Saturday, April 1, 2017

Planned Parenthood cuts feared under Trump

By Jessica Freda and Meaghan Michel
Bengal News West Reporters
It’s rare to enter a medical center feeling accepted and welcomed the minute you walk through the door. With vibrant furniture, colorful artwork and gender-neutral bathrooms, it’s hard to imagine that this unique safe space is now in the hands of the Trump administration and could be taken away from West Side residents and others from across the region who depend on services here.
Planned Parenthood offers birth control, cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection testings and treatments, and yearly gynecological exams for women, which are known as well-woman exams at the organization’s location at 2697 Main St. in Buffalo.
The agency also travels to a variety of high schools and colleges to educate students on proper birth control methods and sex education.
But a budget proposal by the Trump administration that would squeeze funding for Planned Parenthood would take all that away.
 “What they want to do is make us ineligible to take Medicaid payments so we can no longer see individuals that are insured by Medicaid, which is a large group of our population,” Todd Warfield, the director of Facilities and Security for Planned Parenthood, said.
Todd Warfield, Planned Parenthood facilities director
Warfield believes that “defunding” is a strange word to use when it comes to this complex matter.
 Warfield is concerned that the government is trying to strip Planned Parenthood of its rights to accept those with Medicaid because they are opposed to the full act of women’s health care, which includes abortion.
 While many people harp on the option of termination that is provided by the organization, abortions only make up around 3 percent of the business, Warfield said.. The greater percentage is birth control and sexually transmitted infection screenings, he added.
 “Gov. Cuomo was talking something about how a million people in New York State would lose their health care. I’m not quite sure of the specifics or the bill they’re discussing in Congress right now, but I know that any cuts to us would mean women would lose their health care,” Warfield said. 

Todd Warfield on Planned Parenthood's services:

 According to Warfield, women between the ages of 20 and 25 make-up 83 percent of the patients who are seen at Planned Parenthood. Warfield believes that Planned Parenthood serves a huge need in the community.
 Due to many of the patients relying on Planned Parenthood as their only health care provider, the resources and care that the organization offers is significant for them to receive. An estimated 1 in 5 women in the U.S. has visited a Planned Parenthood health center at least once in her life.
To strip Planned Parenthood’s rights to accept certain individual’s health care insurance means a huge population of patients would be restricted from receiving any health care, the organization’s leaders fear. 
"I don't think it's a good idea because you have those who cannot afford it out of pocket going there. It’s restricting women from a lot of resources that they may need in terms of benefiting their health. I don't think it is fair for anyone to feel that they have restrictions on their health,” West Side resident and Planned Parenthood patient, Alexis DePaulo said.
Doreen Adjei, West Side resident and a long-term patient of Planned Parenthood, says if this plan of attack follows through, she will no longer have an affordable place to go to take care of her health issues.
"I feel terrible about it. I feel that it's the only place where young teenage girls feel comfortable going to get the help that they need. For myself, being a young teenage girl, a lot of the time I am hesitant about sharing information to my father. Having Planned Parenthood is assuring because I know my health will be in someone’s care. Restricting that from individuals I don't think is fair,” said Adjei said.
            As the Trump administration still continues to work to “defund” Planned Parenthood, West Side residents and women worldwide will continue to take a stand against the government in order to ensure that the affordable services the organization provides can stay in tact.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Health officials ready if virus hits W.S.

By Sarah Minkewicz and Colleen Young 
Bengal News Reporters 
                    Though the Ebola virus recently showing up in the U.S, local health officials  are trying to allay fears that the virus could end up on the West Side.
         Although the virus has made its way into the states, health officials are urging people to not be afraid and continue with their daily schedules.
         “People are going to freak out and that’s unavoidable, but what we need to do is educate them,” said Nicole Concroe, physician assistant and director of the Health Center at D’Youville College. 
                    There’s no reason for residents on the West Side, or in the Buffalo area, to be alarmed if that  have not been exposed directly to the Ebola virus, she said.
                     “It’s risky because flu season is starting too, but anyone with a fever that has traveled or has risk factors need to take those proper precautions,” Concroe said. “If you are at risk or have been exposed go get treated or quarantined get treated as soon as possible.”
         According to the World Health Organization, about 5,000 people have died in West Africa from the virus and several other cases have been reported across the World. Four people have been diagnosed in the U.S with the disease; The latest case is a doctor in New York City.

                      The virus is spread from contact with an infected person through bodily fluids, such as sweat, blood, urine or feces. Health officials that take care of infected patients are the most at risk of catching the disease. 
           The state recently designated Erie County Medical Center and Women and Children's Hospital as Ebola treatment centers.
           Officials at Jericho Road Community Health Center  also say that West Side residents shouldn’t be too worried because the local health organizations are continuing to plan for the disease making its way into the community.
           “We have put protocols in place,” said Rohith Saravanan, director  of Clinical Integration and Education at Jericho Road, which caters to refugees and low-income patients. 
 “We have personal protective gear and we are very prepared and we have the experience.”
         Saravanan also said that Jericho Road’s patients aren’t concerned if the disease were to arrive in the community. 
           “It’s not as big of a deal with our patients because they’ve seen other diseases,” Saravanan said. “Our patients have a realistic expectation and know the healthcare here is better then back home for them.”
           Medaille College is also doing its part in preventing the spreading of the virus if it were to ever find its way on campus.            Pamela Barone, LPN at Medaille College Wellness Center, said the college is putting together a protocol for its students. 
         Mame Kebe, a West Side resident and Senegal citizen, said that she still isn’t convinced that the state is doing all that it can to prevent the spread of the disease from reaching the West Side.
           “I feel like we haven't taken the right precaution to do what we have to do,” Kebe said. “For example, the outbreak in New York City. They knew Ebola was happening. They could've taken more than one precaution to prevent that from happening, and they didn't. There was a case that happened in New York, so it's like we're next."
         In order for the West Side to become aware of the facts about the disease, Kebe said she believes government officials need to step up speak to the community.
           “I feel like the representatives, the local leaders, the Mayor, he should make some speeches. Educate us. Let us be aware, we need to be aware,” Kebe said.
           Until that happens Kebe and all other West Side residents will continue to take precaution just in case.
         "I carry hand sanitizers with me every day," Kebe said.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Prescription drug abuse takes center stage

By Ally Selva & Marybeth Calabrese
Bengal News West Reporters

           Most people don’t realize that the root of prescription drug abuse lies within their own medicine cabinets.
          The West Side Youth Development Coalition is raising awareness about this issue by holding community forums with speakers such as federal drug agents, healthcare professionals and public officials who aim to reduce the problem.
          Individuals who abuse prescription drugs truly believe they don’t have a problem because they were prescribed by a healthcare professional.  According to the Office of National Drug Control Policynearly one-third of people ages 12 and over used prescription drugs for the first time in 2009 and began using these prescription drugs non-medically. The most common misconception that people face is that the prescription drugs they are taking aren’t going to affect them in the long run because they are legal drugs.
          Jonathan Lindner, a health educator for the Center for Health and Social Research at SUNY Buffalo State, stated that the content of prescription drugs being released too soon is also becoming a major issue.
          “What happens with a lot of the different types of prescription drugs is you’re getting drugs such as synthetic heroin in certain pills. The content of the drugs and the time that elapses before the drugs have done clinical trials is shorter, and these drugs are being introduced too soon without knowing the side effects,” Lindner said.
          In 2009, Lindner and his team brought together a staff from Buffalo State and members of the surrounding community, to contribute to the West Side Youth Development Coalition (WSYDC). This organization intends to reduce violence, drugs and crime. In 2012, the coalition expanded its focus on reducing the use and abuse of legal drugs. Today the WSYDC has more than 170 participants including Buffalo State faculty/staff, law enforcement, Buffalo public schools, the court system, the Erie County Health Department and community-based organizations.
          Lack of monitoring the use of prescription drugs by healthcare professionals has become a major issue, as well as overprescribing. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not strictly monitor exported supplies. Therefore, it’s easy for a patient to get these drugs, source said. 
          “The biggest issue is the ability to take medicine as prescribed. The West Side is a community with different language and cultural barriers that affect the ability to read,  review and deal with prescription drugs. People take expired medication, they take medication unintended, they read a label that says 'twice daily' and then take them both at the same time during the day,” Lindner said.
          The WSYDC also holds community forums to educate the public about addiction and how it can be reduced. In addition, the coalition provide information and sites for people who want to get treated or dispose of their old medications in a safe manner. On the West Side, there are prescription drug drop boxes   located at both Canisius College and Medaille College along with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. The drugs are taken anonymously with no questions asked.
           Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Joseph Bongiovanni, said how prescription drugs are a “hot topic” because the DEA recently dedicated a tackle of diversion group to monitor the use of prescription drugs in Western New York.
          “Prescription drug abuse has become such an issue that we now have a team of agents who are going undercover and dedicating their lives to solving this problem,” Bongiovanni said.
          What many people don’t realize about prescription drug abuse is that everybody is the source of the problem. Bongiovanni said  temptation begins within one's own medicine cabinet, where old prescription drugs are left for anyone in the household to access. Unlike hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine, prescription drugs are the easiest drugs for addicts to get because they are legal.
          “There is new fad of mixing heroin with the pharmaceutical cancer pain drug Fentanyl, that usually comes in patches. The DEA has recently found that many addicts in Western New York are using these patches to mix with heroin and have been rapidly dying from overdoses,” Bongiovanni said.
          Legislation in New York has been passed where it is mandatory that a 90-day supply of a script be regulated to only 30 days. After the month is up, patients must see their doctor for a check up to insure that they still need to take the prescription.
Bongiovanni and Lindner discuss the issue more here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Health providers target diabetes on W.S.

By Chanice Johnson and Jennine Taberski
BengalNews Reporters
          The growth of the refugee population on the West Side might be fueling the growth of an epidemic of diabetes, a University at Buffalo researcher says.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States, which entail 8.3 % of the population, have diabetes.
Dr. Linda S. Kahn, a medical anthropologist from the University of Buffalo Family Medicine, chose to study individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds to see how different people perceive and are affected by the condition. She worked with  Jericho Road Family Practice, a faith-based clinical organization that provides direct primary care to a diverse population, to study  34 individuals diagnosed with diabetes. 

Dr. Linda Kahn, on the impact of diabetes research:

According to Kahn, people come to Jericho Road, with various symptoms and are unaware that they are even suffering from diabetes until they are tested. 
“Depending on the country of origin or the camps they lived in, some of these refugees usually did not receive preventative care,” said Kahn. “Many of the patients were surprised or shocked because they didn’t know they were living with the condition.”
Some of the patients suffered from uncontrolled diabetes because they were not being treated properly for their conditions. Others did not even have opportunities to seek medical attention in their native countries.
“There was such disconnect because the people didn’t actually know what was happening to their bodies or blood sugars when they ate carbohydrates,” said Kahn.
 Once the refugees come to the United States, they are faced with a health-care system iin which docotrs dont' have time to deliver diabetes education, Kahn said.
“With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more people are being covered for healthcare, but there is a shortage of doctors,” said Kahn. “There is just not enough time to go around and doctors have less time to educate.”
To address the situation, the University at Buffalo Family Medicine along with the Primary Care Research Institute was awarded a two-year grant from the New York State Health Foundation to train two minority professions from the Buffalo community to become certified diabetes educators.
Two women from varying backgrounds were selected to be trained as certified diabetes educators. As part of their rigorous training, they both sacrificed their jobs and incomes in order to learn how to educate the community.
Rona D’Aniello, Certified Diabetes Educator of the Year and University at Buffalo Family Medicine Diabetes Education Program Coordinator, played a major role in the education of these women and prepared both of them in less than a year to take their certification exams. 
Upon completion of their training, Jericho Road hired these women at both the East and West Side locations in order to address the needs of patients dealing with the diabetes. When patients visit with their doctor, the doctor will give the diagnosis and then suggest talking to the diabetes educators in order to gain additional information and treatment for the condition.
According to D’Aniello, with the help of the program and certified diabetes education, many refugees from the West Side will have new knowledge and perspectives of the disease.
“Many of these refugees who come to America aren’t even aware of what diabetes are and with this program they can now be educated on how to cope and learn different ways to take care of their health as it pertains to diabetes,” said D’Aniello.
According to Eric Budin, Director of Partner Development at Jericho Road Family Practice, having diabetes educators at the practice has created a proactive relationship between the practice and the patients because those living with diabetes can now be informed and properly treated for the condition.  
           “By having a team of professions on board including diabetes educators, we have been able to create an all-around holistic health care center that we believe has made a difference within the community” said Budin. Edited by Mhairi Moorhead

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Keep the flu away with a shot in the arm

Pharmacist Mike Rossi
By Max Borsuk and Maria Yankova
BengalNews Reporters
With flu season in full swing, various locations on the West Side are offering the flu shot.
Even though flu activity last year was low, the timing of the flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season, therefore people should get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 “We get an early start just so people are prepared before it really starts to become a big deal,” said Rick Thompson, a technician at Rite Aid at 291 W. Ferry St.“ The biggest is between October and November. That’s usually when most people get flu shots. The numbers go down usually after Thanksgiving.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu shots should be given to everyone, starting with infants at least six months of age. There are certain groups, which are at a higher risk of getting the influenza virus than others. Some of those groups are pregnant women, people 65 years or older, and people who have medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and lung and heart disease.
According to Mike Rossi, a pharmacist at Rite Aid, everyone should get vaccinated.
“If we get everyone immunized, there’d be less sickness,” Rossi said.
An alternative to the flu vaccination is a nasal spray intended for children as young as two and up to the age of 49. The price of the flu shot and the nasal spray is $29.99 but it’s covered under most insurances.
“There’s really no excuse not to get it,” said Rossi.

Rick Thompson, on the process of getting a flu shot:

According to the New York State Department of Health, the 2012-2013 flu shot will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus, and the H1N1 virus. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and provide protection against the flu.
Children aged six months through eight years who have never been vaccinated need to get two doses of vaccine, spaced at least four weeks apart, according to the New York State Department of Health.
People with the flu virus may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.
“The first symptoms are fever, cough, and overall feeling bad,” said Rossi. “You don’t want to  get the flu. It’s ugly.”
Rossi stressed thorough hand washing and using hand gel as prevention techniques against the influenza virus.
Other West Side locations that offer flu shots are the Buffalo Psychiatric Center at 400 Forest Ave. Rite Aid at 284 Connecticut St.  and Jericho Family Practice at 184 Barton St.
“The more people that get it, the less likely it is to spread,” said Thompson. Edited by Lakisha Forde

Friday, October 26, 2012

Policy in action to reduce air pollution

By Joe Losito and Mhairi Moorhead
BengalNews Reporters
The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority as well as the Department of Environmental Conservation have worked together to enforce a new law regarding the idling policy.
The goal of the policy is to cut down the level of emissions by limiting the amount of time that drivers at the Peace Bridge can idle their engines.
“Basically it does not allow any cars or trucks to idle in the U.S. plaza or at secondary parking areas,” said Matthew Davison, spokesman for the Peace Bridge Authority.
According to the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, a community-based organization that informs residents on how to prevent and reduce pollution, the five-minute idling policy has gone unnoticed to drivers at the Peace Bridge and the idling of trucks still remains a problem for the air quality on the West Side.
The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority said that they put up signs in the plaza to notify drivers that there is no idling allowed and have also put up information on their website.
“Most folks are already compliant, and don’t want to idle their vehicles anyways for gas reasons,” said Davison. “People are pretty good when they get here, once they see the signs. I’m hopeful they will just turn off their cars and trucks.”
However, the new policy has forced some truck drivers to idle on West Side dead-end streets instead of waiting at the Peace Bridge.
“A lot of the time, the backup at the bridge is too long so they don’t want to wait so they just pull off and idle,” said Soto. “It is mandated by the government for them to only drive 12 hours and then they have to take a break and the closest break is all the way in Cheektowaga. So if they can’t drive there they just come to these streets and take a nap.”
A 2011 study conducted by Dr. Lwebuga-Mukasas, professor of Medicine at the University of Buffalo found that nearly 45 percent of West Side households reported at least one case of chronic respiratory illness or asthma.
“The challenge,” said Erin Heaney, director of the Clean Air Coalition, “is that even people who have medical degrees are not being schooled in the public health stuff that we know.” 

Natasha Soto and Erin Heaney,  Clean Air Coalition 

The Clean Air Coalition has worked together with the Department of Environmental Conservation to set up air quality monitors throughout Western New York in order to monitor the air quality in highly polluted areas.  
“We think that people shouldn’t get sick because of where they live,” said Heaney.
The state also plans to expand the Peace Bridge plaza, which would create more room for cars and trucks that are waiting, as well as decreasing the traffic at the border. The plan to expand is underway as the state has already purchased the Episcopal Home on the corner of Busti Avenue and Rhode Island Street.
Along the streets close to the projected expansion area are signs on the front lawns of people who either support the expansion or are against it. This illustrates the tension in the area in regards to the positives and negatives of this proposal.
The increase in noise and pollution levels poses a threat to the area that could cause property values to decrease. However, more jobs would be created for the construction of the project.  
The air quality study is currently ongoing in the area. It is questioned whether the winter season will change the amount of drivers idling due to the decreasing temperatures. Edited by Jennine Taberski

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

West Side locations host flu shot clinics

By Kevin Freiheit and Melissa Kania
BengalNews Reporters
As the beginning of flu season rolls around, residents on the West Side of Buffalo may be searching for places that offer vaccinations to the public.
 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone six months of age or older should become vaccinated against the flu, particularly if they are considered part of a ‘high-risk’ group. Influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations and over 23,600 deaths yearly in the United States.
 Nicholas Matteliano, pharmacy manager at the Rite Aid located at 291 W. Ferry St., said it is important that people get a flu shot every 12 months.
 “The vaccine is reformulated every year and usually becomes available in late August,” Matteliano said.

Pharmacy Manager Nicholas Matteliano talks about the process of getting a flu shot at the Rite Aid location at 291 West Ferry St.:

 This year’s vaccine contains three components to protect against three different flu viruses. One component will protect against H1N1-like viruses that spread nationwide last year. Another component will protect against influenza-B viruses, and the last will protect against an H3N2 virus, according to the CDC.
 “The vaccine usually lasts eight months, which is why everyone should get one each year,” Matteliano said.
 The CDC said flu season typically begins in late October, peaks in the United States in January or February, and lasts until as late as May. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches and fatigue.
 In addition, the flu is contagious, and because symptoms do not start until one to four days after the virus enters the body, infected people may pass on the flu before they know they are sick.
 Other places on the West Side are also offering vaccinations.
 “Students can call and schedule an appointment, and pay a $25 fee,” said a representative of Jericho Road Family Practice, which is located at 184 Barton St.
The Belle Center, 104 Maryland St., offered a flu clinic earlier this year.
 “We had a flu clinic in September with Catholic Health and Charities Network, in conjunction with Holy Cross Church,” said Callie Johnson, marketing director at the Belle Center.
 An additional flu and screenings clinic will be held Oct. 21 from 3-5 p.m. at The Sisters of St. Mary Residence, 245 Lafayette Ave. The clinic is being held through Catholic Health and will offer flu shots at no out-of-pocket cost.
 Information about other clinics being offered through Catholic Health can be found here. For more information, contact Liz Reiser at 885-0357.
 As an overall evaluation of the public, Matteliano said that there are certain groups of people who may need the flu shot more than others.
 “There are some higher risk people that I highly recommend get the vaccine,” Matteliano said. “People that are pregnant or have diabetes are at a much higher risk.”
 Children younger than five, adults 65 years of age or older, and people of any age who have certain medical conditions, including asthma, heart disease or a weakened immune system, are also considered part of the high-risk group, according to the New York State Department of Health.
 Although most people will only need to get vaccinated once, children between six months and eight years of age who have never received a seasonal flu vaccine will need to get two doses of the vaccine, spaced at least four weeks apart.
Side effects of the vaccination exist, but are rare.
 “The worst side effect is a flu-like symptom, but the occurrence is below one percent,” Matteliano said. “The most common side effect is a sore arm.”
 The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as possible, because it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that will protect against the influenza virus.
 “It doesn’t just protect you, it protects others around you,” Matteliano said.
Edited by Mike Meiler