A local nonprofit receives $500,000 to further maternal and pediatric care

(File photo by Arielle Berger)

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Ohio recently bolstered the medical stability of children growing up in the state’s southeastern Appalachian counties by giving $500,000 to an Athens-based nonprofit organization, according to a press release sent out by Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Friday.

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission gave Integrating Professionals for Appalachian Children the half million dollars from the state budget for the 2016 fiscal year to further the development of children and mothers throughout a nine county service area, including Athens County.

IPAC is made up of multiple agencies throughout Southeast Ohio and works with several departments and clinics at OU. According to a previous release, along with OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, the nonprofit has worked with OU’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, Scripps College of Communication and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

The medical school will join the Athens Photographic Project to create a research community for mental health patients.

“We are really thrilled to be recognized as an organization that can be trusted to work on behalf of children and families in our region,” Jane Hamel-Lambert, an associate professor of family medicine at OU’s HCOM and longtime IPAC contributor, said in the news release.

Ohio State Senator Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, advocated and celebrated the measure that he said might provide the resources to lower the “statewide crisis” of infant mortality.

“This funding will go a long way in improving both health outcomes and the quality of life for area residents, as well as continuing the fight against infant mortality,” he said in the release.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, Athens County saw an average of 16 infant deaths per year from 2006 to 2010.

Since 2002, IPAC has worked to improve pediatric screenings, integrating behavioral health in primary care and public preschools and furthering several other programs pertaining to the wellbeing of maternal and child health.

In 2006, it gained a non-profit status.

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HCOM opens up a new human clinical trial facility

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Human experiments will begin to take place on Ohio University’s main campus this summer, but, don’t worry, they’re part of the curriculum.

OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine opened a new facility April 30, geared toward conducting clinical trials and other studies on human subjects.

The college’s new space, located in Irvine Hall on West Green, houses the newly created “Clinical & Translational Research Unit.” Occupying nearly 4,000 square feet, the converted facility is equipped with patient examination rooms, an exercise physiology laboratory, an electrophysiology laboratory, a phlebotomy room, imaging facilities and a laboratory processing station, according to a news release.

Through OU-HCOM’s medical clinics, students can learn and observe basic skills while helping patients.

Through its Vision 2020: Leading the Transformation of Primary Care Award, the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation provided $6 million in startup funding for the unit, which was used to purchase “vital equipment,” medical supplies and a staff, Dr. Laura Rush, the executive director of the unit, said.

OU also worked with the college during the move.

The Clinical & Translational Research Unit looks to support OU faculty in various aspects of clinical trials, including budget development, project coordination, subject recruitment, data collection and institutional review board assistance, according to the release.

OU students have the opportunity to utilize the unit either to assist in studies or to conduct their own studies under the supervision of a faculty mentor, Rush said.

Nearly 60 percent of OU-HCOM’s graduates currently practice in the state of Ohio.

The faculty of the Clinical & Translational Research Unit consists of eight people, which, along with the Rush, include a medical director, two research nurses, two projects managers, an administrative associate and a clinical research scientist.

Rush applauded her staff as people who love the Athens community and want to move health care forward.

“We have top-notch staff who know clinical trials, maintain the high standards required for patient safety and observe meticulous record keeping,” she said in the release.

Rush also said that because of the degree of difficulty faced when conducting clinical trials, the new facility would allow faculty to help better execute them from start to finish and allow the scientists to focus on science.

HCOM Executive Dean Kenneth H. Johnson said the unit will give the college recognition as a program for cutting-edge clinical research.

“Clinical studies that tackle pervasive health problems bring attention to the college and the university,” he said in the release. “They open the door to more opportunities for collaboration and funding, which are essential to help researchers advance medical care in our communities.”

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Ohio Supreme Court amends adult guardianship rules

I worked on this story for a while but I eventually finished it.

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The Ohio Supreme Court moved last month to try to ensure a better quality of life for adults suffering from mental illness or who are unable to make sound decisions for themselves — a measure that has been hailed by at least one local disabilities expert.

The court amended state policy regarding adult guardianship cases on March 10, which made guidelines for family members acting as guardians, set in place training requirements for guardians and called for closer supervision of all guardians, according to an Ohio Supreme Court news release.

The amendment defines a ward as “any adult person found … to be incompetent and for whom a guardianship is established.”

Dennis Lehman, director of Service and Support Administration for the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said the new amendments could help guardians understand their roles and expectations.

“… In one particular case a guardian was a pastor and he superimposed his beliefs on his wards,” he said. “He would not allow them any Halloween decorations, or to have R-rated videos in the house, or anything like that. He did not consider what the individual wanted in that case.”

Lehman said training session might help guardians understand the wishes of their wards.

“Guardians are responsible for the decisions they make, but they should consider what their wards want,” he said.

During a nearly one-year period of discussion, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on Children and Families successfully recommended three rule changes, which will take effect June 1.

According to the news release, the current changes include applying guardianship regulations to family members, requiring courts to monitor a roster of guardians with 10 or more wards and requiring guardians to meet with wards quarterly.

Michael Smalz, a member of the Advisory Committee on Children and Families, called the amendments “a significant step forward.” He added, though, that there is still need for improvement.

“Statutory changes are also needed,” Smalz said in an email. “A pending bill … contains some helpful provisions, including the creation of a ward’s bill of rights and a requirement that every ward be given a copy of the bill of rights.”

Maureen O’Connor, Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, said these new amendments meet the standards set by the National Guardianship Association.

“The ultimate goal is to provide our probate courts with effective means to ensure the safety and well being of people who need our protection,” O’Connor said in the news release.

One of the amendments also requires adult guardian to attend a minimum of six hours of training courses as well as a three-hour course every year.

According to the report, the course review establishing the guardianship, the ongoing duties and responsibilities of a guardian, record keeping and reporting duties of a guardian and any other topic that concerns improving the quality of the life of a ward.

“While I would like to have seen training and visitation requirements that were as rigorous as the national standards envision, these new mandates are a very positive step,” Julia R. Nack, a past president of the National Guardianship Association, said.

Nack is also a certified master guardian who helped to draft the current rules.

The training courses — provided by the Supreme Court of Ohio or any other approved entity — will be free of charge for a limited time, and will be made available online by the end of 2015. The yearly three-hour courses will begin in the first quarter of 2016.

“It is important now for Ohio lawmakers to take up the issue of guardianship and provide the courts with the statutory and financial support they need to make these changes effective,” Nack said.

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