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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: health care

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November 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Saving the children at Childhaven

Cheryl Mason and her husband John (older couple on bottom row)  adopted seven children who came to them as foster children receiving services at Childhaven. Their children are now successful adults starting their own families, underscoring Childhaven's powerful role helping abused or neglected children grow into healthy adults. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Cheryl Mason and her husband John (older couple on bottom row) adopted seven children who came to them as foster children receiving services at Childhaven. Their children are now successful adults starting their own families, underscoring Childhaven’s powerful role helping abused or neglected children grow into healthy adults.
(Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Many in philanthropy and social services were caught off guard by federal Medicaid officials recent decision to cut off funding to Childhaven, which provides child care and therapy for abused and neglected children. Childhaven would lose $4 million a year, the combined total of the 50-50 match between state and federal Medicaid dollars — nearly half its revenue. Federal officials should reconsider.

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Comments | Topics: child abuse, children, Education

November 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

South King County’s Road Map Project is a national anti-poverty model

Anti-poverty efforts must move away from a singular focus on inner-cities and go where poverty is growing fastest: the suburbs.  People with limited economic means are stereotyped as living in inner-cities, but America’s poor more often than not live and struggle in suburban communities far from the things they need most, including public transportation, health care and jobs. These points rest atop rigorous…

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Comments | Topics: children, Education, health care

October 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Catch mental health problems early

In the vast arena of public education, the part least understood or addressed well is mental health. Think about it. Schools remain vigilant about ensuring students perform well academically. Immunizations are legally required and periodic check-ups for hearing and vision remain even as school systems have cut back in many areas. These things are appropriate because they directly impact students in the classroom. Mental health…

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Comments | Topics: barack obama, children, congress

October 10, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Civil Disagreement: Obamacare and the government shutdown

Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times editorial board. Here Bruce Ramsey and Lynne K. Varner offer dramatically different takes on the federal budget battle and the government shutdown. This interactive includes a poll about American sentiment toward the political standoff.

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Comments | More in Civil Disagreement, Pro/con | Topics: 2013 elections, Affordable Care Act, barack obama

October 9, 2013 at 6:00 AM

EU ambassador surprised by shutdown over Obamacare

A European perspective on the shutdown On Tuesday, our editorial board met with Joao Vale de Almeida, the first European Union Ambassador to the United States. On tour to promote U.S.-European relations, he expressed surprise House Republican leaders are holding a vote on a federal budget hostage unless Obamacare is repealed. “People in Europe sometimes have…

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Comments | Topics: cathy mcmorris rodgers, european union, health care

August 13, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Seattle Central Community College should get Beacon Hill landmark PacMed

The choice of turning the old PacMed Center into apartments or classrooms is expected to be made Tuesday. The Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority, the public entity that owns the sprawling art deco-style building atop Beacon Hill, is holding a public meeting Tuesday starting at 6 . Afterward, the authority’s governing council is expected to vote on whether to lease the Pacific Tower  building to Seattle Central Community College or to a…

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Comments | Topics: democrats, Education, health care

May 29, 2013 at 6:30 AM

CDC: One in 5 American kids has mental disorder

(Donna Grethen/Tribune Media Services)

(Donna Grethen/Tribune Media Services)

One in five U.S.  kids  currently has a mental disorder.  That is a lot of kids and the number has been rising for more than a  decade, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report,  “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children.”

Even scarier, only 21 percent of these children are getting treatment because of a shortage of pediatric sub-specialists and child and adolescent psychiatrists, reports The Washington Post. The Post article points to troubled children living in rural and urban areas as the most likely to be under served because of the shortage and because few new doctors are specializing in pediatric mental health.

It should go without saying that 20 percent of people ages 3-17 undoubtedly places some of them here, making this a local issue that would benefit from attention by local schools, county and state governments.

The CDC relied on federal studies, medical insurance claims, public health reports, telephone surveys and other research from 2005 to 2011 for its first comprehensive look at the mental health status of children.  One CDC-cited study found that from 1997 to 2010, mood disorders were among the main causes of hospital stays among children. The analysis of insurance claims found a 24 percent increase in children hospitalized for  mental health and/or substance abuse between 2007 to 2010. Psychotropic drug use by teens increased over the same period.

This is a major public health issue and its prevalence, early onset, and impact on the child, family, and community is costly. The CDC estimates annual costs of $247 billion spent on health care, on services such as special education and juvenile justice, and for decreased productivity. Families without medical insurance often turn to public schools and community health organizations for help, underscoring the challenges faced by those institutions. Broadening access to mental health services is a clear need but the Washington Post story points out the difficulty of doing that with so few doctors and mental health professionals available. resources.

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Comments | Topics: ADHD, Autism, centers for disease control and prevention

May 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM

No need to paint all Catholic hospitals in Washington with same broad brush

Tuesday’s editorial argues there’s a difference between health systems that merge and those that are setting up a new working relationship. I urge us all to resist painting UW Medicine‘s latest community hospital ally, PeaceHealth, with the same broad brush that many might be tempted to apply to the entire Catholic hospital system.

The UW Medicine-PeaceHealth “strategic affiliation” announced last week is more or less a referral network that is intended to serve two major purposes. First, officials say their goal is to provide patients of all backgrounds with seamless care in an age of complex health care reforms that will demand better outcomes. Second, we’re looking at an opportunity to train the next generation of doctors, nurses and hospital employees.

The public should not confuse this “strategic affiliation” with the other emerging trend in Washington state that will soon lead to half of all hospital beds being run by Catholic-affiliated hospitals. I certainly have some concerns about this, as previously expressed by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat and tracked by MergerWatch.org. I believe patients in publicly-subsidized hospitals deserve to have access to the full range of health services — including abortion care, scientifically-proven stem-cell procedures and end-of-life services. At some point, lawmakers may have to set some parameters.

Of course, each hospital should be judged on its own merits. After spending considerable time on the phone with the key players in this “strategic affiliation,” including UW Medicine Chief Health System Officer Johnese Spisso and PeaceHealth Chief Strategy Officer Peter Adler, I don’t believe this particular alliance is an attempt by the Catholic church to take over the university’s venerable teaching hospital and limit what future doctors and nurses are trained to do.

Here’s why:

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Comments | Topics: abortion, catholic church, health care

March 12, 2013 at 6:05 AM

Maps: Visualizing Washington’s primary care doctor shortage

The Department of Health reports every county in Washington state faces “some type of health professional shortage area,” meaning there aren’t enough primary care physicians, dental workers or mental health providers to service the local population. This problem is all but certain to grow as  federal health reforms require an estimated 500,000 more Washington residents sign up for insurance through Medicaid or the state’s health exchange beginning in January 2014.

We must start asking ourselves where all these new patients will go for preventive screenings, treatment of illnesses, and referrals to specialists.

I’ve found a few maps that provide more context for Monday’s Seattle Times editorial in support of SB 5615, a bill that would give the Washington Student Achievement Council the authority to strengthen its ailing physician loan repayment and scholarship program by pursuing private donations.

Take a look at the map below to get a sense of what percentage of Washingtonians live in a shortage area compared to the populations in the other 49 states. Between 19 and 33 percent of our population lacks access to health professionals. We’re in the same boat as many other states, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Notice how states like California and Minnesota have more doctors? Both also offer numerous loan repayment programs. (Click here to see the Association of American Medical Colleges‘ searchable database of loan repayment and forgiveness programs by state.)

Physician loan repayment programs aren’t THE solution, but they are a powerful tool to recruit and retain health care providers to serve the state’s under-served residents. Washington state has embraced Obamacare, and it’s helpful to see lawmakers like state Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, take steps to ensure there are enough doctors around to treat an expanding patient pool. The Senate has passed SB 5615. The House should do the same.

workforcemap

Scroll down to see four other interesting maps that offer a visual, county-by-county look at health professional shortages in the areas of primary care, mental health, and dental care. The final PDF shows where medically undeserved populations and areas are located around the state.

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Comments | More in Interactives | Topics: david frockt, health care, maps

February 22, 2013 at 6:53 AM

Another Republican governor goes for Obamacare: Rick Scott

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act had no more zealous opponent than Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Guess who now backs Medicaid expansion? Scott becomes the seventh GOP governor to move toward broader health-care coverage via the president’s plan. An estimated 1 million low-income Florida residents could become eligible for insurance, with the federal government picking up…

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Florida, health care