July 2019, Volume XXXIII, No 4

CAPSULES

Benton County passes tobacco age ordinance

Tobacco 21, a ClearWay Minnesota initiative to curb tobacco use, gained one more adherent as the Benton County Commissioners voted unanimously to raise the legal age for buying and using tobacco products.

Youth e-cigarette use has increased nearly 50 percent in the past three years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Nearly one in five Minnesota high school students currently use e-cigarettes, according to the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. Approximately 95% of current adult smokers started before they turned 21.

Benton County is the ninth county and 40th community in Minnesota to raise the tobacco sales age to 21. Edina, Saint Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Falcon Heights, Shoreview, Minneapolis, Saint Peter, Richfield, Roseville, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Lauderdale, Hermantown, Brooklyn Center, Mendota Heights, Otter Tail, Pope, Beltrami, Isanti, Olmsted, Wilkin, Stevens and Hennepin counties, Eden Prairie, Waseca, Duluth, North Oaks, Bemidji, Robbinsdale, Albert Lea, Arden Hills, Austin, Little Canada, Lilydale, Mankato, New Brighton and Byron have taken this step.

Commissioner Tony Lourey resigns in DHS shake-up

The commissioner of the Department of Human Services abruptly resigned July 15, after just six months on the job, producing the first major shake-up of the new administration of Gov. Tim Walz.

Tony Lourey, who left the state Senate to become the commissioner of Human Services in January, wrote a letter to Walz saying his resignation would take effect at the end of the day, stunning some members of the Minnesota Legislature. No reason was given.

Lourey’s sudden departure comes after resignations of his two top deputies the previous week. Less than 48 hours after Lourey’s announcement, those deputies—Claire Wilson and Charles Johnson—decided to rescind their resignations.

Gov. Walz announced that Pam Wheelock—most recently chief operating officer at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, with a long résumé of top private and public sector jobs—will take over as acting commissioner. It’s unclear whether she or her permanent replacement will ask the deputy commissioners Claire Wilson and Charles Johnson to stay now that Lourey is out.

Walz, who was inaugurated in January, said during a news conference that Lourey was not fired and left of his own volition. The governor declined to address mounting speculation over Lourey’s departure: “There’s going to be a desire to find more dramas than is there. Those of you who know me know I don’t do drama.”

CentraCare Correctional Care program honored

The CentraCare Correctional Care program in Stearns County has received the Harold E. Hughes–Exceptional Rural Community Award from the National Rural Institute on Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Jail Administrator Mark Maslonkowski accepted the award for Stearns County and Katy Kirchner, Director–Coordinated and Correctional Care, accepted the award on behalf of CentraCare.

The program provides coordinated, cost-effective care to inmates at the jail facilities and in a clinic, upon release.

This innovative correctional-medical partnership includes CentraCare, correctional facilities, local law enforcement, social services, public health, probation, community-based mental health, Veterans Affairs, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness organization.

In the St. Cloud area, this collaborative group coordinates care with the goal of reducing re-offense and making an impact on individuals with mental health concerns.

The CentraCare Correctional Care program has served approximately 1,000 inmates in Benton County and 2,854 inmates in Stearns County this past year. After being released from jail, 164 inmates sought care at CentraCare’s Coordinated Care Clinic. The clinic has expanded its hours and is now open five days per week.

University increases access, options to treat opioid use disorder

University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians) Broadway Family Medicine Clinic is offering patients with opioid use disorder alternative treatment options to the traditional methadone clinic. It will allow patients to decrease their office visits from every day to twice a week and eventually once a month for treatment using buprenorphine or the option of monthly injections of naltrexone.

Providers must go through eight hours of training in order to prescribe buprenorphine, hindering the opportunity for some providers. In addition to providing the treatments on site, the Broadway Clinic is working to increase the number of qualified providers in the region with its family medicine residency program. All 24 residents are being trained to prescribe medication-assisted treatment.

 “With eight to 10 residents graduating every year, that’s eight to 10 physicians beginning their practices that can take this knowledge and skill to the community,” said Family Medicine Physician Kacey Justesen, MD, with the Broadway Family Medicine Clinic.

These efforts from the Broadway clinic will provide more patients with alternative options as more physicians will be qualified to administer the treatments.

Star Tribune names UCare a 2019 Top 150 Workplace

UCare, an independent, nonprofit health plan, has been named one of the Top 150 Workplaces in Minnesota by the Star Tribune.

Produced by the same team that compiles the 28-year-old Star Tribune 100 report of the best-performing public companies in Minnesota, Top Workplaces recognizes the most progressive companies in Minnesota based on employee opinions measuring engagement, organizational health, and satisfaction. The analysis included responses from over 140,000 employees at Minnesota public, private and nonprofit organizations.

UCare was ranked 16 on the large company list, and one of only a handful of companies to be named a Top 150 Workplace all ten years of the program. In 2014 and 2016, UCare also received a special award for Communications from the Star Tribune.

“It’s a real honor to be recognized by our employees and the Star Tribune for our strong workplace culture ten years in a row,” said Mark Traynor, UCare’s President and CEO. “Our people powered brand says it all. UCare is special because of our people—both the people we serve and the people who work at UCare.”

Most PTSD patients using medical cannabis report benefits

A recent survey by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Office of Medical Cannabis found nearly three-quarters of patients using medical cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reported a high level of benefit.

MDH researchers surveyed 751 patients who listed PTSD as a qualifying condition when enrolling in the state’s medical cannabis program during the five months after PTSD became an approved condition for medical cannabis use in Minnesota. Most of the patients surveyed saw benefits, based both on the MDH survey and a validated measure of PTSD severity.

At enrollment, 96% of the PTSD patients included in this survey scored above 33 points on an initial checklist, meeting the threshold for a PTSD diagnosis. Of those who completed the same checklist three months after their first cannabis purchase, 71% saw their scores improve by at least 10 points. According to Dr. Tom Arneson, a research manager with the MDH Office of Medical Cannabis, this is a clinically meaningful improvement.

“This study shows many patients with PTSD enrolled in the program are experiencing substantial benefits,” Arneson said. “It is particularly encouraging to read comments from some patients that their participation in the program has made their engagement with other therapies for PTSD more feasible or more effective.”

In addition, when asked on the survey how much benefit they’ve received from medical cannabis, 76% of responding patients indicated a benefit rating of 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 (no benefit) to 7 (great deal of benefit). Across all responding patients, a small but important proportion of patients indicated little or no benefit: 4% gave a rating of 1, 2 or 3. Also, about one-fifth of patients reported side effects, including a few who reported increased anxiety.

When patients were asked about the most important benefit, 23% indicated anxiety reduction, 16% indicated improved sleep, 13% indicated improved mood and/or emotional regulation, and 12% indicated pain reduction. When asked via a similar survey, health care practitioners saw benefit levels similar to the patient ratings.

MDH added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the program in 2016, and patients with PTSD started receiving medical cannabis Aug. 1, 2017. As of May 23, 2019, there were 2,873 people with PTSD in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program.

Shriners Healthcare for Children breaks ground on new location

CityPlace Medical II—a new facility in Woodbury that will serve as home for Shriners Healthcare for Children—broke ground on July 19. Shriners will lease the first floor of the new two-story, 42,000-square-foot building, a project spearheaded by real estate developer Davis, general contractor Timco Construction, and architecture firm Synergy Architectural Studio.

The planned facility will replace the current 29-year-old Shriners Healthcare building located in Minneapolis. This will be the third facility for Shriners Healthcare for Children in the Twin Cities, having originally opened in 1923. The new clinic space is centered around their transition in late 2018 to an outpatient clinic model versus a full-service hospital.

All surgeries will continue to be performed by Shriners Healthcare for Children–Twin Cities physicians at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota, or at other nearby pediatric hospitals.

Shriners Healthcare for Children’s new facility will allow staff to provide a wide range of services for children with orthopaedic conditions, including clinic services, child life, radiology, rehabilitation, orthotics and prosthetics, and telehealth.

Medicus

Donn Dexter, MD, neurologist with Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, has received the inaugural Donn Dexter Physician Excellence Award from University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation for his comprehensive leadership and clinical work to support organ donation. The program decided earlier this year to create a new physician award to recognize high standards in donation support—while the team was creating the award criteria, Dexter’s work was cited as examples of the gold standard, leading to the decision to name the award in his honor. Dexter earned his medical degree at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Macaran Baird, MD, MS, Professor Emeritus and retired department head in the University of Minnesota department of family medicine and community health, has received the 2018 Shotwell Award from the Twin Cities Medical Society Foundation, for making significant contributions in the field of health care. Baird began his career practicing in the rural community of Wabasha for five years. He launched his academic career in 1985 by serving as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, followed by an appointment as professor and chair of the State University of New York Medical School, Syracuse, department of family medicine. He returned to Minnesota in 1996 to serve as associate medical director for HealthPartners, then moved to Mayo Clinic where he served as medical director of Mayo’s health insurance program and professor of family medicine. He then returned to his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, as professor and head, department of family medicine and community health within the Medical School, where he served from 2002 through his retirement in December 2017. In November 2017, he was called on to serve as the interim chief executive officer of University of Minnesota Physicians. During the 12-month assignment, he was a key leader who helped create new institutional partnerships and strengthened key relationships within and beyond the university group practice. He is now retired.

Nancy Guttormson, MD, a surgeon with Fairview Health Services, has received the 2018 First a Physician Award from the Twin Cities Medical Society. The award is given annually to a member who selflessly gives of their time and energy to improve the health of their patients, has made a positive impact on organized medicine and the medical community’s ability to practice quality medicine, and/or has been instrumental in improving the lives of others in the community. Guttormson’s colleagues at Fairview Ridges Hospital recognize her as a highly skilled head and neck endocrine surgeon and breast surgeon, as well as a respected leader and teacher. She is credited with pioneering the thyroid cancer program and helped establish the Breast Center at Fairview Ridges Hospital, as well as a multidisciplinary tumor board. She earned her medical degree at the University of Minnesota. 

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Donn Dexter, MD, neurologist with Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, has received the inaugural Donn Dexter Physician Excellence Award from University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation for his comprehensive leadership and clinical work to support organ donation. The program decided earlier this year to create a new physician award to recognize high standards in donation support—while the team was creating the award criteria, Dexter’s work was cited as examples of the gold standard, leading to the decision to name the award in his honor. Dexter earned his medical degree at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Macaran Baird, MD, MS, Professor Emeritus and retired department head in the University of Minnesota department of family medicine and community health, has received the 2018 Shotwell Award from the Twin Cities Medical Society Foundation, for making significant contributions in the field of health care. Baird began his career practicing in the rural community of Wabasha for five years. He launched his academic career in 1985 by serving as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, followed by an appointment as professor and chair of the State University of New York Medical School, Syracuse, department of family medicine. He returned to Minnesota in 1996 to serve as associate medical director for HealthPartners, then moved to Mayo Clinic where he served as medical director of Mayo’s health insurance program and professor of family medicine. He then returned to his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, as professor and head, department of family medicine and community health within the Medical School, where he served from 2002 through his retirement in December 2017. In November 2017, he was called on to serve as the interim chief executive officer of University of Minnesota Physicians. During the 12-month assignment, he was a key leader who helped create new institutional partnerships and strengthened key relationships within and beyond the university group practice. He is now retired.

Nancy Guttormson, MD, a surgeon with Fairview Health Services, has received the 2018 First a Physician Award from the Twin Cities Medical Society. The award is given annually to a member who selflessly gives of their time and energy to improve the health of their patients, has made a positive impact on organized medicine and the medical community’s ability to practice quality medicine, and/or has been instrumental in improving the lives of others in the community. Guttormson’s colleagues at Fairview Ridges Hospital recognize her as a highly skilled head and neck endocrine surgeon and breast surgeon, as well as a respected leader and teacher. She is credited with pioneering the thyroid cancer program and helped establish the Breast Center at Fairview Ridges Hospital, as well as a multidisciplinary tumor board. She earned her medical degree at the University of Minnesota.