fbpx
Home - Breaking News, Events, Things-To-Do, Dining, Nightlife

HPNM

Aberdeen alderwoman watches from jail as challenger defeats her in runoff

0

An Aberdeen alderwoman watched from jail Tuesday night as the city’s voters chose not to reelect her.

Lady Garth, no stranger to controversy, was taken into custody on Sunday stemming back to a February ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court to uphold a five-day jail sentence after the Ward 2 alderwoman was found guilty of disturbing the peace. In September 2022, Garth illegally attempted to direct law enforcement to remove a sitting member from a board meeting.

The 64-year-old incumbent was also arrested on April 5 for allegedly assaulting a poll worker during the April 2 city election, in which she narrowly lost by 12 votes forcing a runoff. She later bonded out before being apprehended earlier this week.

During Tuesday’s runoff, Garth was defeated by challenger Rhonda Moore by about 70 votes, according to an unofficial count. Moore is known in the community for her work with the Aberdeen Boosters Club and Aberdeen Alumni Association.

Stay up to date with all of Mississippi’s latest news by signing up for our free newsletter here

Copyright 2024 SuperTalk Mississippi Media. All rights reserved.

Read original article by clicking here.

HUD Debars Sunset Village Landlords Long After Deaths In Mississippi Delta

The landlords of a Cleveland, Miss., apartment complex where a gas leak killed a family and displaced a community are facing consequences for the mismanagement of properties across the United States.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has banned Millennia Housing Management from all federal contracts for five years and has levied serious allegations of financial mismanagement at company ownership. Millennia is the company that owns and manages Sunset Village, the Section 8 apartment complex in Cleveland where dozens of families were displaced after a mother and daughter died in their apartment in 2022.

In a statement to the Mississippi Free Press on March 19, a spokesperson for the federal agency confirmed that “HUD has issued an official debarment order to Millennia CEO Frank T. Sinito and Millennia Housing Management Ltd. (Millennia), immediately prohibiting them from participating in any new business with HUD, its Office of Multifamily Housing Programs, including the Section 8 program, and with any federal government agency or federal programs for five years.”

The debarment order is perhaps just the beginning for Millennia. HUD confirmed that the agency “is pursuing separate enforcement actions and will take further action as appropriate and necessary.”

Read the full April 16, 2024 statement from a marketing firm representing Millennia.

HUD also shared an earlier statement that shed some light on the cause of Millennia’s debarment. “HUD found that Millennia Housing Management exercised financial mismanagement of tenant security deposit accounts and taxpayer funds providing housing assistance,” the spokesperson wrote. “As a result, HUD is holding them accountable by demanding repayment of misappropriated funds, seeking to impose civil money penalties on those responsible, and issuing a suspension and proposing debarment.”

That proposed debarment is now final.

In an April 16 statement to the Mississippi Free Press, Kendall Maggard, the manager of communications for a marketing firm representing Millennia, stressed the initial conditions of Millennia’s portfolio and the challenges of the contemporary economy and real-estate market.

“Regarding concerns with select properties, The Millennia Companies previously acquired the highly distressed GMF portfolio, spanning 39 assets and 4,600 units at HUD’s request. At the time

Read original article by clicking here.

New research program at Ole Miss to determine effects of medical cannabis use

0

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

The University of Mississippi marijuana research garden (Photo courtesy of the University of Mississippi)

  • The research program, approved by lawmakers, will compile data on the effects of medical cannabis with the intention of establishing better dosing guidelines.

Lawmakers have established the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Research Program by way of SB 2888. The program, which was signed into law by Governor Tate Reeves (R), will be managed out of the National Center for Cannabis Research and Education at the University of Mississippi.

The intent of the program is to provide information to lawmakers and the Mississippi State Department of Health regarding the use of cannabis.

Senator Kevin Blackwell, Chairman of Senate Medicaid Committee

State Senator Kevin Blackwell (R), Chairman of the Senate Medicaid Committee and author of the bill, said the legislation is very unique and will hopefully help to define dosing recommendations for medical illnesses.

“Currently, there are very limited studies on the effects of cannabis due to the fact that it is a schedule one drug,” Blackwell told Magnolia Tribune. “So, the research that the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Research Program would conduct will be bringing in a cohort of patients to study what their ailment is and what they are currently taking in medical cannabis as well as the outcome.”

Blackwell believes this will help the state establish better dosing guidelines.

Funding for the program is still pending, as the Legislature makes its way through the appropriations process. Senator Blackwell said he hopes the funding will be resolved prior to the end of session.

Mississippians first attempted to codify a Medical Marijuana program in the state in 2020 with Initiative 65. Despite voter approval of the ballot initiative, it was later struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court due to the signature process in which it was certified and placed on the ballot.

Following the state Supreme Court ruling, lawmakers adopted a medical cannabis program during the 2022 legislative session. The first sale of medical cannabis was made in January 2023. However, the state began researching the product long before then.

Dr. Robert Welch, Director of the National Center for Cannabis Research and Education Research at the University of Mississippi, said they have worked very closely with lawmakers in crafting the legislation for this program.

Dr. Robert Welch, Director of the National Center for Cannabis Research and Education and Research

“We are very excited. Ole Miss has a long history with cannabis and are perfectly poised to help the state with this program,” said Welch.

The University of Mississippi cannabis research center is the only cannabis research program that is federally funded and recognized by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The current state medical cannabis program does include a provision for research. Dr. Welch said this new program could not only help Mississippi’s cannabis program but provide an abundance of information and data for other states to potentially utilize in their own programs.

Within the medical cannabis program are 30,000 card carrying patients. Dr. Welch said these individuals will have the opportunity to participate in the program and provide data on how their cannabis products are impacting their health journey. However, participation will not be mandatory.

“Part of this new research program will allow us to utilize all that expertise we have to help inform the public, law enforcement, the health department and others on how the products are actually impacting these patients,” said Dr. Welch. “We also want to look at different formulations of CBD and THC to see what is working well and what is not working well for people.”

The research program will be frequently required to report their findings to the new council, as outlined in the bill.

The program will be overseen by a board that is set to advise and review any presented research regarding medical cannabis. The board will also advise on the status of the budget and any findings that are made known. The board will consist of 11 members – four appointed by the Governor, four by the Lt. Governor, and three by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. There are specific parameters or qualifications each appointment must meet.

In 1964, Ole Miss established the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (RIPS) within the School of Pharmacy. The goal was to discover and develop new drugs from natural sources. In 1968, the program committee of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offered the university a contract to provide standardized marijuana for researchers. The next year, a secured garden was constructed on the university’s campus to grow the crop.

Since then, research and cultivation projects have continued to expand at Ole Miss. During the early 1990’s, NIDA became part of the National Institutes of Health. By 2014, the NIDA was yielding over 600 kg of marijuana in three cannabis varieties of different chemical profiles for their drug supply program.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

After Lexington Officer Ran Over Black Teen, City Says No Footage of His Death Exists

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Civil rights attorney Ben Crump demanded Tuesday that police in a small town in Mississippi release camera footage of a chase that ended in the death of a Black teenager, but the city attorney said the police department does not use cameras.

“I have been advised by the Chief that the police vehicles in Leland are not equipped with dash board cameras nor were the police officers equipped with body cams,” Josh Bogen said in an email to The Associated Press.

The AP filed a public records request March 29 seeking documents about the fatal encounter that occurred in the early hours of March 21, including incident reports, body camera footage and dashcam footage of the police chase of 17-year-old Kadarius Smith and his cousin.

Smith and his cousin were out walking when a Leland Police Department vehicle chased them and ran over Smith, said his mother, Kaychia Calvert. Smith died hours later at a hospital.

Bogen said Tuesday that the district attorney has not yet released a police incident report about the chase.

Leland is in the flatlands of cotton and soybean country and has a population of about 3,900. It is about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northwest of Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson.

Smith’s family has retained Crump. They are demanding that the officer who drove the vehicle be fired and that unedited police camera footage be released.

During a news conference Tuesday in Leland that was live streamed on Instagram, Crump mentioned Black people killed by police in high-profile cases in the U.S. during the past few years, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee. Crump also led people in the chant: “Justice for Kadarius!”

He called on the police chief, the mayor, the city attorney and others in Leland to “do their job” and release camera footage and other documents in the case.

“If this was their child, what would they do?” Crump said. “Exactly what they would do for their child, we want them to do it for Ms. Calvert’s child and Mr. Smith’s child.”

Patrick Smith

Read original article by clicking here.

U.S. fatalities in 2023 return to pre-pandemic trendline

0

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

image
  • It is unquestionable that the coronavirus pandemic exacted an enormous toll but a great deal of the damage was also due to our reactions to it.

According to the current statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of fatalities in the United States last year declined to 3,078,290 from 3,269,042 in 2022. That number is very close to the pre-pandemic trendline.

Prior to the pandemic, the number of people who died in the U.S. was very consistent. From 1960-2019, the U.S. fatality rate (fatalities/1,000 population) was about 8.75. The rate ranged from a high of 9.5 to a low of 7.9. From 1970-2010, there was a slight downtrend in the rate. However, beginning in 2011, the rate began a slow, but steady increase, associated with an aging population and a slight decline in life expectancy. But the fatality rate jumped significantly during the pandemic. For 2020-2022, the rate averaged 10.2, about a 22% increase from before the pandemic.

The rate for 2023 was 9.1. In the 10 years prior to the pandemic, the increase in rate was running at about 1.3% per year. If there had been no pandemic and that trend would have continued, the rate last year would have been almost exactly 9.1. Of course, we only live on one timeline, so it is impossible to know what would have happened without a pandemic.

I think there are two conclusions we can likely draw from this data. First, the good news, the rate at which people are dying in America is pretty much back to normal. The bad news is that during 2020-2022, around 1.4 million more people died than we would have expected had there been no pandemic. The CDC estimates that about 1.2 million died from COVID. Of course, there is some disagreement whether in all the deaths the CDC attributed to COVID it was the principal cause of death or only a contributing cause because so many who died from the disease had multiple co-morbidities. Regardless, there was an increase in fatalities that exceeded the number the disease caused. 

I suspect that detailed study would show that many of these fatalities were caused by unintended consequences of our reaction to the virus. We know that drug overdoses are up during the pandemic and that certain chronic drivers of fatalities, like cardiovascular issues and cancer, were up due to a decline in routine early detection. In less developed countries, collateral fatalities were almost certainly even higher.  This UN report estimated that 43 million people in Africa were at risk of extreme famine because of the fallout from the pandemic in May 2022.

It is unquestionable that the coronavirus pandemic exacted an enormous toll on our country and the entire world, and not just in the additional fatalities it caused. Much of the damage was attributable to the lethality and the transmissibility of the disease. But a great deal of the damage was also due to our reactions to it. Frequently, our leaders reacted to the pandemic on imperfect information, which often led to misguided “cures” that were worse than disease. I have been reluctant to criticize actions that were taken in the heat of the moment, but hopefully, the next time we face a similar crisis, our leaders will be somewhat more cognizant of the potential harm from the unintended consequences of the policy decisions.

#####

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

Tupelo’s Link Centre celebrates creativity to build community

In December 2001, with the support of a diverse group of people, businesses, and community organizations, Link Centre opened on Main Street in Tupelo. Although at 17 years old, I (Melanie Deas) vowed to never return to Mississippi, I found myself saying yes to the role of Executive Director in January 2007. 

Link Centre is a multi-faceted place. It’s a nonprofit organization, a community partner, a landlord, an artist co-op, a transit center, an entrepreneurial incubator, an event venue, a storm shelter, a medical clinic, a referral service, an imaginative reuse of an historic property, a movie set, a neighborhood lighthouse, a creative academy, a sacred space – and a place where people with many different opinions on many different topics regularly cross paths. We proudly name “respectful,” “compassionate,” and “responsible” among our core operating principles. We are intentional about being a place of acceptance and art – something that doesn’t always make us popular, but we believe it does make us essential. 

We strive to build a community in which people and organizations could work together and learn from each other. In spite of our efforts, however, we continue to see people growing further apart. We seem to be finding less common ground. Particularly since the pandemic, we seem to be less interested in interacting with other people. Over the same period of time, multiple studies show that more than 75% of Americans are exhausted by political division and view escalating polarization as a threat to our country’s survival. These facts are what excited us most when we heard of the opportunity to partner with National Week of Conversation. 

We want to be part of the movement to provide people opportunities to take positive action to reverse the troubling trends of polarization. We believe that the best way we can do that is by acting on a hyper-local scale. Indeed, this is where Link Centre thrives. Our vision is to “Celebrate creativity. Engage partners. Build community. Enrich lives.” These principles are similar to the values that ground National Week of Conversation. 

Like others across the country, we believe in building a better community; and Link Centre’s programs depend on people being willing to gather in public. We consider it an honor and a responsibility to offer art as a way for our community members to explore their differences while uniting in common activities. For these reasons, we are proud to offer two opportunities to come together, share a meal, and begin a conversation about how we might build a better North Mississippi. 

This year, Link Centre will screen two Better Together Film Festival selections; the first on April 16, featuring “LIST(e)N”, the second on Wednesday, April 17 featuring “Purple: America, We Need to Talk”. By providing one evening screening and one lunchtime screening, we hope that we can reach as many people as possible. 

We invite you to join us. We are ready to listen. 

Join us at Noon on Friday, April 19 for a VIRTUAL lunch and learn session exploring tools to make us better listeners, and in turn, better equipped to engage in meaningful conversations across differences.

The session will be led by Dr. Graham Bodie, professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Media and Communication in the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi.

This event is free and open to the public. Register to receive more information.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

‘Arkansas model’ pushed by Medicaid expansion advocates worst of both worlds

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

image
  • As Mississippi’s legislative session nears close, lobbyists and progressive media outlets have begun pushing the ‘Arkansas model’ as a compromise. It’s a bad play for current Medicaid enrollees and the state budget.

A friend of mine sent me a text this week quipping that one Mississippi news outlet should change its name to “Medicaid Expansion Today.” The recent frenetic activity on Medicaid, from advocacy media, to far-left rallies, to lobbyists with a financial interest, is not a sign of strength. It’s Hail Mary desperation.

With as little as one week remaining in session, proponents want a win on full Medicaid expansion badly. Only a wide chasm exists between the plans passed by the Mississippi House and Senate. Such chasms can kill a bill as effectively as a “no” vote. But not always. Sometimes, mixed with the pressure of a ticking time clock, wide chasms yield monstrously bad compromises.

Enter the discussion of the ‘Arkansas model’ as a “middle ground” for Mississippi. In reality, heading that direction would combine the worst aspects of the House and Senate plans.

The Arkansas Experience

When Obamacare passed Congress in 2010, it offered states the ability to expand Medicaid to a new category of recipients — able-bodied adults without dependents. It marked a big shift for the program, from people who could not work and take care of themselves, to people who could. The law also increased the income threshold for all adults from the federal poverty level up to 138 percent of the poverty level.

The State of Arkansas expanded Medicaid in 2014. To avoid the “Obamacare” label, instead of putting the newly eligible adults directly on Medicaid, Arkansas used Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance for the newly eligible adults.

Arkansas’s plan quickly proved inequitable, expensive, and ineffective. The traditional Medicaid populations — children, pregnant moms, impoverished elderly, and the disabled — found themselves competing for care with a new population of able-bodied adults furnished with private insurance plans. In other words, the program actually favored able-bodied adults.

The plan also proved more expensive than Medicaid expansion in other states, which is a feat considering staggering cost projection overruns experienced across the country. Arkansas’s Medicaid budget doubled over the last decade.

Finally, it proved ineffective at changing outcomes. The Center for Health Quality and Payment Reform’s at-risk hospital report shows Arkansas with a higher percentage of hospitals at risk of closure than Mississippi. What’s worse, after a decade of the program, United Healthcare’s America’s Health Rankings puts Arkansas dead last in the nation for health outcomes.

The plan has been so unworkable that it is on its fourth iteration. It’s like that restaurant in your town that keeps changing names, but offering the same low quality food.

Putting Dogma Before Reason

At some level, the Medicaid expansion debate in Mississippi has devolved into a power play. Truth, reason, and good policy outcomes have taken a back seat to “winning.” That’s unfortunate.

Earlier this session, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed full Obamacare Medicaid expansion. It provided able-bodied adults without dependents access to Medicaid and increased the income threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). A month later, the Senate passed its own version. As with the House plan, it provided access to able-bodied adults. Unlike the House plan, it only expanded the income threshold up to 99 percent of the FPL.

The Senate plan was contingent on approval of a work requirement. Full expansion under the House plan would take place, with or without, approval of a work requirement. In a March Magnolia Tribune/Mason-Dixon poll, 90 percent of Republican Primary voters said they would not support Medicaid expansion without a work requirement. 81 percent voiced general opposition.

In their analysis, Senators arrived at the conclusion that going up to 138 percent of the FPL was counterproductive. This is because anyone earning between 100-138 percent of the FPL already has access to a fully-subsidized private health plan on the ACA exchange. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services, there are 181,000 Mississippians in this income range enrolled in a private plan on the ACA exchange.

The federal government pays 100 percent of the subsidies for these plans and bears the administrative responsibility for determining income eligibility. It’s estimated the exchange plans bring over $1 billion into the Mississippi economy, a fact which no economic analysis done in support of Medicaid expansion has bothered addressing.

Under federal law, if full expansion occurs up to 138 percent, the ACA exchange population within the relevant income range will lose access to their current insurance and be forced onto Medicaid. Essentially, the vast majority of the Medicaid expansion population would be people the state is kicking off private insurance. Media coverage of the Senate plan and the facts surrounding the ACA exchange has been abysmally lacking and arguably dishonest.

Perhaps the House’s desire to fully expand Medicaid coupled with their Senate’s desire to preserve the ACA exchange marketplace led to Arkansas. The ‘Arkansas model’ of full expansion does seeks to preserve access to private insurance, but in a truly dumb way in light of the current ACA exchange marketplace.

Under that model, Mississippi would take on 10 percent of the cost for private plans when the federal government currently covers 100 percent of that cost. The state would also take over the responsibility of determining income eligibility for people earning between 100-138 percent of FPL, meaning new administrative burdens for the Division of Medicaid.

It’s the most expensive option proposed to date for the state. It’s been proven ineffective in another state. It’s not a rational act.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

‘Arkansas model’ pushed by Medicaid expansion advocates worst of both worlds

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

image
  • As Mississippi’s legislative session nears close, lobbyists and progressive media outlets have begun pushing the ‘Arkansas model’ as a compromise. It’s a bad play for current Medicaid enrollees and the state budget.

A friend of mine sent me a text this week quipping that one Mississippi news outlet should change its name to “Medicaid Expansion Today.” The recent frenetic activity on Medicaid, from advocacy media, to far-left rallies, to lobbyists with a financial interest, is not a sign of strength. It’s Hail Mary desperation.

With as little as one week remaining in session, proponents want a win on full Medicaid expansion badly. Only a wide chasm exists between the plans passed by the Mississippi House and Senate. Such chasms can kill a bill as effectively as a “no” vote. But not always. Sometimes, mixed with the pressure of a ticking time clock, wide chasms yield monstrously bad compromises.

Enter the discussion of the ‘Arkansas model’ as a “middle ground” for Mississippi. In reality, heading that direction would combine the worst aspects of the House and Senate plans.

The Arkansas Experience

When Obamacare passed Congress in 2010, it offered states the ability to expand Medicaid to a new category of recipients — able-bodied adults without dependents. It marked a big shift for the program, from people who could not work and take care of themselves, to people who could. The law also increased the income threshold for all adults from the federal poverty level up to 138 percent of the poverty level.

The State of Arkansas expanded Medicaid in 2014. To avoid the “Obamacare” label, instead of putting the newly eligible adults directly on Medicaid, Arkansas used Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance for the newly eligible adults.

Arkansas’s plan quickly proved inequitable, expensive, and ineffective. The traditional Medicaid populations — children, pregnant moms, impoverished elderly, and the disabled — found themselves competing for care with a new population of able-bodied adults furnished with private insurance plans. In other words, the program actually favored able-bodied adults.

The plan also proved more expensive than Medicaid expansion in other states, which is a feat considering staggering cost projection overruns experienced across the country. Arkansas’s Medicaid budget doubled over the last decade.

Finally, it proved ineffective at changing outcomes. The Center for Health Quality and Payment Reform’s at-risk hospital report shows Arkansas with a higher percentage of hospitals at risk of closure than Mississippi. What’s worse, after a decade of the program, United Healthcare’s America’s Health Rankings puts Arkansas dead last in the nation for health outcomes.

The plan has been so unworkable that it is on its fourth iteration. It’s like that restaurant in your town that keeps changing names, but offering the same low quality food.

Putting Dogma Before Reason

At some level, the Medicaid expansion debate in Mississippi has devolved into a power play. Truth, reason, and good policy outcomes have taken a back seat to “winning.” That’s unfortunate.

Earlier this session, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed full Obamacare Medicaid expansion. It provided able-bodied adults without dependents access to Medicaid and increased the income threshold to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). A month later, the Senate passed its own version. As with the House plan, it provided access to able-bodied adults. Unlike the House plan, it only expanded the income threshold up to 99 percent of the FPL.

The Senate plan was contingent on approval of a work requirement. Full expansion under the House plan would take place, with or without, approval of a work requirement. In a March Magnolia Tribune/Mason-Dixon poll, 90 percent of Republican Primary voters said they would not support Medicaid expansion without a work requirement. 81 percent voiced general opposition.

In their analysis, Senators arrived at the conclusion that going up to 138 percent of the FPL was counterproductive. This is because anyone earning between 100-138 percent of the FPL already has access to a fully-subsidized private health plan on the ACA exchange. According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services, there are 181,000 Mississippians in this income range enrolled in a private plan on the ACA exchange.

The federal government pays 100 percent of the subsidies for these plans and bears the administrative responsibility for determining income eligibility. It’s estimated the exchange plans bring over $1 billion into the Mississippi economy, a fact which no economic analysis done in support of Medicaid expansion has bothered addressing.

Under federal law, if full expansion occurs up to 138 percent, the ACA exchange population within the relevant income range will lose access to their current insurance and be forced onto Medicaid. Essentially, the vast majority of the Medicaid expansion population would be people the state is kicking off private insurance. Media coverage of the Senate plan and the facts surrounding the ACA exchange has been abysmally lacking and arguably dishonest.

Perhaps the House’s desire to fully expand Medicaid coupled with their Senate’s desire to preserve the ACA exchange marketplace led to Arkansas. The ‘Arkansas model’ of full expansion does seeks to preserve access to private insurance, but in a truly dumb way in light of the current ACA exchange marketplace.

Under that model, Mississippi would take on 10 percent of the cost for private plans when the federal government currently covers 100 percent of that cost. The state would also take over the responsibility of determining income eligibility for people earning between 100-138 percent of FPL, meaning new administrative burdens for the Division of Medicaid.

It’s the most expensive option proposed to date for the state. It’s been proven ineffective in another state. It’s not a rational act.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

Osprey gets old school, urges parents to join forces to raise engaged kids

0
  • “Old School Parents Raising Engaged Youth,” is a non-profit organization that unites families to raise more engaged youth by keeping their childhood free from social media.

Remember when…?

Any gathering of cousins, siblings, or old friends will likely have this conversation at one point or another.

Remember the time we didn’t come home before the streetlight came on? Remember when we’d play the kids down the street in a game of two-hand-touch? Remember when we’d have to wait for Mom to get off the internet so we could use the house phone to call each other? 

Remember when…? 

Seriously, it wasn’t that long ago. The kids-now-adults of the ‘80s and ‘90s remember life without the internet at home. Cell phones were a luxury, not a necessity. When you wanted to connect with someone, you just got up and went to find them. Kids didn’t text or tag each other in photos; they got up and got together. They’d get into face-to-face arguments instead of posting things on social media pages, and they’d learn to work through it face-to-face, with or without the help of an adult. 

It sounds old school, right? 

That’s because it is. The concept of face-to-face interaction being THE option, not AN option, is almost foreign today. And it’s not just with kids – we’d rather have our groceries delivered while we work from home with our webcams shut off. It’s too easy to text that friend instead of calling them. And when was the last time you went to an event, leaving the phone in the car without taking 55 pictures in the hope of just one Instagram-worthy shot?

Somehow, along the way, we’ve lost our way. 

And that’s why Osprey exists. Osprey, named for the acronym “Old School Parents Raising Engaged Youth,” is a non-profit organization that unites families to raise more engaged youth by keeping their childhood free from social media until they graduate high school.

Erin and Ben Napier, of HGTV’s Hometown fame, joined forces with Dr. Catherine Sledge, her husband, Taylor Sledge, and Ashley Meena, the wife of C Spire CEO Hu Meena, to create Osprey. 

Erin Napier has received press attention several times for being open about the fact that her kids won’t have social media, and she doesn’t feature them publicly. 

Dr. Sledge said this isn’t just about reducing screen time. There’s more to it than that. 

“Osprey exists to connect parents and families who want to create an environment where it is much easier and better to raise their children without social media,” said Dr. Sledge.  “We want them to have social lives without social media during their developmental years.”

Dr. Sledge said social media isn’t some inherent evil or an enemy. It is a tool for people to use. 

“It is a tool that can be used for good by people who have fully developed frontal lobes, which are not children,” said Dr. Sledge. 

The frontal lobe in the brain controls executive function, emotional regulation, and decision-making. 

“That doesn’t fully develop, on average, until a person is about 23,” said Dr. Sledge. “Which is why teenagers and college students sometimes do dumb stuff. Adults do dumb stuff, too, but teenagers and young adults have hormones and other things that are much more controlling of their minds and bodies earlier in their lives.” 

Adolescence, especially around the time of puberty, is a tough time mentally and emotionally for any kid. They are experiencing some emotions and patterns of thinking for the first time, and the brain is still developing. 

“Handing them social media is so very detrimental to them,” said Dr. Sledge. “Emotionally, spiritually, developmentally, everything.” 

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon in society, but studies about its impact on young minds are already emerging. The Annie E. Casey Foundation states that nearly all teenagers, a whopping 95% of those ages 13-17, are on social media. More than two-thirds of those teen social media users claim to be on it constantly. TikTok and Instagram are the most popular platforms among teenagers. 

“They’re spending an average of seven hours daily on their devices,” said Dr. Sledge. “That’s a third of their day!” 

This doesn’t mean kids are getting home from school at 3:00pm and staying on it until 10pm.

“It’s pieces of it throughout the day,” said Dr. Sledge. “If you think about it, that’s free periods and recess at school where a kid is on the phone instead of studying or talking to friends.”

Dr. Sledge added that the time spent on the phone could be better spent engaging with others, learning new skills, honing their current skills, learning, and growing.

“They’re engaging with others and having these huge developmental experiences.”

Time wasted is not the only damage done by social media usage. Studies have continued to point out the increases in teen suicide, depression, anxiety, and ADHD, so much so that the United States Surgeon General released an advisory about the risks of youth social media usage in 2023. The report cited the benefits of social media, such as it being an avenue of self-expression and community, but the risks were devastating. 

According to the advisory, children ages 12 to15 who spent more than three hours a day on social media were twice as likely to report issues of depression and anxiety. Tenth graders in the study admitted to being on social media at least 3.5 hours a day. Another study cited in the advisory found that children aged 14 who used social media claimed issues with sleep, depression, online harassment, poor body image, and low self-esteem in girls more than boys.  

There’s also peer pressure, bullying, cyber crimes against children, and harmful content that a child is not prepared to grasp at such a young age. 

If you’ve already exposed your child to social media, it’s not too late to link up with the Osprey lifestyle.

“First of all, we are not an organization that judges you if your child already has a device,” said Dr. Sledge. “We aim to make it easier for parents and children to live social media-free lives.”

A lot of the judgment parents feel, said Dr. Sledge, is perceived because of judgmental people they have seen on social media.

Ironic, isn’t it? The fear that since you gave your child a device, you’re a terrible parent because of a person you otherwise would have never met had it not been for your device and algorithms bringing them to you via social media? 

“There’s a personal accountability element, for sure,” said Dr. Sledge. “But you’re not being judged. It’s just with Osprey, you know more about the risks [of social media usage], so you behave differently.” 

An example, Dr. Sledge said, is like that of a smoking pregnant woman.

“In the 50s, no one judged a woman who smoked while pregnant, and her doctor may have even told her it was okay because it helped with stress,” said Dr. Sledge. “But now, there’s more research, and we know more about those dangers, so you don’t do it.” 

Dr. Sledge said many parents don’t want their child to be the “odd man out” and not have a smartphone or social media in high school. 

“That’s why we have Osprey,” said Dr. Sledge. “Because this group creates an environment where all the kids engage with each other, not their phones.” 

So, what do we do? Dr. Sledge first and foremost recommends the book The Anxious Generation by Johnathan Haidt

“Dr. Haidt is the foremost researcher in the United States, really the world, on this topic,” said Dr. Sledge. “He’s been putting together the data for a number of years.” 

There are four recommendations Dr. Haidt made in his book about raising youth without social media. 

“The first is no smartphone before high school,” said Dr. Sledge. “You can get a watch that only allows texting and calls or a standard cell phone with no internet capability.” 

The next step is not to allow social media for children under 16. 

The third step is to have a phone-free school. 

“This is not just saying, ‘if we see that phone, you’re going to get a little slap on the wrist,” said Dr. Sledge. “It’s having a place in the school to lock them all up. So parents can still communicate with their kids before and after school, but it’s not available to them during the school day.” 

The fourth recommendation is more playtime for all kids, especially younger ones. 

“Get them outside,” said Dr. Sledge. “And let them take risks. We’re not talking about something where they can break their neck, but they may get a bruise or a scrape.” 

This type of risky play challenges kids, builds resilience and builds their self-esteem.

“There’s not so much helicopter parenting then,” said Dr. Sledge. “Which drives the anxiety of the parents and the kids.”

Osprey is a growing movement that is building a network of social media-free families worldwide. Building a community of Osprey families around you means increasing your kids’ engagement. 

“Through Osprey, you can form a local chapter at your school, or form Osprey friend circles called ‘nests’ among parents who hold each other accountable and lift each other up,” the site reads. “ If no one in your circle of friends has started an Osprey nest already, it begins with you! All it takes is two or more families to make the decision together, and the more families you can bring into your nest, the better.”

Find out more about Osprey at Ospreykids.com.

Read original article by clicking here.

In Mississippi’s Medicaid debate, look at rapidly increasing rural mortality rates

0

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

image
  • Columnist Sid Salter cites report written by USDA economists that says there is a growing natural-cause mortality gap between rural and urban areas of the U.S.

As Mississippi legislators head to conference on the state’s first sincere consideration of some form of Medicaid expansion, we’ve heard alarms sounded by the right and the left on why the state alternately should or should not expand Medicaid coverage for the state’s working poor.

Proponents of Medicaid expansion celebrate the fact that Mississippi is finally taking steps toward reclaiming a portion of the federal tax dollars Mississippians have been paying to provide expanded Medicaid coverage for the working poor in 40 other states but not in our state where healthcare disparities loom large in the poorest state in the union.

Opponents of the Mississippi House version of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi and the other 10 states across the country that have not expanded coverage make three primary arguments – the state can’t afford the state share of the costs, expanding Medicaid will discourage finding work, and states should not increase enrollment in a “broken program.”

The political wars and the messaging generated by both sides are contradictory and confusing. But a March 2024 U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service report suggests that for rural Mississippians, the state’s Medicaid expansion debate actually might have life or death consequences.

The report, entitled “The Nature of the Rural-Urban Mortality Gap,” was authored by USDA economists Kelsey L. Thomas, Elizabeth A. Dobis, and David A. McGranahan.

The researchers concluded that “The 2019 age-adjusted natural-cause mortality (NCM) rate for the prime working-age population (aged 25–54) was 43 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas. This is a shift from 25 years ago when NCM rates in urban and rural areas were similar for this age group.”

More specifically, the report’s findings were: “There is a growing natural-cause mortality gap between rural and urban areas of the U.S.; Over the last 20 years, the difference between age-adjusted natural-cause mortality rates for the overall population in rural and urban areas grew from being 6 percent higher in rural areas than urban areas in 1999 to 20 percent higher in rural areas than urban areas in 2019;

“The rural, prime working-age population was the only group to experience an increase in NCM rates, resulting in an even greater increase in the mortality gap between rural and urban areas. In 1999, the NCM rate for the prime working-age population in rural areas was 6 percent higher than in urban areas, growing to 43 percent higher in 2019; and the more rural the area, the greater the increase in prime working-age NCM rates (or smaller the decrease) over time.”

Why does that matter? The report found that rural working-age people in the South are dying at a higher rate than their urban counterparts – and Mississippi is a rural state.

According to the U.S. Health and Human Services, Mississippi is rural, where 65 (79.3%) of the 82 counties are considered rural areas. Mississippi has three standard metropolitan statistical areas (MSA): the Jackson Metropolitan Area; the Hattiesburg Area; and the Gulf Coast Region. Desoto County, located in North Mississippi, is included in the Memphis, Tennessee MSA. All 82 counties in Mississippi are designated whole or in part as medically underserved areas.

Is the lack of expanded Medicaid a sole-source cause of those health disparities? Of course not. The report’s authors acknowledge high incidences of obesity, smoking, poor-quality diets, and other place-based influences on the mortality gap, along with: “Both hospital closures and physician shortages in rural areas are also a growing concern and could lead to higher rural mortality rates as well.”

They likewise note: “It is plausible that differences in healthcare resources and health behaviors across urban and rural areas could contribute to the stagnation and even increasing mortality rates in rural areas, as the accessibility, quality, and affordability of care could be compromised. Healthcare resources and services vary by population density, often leaving rural areas with limited medical treatment and less accessible options that could adversely impact mortality rates.”

The most germane passage in this study of rural people dying faster than urban neighbors is this one: “Regionally, differences in state implementation of Medicaid expansion under the 2010 Affordable Care Act could have increased implications for uninsured rural residents in states without expansions by potentially influencing the frequency of medical care for those at risk and preventive measures.”

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.