Categories: Hughes News,News Rep. Holly Hughes today successfully secured resources to improve communication systems for west Michigan emergency responders in the final version of a budget plan approved by the state Legislature.The measure includes $30,000 for the installation of two tower top amplifiers in northern Muskegon and Oceana counties. The amplifiers will improve service in the communications systems used by first responders, particularly along the Lake Michigan shore.“Our first responders are out there protecting us every single day,” said Hughes, of Montague. “To do their jobs well, they must be able to communicate quickly and clearly with each other at all times. This equipment will help our first responders do just that and improve public safety.”The funding is included in the supplemental budget bill that will soon be considered by Gov. Rick Snyder.The legislation is Senate Bill 601. 21Dec Rep. Hughes: Legislature approves plan to improve communications system for west Michigan first responders ###
ShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares April 16, 2014; StatelineDo you suffer from asthma? Do you have kids with asthma? Then you know exactly what Dr. David Van Sickle, a former respiratory disease detective for the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, is talking about:“People think about asthma, and think we must have a handle on it in the U.S.,” Van Sickle says. “But the grim reality is that most patients’ asthma in this country is uncontrolled. There’s a higher rate of going to the hospital than there should be. We have been doing the same thing about asthma for years, and we have made basically no dent in hospitalizations. The majority of those people think they are doing fine, so no one treats them with a course correction. And, so, there’s inexcusable morbidity. There’s this really ridiculous gap between what we should be able to do and what we’ve been able to accomplish.”Every once in a while, you encounter terrible stories, like the report of 11-year-old Leo Cano’s death from an asthma attack during a Little League game in Midland, Texas. Why and how are kids still dying from asthma? What aren’t people aware of regarding the vulnerability of children and adults to this disease?There is a heartbreaking crowdfunding campaign at GoFundMe to help pay for the family’s funeral expenses and perhaps to name a baseball field after little Leo, but the problem of inadequate awareness and treatment of the problem of asthma continues. The joke character in sitcoms or movie comedies pulls out his or her inhaler at the first sign of stress, but for families and those who suffer from the disease, it’s no joke.Where one lives is relevant to asthma sufferers. In a recent ranking of the best and worst U.S. cities for asthma sufferers, based on a combination of factors such as the prevalence of asthma, the availability of relevant care providers, air quality, and the cost of medications and healthcare, the results weren’t surprising—smog plus high medical care costs equals bad news for asthmatics:10 Best Cities for Asthma Sufferers10 Worst Cities for Asthma SufferersOmahaLos AngelesNashvillePhiladelphiaArlington (TX)San JoseTucsonChicagoSeattleMilwaukeeColorado SpringsNew YorkDenverSacramentoRaleighPhoenixFort WorthWashington, D.C.Virginia BeachIndianapolisThe results are like a case study of the reasons for the existence of the nonprofit sector—to fight for better access to healthcare, to fight for reduced costs of healthcare treatments, and to fight for improving the quality of the environment.St. Louis might have been on the worst-for-asthmatics list except that this industrial and frequently humid city has been taking action. The state legislature has made Missouri the first state to allow school nurses to keep in stock and administer quick-relief asthma medications at school. On the cost side, for lower income people, the Missouri House of Representatives passed an appropriation allowing for Medicaid reimbursement for asthma specialists to inspect the homes of low-income patients for asthma triggers and to reimburse patients for visits to specialists wherein they can get educated about how to manage this pernicious disease. Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York already allow for Medicaid reimbursement for asthma education or home assessments.Asthmatics and their families visit hospitals often for in-patient and outpatient services. Some visit emergency rooms so frequently that they are defined as “super-utilizers,” among the one percent of the U.S. population that generates 22 percent of total health cost expenditures. Missouri’s strategy of funding home inspections and asthma education will “without a doubt…save the state money,” according to John Kraemer, founder of the Institute for Environmental Health Assessment and Patient-Centered Outcomes at Southeast Missouri State University.If you or your children have asthma, you have plenty of company. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 18.7 million adults and seven million children in the U.S. suffer from asthma. The number of Americans diagnosed with asthma increased by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009, with significant increases among black children, who more likely than others live in communities with significant problems of air pollution and environmental toxins. That kind of information jumpstarts nonprofit advocacy. The movement in the Missouri state legislature is partially attributable to the lobbying of the St. Louis chapter of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In its grading of states, the foundation lauds only seven states as having made progress on adopting policies on medication, treatment, tobacco use and indoor air quality: Washington, Indiana, Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.The public health epidemic of asthma is unfortunately increasing across the nation, but it hits inner city children of color the hardest. Some of the problems of asthma can be dealt with by what Joy Krieger, the foundation’s St. Louis chapter director, described as “elbow grease”: reducing tobacco smoke, dust, cockroaches, mites, mold, fragrances, and pets. But there’s also the matter of environmental improvement and healthcare access. There is plenty for the nonprofit sector to do on asthma to minimize the likelihood of future tragedies like the death of Leo Cano.—Rick CohenShareTweetShareEmail0 Shares
Share24TweetShare16Email40 SharesImages Credit: Philip TaylorJune 16, 2015; Fortune and the Wall Street JournalNPQ recently published an article on the growing pains of the freelance workforce. The projected increase in this segment of the economy is enormous. As nonprofits, in fact, many of us likely already contract with independent contractors—accountants, designers, event planners, IT consultants, etc. It is one way to contain costs, but as the trend becomes epic, is there a line that should not be crossed, and where is it? What are the fair labor practices we need to be more aware of with time?In every sector of the American economy, businesses’ labor costs are of great interest, and many organizations see great promise in shifting their work force from employees to independent contractors, from full-time to part-time workers, from permanent to temporary employment. Although now engaged in legal battles about the independent or dependent status of its workforce, Uber, the ride-sharing company, has become the poster child for the “sharing economy,” and their success has driven their thinking forward into new parts of our economy. And retail giant Amazon is now traveling the same road.The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Bensinger recently reported on Amazon’s interest in shifting at least some of its package delivery business from traditional carriers like FedEx and UPS to a force of “regular people.” Bensinger noted that “Last year, Amazon’s shipping costs jumped by $2.07 billion to $8.7 billion, or 9.8 [percent] of sales, compared with 8.9 [percent] the year prior,” providing a large incentive for Amazon to find a cheaper way to get its good from warehouse to purchaser. With the name “On My Way,” the proposed new service would hire retailers in urban areas to store packages and pay regular people a small fee to make deliveries. Presumably, customers could pick up their own package and then grab other parcels to deliver to others at their convenience.Sounds like a win-win for company and worker and a practice that nonprofits should begin to consider, but is it really? Do “jobs” created in the “sharing economy” replace traditional jobs? And if they do, does this result in fewer and fewer people earning less and less? Is the “sharing economy” just another sign of the widening chasm separating the wealthy from the poor?Jonathon Hall, Head of Policy Research at Uber Technology, and Alan Krueger, Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, using data provided by Uber, found more benefit than harm as a result of Uber’s growth in the marketplace. Published in January, 2015, their analysis, “An Analysis of the Labor Market for Uber’s Driver-Partners in the United States,” showed that “although it is difficult to compare the after-tax net hourly earnings of Uber’s driver-partners and taxi drivers and chauffeurs taking account of all costs, it appears that Uber driver-partners earn at least as much as taxi drivers and chauffeurs, and in many cases more than taxi drivers and chauffeurs.”But, speaking to the New York Times, Robert Reich, an economist at the University of California – Berkeley who was the secretary of labor during the Clinton administration said, “I think its nonsense, utter nonsense. This on-demand economy means a work life that is unpredictable, doesn’t pay very well and is terribly insecure.” After interviewing many workers in the on-demand world, Dr. Reich said he has concluded that “most would much rather have good, well-paying, regular jobs.”At the basic level of demand for human services, a growing sharing economy would be of great benefit, as it provides a new employment model that allows for new ways to increase household income. But if the sharing economy increases the number of the Americans whose incomes are smaller and less certain and whose benefits and social supports are curtailed, the demand for service and support will increase. Even if relative incomes are not affected by the changing nature of work, the added burden of managing life as an independent worker responsible for continuously finding and scheduling the next job may require new services and supports for organizations who have seen employment as their focus.At an organizational level, nonprofits will be challenged by their own need to lower costs to consider shifting some of their own work forces from traditional employees to more Uber-like contractors. The hurdles to this shift are high. In looking at Amazon’s interest in changing its delivery service, Fortune identified that Amazon recognizes that to change the basis for its delivery service, it will need to create new “accountability safeguards to prevent theft, damage, or carelessness (and) find ways to protect customer privacy and, most importantly, vet potential carriers for criminal records.”But for nonprofits, a more primary question is how to create reciprocal accountability between a partially disconnected labor force and the institutions that employ it. This is not only an issue for the way we run organizations, but it should also be recognized as a major social issue we need to get ahead of to protect the rights of workers—those so-called “regular people.”In our previous article, we discussed the unions that are springing up to represent worker needs, but are they the answer? We would love to hear from readers thinking about the future of this issue.—Marty LevineShare24TweetShare16Email40 Shares
Share20Tweet4Share5Email29 Shares“Marijuana joint” by Torben HansenJuly 23, 2017; The HillEven while the U.S. is suffering through a deadly opioid epidemic, fueled in part by an over-prescription of opioids, Attorney General Sessions is making himself busy fighting marijuana use. The Trump administration’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, which is led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week linking marijuana to violent crime and recommending tougher sentences “for those caught growing, selling, and smoking the plant.” Criminal justice reform advocates fear stricter enforcement.In a recent article in The Hill, Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said, “Task Force subcommittees will also undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department’s overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities.”Further, in May, Sessions asked Congressional leaders “to do away with an amendment to the DOJ budget prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to prevent states ‘from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.’”In the letter to Congressional leaders, Sessions wrote, “I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime.”Chettiar said, “We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”Finally, Sessions “reportedly re-established a controversial criminal asset seizure program.”However, local law enforcement leaders said there’s no need for this crackdown. Ronal Serpas, the former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department and co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, said,From a practitioner’s point of view, marijuana is not a drug that doesn’t have some danger to it, but it’s not the drug that’s driving violent crime in America. That’s not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America. Crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and opioids is where we’re seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control.While eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana use and 21 allow medical use of marijuana, under federal law marijuana is still illegal. A bipartisan group of senators has been advancing legislation that allows medical marijuana use, and legislation was introduced last month by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY) “to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies.”In a twist, Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation and Trump’s very public repudiation is the context for the expected crackdown on marijuana. We don’t know what to expect from Trump on this at this point, but in an interview with the New York Times, longtime Trump ally Roger Stone said Trump is asking, “‘Where’s my tough guy? Why doesn’t he have my back?’ There’s a lack of aggressiveness with Sessions, unless it involves chasing people for smoking pot.”Paul told The Hill, “I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy.” Booker said, “If we can overcome Strom Thurmond’s filibuster against the civil rights bill, we can overcome a U.S. Attorney General who is out of step with history and out of step with his party.” In an already fragmented Republican Party, Chettiar wonders whether differences over criminal justice reform will help trigger a showdown.But, then again, many have started to refer to the attorney general as the “current” attorney general as his boss has begun to take public pot shots (no pun intended) at him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.—Cyndi SuarezShare20Tweet4Share5Email29 Shares
Share57TweetShare21Email78 SharesApril 2, 2016; New York TimesIt’s another troubling headline for the partnership of hospice care and Medicare, as the New York Times reported findings from the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pointing to a number of instances where hospices inappropriately billed Medicare for hospice general inpatient care (GIP).This is particularly concerning, given America’s aging population and increased reliance on hospice as an end-of-life care option.Some of the highlights of the report include:In about 20 percent of hospice claims for inpatient care, the Medicare beneficiary did not need such care at all.In another 10 percent, the patient needed the higher-level care for only part of the inpatient stay, but Medicare was billed at the higher level for the entirety of the stay.In one percent of stays, there was no evidence that the beneficiary elected hospice care or was even certified as having a terminal illness.The investigators found that Medicare was paying hospices almost four times as much as it should have for some patients. The patients were receiving “inpatient care” when all they needed was less-expensive routine care in their homesAs in other studies, for-profit hospice providers were found to do significantly more overbilling and billing for inappropriate services than nonprofits (41 percent for for-profit hospice providers versus 27 percent for nonprofit and government-owned hospices). Here are some examples from the report:A hospice billed for 51 days of GIP for a beneficiary who needed only routine home care. The beneficiary’s symptoms were under control, and she needed assistance only with personal care, eating, and the administration of medication. Medicare paid the hospice almost $30,000 for over seven weeks of GIP.A hospice billed for GIP for a beneficiary with a circulatory disease who had no unmanaged symptoms. This beneficiary could have been cared for at home, but the hospice billed Medicare for 46 consecutive days of GIP in an inpatient unit. The hospice was paid just over $31,000 for the stay.A hospice billed for GIP for a beneficiary in Florida who entered GIP for symptom management. Her symptoms were managed within two days, yet she remained in GIP for 15 additional days. Medicare paid close to $12,000 for this stay.William A. Dombi, vice president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, a trade group that represents for-profit as well as nonprofit providers, commented on the report: “There are no real objective standards to determine when people need inpatient care. Some hospices tend to use it much more than others.” But is the problem a lack of standards, or a lack of ethics and a profit motive where it does not belong?NPQ has been covering the growing woes of the hospice industry for years as for-profit companies posting multimillion-dollar profits have entered the scene, operating beside their nonprofit counterparts. Allegations against the for-profit players have included overbilling, cherry-picking lucrative clients, and accepting patients who aren’t even candidates for hospice care.The goals of hospice care are to help terminally ill beneficiaries with life expectancy of six months or less to continue life with minimal disruptions and to support beneficiaries’ families and other caregivers. NPQ previously reported on a 2014 study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine that found that more than one-third of hospice patients in for-profit hospice centers were leaving hospice care…ahem, alive.Beyond the punchy headline, a significant cohort of hospice patients being discharged alive points to a larger problem of inappropriate care being administered, causing terminally ill patients to leave, or patients being accepted into the program who are not terminally ill and may not fit the hospice program criteria. In addition to the financial impact of fraud and the misuse of program resources, enrollment in a hospice program by those who are not terminally ill may expose patients to unnecessarily powerful drugs designed for end-of-life comfort care, which in some cases could lead to an otherwise avoidable death.NPQ covered an article in 2012 that noted that payments for hospice by Medicaid had increased precipitously over the prior six years. During the same period for-profit groups had been aggressively entering the field, Medicare spending on hospice care for nursing facility residents jumped—nearly 70 percent between 2005 and 2009, from $2.55 billion to $4.31 billion during that same period.This lack of standards for care, combined with Medicare fraud being just so darn profitable, is no doubt a recipe for disaster that leaves terminally ill patients, caregivers, and families suffering the consequences.—Carrie Collins-FadellShare57TweetShare21Email78 Shares
Share8Tweet18Share4Email30 Shares“COD Hosts Black Student Leadership Conference February 2015.” Credit: COD NewsroomAugust 24, 2017; New York TimesA few weeks ago, the New York Times published the outcome of its review of enrollment patterns at 100 elite universities, public and private. The results suggest that civil rights advocates have a lot to be concerned about.Last month, Carole Levine, writing about proposed changes in the Justice Department’s changing affirmative action enforcement strategy, summarized the ongoing debate about college and university admissions policies:Affirmative action initiatives were developed to level the playing field for minorities and create a more equitable and diverse society. There are those, mostly on the right, who would say they are not now needed, and those in the civil rights movement who would say we have only just begun.The Times looked at data collected by the U.S. Department of Education going back to 1980 and found that, after more than 35 years of affirmative action, Black and Latinx students were no better represented at the nation’s top colleges and universities. Enrollment of Black students remained relatively stable at six percent over this period; this leaves Black students significantly underrepresented, since they make up 15 percent of the overall student-age population. Though the absolute number of Latinx students has increased, that growth has not kept pace with the growing number of young Latinx people in our population, so they, too, have become even less well represented in these college classrooms. This picture is remarkably consistent across the Ivy League, elite liberal arts colleges, and flagship state universities.Looking at a wider sampling of colleges and universities does show more progress, but the unique role played by elite schools as social and economic gatekeepers makes the disparity in their student bodies particularly important. At a time of growing separation between the very rich and the rest of the American population, the opportunities provided by a degree from an elite university are considerable.The Times pointed at broader economic and social conditions as the cause for the paucity of minority students being qualified to attend these schools. “Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.” David Hawkins, an executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, described the impact of these hurdles as “a cascading set of obstacles [that] all seem to contribute to a diminished representation of minority students in highly selective colleges.”We know that this is not the complete story. Elite colleges and universities could enroll more minority students without changing their enrollment policies. Thousands of minority students meet these schools’ admission standards and yet are not being accepted. Research conducted by Dimitrios Halikias and Richard V. Reeves earlier this year noted, “An estimated 43,000 highly qualified, low-income students are not being admitted to the public universities that would benefit them the most.” This failure cannot be laid at the feet, as some have charged, of failing public schools. “Low-income students whose scores are equal or better than the average score of all current selective school students graduate at the same rate as well.” Many of these students are black or Latinx.Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas explained in his dissent from a recent Supreme Court decision, “The Constitution abhors classifications based on race because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens and benefits, it demeans us all.” But when the only explanation for the disparity between different groups of Americans is race, does not the Constitution also find this to be abhorrent?The high cost of attending these schools is a real barrier that can be overcome. Does not good social policy require that it be removed? Elite schools would seem to have the resources to provide the missing economic support these students will require. Are they not being aggressive enough in making these resources available? Are they not concerned that their student bodies do not reflect our country? Is it the lack of affirmative action pressure? Or are they and other affirmative action opponents happy that their student bodies look as they currently do?—Martin LevineShare8Tweet18Share4Email30 Shares
Share138Tweet25Share17Email180 Shares“Two Cents Pennies” by Maura TeagueOctober 2, 2017; Pittsburgh Post-GazetteIn July, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania phased out its practice of paying subminimum wages to its workers with disabilities. Today, it will completely phase out its “sheltered workshop” in favor of a workplace where people with and without disabilities work alongside one another.NPQ has previously pointed out that these programs, which under the Federal Labor Standards Act, Section 14(c), allow employers waivers to pay less than minimum wage, are slowly filtering themselves out as attitudes about disabilities change.“Although this sheltered workshop model has been a widely accepted industry practice among service providers for decades, Goodwill recognized a changing landscape in regard to how services should be provided for people with disabilities,” said Michael Smith, the president/CEO of the organization. “Beginning in 2015, Goodwill initiated an important transformation away from the traditional sheltered workshop model.”And with that, the southwest Pennsylvania nonprofit becomes one of the state’s 37 such programs to end the sheltered workshop practice since 2011. This might be big cause for celebration, but there are still at least 100 other subminimum programs still functioning in Pennsylvania alone. Compare this to Maine, where the last such program was closed this past July. Goodwill is one of the biggest users of the waiver, as Lou Altman wrote at that time:Goodwill Industries, a multibillion dollar nonprofit heavyweight in human services that is known for its good deeds and inexpensive clothing and wares, is one of the most visible nonprofit organizations that takes advantage of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Section 14(c), usually referred to simply as “Section 14(c).” The behemoth charity has dozens of locations in the United States, some of which are documented paying their workers with disabilities as little as 22 cents per hour.In 2013, Watchdog.org reported that half of all 165 affiliates of Goodwill used the federal subminimum wage provision to support their employment programs. Today, even as the practice slowly filters out of the field in which it has been embedded, Jennifer Garman, director of government affairs at the advocacy group Disability Rights Pennsylvania, says, “We would expect to see more providers changing their business model in the years to come.”—Ruth McCambridgeShare138Tweet25Share17Email180 Shares
The UK’s Digital Television Group (DTG) has unveiled next-generation features for the Freeview digital-terrestrial platform. The features will be set out in detail in the updated ‘D-Book’, which will be published at the end of March.New features will include an enhanced EPG with the ability to go both backwards and forwards, remote booking allowing viewers to book recordings or set reminders remotely and a clear reference to MHEG-standardised interactivity.The DTG also said it would begin work on new features to enable second-screen and home networking applications in the spring.The latest enhancements build on the current edition of the D-Book, D-Book 7, published in 2011. The second version of the ETSI MHEG standard, published in 2011, brought it in line with D-Book 6.2 and introduced a number of technical solutions from other platforms that have adopted MHEG. The new version of the D-Book, references ETSI directly and contains only clarifications and profiles that are specific to the UK’s requirements.The DTG’s director-general, Richard Lindsay-Davies said: “The Digital TV Group has balanced UK business requirements and high consumer expectations with the increasing demands of globalisation and business complexity to deliver another world leading digital television standard for Freeview.”The DTG has also set up a new accessibility group to build on existing ‘U-book’ specifications to drive enhancements to subtitles, audio description and text-to-speech for connected devices.The DTG’s technology director and editor of the D-Book, Simon Gauntlett, will discuss the enhancements in detail, as well as the D-Book’s adoption of international standards, at the DTG Summit on Friday.
Italian broadcaster Mediaset needs to continue to invest in order to protect its share of the television market, according to analysts.Investment bank Morgan Stanley noted that the broadcaster has been forced to implement its first cost cutting plan in recent history as a result of difficult conditions facing its domestic TV operations.“The rapidly increasing penetration of digital TV allows Italian households to receive more free-to-air channels, This is leading to the fragmentation of audiences. Mediaset needs to keep investing to protect its 55% share,” it wrote in a report.“Mediaset is suffering from its size. Indeed, since it is the dominant TV operator (55% market share) while TV is by far the largest medium in Italy (57% of Italian ad spend), the group is very heavily sensitive to fragmentation, even coming from much smaller operators. Every percentage point of market share lost by Mediaset is equivalent to €40 million i.e. more than 10% of Italian EBIT,” the bank added.
Daniel Reszka has joined Canal Plus Cyfrowy as an advisor to the Polish pay TV operator’s content and programming strategy board.Reszka will be responsible for strengthening and optimising the range of channels on the platform. He will report to Beata Monka, chairman of the board at Canal Plus Cyfrowy.Reszka moves from Viacom International Media Networks Northern Europe, where he served as vice-president of programming.