Stopping opioid addiction at one key source: The hospital

It may not be rocket science, but a group of surgeons at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine have devised a strategy to curb the nation’s opioid epidemic — starting at their own hospital. Their findings appeared online Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery. Opioid addiction has been deemed a “national emergency.” It’s estimated to have claimed 64,000 lives in 2016 alone. And research shows that post-surgical patients are at an increased risk of addiction because of the medication they receive to help manage pain during recovery. This story originally appeared at Kaiser Health News.

Complaint: Watchdog P.I. committed fraud, used intimidation

A self-proclaimed government watchdog could have his private investigator’s license revoked, depending on what a governing board could decide next month. Another private investigator filed an official complaint with the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) last month against Carlos McMahon that alleged he obtained his private investigator license fraudulently and abused his position as an investigator. McMahon has been in and out of the news since he filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, his former place of employment, in 2010. At that time his name was Carlos Villanueva. He changed his last name to McMahon this June.

GOP tax bill could put giant hole in NM’s budget

The tax bill Congress is considering could blow up New Mexico’s budget—as early as next year. New Mexico Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and House Appropriations and Finance Committee chair Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, sounded the alarm with a letter to members of the congressional delegation and Gov. Susana Martinez. The two wrote the state could lose nearly $600 million in federal funding in the coming year, including over $430 million in federal mineral leasing payments. This is money the federal government pays to states for oil and gas drilling and coal mining on federal lands within their borders. “Loss of FML revenues, which primarily fund public education in New Mexico, would have a devastating impact on the state’s budget and would wipe out the reserves our state has struggled to rebuild,” the two legislators wrote.

Could Democratic victories in ABQ, Las Cruces preview 2018?

The recent Albuquerque and Las Cruces municipal elections, along with other races nationwide, could signal a warning  for Republicans in the 2018 elections. The pendulum looks to be swinging from Republican gains during the Barack Obama years to Democratic gains in response to Donald Trump, according to Brian Sanderoff, the president of the Albuquerque-based Research & Polling, Inc.

“I think the political mood right now benefits Democrats,” he said. “And I think part of that is due to the fact that a Republican is in the White House, has lower approval ratings and all the dynamics that go with that.”

In New Mexico, 2018 will be an important election year with the governor’s race, a U.S. Senate seat, three U.S. congressional districts and a number of  other statewide positions up for grabs. Locally, Tim Keller’s comprehensive victory in Albuquerque for mayor, the flipping of a previously Republican-held Albuquerque city council seat and the progressive sweep of the Las Cruces city council  show how national shifts are reflected in New Mexico politics. “That’s American politics, du jour, that it goes back and forth,” University of New Mexico political science professor Lonna Atkeson said.

Medicaid expansion takes a bite out of medical debt

As the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress look to scale back Medicaid, many voters and state lawmakers across the country are moving to make it bigger. On Nov. 7, Maine voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Advocates are looking to follow suit with ballot measures in Utah, Missouri and Idaho in 2018. Virginia may also have another go at expansion after the Legislature thwarted Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s attempt to expand Medicaid.

Lawmaker seeks records of lobbyist contacts with agriculture official

A House Democrat demanded on Tuesday that a former pesticide lobbyist who was appointed to the Department of Agriculture by the Trump administration release all emails she has exchanged with lobbyists or other representatives from her former industry. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey made the demand in a letter to the official, Rebeckah Adcock, after an investigation by The New York Times and ProPublica revealed that Adcock had met with her former industry allies despite a signed ethics agreement that limited such interactions. Adcock took part in a meeting in May that included a lobbyist for her former employer, the industry trade group CropLife America, according to visitor logs at the Department of Agriculture. Participants in the meeting said that Adcock had discussed the effect of pesticides on water, a topic she previously lobbied on and was supposed to refrain from working on inside government. The Agriculture Department, speaking on Adcock’s behalf, has said her actions did not violate the agreement, citing a 2009 memo by the Office of Government Ethics.

Near-mistrial, heated words in UNMH whistleblower lawsuit trial

A judge nearly threw the case out and a lawyer made a witness cry on the seventh day of trial in a whistleblower lawsuit against the University of New Mexico Hospital. Former UNM medical resident Dr. Cynthia Herald alleges UNMH officials unlawfully dismissed her from the residency program after she reported a colleague raped her. Update: The two sides reached a settlement. 

After almost a full day of routine testimony, the judge came close to declaring a mistrial and had sharp words for Randi McGinn, one of Herald’s lawyers, over her comments to a witness outside the courtroom. Toward the end of the day’s proceedings, Dr. Sally Vender, an anesthesiologist, testified on behalf of UNMH. Vender described her friendship with Herald, which started when they were both first-year medical interns.

UNM lawyers question doctor’s credibility in whistleblower lawsuit

University of New Mexico lawyers questioned the former resident  who brought a lawsuit against the medical school on Monday. UNM’s lawyers spent the day trying to poke holes in the testimony of Dr. Cynthia Herald, who alleges the medical school kicked her out of the residency program after she told administrators a male colleague raped her. Last week, Herald testified for hours about the events and UNMH’s response. Patricia Williams, a lawyer for UNMH, asked Herald what steps she took to preserve forensic evidence after the alleged rape. “Did you retain your underwear from that night?” Williams asked.

Woman who filed whistleblower lawsuit against UNMH testifies in court

The former University of New Mexico medical resident who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university testified Thursday, the fourth day of the jury trial in Second Judicial District Court. Dr. Cynthia Herald, who accused medical school administrators of unlawfully firing her after she told them a male colleague raped her, gave her account of both the alleged rape and the aftermath. Herald told the jury that after the alleged attack she went home and took a shower before she began “soaking and crying for about an hour.”

“I just wanted to wash everything off of me down the drain,” Herald said. Herald also explained to the jury why she didn’t file a police report against the male doctor. “Instead of being the doctor who was smart or the doctor who was competent, I was always going to be known as the doctor who was raped,” Herald said through tears.

AG announces $18.5 million settlement in taxes owed by Presbyterian

The state of New Mexico and Presbyterian Healthcare Services agreed on a settlement to recoup millions in previously-unpaid Medicaid premium taxes. Attorney General Hector Balderas announced Monday his office came to the agreement with the healthcare company to repay $18.5 million to the state.  “I appreciate Presbyterian’s willingness to do the right thing and pay what they owe through this speedy resolution,” Balderas said. “Given the corporation’s ambitious future plans, I am optimistic Presbyterian won’t repeat its past missteps. However, I will continue to monitor Presbyterian’s compliance with the findings contained in the Examination Resources audit.”

His office said the $18.5 million settlement came as part of an agreement to pay back the $14.6 million in unpaid premium taxes.