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Black Men Die of Prostate Cancer at Double the Rate of All Other Races 

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “I think that if proton therapy were an option, I think he would still be here,” said Mary Lambert, the widow of Benjamin Lambert IV, in an interview. “We appealed it. We had doctors write letters, we saw different specialists, and they flat out refused. We went to the insurance after it was passed into state law in the state of Virginia and Terry McAuliffe who was governor at the time and he signed an emergency deal to make it law immediately, stating that proton therapy could be held at a higher standard than photon therapy. And they are still refusing to adhere to the letter of the law.” 
The post Black Men Die of Prostate Cancer at Double the Rate of All Other Races  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Virginia Insurer Under Fire for Refusing Coverage of Treatment Despite Law

By Hazel Trice Edney, TriceEdneyWire.com

Benjamin J. Lambert IV, a member of one of the most prominent Black families in Virginia’s public service history, lost his battle to prostate cancer on Monday, June 3, 2019. He was only 52. His father, Virginia Senator Benjamin J. Lambert III, his grandfather, and four uncles also all died of prostate cancer, according to Lambert family members.

The Lamberts are just seven examples of the thousands of Black men per year – from every socio-economic walk of life and every part of the U. S. – who are disparately diagnosed with prostate cancer. Not only is the rate of prostate cancer among Black men higher than Whites, but the chances of Black men dying from it are more than double that of White men and men of other races, according to the National Cancer Institute.

But doctors and medical administrators across the nation believe these grossly disparate numbers can be minimized or at least equalized by one form of cancer therapy that top-level cancer doctors and researchers say could pivot the death disparities. The therapy, called Proton Beam, specializes in zapping cancer cells with laser focused radiation without damaging surrounding non-cancerous tissues. Some of the top medical universities across the nation have proton beam centers; including Harvard, MD Anderson, the Mayo Clinic, and Johns Hopkins.

This is the reason that a list of insurance agencies are currently under fire by cancer advocates across the nation for refusing to cover the cost of proton beam therapy. For example, even after the Virginia General Assembly passed a bi-partisan bill, that encourages insurers such as Anthem, Aetna, Cigna and Humana, to stop labeling the FDA-approved treatment as experimental, Anthem is still under fire for what is deemed as unfair decisions that, in some instances, are believed to have led to deaths.

In doing so, the insurers had been covering the other forms of treatment by radiation mainly because of the lower costs, reported Jeremy Lazarus for the Richmond Free Press as the bill passed through the General Assembly during its spring legislative session of 2017.

The Free Press article quoted Anthem spokesman Scott Golden as saying Anthem stopped covering the therapy after finding “no clear scientific evidence that proton beam treatment for localized prostate cancer is equal to other forms of conventional photon radiation therapy.”

But that was before Virginia’s General Assembly passed the law prohibiting insurers from holding proton therapy to a higher standard in comparison to other therapies. Although the law does not mandate coverage for any specific case, according to Virginia’s Legislative Information System, the law “Prohibits health insurance policies and plans from holding proton radiation therapy to a higher standard of clinical evidence for benefit coverage decisions than is applied for other types of radiation therapy treatment. The measure applies to policies and plans that provide coverage for cancer therapy.”

The Virginia Legislature’s move to make law concerning the issue was mainly because the refusal to cover Proton therapy has baffled cancer experts and advocates alike.

“Proton therapy is a medically necessary, FDA-cleared treatment for cancer patients,” says a report by the D.C.-based Alliance for Proton Therapy Access (APTA). “For many cancer patients, proton therapy is prescribed by their physician and is the optimal and most effective treatment option. Studies have shown that proton therapy can help increase survival, reduce the risk of secondary cancers, result in fewer acute and long-term conditions as well as debilitating short-term side effects and improve quality of life for individuals undergoing cancer treatment,” states the APTA report titled, “Cancer Care Denied: The Broken State of Patient Access to Proton Therapy.”

Daniel E. Smith, executive director of the APTA, says the coverage denials are often shocking and have led to death.

“It’s inconceivable that an insurer would play games with a disease like cancer, where a diagnosis can be a matter of life or death. Cancer patients wait days, weeks, or even months for an opaque appeal process to play out while their cancer and anxiety grow – they must either start treatment without their insurer’s approval and no guarantee of payment, continue waiting, or opt for a cancer treatment that is less effective or poses higher health risks. We can no longer tolerate a process that endangers the lives of cancer patients who don’t have time on their side,” Smith said in a statement to the Trice Edney News Wire. “Our report shows that private insurers deny proton therapy six out of 10 times for patients aged 18-64. While improper denials are reversed a third of the time, appeals take an average of five weeks; and that’s time cancer patients do not have when fighting an aggressive disease.”

The Lambert family pleaded for what they believed could be the life-saving treatments for Benjamin IV.

“I am writing this letter to you, our elected officials in the Commonwealth, in order to solicit your help to save the life of my son,” wrote his mother, Carolyn Lambert, to Republican Sen. Frank W. Wagner and Democratic Sen. Richard Saslaw on Feb. 10, 2017, nearly two years before his death. Our medical team in Arizona has recommended that Benjamin’s best chance at life is with proton therapy. Fortunately for us, there is a proton facility just an hour away from our state capitol at Hampton University.”

Even after the bill passed, Anthem continued to deny the coverage, ultimately forcing the Lambert family to shoulder the cost of the therapy. But by then, it was too late. Benjamin IV’s widow, a nurse and mother of his two children, believes he would have lived had Anthem initially covered the treatment.

Meanwhile, the Free Press article reported that “advocates note that the same insurers that refuse to cover treatment in Virginia are willing to provide coverage for patients that travel to proton therapy centers in other states.”

This apparent discriminate behavior has drawn the ire of Bill Thomas, associate vice president for governmental relations at Hampton University, which has an 11-year-old Proton Beam Center that costed $225 million. Thomas has led the fight in Virginia against the apparently racially discriminate coverage.

“Proton beam is just a therapy. But it’s the best therapy in the world because all the top cancer centers in America have proton beam. There’s nobody arguing with Harvard about this. There’s nobody arguing with Johns Hopkins about this. There’s nobody arguing with MP Anderson about this. They’re arguing with a Black school,” Thomas said in an interview. “The medical efficacy has been proven. The General Assembly took us through a four-year drama of even approving this law, so, all the issues have been discussed, adjudicated, and denied and that’s why they came up with the law. All we’re interested in is for the attorney general for the Commonwealth of Virginia to make Anthem obey Virginia law. It has nothing to do with anything else…Anthem – against Virginia law – did not pay for his insurance coverage,” said Thomas, referring to Lambert’s case.

Thomas continued, “They originally were turning people down point blank, saying that proton therapy was investigational and experimental. That’s a lie. It’s FDA approved. Now let me put that in context. That’s how we got the law passed because the insurance companies were lying.”

Thomas’ view is that with Black men dying from prostate cancer at twice the rate of Whites and others, insurers who go out of their way to deny the prostate treatment at Hampton are considered suspect. About 30 percent of the patients there are Black men, Thomas says.

Besides that, Petersburgh, Va., which is 79 percent Black and less than a hundred miles from Hampton, has the highest death rate of Black men from prostate cancer in the U. S., according to an article reported earlier this year by the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. The statistic was a quote from Luisel Ricks-Santi, director of the Hampton University Cancer Research Center.

Whether or not insurers are intentionally discriminating in their decisions about what or who they cover, their conduct is being monitored and documented by the U. S. government, particularly the National Institute of Health (NIH), which has designated Hampton University as a center of excellence for biomedical research.

“Not surprisingly, racial biases continue to impact such decisions, with reports showing that historically, black men undergo less aggressive treatment and more watchful waiting (WW), even after adjusting for socioeconomic status,” states an NIH study. “Within the context of high-risk disease, numerous studies have shown a clear racial variation in the primary treatment of prostate cancer, including more use of WW and lower use of radical prostatectomy (RP) among minorities compared to their white counterparts.”

For many of the families and loved ones of prostate cancer patients left behind, there is no need for proof.

“I think that if proton therapy were an option, I think he would still be here,” said Mary Lambert, the widow of Benjamin Lambert IV, in an interview. “We appealed it. We had doctors write letters, we saw different specialists, and they flat out refused. We went to the insurance after it was passed into state law in the state of Virginia and Terry McAuliffe who was governor at the time and he signed an emergency deal to make it law immediately, stating that proton therapy could be held at a higher standard than photon therapy. And they are still refusing to adhere to the letter of the law.”

Their children, a son and daughter who were ages 9 and 12 respectively when Lambert died, are now in middle and high school.

“I think he would still be here living a full life and contributing to his community and society as a whole,” Mary Lambert said. “At this point, I am just so beat up. I think this is ultimately their goal when they do this stuff. You know, they want you to just accept what they say and go away.”

Smith, of the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access, agrees: “We have worked with far too many cancer survivors who waited days, weeks, or even months, for a broken review and appeals process to play out while their cancer and anxiety grew. It’s time to hold insurers accountable for providing fair, timely, and transparent access to cancer treatment.”

The post Black Men Die of Prostate Cancer at Double the Rate of All Other Races  first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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PRESS ROOM: First Book, an Innovative Leader in Education Equity, Releases Groundbreaking Research Illustrating the Impact of COVID-19 on Emotional Wellness of Students in Underserved Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

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Nearly One Thousand Educators Participated; Report that over half (53%) of the students they serve struggle with their mental health

WASHINGTON, First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring education equity for children living in poverty, today announced the results of a national survey designed to identify emotional wellness challenges faced by school-age children. In addition to reinforcing earlier findings regarding the devastating mental health effects of COVID-19, this survey shed new light on the severity of this impact — especially in communities of need. It also established that emotional wellness issues have become a significant barrier to education for many students who attend schools in these communities – a majority of whom are children of color. Pediatric psychologists from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s On Our Sleeves movement for children’s mental health partnered with First Book to offer a clinical perspective on survey questions and process.

In the new survey findings, educators report that 53 percent of the students they serve struggle with their mental health and only 20 percent of educators feel prepared to support the mental well-being of their students. Of significant concern, 98 percent of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education. And notably, educators are facing their own mental health challenges. Student mental wellness issues have a ripple effect on educators who feel helpless and unsupported.

“Educators across the country are speaking out about the urgency of the mental wellness issues that their students are facing, how they don’t feel prepared to address the issues, and how those issues act as a barrier to learning. Based on what we’re hearing from our Network of educators, this is truly a crisis,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO, First Book. “First Book is committed to supporting low-income communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and the data revealed in this survey is guiding us in providing educators with high-quality, research-driven tools to nurture emotional wellness and develop healthy habits that prepare students to not only learn but thrive.”

On an ongoing basis First Book solicits input from its Network of more than 525,000 educators – all of whom serve children in need – to enable the organization to directly address the needs of practitioners and the children they serve. Mental wellness was spotlighted as a critical problem exacerbated by COVID-19, leading the organization to design focus groups and a survey to better understand the magnitude and scope of the issue, as well as what is needed to address this barrier to education. Nearly 1,000 educators responded to the survey providing startling data. The results provided a framework for the resource, which is now available, entitled: Taking Care: An Educator Guide to Healthy Habits for Student Emotional Wellness, a free resource created in collaboration with On Our Sleeves. The resource and study are now available through First Book.

“Collaborating with First Book to provide educators with evidence-informed activities and curriculum is one more step forward in making sure they feel more prepared to support their students,” said Ariana Hoet, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Educators have been on the frontline supporting children’s mental health before and throughout the pandemic with limited resources. We know the pandemic has exacerbated worries around children’s mental health, so this need is even more crucial than ever.”

According to the First Book study, the top three life circumstances or experiences that contribute to children’s mental health challenges are 1) unstable or difficult home life; 2) hunger/food insecurity and 3) isolation due to Covid-19. Because these three factors often intersect as children grapple with returning to normalcy post-pandemic, the resources First Book provides to educators are essential tools for helping them become better equipped to aid students who are still dealing with the effects of Covid-related depression, trauma, loneliness, and loss.

First Book’s findings are particularly relevant given recent warnings issued by professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association. These groups have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health and have noted that psychological strains, made worse over the past few years by pandemic-associated isolation, anxiety, fear, and grief, have caused a crisis in several societal sectors including education. They also emphasize that children in communities of color have been disproportionately impacted due to previously unresolved inequities linked to structural racism.

Additional key findings in First Book’s survey include:

  • 72% of educators say the pandemic has introduced new mental health challenges among students/children;
  • 65% of educators report the pandemic has exacerbated the existing mental health challenges students already faced;
  • 80% of educators believe gaining access to mental health support is a high or emergency priority in relation to students’ overall needs at this time;
  • 98% of educators say mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education;
  • 93% of educators became aware that a student was struggling with mental health issues due to a noticeable change in behavior;
  • 92% of educators indicated they are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources focused on promoting the general mental health and well-being of all students;
  • 51% of educators report that a student’s race/racial identity is relevant to their mental health;
  • 68% of respondents indicate that they take a child’s race and/or culture into consideration when supporting their mental well-being (e.g. observe family/cultural norms, design a culturally inclusive curriculum, and foster open and trusting relationships with their students);
  • 74% of educators are very or extremely interested in accessing support resources to help them approach mental health challenges related to race, identity, and intersectionality;
  • Older children reportedly struggle more than younger children. Educators serving middle and high school students estimate that 59% and 60% (respectively) of the students they serve struggle with mental health, while early childhood and elementary educators estimate 50% and 52% (respectively) of their students struggle.  This compares to the general population at 53%;
  • Educators in urban and suburban communities consider addressing mental health as a stronger priority (83% high/emergency priority) vs. their rural counterparts (75% high/emergency priority).

About First Book

Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 29-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its Network of more than 525,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research-based strategies to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books. For more information about First Book, please visit http://www.firstbook.org.

About On Our Sleeves®

Children don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves. With 1 in 5 children living with a significant mental health concern and half of all lifetime mental health concerns starting by age 14, we need to give them a voice. On Our Sleeves®, powered by behavioral health experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, aims to provide every community in America with free resources necessary for breaking child mental health stigmas and educating families and advocates, because no child or family should struggle alone.

Since the inception of On Our Sleeves® in 2018, more than 3 million people in every state across America have interacted with the movement’s free pediatric mental health educational resources at OnOurSleeves.org and educator curricula have reached more than four of five classrooms across the United States.

To schedule an interview with a spokesperson for First Book, please contact Ian Kenison at ikenison@firstbook.org.

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Moore Brown: Maryland Set to Have Two Black Statewide Officials

NNPA NEWSWIRE — If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On July 19, Wes Moore and Congressman Anthony Brown won their primary contests to be Governor of Maryland and Attorney General.

Maryland is a deep blue state that currently has a moderate Republican Governor. It is expected that Moore and Brown will have a major advantage over their Republican competitors.

If they are elected, Maryland would be the first state to have two Black statewide officials. Wes Moore has caught lightning in a bottle. He has run ads that have been narrated by Oprah Winfrey and has captured the excitement of the moment in Maryland.

Moore’s main opponent was former DOJ Civil Rights chief and DNC Chair Tom Perez. Perez came in second to Moore. The results were 36 percent for Moore, 27 percent for Perez and 19 percent for Peter Franchot.

Wes Moore’s victory is verification that Black statewide candidates in states with over 20 percent of the Black vote can run and win strong campaigns.

Current Governor Larry Hogan has said publicly that he will not vote for the Republican nominee for Governor. That nominee, Dan Cox, is a supporter of Donald Trump.

“Dan Cox …is a QAnon whack job who was in favor of calling Mike Pence, my friend, a traitor, when they were talking about hanging him,” Hogan said at a news conference on July 19.

Attorney and former prosecutor Glenn Ivey defeated former Congresswoman Donna Edwards in a primary to replace Anthony Brown in Maryland’s 4th district. Ivey is all but certain to be elected to Congress in such a blue district.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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DOJ Indicts Four Police Officers Who Allegedly Lied to Secure Search Warrants for Breonna Taylor’s Home

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4. 

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, has long been insisting that Louisville police have never been at her daughter Breonna Taylor’s apartment on the night they shot her dead.

On August 4, the Department of Justice, led by the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Kristen Clarke, announced the indictments of four police officers who fatally shot Ms. Taylor during a nighttime raid on her apartment.

They asserted that the officers lied in order to get a search warrant for Taylor’s apartment.

The Justice Department announced that the indictments against the four current and former police officers would include federal charges of using “unconstitutionally excessive force.”

“Breonna Taylor should have awakened in her home, as usual, on the morning of March 13, 2020. Tragically, she did not. She was just 26 years old. As Attorney General Garland just stated, today’s indictments allege that Louisville Police Detective Joshua Jaynes and Sergeant Kyle Meany drafted and approved what they knew was a false affidavit to support a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s home. That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor’s death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on August 4.

“The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution ensures that people are subject to searches only when there is probable cause supporting a search warrant. Falsified warrants create unnecessary hazards for the public and for the police, who rely on facts that fellow officers report in carrying out their public duties,” Clarke added.

“These charges focus on the conduct of the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Place-Based Investigations Unit. In the first indictment filed today, we allege that in early 2020, that unit was investigating suspected drug trafficking in the West End [area] of Louisville. On March 12, 2020, officers from that unit sought 5 search warrants they claimed were related to the suspected drug trafficking.  Four of those warrants targeted properties in the West End where that activity was allegedly occurring,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland before Clarke spoke.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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