Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership becoming model for other states, program manager says
Louisiana's 16-month-old behavioral health care system overhaul is drawing the attention of other states. So says the leader of Magellan Behavioral Health in Louisiana, the statewide management organization that has been tasked with overseeing the move to coordinated care. "As other states are looking at transforming their system, Louisiana is becoming a model," says Craig Coenson, CEO of Magellan Health Services. Coenson says he has a call scheduled today with officials from New York "about how we implemented these waiver services." He says the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership structure is the first of its kind. "The way it's structured and funded through the various state agencies—the Department of Child and Family Services, Office of Juvenile Justice, Department of Education, the Office of Behavioral Health—working through this whole coordinated system of care, the whole design of the program is very unique," he says. "It's fascinating, and we're already starting to see the results of it." Those results, he says, are being seen in fewer institutional placements and more in-home and community-based services. "The Queen Mary is just now starting to turn, and we're starting to feel that," he says. "All eyes are on Louisiana." —April Castro
Study says La. quality of life improving
Improvements in life expectancy, general health and education over a 10-year period through 2010 helped Louisiana improve its ranking on The Measure of America state rankings released today by the Social Science Research Council. Louisiana is ranked No. 46 overall for its Human Development Index, which is calculated using data to measure well-being in three key areas: life expectancy, educational attainment and median earnings. The rankings are compiled using 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies. The U.S. average Human Development Index is 5.03. With a 4.12 index, Louisiana remains in the bottom 10 states in the new rankings, but its position is improved. When using 2000 data, Louisiana was ranked No. 48, with a 3.84 index score. Between 2000 and 2010, the state's life expectancy increased from 74.3 years to 75.7, while its share of residents with at least a high school diploma increased from 74.8% to 81.9%. The percentage of people in the state with a graduate degree increased from 6.5% to 7% during that same time, and the state's overall health index also improved. Median earnings in Louisiana, however, decreased slightly during the decade, from $26,854 to $26,566 (both figures in 2010 dollars). With a 6.17 Human Development Index score, Connecticut is the top-ranked state in this year's rankings. At 3.81, Mississippi is ranked last—as it was with data from 2000. You can get more details and access the complete rankings here
State superintendent to talk diploma simplification in B.R.
State Superintendent of Education John White wants to simplify and improve the three types of high school diplomas Louisiana currently awards, and he'll discuss plans to do so in Baton Rouge on Thursday morning. Parents, students, educators and community members are invited to join the discussion and provide White with feedback at the meeting, which will take place at 9 a.m. at Baton Rouge Community College, 201 Community College Dr. White is gathering input before crafting a formal proposal for diploma changes that he plans to present to BESE this fall. White has previously said
he would prefer that the state offer one high school diploma with two possible tracks. Currently, Louisiana students can earn one of three diplomas: Core Four, Basic or Career. Core Four is supposed to prepare students for college, but its requirements don't line up with TOPS, the Department of Education says; and the Basic and Career diplomas don't prepare students for high-demand careers
. Any changes made to the diploma structure would affect students who start high school in 2014, and regions would fully develop junior and senior coursework by 2016.
Environmental leader laments 3 recent industrial accidents
Two fatal explosions at Ascension Parish chemical plants last week, and a ruptured natural gas pipeline in Washington Parish this week, ought to be a "wake-up call," says Marylee Orr, who directs the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. "To have a dangerous workplace is not acceptable," Orr says. "I know accidents happen, but it concerns me that there were three in a row." However, she says safety has improved since the 1980s, and says it's good news that the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency, is investigating the accident at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, where a Thursday morning explosion led to two deaths and dozens of casualties. "They are an excellent resource that doesn't often come here," she says of the CSB. Orr suggests the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality may not be sufficiently funded, and says there hasn't been much support over the years for increasing DEQ's budget. She says the state should "proceed with caution" as its manufacturing sector expands. Edward Flynn, vice president for health, safety and security with the Louisiana Chemical Association, says a safe and prosperous chemical sector is in everyone's best interest, adding that plants are subject to regulation by multiple state and federal agencies. "Something obviously went wrong that resulted in these accidents, and I guarantee that nobody wants to find out what [went wrong] more than the companies themselves," Flynn says. —David Jacobs
Ex-BP employees face new indictments over spill
Federal prosecutors have secured new indictments against a former BP engineer and a former BP executive charged separately with obstructing probes of the company's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Today's indictment of former BP executive David Rainey adds language alleging that he knew of the pending congressional investigation he is charged with obstructing. A federal judge had dismissed the obstruction of Congress charge from Rainey's original indictment, in part because it didn't contain that allegation. A grand jury also issued a new indictment today against former BP engineer Kurt Mix, who is charged with deleting text messages about the company's response to the spill. The new indictment makes few substantive changes to the version it replaces and doesn't add any new counts.
Seafood board oversight shifted to lieutenant governor
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne is asking the Louisiana seafood promotion board to draw up a strategic plan and says he'll seek an audit of its finances as he assumes oversight of its operations. Lawmakers shifted the new responsibility to the lieutenant governor's office in the recently ended legislative session as part of an effort to strengthen supervision of a 14-member board that has received millions in recovery money from the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill. While Dardenne says he didn't seek the new responsibility or push the legislation, he notes that the mission of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board dovetails with that of his office, which is charged with Louisiana's tourism marketing. "I think it is a nice fit," he says. "There is no question in my mind that this is a marriage that is going to work, that's going to be very successful for your industry and very successful for the state of Louisiana." The new law takes effect July 1. The seafood board had only modest funding before the BP oil spill, with about a $300,000 annual budget tied to a fee from sales of commercial fishing, seafood wholesale and other state licenses. It also receives grants and contributions from task forces that represent individual fishing industries. But the board's profile was raised when it received $30 million from BP PLC for a seafood marketing campaign, to reassure visitors that Louisiana's seafood was safe after the massive spill that soiled the Gulf and Louisiana's coast. About $16 million of the funding remains unspent, according to an update provided to the board today.
News roundup: Six arrested in La. in explosives investigation … Fed suggests it's closer to slowing bond purchases … White House energy adviser: Meaningful climate action coming soon
Booked and charged:
The president and at least two other executives of a Louisiana explosives recycling company were among six people arrested Tuesday as a result of an investigation into how material was stored. The Explo Systems employees were indicted June 10 and allowed to turn themselves in. Each is free on $50,000 bond. Each worker faces five felony charges that carry sentences of prison time and fines. All the details can be found in the full story here
The Federal Reserve signaled today that it's moving closer to slowing its bond-buying program, which is intended to keep long-term interest rates at record lows. Chairman Ben Bernanke says the Fed could start scaling back its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases later this year if the economy continues to improve. The Associated Press has the full story here
; and for more on the Fed's forecast for the U.S. unemployment rate and inflation, click here
.In the pipeline:
While the Obama administration won't put its weight behind a carbon tax, it is preparing to "take meaningful action" to prevent a warming planet, the top White House energy adviser says. The Houston Chronicle
reports that Heather Zichal, the deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, says tackling the issue will be a top priority during President Barack Obama's second term. You can find the find the full story here