Health, human services committees studies related topics
By Sen. Judy Lee
Legislative interim committees have begun doing in-depth studies of issues which were approved by the legislature for possible action in the 2015 legislative session. These committees have members from both the Senate and House and usually meet quarterly. The Capitol was busy last week, with seven interim committees having their first meetings. I serve on three having to do with health and human services.
The Health Services committee is studying the issue of access to dental care in the state. There are counties that have no dentists at all, so even if an individual can afford care or has insurance, the distance to a care provider is discouraging. Part of the study will include how to increase the number of providers in rural areas, including possible expansion of dental loan repayment programs. There are 13 states which have approved a mid-level provider of dental services, and that idea will be explored also. Nurse practitioners have become an important part of providing medical care throughout the state, after resistance early on. The committee will hear more about those programs and evaluate whether or not they fit into the picture for North Dakota.
The Tobacco Prevention and Control Committee reported on how its funding has been spent and what its plans are for comprehensive, statewide prevention and control programs. The Health Services committee is very interested in seeing coordination of activities not only between the tobacco group and the N.D. Department of Health, but also with all of the various recipients of federal funding for this purpose which are specifically focused on areas such as education and corrections. It just seems logical that the tremendous amount of funding which is spent on risky behavior prevention and cessation be coordinated to avoid duplication as well as gaps in services.
Community paramedics are a recent medical position which may be very helpful in providing coverage in certain circumstances. They are trained differently from emergency service providers, but may be good partners with ambulance services or perhaps with nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants to assure that individuals are treated properly and directed to additional appropriate care, if needed.
Prescription drug abuse is a rapidly growing problem nationally and in North Dakota. It is not just someone getting addicted to a prescription drug and taking too many doses for too long a time. Drugs are being taken from homes and being dumped into a bowl for young people to grab a handful and see what happens, a very dangerous practice. Some pain killers are being taken from homes and sold. It is very important that we all put our prescription drug containers away, preferably in a locked place, but definitely not in the usual spots such as medicine cabinets and night stands. Home sellers should be particularly careful about this so that people looking at their homes or attending an open house cannot easily gain access to prescription drugs for their own use or for sale. This is a growing issue in North Dakota and we need to do all we can to stop it.
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