April 23, 2014

Law mandating autism coverage signed into law (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman addresses news conference with Vicki and Jacob Depenbusch

Gov. Dave Heineman addresses news conference with Vicki and Jacob Depenbusch

A bill signing ceremony at the Capitol became emotional as families of autistic children celebrated a late-legislative session victory.

Gov. Dave Heineman has signed into law LB 254, which requires health insurance policies to cover autism therapy.

Colleen Jankovich of Omaha, the mother of an autistic son, stated she’s pleased the bill won approval in the last days of the legislative session.

“I was not sure it was going to pass with all the stuff that went on,” Jankovich said, growing emotional as she addressed the signing ceremony. “But I’m so grateful to everyone for everything they’ve done, because it means there’s a future in our state for our children and that’s all that matters.”

Vicki Depenbusch of Lincoln says therapy has been a great help to her autistic son, Jacob.

“When a small child has a truck and they roll it; that’s not what our son would do. He’d flip it over and just spin the wheels; line up things. So, he had to be taught how to play.”

Depenbusch says the public schools have been instrumental in helping autistic children become more acclimated socially.

Jacob met Gov. Heineman during his parent teacher conference in 2010. They have developed a friendship and Jacob calls himself the “Governor’s Buddy.” Jacob attended the signing ceremony with his mother and stood next to Heineman.

The law mandates insurance policies provide 25 hours of therapy per week, such as applied behavior analysis. Some policies are exempt due to federal law.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln sponsored LB 254 and acknowledged during the news conference he nearly gave up on the bill during the legislative session.

“This therapy opens doors and what it does for children is it allows them to interact with the world in a way that they wouldn’t have but for this therapy,” according to Coash.

Autism therapy can cost an average of $50,000 a year, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman holds news conference to sign LB 254. [12 min.]

Nebraska’s 5th Lymphomathon set for May 10th

This event is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, get some exercise and raise money for a great cause. Martin Bast is the chairman Nebraska’s 5th annual Lymphomathon 5K walk at Mahoney State Park on May 10th. He says it is a chance for individuals and teams to walk to support those whose lives have been touched by lymphoma.

The money raised provides free patient services and research grants. The past four walks raised $358,000 through participants and sponsors.

Registration starts at 9 a.m. at the park pavilion. The event is free but there is a $5 fee to park. A free picnic will be provided following the walk. Mahoney State Park is just off I-80 at exit 426 between Omaha and Lincoln.

FDA approves new allergy medication

The grass is finally starting to turn green and flowers blooming. Nebraskans are ready to put the winter behind us and start enjoying nice weather but those with allergies typically think twice about heading to the great outdoors. Dr. Jeffrey Stokes is an allergist and immunologist with Alegent-Creighton Health in Omaha and says there is very good news for those who suffer with grass allergies.

Within the past two weeks the Food & Drug Administration approved two tablets for allergies that could be an alternative to the weekly-monthly shots for some patients. An oral medication should be approved in the next couple of weeks for those who suffer with ragweed in late summer – early fall.

Dr. Stokes says a nasal steroid spray that was available by prescription only is now available over the counter to battle allergies but it will take a few days to feel the benefits. He says there are also a number of other over-the-counter medications that battle allergies quite well.

Other tips to make it through the season include keeping windows closed at all times to prevent pollen from entering the home. If you have been outdoors change clothing once inside and shower or at least wash well to remove as much pollen as possible.

Mental illness – prejudice – or just plain mean

A white supremacist in jailed in Kansas accused of killing two people at a Jewish community center and then another person at a retirement community last Sunday. Authorities say this is a hate crime. University of Nebraska Medical Center Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Carl Greiner isn’t commenting on this case specifically but says bigotry isn’t a mental health disorder. He says hate is typically not genetic but more environmental – meaning if you grow up in a home with a lot of prejudice and hatred you will likely display those same characteristics.

The suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross is 73 years old and it is hard to comprehend why someone that age would go on a shooting spree. Dr. Greiner, again stressing he is not commenting on this case specifically, says as people age some have a “bucket list” of things they want to do. He says for some it may be travel but for those with such anger they may have a “hate bucket list” and finally take action.

He says it sometimes is difficult to determine whether someone is mentally ill or mean – and some people are just plain mean.

UNMC study on impact of tobacco advertising

The University of Nebraska Medical Center needs people to take part in a study that looks at the impact of tobacco advertising. Dr. Mohammad Siahpush is an associate dean for research at the College of Public Health and says they are especially interested in learning more about point of sale marketing. The tobacco industry spends a large portion of their $12.5-billion marketing budget on point of sale promotions. The goal of the study is to find out if cigarette or other tobacco advertising increases the craving to smoke, buy cigarettes and lowers the chances of quitting.

This knowledge can also be used by states and local communities as they establish their own local and regional tobacco control policies. They have the authority to regulate tobacco marketing and this study will provide them with evidence and conclusions regarding the impact it has on smokers.

UNMC is seeking 300 Omaha smokers to volunteer for the study. It consists of two telephone surveys six months apart. Those chosen will receive a small reimbursement for their time. Those interested in taking part can call 1-855-600-6960 for more information. `