SWITC complaint is unsubstantiated, survey says

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is pleased to announce that a complaint investigation at Southwest Idaho Treatment Center has been completed, and the conclusion of the third-party survey team is that the complaint is unsubstantiated.

“I am so pleased to see our efforts recognized in the outcome of this survey,” said SWITC Administrator Jamie Newton. “We have been working diligently to update policies, procedures, and practice to address the issues we discovered in the summer of 2017. This is good news.” Continue reading

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Idaho Rural Health Association honors DHW’s Mary Sheridan as an Idaho Rural Health Hero

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Mary Barinaga, MD, president of the Idaho Rural Health Association board, presents an Idaho  Rural Health Hero Award to Mary Sheridan, bureau chief of Rural Health and Primary Care in the Division of Public Health, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Mary Sheridan was one of eight Idaho healthcare professionals to receive an Idaho Rural Health Hero Award at the Idaho Rural Health Association’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Awards Reception on Nov. 7.

The awards are given a week before National Rural Health Day in Idaho (November 15th) to recognize rural health educators, community advocates, healthcare providers and program administrators who demonstrate outstanding service and dedication to rural communities.  Nominations described the many contributions of this year’s awardees as advocates, communicators, educators, collaborators and innovators.

Mary has been a key public figure in rural health policy and innovation since joining the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in 1995. She is a member of the Idaho Healthcare Coalition appointed by the Governor and winner of the 2017 National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health Award. She is passionate about understanding rural health issues and seeking resources to help address unmet needs. Continue reading

Make a plan to quit tobacco Friday for The Great American Smokeout

The Great American Smokeout is one day each year when smokers are encouraged to make a plan to quit. Nov. 16 can be your day to begin that journey. It may be a difficult journey, but it’s worth it. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Quitting tobacco is the best decision you can make for your immediate health and for the rest of your life.

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How many Idahoans smoke or use tobacco products?

About 14.5 percent of adult Idahoans smoke. And just over 9 percent of high school students between 9th and 12th grades smoke, with many beginning to use cigarettes as early as age 13. Nicotine in tobacco is so addictive, it’s difficult to stop once you start.

Why is it important to quit smoking sooner rather than later?

The benefits of quitting start immediately after you stop. After 20 minutes of not smoking, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. A year after quitting, the extra risk of a heart attack you’ve gained from smoking drops by half. And after 10-15 years of being cigarette-free, there is a substantial reduction in your risk for cancer or heart disease from smoking.

Are electronic cigarettes a good option to help a person quit?

E-cigarettes have no medically endorsed program to use them with, and some studies have shown that they don’t, in fact, help people quit smoking. Traditional nicotine replacement therapy is a much better choice because it helps a person kick the habit in a gradual, controlled way. Plus, it has been scientifically proven to be an effective intervention.

Are there benefits to a smoker’s family and friends when they quit?

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, including 50 known cancer-causing chemicals. Infants and children of parents who smoke are more likely to have ear infections and asthma, as well as more frequent lower respiratory problems such as coughs, pneumonia, bronchitis, and croup. Secondhand smoke also increases an infant’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Everyone who lives with a smoker has a 20-percent greater risk of developing lung cancer than people who don’t live with a smoker.

Where can a person go to get help?

Idahoans who want to quit can call 1-800-QuitNow to talk to a professional cessation coach or sign up online at ProjectFilter.org. When you sign up or call, a quit coach will help you decide which nicotine substitute, if any, is best for you. You can receive up to eight weeks of free nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges, mailed directly to your home, as part of your personalized quitting plan. You’ll also find lots of resources when you sign up, including eCoach forums and chats, and expert advice. The Idaho Careline, which you can reach by calling 2-1-1 anywhere in the state of Idaho, also has information about local programs to help you quit.

(A Closer Look At Your Health airs at around 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays. This is an edited transcript from the Nov. 13 segment. Join us next week!)

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A northern Idaho woman older than 50 is Idaho’s first flu-related death this season

Idaho’s first influenza-related death of the 2018-2019 influenza season occurred this week in a northern Idaho woman over the age of 50.

“The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is reminding residents that flu can be serious” said Randi Pedersen, the Idaho Influenza Surveillance Coordinator. “The most important action to take to prevent serious illness is to get a flu vaccine now.”

Last year’s flu season was particularly deadly, resulting in a record 101 influenza-related deaths in Idaho. That number was quadruple the average of 25 deaths each season over the last decade.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that infects anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the population every year. Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, or fatigue. Most people who get influenza recover after a few days, but some people may develop serious complications.

Continue reading

A Closer Look At Your Health: How to help your baby sleep safely

Sleeping babyIt’s scary to think that you could do something as normal and safe as putting your baby down for a nap, and he might not wake up. But it happens more often than it should, unfortunately. About 3,500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the United States. The cause of death for many of these babies can’t be determined, but there are things you can do to make sure your baby has a safe sleep environment.

So what are those things we can do to help babies sleep safely?

First and foremost, place your baby on his or her back for all sleep times, including naps. They should sleep on a firm, flat sleep surface (such as a mattress) in a safety-approved crib with no soft bedding or soft toys. Avoid using a couch, soft chair, car seat, swing, bouncy seat, stroller, infant carrier, or infant sling for routine sleep. Instead of soft bedding, keep babies comfortable with clothing or put them in a sleep sack or a wearable blanket. Health officials also recommend keeping your baby’s sleep area in the same room (but not in the same bed) where you sleep until your baby is at least 6 months to 12 months old.

What do we know about sudden unexplained infant deaths?

Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) is defined as a death that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly for an infant of less than 1 year old. It includes deaths without a clear cause, such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and those from a known cause, such as accidental suffocation and strangulation. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death is the fourth leading cause of death for Idaho children younger than 1 year old. There are many things we don’t know about Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, but there are some things we have learned, including:

  • Infants are more vulnerable between the second and fourth months of their lives.
  • Breastfeeding for the first six months seems to lower the risk.
  • Sucking on a pacifier at bedtime may reduce the risk. However, do not hang the pacifier around a baby’s neck.

One of the hallmarks of sudden and unexpected infant deaths is the “sudden” part. Is there any way to know if your baby’s risk is higher than normal?

No, there really isn’t. It is unpredictable and strikes seemingly healthy babies without warning. Putting your baby to bed in a safe sleep environment is critical. A mother’s behavior during pregnancy also can have an impact, including whether or not she smoked, took drugs or drank alcohol, and had proper prenatal care. The risk also seems to increase for premature babies or those with a low birth weight, and for mothers who were younger than 20 when they gave birth.

So we know that putting babies to sleep on their backs is safer than their bellies or their sides. But couldn’t they choke on their spit-up or vomit?

That is a common concern for parents, and if you have that concern, you should discuss it with your medical provider. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has reported no increased risk of choking for babies who sleep on their backs. In fact, since the organization recommended in 1992 that babies sleep on their backs, the rate of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death has dropped by more than 50 percent.

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DHW Director: DisAbility Rights Idaho report is inaccurate and incomplete

A troubling report released today by DisAbility Rights Idaho presents an inaccurate and incomplete picture of our operations at the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center (SWITC) in Nampa.

The report makes some serious allegations about our staff and our ability to provide a safe home for the residents of SWITC. None of the issues raised in the report are new or recent. In fact, all of the issues have been and continue to be addressed. While we appreciate and respect the work done by DisAbility Rights Idaho, we have serious issues with a report that contains numerous factual inaccuracies. Information gained during our own investigations and licensure surveys has led to increased emphasis on ensuring the safety of our residents and our employees. We have done our best to be transparent. But we are also bound by privacy and confidentiality laws that limit what we can say. We are not able to provide the additional context necessary to tell the entire story.

Contrary to what the report says, we first notified media and the public in August 2017 when we identified inappropriate and abusive employee behavior that was not meeting our standards. We launched an extensive internal investigation into the allegations. As a result, six employees were terminated. However, the Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges based on the Nampa Police Department investigation.

A licensure survey last summer and follow-up surveys resulted in several findings that we are continuing to address. SWITC has implemented plans of correction that also must be approved and checked as part of the licensure surveys.

SWITC annual licensure survey ended this past week.  It was a full survey that looked at SWITC’s compliance with more than 470 federal regulations. The surveyors also conducted a complaint investigation, addressing some of the same allegations DRI makes in its report. The survey team reviewed many of the abuse investigation reports from 2017 and 2018 and interviewed clients, staff, parents, guardians, and agencies, including Adult Protection Services.  Continue reading

DHW releases Idaho Opioid Needs Assessment 2018

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Drug-induced deaths have increased in Idaho since 2010, but an updated report shows that the state remains slightly lower than the national average for this number. In 2016, the most recent year for which confirmed data is available, Idaho ranked 36th in the age-adjusted rate of drug-induced deaths by state, according to the Idaho Opioid Needs Assessment, which was released today by the Division of Behavioral Health.

A couple other highlights from the report include:

  • Since reaching a peak in 2010-2012, several indicators appear to show a modest decrease in non-heroin opiate/synthetic use in Idaho over recent years.
  • However, in 2016 Idaho was above the national average for the rate of opioids dispensed per 100,000 population and many indicators suggest that Idaho has experienced a significant increase in heroin use over the past decade.

Continue reading