Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dr. Bert Eichold: We can't ignore the dangers of synthetic drugs such as spice in our community

Mobile County's Health Officer, Dr. Bernard Eichold, kicks off a news conference
about the dangers of spice at the Drug Education Council on May 18, 2015, in Mobile.

MOBILE, Ala. -- The latest numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health show nearly half of all spice cases in Alabama are in Mobile County.

Public and private health care providers, law enforcement officials and community advocates shared the latest statistics and information about efforts to combat the epidemic in the Mobile community during a news conference held May 18, 2015, at the Drug Education Council. Two local TV stations live-streamed the event for their early-evening news casts.

A variety of groups are working together to put an end to the dangerous trend. Those gathered asked that the media continue to raise awareness and provide accurate information to the community about these incredibly dangerous substances.

In April, the Alabama Department of Public Health noted the uptick in Spice-related ER visits statewide and began officially tracking the numbers. Last week, nearly 1,000 emergency room visits had been recorded during a two-month period statewide.

Last year, the Mobile County Health Department staff tracked Spice-related emergency room visits. Between April 11 and April 23, 2014, Mobile hospitals reported 52 drug-related ER visits. One ER visit resulted in the death of a 60-year-old man who had taken spice, health officials said.

Synthetic drugs are toxic to users and pose serious risks to the public. Users of the synthetic mixtures typically experience symptoms that include rapid heart rate, Nausea and vomiting, agitation, confusion, lethargy, hallucinations, kidney and respiratory problems. Deaths have occurred after people have ingested or smoked the substances.

Young students get glasses through new pilot program with Mobile County Health Department and Family Health's Dr. Kent Daum

Dr. Kent Daum and his staff take a photo with students at the Southwest
Alabama Regional School for the Deaf and Blind in Mobile.
MOBILE, Ala. -- A pilot program between the Mobile County Health Department’s eye care division, led by Dr. Kent Daum, and six public schools in Mobile County is allowing young students to get new glasses – even selecting the frames themselves on the day of their exam.

Students at McDavid-Jones Elementary, the Southwest Alabama Regional School for the Deaf and Blind and Belsaw-Mount Vernon Elementary have already benefitted from the program, according to Robin Crager, a teacher of the hearing impaired at the regional school in Mobile.

The initiative was developed because of the importance of early identification of eye issues in children. At McDavid-Jones Elementary School, 30 children were given complete eye exams. Twenty-four of them -- some 87 percent -- needed glasses, according to Crager. The students were identified by their classroom teachers.

“The smiles on the children’s faces were priceless as they were fitted with their new glasses,” Crager said.

School principals are embracing the opportunity for students, with parent permission, to receive comprehensive vision and eye exams at the school, school officials said.

Dr. Kent Daum, O.D., Ph.D., Optometrist with the MCHD, and his staff, held the first MCHD outreach vision clinic in the fall of 2014 at McDavid-Jones. Known for his volunteer work with children, Dr. Daum previously set up school vision clinics in Chicago while in private practice.

The school clinics are designed to assist parents and students by allowing the care to be integrated into the school day. Parents and guardians don’t have to make a trip to the health department. Each exam requires about an hour of the student’s time. MCHD billed the student’s insurance for the exams. If insurance coverage was not available, other agencies such as Sight Savers America could be contacted for assistance.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Quality of life: Hundreds gathered for Crepe Myrtle Trail Bike Ride in Arlington Park

Photo credit: All photos in this post by MCHD's Edward Franklin.
MOBILE, Ala.. -- Hundreds of local residents, including Mobile County Health Department staff members, gathered Saturday morning at Arlington Park near downtown Mobile for the Crepe Myrtle Trail Bike Ride. The event offered an historic opportunity to ride the east side of Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, on the water side of the runway.

What made the ride special is that it's the only time during the year for bikers to have access to the original Crepe Myrtle Trail. Access is granted and gates are opened for the event that takes place across some privately-owned land.

Fun and educational talks about the Crepe Myrtle Trail and the Mobile Tensaw Delta Estuary were featured during the family-friendly event.

Those who took part in the 12-mile group ride said it's a unique experience that offers beautiful views of Mobile Bay.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Strategies for lowering the teen pregnancy rate discussed at Thursday forum in Mobile

Nearly two dozen community partners gathered Thursday in to talk about
the strides made in lowering the teen pregnancy rate in Mobile County since 2010 and
future steps to take to continue to lower the number of births to teens by 2016.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Teen pregnancy prevention strategies topic of community forum May 14 in Mobile

Members of Think Teen'sYouth Leadership Team pose for a photo in Mobile.

MOBILE, Ala. – The Mobile County Health Department’s ThinkTeen initiative is presenting a community discussion on Thursday, May 14, called “Destination Collaboration” that focuses on celebrating the strides made in lowering the occurrence of teen pregnancies in Mobile County. Goals also will be set to further reduce the number of births to teen mothers in the area, organizers said.
The panel discussion will be from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. May 14, 2015, at Junior League Headquarters on Sage Avenue in Midtown Mobile.

In 2010, 786 teen births occurred in Mobile County. Three years later, in 2013, that number decreased to 667. Now, the Mobile County Health Department's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, ThinkTeen, wants to engage the community in helping to reduce the number of births by 50 percent.

The collaborative discussion will be led by Suzette Brann, Associate Director of Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Advocates for Youth. A panel discussion will follow Brann’s remarks. The panel includes: Dr. Carl Cunningham Jr. of the University of South Alabama; Pebbles King with the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD); Dr. Jackie Gonner of USA; Mechelle Spriggs with Mobile County Public Schools; Dr. Angelia Lewis with MCHD’s Family Health division and a member of the Youth Leadership Team.

Although teen pregnancy rates have declined, Alabama still has one of the highest rates in teen pregnancy in the U.S. and Mobile County has the second highest rate among the three largest counties in Alabama.

Teen pregnancies affect the entire community. In 2010, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for at least $9.4 billion in costs to U.S. taxpayers for increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school drop-out rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.

For more information, visit www.thinkteen.org , @thinkteenmc or call 251.690.7334.

Caring for the sick: Nurses celebrated by Mobile County Health Department and Family Health

MOBILE, Ala. -- The Mobile County Health Department and Family Health, its primary care division, has been celebrating the men and women who work to ensure all patients and clients receive the best care possible at Alabama’s oldest public health agency.

“It takes a very special person to care for others,” said Denise Peele, Medical Staff Coordinator at MCHD. “It’s a selfless profession. Our nurses and medical assistants do it with grace, strength and compassion. I think they are all fabulous!”

Peele, along with assistance from staff members Laura Stuart and Dorothy McBride, distributed more than 110 Nurse’s Week goodie bags to MCHD and Family Health nurses. Stuart also baked cookies in the shape of nurses hats for the bags, while staff at Remington, Fortis and Virginia College graciously donated other items, Peele said.

Banners commemorating the week are now hanging throughout the agency, including a bright sign at the front of the Health Department’s Bayou Street location in downtown Mobile.

National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. These permanent dates help to position National Nurses Week as an established recognition event.  The nursing profession has been supported and promoted by the American Nurses Association (ANA) since 1896. In 2015, MCHD employed approximately 130 nurses and medical assistants.

While nurses have been around much longer, it wasn’t until 1954 that National Nurses Week was observed from October 11 - 16. The year of the observance marked the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s mission to Crimea.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Violent behavior: Mobile area home to nearly half of all spice-related hospital visits since March 15

MOBILE, Ala. -- The Alabama Department of Public Health continues to receive reports of  increases in emergency calls, and state hospitals have reported five deaths and a surge in emergency room visits by patients presenting with symptoms consistent with exposure to synthetic substances commonly referred to as “Spice.”

Between March 15 and May 4, 2015, at least 932 patients who have ingested or smoked these substances have been seen, 196 patients have been hospitalized, and at least five have died, state health officials said Monday. Those hospitalized ranged in age from their early teens through their sixties.

Almost half of all cases -- some 466  -- have been in Public Health Area 11, which is Mobile County, state records show. Those cases occurred at five hospitals. Two Baldwin County hospitals reported an additional 38 spice-related cases during the same time period.

Health care providers statewide have been asked to consider exposure to synthetic cannabinoids as a possibility for patients presenting with severe illness. Certain hospital emergency rooms have been asked to provide weekly reports of numbers and ages of affected patients to the ADPH Epidemiology Division. These reports are collected weekly.

State public health officials said patients are taking the poisonous substances alone and also in combination with other drugs. State surveillance began on April 15, 2015, and prior to that date Alabama hospitals provided approximate date ranges and numbers of patients seen.

Users not only harm themselves but pose a threat to others. “We have been informed about how violent people under the influence of synthetic cannabinoids can be not only posing a danger to themselves but also to those around them,” said Dr. Mary McIntyre, Assistant State Health Officer, in a written release. “Their behavior may be bizarre and violent. If you encounter someone you suspect is under the influence of spice, call 911 at once.”
Symptoms spice users exhibit include the following:
•Severe agitation, hyperactivity and anxiety
•Racing heartbeat and elevated blood pressure
•Muscle spasms, seizures and tremors
•Intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes
Users of synthetic drugs can experience these symptoms or others, with varying intensity. Because there is no control of the types or amount of chemicals contained, users have no way of knowing what they are ingesting. Analyses done in other states have shown not only the presence of synthetic cannabinoids but other chemicals including amphetamines and methamphetamine, cocaine, and Lovamisole (an animal dewormer), creating a toxic combination for users.

According to state health officials, the designer drug substances consist of dried plant material sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids and various mixtures of other unknown chemicals including pesticides and rat poison. The chemical compounds reportedly stimulate the same brain areas affected by marijuana, and they have a high potential for abuse. Users may opt for these drug alternatives because they mistakenly believe the substances are safe. Names for synthetic cannabinoids include Spice, K2, Spice Gold, Sence, Genie, Zohai, Yucatan Fire, Smoke, Black Mamba and Skunk.