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Health Care

Naloxone Helps Stop Heroin Overdoses in Alabama, But Still Not Widely Used

In Jefferson County, heroin abuse rose dramatically in 2014. The county coroner attributed more than 140 deaths to heroin. Law enforcement and the state have been rushing to respond. Last year, the state legislature approved access to a heroin antidote: naloxone, more commonly known as narcan. If used properly, naloxone can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. Public health officials in Alabama are trying raise awareness and get the potentially life-saving drug to the people who need it most.

AL Health Officials: No Heightened Level of Lead

The co-director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama today refuted claims that lead poisoning levels in Dallas and Houston Counties are among the highest in the nation, following reports last week on the national website “There are thousands of children who are being screened in Houston County whose data is […]

Congress Moves To Tackle Heroin, Prescription Drug Epidemic

What is being done to fight heroin and prescription drug abuse in hard-hit states like New Hampshire? What can Congress do to help? Lawmakers tackle the issue.

High Costs of Heroin Addiction Treatment Put Significant Strain on Families

Heroin abuse continues to rise nationally and in Alabama, leaving more people searching for ways to kick addiction. Families ask friends, professionals and scour the Internet looking for the best, and most affordable, treatment for their loved one. But the financial burdens can be crippling, sometimes thousands upon thousands of dollars.

The Low Price and High Cost of Heroin

Heroin overdose deaths are on the rise nationally. In Jefferson County, deaths increased by more than 140 percent in 2014. The numbers were shocking: Heroin caused or contributed to 144 deaths in 2014. Area law enforcement responded by increasing efforts to get traffickers and drugs off the streets, especially in Birmingham.

Small Alabama County Offers Cash Amid Struggle to Stop Tuberculosis Spread

There’s only one health department in Alabama where people can go to be tested for tuberculosis. It’s not in the state’s biggest city: Birmingham or any large city. It’s in Perry County, where an outbreak has so far claimed three lives since last year. And it’s getting worse. The infection rate is 100 times higher than doctors say it should be. Now, health officials are trying to get handle on the disease. But it hasn’t been easy.

Death at Building Trades Towers: Southside Apartment Building’s Troubled Past

The Birmingham Building Trades Towers Southside is still vacant after a fire forced the elderly residents, most of the poor, from their homes in October. Since this incident,'s Amy Yurkanin has uncovered disturbing information about the property, past and current tenants and its elusive owner who lives out of state.

Lawsuit says Blue Cross to Blame for Closure of Mental Healthcare Provider

When Alabama Psychiatric Services closed in February, it sent shockwaves through the state’s mental health community. The company provided mental healthcare to about 28,000 people in locations throughout Alabama and employed more than 250 medical professionals. APS blamed the sudden closure on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, but a lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court in May, and amended last month, offers more details on the specific allegations.

UAB Student, Iraq Vet Hopes to Help Feed Black Belt with Aquaponics

Ramon Jeter was raised by a single mother on the west side of Birmingham. Right out of Ramsay High School he joined the Navy. He eventually served as a field medic in Iraq. Now the married new father is studying public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and he’s been accepted to Clinton […]

Three Ways Alabama’s Medicaid Is Set to Change in 2016

On Wednesday, Governor Robert Bentley’s Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force voted to recommend Medicaid expansion for the state. This comes years after Governor Bentley decided against expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Instead, Bentley and the Alabama legislature agreed to rebuild the state’s Medicaid structure. And the clock is ticking on that plan. Eleven months from now, Alabama's new Medicaid system launches. Details about the overhaul have been fuzzy. But WBHM’s Gigi Douban gives us three ways the new plan will change health care for the one million Alabamians on Medicaid.

In Tennessee, Giving Birth To A Drug-Dependent Baby Can Be A Crime

In the United States, a baby is born dependent on opiates every 30 minutes. In Tennessee, the rate is three times the national average. The drug withdrawal in newborns is called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, which can occur when women take opiates during their pregnancies. In the spring of 2014, Tennessee passed a controversial […]

Agencies Work to Reduce Alabama’s Infant Mortality Rate

Recently, Alabama saw national attention for the high numbers of women it prosecutes for drug abuse during pregnancy. While critics say drug testing new and expectant mothers may be illegal or unconstitutional, most realize why it’s an issue. Alabama’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the nation 49th, right after Mississippi. In 2013, Alabama lost approximately more than 500 infants.

A Different Kind of Medical Drama: Local Doctors Give Voice to Bizarre New “ICD-10” Diagnosis Codes

Have you been struck by a duck? Maybe hurt in a spaceship accident? If so, the new medical coding system that went live across the nation this month has a code that applies to you. The tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases, or “ICD 10,” includes almost seventy thousand codes — roughly five […]

Some Alabama Hospitals may Drug Test New Moms without their Consent

In Alabama, drug abuse by pregnant women is considered child abuse. The state is one of three that allows mothers to be criminally prosecuted fir. But some women appear to have been drug tested by hospitals without their consent and without being informed they could be arrested for a positive result. Those are the findings of an investigation by and ProPublica.

Jefferson County 20/20 Health Plan Aims to Improve Overall Health of Community

It takes 20/20 focus to identify the multitude of factors impacting the health of Jefferson County residents. After months of planning, the County Department of Health has developed a plan and is putting it into action. The county and community organizations are partnering to improve health and quality of life with its Community Matters 20/20 Plan.

Mental Health Commissioner Jim Perdue On State’s Shrinking Mental Health System

State legislators still haven’t figured out how to fix a $200 million budget deficit for the upcoming year – and time is running out. Many in Alabama who work in mental health worry that public services could be on the chopping block again, after years of cuts and the closure of three state psychiatric hospitals. Perhaps most concerned is Alabama’s new Mental Health Commissioner, Jim Perdue, who was sworn in this summer. He says with more budget cuts, mentally ill Alabamians may end up in jail rather then getting the help they need.

A Window On Other Arenas: Sports, Race, And More With UAB Sociologist Adrienne Milner

You don’t have to be a scholar to know that African-Americans are heavily represented in contact sports like football and basketball, but underrepresented in “lifetime sports” like tennis or golf. Some casual observers have come up with relatively simple explanations for that phenomenon. But a University of Alabama at Birmingham sociologist and author who studies […]

For Undocumented Alabamians, Medicaid Cuts Could Make Health Care Even Harder To Find

After more than a week of disagreement in Montgomery, Alabama Senators approved a cut-filled general fund budget on Monday. It includes millions of dollars in cuts to the state’s Medicaid budget. Medicaid provides health care for low income individuals and families. But often poor undocumented immigrants can’t receive care under Medicaid. Advocates for the undocumented say Medicaid cuts will make health care even more difficult to find for this marginalized group.

“Medicaid Cuts Will Affect Everyone” Says UAB Health System CEO

Alabama Senators are approved a cut-filled general fund budget after lawmakers could not agree how to fill a more than $200 million budget hole. The proposed spending plan cuts nearly that much from mental health services, law enforcement, state agencies and Medicaid. State hospitals are especially concerned about cuts to Medicaid. Will Ferniany, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of UAB Health System, the largest academic medical center in Alabama, told WBHM’s Rachel Osier Lindley why Medicaid cuts have him worried.

As Heroin Use Rises, More Families Struggle With Loss And Addiction

Heroin use has exploded in Alabama, and heroin-related deaths more than doubled in Jefferson County last year. That means more and more relatives have to cope with the mistrust, deception and shame that come with addiction. Despite the stigma, parents and families are reaching out for help.

Highlights From Issues and Ales: Concussions and the Price of Playing Football

In Alabama, football is a way of life. But after recent revelations about the dangers of football-related head injuries, players and parents are reconsidering their involvement. How are health concerns changing who plays football? How does it change the culture around football, and what will it mean for the future of the sport? Hear highlights from our Issues and Ales panel discussion, Issues and Ales: Concussions and the Price of Playing Football.

Former Football Players Discuss Rule Changes and Concussions

At WBHM’s Issues and Ales: Concussions and the Price of Playing Football, Bobby Humphrey, former running back for the University of Alabama, the Denver Broncos, and the Miami Dolphins; and Reginald Greene, former offensive tackle for North Alabama and Florence, answers some audience questions that the panelists didn’t get to address in the discussion. Humphrey addressed how […]

Former UAB Quarterback Talks Concussions

At WBHM's Issues and Ales: Concussions and the Price of Playing Football, former UAB quarterback and NFL veteran Kevin Drake answered some audience questions that the panelists didn't get to address in the discussion. Drake is the program director for the Wise Up Initiative, and he says one of the biggest problems with concussions is that too many go under the radar.

In Football Country, Concussions Spark A Parental Dilemma

More and more people are learning about the risks contact sports pose to the brain. So even here in football-loving Alabama, parents and young athletes are wrestling with a serious dilemma, one that could affect them decades later: to play or not to play. To help parents facing that decision, WBHM’s Dan Carsen got some […]

UAB Research Lab Hopes To Define Concussion Biomarkers

There’s been a spike in children under 19 visiting the emergency room with concussions. ERs saw a more than 50 percent increase between 2001 and 2009. Doctors say this could actually be a good thing, resulting in part from improved awareness of what a concussion is. But, perhaps surprisingly, there’s still a lot we don’t know about concussions, like how long they last or what all the long term effects are. A group of doctors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who aim to change this.

New Technology Aims To Measure Concussion Risk In Athletes

Concussions can occur from head injuries while playing any sport where a player receives a blow to the head. And for years, hearing the crack of two helmets colliding or seeing a player crash to the ground headfirst, was the only way to determine if a player might have suffered a concussion. But that’s changing.

As Concussion Awareness Rises, Football Focuses on Safety

Summer is winding down, and for many student athletes, that means one thing: football. Practices are starting across the country. And now more than ever, there’s a focus on safety…especially preventing head injury and concussions. All this week, WBHM explores what this means for football in our state, and highlights homegrown research and scientific developments that could change the game forever.

Carly’s Law Study: Patients On Marijuana Derivative Oil Report Progress

Last year, Alabama was the second state to legalize limited use of marijuana derivate, commonly known as CBD oil. Alabama’s Carly’s Law, is allowing doctors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study and prescribe CBD oil to select patients. CBD oil has only traces or no THC --the active ingredient in marijuana known to produce a high-and is changing the debate surrounding the use of use of marijuana as medicine. UAB’s study officially started this spring.

Ruling Means 130,000 Alabamians Keep Insurance Subsidies

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act means that 130,000 Alabamians will keep subsidies to buy insurance through exchanges.

Uncovering Alabama’s Hidden Hepatitis C Problem

Injection drug use is on the rise around the country, feeding an increase in cases of the blood-borne liver disease Hepatitis C. The Centers for Disease control says that, nationally, Hepatitis C infections rose 150 percent in the last 3 years. But the spread of the disease in Alabama is hard to measure. Doctors and health care officials are trying new ways to determine the true spread of the disease here in Alabama -- doctors like Jim Galbraith, an emergency room physician at UAB.

UAB Program Expands Access to Heroin Overdose Drug

Police and public health leaders in Alabama are trying to deal with a spike in heroin use in recent years. Naloxone -- or narcan -- is a drug that, when administered correctly, can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. A bill passed the Alabama Legislature this week that would allow first responders to give narcan to someone dying from an overdose. But some don't think the bill goes far enough. UAB researchers are working on a crowd-funded study that puts narcan directly in the hands of users' and family and friends.

New Website Informs Ft. McClellan Veterans of Possible Toxic Exposure

For decades Anniston’s now closed Ft. McClellan was home to the Army Chemical School and housed substances including sarin gas and nerve agent. The company Monsanto also released toxic chemicals into the environment around the area. Some veterans say exposure to these substances while at Ft. McClellan caused them an array of health problems and have called for compensation from the federal government. Those activists can now claim a small victory.