, he decided it was time to see "a shrink." The therapist explained that the drugs were only flooding Harris' brain with adrenaline, causing the panic attacks. He ended up quitting drugs and continuing therapy, and at the urging of Peter Jennings, he begrudgingly agreed to do regular coverage on spirituality.

Harris said he didn't really connect with any of it, having never been religious. ("I went to my bar mitzvah," he cracked, "but only for the money.") But then he ran across the Oprah-endorsed author Eckhart Tolle. Initially, he was turned off by Tolle's rather far-out, self-help approach. But Harris realized he connected with Tolle's contention that the major problem humans have is the inability to shut off the voice in our head that tells us to do things without really considering them — hence we find ourselves eating junk food, or doing drugs.

Later, Harris said he realized that Tolle's concept was rooted in the Buddhist concept of "the monkey brain." Buddhists believe that the trick to turning it off, or at least having some consciousness of it, is meditation. Harris was, again, skeptical — envisioning every hippie stereotype. But he decided to try it. In short, it worked.

"You're breaking a lifetime habit of walking around in a fog," he said.

And Harris found out that there's plenty of research to back up the claims that meditation is good for the mind and body. Harris has since authored the book 10% Happier, documenting his experiences with meditation, and the improvements it brought to his life.

"Meditation," he said, "is the next public health revolution." 

Guy and Jane Bennett - COURTESY ASPEN POINTE
  • Courtesy Aspen Pointe
  • Guy and Jane Bennett

Later in the program, AspenPointe honored Guy and Jane Bennett with its 2015 Heroes of Mental Health Award. The Bennetts lost their only child, 17-year-old Matthew, to suicide in 2002. Instead of crawling into a hole of grief, the couple decided to try to prevent other suicides and help other survivors. They have been instrumental in training the community about preventing suicide. Their involvement spans many groups and programs, including Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills, Colorado Coalition of Suicide Prevention, and HEARTBEAT. 

On a similar note, AspenPointe was asking for donations to support its free eight-hour program, Youth Mental Health First Aid. The class helps people identify warning signs for self harm in adolescents. Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 has been training all its staff in the program in an effort to help kids who often are under stress due to being in military families that relocate frequently.

In 2014, seven adolescents died by suicide in El Paso County. Between May and June of 2015, however, there were five such fatalities.
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