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Reporter barred from Mississippi mental health task force meetings

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During Mississippi’s mental health task force’s third meeting since Attorney General Jim Hood created it last summer, a security guard stood by the elevators at the Walter Sillers State Office Building in downtown Jackson, asking folks attempting to enter if they were “on the task force.”

That’s because members of the public and press have been barred from attending the gatherings, which take place on the 13th floor — in the press room. The meetings, in which attendees are split into several subcommittees, are designed to address issues within the state’s multi-pronged mental health system.

They met Wednesday for nearly four hours.

MS Pulse: Mississippi has a transparency problem and it could be hurting health

Hood’s office is defending the state in a lawsuit U.S. Department of Justice filed against Mississippi in 2016 for its delivery of mental health services. The state is accused of having too great a reliance on institutional versus community-based care.

Building officials said the public cannot visit the public, taxpayer-funded offices in the Sillers building — including the governor’s office and Medicaid — unless they have an appointment.

The task force is made up of representatives from more than 30 agencies, many that already serve folks with mental illnesses. The group includes health care professionals, judges, law enforcement officers, academics and advocates, as well as lawmakers Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, Sen. Hob Bryan, R-Amory, and Rep. Bryant Clark, D-Pickens.

The attorney general’s office claims the group is not subject to the Open Meetings Act because it is not drafting legislation or policy, only recommendations.

A press release on the task force says it “will also review current legislation as well as needs for additional legislation.”

A similar task force created by Gov. Phil Bryant to study the state’s opioid crisis, an issue that overlaps greatly with mental health, also wrote recommendations. It held meetings open to the public.

The membership of the mental health task force, the only folks authorized to attend meetings, is in flux, said Hood’s spokesperson Margaret Morgan. Morgan said Hood extended an invitation to participate to many groups, which either accepted, declined, or even invited others in the field to join.

Hood, a likely candidate for governor in 2019, asked task force members to decide whether other members of the public or press should be allowed to attend. A majority of respondents said they preferred the meetings be closed, making it impossible for outside review to determine the group’s productivity.

Morgan has provided the Clarion Ledger the contact information for at least three members of the task force who said they’d be willing to talk to reporters. 

One of those members, Biloxi Police Chief Chris De Back, said his involvement on the task force focuses mainly with coordinating efforts between mental health professionals and law enforcement to identify folks in crisis and provide “the necessary services they need before it ends up in a law enforcement capacity.”

In general, De Back said the task force is good for bringing folks of all disciplines together from across the state to learn how each person plays a role — something advocates have pleaded for over the years.

“There are all kinds of services out there. The problem is the services aren’t working together or they don’t know about each other,” De Back said. “By becoming a team, bringing everything together, we can be more efficient and, in the long run, more effective.”

Sen. Bryan said Wednesday he doesn’t understand why the meetings are closed and was willing to discuss what his subcommittee addressed: improvements to the state’s commitment process.

Bryan said the state has made progress with commitments, a process “based on a law that existed a hundred years ago, passed when there wasn’t the knowledge there is now.” His subcommittee is discussing ways to continue moving away from commitments being the default way to get services for someone with a mental illness.

 

Mississippi has a transparency problem and it could be hurting health: MS Pulse

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The American Society of Newspaper Editors started the tradition in 2005 as a way to highlight the importance of government transparency with the media and its citizens.
Dustin Barnes/The Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi has a transparency problem.

For us reporters, it’s mostly aggravating, but in some cases, it comes with severe consequences.

Mike Chance, a 65-year-old patient at the G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, underwent spinal surgery in 2013. He said he left the hospital dependent on a wheelchair, with no explanation for why he lacked feeling in both of his legs. He’s mobile now but still recovering.

Chance said his doctor was the one fired by the VA last year following questions about his treatment of five veterans. Despite this, the doctor has no complaints on his record in Florida, where he’s licensed, and the VA will not say what happened to the patients.

“I think the doctor’s record ought to show what he’s good at and what he’s failed at,” Chance said. “The other vets that don’t know about him and what he is are the ones who’re going to pay for it — if they’re maimed or mutilated because of that doctor.”

Records show Chance complained to the hospital on an official claims form. The doctor is back on staff but prohibited from seeing patients.

The Jackson VA confirmed it believed Chance suffered an adverse outcome and that it was simply forced to reinstate the doctor following a Disciplinary Appeals Board hearing.

VA headquarters actually announced in July efforts to ramp up its transparency and accountability, publishing weekly lists of employee disciplinary actions. The lists don’t give employee names or the reason for discipline.

I know this is technically a federal agency, but the transparency issue isn’t isolated to the VA.

ON WEDNESDAY, I REPORTED that the Mississippi Department of Human Services is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is looking to see if the agency’s consultant manipulated its food stamp eligibility error rate to get federal bonuses. In other words, fraud.

That day, I called Human Services — the spokesman’s cellphone, his office phone and the communication department — seven times to get an explanation. (It would be nice to know how this may have happened and if it resulted in folks losing their benefits.)

No answer; no call back. The spokesman chose which of my emailed questions to answer and ignored the rest.

The next day, a Brookhaven woman contacted the paper, wondering if the investigation has anything to do with her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits being cut off in September.

Carissa Taylor went from getting $237 to feed herself and her two children — 8 and 10 years old — to getting $47 a month. Taylor said Human Services told her she received $2,000 in food stamps improperly and the agency is garnishing her children’s SNAP allotment to pay it back. 

Taylor said her case worker accused her of selling her food stamps because of multiple back-to-back transactions, some purchases for even dollar amounts, on her account.

“I can’t help what the items add up to,” Taylor said. She denied any allegation of fraud.

When she tried to approach Human Services with bank statements showing her purchases, Taylor said the agency told her it had already made a decision on her case.

Now, “I have to find a way to come up with the money to buy groceries,” Taylor said. “This all of a sudden came up this year out of the blue.”

Over one-fifth of Mississippians are food insecure, meaning they may not know where their next meal is coming from. Food insecure children are at risk of adverse health effects like iron-deficiency anemia, acute infection, chronic illness, and developmental and mental health problems.

I called Human Services Friday to inquire about Taylor’s situation and its relation, if any, to the investigation. No answer.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE: Attorney General Jim Hood’s newly created Mental Health Task Force’s meetings are closed to the public.

The Justice Department is suing Mississippi over its delivery of mental health services and you and I can’t attend the meetings designed to address the issue. 

I’m glad Hood’s office is making folks on the task force available for interviews with the press, but my inability to actually watch those discussions take place between stakeholders is unsettling.

More: UMMC leads way in Mississippi for patient transparency, access to physician notes

A 2011 report by McKinsey Co.’s publication Health International poses a possibility: Could transparency be “the most powerful driver of health care improvement?”

“Emerging evidence indicates that transparency can be a powerful driver of accountability — in particular, by holding health regulators to account,” the report reads. “Transparency has the potential to enhance accountability, productivity, and quality of service delivery; increase patients’ involvement in their own care; and drive economic growth.”

Duh, right?

My colleague Geoff Pender has reported extensively on the state’s shoddy transparency website, but accountability goes way beyond access to records.

I’m talking about the basic ability to ask questions, ones that affect the health of all Mississippians, and have them answered.

Until that happens, I’m not sure how much progress can be made.

MS Pulse: What would happen if we trusted each other?: MS Pulse

MS Pulse: Want to help the hungry? Connect, listen, share: MS Pulse

Other health news

In other news, starting with opioids…

HOSPITALS HAVE SUED OPIOID MANUFACTURERS in the first class action lawsuit of its kind filed Thursday in federal court in Mississippi. One of the original attorneys in the state’s tobacco lawsuit in the 1990s, Don Barrett, is representing Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center in the suit. 

The hospital claims it’s had to treat patients for opioid-related conditions like addiction and overdoses that never would have occurred if it weren’t for the pharmaceutical companies.

MEANWHILE, A NEW OPIOID TREATMENT CLINICopened its doors in Jackson Thursday with the aim of helping Mississippians battle addiction.

It’s called the Jackson Comprehensive Treatment Center and it’s located on Lakeland Drive. Folks interested can visit the center’s website, www.jacksonmat.com.

PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS PLEDGED TO DONATE part of his salary — $100,000 — to fight the opioid crisis, according to STAT. The heath magazine calculated that could pay for: 44 auto-injectors of naloxone or 735 doses of naloxone nasal spray, both used to revive someone overdosing, or 100 doses of Vivitrol, used for addiction management, or a year’s worth of methadone treatment for 21 patients.

THE LAUNCH OF AN OPIOID MEDIA CAMPAIGN will be announced Wednesday by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. This is where the state is directing some of the grant funding it’s getting to fight the opioid epidemic. The campaign is based on findings from Gov. Phil Bryant’s Opioid and Heroin Study Task Force.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY THE MENTAL HEALTH TASK FORCE MEETS, in secret, as it has since AG Hood created it this summer.

MISSISSIPPIANS AND ALL AMERICANS ARE GETTING COVERED under the Affordable Care Act at higher rates than last year, according to federal reporting.

By the end of week three, nearly 23,000 Mississippians had signed up for coverage in the ACA, almost 4,400 more than had signed up by week four last year.

This is despite the Trump Administration’s attempts to undermine the program, cutting advertising for the marketplace by 90 percent, as an example.

OVER HALF OF AMERICA’S CHILDREN WILL BE OBESE by the time they’re 35, according to predictions in a new study by the New England Journal of Medicine. Fifty seven percent, to be precise.

Because Mississippi is the third most obese state in the country, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has already estimated two-thirds of adults in the state could be obese by 2030 if current trends continue.

THE SOUTHERN HIV IMPACT FUND, a new initiative by a group of national foundations, targets the epidemic of HIV in Southern states with $2.65 million. The goal is to increase resources across nine Southern states to advance HIV prevention and care and to increase collaboration within the HIV community and other reproductive justice movements.

The fund’s website states:  “The Deep South — with a strong legacy of social justice work focused on racial and gender equality — is well-positioned to address the intersecting barriers that fuel the South’s HIV epidemic, including poverty, inadequate education, persistent HIV stigma, racism, homophobia, and transphobia.”

Mississippi has the 10th highest rate of HIV infection in the country, including Washington D.C., which comes in first. In Mississippi, 14.2 people out of every 100,000 are diagnosed with HIV.

Full statement from the VA regarding Mike Chance:

We have been very clear that VA was forced to reinstate Dr. (Mohamed) Eleraky, who we had previously fired, following an internal Disciplinary Appeals Board (DAB).

It is our duty to inform Veterans if we believe they have been harmed. VA takes responsibility for the actions of its employees, explains what happened and lets Veterans know how to file a claim. Veterans should know that we do this with all patients who we believe had adverse outcomes. We did that in this case.

HIPAA privacy rules prevent us from sharing any information regarding a patient’s care. Any patient who would like to disclose their personal health care records can do so personally. There are processes to obtain and release copies of health care records. 

We are committed to holding our employees accountable if they fail to do their jobs and live up to the VA’s standards.

 

Mississippi’s health is the worst. State leaders don’t seem to notice.

Have Mississippi leaders become so accustomed to bottom national rankings that they don’t care anymore?

Take health rankings, for example. Mississippi has ranked among the bottom three since 1990. You know it’s bad when the Mississippi State Department of Health posts on its website, “Mississippi ranks last, or close to last, in almost every leading health outcome.”

Few state leaders probably spend any time trolling through health stats. Here’s a quick look. The stats are stark.

Consider death rates. Mississippi has the worst rate for infant mortality and ranks in the bottom three in death rates for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, septicemia, flu/pneumonia, kidney disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/nchs/index.htm).

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Consider other health factors. America’s Health Rankings (www.americashealthrankings.org) puts Mississippi 50th in health for seniors and for physical inactivity, 49th in overall health, primary care physicians, and salmonella, 47th in obesity and infectious disease, 46th in chlamydia, and 45th in smoking. The National Center for Health Statistics shows Mississippi ranks worst in low birthweight and births to unmarried mothers.

Consider health insurance. Census data shows Mississippi ranks 46th in the percentage of population with health insurance coverage (www.factfinder.census.gov). About 12 percent have no insurance. Mississippi did not expand Medicaid under Obamacare and has one of the lowest thresholds for adults to qualify for Medicaid medical coverage.

Not an uplifting story.

In the face of these stark facts, what has been the response from our state leaders?

Gov. Phil Bryant has mainly focused on keeping a tight rein on Medicaid spending and eligibility, but he did call for expansion of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s doctor training programs and health care zones. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn have mostly focused on keeping health-related costs “within budgetary means.” They slashed funding for the State Department of Health, cut funding for the state trauma system, cut funding for Medicaid, reduced funding to hospitals for indigent care, and cut funding for the state’s tobacco-free program.

Pretty clear the low health rankings had little impact on budget decisions, huh?

Based on the rhetoric and actions of our state leaders, the solution to our low health rankings, along with our low rankings in education, infrastructure, economy, and opportunity (www.usnews.com), appears to be tax cuts.

However, tax cuts won’t address critical health needs like this one: “The state trauma system is severely underfunded,” Mississippi Hospital Association President Tim Moore told the News Mississippi network. “We know that the state doesn’t have the money to fund additional care there, but it needs to be done, so how do we do that?”

Things are likely to get worse before they get better.

P.S.: You can’t look into health disparities in Mississippi without noticing the significant disparities based on race. For African-Americans, infant mortality rates are 71 percent higher than for whites. Deaths are 24 percent higher for heart disease and 20 percent for cancer. The rate of chlamydia is six times that for whites, low birthweight 90 percnet higher, and obesity 21 percent higher. The rate of uninsured persons is 13 percent higher. As for tax cuts, they mostly benefit non-African-Americans.

Bill Crawford is syndicated columnist from Meridian.

Internet reacts to Arkansas leading Mississippi State after 3 quarters

Arkansas has put up a strong fight against Mississippi State.

To the surprise of some, the Razorbacks entered the fourth quarter with a 21-14 lead in Fayetteville. Arkansas started the day with a disappointing 4-6 record. Mississippi State, meanwhile, began with a 7-3 mark and gained respect for playing Alabama close last Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.

Twitter users had plenty to say about the development. Check out some of the reactions below.

Internet reacts to Arkansas leading Mississippi State after 3 quarters

Arkansas has put up a strong fight against Mississippi State.

To the surprise of some, the Razorbacks entered the fourth quarter with a 21-14 lead in Fayetteville. Arkansas started the day with a disappointing 4-6 record. Mississippi State, meanwhile, began with a 7-3 mark and gained respect for playing Alabama close last Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.

Twitter users had plenty to say about the development. Check out some of the reactions below.

Internet reacts to Mississippi State being tied with Alabama at halftime

Not many teams have given Alabama a close game this season. But that’s what Mississippi State is doing so far.

The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide were tied, 14-14, at halftime on Saturday. If Mississippi State pulls off the upset, it certainly will be moving up from its No. 16 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, as Alabama is currently ranked No. 2.

Mississippi State not only has the game tied at halftime, but it had a 7-0 lead over Alabama in the first quarter.

Here’s a look at what some Bulldogs fans were saying about their team being tied with one of the top teams in the nation at the half:

Internet mocks Mississippi State for trailing UMass in first half

Mississippi State finds itself in a surprising tussle against Massachusetts.

Most expected the Bulldogs to have an easy time against the 2-6 Minutemen on Saturday. However, that hasn’t been the case in the first half in Starkville.

Massachusetts built a 20-13 lead by halftime at Davis Wade Stadium, a surprising development given Mississippi State’s strong play of late. Mississippi State entered with a 6-2 record and on a three-game winning streak.

The internet had a bunch of things to say about the development. Check out a sampling below.

Mississippi Department of Revenue wants to change internet sales tax regulations

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) –

Mississippi’s Department of Revenue is changing internet sales tax regulations. But you should know that not a lot, if anything, is going to change for you online shoppers right now.

The new regulation that takes effect December first comes with some strings attached. The United States Supreme Court said in 1992 that states can’t make out-of-state businesses collect sales tax on online purchases.

PREVIOUS STORY: Mississippi moves to tax internet sales, after long delay

PREVIOUS STORY: Amazon will start collecting Mississippi sales tax for online purchases?

The idea of requiring companies to collect the internet sales tax, even if they don’t have a brick and mortar space in Mississippi, isn’t new. The Department of Revenue points to this law passed in 2009.

“It imposed the tax on those type of taxpayers who have exploited the market in Mississippi,” explained Department of Revenue Spokesperson Kathy Waterbury. “The problem has been enforcement.”

The new regulation defines the law, saying that means companies making $250,000 or more in business in Mississippi. Still, Attorney General Jim Hood knows it will be challenged.

“I’m confident we’ll get sued. I’m willing to defend it to the mat,” noted Hood. “In fact, I’d love to see the Supreme Court have to address this issue.”

Hood has filed briefs in other states’ pending cases in hopes of getting the court to change their mind. He mentions that technology has allowed online shopping has taken on a new meaning since 1992 case.

Governor Bryant also noted that he expects a lawsuit. But he did say it could level the playing field to change the rules.

“I don’t think it’s fair for shops across MS to have to pay taxes and large global network companies not to,” said Bryant. “So, hopefully, the courts will give us some direction.”

State Director of Americans for Prosperity, Russ Latino, sent this statement.

“The MS Department of Revenue’s attempt to create an internet sales tax is blatantly unconstitutional and outside of its authority. The Commissioner has admitted it’s unconstitutional.  The legislature declined to pass an almost identical law this year because it was unconstitutional. In an attempt to gather more money from Mississippians’ pockets, all this rogue agency has done is set up yet another lawsuit that taxpayers will have to defend. We elect legislators to make laws.  DOR shouldn’t thwart the will of the people’s representatives.”

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said this.

“Currently, it is illegal to impose a tax on Internet sales based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which is why I opposed an unconstitutional Internet Sales Tax during this year’s session. There are several states currently in litigation seeking to overturn these decisions and allow sales taxes on purchases made over the Internet. I see no reason for Mississippi to act unless or until either the Supreme Court changes its mind or Congress acts to authorize a sales tax on Internet purchases. “I see no reason for Mississippi to act unless or until either the Supreme Court changes its mind or Congress acts to authorize a sales tax on Internet purchases.”

Still, the Department of Revenue seems to be taking the step in anticipation of that

“The Department of Revenue has written a regulation in the event  that one of these other states gets there first which it looks probable that one of them will,” said Waterbury. “And we’re ready if the court should decide to overturn Quill which we hope that they will.”

What you may not realize, there’s a place on your tax forms each year where you’re asked to report and pay sales tax on any online purchases. That’s why some say this money is already owed to the state.

Copyright 2017 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

Mississippi Department of Revenue wants to change internet sales tax regulations – WDAM

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) –

Mississippi’s Department of Revenue is changing internet sales tax regulations. But you should know that not a lot, if anything, is going to change for you online shoppers right now.

The new regulation that takes effect December first comes with some strings attached. The United States Supreme Court said in 1992 that states can’t make out-of-state businesses collect sales tax on online purchases.

The idea of requiring companies to collect the internet sales tax, even if they don’t have a brick and mortar space in Mississippi, isn’t new. The Department of Revenue points to this law passed in 2009.

“It imposed the tax on those type of taxpayers who have exploited the market in Mississippi,” explained Department of Revenue Spokesperson Kathy Waterbury. “The problem has been enforcement.”

The new regulation defines the law, saying that means companies making $250,000 or more in business in Mississippi. Still, Attorney General Jim Hood knows it will be challenged.

“I’m confident we’ll get sued. I’m willing to defend it to the mat,” noted Hood. “In fact, I’d love to see the Supreme Court have to address this issue.”

Hood has filed briefs in other states’ pending cases in hopes of getting the court to change their mind. He mentions that technology has allowed online shopping has taken on a new meaning since 1992 case.

Governor Bryant also noted that he expects a lawsuit. But he did say it could level the playing field to change the rules.

“I don’t think it’s fair for shops across MS to have to pay taxes and large global network companies not to,” said Bryant. “So, hopefully, the courts will give us some direction.”

State Director of Americans for Prosperity, Russ Latino, sent this statement.

“The MS Department of Revenue’s attempt to create an internet sales tax is blatantly unconstitutional and outside of its authority. The Commissioner has admitted it’s unconstitutional.  The legislature declined to pass an almost identical law this year because it was unconstitutional. In an attempt to gather more money from Mississippians’ pockets, all this rogue agency has done is set up yet another lawsuit that taxpayers will have to defend. We elect legislators to make laws.  DOR shouldn’t thwart the will of the people’s representatives.”

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said this.

“Currently, it is illegal to impose a tax on Internet sales based on U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which is why I opposed an unconstitutional Internet Sales Tax during this year’s session. There are several states currently in litigation seeking to overturn these decisions and allow sales taxes on purchases made over the Internet. I see no reason for Mississippi to act unless or until either the Supreme Court changes its mind or Congress acts to authorize a sales tax on Internet purchases. “I see no reason for Mississippi to act unless or until either the Supreme Court changes its mind or Congress acts to authorize a sales tax on Internet purchases.”

Still, the Department of Revenue seems to be taking the step in anticipation of that

“The Department of Revenue has written a regulation in the event  that one of these other states gets there first which it looks probable that one of them will,” said Waterbury. “And we’re ready if the court should decide to overturn Quill which we hope that they will.”

What you may not realize, there’s a place on your tax forms each year where you’re asked to report and pay sales tax on any online purchases. That’s why some say this money is already owed to the state.

Copyright 2017 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.

Mississippi moves to tax internet sales, after long delay

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Mississippi Moves to Tax Internet Sales, After Long Delay

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s tax collector will require large online sellers to collect taxes on internet sales, more than 10 months after first proposing the rule.

The state Revenue Department filed notice Wednesday that some companies without in-state locations must collect a 7 percent tax on sales beginning Dec. 1

Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson acknowledges the rule directly challenges U.S. Supreme Court decisions forbidding states from requiring tax collections by out-of-state sellers. Mississipi’s rule is likely to spark a lawsuit, and Frierson has said he hopes past decisions will be overturned.

Any company marketing to Mississippi customers and making sales of more than $250,000 a year into the state must collect.

On Feb. 1, Amazon.com started voluntarily collecting taxes on Mississippi sales, which could generate $15 million to $30 million yearly in taxes.

Mississippi Moves to Tax Internet Sales, After Long Delay

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s tax collector will require large online sellers to collect taxes on internet sales, more than 10 months after first proposing the rule.

The state Revenue Department filed notice Wednesday that some companies without in-state locations must collect a 7 percent tax on sales beginning Dec. 1

Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson acknowledges the rule directly challenges U.S. Supreme Court decisions forbidding states from requiring tax collections by out-of-state sellers. Mississipi’s rule is likely to spark a lawsuit, and Frierson has said he hopes past decisions will be overturned.

Any company marketing to Mississippi customers and making sales of more than $250,000 a year into the state must collect.

On Feb. 1, Amazon.com started voluntarily collecting taxes on Mississippi sales, which could generate $15 million to $30 million yearly in taxes.

AT&T Launches Fixed Wireless Internet in Additional Counties in Mississippi to Better Serve Select Rural and …

ATT’s Fixed Wireless Internet service delivers a home internet connection with download speeds of at least 10Mbps. Now customers can download, surf and stream their favorite movies or television shows. The connection comes from a wireless tower to a fixed antenna on customers’ homes or businesses. This is an efficient way to deliver high-quality internet to customers in rural and underserved areas.

Parts of the following 46 counties in Mississippi are now eligible for Fixed Wireless Internet service from ATT:  Adams, Amite, Attala, Benton, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Copiah, Covington, DeSoto, Franklin, George, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Jones, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, Montgomery, Neshoba, Newton, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Pike, Simpson, Smith, Stone, Tate, Walthall, Warren, Wayne, Webster, Wilkinson, Winston, Yalobusha and Yazoo.

ATT has extended Fixed Wireless Internet as part of its FCC Connect America Fund commitment to help rural and underserved areas. ATT plans to reach nearly 133,000 locations with this technology across Mississippi by 2020. As a part of this rollout, ATT plans to reach over 400,000 locations nationwide by the end of 2017, and over 1.1 million locations nationwide by 2020.

“Fixed Wireless Internet service is innovative technology that is helping close the connectivity gap in many rural areas across our state,” said Mayo Flynt, state president of ATT Mississippi. “With more than 2,800 men and women working for ATT who call Mississippi home, we are committed to meeting the demands for more broadband connectivity for residents and businesses in rural areas. That’s why we’re pleased to announce this service expansion to parts of 46 counties in Mississippi.”

In order to determine if Mississippi residents can order the service, they can call toll-free 1-877-990-0041. ATT will continue making community-specific announcements in Mississippi in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. We’ll provide updates about additional availability in parts of Mississippi, and other states, as we expand Fixed Wireless Internet to more locations. For more information on Fixed Wireless Internet from ATT, visit att.com/internet/fixed-wireless.html.  

In addition to Mississippi, ATT has launched Fixed Wireless Internet service in 17 additional states including Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

1Includes 160GB data allowance per month. Req’s installation of ATT outdoor antenna indoor Residential Gateway. $10/50GB of additional data up to a max of $200/mo.

Cautionary Language Regarding Forward Looking Statements:  Information set forth in this news release contains financial estimates and other forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially. A discussion of factors that may affect future results is contained in ATT Inc’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. ATT disclaims any obligation to update or revise statements contained in this news release based on new information or otherwise.

*About ATT

ATT Inc. (NYSE: T) helps millions around the globe connect with leading entertainment, business, mobile and high-speed internet services. We offer the nation’s best data network** and the best global coverage of any U.S. wireless provider. We’re one of the world’s largest providers of pay TV. We have TV customers in the U.S. and 11 Latin American countries. Nearly 3.5 million companies, from small to large businesses around the globe, turn to ATT for our highly secure smart solutions. 

ATT products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of ATT Inc. under the ATT brand and not by ATT Inc. Additional information about ATT products and services is available at about.att.com. Follow our news on Twitter at @ATT, on Facebook at facebook.com/att and on YouTube at youtube.com/att.

© 2017 ATT Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. ATT, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of ATT Intellectual Property and/or ATT affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

**Claim based on the Nielsen Certified Data Network Score. Score includes data reported by wireless consumers in the Nielsen Mobile Insights survey, network measurements from Nielsen Mobile Performance and Nielsen Drive Test Benchmarks for Q4 2016 + Q1 2017 across 121 markets.

 

View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/att-launches-fixed-wireless-internet-in-additional-counties-in-mississippi-to-better-serve-select-rural-and-underserved-areas-300543224.html

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MS Pulse: Financial health is physical health; one Mississippi group is especially sick

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Provine High is now home to the first student-run credit union in Jackson.
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Facing financial hardship is a quick way to become ill, and in Mississippi, black males are especially susceptible. 

Across the state, black boys are a whopping five times more likely to live in poverty than their white counterparts. 

A recent Hope Policy Institute report examines the economic security of Mississippi’s black males, who make up one-sixth of the population, and the findings could shed light on the state’s poor health outcomes.

Black males are more likely than any other demographic group to struggle financially, based on high unemployment rates and lower earnings.

“These individuals are more likely to pursue high-cost, alternative financial services, have trouble paying rent or a mortgage, or make sacrifices to their health and well-being during a financial emergency,” write the report’s authors, Molly Bashay and Corey Wiggins.

Not to mention, “the stress of poverty can also affect the psychological health of individuals and families.”

Black men have a life expectancy in Mississippi of under 67 years, six years shorter than white men.

According to the state Department of Health, Mississippi’s health disparities are worse in communities facing systemic obstacles to health because of race and socio-economic status “and other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.”

Policies to improve economic outcomes for Mississippi’s black males could serve to improve their health, too, not to mention help “advance individual opportunity, family sustainability, community prosperity, and Mississippi’s overall economic competitiveness,” the report states.

Other health news

A PLAN TO EXPAND ITS CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL is coming at an interesting time for the University of Mississippi Medical Center, which saw at least 10 pediatric physicians leave in the last few months. The departures are part of a “mass exodus,” according to at least one former UMMC pediatrician, who expressed frustration over the way the administration handled major budget cuts at the end of last fiscal year.

The hospital, which had to cut $24 million in three months, including to physician pay, is looking to borrow $132 million to finance a $180 million expansion, creating space for private neonatal intensive care rooms and more.

HEALTH INSURANCE IS IN LIMBO for thousands of Mississippians who are waiting to see if subsidies that make their insurance affordable through the federal Health Care Marketplace will be cut or continued this year. 

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump had withdrawn support for a bipartisan deal that would continue the subsidies he cut earlier in October. If the bill is successful in delaying Trump’s cut, premiums will not soar 47 percent in Mississippi, as currently expected.

THE SUGAR-CANCER LINK is becoming clearer, scientist say, after a breakthrough in research on the Warburg effect, which is when tumor cells break down the glucose not seen in normal cells to fuel their growth.

LOOK OUT FOR TRUMP’S “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT” about the national opioid epidemic this coming week, following a Washington Post and “60 Minutes” investigation into the crisis. The revelations led Trump’s drug czar nomination, the congressman from Pennsylvania who authored a bill that took power away from federal agents investigating drug companies, to withdraw his name from consideration for the job.

Read the USA Today editorial on Trump’s response to the epidemic here.

MS Pulse is a weekly column by health reporter Anna Wolfe. Contact her at 601-961-7326 or awolfe@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Mississippi Senator’s Health Woes Narrow Republican Majority

An aide to Mr. Cochran, 79, said on Monday that it was not yet clear when that would be.

Mr. Cochran is the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and a reliable vote for Senate leadership, making his health a source of widespread discussion in Washington, where Republicans fear he could be out of commission for the remainder of the year.

His precise condition has not been made publicly clear.

Late last month, as Senate Republicans’ most recent bid to dismantle the Affordable Care Act was collapsing, President Trump suggested on Twitter that a senator had been hospitalized and was unable to vote on the measure. It was an apparent reference to Mr. Cochran, who wrote in a tweet of his own that he had, in fact, not been hospitalized, but was recovering at home.

The absence — and the possibility that it could stretch on — is particularly concerning to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who has struggled to translate Republican control in Washington into a meaningful legislative victory. Mr. McConnell’s majority was already small, and with a special Senate election scheduled for December in Alabama, it could soon become less predictable. One fewer reliable Republican vote would add to that.

In the meantime, Mr. McConnell needs to lock down the support of Mr. McCain and Mr. Paul for a budget blueprint that could come to a vote on Friday or Saturday. Mr. McCain would like to see greater increases to military spending. Mr. Paul is a fiscal hawk who has shown himself willing to buck his party’s leadership.

Republican leaders expect they can muster the votes. The House passed a budget blueprint this month.

Fears that Mr. Cochran may not recover have also fueled conjecture about political chaos breaking out in Mississippi, a Republican stronghold that has become an open front in the battle between the party’s establishment wing and an emerging nationalist wing, backed by Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist.

Mr. Cochran, an establishment figure best known for the federal money he has secured for his state, was nearly knocked off in a primary challenge in 2014 by Chris McDaniel, a firebrand state senator.

Now Mr. McDaniel is weighing a challenge to the state’s other Republican senator, Roger Wicker, a McConnell ally cut from Mr. Cochran’s mold.

Mr. Cochran’s health could determine whether another seat may soon be up for grabs, placating Mr. McDaniel or perhaps laying the groundwork for another intraparty fight.


Continue reading the main story

Uncertainty in Mississippi before health insurance sign-up

The federal health insurance market for individuals won’t open for enrollment until Nov. 1, but regulators, insurers and those who help Mississippians find coverage are already dealing with waves of uncertainty.

In the latest development, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pulled out of meetings around the state organized by the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. Those meetings were cancelled, with Health Advocacy Program Director Roy Mitchell citing the refusal as the latest evidence of efforts to torpedo the health law by President Donald Trump’s administration.

“This is just clearly sabotage,” Mitchell said. “It’s still the law of the land, but they’re pulling out.”

The move drew national attention, and the department wasn’t shy about it.

“The American people know a bad deal when they see one and many won’t be convinced to sign up for ‘Washington-knows-best’ health coverage that they can’t afford,” department Press Secretary Caitlin Oakley said in a statement. “As Obamacare continues to collapse, HHS is carefully evaluating how we can best serve the American people who continue to be harmed by Obamacare’s failures.”

The state’s two navigator groups, which help people sign up for individual coverage, are dealing with budget cuts, which could hurt their ability to sign up customers during an enrollment period that’s been cut from three months to six weeks. Also, the Trump administration cut its national marketing budget from $100 million to $10 million.

“It’s not just the pre-enrollment meetings,” said Caitlin Rehner, who runs a navigator program at the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Social Work. “It feels like everything that’s happening is to provide us with less support, less resources.”

Rehner said her group’s budget was cut 10 percent, which will reduce travel across 24 south Mississippi counties that its three navigators cover.

The Rev. Michael Minor, whose Hernando-based Oak Hill Baptist Church Ministries has a total of 40 full-time and part-time navigators, won’t say by how much his budget was cut. He said his employees are relying on relationships they have built.

“I think we have trusted voices,” Minor said. “Our navigators have been working since 2013. They’re known in their communities.”

Mitchell warns that less marketing could mean fewer younger, healthier people in the pool, burdening insurers with higher average costs for older, sicker people.

Already, Mississippi is down to only one insurer statewide, with Humana Inc. pulling out after this year. Though most people get federal tax credits and won’t feel the bite, state Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney approved a 47 percent rate increase for that company, St. Louis-based Centene Corp. Chaney said that amount was necessary to cover potential costs should the Trump administration stops paying cost-sharing reductions to insurers, as it has threatened to do.

“I think your major worry needs to be that we keep Centene in the business they’re in,” Chaney said, adding he plans to cut the rate increase to 17 percent if cost-sharing reductions continue.

For the small share of Mississippians who pay the going rate on the marketplace, that means a big jump in monthly premiums. But more than 90 percent of enrollees get tax credits and won’t be hurt. For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation says a 40-year-old nonsmoker who makes $30,000 a year will pay $201 monthly for the second-lowest priced silver plan, actually down from $208 monthly this year.

But even with aid, many Mississippians struggle to pay premiums. Kaiser says 67,000 people were enrolled in February, but Chaney said Centene and Humana tell him only about 29,000 people are currently covered, meaning a majority of people failed at some point to pay premiums.

“If there’s $30 toward health insurance or $30 toward your power bill, people are going to pick the power bill every time,” Rehner said.

But with only one insurer, Rehner and Minor said people who just stopped paying bills instead of formally terminating coverage will be required to make up missed premiums if they try to re-enroll.

“It wasn’t fair to the insurance company for someone to get coverage because they had a certain health situation, then drop it, and then re-enroll,” Minor said.

Making Mississippi healthy: Department receives public health accreditation

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Mississippi’s Department of Health could garner more grants and funding after receiving accreditation from the national Public Health Accreditation Board.

The accreditation comes as a result of creating the first ever State Health Assessment and Improvement Plan

Virtually no state in the country needs a pathway to improving health more than Mississippi, which consistently rates at the bottom on health indicators.

Surrounded by crops, lacking food: A health paradox in the Mississippi Delta

The status, which puts Mississippi among 28 other states with accredited health departments, could present the opportunity for more funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other entities, said State Health Officer Mary Currier.

“This is no small feat,” Currier said at a news conference announcing the award Monday. 

The accreditation process required the state to partner with public health officials, stakeholders and residents across Mississippi to collect data and develop a list of priorities. Those include: creating a culture of health, reducing the rate of chronic disease, improving infant health and increasing educational attainment.

“We had to know what was going on in communities,” Currier said. 

The accreditation also shows Mississippi is “using evidence-based policies and intervention to change health,” Currier said.

UpRoot is the name of the collaborative effort, which includes input from 90 partners, including businesses, nonprofits and state agencies, according to its website.

The national accreditation board awarded the status Sept. 13 to the state Department of Health alongside eight others across the country.

These additions mean that 203 million people in the U.S. are now served by health departments accredited by the national board, according to the board’s news release.

“We congratulate these nine health departments for working to serve their communities in the best possible way,” said accreditation board president and CEO Kaye Bender, PhD, RN. “The accreditation process is a rigorous one that requires a commitment to quality and performance improvement. As we all saw this month with the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, public health has been on the front lines, both before, during, and after the events. A dedication to continuous quality and performance improvement is increasingly important for positioning health departments to prepare for and respond to the nation’s current and emerging public health challenges.”

The following health departments were accredited alongside Mississippi:

  • Allegheny County Health Department. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Arizona Department of Health Services, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Benton County Health Department, Corvallis, Oregon
  • Butte County Public Health Department, Oroville, California
  • Camden County Health Department, Blackwood, New Jersey
  • Lincoln County Health Department, Merrill, Wisconsin
  • Nassau County Department of Health, Mineola, New York
  • North Central Public Health District, The Dalles, Oregon

Contact Anna Wolfe at 601-961-7326 or awolfe@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter.




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