The Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence released an eight-point plan to make schools safer. National Public Radio summarized their top-line message as “Don't harden schools. Make them softer, by improving social and emotional health.” The plan calls for a public-health approach to preventing violence, involving three levels of action: “(1) universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone; (2) practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties; and (3) interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent.” Key points include requiring all schools to assess school climate and prevent bullying, discrimination, harassment, and assault; banning assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other products that make semi-automatic weapons even deadlier; ensuring universal background checks screen out people with histories of violent behavior; staffing schools adequately with counselors, psychologists, and social workers; reforming school disciplinary procedures to reduce exclusionary practices like expulsions and suspensions, focusing instead on fostering social and emotional support systems for troubled students that enable them to remain part of the school community; passing gun violence protection orders that enable law enforcement to confiscate weapons temporarily from people showing signs of potential violence against themselves or others; removing legal barriers to sharing safety information across educational, mental health, and law enforcement agencies; and training and maintaining school- and community-based threat assessment teams. Two-hundred universities, school districts, education and mental health organizations, and more than 2,300 experts have signed on in support of these eight points.
New research from the University of California-San Francisco finds that e-cigarette vapor contains the same cancer-causing chemicals as traditional cigarettes, and that flavors designed to appeal to teens, such as fruit flavors, appear to be the worst offenders in terms of chemical exposure. These chemicals are not listed among the ingredients, falling instead under “flavorings.” Researcher Mark Rubenstein said, “Teenagers need to be warned that the vapor produced by e-cigarettes is not harmless water vapor, but actually contains some of the same toxic chemicals found in smoke from traditional cigarettes.”
Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses surged 30% between July 2016 and September 2017 across the US, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC noted that the increases spanned genders and a range of ages, and were particularly pronounced in the Midwest, which experienced a 70% rise. Major cities in 16 states saw a 54% increase. In response, the CDC recommends coordinated efforts across communities to address the epidemic, including steps to increase access to mental health services, medication assisted treatment, and naloxone, the drug that reverses overdoses.
Links between lack of employment and poor mental health among men points to the need for job-generation policies, particularly in the “Eastern Heartland,” according to the authors of a report published recently by Brookings. Saving men in the heartland: The case for place-based employment policies examines trends in men’s employment and wages and finds that over the last 50 years, there has been a decline in movement across counties and states for work, and an increase in regional gaps in employment and wages. The report segments the country into three areas--The Prosperous Coasts, the Western Heartland and the Eastern Heartland--and notes that the Eastern Heartland has fared far worse than the other two regions. The report finds that men without jobs are substantially more likely to experience low life satisfaction and poor mental health. “In terms of well-being,” Brookings writes in introducing the report, “men without work are suffering to such an alarming degree that the authors argue the enormous social costs of non-employment suggest fighting long-term non-employment is more important than fighting inequality.”
Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward Kevin Love joins a growing list of high-profile men encouraging others to talk about their struggles and seek support for mental health. In a powerful piece in The Players’ Tribune, he writes about experiencing a panic attack during a game last November: “It came out of nowhere. I’d never had one before. I didn’t even know if they were real. But it was real — as real as a broken hand or a sprained ankle. Since that day, almost everything about the way I think about my mental health has changed.” He reflects on how the “playbook” for being a man had until then inhibited him from seeing and talking about the challenges he had been experiencing--and how doing so since has helped improve his wellbeing.
A captivating Washington Post picture and audio slideshow, Working with Dark Light, shows how Puerto Rico’s artists are transforming their grief and loss from Hurricane Maria into dance, music, storytelling, and murals to help heal the community.
Sociologist Patrick Sharkey praised Milwaukee’s Blueprint for Peace as “one of the most exciting ideas” he’s seen in a talk in that city this week. In an interview with NPR, Sharkey shared his research on the ripple effects of preventing violence and crime: “Beyond the lives that have been preserved, we have found gains in things like economic mobility. So in places that have become safer, we found a causal effect on the chance that children from low-income families will move upward out of poverty as they reach adulthood. We've found impacts on academic performance; so in the places that have become safest, academic achievement has improved the most. And actually, racial achievement gaps have narrowed the most in the places that have become safest. And beyond all that, I think the most profound changes is just in the experience of urban poverty. So across the country, for several decades, living in poverty used to mean living with the constant threat of violence. That hasn't gone away. There are certain cities that are still intensively violent, but it's no longer true in most of the country.”
In a Hill op-ed, American Federation of Government Employees President John O'Grady opposes the Trump administration’s plans to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s staff of scientists, engineers, and lawyers in half: “This White House’s plan to drastically reduce the number of EPA scientists, engineers and lawyers, welcomes with open arms those polluters, previously busted by federal regulators. EPA’s brain drain will intentionally dismantle the agency, leaving industry unabated to profit at any cost. EPA scientists and engineers are the only defenders standing between you and indifferent emitters. We must keep our protectors at EPA.”
The new Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar expressed his support for expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid misuse in remarks at the National Governors’ Association meeting earlier this month, STAT reports, stating that not doing so would be similar to trying to address an infection without antibiotics. The position is a departure from that of the secretary’s predecessor Tom Price, STAT says, who described the treatment as “substituting one opioid for another.”
Efforts to stabilize the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces are in jeopardy, as the White House pushes to add abortion restrictions to federal tax credits, raise premiums for older people, and expand short-term insurance plans that aren’t compliant with the Affordable Care Act.
Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota became the primary sponsor of single-payer legislation in the House this week, replacing John Conyers, who resigned in December. In an interview with Politico, Ellison said, "We think that a single payer, Medicare-for-all style is the way to go… We've got to try to protect the Affordable Care Act, but we also have a duty to imagine a better health care system than the one we even have."