Secure Health Data

Problem

Health insurance companies have become prime targets for hackers and foreign governments looking to steal highly confidential personal data of American citizens. 

Solution

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff co-sponsored legislation that requires health insurance companies to develop a comprehensive information security program to safeguard the personal information of their enrollees. The bill provides these companies with minimum consumer data privacy requirements that they need to meet, but allows them the autonomy to decide what they need to do in order to meet those requirements. 

Feed to Achieve (FTA) – Summer Intergeneration Community Strong Initiative

Problem

More than 1 in 5 West Virginia children live in a household that does not have sufficient access to food. Food insecurity in children is associated with nutrient deficiencies, increased risk for obesity, poor health, behavior problems, decreased social skills, and academic failure. School-age children from food insecure households have lower grades, more anxiety and aggression, and higher absenteeism and tardiness. Meanwhile, 28% of people aged 65 and older live alone and are at higher risk of suffering from loneliness, which can lead to poor physical and mental health.

Solution

Senator John Unger proposed the Summer Intergeneration Community Strong Initiative as part of his Feed to Achieve Act to help address these dual goals. This innovative, intergenerational interactive initiative brings children and senior citizens together during the summer to foster supportive relationships that build strong, healthy communities year round. Children benefit from a nutritious meal and a caring adult who shows them attention and mentors them. And seniors are given an opportunity to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness by providing a meaningful connection to the community.

Three-Pronged Approach to Saving Lives

Problem

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing 1,000 people per day. Data shows that the first minutes of a cardiac arrest incident are most critical to survival, with each minute without resuscitation decreasing an individual’s chance of survival by 7-10 percent. Often times, paramedics are unable to arrive at the scene until eight minutes after an incident, which is the time it takes for patients to experience irreparable brain damage. Trained individuals, innovative technology, and lifesaving tools are available to empower everyday citizens to help medical professionals save lives, but how do we connect the three to save lives?

Solution

Technology allows us to train and empower citizens to take action and save lives. Along with community partners, I launched PulsePoint, a smartphone app that alerts bystanders of cardiac arrest incidents which require CPR as soon as a 911 call is made. To ensure that these bystanders were trained and prepared, I simultaneously expanded Pittsburgh’s community Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training efforts and passed mandatory registration of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). This innovative solution has already expanded the number of individuals equipped to respond to cardiac arrest, deploy CPR, utilize an AED, and intervene during the crucial first minutes of cardiac arrest.

Thrive by Three

Problem

Exposure to chronic stressors (poverty and discrimination) or adverse childhood experiences (abuse and neglect, parental mental illness and substance abuse, or family violence) can disrupt babies’ healthy brain development, creating lifelong negative impacts on learning, behavior, and health. Too many young children are starting life at a disadvantage, leading to poor health and education outcomes which make life much harder for the individuals and create high costs for society (treating complex physical/mental health issues, substance abuse treatment, criminal justice costs, etc.).

Solution

Scientists and economists agree that investing in high-quality early childhood development programs – such as home-visiting programs, early care and education, developmental and behavioral health services, and parenting and family support- produces the greatest benefits to children, families and society, yet public investment in very young children is low. I worked with local child advocates to establish and secure funding for a Thrive by Three Fund which will help our most vulnerable babies, toddlers and their families with the tools they need to be healthy, educated, and resilient. We will be tracking progress toward a number of outcomes, including:  more prenatal care for young mothers in the first trimester; fewer preterm and low birthweight babies; fewer mothers and fathers reporting hardships and emotional distress during pregnancy and the child’s first three years of life; less child maltreatment and entries into foster care among infants and toddlers; and increased access to high-quality care and early learning opportunities.

Outcome-Based Reimbursement for Drug Rehab

Drug Overdose Treatment

Problem

Narcan, or naloxone, is a powerful opioid antagonist used by first responders to treat those experiencing an opioid overdose. Medical professionals tell us that when an individual experiencing a drug overdose wakes up from narcan administration, they think they are okay. However, they are not medically stable. We understand from medical professionals, including Knoxville Tennessee EMS that they have to return to the same person they just treated due to the fact that they have stopped breathing. It is a temporary reversal and further medical intervention is critical.

Solution

This bill represents the new best practice when administering narcan. As the opioid epidemic rages on, narcan will only increase in usage. If someone is treated with narcan, this bill requires that they should be taken to the hospital to ensure they are okay and to prevent yet another opioid overdose fatality. At the end of the day, this bill is about acknowledging what we know about the science around drug overdose treatment.

PTSD Coverage for First Responders

 

Problem

There is an epidemic of first responders committing suicide in this country. This bill seeks to change the way that we deal with PTSD among them and remove the barriers to them seeking treatment. Additionally, when a peace officer is voluntarily committed for psychiatric help, their service weapon is taken away and they are not able to receive it back for six months – this prevents them from doing their job and earning a living and acts as an additional barrier to seeking help.

Solution

The legislation established eligibility requirements for police officers, fire fighters and parole officers to receive benefits for PTSD. The benefits are limited to 52 weeks available within a four year period from the qualifying event. The workers compensation benefits are decreased by any additional benefits that the individual is receiving (e.g. disability insurance). Allows law enforcement officers to receive their service weapon back before six months if they have been voluntarily committed to a psychiatric institution.

Pediatric Behavioral Health Navigation program #telehealthhelpskids

Problem

1 in 5 children aged 0-18 has a diagnosable mental disorder. 1 in 10 youth has a serious mental health problem that is severe enough to impair their function at home, in school, or in the community. Stress experienced by children exposed to hurricanes and other natural disasters can have lasting impacts on mental wellness, particularly children in remote, rural areas. A significant number of children and families have been negatively impacted by Hurricane Michael and are in need of behavioral/mental health navigation services if they are to maximize intervention benefits, reduce risk, and increase the overall quality of their lives. A severe lack of providers in the area makes it difficult for families to access these critical services.

Solution

Providing a centralized entry point dedicated to assuring high-quality and culturally competent behavioral health services to youth aged 0 to 21 years old living in a hurricane impacted county. Using technology, the Pediatric Behavioral Health Navigation program provides access to a comprehensive range of diagnostic and treatment services for children and adolescents with psychiatric and developmental disorders including specialized evaluations for youth from birth to 21 years, evidence-based treatments for anxiety, depression, and disruptive behaviors, psychopharmacological evaluation and management, psychodynamic psychotherapy, parenting skills workshops, individual school consultation, and case management services and coordination.

Sober Homes Task Force

Problem

The opioid crisis has been devastating to local, state and national communities. Unfortunately, many stakeholders operate in a vacuum, lacking communication and cooperation. Opportunities to positively impact the crisis may remain unknown to legislators, law enforcement, medical societies, treatment providers and the public at large. The void created by disjointed action can actually serve to perpetuate the inefficiencies, fraud and abuse that currently plague our current system of treating opioid use disorder. The problems of patient brokering and insurance fraud, which have plagued the rehab industry, has spread throughout the country. In response, Palm Beach County’s Sober Homes Task Force provides a national model for success.

Solution

There are many honest, effective providers in the addiction arena that are working tirelessly toward the goal of reducing drug dependency and overdose deaths. Combining these forces with elected leaders, patient advocates and others will develop innovative ideas and legislative proposals that will provide law enforcement and regulators with the proper tools to reduce fraud and abuse in the treatment industry. Two task forces — law enforcement and civilian — working toward the common goal of protecting those with substance use disorder and holding accountable corrupted providers will bring clarity, oversight and needed change to a complex and inefficient treatment system. As a result, lives will be saved and taxpayer funds safeguarded.

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John Unger, Senator (West Virginia)

Community Empowerment Against Addiction

NewDEAL Leader West Virginia Senator John Unger’s GRaCE program is continuing to bring high school students into the fight against addiction. GRaCE, or Greater Recovery and Community Empowerment, trains students and other community members to become addiction mentors and recovery coaches, as well as for other roles that can offer hope for those struggling with addiction. Read more about the program, which just launched its latest iteration of Recovery Coach Academy, which will train over 50 students over four weeks.