Haslam: finding a sustainable journalism model ‘vital to the future’

Tennessee’s shrinking journalism industry concerns Gov. Bill Haslam because fewer people get news from local sources and it is scary how little people know, he told a national commission tasked with trying to forge a sustainable media model. Continue reading “Haslam: finding a sustainable journalism model ‘vital to the future’”

LifePoint: ‘Cast of thousands’ needed to tackle problems facing health, hospitals

The number of hospitals trying to treat an older, sicker population with a smaller clinical staff is set to decline, leading hospitals and health systems to spearhead the building of community partnerships to prepare for that era, health care executives said. Continue reading “LifePoint: ‘Cast of thousands’ needed to tackle problems facing health, hospitals”

‘Destiny’ brings indie pharmacy to Napier, alleviating the struggle for a ride to get an Rx

Karen Penley got tired of bumming rides to a pharmacy each month to pick up her prescriptions, so she leapt at the chance to transfer to a pharmacy with a delivery service.

Penley, who lives in the Napier community near downtown, resides in what’s long been a pharmacy desert. She switched to Pruitt’s Discount Pharmacy because it delivered from East Nashville.

Pharmacy deserts — or areas with limited access to an independent or retail pharmacy — closely align with low-income areas defined as food deserts, and have fewer retail choices compared to more well to-do communities, according to researchers.

But a community effort involving Neighborhood Health, the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, and Pruitt’s Discount Pharmacy has opened a small, but critical, pharmacy in a corner of Nashville that needs it.

The initiative got started because Penley spoke with Janet King, a community engagement manager who works in the Napier-Sudekum neighborhoods, about how the MDHA should talk to Shawn Pruitt about opening up.

And, on April 18, Penley got to help cut the ribbon at Napier Clinic at 107 Charles E. Davis Blvd., marking the opening day.

“I was fighting every month to get my medications. I did this for the community,” Penley said, beaming. “All because I mentioned it. I’m very excited.”

Karen Penley, standing in front of the pick-up counter at the new location of Pruitt’s Discount Pharmacy, suggested a city agency reach out to the pharmacy about opening up. She struggled to get to a pharmacy each month and worried about people who are sicker or have small kids. Photo/Holly Fletcher

The clinic was abuzz with energy and pride over the opening of a pharmacy not much larger than walk-in closets in some of the luxury houses being built in other parts of the city.

It’s a step toward making sure neighborhood residents have local access to amenities that are commonplace in other neighborhoods, leaders said.

The Neighborhood Health clinic offers dentistry and mental health services so leasing the space to Pruitt makes it a single destination for a community that is dealing with high rates of high-blood pressure and diabetes, said Mary Lawson, the clinic manager.

Researchers found pharmacy deserts were more common in low-income neighborhoods as well as segregated minority or black neighborhoods compared to areas that were predominantly white or integrated. Neighborhoods in Chicago without easy access to pharmacies increased in number in the early part of 2000s, according to a 2014 article published in Health Affairs.

Medication compliance is integral to treatment or management of chronic disease.

“You’ll never get well if you don’t take the medicines and you can’t get them,” said Pruitt.

Corey Bradley is the new pharmacist at Pruitt’s Discount Pharmacy in Neighborhood Health’s Napier clinic. Photo/Holly Fletcher

Pruitt had wanted to open his initial pharmacy in Napier, but wound up planting his first stake in East Nashville. The Neighborhood Health location is next to the Nashville Public Library – Pruitt Branch — which is named for his family.

“It’s very monumental for the family,” said Pruitt. “Karma and destiny have a way.”

The pharmacy won’t sell controlled substances — because “it’s not a drug desert but it is a pharmacy desert,” said Mary Bufwack, the former CEO of Neighborhood Health who still works on some projects.

»  Haslam: Tennessee’s health ‘a slow turning battleship’

It will sell a variety of common medicines for $4 without insurance. It accepts TennCare, Medicare, workers compensation and commercial insurance. In 2017, 56 percent of the people treated through Neighborhood Health were uninsured. A quarter are covered by TennCare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

There are plans to unfurl a banner that reads “Pharmacy Now Open” on the outside of the building to get the word out that people don’t have to venture too far out of the way to pick up medications. King wanted to make sure it would be in place before a street festival in early May.

Mary Bufwack, L, Karen Penley, Jim Harbison, Brenda Morrow, Freddie O’Connell and Shawn Pruitt, cut the ribbon at the new pharmacy on April 18, 2018. Photo/Holly Fletcher

A neighborhood resident walked in to talk to Corey Bradley, the new neighborhood pharmacist. She takes medicine for asthma and emphysema and nodded with approval when Bradley said her medications would be in stock.

She indicated she’d transfer to Pruitt’s after she finished the rest of the month’s allotment because a short walk will be easier than finding a way to get to the Walgreens at the intersection of Thompson Lane and Nolensville Pike.

The journal authors wrote that improving access to chain pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS, which frequently have retail clinics that offer preventive services “may contribute to improvements” in health.

Brenda Morrow, the chair of Neighborhood Health’s board, wants to go further.

She wants a Neighborhood Health clinic in each public housing complex.

“That’s where the people with the most needs are,” Morrow said. 

Tennessee’s gubernatorial hopefuls received 7 health care questions. Some answered.

What you’ll read about: BirdDog sent seven questions to the Tennessee governor hopefuls to illuminate policy stances on a range of health care topics, including outpatient treatment for substance abuse, balance billing, whether Medicaid expansion would be a priority, and whether the state and/or employers have an obligation to help with access to coverage.
Updated at 6 p.m. on 4.19.2018 to reflect additional responses.

Continue reading “Tennessee’s gubernatorial hopefuls received 7 health care questions. Some answered.”

Education, jobs, saving access to care: Governor candidates pitch strategies for sustaining rural Tennessee

Four of the state’s six leading gubernatorial hopefuls met in Jackson to pitch their strategies for boosting and sustaining life in rural Tennessee.

Two Democrats and two Republicans fielded questions at Lane College about agriculture, infrastructure, education and the economy.

It was the first gubernatorial forum in Jackson in recent memory, said Julie Daniels, spokesperson for the Jackson Chamber of Commerce.

Health care wasn’t a specified topic, but the hot button issue — several small town hospitals have shuttered and closed in parts of West Tennessee — was threaded throughout the 90-minute forum.

» Dig In:  Tennessee’s gubernatorial hopefuls received 7 health care questions. Some answered.

Just over 1.5 million people live in rural counties — a population that’s grown about 350,000 since 1980, per the United States Department of Agriculture. In the same time period, those living in urban counties has increased by 1.67 million.

The candidates in attendance (see list below) talked broadly about how they would increase the chances for opportunity and prosperity in some of the state’s most distressed areas.

  • Democrat Karl Dean, a former Nashville mayor;
  • Democrat House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh;
  • Republican Randy Boyd, former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; and
  • Republican Bill Lee, a Williamson County businessman who is chairman of Lee Company

Neither Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, nor U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who are both running for the Republican nomination were in attendance.

People who live in rural areas are more likely to be older, have less education and have higher rates of chronic disease than peers in metro areas, according to the Sycamore Institute.

The candidates want to tackle a wide variety of problems ranging from teacher retention and jobs to broadband and workforce development through post-secondary education.

A round-up of some issues and thoughts from candidates follows, although not all candidates were asked the same questions.

First priority upon taking office:

Vacant mega-site in West Tennessee:

Boyd: First job is to land a tenant. He defended the mega-site, which Fitzhugh said had lost some of its polish because it’s been vacant for so long, saying he doesn’t “believe the glow has worn off one bit.”

Dean: He’d hire a rural economic advisor — “someone to get up every day and go to bed every night thinking about it.”

Fitzhugh: “If you elect me, I’ll be your rural economic developer.”

Lee: The site wasn’t ready when it was marketed. He wants to approach government projects the same as private sector does, knowing on the front end when the project will start and be completed.


Boyd: Wants to establish a “chief epidemic officer” to tackle the opioid abuse problem and work on getting people who need treatment out of jails and into other places.

Dean: Mentioned broadband frequently, linking it to health care, education, jobs and making sure people want to stay in rural areas.

Fitzhugh: Tennessee needs to be prepared for high speed rail across the state.

Lee: Wants Tennessee to lead in agriculture technology and be a leader in the emerging food industry.

Last question of the night, how do all the disparate topics connect?

Boyd: “I want to make Tennessee a state of opportunity for everybody.” Education and “great quality jobs” for everyone, not leaving rural areas or inner cities behind.

Dean: “I think it’s about the future. It’s about hope… “Whether it’s rural poverty or urban poverty we’re not going to ignore it.” He wants to address all the needs including education, health care, jobs.

Fitzhugh: “It’s people first. My motto has been people matter; progress for all. Tennessee always.” He wants good health care, good education and a good place to live for everyone.

Lee: “They are all connected because they impact every single person in the state.” He has a “desire to change” life for people in urban centers, rural areas and suburbs.

Long lines and a mobile clinic: Tennessee’s dentist shortage reshapes how people get care

Dental students at Meharry Medical College perform free dental care to patients on a newly purchased mobile clinic as part of an oral health day at Meharry Medical College on March 10, 2018. Photo/Holly Fletcher

What you’ll read about: Many parts of Tennessee have a shortage of dentists so free dental care at charity events is a big draw for people who may not have seen a dentist in years.

Meharry Medical College is taking a mobile clinic around to parts of the state to provide care.

While in other states, including Minnesota, legislatures have changed laws allowing a midlevel type of practitioner trained to do basic preventative and restorative work.

Continue reading “Long lines and a mobile clinic: Tennessee’s dentist shortage reshapes how people get care”

The Weekender: how women move about town, soybeans in Tennessee + transcribing words before you verbalize it

What is this? ‘The Weekender’ is a weekly round-up to spotlight what you might have missed on BirdDog and why a few headlines from elsewhere matter for Tennessee.

Continue reading “The Weekender: how women move about town, soybeans in Tennessee + transcribing words before you verbalize it”