Last updated: January 28. 2014 5:21PM - 181 Views
Thomas Crisp Contributing Columnist

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Since the implementation of the Veterans Affairs MRSA Prevention Initiative in long-term care facilities in January 2009, the overall rate of health care-associated MRSA (i.e. Staph) infections decreased by 36%, according to study findings in the American Journal of Infection Control.

A bundle initiative was implemented in all VA acute care facilities in 2007. The bundle consists of nasal MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) surveillance on all hospital admissions, in-hospital transfers and discharges; contact precautions for patients with MRSA; hand hygiene; and increased responsibility for health care workers for infection prevention and control.

The program was expanded to its 33 long-term care facilities in 2009. VA researchers evaluated the prevalence of MRSA at admission from July 2009 to December 2012 and the incidence of MRSA infection during the same time frame using data from the VA Inpatient Evaluation Center national database. During this time, there were approximately 12.9 million resident-days at VA long-term care facilities nationwide.

The mean quarterly MRSA prevalence at admission increased from 23.3 to 28.7%. However, the overall HA-MRSA infection rate decreased by 36%, from 0.25 per 1,000 resident-days to 0.16 per 1,000 resident-days. Most infections included skin and soft tissue infections (45%) and urinary tract infections (25%). Rates of lower respiratory tract infections and non–catheter-associated UTIs decreased significantly. [Source: American journal of f Infection control article 10 Jan 2014]

PTSD update

Some Oregon lawmakers had said they feared that allowing medical marijuana cardholders to use pot for PTSD would lead to widespread abuse, but the initial signup doesn’t bear that out. The law went into effect Jan. 1, and applicants had 90 days before that to apply. Fewer than 100 have, the Salem Statesman Journal reported .

Republican Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas co-sponsored the Oregon bill. He said using medical pot for PTSD is a temporary measure that could alleviate symptoms in the short term, while long-term treatments are developed.

The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it doesn’t recognize any medical uses. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs allows patients to use medical marijuana in states where it’s legal and prescribed by other clinicians.

Defense Department officials are reminding troops stationed in Colorado or visiting on leave that military rules still prohibit marijuana use, regardless the local laws. Random drug tests remain in effect, and troops caught with drugs in their possession or their system face possible loss of security clearance and dismissal from the service.

In addition, civilians caught bringing pot onto Colorado military bases face potential legal action, including ejection from base housing and banishment from military jobs. Earlier this year, Air Force officials warned that servicemembers “now need to be particularly vigilant to avoid entangling themselves in situations where Colorado civilians may be recreationally using marijuana in their presence.”

Problematic situations include sharing off-base housing with recreational pot users and visiting stores where the drug is sold, officials warned. The Colorado laws aren’t the only problematic situation for military officials. Washington state is expected to become the second state to allow sale of marijuana for recreational use later this spring. Defense officials have already warned troops there that those state law changes will not alter military rules regarding drug use. [Source: Associated Press article 7 Jan 2014]

Homeless vets update

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the availability of up to approximately $600 million in grants for non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that serve very low-income Veteran families occupying permanent housing through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.

The SSVF program is designed to assist very low-income Veteran families who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless. The program employs a housing first model, an approach which centers on providing homeless Veterans with permanent housing quickly and then providing VA health care, benefits and services as needed.

Required services include outreach, case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits, and providing or coordinating efforts to obtain needed entitlements and other community services.

Grantees secure a broad range of other services for participants, including legal assistance; credit counseling; housing counseling; assisting participants in understanding leases, securing utilities, and coordinating moving arrangements; providing representative payee services concerning rent and utilities when needed; and serving as an advocate for the Veteran when mediating with property owners on issues related to locating or retaining housing.

Grantees also offer temporary financial assistance that provides short-term assistance with rent, moving expenses, security and utility deposits, child care, transportation, utility costs, and emergency expenses.

VA announced the availability of funds Jan. 14 through a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) via the Federal Register. VA is offering $300 million in FY 2014 funds and $300 million in FY 2015 funds, subject to available appropriations. VA will make award decisions based on a national competition.

In FY 2013, VA awarded approximately $300 million in SSVF grants for operations beginning in FY 2014. VA is focusing up to $300 million in surge funding on 76 high priority continuums of care in an unprecedented effort to end Veterans’ homelessness in these communities.

In FY 2013, funding from the SSVF program served over 39,000 Veterans and over 62,000 participants (i.e., Veterans and their family members). In November, VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the results of the 2013 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, which was prepared by HUD.

The report estimated there were 57,849 homeless Veterans on a single night in January in the United States, an eight percent decline since 2012 and a 24 percent decline since 2010.

The SSVF program is authorized by 38 U.S.C. 2044. VA implements the program by regulations in 38 CFR part 62. More information about the program can be found at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp. [Source: VA News Release 14 Jan 2014]

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