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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House has passed a bill to make it legal for organizations to provide free needles to drug users.

House members voted 135-13 Thursday to send the bill to the Senate.

Republican Rep. Holly Rehder has said Missouri groups now pass out clean syringes to intravenous drug users with the goal of preventing the spread of hepatitis C and HIV through dirty needles. But state law bans possessing drug paraphernalia, which puts the needle exchanges in murky legal waters.

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CORNING, Ark. (AP) - State health officials say people who visited a Taco Bell restaurant in northeast Arkansas may have been exposed to hepatitis A after an employee tested positive for the virus.

The health department says the affected restaurant is in Corning, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) northeast of Little Rock. The department says anyone who ate food from that Taco Bell between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7 may have been exposed to the virus, which can cause fever, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain and other symptoms.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson with Roby Brock of Talk Business and Politics
Talk Business and Politics

Rising pharmacy reimbursement rates are a part of the cost structure between pharmacist, health insurance plans, and a group known as PBMs—Pharmacy Benefits Managers.  Roby Brock with Talk Business sits down with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to talk about potential legislative remedies for this seemingly dire situation as a private solution may be in the works.


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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas has received 15 more reports of flu fatalities in the past week, raising the death toll to 140 in what's already become the state's deadliest flu season in at least 17 years.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the 15 deaths were reported to the Health Department in a seven-day span ending Tuesday. Of those deaths, 10 were 65 years or older.

A new study published by Child Trends says children in Arkansas are more likely to go through an adverse childhood experience (ACE) than all other states. The non-profit organization says such an experience can include children’s parents who divorce, parental incarceration, and living with an adult battling substance abuse. The group says it aims to improve the lives and prospects of children and their families. 

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are conducting a study to gauge residents' views of medical marijuana before and after it's available in the state.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that representatives from several colleges outside the state approached university researchers last year about the survey opportunity.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Recent state figures show the average cost per person of subsidized private health insurance under Arkansas Works increased more than 14 percent last month.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the spike is in part due to premium increases that had taken effect Jan. 1.

The Arkansas Health Department says it's recorded nearly 30 more flu-related deaths over the past week, bringing the total number this season to 122.

Department spokeswoman Meg Mirivel told state lawmakers that the total figure as of Monday is the highest in two decades and is likely to keep rising over the next several weeks. Two of those deaths were children.

Department Director Nate Smith says the majority of flu-related deaths are reported after the peak of transmission, which hadn't arrived as of Monday. The flu season ends in May.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are pushing legislation to exempt gun safes from the state's sales tax.

At a news conference Monday, Republican Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield said the bill shows how the state Senate can find common ground and work in a bipartisan manner.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Lee Harris of Memphis said the bill would help address accidental shootings and gun thefts.

The State Medical Board wants to tighten restrictions on doctors’ abilities to prescribe opioids in some instances, and one of the changes is that patients will be asked for a urine sample for drug testing.

 

Arkansas has the second-highest opioid prescription rate nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the proposed regulations are part of an effort to combat the deadly overdose crisis in the state.

Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane told the medical board at a hearing for public comments Thursday that opioid abuse, particularly heroin use, is going up, and overdoses are increasing.

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Legislature is considering a pair of bill proposals to curb the availability of prescription opioids statewide.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — State health officials say two dozen Arkansas residents died from the flu last week, pushing the total for the season to 94, and cautioned that based on previous outbreaks the state could see a total of about 270 before spring.

A number that high would be a modern record, passing the 109 deaths from three years ago. No other year this century has had more than 76.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Arkansas the most obese state in the nation in 2014, the state’s weight epidemic is now leveling off, and health officials hope obesity rates will start to go down.

A recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine shows some hope for stemming the problem. Researchers found a slight decline in obesity among low-income children in the nationwide Women, Infants and Children supplemental food program.

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri is collecting and investigating opioid prescription data through a statewide drug monitoring program to identify doctors and clinics that overprescribe painkillers.

Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse (left) speaking with Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin (right) in the Beck PRIDE Center for wounded veterans.
Cynthia Barnhill / KASU Photojournalim-Graphics Designer Intern

Helping veterans readjust to life after service.  On Thursday, Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin visited a resource for veterans on the Arkansas State University campus.  

The Beck PRIDE Center provides programs and services for wounded combat veterans.  Rehabilitation, social re-integration, and educational preparation take place at the center.  Griffin, who is a veteran himself, praised the center.  He said a lot of colleges and universities across the nation are not as friendly to veterans.

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