Happy Thanksgiving

Over the course of a year, we experience many holidays. If you work in state government you get more than I do off from work, and I do miss that part of government work. Some of them are merely days off, some are religious in nature. Thanksgiving has come to be my favorite. We take time off solely for the purpose of giving thanks. There’s no pressure in gift giving, or the other commercial trappings of Christmas. Just plain ol’ gratification of saying thanks for all the good things we have.

I enjoy watching football as much as anyone and my favorite dessert from my time with my grandmother was pumpkin pie. I truly enjoy arguing politics and religion with any family member that dares question me at the dining room table. But, I have to say I have much to be thankful for, even in 2019.

I have a lovely wife, who is healthy and two great dogs. We live comfortably in a nice home, and have transportation. Charleston is a great community and my home state, for all its misgivings, is full of wonderful citizens. I get to work for a great group of people and have some wonderful people that work for me. Though I could stand to get back to my fightin’ weight, I’m fairly healthy and have some great friends all across the country. I have many things that can never be taken from me like a great education (earned at WV Tech and WVU).

I’m going to publish this on my blog so you can read it and I hope you get inspired a bit this Thanksgiving, but I might just look back on it to remind myself just how fortunate I am.

Happy Thanksgiving.

T21

The name T21 sounds like the subtitle to an Arnold Schwarzenegger sequel. However, its a public policy sweeping across states and has even received some support from President Trump. T21 or Tobacco to 21 is an effort to raise the legal purchasing age to 21. Over 500 city/county jurisdictions and 18 states have enacted this as a law.

Public policy advisors everywhere have worked to get this into law. A recent Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans agree. Last year, in a West Virginia legislative hearing, Bureau for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Cathy Slemp was asked about an exemption for military members. Dr. Slemp showed where even the United State DOD doesn’t want their young women and men smoking. Unhealthy behaviors are bad for military readiness.

The truth is recent studies have shown that these laws reduce smoking rates in young people age 18-20. The other thing we know, is that the longer people avoid picking up this habit, the less apt they are to be a cigarette smoker in the future, which means healthier, longer lives. And if you aren’t a smoker and wonder how this affects you, less smokers will eventually help with health insurance costs.

For more information, go to tobacco21.org.

Be Patient, Be Kind and You Can Help Someone with Substance Abuse Disorder

Last week, I had the privilege of meeting some of the finest minds in the addiction treatment and recovery world at the Appalachian Addiction and Prescription Drug Abuse Conference. This is timely, as we are in the midst of an addiction crisis. Politicians are threatening to lock up offenders and want to further regulate medication assisted treatment (MAT). This is unfortunate. Perhaps some politicians should have come to hear more about how to solve the problem.

On the AHP, I had a great time interviewing Dr. Marvin Seppala, the Medical Director at the Hazelden Betty Ford Clinic. Dr. Seppala is a brilliant man with a kind heart. He cares about the patients he’s helping. We discussed issues like Mrs. Ford coming out years ago and admitting she had a problem. That opened a door for many people that is still open today. We also talked about how to address addiction with a loved one that has a problem. (To answer the question you probably just asked yourself, you research the issue and talk to them about it. Being patient, be kind, you shouldn’t expect immediate results.)

Hazelden Betty Ford pioneered a 12-step recovery. We’ve all heard of it. Work your steps and work to stay sober in a community of your peers. Now, the group that brought you abstinence based recovery brings you MAT. What works for one person, works for one person. You can’t assume everyone will respond to treatments the same way. It’s not one size fits all. You can even take MAT while working through the 12-steps if you need to.

Since doing this, Hazelden Betty Ford has changed outcomes for the better. They are more successful which means there are more people out there under the control of substance use disorder. Patients must consider this disease all their life, but they can go on living. It was a culture change for the clinic, but one for the better.

If you know someone who you believe has a substance abuse issue, remember they are ill, not a lesser person. Research the issue and talk to them about what treatments might be available. One day we might beat addiction, until then be patient, be kind, and you might just save someone’s life.

You can hear my interview with Dr. Seppala available Monday morning on the Appalachian Health Podcast. It is available on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or at dannyscalise.com.

Appalachian Addiction & Prescription Drug Abuse Conference

This week, a diverse group of professionals in the field of addiction gathered at the Marriott in Morgantown, WV.  I began working with Dr. Brad Hall and his team a few years ago when this conference was getting bigger, and now over 500 providers, peer coaches, and others gather in the fall.  The participants learn from the best. This issue has hit this country hard, but Appalachia and West Virginia have been hit particularly hard.  We are learning more and more about addiction, how it affects people, and how to treat it.  Over the next few weeks, people who missed the conference will be able to hear from some of these experts as I interviewed them on the Appalachian Health Podcast. 

Over 500 participants listened to experts in the field of addiction and treatment.

Addiction is a health condition with a nasty reputation.  The stigma of addiction hurts.  It hits hard. It makes life difficult for the patients suffering from this disease.  At the conference Ken Rodenbaugh, a practicing nurse, told his powerful story about the stigma of addiction.  Later in the evening, Dr. Alisa Duran talked about the vulnerability of personal stories.  Being a professional and a person in recovery can be difficult.  I interviewed them together about their stories. 

The Mountain State was  blessed to have the experts discussing treatment options.  I interviewed Dr. Marvin Seppala, Chief Medical Officer of the Hazelden Betty Ford about MAT & 12-Step Programs for treatment of addiction, and Dr. Jeannie Sperry, Co-Chair of the Division of Addictions at the Mayo Clinic, about the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the treatment of pain & addiction.  

Kelly Lemon, a nurse practitioner and nurse midwife from WVU Medicine gave a timely talk on Addiction, Pregnancy, and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  Kelly and I sat down for a few minutes before her presentation to discuss these issues and how they are affecting the West Virginia.  With the WV Legislature legalizing cannabis for medical use a couple years ago, Dr. Libby Stuyt, a psychiatrist from Colorado gave some great information in her talk about Fact & Fiction in marijuana and CBD.  Dr. Stuyt and I discussed her views on cannabis as well as her expertise on auricular acupuncture.  

You can hear my interviews with all of these people in the coming weeks on the Appalachian Health Podcast.  There were many others at the conference including WVU Health Sciences Dean Dr. Clay Marsh and the President of WVU E. Gordon Gee.  Other experts in the field were there, however I didn’t have time to interview them all.  I felt honored to get a few moments to talk about one of the most important health issues with some of the worlds best.  

Addiction is a disease.  It’s difficult to understand. Stigma gets in the way of people getting the treatment they need.  The professionals at this conference provided an education on the most current treatment options as well as other topics in the field. 

Real Men Wear Pink

I began a new habit for October.  It started last year when I joined my friends at the American Cancer Society (ACS) for their Real Men Wear Pink campaign.  Every day in October, I will wear pink and post photographs of my outfit on social media.  I’m doing this to help save lives from breast cancer.  I’ll do it to show my support, raise awareness, and raise funds for this important cause.  

I’m committed to Real Men Wear Pink.  These donations support the ACS work to save lives.  They are determined to ensure that no one touched by breast cancer does it alone.  They are committed to helping those currently dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis, those who may face a future diagnosis, and those who may avoid a diagnosis altogether thanks to education and prevention.  

Every dollar raised helps through early detection and prevention, innovative breast cancer research, and patient support.  They are currently funding more than $62 million in breast cancer research grants nationwide.  They also proved free, comprehensive information and support to those touched by breast cancer when where they need it and the ACS helps people take steps to reduce their breast cancer risk or find it early, when it may be the easiest to treat.  

If you’ve been following this blog, my social media, my podcast, or my television show you know breast cancer has been the theme recently.  This has hit me personally.  Breast Cancer has struck my family, friends, and coworkers.  Almost certainly, it has affected you or someone you care about.  You can support my Real Men Wear Pink efforts by going to my Facebook Fundraiser.  Please take the time to share it on social media or donate whatever amount you can. Your donation truly will help someone in need.