It all started on a car ride to Chicago with my husband. We have some of our most strategic business meetings during long car rides out of town. I remember saying, “What if we published a health-care focused paper that gets down to the nitty-gritty…goes beyond that 30-second, evening news sound bite?”
“What would you call it?” my husband asked. “Well, we talk a lot about challenges rural communities face finding access to good health care…What about access health?”
That was seven years ago. I remember creating a prototype for the paper to show advertisers and clients. This would begin the arduous task of generating ad dollars to pay for the publication. I remember the day those 100 prototype copies were slated for delivery; I just couldn’t wait. Those who live in Lexington know it’s pretty easy to flag down the UPS guy. Lexington isn’t that big, so he was easy to find, and yes, I flagged him down, got the box of papers, put it in the car, and headed back to the office, tickled to death.
I knew this paper, accessHealth News, was something special. I also knew the focus would never be about ad revenue. The focus would always be about delivering information people in rural areas could use.
Through the years, I’ve heard favorable comments from our readers. One that truly touched me was, “I read your paper from cover to cover.” That meant so much because it underscored our mission – one that’s not profit centered, but one that’s altruistic. We want to leave our readers equipped with information they didn’t have before reading one of our articles. And we’ve written many. Several articles have stayed with me through the years. Some are reprinted in this issue.
For instance, “Battered Justice” is about women facing long prison sentences for defending themselves against their abusers. Today, women are increasingly making up the prison rolls. According to the Sentencing Project, between 1980 and 2017, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 750 percent. This equates to 26,378 in 1980 to 225,060 in 2017. As this number rises, children will continue to be displaced, with some forced into the foster care system. (Stay tuned for more on this topic.)
Opioid addiction is hitting Missouri hard. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Missouri providers wrote 71.8 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons compared with the average U.S. rate of 58.7 prescriptions for every 100 persons. Medical professionals and patients looking for another option to manage pain saw medical marijuana (or cannabis) as a promising option. Missouri voters agreed and voted to make cannabis legal in Missouri. Opioid use disorder is also being paired with medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, to tackle addiction.
Medicaid is another issue. Missouri has been left behind when it comes to expanding Medicaid. Through the years, we covered the topic, including how state legislators have not been able to finagle partisan divides to expand the program to [hardworking] adults who deserve quality health care. Many of these individuals are in the coverage gap, meaning they make too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to be eligible for ACA Marketplace premium tax credits.
Important Update: A new campaign is underway to collect more than 200,000 signatures from registered voters to put Missouri Medicaid expansion on the November 2020 ballot. If enough viable signatures are collected, Missourians will bypass state legislators and vote on whether to expand Medicaid. We’ll let you know if enough signatures are collected.
These are just a few articles we reprinted in this issue. For many, it will be the second time you’ve read some of these pieces. We’ve also written updates on each article to report current developments. (See pages 8-9.)
A big thank you to our readers! It has been an honor to come into your homes and businesses through the years. We also thank our advertisers, clients, and the Health Forward Foundation for supporting accessHealth News. We will continue to publish this paper and serve our rural communities with health care news, policy updates, and public health pieces. We hope you enjoy this issue.