Mental health care in the states

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), "is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness and their families." In March, NAMI published a state-by-state report on mental health care, grading each state. Scoring in the 50-state evaluation was based on 39 criteria. NAMI gave the U.S. a national grade of D. Hawaii got an overall grade of C.

In related Hawaii news, the Honolulu Advertiser yesterday reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang recommended (pdf, 868KB, 26p., from AMHD) lifting federal oversight of the state's community mental health plan on Nov. 30, as previously agreed to between state health (AMHD) officials and the Justice Department.

Grading the States, A Report on America's Health Care System for Serious Mental Illness (pdf, 1.3MB, 236p.), from NAMI

Related FR post: Closing the mental health gap



Beaches...going, going

Baldwin Beach Park on Maui is losing its beach to severe erosion, a Maui News article reported Aug. 23. The shoreline is closing in on the park's outdoor shower; if it approaches the restrooms, which use a cesspool, a lengthy closure of the park may result. "Baldwin Beach Park has the highest erosion rate on Maui," a coastal geologist said in the article, and a "'combination of factors led to a particularly bad year'" for the beach.

Maui isn't alone. "Beach erosion 'widespread'" was the headline of a front-page article in the Sunday Honolulu Advertiser Aug. 6 that reported, "As much as 25 percent of sandy beach land on Oahu and Maui has been lost in the past 50 years." The article quoted Dennis Hwang, author of the Hawaii Coastal Hazard Mitigation Guidebook (see FR post), as stating:
Slowly, people are starting to realize that the coastline is very dynamic and maybe there is a benefit to moving away from it, rather than fighting it....The key is to start planning early for hazards that we know are coming.
A brochure, Coastal erosion and beach loss in Hawaii (html, SOEST) from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), discusses beach erosion and DLNR's Coastal Lands Program (CLP). The purpose of CLP, according to the brochure, is to establish a framework to protect Hawaii's beaches, and that framework is set forth in the Coastal Erosion Management Plan (COEMAP) (pdf, 90 pages/800 KB).

For further information, Surfrider Foundation, "a grassroots, non-profit, environmental organization that works to protect our oceans, waves, and beaches," provides an in-depth look at Hawaii Beach Erosion.

Photo from brochure (pdf)

Related FR post: Beach closed, maybe gone



Ethanol - 100 billion gallons by 2025?

Growing oil consumption in the U.S. and environmental consequences from fossil fuel emissions have compelled a search for alternatives to gasoline, and ethanol is "one that can make a very large difference in a relatively short time," according to a report from the Aspen Institute.

At the end of March 2006, the Institute convened a group of 34 participants from government, farm, environmental, energy, security, and academic sectors for a policy dialogue on ethanol. The group came up with "a very ambitious goal" for the U.S. to produce annually, by 2025, 100 billion gallons of ethanol, which is half the current U.S. gasoline consumption. Ethanol from corn starch, now the primary source, could produce 15-20% of the 100 billion gallons, and the remainder would have to come from cellulose. Cellulosic ethanol requires increased crop yields and the development of biorefineries but provides higher energy returns than corn ethanol. Five of the six appendices in the report discuss cellulosic ethanol.

To realize ethanol's potential, the Aspen group advocates a multi-pronged approach of increasing feedstock production, conversion of biomass to ethanol, and the availability of flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) and E85 (pdf) pumps, and improving the fuel economy of vehicles.

The mission of the Aspen Institute, headquartered in Washington, DC,
is to foster enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values.
A High Growth Strategy for Ethanol (pdf, 1.6MB, 85p.)

Related FR post: Ethanol - background and policy issues

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Web site - CSG's Healthy States

A partnership of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), Healthy States is an initiative which provides tools to effect successful strategies promoting wellness in society.
In public health, the goal is to prevent disease or injury in a whole population--a city, state or country, for example. That's different from the goal of health care, which is to care for individuals...This Web site is focused on the major public health issues facing states today.
Tackling such conditions as diabetes, cancer, obesity, infectious diseases, disabilities and birth defects, and more, Healthy States provides online publications, webcasts, conferences, and events for legislators, staff, and other policymakers
regarding population-based interventions to promote health and to prevent disease, injury, disability, and premature death, appropriate for use by communities and health care systems.
The next live webcast (Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006 2:00 - 3:00 pm EDT) is, School Wellness Policies: Nutrition and Physical Activity, addressing the "growing epidemic of childhood obesity." Free to policymakers and staff (requires initial registration), this webcast is to examine "innovative policies and programs to improve childhood nutrition and physical activity."

Publications offered include, Healthy States e-Weekly and Healthy States Quarterly, both newsletters with national and state reports, links, and "information on emerging and priority public health issues, new and existing research in public health, and other news of interest to state policymakers."

A recently released online document is their, State Official's Guide to Wellness, (Spring 2006, pdf, 79 pages/2.1MB),
a snapshot of the current state of health in America...Most useful to state policymakers is information on how states have begun to use wellness initiatives to promote healthy behaviors.
CSG's Healthy States has as advisers the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO) and the American Public Health Association (APHA), and is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Asia info from the Fed

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSF) is one of twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks. The FRBSF district encompasses nine western states, including Hawaii, and American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Among FRBSF's numerous information resources is AsiaSource, its "gateway to publicly available information on Asia." AsiaSource comprises two main sources for publications and analysis - the Center for Pacific Basin Studies (CPBS) and the Country Analysis Unit (CAU). Additional Resources, its third component, provides links to Asian and international financial bodies and other relevant websites.



States and the global economy

The opening general session for the NCSL Annual Meeting involved a panel discussion of the challenges of a quickly expanding global economy facing state level government. Panelists Frederick Smith (CEO, FedEx), James Sasser (former ambassador to China), and Congressman John Tanner (TN) explored states' roles in the emerging global economy and the benefit from planning a more active participation.

While each panelist agreed to the importance of states facilitating international commerce for the long-range betterment of their communities, all strongly expressed the need for an educated population (especially in math and the sciences) for success in the global arena. Ambassador Sasser also emphasized the need to address the issue of the increasingly large class of disenfranchised and undereducated Americans.

Pertinent to this issue of education, the sciences and opportunity, the National Academies Press (NAP) has published a book examining the "recruitment, retention, and promotion for women scientists and engineers in academia." Looking at "successful strategies" in recruitment of female undergraduates and graduate students; methods to reduce the attrition in undergraduate years; ways to improve retention rates during the important transition points (undergraduate to graduate, graduate to postdoc, postdoc to faculty positions), and to increase the tenured and administrative opportunities, this guide:
offers numerous solutions that may be of use to other universities and colleges and will be an essential resource for anyone interested in improving the position of women students, faculty, deans, provosts, and presidents in science and engineering.
To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in U.S. Science and Engineering
(available as an Open Book from NAP)

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BRCA1 & BRCA2 - new study

In a news release yesterday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the publication of a study it funded on mutations in two breast cancer genes - BRCA1 & BRCA2.
Each year, approximately 200,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer. The majority of breast cancer cases are caused by genetic changes that occur during a woman's lifetime and not by genetic mutations inherited from her parents. However, researchers estimate that inherited mutations play a role in anywhere from 5 to 27 percent of all breast cancer cases. In the mid 1990s, researchers found that mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are a major cause of the hereditary form of the disease.
The advantage of the new study was its inclusion of "under-studied" groups such as African American and older women. The study's findings appear in the article "Prevalence and Predictors of BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutations in a Population-Based Study of Breast Cancer in White and Black American Women Ages 35 to 64 Years" in the current issue of Cancer Research. See abstract. (Full text requires subscription or fee.)

The approximately 2300 women in the study were also participants in the Women's Contraceptive and Reproductive Experiences (CARE) study of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

For the federal government information source for women's health, go to the National Women's Health Information Center.

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After School enrichment

The After School Project, a five-year, three-city demonstration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), "aimed at connecting significant numbers of young people in low-income neighborhoods with responsible adults during out-of-school time." At the end of June, RWJF published its final report on the Project.
...the Project focused on developing: (1) an array of developmental opportunities for youth, including physical activity and sports, educational, social and recreational programs; and, (2) strong local organizations with the necessary resources, credibility, and political clout to bring focus and visiblity to the youth development field.
The Project's demonstration sites were:
RWJF's report emphasizes the importance of keeping after-school programs local, to accommodate "the different priorities, needs, ideas, and opportunities that predominate in different places." While acknowledging the resources that can be provided by such federal programs as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, RWJF feels such a one-size-fits-all philosophy is "regrettable."
Supporting and empowering intermediaries that can rally local actors around local solutions is the surest way to produce a system that genuinely serves each community's parents, schools, and youth - that holds the allegiance of the many leaders and organizations on which all these programs depend.
Making the Most of the Day, the Final Report of The After School Project (pdf, 3.1MB, 40p.)

RWJF contracted with Conwal as its evaluation consultant on this Project and is awaiting Conwal's full report. FR will do a follow-up post when that report is published.


Mixed housing gains, less affordable units

Mentioned in a prior post on the housing rental market, Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) has recently released their annual report, The State of the Nation's Housing 2006. The report finds, "Although house price growth will likely moderate in many areas, sharp drops in house prices are unlikely anytime soon."

Though the outlook for housing markets is overall "favorable," demographic forces, such as the increasing senior populace, the young families, and the growing immigrant and second-generation Americans, will favor rental over for-sale housing. A combination of factors (e.g., unprecedented house price appreciation, land use restrictions) impacts building affordable housing while, according to the study, "From 2001 to 2004 alone, the number of households spending more than half their incomes on housing increased by 14 percent to 15.8 million."
The paradox of today's housing market is that while more people are building home equity than ever before, slow growth in wages for households in the bottom three-quarters of the income distribution is not keeping pace with escalating housing costs. Amidst a housing boom, it is now impossible to build housing at prices anywhere near what low-income households can afford without subsidies.
State and local governments allocate federal block grants with housing trust funds to help create affordable housing. However, for those earning $16,000 or less, the supply of affordable rental units shrunk by more than 13 percent, increasing "the shortfall in units available to these low-income households to 5.4 million."
Making significant headway will be difficult without the combined efforts of all levels of government to expand housing subsidies, create incentives for the private sector to build affordable housing, institute land use policies that reduce the barriers to development, and educate the public about the importance of affordable housing.
The State of the Nation's Housing 2006 (June 2006, pdf, 44 pages/5mB)



Government funding for the arts

In a news release Aug. 7, the Rand Corp. announced its publication of a study on how state arts agencies (SAAs) can increase government support for the arts. It is the second in a series commissioned by the Wallace Foundation on SAAs.

For its report, Rand did case studies on the Montana Arts Council and the Maine Arts Commission.
They are both small, independent agencies in rural states having no tradition of substantive government support for the arts. Nonetheless, they illustrate an evolution in thinking about mission, capacity and especially relations with elected officials that is taking place in SAAs across the country. Both agencies have knocked down barriers between the arts world and the political world. In doing so, they appear not only to have stabilized their budgets, but also to have strengthened their legitimacy with government officials and the public.

For government funding among the 50 states, Hawaii fares relatively well, according to the study. In share of SAA legislative appropriations in state general fund expenditures for 2005, Hawaii was one of five states that ranked in the highest percentage (.080 to 1.00). In total revenue per capita to SAAs in 2005, the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (HSFCA) received the most, at $5.28. The state's apparent good fortune may be attributed to a special funding. From the HSFCA website:
In 1967, the State Legislature enacted the Art in State Buildings Law that established the Art in Public Places Program within the HSFCA, the first such program in the nation. A separate method of funding for this program was created through accessing one percent of the construction cost of new state buildings, making Hawai`i the first state in the nation to establish a percent-for-art law.

The Arts and State Governments - At Arm's Length or Arm in Arm?
     (pdf, 916KB, 86p.), August 2006

The earlier Rand/Wallace report:

State Arts Agencies 1965-2003: Whose Interests to Serve?
     (pdf, 664KB, 60p.), June 2004

Related FR posts:



States and the Child Care and Development Fund

The National Association of State Child Care Administrators (NASCCA), an affiliate of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), and Child Trends, with the Bank Street College of Education, released a study in April evaluating states' use of funding from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) to invest in child care quality.
The flexibility inherent in the CCDF block grant structure allows the implementation of quality initiatives that fit the diverse geographic, demographic, and cultural landscapes of each state.
The study finds most states focusing "on a relatively small set of objectives that research suggests can contribute to child care quality:"
  • promoting healthy and safe environments;
  • professional development, including providing training and formal education for individual providers and programs;
  • initiatives that aim to increase emotionally supportive and responsive caregiving and those that support early learning.
However, the study's authors felt states needed to improve their evaluation and data collection methods, shifting from documenting the targeted population to more evaluating the effects.

Investing in Quality: A Survey of State Child Care and Development Fund Initiatives (April 2006, pdf, 54 pages/4mB)

See also,
PL 104-193 - Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (authorizing the CCDF)

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Judicial oversight of domestic violence

Protecting victims of domestic violence requires the coordination of numerous agencies from police and prosecutors, and advocates for both victims and batters, to the courts. Beginning in 1999, the Judicial Oversight Demonstration (JOD) Initiative, a five-year, federally funded project, tested the effectiveness of strong judicial oversight of domestic violence cases with a coordinated community response. The JOD Initiative was carried out at three demonstration sites: Boston, MA, Ann Arbor, MI, and Milwaukee, WI. The Initiative was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and its National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and managed by the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera). In June, Vera published a four-part series, Enhancing Responses to Domestic Violence , reporting on the JOD project.

Demonstration sites: Vera's four-part series:

Engaging Respondents in Civil Restraining Orders: A New Approach to Victim Safety (pdf, 280KB, 11p.). Discusses the Dorchester Community Outreach Worker Program to enhance victim safety in restraining orders.

Judicial Review Hearings: Keeping Courts on the Case (pdf, 325KB, 18p.). Covers post-conviction compliance hearings and graduated sanctions and rewards.

Prosecuting Witness Tampering, Bail Jumping, and Battering from Behind Bars (pdf,306KB, 18p.). How prosecutors in Milwaukee act on pretrial intimidation and abuse.

Pretrial Innovations: Supporting Safety and Case Integrity (pdf, 268KB, 15p.). Describes the Domestic Violence Commissioner's Court, the Pretrial Monitoring Program, and the Victim and Children's Waiting Room in Milwaukee.


Childhood obesity, not just a phase

The current issue of The Future of Children examines the reality of the increasing rates of childhood obesity and the policies and programs attempting to address it and the associated concerns. Areas of analysis include: possible trends, causes, consequences, and related health problems; the home, school and market environments of the nation's children, and attending regulating policies; and specific vulnerable population groups.

The Future of Children is supported by centers within Princeton University and The Brookings Institution, providing research in the fields of health, education and public affairs.

The Future of Children : Childhood Obesity, Volume 16, Number 1 Spring 2006

See related FR posts:
Social support weighs in
Stable marriage and child wellbeing
School snack lines



Boomer retirement - no market meltdown

Scenario: The first wave of baby boomers will turn 62 and become eligible for Social Security in 2008; they will strain our health and retirement systems; they will sell off financial assets to a smaller pool of workers, thereby depressing prices and rates of return. How likely is the last? Not very, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Why? Most boomers have few assets to sell, and the minority that owns a lot will need to sell little, if any. If boomers follow the pattern of current retirees, they will spend down their assets slowly. Longer life expectancy and working past traditional retirement ages will also spread out the sale of assets.

What are the "broader risks"? GAO notes the decline in traditional defined benefit pensions and Social Security's uncertain solvency. So, individuals' financial literacy will be vital for a secure retirement.

Among the sources GAO consulted for this study were the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board (Fed), and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), produced by the University of Michigan and sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

BABY BOOM GENERATION: Retirement of Baby Boomers Is Unlikely to Precipitate Dramatic Decline in Market Returns, but Broader Risks Threaten Retirement Security, GAO-06-718, July 28, 2006
     Full report (pdf, 1.1MB, 70p.)
     Highlights (pdf, 84KB, 1p.)
     Abstract (html)

Related FR posts:

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Marketplace on the Capitol steps

eBay, the hugely successful Internet marketplace with "193 million registered users from around the world," is now putting out a call for political action. From their eBay Government Relations web site, eBay Main Street, they declare:
eBay's Government Relations team is working to make sure your voice is heard in Congress and state capitals...
Join eBay's Main Street Program. By signing up to receive updates on the legislative issues that affect you as a member of the eBay Community, you'll be able to take quick action to protect your business.
Organizing members into a grassroots network of activists, eBay monitors such issues as distant state sales tax, state autioneering license requirements, Net neutrality, and current regional regulation of health insurance. eBay also owns PayPal and Skype, respective internet players in the online banking and telecommunications arenas.

eBay Government Relations provides state profiles ("300,000 registered users in the state of Hawaii"); generated letters of position to elected officials; a newsletter, The Mainstreet Crier; and a meeting program:
The Main Street Meeting Program educates sellers about both national and state specific threats to eCommerce. Our program will include a detailed presentation explaining these threats, a question and answer session and a complimentary working lunch or breakfast. Our team will then escort you to your state capitol to speak directly with state legislators about these crucial issues.
eBay's activist approach is not just national. eBay is also known as The World's Online Marketplace®, and "currently employ[s] more than 20 Government Relation (GR) Specialists around the world to monitor and engage in the political, legislative, and regulatory activities of governments," cooperatively working with their "Army of Entrepreneurs".

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