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New York resists trend of offering online-only hunter education

Apr 24, 2017 — Bill Stevens started day two of his hunter education class on a cold, Sunday morning in January at the Savona Rod Gun Club in Steuben County. He played a video, then reviewed the tenets of what a responsible hunter would do in the field.

“Would they treat every firearm as it’s loaded?” Yes, said the students. “Are you sure?” Yes. “Would they obey game laws?” Yes. “Would they use land without asking permission?” No.

If you want to get your hunting license in New York, you have to take an in-person class like this one. But some other states let you do it all online. It’s a trend hunting teachers in New York are hoping to stave off.

A January hunter education class at the Savona Rod  Gun Club in Bath, NY. Photo: Bret Jaspers / WSKG News

The nation’s oldest hunter education program

Stevens doesn’t have to teach a two-day class; he wants to. He’s a volunteer, like all of New York hunter ed teachers. There are about 2,378 volunteer instructors, including apprentices.

Many of the students are like Kassady Cerny of Ithaca. “I have absolutely no knowledge on the subject whatsoever,” she said.

The state created the hunter ed program in the late 1940s after a lot of World War II veterans started hunting, and getting accidentally shot. The classes have been mandatory for new hunters ever since.

At the moment, instructors design their own classes under state guidelines. Stevens’ class is part field training, part video and part lecture. It also has homework — as of last year, that’s a state requirement. Students must complete homework before coming to class. They can do it on paper or online.

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The move to online-only hunter education

Stevens doesn’t like mandatory homework because he has to turn people away if they don’t do it. He also worries the homework change foreshadows a shift to an all-online offering.

“Not fact, but also rumor, is that eventually they’ll get rid of the volunteers and do it online,” he said. “Which is what some of us are very worried about.”

Seventeen states now offer online-only hunting classes, although age and other requirements vary a lot. Every state does still offer a traditional in-person class.

John Organ with the U.S. Geological Survey said online-only classes make training more accessible.

“In many states there’s a backlog of students that want to get trained, and there’s just not enough spaces,” Organ said.

New York, like other states, gets a rush of people wanting to take a hunter training class every fall, a few weeks before deer hunting season, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. A lot of that is people waiting until the last minute to fulfill their requirements for a hunting license. An online-only option would help alleviate the logjam.

But the DEC said it’s not considering online-only classes.

DEC hunter education officials like Frank Phillips compare hunter training to driver ed: “Would you want to allow someone to take an online driving test and then get their driver’s license without seeing them drive a vehicle? I don’t think it’s any different with hunting.”

However, Brad Heidel, Executive Director of the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), thinks online-only works just fine. Young people today are busy, he said, and they learn differently.

“Kids these days, they learn not by hands-on, but they learn by interaction with their computers, with their telephones,” said Heidel.

Lack of data

Whatever your philosophy on education, it’s a decision states want to make carefully. Various states are asking Heidel for reliable data on what kind of class works best. The IHEA has asked Matt Dunfee with the Wildlife Management Institute to design a study.

States are getting pressure to change, according to Dunfee.

“State fish and wildlife agencies are being challenged more and more to adopt new technologies and new ways of doing things,” he said. “What hasn’t caught up with those new technologies and new ideas is data to inform those decisions.”

The study should be out by the end of the year.

Volunteer hunter education instructor Bill Stevens' with his son Grant (left) who is an apprentice instructor. Photo: Bret Jaspers / WSKG News

The calming ritual lesson

Visiting Bill Stevens’ class, it is hard to see how a student would learn some of the lessons through a computer.

Here’s an example. Stevens is portraying a hunter who’s prepping to gut the first deer he or she has ever killed.

“I’m gonna be juiced, man, like every football player, baseball player. I’m gonna be at the goalpost.” (Stevens is dancing on his toes here.) “‘Man, I got a deer! Woo-hoo!’ And the last thing I wanna be doing is handling a very, very sharp knife while I’m all pumped up.”

Have a calming ritual, he told them. Good advice, right? But we all get great advice from teachers. The question is, do we retain it at the right moment?

For now, New York is sticking with in-person hunter training – but you have to do your homework.

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Get free legal, money advice Tuesday

Do you have a legal question you need answered?

Would you like to find out more about your rights when someone is trying to collect a debt?

Are you interested in learning how to better manage your money?

Do you want to meet me and some of the IndyStar Call for Action volunteers?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you should come to a special Money Smart Week program tomorrow at the John H. Boner Neighborhood Center, 2236 East 10th St.

More:IndyStar Call for Action savings top $500,000

More:Indiana’s lost-and-found box overflowing with cash, jewels

IndyStar Investigates:A 20-year toll: 368 gymnasts allege sexual exploitation

IndyStar Call for Action is a co-sponsor of the event featuring free, one-on-one attorney consultations and educational presentations on topics ranging from how to spot predatory loans to knowing your rights as a debtor. The program runs from 4:15-8 p.m. Other sponsors are the Indiana chapter of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the Consumer Advocacy Project, a partnership between Indiana Legal Services, the Heartland Pro Bono Council, the Boner centers, and Hawthorne Community Center.

IndyStar Call for Action’s participation in this unique program is an extension of our work providing Hoosiers help resolving consumer disputes. The philosophy is pretty simple: It’s better — and often easier — to head off trouble with education, rather than try to resolve a problem that has already happened.

We already deal with plenty of the latter in calls to the free IndyStar Call for Action hotline. Since we launched the project in January 2011, our volunteers have helped callers save or recover more than $553,000. To see if we can help you, too, call (317) 444-6800 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, or submit an online request any time at

One thing our volunteers cannot do is provide legal advice That’s why we’ve been partnering for the last year with attorneys from the Indiana NACA chapter to conduct legal call-in programs. This will be our first shot at face-to-face consultations.

Kimberly Thomas, a financial coach at the Boner centers, said many clients she works with seem to be more comfortable speaking to a live person.

“Whether it’s a skill set or preference, some people appreciate the ‘human touch’ in progressing through to the next step,” she explained. “If it were not for this event, some may have questions that they would allow to go unaddressed because they are not inclined to leave a telephone message or reach out via email — not to mention trying to figure out who to contact in the first place.”

She and others involved in this free walk-in project hope it eliminates some of those frustrating barriers, including the reality that there is far more demand for free and low-cost legal assistance than what is available in Indiana.

“This event brings critical resources to the neighborhood under one roof to help individuals resolve consumer legal matters,” added Carla James of the Boner centers.

Here’s the full schedule:

4:15-7:30 p.m. — Sign in to meet with attorney.

4:45 p.m. — “What is IndyStar Call for Action?” — Tim Evans, IndyStar.

5 p.m. — Attorney consultations begin.

5 p.m. — “Your Rights as a Debtor” — Steve Hofer, Consumer Law Office of Steve Hofer.

5:30 p.m. — “What Can I Do about Unwanted Calls?” — Ali Saeed, Saeed Little, LLP.

6 p.m. —“Expungement in Indiana” — Jack Kenney, Indiana Public Defender Council.

6:30 p.m. — “Child Support Family Financial Stability” — Matthew Dinn, Popcheff Dinn, LLP.

7 p.m. — “Tips to Spot Predatory Loans” — Crystal Brooks, PNC Bank, and Crystal Francis, Indiana Legal Services.

8 p.m. — Event concludes.

Here’s a little reward for reading this entire column: We’ll be having light snacks, too.

Tim Evans is IndyStar’s consumer advocate. Contact him at (317) 444-6204 or Follow him on Twitter: @starwatchtim.

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I Was a Homeless Student and Invisible


Educators need better training to help homeless students

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In the middle of my freshman year of high school, I started my fourth episode of homelessness. My parents, five brothers, and I migrated back and forth from relatives’ living rooms, motels, and family shelters for more than two years. By the time I graduated from high school, I had moved a total of 14 times.

Data from the research nonprofit Child Trends show significant growth in youth homelessness in the last decade. Since my own high school graduation in 2006, youth homelessness in the United States has increased from approximately 815,000 youths nationwide to more than 1.3 million youths in the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year for which data are available.

Experiencing homelessness as a child has a direct effect on academic achievement. In 2014, America’s Promise Alliance reported that youths affected by homelessness are 87 percent more likely to drop out of high school and, as a result, are more likely to become homeless as adults. Additionally, homeless youths have higher levels of physical trauma and social isolation when compared with their housed peers, including those living in poverty.

Youth homelessness is a devastating epidemic with negative outcomes for students across all racial groups. However, African-American students are disproportionately affected. African-American children represent 48 percent of all children living in homeless shelters, even though African-Americans make up only 14 percent of American families with children, according to Child Trends. Concurrently, a 2013 study of homeless youths in San Francisco from the California Homeless Youth Project found that homeless African-American youths are less likely to self-identify as homeless compared with their white peers, and thus fail to receive aid and services to which they are entitled.

Although my parents notified my school district of when we became homeless, I was unaware that anyone knew of our circumstances. I never spoke to any teachers, counselors, or administrators about my living conditions, and no one ever asked me about them. Keeping such a secret was extremely difficult, but fear of being reported to the Department of Social Services kept me silent. I spent more energy lying about where I lived than studying, and as a result my grades dropped dramatically.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, federal legislation enacted in 1987, defines as “homeless” any child who doesn’t have a “fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” That includes children from families who are doubling up in homes with relatives or other adults, as well as those living in shelters, motels, or cars. The McKinney-Vento Act established that homeless students have the right to transportation, free lunch, school supplies, tutoring, and school choice. In addition, students who are designated as homeless have the option of continuing to attend their current school or enrolling in the school closest to where they are currently residing.

In 2015, the McKinney-Vento Act was reauthorized under the Every Student Succeed Act and now requires school districts to increase outreach efforts for identifying homeless students and informing families of their legal rights. According to Education Department guidance on ESSA issued in June 2016, the amendment to the McKinney-Vento Act also requires school districts to disaggregate their student-achievement data and graduation rates to explicitly show the academic progress of their homeless youths. The improvements to McKinney-Vento are significant, but they are in vain if key stakeholders continue to be in the dark.

As a student experiencing homelessness, I wanted my teachers to attend to my social and emotional needs. But now, as a former high school and special education teacher myself, I understand why my teachers did not respond to my needs: They did not know. As a teacher, I never received training on the McKinney-Vento Act, nor was I informed that there were homeless youths at my school. The McKinney-Vento Act requires state coordinators to train district liaisons on identifying homeless students and implementing the policy. Each district liaison is then charged with disseminating the information to his or her respective school leaders and supporting the homeless youths identified. Teachers are not mandated to learn about the McKinney-Vento Act. Thus, many teachers are often uninformed about homeless populations at their school.

An overall lack of awareness of homelessness prevents homeless students from receiving support or even being identified. Principals and teachers should consider the following when creating a network of support for youths experiencing homelessness:

Schoolwide training. The entire faculty should be trained and versed on the McKinney-Vento Act. Faculty members are in the best position to identify homeless youths and refer them to the district liaison for additional support.

Student awareness. All students should know the McKinney-Vento Act’s definition of homelessness and that the rights of homeless students are guaranteed.

Meaningful relationships. Teachers should foster meaningful relationships with students to affirm that students’ well-being matters.

More Opinion

Targeting the most vulnerable populations. African-American youths are overrepresented in the foster-care system, the special education system, and the penal system. African-Americans’ distrust for institutions is warranted, and it needs to be considered when identifying and supporting African-American youths experiencing homelessness. The school is responsible forestablishing trust with both the student and his or her guardians.

While housing insecurity is a societal issue well beyond the scope of public schools, educators have an obligation to ensure that all students receive a high-quality education. The first step to providing educational equity for homeless students is to identify who they are, what they need, and what resources can be made available to them.

Earl J. Edwards is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a former classroom teacher.

Vol. 36, Issue 28, Pages 22-23

Published in Print: April 18, 2017, as I Was Homeless And Invisible

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Route 66 adult coloring book features Amarillo-area attractions

Jo Ann Kargus has spent the last few months with a classic song stuck in her head.

“(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” has been running through her mind on repeat, and for good reason: The St. Louis artist has been illustrating an adult coloring book themed around the Main Street of America titled “Route 66 Splendor: An Adult Coloring Book.”

“My publisher gave me lots of freedom for what the images were. I kind of felt like I was my own art director because I could come up with what I wanted to draw,” she said. “I decided I’d break it down from state to state. I always think of it as ‘Chicago to LA.’ I’d always sing that song, ‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,’ while I was drawing. I had Nat King Cole’s greatest hits on in the background.”

As you might expect, the Texas Panhandle is featured prominently in the book.

The 104-page book includes scenes from Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch, along with each state along the route, including some of the most iconic landmarks like Devil’s Rope Museum, Madonna of the Trail, Chain of Rocks Bridge and Hackberry General Store.

Kargus worked with Reedy Press, a St. Louis-based publisher, to create the book of 50 detailed black and white line drawings of historical landmarks and cultural icons along Route 66 in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Each state has a title page with the shape of the state filled with a collage of thumbnail sketches of a few of the state’s iconic images. Behind each title page are a handful of full-page illustrations of different landmarks. For Texas, she included U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Phillips 66 Gas Station in McLean, Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Britten Leaning Water Tower in Groom, and Cadillac Ranch.

With 32 years of doing architectural renderings under her belt, Kargus was the perfect candidate to create depictions of the Mother Road.

“It’s very detailed and realistic, but I kind of simplified my style I normally do for architect and made my drawings realistic and fun to color,” she said.

Kargus has yet to travel the entire route and relied on Google Maps images of each destination to get a realistic feel of the locations. She said she went “old school,” drawing each image first with pencil and eraser, then a final draft in pen on white paper before scanning it into a computer and submitting to the publisher.

Though Kargus calls her book a coloring book, she describes it more as a “book of drawings people can choose to color or not.” The book can be used as a coloring book, she said, or simply a fun book of black and white line drawings. Each page is perforated so users can color pages and tear them out to either share or frame.

It’s Kargus’ second coloring book for Reedy Press. Her first, “St. Louis Splendor: An Adult Coloring Book,” released September 2016, sold 3,000 copies in just seven weeks. The book was popular enough for Reedy Press to order a second printing of 5,000 copies. Kargus said that second printing is nearly sold out, too.

Reedy Press’ Lanna Demers said coloring books are a great way for adults to be creative without needing to be a fine artist. It seems many are attracted to the hobby, she said, because it’s a good way to unwind and destress.

Plus, it’s just fun.

“Adults get the chance to be creative and create a beautiful piece of art in an already drawn-out format,” she said. “It allows adults to be creative. It gives adults an artistic outlet. I think it is important to have a creative outlet, especially for those of us — like myself — who are not artistic. It allows you to create something beautiful, something you can be proud of.”

Kargus agrees that coloring books geared towards adults are a great way for adults to engage in the creative process in a non-intimidating way. The hobby is appropriate for any skill level, and colorers can make their images as simple or complicated as they’d like.

“In the past, most coloring books were very simple and really oriented — and simply drawn — for little kids. I’ve seen books based on Disney movies and ‘Game of Thrones,’ and they’re drawn beautifully,” Kargus said. “You can pick a book on any topic you’re already interested in, and you can just sit down and do it anywhere.”

The adult coloring book trend also has created another venue for artists to make and sell work, Kargus said, as well as an affordable way for consumers to support artists.

Kargus said her ultimate hope is someone would bring her Route 66 coloring book along with them on the route, coloring the images as they visit the real-life destinations and take their own pictures.

“I look at adult coloring books as black and white drawings and then I think how would I color it? But it’s art in and of itself,” she said.

Kargus is currently working on a third coloring book — with a theme she won’t yet disclose — and hopes to someday create a second Route 66-themed book using the imagery that didn’t make it into her first book.

“Listen, I’m all ready to draw another one,” she said, laughing. “This is what I love to do. I love being able to make a living as an artist. This is a good fit for my skills.”

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Hepatitis C hitting young adult New Yorkers as well as baby …

  • Whitney Young Health outreach specialist Hezekiah Morris, left, goes over medical information during a program at the Capital City Rescue Mission Tuesday April 18, 2017 in Albany, NY.  (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Photo: John Carl D'Annibale / 20040292A



You won’t see a face like Kaysie’s in public service announcements about hepatitis C.

She’s not a baby boomer, the high-risk group that TV and magazine ads urge to get tested for the potentially life-threatening liver disease. She’s a 34-year-old single mother from Cohoes who works two jobs and takes care of an 8-month-old baby.

But while her smooth skin and long, light-brown hair may not fit the image of a “typical” hepatitis C patient, it should. She’s one of a new and growing group, young adults age 20-40, whose rates of hep C have outpaced those of people in their mid-50s to early 70s. And while among baby boomers statewide hepatitis C rates are twice as high for men as for women, the gender gap is much narrower for adults in Kaysie’s age group.

More young adults infected, more women infected. And there’s also an increase in hepatitis C in suburban and rural areas, according to the state Health Department.

If it sounds familiar, it’s because hepatitis C rates are rising among the same groups that have seen spikes in drug overdoses during the last decade, amid an epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse. Like many others, including a whole bunch of boomers with hep C, Kaysie contracted the illness by sharing a needle to inject drugs.

Due to their sheer numbers, there are still more boomers with hepatitis C than young adults. But the higher rates of illness among the younger group is creating a second wave of contagion three years after the state took aim at infection among baby boomers by requiring doctors to ask anyone born between 1945 and 1965 if they wanted a test to check for the virus.

Statewide, excluding New York City, cases of hepatitis C rose to 16,169 in 2014, from 13,424 the year before, after eight years of declines. (The Health Department attributes some of the increase to finding more people through mandated screening.) New York City used to be the epicenter of hepatitis C cases, but more than half of newly reported chronic cases in 2014 were elsewhere in the state. National data show deaths related to hepatitis C are on the rise, too, reaching an all-time high of nearly 20,000 in 2014.

More than 100 treatment and advocacy groups, including VOCAL-NY, the Alliance for Positive Health and Catholic Charities Care Coordination Services, presented the state with a consensus statement in February, urging officials to take on the illness in the way it has approached AIDS with the “End the Epidemic” campaign that aims to bring the number of new cases of HIV to 750 per year by 2020.

“We have a test. We just need to ensure everyone takes it. We have a cure. Everyone should be given it. We know how to stop new infections, driven mostly from injecting drug use,” said Jeremy Saunders, co-director of VOCAL-NY. “We have all the tools to end hepatitis C, we just need the resources and political will to do it.”

At a state conference that month, New York health officials committed to make the illness rare.

There are reasons to believe that aim can be achieved: In recent years, new, easy treatments are curing more than 90 percent of patients, a far cry from the best options of the past, which were only effective for about half of patients, had to be given by injection and came with dreadful side effects. And New York health officials have established a solid track record in how to reduce infection among the highest-risk patients — injection drug users — in the battle against HIV and AIDS.

But there are also big challenges: Perhaps half of the estimated 200,000 infected New Yorkers don’t know they have hep C and those that do don’t always seek treatment due to complicated lives or lack of confidence in the cures. The virus lives longer outside the body than HIV, so its spread is tougher to curb. The medications are costly — ranging from about $56,000-$90,000 for a full treatment, according to health providers. And the drugs only work if you take them correctly, something that can be an issue for patients struggling with drug addiction or in the early stages of recovery.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can cause chronic infection of the liver and, in the worst cases, liver failure.

It spreads from one person to another through blood, putting IV drug users who share needles or other supplies in the highest risk group for contracting the virus. Men who have sex with men are another high-risk group, but not close to injection drug users. Anyone who received a blood transfusion before 1992, when hep C tests became available, is also at risk.

But any blood-to-blood transmission will do, and up to 40 percent of patients have no obvious risk factors, said Dr. Chris Murphy of Ellis Family Health Center in Schenectady. John Thompson, a 62-year-old from Cobleskill, believes he got the virus from sharing straws to snort cocaine years ago. A 64-year-old retired nurse who lived in Albany until recently, and asked that her name be withheld, isn’t sure whether she got it from a needle-stick injury or from a man she was married to decades before either of them had a diagnosis.

The virus starts out in an acute stage, and 20 to 25 percent of patients clear it on their own, local experts said. When the body’s own immune system does not get rid of acute hep C, the illness becomes chronic, often progressing at a snail’s pace. Patients may live without symptoms for years, or the symptoms may develop so slowly that people don’t realize that their feeling worn out or confused is the result of a creeping infection, said Dr. Peter Ells of Albany Medical Center.

“You kind of get used to the fatigue, it’s just part of life,” said Ells’ patient, David Steele, 67, of Malta.

A hemophiliac, Steele contracted the infection from blood he received before 1992. But over time, it wreaked havoc on his liver, causing cirrhosis and then cancer. He is now on a list awaiting a liver transplant.

Until recently, the standard treatment for hepatitis C, interferon, was both difficult to endure and often ineffective. Side effects included flu-like symptoms — fever, chills, aches, poor appetite. And after all that, interferon worked for only about half the people who took it.

So lots of patients like Steele just watched the damage accumulate over time.

But the outlook for patients changed radically in 2013 and 2014, when two new drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni, hit the market. They were pills with manageable side effects that cured more than 90 percent of the people who took them. Patients and advocates initially cheered their arrival, but then revolted when Medicaid and private insurers would not cover the drugs’ price — $100,000 for a complete treatment — until patients were in advanced stages of liver disease.

Last year, with a big push from advocates and the state attorney general’s office, Medicaid and private insurers changed those rules. Now, most patients get coverage if doctors recommend them for treatment, local experts said.

As of June, more than 16,000 New Yorkers on Medicaid had received the treatments, about 28 percent of the Medicaid enrollees with a hepatitis C diagnosis. It’s unclear what that cost state taxpayers. The drugs’ cost on average $88,000 per patient, but the state also receives rebates that are proprietary and undisclosed.

One common reason formerly given for denying coverage was that a hepatitis C patient had only recently stopped using drugs or was still using them. Randy Viele of the Alliance for Positive Health in Albany, which provides supportive services to people with chronic illness, said some doctors still won’t recommend medication for active drug users. They reason that the medicine is pricey and those patients are at risk for reinfection, Viele said. Some are also concerned that the new drugs won’t work as well if a patient needs a second treatment. So with the disease’s slow progression, they sometimes choose to postpone treatment.

Dr. Murphy does not think active drug use should automatically disqualify a hepatitis C patient for treatment. Some IV drug users can comply with taking a pill every day and know not to share needles or other paraphernalia. What’s tougher to assess is whether someone will maintain insurance coverage for three months of treatment. Or whether a patient has bigger concerns than early-stage hepatitis C, like homelessness, he said.

Samara Gabree, the clinical director of Project Safe Point, an Albany-based syringe exchange program, argued that treating active drug users can curb the spread of illness. She cited one study that showed curing one in 100 drug users of hepatitis C reduced the transmission of the virus in the community by 30 percent.

Her program is working to educate young drug users, especially, that hepatitis C is different from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The 20-to-40-year-olds who are getting sick have heard the HIV-prevention messages and know they shouldn’t share needles, Gabree said. But the hepatitis C virus can live on any part of what’s called “the works” used to prep drugs for injection — cookers, cotton pads, bands to tie around the arm. So those can’t be shared either.

Experts throughout the region said it can be difficult to convince people to get tested, and then to urge them to seek treatment. Complicated lives are one reason. Whitney Young Health runs a program through a $250,000-a-year state grant that seeks to help people in its addiction treatment program and throughout the community to stay on their hep C medication and also stabilize the rest of their lives, with life skills and nutrition training.

Another obstacle, experts said, is mistrust, based on past experience: Infected people don’t believe that the medicines are easy to take, won’t cause toxic side effects and will actually work.

Angel Marquez, a 58-year-old Schenectady resident, has had a long journey with both drug addiction and hepatitis C infection. A native of Puerto Rico, he was first offered interferon treatment in Albany in 1994, but was actively using heroin and didn’t comply. He later got interferon injections while in prison, but left without knowing whether they were effective. Eight years ago, Marquez again tested positive for hep C at an addiction treatment program, but didn’t stay there.

Meanwhile, the hepatitis C tired him out and an inflamed liver caused severe abdominal pain. He dulled the pain, and everything else, with heroin.

In 2015, he got clean with help from the Camino Nuevo addiction treatment center in Albany. A year later, after attending a hep C conference with staff and other clients, he felt motivated to try treatment. Medicaid denied him coverage, and his doctors helped him appeal. Eventually, he took Harvoni and was cured.

Proud of being free of both heroin and hepatitis C, Marquez walked into group therapy one day and announced, “Estoy curado!” (“I’m cured.”) Fellow clients knew he was off drugs, but did not believe the hep C treatment worked. Camino Nuevo Director Micky Jimenez said they questioned him: You’re completely cured? Insurance paid? It didn’t make you sick? Three of them got into treatment afterward, she said.

Younger adults may not face those same psychological blocks. They don’t have experience with the old medication.

Carrie, a 39-year-old Glens Falls resident who recently finished Harvoni treatments, was indignant, much like Kaysie, when she was initially denied coverage for Harvoni. Diagnosed with hepatitis C 14 years ago, she wasn’t sick but worried that she would become ill and could in the meantime spread the illness.

She recently got through a full treatment and is cured.

“It’s a miracle, a godsend,” said Carrie of being cured after more than a decade of knowing she carried a potentially lethal illness. “It’s so hard to come to terms with knowing you have a chronic disease, and then one day it’s mentioned that you’ll be cured. It brought tears to my eyes.”


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Penthouse CEO Kelly Holland wants to revive the legendary adult entertainment brand

The gig: Kelly Holland is the chief executive and majority shareholder of Chatsworth-based Penthouse Global Media, the adult entertainment brand founded in 1965 by Bob Guccione. She acquired the company last year from parent company Friend Finder Networks after a long period of financial difficulty for Penthouse.

Holland now oversees all the company’s operations, including its cable and satellite channels, which reach more than 100 countries, as well as its iconic magazine that is famous for its nude female models, known as Penthouse Pets.

Catholic school girl: Growing up in the Dallas area, Holland attended a Catholic convent school and quickly found her rebellious streak. “I didn’t understand why Mary had to be a virgin,” she recalled.

Her single mother struggled to make ends meet and she didn’t know her father. “I had no role models growing up, so I had to make up my position in life,” she said.

Emmy Chat: Why Minnie Drivers so committed to her 'Speechless' family

Caption Emmy Chat: Why Minnie Driver’s so committed to her ‘Speechless’ family

Minnie Driver talks about  her role as fearless mom Maya, showing disability on-screen and the irreverent comedy on “Speechless.”

Minnie Driver talks about  her role as fearless mom Maya, showing disability on-screen and the irreverent comedy on “Speechless.”

'Ghost In The Shell' movie review by Justin Chang

Caption ‘Ghost In The Shell’ movie review by Justin Chang

Justin Chang reviews “Ghost In The Shell,” directed by Rupert Sanders, starring Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek and Chin Han. Video by Jason H. Neubert.

Justin Chang reviews “Ghost In The Shell,” directed by Rupert Sanders, starring Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek and Chin Han. Video by Jason H. Neubert.

PaleyFest 2017: Evan Rachel Wood of Westworld

Caption PaleyFest 2017: Evan Rachel Wood of ‘Westworld’

Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Dolores Abernathy on HBO’s “Westworld,” discusses her character’s direction at the end of Season One.

Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Dolores Abernathy on HBO’s “Westworld,” discusses her character’s direction at the end of Season One.

PaleyFest 2017: James Marsden of Westworld

Caption PaleyFest 2017: James Marsden of ‘Westworld’

James Marsden who plays Terry Flood on HBO’s “Westworld,” talks about his hopes for what may come next for his character.

James Marsden who plays Terry Flood on HBO’s “Westworld,” talks about his hopes for what may come next for his character.



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Health Care vs. Higher Ed

When Republicans in the House of Representatives seemed to be nearing a vote on a health care reform bill last month, several prominent Democratic governors spoke out to criticize the proposed changes, arguing they would impose high costs on states.

California Governor Jerry Brown said that the proposed changes would cost California $6 billion per year by 2020. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the federal reform bill would create a gap of almost $7 billion in the state’s budget because of changes to Medicaid reimbursements.

Republicans did not bring their bill to the floor for a vote after they were unable to drum up enough support amid intense opposition. But even without changes, many states are shouldering a larger share of Medicaid costs than they have been over the last several years.

They’re just doing it under existing law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed and President Trump sought to repeal. The way the current law was designed, states’ share of Medicaid costs is rising as the federal government pulls back on incentives it used to encourage them to expand the program. And when federal spending requirements for states grow, public funding for colleges and universities — one of the largest so-called discretionary pots of money most states control — tends to be the target. Consequently, the current law has drawn attention from higher education experts, because more spending requirements on states translates into more pressure on public funding for colleges and universities.

“Some states are going to be left really holding the bag,” said George Pernsteiner, president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers association. “It will put them in a pinch if they don’t have a booming economy. That’s what I worry about.”

The increased costs are connected to the federal funding mechanism underpinning the expansion of Medicaid, which covers many low-income children and adults and people with disabilities. States and the federal government share Medicaid costs under a patchwork of funding mechanisms, including the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP, which guarantees a minimum of $1 in federal matching funds for every $1 states spend on Medicaid. But the Affordable Care Act sought to entice states to expand Medicaid to cover adults with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

It did so by paying 100 percent of the costs of such Medicaid expansion — but only for a limited time. The 100 percent federal match started in the 2014 calendar year but ended in January 2017, when it dropped to 95 percent. It is set to phase down to 90 percent in 2020 and remain at that level afterward.

Washington, D.C., and 31 states expanded Medicaid in response to the Affordable Care Act. That means they are now seeing their share of Medicaid costs rising.

When states adopted their budgets for the 2017 fiscal year, their share of Medicaid spending was expected to grow by 4.4 percent on average, according to an April report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The increase was expected in large part because of the decrease in federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

While 4.4 percent might not sound like an overwhelming increase, Medicaid spending is a massive portion of states’ budgets. Medicaid spending across all states totaled $509 billion in the 2015 fiscal year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. States paid 38 percent of the costs, with the federal government picking up the rest.

That means states spent about $193.4 billion on Medicaid in 2015. That dwarfs state higher education appropriations, which totaled about $83.6 billion across the country in 2016-17.

State legislators are essentially locked into spending on Medicaid. So when costs in that program rise, lawmakers have to either raise revenue through taxes and fees or find money in their discretionary budgets to reallocate. Higher education represents one of the few big-ticket discretionary items from which they can draw.

“They’re going to get the money somewhere,” Pernsteiner said. “Where they make the cuts is higher ed.”

Within individual states that expanded Medicaid, projections show costs mounting in coming years. Kentucky’s expenditures for Medicaid expansion are projected at $77.2 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year — a year in which the federal match rate only falls below 100 percent for six months. The expenditures under current law are expected to rise to $180.1 million in 2018, $224 million in 2019 and $306.3 million in 2020, according to state projections.

Kentucky is dealing with other budget pressures as well. By some estimates, the state has the worst-funded pension system of any state in the country — even worse than Illinois and New Jersey. Many believe dealing with that issue will be a major drain on state coffers.

The state’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, has already shown a willingness to take funding that would have gone to higher education and put it toward pensions, said Robert L. King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. Budget pressures add up, including from Medicaid, King said.

“Because it’s a mandated expenditure, it gets paid,” King said. “So our universities have been taking cuts consistently for the last decade. I can’t tell you that they are directly caused by Medicaid, but it certainly is a contributing factor.”

King has been watching trends between Medicaid funding and higher education funding since he was chancellor of the State University of New York System in the early 2000s.

“I remember reading studies at the time that showed that there was a pretty straight-line correlation between the growth in Medicaid costs and the reduction in state support for higher education,” he said.

A 2003 Brookings report found every new dollar in state Medicaid spending was related to a decline in higher education appropriations of about 6 cents to 7 cents.

In West Virginia, which also expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, health-care costs were wrapped up in a long budget standoff that left leaders worried about higher education funding. State revenue has been declining with energy markets, causing stress on the budget and a possible pinch on higher education funding, according to a spokesman for West Virginia University.

All of the pressures have real ramifications on the ground. West Virginia University’s president, E. Gordon Gee, issued a letter April 4 after the state’s Senate distributed a budget bill that would cut appropriations to the university by 15 percent. Such a cut would mean staff layoffs, increased tuition for students and major changes to other programs like the West Virginia University Extension Service and academic programs, Gee wrote.

“Our university has already lost nearly $29 million in base reductions compared to 2011,” Gee wrote. “This additional reduction will be devastating to West Virginia University and all of the other four-year institutions in this state.”

West Virginia lawmakers passed a budget Sunday at the end of their session that would cut higher education. But the budget did not follow a blueprint followed by the state’s governor, setting up a potential veto and extra session.

Cutting Medicaid coverage wouldn’t necessarily alleviate all funding pressures on universities, either. West Virginia University’s health-care arm, WVU Medicine, is the largest health-care provider in the state. Cutting Medicaid coverage would mean fewer patients getting treatment, said Clay Marsh, the vice president for health sciences at West Virginia University. It would also mean more patients putting off care and receiving costly treatment in emergency rooms — and providers often have to write off the cost of such services when patients can’t pay their bills.

Marsh estimated that not covering patients who are currently covered under Medicaid expansion would result in a loss of about $20 million annually for WVU Medicine.

“Some of the money that comes through the health-care delivery system comes back to the academic enterprise and educational enterprise to help train the state’s population,” Marsh said. “The expansion has been so powerful because we have such a large percentage of our population that has just started to be covered.”

In theory, states could raise taxes to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of Medicaid expansion while also keeping funding for higher education stable. Eight governors proposed new or increased provider taxes to help pay for Medicaid spending growth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But it’s not that simple, according to Iris Palmer, a senior policy analyst at the liberal-leaning think tank New America.

“People can say you can increase taxes, but there are definitely states where increasing taxes is not a political option,” she said. “In places where they have very high tax rates like Illinois or Connecticut or California, they don’t have a lot of room to increase taxes to cover their additional spending, I would argue.”

Experts believe the states that expanded Medicaid but have not fully recovered from the recession are generally in line for the biggest pinch to higher education budgets in coming years. Kentucky and West Virginia, with their energy-focused economies, are good examples. But they’re not the only ones. Oregon, for example, faces a $1.6 billion shortfall in its upcoming two-year budget cycle. About $1 billion of that comes from health-care costs, including reduced federal support for Medicaid expansion.

Meanwhile, Oregon universities are expecting less state funding. Portland State University is proposing a 9 percent tuition hike and potentially $9 million in cuts because of lower state funding and other pressures like rising wage and benefit costs. Six of the state’s seven public universities plan to raise tuition by at least 5 percent, according to The Oregonian.

Farther south on the West Coast, the California State University system is facing challenges if expensive changes to federal Medicaid funding proceed, said a spokeswoman, Toni Molle.

“If ACA costs do shift to the state and the state chooses to fund health care over universities, it has that choice,” Molle said in an email. “It would not be our choice, but a choice that state lawmakers and the governor would have to make.”

Meanwhile, there have been efforts in some states that did not expand Medicaid previously to do so now. Kansas lawmakers, for instance, narrowly missed approving an expansion this month after Governor Sam Brownback rejected a bill that would have expanded Medicaid and they fell a few votes short of overturning his veto.

To some, the costs associated with Medicaid funding changes are just the latest in a long trend of competition for state resources playing out between health care and education. They believe the competition will continue into the future.

“Health care is in a permanent competition with higher education,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Higher ed has neither legal protection nor budgetary protection. It is the lone standing discretionary spending, except for prisons.”

Carnevale said the future could turn into a grim picture where higher education loses enough resources at the margins that public colleges and universities can no longer expand access to new student populations or provide them with the support they need to graduate. Large public research universities with diverse funding streams will survive, and community colleges will, too.

But other institutions in the middle — those that depend on state revenue and tuition — could die. Those institutions educate a large number of students.

That would imperil the American form of higher education, where all students have access to a general education with liberal arts and elective courses, Carnevale said.

“This is going to be a test of the American model,” Carnevale said. “It’s a test of the model on equity grounds, in particular, because it’s about a dual system that’s emerging that gives general education plus a major to more affluent and white people and more specific education to black, brown, working-class and low-income people.”

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Experts: Cut to NIH Funding Would be ‘Devastating’


by Jamaal Abdul-Alim

The White House’s proposed $5.8 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health would be “devastating to the American people” and a “dramatic setback to medical progress.”

Those are some of the assessments proffered about the preliminary budget released earlier this year by the administration of President Donald J. Trump. A more detailed budget is expected in the coming weeks.

Dr. Raynard S. Kington, president of Grinnell College, is former acting director of NIH under President George W. Bush and President Barack H. Obama.

One of the fiercest opponents of the proposed $5.8 billion cut to NIH — which would take the federal agency’s spending down to $25.9 billion — is Grinnell College president Dr. Raynard S. Kington, former acting director of NIH under President George W. Bush and President Barack H. Obama.

Kington said the proposed cuts to NIH “suggest an extraordinary level of ignorance about the important new knowledge and innovation that comes out of that funding.”

“I think it would be devastating to the American people to implement the cuts that are being proposed,” Kington said. “I just think the proposals are short-sighted, they are anti-knowledge, anti-intellectual, and they just would be extraordinarily bad for the future and well-being of our country.”

Kington cited the need for a “whole continuum” of research in order to make new medical breakthroughs on things that range from childhood leukemia to obesity. He said the private sector is “never going to do the basic research in a way that a developed society needs.”

Kington is by no means the lone critic of the proposed cuts to NIH.

Suzanne Ffolkes, vice president of communications at Research!America, an Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance, decried the proposed cuts as “a dramatic setback to medical progress.”

“Americans who expect research to advance at the level of scientific opportunity will be deeply concerned about the short- and long-term impact of steep funding cuts as it relates to the discovery, development, and delivery of new treatments to complex diseases and finding cures,” Ffolkes said.

She said robust investments are necessary to support public and private sector research and new technology that helps to deepen scientific understanding of genetic mutations and cancer cells.

“If we hope to continue to make great strides in immunotherapy treatment for cancer, for example, we must have sustained, predictable increases for the NIH,” Ffolkes said.

Ffolkes cited statistics from a Research!America survey that found 63 percent of Americans “agree that basic scientific research, even if it brings no immediate benefits, should be supported by the federal government.”

The survey also found that more than half — 52 percent — are willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes if they were certain that all of the money would be spent on additional medical research.

“Patients anxiously waiting for the next medical breakthrough to improve their quality of life will be impacted, as innovative studies are shelved or delayed by insufficient funding,” Ffolkes said. “The careers of many young scientists will be in jeopardy as they compete for fewer grants.”

NIH explains on this webpage about its budget that it invests “nearly $32.3 billion annually in medical research for the American people.”

“More than 80 percent of the NIH’s funding is awarded through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state and around the world,” the page states.

This link shows nearly 14,000 projects funded by NIH at institutions of higher education in fiscal 2017. The projects range from a $4.9 million project at Duke University known as “Duke Clinical Good Manufacturing Practices Facility for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Production,” to a $118,000 project at Howard University titled “Genetic Signatures Underlying Prostate Cancer Metastasis in African Americans.”

Diverse reached out to the NIH for comment but was referred to a statement issued earlier this year by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. HHS is the parent agency of NIH.

“HHS is dedicated to fulfilling our department’s mission to improve the health and well-being of the American people,” Price said in the statement. “This budget supports that mission and will help ensure we are delivering critical services to our fellow citizens in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”

Kington, the former NIH head, had no shortage of examples of medical breakthroughs that came out of the NIH to demonstrate the agency’s value.

For instance, he said the AZT treatment that helps treat sufferers of HIV came out of NIH — as documented in this brief history that mentions the role that Duke University played in the first trials.

“Millions of people are alive today who wouldn’t be alive otherwise,” Kington said.

Dr. Louis J. DeGennaro, president and CEO of The Leukemia Lymphoma Society, also decried the proposed cuts to NIH.

“These cuts risk derailing decades of advancement in the diagnosis, understanding and treatment of deadly blood cancers,” DeGennaro said in a statement that calls on members of Congress to reject the cuts to NIH.

“While the Budget Blueprint is not clear as to how cuts will be applied, if they are allocated proportionally across NIH, they represent a nearly $1 billion cut to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which will devastate the landscape of cancer research,” DeGennaro said.

He noted that the budget cuts would be “widespread and much broader than just blood cancer.”

Jamaal Abdul-Alim can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter @dcwriter360.

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DICK YOUNG: ABC’s of saving for a private education

The cost of private school varies based on factors like the type of school and program. Boarding programs, where tuition covers room and board, are the most expensive. According to the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), private school tuition and boarding fees range from $30,000 to $60,000 per year, with schools in large cities at the higher end of the price range. Generally, faith-based schools have the lowest fees and you’ll also likely pay less while your child is in the lower grades.

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