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News Bites: Kicking the Habit; The Consultants Are Coming; A Woman's Place

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KICKING THE HABIT

Florida Times-Union reporter Matt Soergel’s profile of a Jacksonville man brought back from the brink of painkiller addiction shows the complexity of the nation’s opioid crisis. Far from being a simple exercise of willpower, recovery is only possible at the intersection of individual initiative, personal support networks, professional norms and industrial regulations.

Soergel spoke to Doug Scott, who was in the grip of addiction after a series of automobile accidents and related injuries. Scott’s SUV was rear-ended twice in the span of a single year. Each time, the painkiller prescription got heavier.

“A doctor prescribed opioids; small amounts at first,” Soergel writes. “The pain in his lower back and neck was dulled but wouldn’t go away. His prescription was upped as Scott’s body and brain cried for more drugs—always more. After the second accident, morphine was added to the oxycodone he took.”

When Scott and his wife Caryn realized he was hooked, they looked into physical therapy as an alternative. He enrolled in a full-time, five-week physical therapy program at Brooks Rehabilitation, including biofeedback training and consultations with a chronic pain physician and a psychologist. By the end of the program, Scott had weaned himself off the prescription painkillers.

“His pain is not completely gone,” reports Soergel, “but it’s manageable, and while he’s out of regular therapy, he continues with exercises and practices he learned there.”

Soergel also notes that groups like the Florida Physical Therapy Association are raising awareness about the dangers of over-prescribing pain medication and the benefits of physical therapy. Their work is a reminder that the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries helped open this Pandora’s box.

THE CONSULTANTS ARE COMING

Efficiency consulting was once an obscure corporate discipline. Then Mike Judge introduced the world to Bob and Bob in the 1999 satire Office Space. The profession is now eminently meme-able. It’s also alive and well. Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record reports that St. Augustine city officials have engaged a consulting firm to “to make [the city’s] development review process more efficient.”

Management Partners will receive $49,875 to “analyze how development requests are processed in the city and offer recommendations to the city on how to make that process better.”

“Nothing is wrong with the current process,” Gardner writes, “but they’re following up on a request by Mayor Nancy Shaver to spend more time looking at how the city does its business.”

The effort is led by Management Partners Vice-President Amy Paul, whose team is already conducting confidential interviews with city employees and should present conclusions and recommendations by the end of the calendar year.

Gardner quotes Mark Litzinger, director of the city’s Financial Services Department, who says the review will deliver results ... of some sort.

“It could be to make the process more efficient or more effective, or it could be improved customer service,” Litzinger said. “We don’t have any hard expectations of what’s going to come out of this.”

A WOMAN’S PLACE

Ever since the evening of Nov. 8, 2016—and especially in the wake of the recent Kavanaugh fiasco—the nation’s women have awaited their chance to deliver an electoral rebuke to the current administration. The historic proportion of women candidates on the ballot and the enthusiasm of progressive women activists in the run-up to the vote does not bode well for the good ol’ boys in office.

The Ponte Vedra Recorder’s Samantha Logue reports on a Sept. 24 meeting dedicated
to women’s issues in the midterm campaign. Hosted by the Women’s Giving Alliance at
University of North Florida, the Florida Legislature Qualified Candidates Forum brought
together seven candidates currently contending for state House and Senate seats, representing districts across Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties. The event was moderated by the Florida Blue Foundation’s Vice-President and Executive Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Susan Towler.

“Towler began the forum by laying the ground rules and making a key distinction,” Logue writes. “’This is not a debate,”’ she advised, and she was right, for while the participating candidates hailed from fairly diverse backgrounds, there was a significant lack of diversity among their positions. All seven were registered Democrats, so the event ran more like a friendly discussion than a heated debate.”

Candidates fielded questions on female poverty and women’s healthcare. “After all questions had been answered,” Logue concludes, “Women’s Giving Alliance President Ellen Wiss closed the forum by thanking the candidates and attendees and urging them all to get out and vote.”

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