Health and health care news

PORTLAND, Maine — Data from federal authorities say Maine is on pace to see its highest number of confirmed rabies cases in five years.

The Portland Press Herald reports Maine has seen 19 confirmed cases in the first quarter of the year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state only saw five cases during the period last year. There were 31 for the whole year.

Maine ranks near the top in the country for hospital safety, according to the Leapfrog Group, which has released its latest spring hospital safety rankings.

Maine has held the top slot in these rankings the past four times they’ve been released. This time around, says Leapfrog Group’s Erica Mobley, Vermont took the No. 1 spot for its percentage of hospitals with high safety scores, and Maine dropped to No. 2.

Beth from the women's group playing with Danielle's baby at North Bridgton Family Practice
MPBN/Susan Sharon

For several years now, a rural family practice in Bridgton has quietly been offering treatment and support for pregnant women and mothers who are addicted to heroin and other drugs.

Dr. Craig Smith of North Bridgton Family Practice and Catherine Bell of Crooked River Counseling
MPBN/Susan Sharon

Like other small towns throughout Maine, Bridgton has not been immune from the heroin problem. In the past year there have been at least six overdoses in this town of about 5,000 residents.

A conservative advocacy group has released a study that shows significant differences in what providers around Maine charge for the same medical procedures.

Maine has a chronic shortage of treatment programs for opiate addiction. Nowhere is this more evident than in rural Maine. In some places the nearest methadone clinic or Suboxone provider may be a three-hour drive away.

Courtesy of The Jackson Laboratory

The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor has been awarded almost $6 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support research efforts.

Joyce Peterson is spokeswoman for Jackson Laboratory, which is internationally known for developing mice used in biomedical research. She says the lion’s share of the money, almost $5 million, will support Jackson Lab’s Mouse Genome Database, which she says facilitates the use of the laboratory mouse.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

Dealing with the state’s opiate epidemic has become a big part of the job description for local police over the last decade. No matter what the size or wealth of the town or the police force, the challenge remains the same.

AUGUSTA, Maine — State reimbursement for home care workers would go up under a bill endorsed by the Maine Legislature.

The bill would use federal money to provide $4 million for increased reimbursements to home care workers and community-based services.

Supporters say the bill is designed to ultimately help Maine’s senior citizens and disabled residents. They say the increased state reimbursement will increase pay for home and community care workers, which will improve recruitment and retention efforts for those workers.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Concerns over the possible closure of a Portland health clinic are intensifying.

Speaking in Maine takes us next to Portland for a panel discussion on “Abortion Rights Today” in Maine presented by Maine Jewish Film Festival, the University of Maine School of Law and Justice for Women.

For more on the discussion and festival, click here.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

The Scarborough Police Department says its program to help people with addiction is showing positive results.

Six months after launching Operation Hope, the program is reporting that 62 out of 68 people contacted say they are still in recovery and doing well. Police call that a 90 percent success rate.

But addiction specialists say there’s a reason to be skeptical of both the statistics and the drug treatment being used.

About 75 people gathered in Portland Wednesday night for a community forum focused on the opioid crisis in Maine.

Speakers from the city of Portland and area agencies addressed prevention, treatment, law enforcement and recovery aspects of the problem.

According to some estimates it’s the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and, if current trends continue, Alzheimer’s disease could effect as many as 16 million Americans by the year 2050.

During a hearing before the U.S. Senate Aging Committee on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who chairs the committee, said Alzheimer’s is the nation’s costliest disease, with the U.S. spending more than $236 billion on it per year.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to give individuals who will lose eligibility for certain mental health services more time to transition to other, less intensive services.

Those who receive care under what’s called section 17 had petitioned lawmakers to review a rule change by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services that could shift up to 8,000 people to different services.