Health

Government agriculture officials will kill up to 5,000 ducks, geese, chickens, pheasants and turkeys due to a bird flu outbreak at a hunting operation Washington's Okanogan county.

Nearly one year after lawmakers and small business owners cast a critical eye at the contractor managing mental health and substance treatment for Idaho's poor, company officials say approval ratings remain high and problems are few.

Executives from Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, told the House Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday that they had a 95 percent satisfaction rating among members who receive behavioral-health services under Medicaid.

That's according to the most recent sample survey the company sent out to their members.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

Three new hot spots of bird flu have been found in wild ducks and domestic birds in Idaho.

A second Oregon case was confirmed last week in a wild duck near Eugene. And a flock of 118 birds was euthanized over the weekend in Port Angeles, Washington.

Government agriculture workers have taken out several large infected backyard flocks -- some with more than 100 birds.

Tyler / Flickr Creative Commons

Officials with Idaho's health insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho, say 83,383 people enrolled for insurance between November 15-December 31. That number includes people who were already enrolled and renewed their coverage, as well as new insurance customers.

Your Health Idaho Executive Director Pat Kelly says the number of people signing on has had its ups and downs in the last two months, but he's pleased overall.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Legalizing marijuana in Idaho has been a complete no-go, even as its neighbors have started licensing pot dispensaries and retail shops.

But now Republican leaders in Idaho say they're willing to consider a very narrow version of a medical marijuana law.

Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said this year lawmakers may explore legalizing a cannabis extract. It’s been found to help some patients with a rare and severe form of epilepsy.

Amy / Flickr Creative Commons

Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream says it is voluntarily recalling nearly a year's worth of ice cream and related products because of possible listeria contamination. 

The recall announced Tuesday covers products made from Jan. 1 until Dec. 15. Products include all flavors and sizes of ice cream, gelato, custard and sorbet, as well as Emerald & Spruce Ice Cream and Top Pot Hand Forged Ice Cream.

The College of Idaho has received a $2.45 million grant spread over five years for biomedical research.

The school in southwest Idaho in a statement Monday says that about a third of the money will be used to investigate the medical properties of sagebrush.

A similar amount will be used to research small molecule inhibitors that could be used to fight pathogenic microorganisms.

The school says the rest of the money will be used for other research projects.

The money comes from the National Institutes of Health's IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare has been awarded a nearly $40 million federal grant to improve health outcomes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human services announced 28 states will share $665 million in state innovation grants.

Idaho’s four-year innovation grant is meant to transition away from a fee-for-service system of health care delivery, to a value-based system.

Idaho's health department lists these seven items as its goals.

hospital, medical, nurse
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

A hospital in North Idaho is marketing itself to Canadian tourists -- medical tourists, that is.

Most of the patients who come into Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls, Idaho, are from the local area -- plus a few from Washington and Montana.

But hospital CEO Rick Rasmussen is thinking big -- Canada big. A little Canadian flag was recently added in the upper right of the hospital’s website.

Medical tourism boom

Mike K / Flickr

Health officials say there are 10 laboratory confirmed cases of mumps in Latah County and another 20 possible cases, a high number for the area.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports the cases include an elementary student as well as several college-aged students.

Mumps first appeared in 2014 on the Palouse in October, when two University of Idaho students were found to have the virus, followed by one Moscow elementary school student and several more UI students.

Public Health is investigating the situation.

Donald Sandquist / Flickr Creative Commons

In a survey released by Republican Sen. Mike Crapo's office a third of more than 1,000 Idaho veterans who responded say they're unhappy with health care through the Veterans Administration.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly a quarter of Idahoans are living with a mental illness. Idaho has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Nearly 22,500 Idahoans receive mental health treatment through Idaho’s Medicaid program. 

It’s the access to services, and a web of service providers, that have proven difficult for folks in need of care.

All week Boise State Public Radio and the Idaho Statesman have been reporting on Idaho's fragmented, underfunded, and threadbare mental health care system.

We've learned that Idaho doesn't have enough psychiatrists or treatment facilities. It doesn't have enough resources for some of the state's poorest residents.

mental health, in crisis
Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Nine-year-old Kendra sits in one of the private rooms on the second floor of Boise’s Downtown public library with her community-based rehabilitation services worker, Jennifer Beason.

Beason slides a workbook to Kendra. It is what she calls her feelings journal. “Do you know what relieved is?” she asked.

Without missing a beat, Kendra rattles off examples of feeling relieved.

mental health, in crisis, shannon guevara
Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

It’s a sunny September afternoon, and the room is packed. It’s like a movie theater before the lights go down — the buzz of nervous energy, nattering about plans for the weekend, someone lingering in the aisle until the very last minute.

But this isn’t the movies. It’s a courtroom — one where the stakes aren’t just “jail” or “no jail” but are, for many of the people in the room, much deeper.

Idaho has 10 special mental-health courts, where adult felons diagnosed with one of four mental illnesses show up each week to talk to a judge.

mental health, in crisis
Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Several people interviewed by the Idaho Statesman and Boise State Public Radio did not want to be named or quoted because of stigma surrounding mental illness. Shawna Ervin of Nampa believed the issue of mental illness in Idaho is important enough to share her story, despite concerns from a family member that doing so could hinder her job search. Shannon Guevara of Nampa did not seek treatment for decades for her bipolar disorder because of stigma around psychiatric disorders.

mental health, in crisis
Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

The voice started when Shawna Ervin was 16 years old, and it hounded her for two years.

It told her to hurt herself.

“It was relentless and wouldn’t stop laughing at me until I burned myself on my face,” she said.

When she finally did burn her face, the laughter turned maniacal. Then it stopped.

Ervin’s mental illness is not rare. She is one of thousands of Idahoans whose disorders can be severe enough to warrant hospitalization.

Philip Mazeikas, mobile crisis, mental health
Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Two years ago, Philip Mazeikas answered the front door of his family home. The course of his life changed when he opened it.

At 24-years-old, Mazeikas found himself in the middle of his first psychotic episode.

He thought he'd been contacted by aliens who were using him in a scheme to control the world. He wasn't eating well. He was drinking his own urine.

mental health, in crisis
Joe Jaszewski | jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com / Idaho Statesman

Philip Mazeikas, now 26-years-old, started noticing signs of his mental illness when he was 18.

"I started thinking there was a prophecy about me rising to power, or being famous," he says. "Things turned worse when I was 23, when I started hearing voices."

By the time Mazeikas was 24, the Boise Police Department had been called to his home more than once. Mazeikas had become unpredictable and volatile. 

"He would sometimes say to us, 'Hey Dad I'm back, I've been gone a while'," Mike Mazeikas recalls.

telephone, buttons, hotline
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some phone numbers to call:

  • Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Idaho's 24-hour crisis line: 2-1-1
  • Medical or public safety emergency: 9-1-1

If someone you know is in emotional crisis and you worry they're in need of help, here are some warning signs to watch for from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and National Institute of Mental Health.

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