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Resource: Search Chemicals Found in Tap Water by ZIPcode

6 hours 45 min ago


By Cynthia McCormick

An environmental organization today released a database of pollutants in public drinking water supplies across the U.S. — including Cape Cod — that show widespread evidence of contaminants in tap water.

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. said in a press release that the new Tap Water Database gathered and analyzed data from almost 50,000 public water systems to create “the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water.”

People using the database can type in a zip code or utility name — or touch on their state on a U.S. map — to see what kind of contaminants are in local public drinking water supplies, why the contaminants are considered dangerous and what kind of water filter they can use to purify their drinking water.

While most public water utilities were found to be compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations, EWG officials said they took a stricter view of contaminants than either the federal or state government. The environmental agency establishes a health risk based on what it says is the latest science, including a federal one-in-a-million-cancerrisk data and the California public health goal.

Continue reading the story on the Cape Cod Times website.

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$174 Million in Federal JAG Grants

7 hours 9 min ago

Applications for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program (JAG grants) are now being accepted through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) for Fiscal Year 2017.

JAG grants help fund programs related to law enforcement, prosecution and prevention, as well as community corrections, drug treatment, technology improvement and a variety of other areas.

In addition, the BJA is encouraging JAG grants applicants to focus their programs on five key areas. These are the focus issues for the coming year:

#1 Reducing gun violence

States are encouraged to invest funds in programs dedicated to combatting gun violence. This would include enforcing existing firearm laws and enhancing reporting efforts to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

#2 Transitioning to NIBRS

Recipients are encouraged to use funds to aid law enforcement agencies in their switch to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The FBI has designated the NIBRS as the new standard in crime reporting.

#3 Officer safety and wellness

An emphasis on safety, as well as officer health is encouraged. Line-of-duty deaths in 2016 (135 deaths) increased by 10 percent over 2015 (123 deaths). The BJA encourages recipients to fund programs related to officer health and wellness, as well as tactical training.

#4 Border security

Violence against officers working to curb human- and drug-trafficking near America’s borders is rising. BJA encourages recipients to use funds for hiring, training and outfitting officers, resulting in better protection.

#5 Collaborative prosecution

BJA emphasizes the importance of strong working relationships between law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. Cooperation between the two will help prevent crime increases.

Certain items funded by JAG grants may have additional stipulations, including:

  • Body-worn cameras
  • Body armor
  • DNA database uploading and testing
  • Interoperable communications

Awarded funds can be reduced for non-compliance with federal standards. States that fail to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) could lose five percent of their JAG grant. Recipients who fail to follow the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) could lose 10 percent of their funds.

JAG grants must be applied for by the chief executive of the state, typically the governor, and financial records must be kept on funded programs. As specified in the solicitation, “to help ensure that States consider the impact of JAG funding decisions across the entire criminal justice system, BJA strongly encourages each State to bring all criminal justice system stakeholders together in the strategic planning process. The strategic planning process should include local governments, and representatives of all segments of the criminal justice system.”

Direct awards are a minimum of $10,000 to local government units.

Applications are due by Aug. 25.

Learn how to apply through the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Grant Management System (GMS).

Apply now through the GMS.

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U.S. Workforce Feels Fallout of Opioid Crisis

7 hours 24 min ago


By Chip Cutter

The opioid epidemic is having widespread affects on many industries, in terms of labor shortages, workplace safety and worker performance, and on companies small to large in all manner of labor categories.

Managers and owners are trying to figure out ways to deal with drug-addicted workers and job applicants and cite the opioid crisis as one of their biggest challenges. Applicants are unwilling or unable to pass drug tests, employees are increasingly showing signs of addiction on the job and there are also workers with opioid prescriptions that have performance issues.

“It’s a freaking nightmare,” said Clyde McClellan, owner of American Mug & Stein pottery of East Liverpool, Ohio.

Challenges for Corporate Drug Tests

Nearly one year ago, the city of East Liverpool posted a picture on its Facebook account, which went viral, to raise awareness about the town’s opioid crisis and the types of calls it is regularly getting:

McClellan said he stopped doing drug tests a few years ago at his East Liverpool manufacturing operation, opting instead to ask job applicants directly what their on, and then feel out employees in the first few weeks on the job. “We’ll try them out for a while, then you can usually tell if they’re getting a little [high],” he said.

He noted drug tests could cost his business between $65 and possibly $100 per applicant.

One  Wichita, Kan.-based producer of building materials, part of CSW Industrials, said that after three months, 24 out of 35 new employees had been fired or quit due to substance abuse. After finding synthetic urine, they now have a policy where drug tests require observation.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine estimated that 40 percent of job applicants in the state either failed or refused a drug test when he reported the findings recently to Congress.

Prescription Opioids Complicate Corporate Drug Policy Enforcement

Companies cannot usually afford to wait months or years before intervening, said Greg DeLapp, chief executive officer of the Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

DeLapp advises clients to check on employees once they miss more than a week of work, citing a study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute that found in 26 states, more than half of workers who missed seven days of work had an opioid prescribed.

Zero-tolerance drug-free workplace policies do not typically apply to prescription opioid medications.

We do not have the right to ask anybody about their medical condition or what prescription they’re on, of course not,” said  Markus Dietrich, global manager of employee assistance and worklife services at DuPont, which employs 46,000 people globally.

The opioid crisis affecting manufacturing, trucking and other labor forces is not limited to blue collar jobs. A report by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs found that abuse of prescription drugs among attorneys ranks is second only to alcohol.

Solutions to Address Opioid-Induced Labor Shortage

One metals fabricator in Eerie, Penn., said they work with international agencies to place addiction-free refugees, instead.

Smaller companies turn to recovery programs like OneLife Treatment in Edmond, Okla., that actively seek to place recovering substance abuse addicts in stable employment.

Tom L. Shupe, a senior manager of manufacturing operations, has started looking toward automation for metals fabrication processes that currently require six laborers but with a machine, would only require one. The opioid crisis he’s faced in hiring has forced him to seek a machine alternative with assistance from engineering students at a local college.

You’re going to see manufacturing jobs slowly going away for, if nothing else, [for the opioid crisis] alone,” Shupe said.

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen equated opioid use to a decline in labor participation rates measured by Federal surveys on the economy, known as the Beige Book. Employers mentioned finding applicants able to pass drug tests as a specific hiring barrier.

Read the original story on LinkedIn.

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How a Cable Tied Up Boston’s Critical Port Infrastructure Expansion

11 hours 3 min ago

The demand for critical port infrastructure expansion in the Boston Harbor has been high for years, as shipping vessels become larger, and the need to remain competitive with larger ports on the east coast grows.

In 2014, Congress approved a $310 million dredging project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Massachusetts Port Authority, authorizing a deepening of the Boston Harbor. The project would allow a new generation of larger containerships more room than the current channels.

Unfortunately, progress was forced to halt after the discovery of a 27-year-old mislaid cable.

Larger Ships Necessitate Critical Port Infrastructure Expansion

As shipping companies look for ways to cut down on transportation costs, one of the innovations is the creation of larger ships that can transport bigger shipments. Mega-vessels, called New Panamax ships, can hold three times as many containers as before, thereby cutting down on the cost of fuel and the amount of trucks needed for offloading.

The Port of Boston is only one of 17 ports in the U.S. that can accommodate the larger ships — but only during high tide.

“Starting last July … we had ships that were 40 to 60 percent larger than we had ever seen,” Lisa Wieland, port director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, said in an interview with the Boston Globe.

We were fortunate that we could accommodate them, but they have to wait for high tide to come in and then they have to wait for high tide again to go out. So, that’s quite challenging, and it can slow them down.”

Deepening the harbor would allow the new larger ships to enter the channels without worrying about the time of day.

Mislaid Utility Power Cable Prevents Port Expansion

In 1990, an underwater cable was laid to provide power to the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, but did not follow depth requirements as laid out by a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. The cable crosses two channels in Boston Harbor.

As a result, any work to deepen the harbor would damage equipment and become a hazard, according to the Hull Times. To continue the dredging project, the cable would need to be removed and reinstalled at a proper depth.

In an effort to move forward with Boston’s critical port infrastructure expansion, the Army Corps of Engineers and Massachusetts Port Authority filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), which built the Deer Island facility to help clean up Boston Harbor, and Eversource, which laid the cable.

Settlement Clears Path for Critical Port Infrastructure Expansion

On July 13, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement with NSTAR Electric Company d/b/a Eversource Energy (NSTAR), NSTAR subsidiary Harbor Electric Energy Company (HEEC) and the MWRA, allowing the dredging project to move forward.

The settlement says a new cable must be laid by the end of 2019, followed by the removal of the original cable.

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California Doubles Offender E-Waste Recycling Program

11 hours 18 min ago

An expansion of a California e-waste recycling program is providing valuable skills to the state’s offender population, as well as meeting waste-reduction goals.

Last month the Prison Industry Board approved the expansion of the California Prison Industry Authority (CALPIA) Electronic Waste Collection and Computer-Refurbishment program, doubling the number of participating facilities to four.

Until now, the program consisted of two participating sites: CALPIA’s On-Time Delivery North warehouse, where state e-waste is collected and sorted by offenders, and N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, where offenders are trained in computer refurbishment and rebuilding with salvageable parts.

The technology recycling program expansion includes two new facilities that will operate similarly to the originals. Offenders at the California Institution for Men in Chino will collect and sort e-waste, and Ventura Youth Correctional Facility will offer a computer-refurbishment program.

E-Waste Recycling Program Helps Address Digital Divide

Charles L. Pattillo, general manager and Prison Industry Board executive officer, believes the program has multiple benefits.

“This program plays a unique role in helping offenders give back to communities,” he said in a press release.

The computers they refurbish are provided to CDCR, county jail inmate programs, under-served school districts and non-profit organizations in communities to help bridge the digital divide. With the expansion, we can now ensure that offenders statewide have the chance to learn these same skills and make a positive difference.”

The cost-effectiveness of the technology recycling program is a win-win-win for state officials, by eliminating e-waste, providing offenders marketable skills and meeting state recycling benchmarks.

View this document on Scribd

“This program will help reduce the amount of e-waste stored by state agencies while improving recycling efforts,” Jeff McGuire, Department of General Services (DGS) chief deputy director and Prison Industry board member, said.

[It] supports the governor’s and legislature’s goal of 75 percent recycling, composting or source reduction of solid waste by 2020 while doing so in a cost-effective manner, with no added costs to any state agency, including CALPIA.”

See the news release on the CALPIA website. 

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The Skinny on 2017 Housing Market Inventories

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 17:01

Trying to catch a tiger by the tail might describe the way that many first time homebuyers are feeling. Nationwide housing market inventories are down for the ninth consecutive quarter according to our recent report. The inventory of starter homes is a mere 22.1 percent of the nation’s overall inventory. Furthermore, the amount of income necessary to purchase a starter home continues to rise.

Low tier homebuyers are not the only group experiencing frustration this year. Trading up into that next home maybe as challenging as buying that first home.

Housing Market Inventories are Shrinking for All Home Types

Housing market inventories are down across all segments (starter, trade-up and premium). Nationally, starter home inventories slid the most, plummeting 15.6 percent year over year. The drop of trade-up home inventories is sizeable too, slipping 13.1 percent. Premium home inventories fell the least with a 3.9 percent decrease. The drop in inventory has been precipitous since 2012. When comparing Q2 inventory levels for the number of homes still on the market after 60 days, 57 percent were still on the market at the end of June 2012 while 47 percent remained this year.

Starter and Trade-up Homes are Wanted Most

Available inventories are discordant with demand; inventories of starter and trade-up homes fall short when compared to online searches for homes in these categories. Just under 55 percent of all searches were for these home types. However, as of June trade-up and starter homes represented 42.2 percent of the nationwide inventory. The 13-percentage point gap is putting disproportional upward pressure on lower tier homebuyers.

Shortfalls are More Impactful to Starter Homebuyers

Homebuyers seeking a starter home must shell out significantly larger percent of their income than those purchasing a premium or trade-up home. Low tier homebuyers will need 39.2 percent of their income to purchase a home. In 2016, starter homebuyers needed 36.1 percent of their income, a 3.1 percent increase year over year.  Home equity and appreciation helps trade-up homebuyers, 26 percent of their income is necessary, however, that is a 1.9 percent increase from 2016. Premium homebuyers have it the best, only needing 14.3 percent of their income this year, a slight 0.9 percent increase from last year.

The Lowest Inventories are on the West Coast

Homebuyers across the nation are experiencing bidding wars and making tough choices. In order to be competitive, homes sales are closing faster with buyers acquiescing to sellers in many instances. Yet in some markets, the competition is fiercer and the choices are harder. Markets that experienced the largest plunge in inventory over the past five years are the markets with the least amount of inventory left on the market after 60 days this year.

All three San Francisco Bay area metropolitan areas (San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco) had less than 25 percent of their inventory on the market after 60 days. Buyers seeking a home in East Queen Anne, Seattle should take heed, as well. Inventory in the Seattle metropolitan area was below 25 percent with a scant 21.9 percent of homes remaining on the market after 60 days. Salt Lake City, Utah, rounds out the top five swiftest moving markets, selling 74 percent of its inventory in 60 days.

East coast homebuyers are more fortunate. Buyers considering Miami condos or bigger homes in Fairfield County, Conn., can take their time, less than 40 percent of inventory in these metros moved in 60 days. Just over 42 percent of homes sold in 60 days in Winston-Salem, N.C., Knoxville, Tenn., and Greensboro-High Point, N.C.

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The Fate of DACA: A Bill & A Lawsuit

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 16:41


By Kathryn Watson

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, had a blistering message for members of his own party in a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday as he and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, pushed their bill Thursday to grant legal status and a path to citizenship for some immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

Graham and Durbin are reviving a new version of the bill, which has been introduced in previous years in the Senate, as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program faces legal challenges in court. Graham said he appreciates the Trump administration’s stated priority to prioritize deporting “bad hombres” who are in the country illegally and have committed crimes, but urged the president and fellow Republicans to treat law-abiding immigrants whose parents brought them as children “fairly.”

“The question for the Republican Party is, what do we tell these people? How do we treat them? Here’s my answer. We treat them fairly. We do not pull the rug out from under them,” Graham said, adding those immigrants, “are no more connected with a foreign country than I am.”

Continue reading the story on the CBS website.

Read about the 10-state coalition giving the Trump Administration until September 5th to rescind DACA.

See the December 2016 letter 14 mayors wrote to President-Elect Trump to support DACA.

Local DACA Insights

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The 6 Teddy Roosevelt Quotes That Still Inspire Millions

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 16:15


By David Lang

President Theodore Roosevelt was also a soldier, naturalist, reformer and author. As a leading force of the U.S. Progressive Era, many of Roosevelt’s reforms are law today.

His words have led soldiers, laborers and politicians. Here are the six quotes millions have found inspiring:

  1. Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.
  2. Believe you can and you’re halfway there.
  3. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
  4. Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  5. Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.
  6. Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

Read the original summary on the SocialLearningCommunity.com.

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Million Dollar Grants for Modern Libraries & Programs

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 12:46

Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21) with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is awarding a variety of grants up to $1 million to programs that assist modern libraries in meeting the changing learning and information needs of the American public.

National, state, local and tribal programs that meet the general criteria for libraries are eligible to apply.

Funding categories include:

  • Planning grants up to $50,000 for one year: Used to perform preliminary planning activities
  • National Forum grants up to $100,000 for one to two years: Used to foster discussion between experts and key stakeholders regarding professional development and education-related issues among libraries and archives
  • Project Grants up to $1 million for one to four years: Used to recruit, develop, train and educate the next generation of librarians and archivists
  • Research Grants up to $500,000 one to four years: Used to investigate key questions important to the library or information science professions

Project grants of $250,000 or more require a 1:1 cost share match, excluding student support costs.

All applicants must designate one of three project categories:

  • Community Anchors
  • National Digital Platform
  • Curating Collections

Preliminary proposal applications are due by Sept. 1, 2017, and Jan. 16, 2018, for invited proposals. Those selected to receive a grant will be notified in April 2018.

Learn more about LB21 and apply on Grants.gov. 

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AG Restores and Preempts Ordinances Restricting Asset Forfeiture

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 16:17


By Sadie Gurman

WASHINGTON  — The Trump administration will soon restore the ability of police to seize suspects’ money and property with federal help, but The Associated Press has learned the policy will come with a series of new provisions aimed at preventing the types of abuse that led the Obama Justice Department to severely curtail the practice.

At issue is asset forfeiture, which has been criticized because it allows law enforcement to take possessions without criminal convictions or, in some cases, indictments. The policy to be rolled out this week targets so-called adoptive forfeiture, which lets local authorities circumvent more-restrictive state laws to seize property under federal law. The proceeds are then shared with federal counterparts.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder significantly limited the practice in response to criticism that it was ripe for abuse, particularly with police seizures of small amounts of cash. Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to ease those restrictions, but also impose new requirements on when federal law can be used, a senior Justice Department official briefed on the policy said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to discuss the changes before their unveiling.

Key changes include requiring more detail from police agencies about probable cause justifying a seizure before federal authorities get involved. Also, the Justice Department will have to decide more quickly whether to take on local seizures and also let property owners know the status of their belongings within 45 days of the seizure, faster than federal law requires.

Another key change will make it harder for police to seize less than $10,000 unless they have a state warrant, have made an arrest related to the seizure, have taken other contraband, such as drugs, along with the money, or the owner has confessed to a crime. Without at least one of those conditions, authorities will need a federal prosecutor’s approval to seize it under federal law.

Old rules set that threshold at $5,000, the official said.

Sessions’ support for asset forfeiture is more in keeping with his tough-on-crime agenda and aligns with his oft-stated view that the Justice Department’s top priority should be helping local law enforcement fight violent crime. Police departments use the seizures for expenses, and some agencies felt Holder’s restrictions left them without a critical funding source. When he forecast the rollback of the Holder provision at a conference of district attorneys, the announcement drew applause.

But an embrace of asset forfeiture follows bipartisan efforts to overhaul the practice, and as a growing number of states have made their own laws limiting its use.

As of 2014, more than 20 states set restrictions either by requiring a criminal conviction, increasing the government’s burden of proof that property is linked to a crime, or other measures, said Darpana M. Sheth, an attorney at Institute for Justice, which represents defendants in forfeiture cases across the country. Requiring authorities to secure a criminal conviction before they can seize property is the only real safeguard against abuse, she said.

“The stories of people having small amounts of cash seized are more infuriating and puzzling to the public and seem to represent some greater injustice,” said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies the topic. Sessions’ changes will likely discourage small seizures or at least better document them, he said. But the broader, more pressing problems with asset forfeiture remain because police departments are still too reliant on taking private property as a way to foot their bills, he said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Studies: Immigrant Children Drive Future of U.S. Workforce

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 16:05


By Liz Farmer

While the national debate rages over immigration, new research shows how much new immigrants cost state and local governments in the short-term — and how much they pay off in the long-term.

Two studies, one by the Urban Institute and a larger one by the National Academies of Science (NAS), find that first-generation immigrants are costlier to state and local governments than native-born adults, but over time, those effects reverse. While first-generation immigrants cost an average of nearly $3,000 more per adult, the adult children of these immigrants eventually catch up and contribute the most on average to federal, state and local coffers.

Kim Reuben, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, says the initial higher costs of new immigrants is in large part because of their children. “Education is expensive — if you have more kids in general as a group compared to other groups, you’re going to have higher costs,” says Reuben, who co-authored the study and contributed to the NAS report. “But the answer isn’t to not educate those kids because we also find that the people who contribute the most to society, even when you control for demographics, are these immigrant [kids].”

Continue reading the story on Governing’s website. 

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Hundreds of Millions for Bus and Bus Infrastructure Grants

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 17:42

The Federal Transportation Administration’s (FTA) Bus and Bus Infrastructure Program Grants assists local, state and tribal governments in financing buses and bus facilities capital projects, including replacing, rehabilitating, purchasing or leasing buses or related equipment, and rehabilitating, purchasing, constructing or leasing bus-related facilities.

Approximately $226.5 million is available for fixed route bus operators and services. Funding may be used to:

  • Replace, rehabilitate and purchase buses, vans and related equipment
  • Construct bus-related facilities
  • Implement technological changes or innovations that modify low- or no-emission vehicles or facilities

Eligible bus infrastructure projects may also include incidental costs related to the above, such as the costs of related workforce development and training activities and project administration expenses.

The Fine Print

Competitive allocations are based on asset age and condition. A pilot provision for 2017 allows urbanized areas with populations between 200,000 and 999,999 to participate in voluntary state pools that allow transfers of formula funds between designated recipients during the authorized period.

FTA may prioritize bus infrastructure projects that address significant repair and maintenance needs, improve transit system safety and deploy advanced technologies to connect bus systems with other networks.

Applications are due August 25, 2017.

A 20 percent match is required.

Learn more and apply on Grants.gov.

Download the agency’s required supplemental form on Transit.dot.gov.

Read about Chicago’s zero-emission electric buses:

Chicago’s Electric Buses Run 82 Daily Routes with Zero Emissions

Access information about FTA grants used for CNG buses:

Oklahoma Tribes Win Federal Grants for CNG Buses

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CTO Download: Improving the Speed of Government Services

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 16:06

Lakeland, Fla., is the largest city between Tampa and Orlando, with a population of more than 106,000 and 38 named lakes. As Lakeland’s Chief Information Officer and Director of IT, Terry Brigman’s primary mission is to use data to find government process inefficiencies, rapidly eliminate them and replace them with smart operations that improve the speed of government services.

In your opinion, how has IT in government evolved over the last decade?

Brigman: As in other businesses, IT is a component of almost every government business process. If we hope to run government efficiently we must take full advantage of all available technology relative to the business functions we provide to our citizens. The rapid digitization of all business processes will require government to adopt a new pace of technical innovation to keep up with employee and citizen needs. We must focus on citizen-centric mobile and cloud technologies and be prepared to exploit these technologies for the benefit of the city. The future of government is on-line, self-service, real-time, all-the-time (e-government).

For IT organizations to meet the needs of citizens and the business departments we serve then we must implement a high performing, reliable, flexible and cost-effective IT infrastructure and applications which use both internal, on-premise, resources as well as cloud offerings from qualified service providers. We must have highly qualified and skilled staff to manage this environment. We should follow PMI project management standards, ITIL change management standards, Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) and ITIL IT support best practices.

How does your IT department engage and collaborate with other agencies throughout Lakeland’s government?

Brigman: We have several leadership organizations in our county and our 17 municipalities that help connect the IT departments. There are also several planning organizations that work for the benefit of the entire county [such as The Florida Local Government Information Systems Association].

IT is 21st century infrastructure that is just as important as roads, electricity and water and we must treat it that way from a planning perspective. Within our city the IT Department has assigned customer advocates to all our supported business departments. We provide I/T development and support for all city business functions including the electric and water utilities, police, fire, public works, finance, human resources, community development, parks and recreation, internal audit, risk management, purchasing, communications, The Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and The RP Funding Center.

It is our desire to be the primary trusted partner for every city department to meet their information technology needs. It is also our desire that city management will view the IT management staff and the department as key enablers for business process change that will benefit our citizens.

As a technology leader working within the public sector what specific technologies interest you?

Brigman: I believe big data and data analytics will be a key technology for our city for the next several years. We have a tremendous amount of data that we can capitalize on by implementing a city-wide analytics and reporting platform. This data can be used to address business concerns, improve service and reduce cost. This will require both business and IT expertise working in collaborative partnerships to extract value from our data. We can identify and answer business questions with data analytics.

Big data and data analytics will consume more of our IT development effort and will result in rapid change in how we conduct our various businesses and the results we achieve. Lakeland has an electric utility that is fully smart grid enabled. Therefore, we are collecting data from our meters that can be used to benefit our citizens and for reducing outages and planning for future power generation needs. This year we are rolling out smart water meters.

Data analytics can also provide great benefits in purchasing, finance and human resource business analysis. Lakeland must continue to improve the day-to-day results of our business processes which will change the perception of government by our citizens. We can eliminate manual processes for our citizens and our employees and reduce the need for paper forms by using IT systems.

Our new frontier is information delivery to our citizens and our staff:

  • We can improve citizen interaction with Web applications and mobile enabled technology (apps).
  • We can improve our employees’ job satisfaction and performance while accomplishing our citizen-focused initiatives.
  • We can provide data directly to our citizens along with scorecards and dashboards in an interactive and easy to use system.
  • We can provide direct citizen and city staff collaboration tools to improve engagement and satisfaction.

Employee scorecards, dashboards and work-flow key success indicators will also improve performance and service to our citizens. These efforts will require coordinated business process improvement and integrated project management across the entire organization.

Smart cities will begin to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) where sensors are everywhere and this data provides new opportunities. IoT is being watched closely and we have already implemented automated lake level monitoring which utilizes the same infrastructure as our smart utilities meters.

We believe some of IT workload will move to the cloud. There are many IT architecture, IT systems integration and IT operational considerations. We have a five-year IT plan to review every major city system to determine if we should continue to host internally on-premise or to host externally in the cloud. We have a number of systems that have already been migrated to the cloud such as our Office 365 email application or originally purchased as a cloud hosted system such as our public records management system.

Each situation will have different cost and risk models to be considered. Be assured, the vendors will make money on hosted systems. We have to be technically and financially wise about our hosting decisions.

Can you describe innovative examples of your government utilizing technology?

Brigman: Electronic plans review provides an easy method for citizens to submit plans and it reduces the amount of time for Lakeland to respond. This also creates valuable metrics that we can use to plan for other future improvements; for example, the work flow and time consumed in every step of the plans approval process provides data that we can use to identify areas needing more efficiency.

Also, citizens have the ability to directly request public records from an easy to use Web interface. They can track the progress of the request and receive the requested documents.

Lastly, we have Web and mobile tools which allow our citizens to see their electric and water consumption and costs and to pay their bills.

These IT systems provide excellent citizen engagement and service by giving our citizens control over when and how they personally interact with the city. Citizens interact directly with these systems eliminating manual effort and improving the quality and speed of government services.

When implementing or adopting new technologies what challenges have you had to overcome? 

Brigman: Our vision has to be firmly fixed on business process improvement. New technologies must provide higher quality business outcomes, reduce cost or time and engage our citizens.

Of course, we must constantly develop our IT professionals skills, knowledge and abilities to evaluate and implement new technologies. Flexible infrastructure will eliminate some of the problems associated with growth and scalability. Systems integration and IT architecture becomes a greater concern as some systems move to the cloud and some stay on-premise.

As a civic and technology leader what keeps you up at night? 

Brigman: I’m still bothered by the perception of government as slow and inefficient. Generally, at the municipal level, I do not see that to be the case in our city or many other cities that I am personally familiar with. When I do see inefficiencies due to silo thinking or a lack of engagement it bothers me. Identifying and eliminating any waste in government is what keeps me up at night. I believe technology is a key component of the solutions to these problems.

EfficientGov’s CTO Download column highlights the work of civic IT leaders that achieve notable, forward-thinking technical solutions that change the game for their local governments. Who they are, what they believe and their approaches advance cities governing under limited resources.

Civic technology leaders who would like to participate in CTO Download should email editor@efficientgov.com.

The post CTO Download: Improving the Speed of Government Services appeared first on EfficientGov.

Fighting Overdose with Fentanyl Test Strips Programs

Sat, 07/22/2017 - 08:42

In June, the Yale School of Medicine’s Community Health Care Van began training New Haven, Conn., drug users to test their drugs for the presence of several types of fentanyl, including carfentanyl, with fentanyl test strips purchased online from Canadian diagnostics company, BTNX, Inc.

Anecdotal results indicate drug users that find fentanyl present with the test strips opt to take far less of their drugs, and thereby avoid overdose.

The fentanyl test strips have the potential to lower overdose death rates, reduce naloxone costs and EMS calls and raise awareness about the prevalence of synthetic fentanyl among opioid drug users.

Proactive Strategy to Address Lethal Fentanyl’s Prevalence 

Sharon Joslin, clinical coordinator with Yale, said she learned from a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency presentation at a recent substance abuse conference that for the cost of a $4,000 to $5,000 pill maker, an enterprising drug dealer willing to work with cheap fentanyl imported from China by carrier can make $5-$7 million selling to heroine and prescription opioid addicts.

The pill press can make fentanyl drugs that look like prescription OxyContin, she said.

The high is higher and it’s super cheap,” said Joslin.

Fentanyl is so lethal, a 10-year old Miami child is believed to have died recently by coming into contact with it at a swimming pool or when he walked home. A new Florida law going into effect on October 1st imposes mandatory sentences on dealers caught with 4 grams (0.14 ounces) or more of fentanyl variants, and dealers can be charged with murder if they provide a fatal dose.

Yale’s free clinic program serves about 2,500 adult drug users annually in New Haven between its office, medical mobile van and transport minivan. It began 23 years ago through Ryan White Foundation Program funding and targets HIV reduction in IV drug users. The program’s mission is to find new clients and exchange dirty needles for clean ones, get them into care and transport them to health appointments when mobility is a barrier.

In January, the program received a state grant to take over the New Haven Syringe Program. In the first four months serving citywide, needle exchanges quadrupled. Joslin said van staff is trained to administer Suboxone, a prescription drug containing both buprenorphine and naloxone used to treat opioid addiction, and also gives out naloxone. But a public health resident recently suggested they try a more proactive approach to reducing overdose deaths caused by fentanyl — fentanyl test strips that the St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction in the Bronx, New York City, began distributing last December.

The van’s first 30 fentanyl test strips were donated, and within a month, a box of 50 that cost $250 were gone. Joslin said she was not sure initially how quickly the program would go through them, but the drug users that come to the van for services want them.

If I stood on a street corner, they’d be gone in an hour,” said Joslin.

Test Strips Cost & Usage

The strips are not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, although they are approved by similar overseeing administration’s in Canada and internationally.

The cost is about $5 per test strip.

Van Asher, St Ann’s syringe access program manager, said it’s worth the cost, and he just ordered another supply of 700.

People don’t want to die. They just don’t want to be dope sick,” Asher said.

He said he tested similar, less expensive fentanyl test strips made in China, but found they were not as effective. The BTNX test strips currently test for carfentanyl, acetyl-fentanyl, butyryl-fentanyl and 3-methylfentanil.

Asher said a third-party is currently verifying how effective the test strips might be at detecting furanyl-fentanyl, ocfentanil and remifentanil, and results are imminent.

Originally designed for urinalysis, the test strips are a 15-second dip test that provides a yes or no answer in less than one minute, he said.

Joslin said they can be used to test pills, which many drug users cut up to inhale, by mixing the chopped substance with a little water.

Test Strips Anecdotal Impact

A former EMT and EMS dispatcher, Asher said he advocates for safe use spaces because they can save a life faster than an ambulance hailed upon overdose. While BTNX recommends using their products in a medical setting, St. Ann’s, the first program in the U.S. to try the fentanyl test strips, gives them out.

Data on impacts, such as measured fentanyl overdose death reductions, are not yet available. But Asher said drug users are coming back and telling him that the test strips, at times in concert with the naoloxone, saved their lives.

Anecdotally, he has also heard that the fentanyl test strips are working their way up the dealer chain, possibly initiating conversations or searches for street opioids that do not contain fentanyl analogues.

Test Strips Program Resources

While the test strips don’t usually prevent using drugs that contain fentanyl in the Bronx and New Haven, they are sought after by drug users to help them minimize overdose risks by essentially limiting dosage.

Asher gives drug users a questionnaire along with information about fentanyl risks, and cards on how to use the fentanyl test strips. He shared the following downloadable resources with EfficientGov:

Fentanyl Test Strips Instructions by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Fentanyl Test Strips Card by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Fentanyl Warning Sheets by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Fentanyl Test Strip Questionnaire English-Spanish by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

The post Fighting Overdose with Fentanyl Test Strips Programs appeared first on EfficientGov.

3 Ways Cities Can Help People Become Credit Visible

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:25

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants to empower local communities to help people who have no credit history, insufficient history or no recent history become credit visible.

CFPB recently completed a study to learn how many people have limited access to credit at the local level. The bureau created individual credit profiles for some states, like West Virginia, and several cities like Lansing, Mich., (below) and Los Angeles, finding that between 16 and 25 percent of adults had limited access to credit due to a limited credit history.

A person is considered ‘credit invisible’ if they do not have credit history with any of the three nationwide credit-reporting companies,” according to CFPB’s recent blog post.

The post offered the following steps to helping people become credit visible:

#1 Help consumers find out their credit status

Consumers can request a free credit score report. All consumers may request the information in their credit reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies once every 12 months at Annualcreditreport.com.

#2 Help consumers build credit history

There are products available that can help people become credit visible, including secured credit cards, credit-builder loans and retail store credit cards. CFPB’s checklist on building credit from scratch has more information.

#3 Help consumers understand what affects credit scores

Make sure consumers know that unpaid utility and telephone bills may be reported to credit bureaus as being in collection.

Cfpb Credit-profiles Handout Lansing by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Read the original post on CFPB’s website.

Access the CFPB report on Becoming Credit Visible.

The post 3 Ways Cities Can Help People Become Credit Visible appeared first on EfficientGov.

Fed Bureau Bans Bank Arbitration Clauses, Allowing Class Actions

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 11:42


By Kevin Freking

WASHINGTON , D.C. — Republicans are targeting a rule that would let consumers band together to sue their banks or credit card companies rather than use an arbitrator to resolve a dispute.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finalized the rule last week. The rule bans most types of mandatory arbitration clauses. The agency said people who otherwise have to go it alone in resolving a financial dispute should be able to join others in a class-action lawsuit to pursue a remedy to their complaint.

Republicans said Thursday that going that route will increase the costs of borrowing for millions of consumers while enriching trial lawyers who file the lawsuits. They filed legislation that would allow a simple majority of each chamber to vote to disapprove the rule.

While they’ve succeeded in overturning more than a dozen regulations finalized in the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, this is the first time Republicans are attempting to overturn a rule put into effect with President Donald Trump in office. Of course, the Trump administration isn’t particularly fond of the agency that issued the rule, calling for its restructuring.

Mandatory arbitration clauses are found in the fine print of tens of millions of financial products, from credit cards to checking accounts. Because consumers generally don’t carefully read the fine print on the agreements for their checking accounts and credit cards, they are often unaware they are subject to arbitration. Consumer advocates have been pushing for years for stricter federal regulation of these types of clauses.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said arbitration brings about quicker resolutions to financial disputes. He said the average payout for consumers in a successful class-action case comes to $32, while the attorney who files the case generally makes nearly $1 million.

“If you have a dispute with a company over a product or service and its value is small, what do the American people want? A fair chance at a resolution in a matter of weeks or months or a coupon in the mail several years later?” Hensarling said.

About two dozen Republicans senators signed onto similar legislation in that chamber to overturn the CFPB’s efforts.

Democrats may not have the numbers to stop the rule’s repeal, but vowed to try.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said consumers are harmed when they’re not allowed to go to court and make their case. The agency had said in studying the issue that consumers are quite reluctant to bring claims against companies on their own, particularly small claims.

“The CFBP has worked very hard on this,” Waters said. “We’ve got to struggle. We’ve got to fight it.”

Trade groups representing banks applauded GOP efforts to overturn the rule. The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said lawmakers should decide whether they want to be on the side of consumers or banks.

“Since few consumers can afford to fight small-dollar disputes by themselves, banks can trick and trap customers with illegal charges and then pocket billions in stolen money. Without class-action lawsuits to keep things fair, corporate bad actors will get off scot-free when harming their customers,” said Lisa Gilbert, Public Citizen’s vice president of legislative affairs.

The legislation Congress passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis, known as the Dodd-Frank Act, gave the agency the ability to issue regulations on the use of arbitration clauses if it found doing so was in the public interest and for the protection of consumers.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Court: Worker Fired May Sue for Medical Marijuana Discrimination

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 16:19


By Michelle Williams

After the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Monday in favor of an employee fired after testing positive for marijuana, some legal experts are shocked.

I can’t stress this enough, it’s the first case of its kind in the country,” said Dale Deitchler, a shareholder at world’s largest labor and employment law firm representing management Littler Mendelson and an expert on marijuana issues in the workplace.

Cristina Barbuto was fired after her first day promoting products in a supermarket for Advantage Sales and Marketing in 2014. A human resources representative informed her that she did not pass the drug test and that the company follows federal, not state law.

Read the rest of the story on Masslive.com.

The post Court: Worker Fired May Sue for Medical Marijuana Discrimination appeared first on EfficientGov.

New Mass. Recreational Marijuana Law to Let Locals Decide

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 16:07

More than eight months after a 2016 marijuana legalization referendum passed, Massachusetts lawmakers are in the process of approving a formal tax-and-regulate recreational marijuana law that will go to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk today.

While voters considered a 12 percent maximum tax, the compromise resulted in total state and local sales taxes as high as 20 percent, according to ThinkProgress.

Under the new state law, local voter approval will also be required to ban recreational marijuana businesses. Local rule over state law is an unusual practice, but the compromise is similar to California’s 2016 referendum, Proposition 64.

“It really should be a decision by the people, and this compromise mostly accomplishes that,” said Tom Angell of the advocacy group Marijuana Majority.

In communities that voted no on the ballot question, local officials can decide in 2018 to ban pot shops and facilities.

Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg told Boston Public Radio that local decision-making over the new state law is defendable in court.  “According to our attorneys, they say it does pass constitutional muster,” said Rosenberg.

Gov. Baker is expected to sign the bill, according to sources at the State House.

Under the new law, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg will have to oversee a five-person appointed commission that will oversee the state’s new recreational marijuana industry. Once in place, the Cannabis Control Commission will promulgate regulations and guidelines to issue licenses by March 15, 2018, and begin accepting applications by April 1st, according to the Worcester Business Journal.

Mass. Delays on Recreational Marijuana Law Implementation

What’s the Deal with Recreational Marijuana Edibles Labeling?


The post New Mass. Recreational Marijuana Law to Let Locals Decide appeared first on EfficientGov.

Transit App Co. Launches Smart Night Bus in London

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 15:32

According to the the company on Medium, Citymapper, which serves nearly 50 major global cities, has been licensed to launch a smart night bus service in London. Called the Night Rider, the route to launch in August or September will run through East London on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

After analyzing user data, the app company found that public transit agency Transport for London (TfL) had gaps in service. While TfL approved of Citymapper’s new hop-on, hop-off venture, its Oyster passes won’t work on the new night bus.

Features of Citymapper’s night bus service include:

  • Buses that count the number of passengers aboard
  • Seats with their own USB chargers
  • Smartphone-like displays with updated route and stop information
  • Informed drivers that learn about potential road and traffic problems ahead through the Citymapper app

The post noted how the company decided on the route:

In a multimodal city, users mix various modes together and have complex journeys. Hop on hop off bus routes involve passengers boarding and alighting at different points. Thus when we evaluate routes, we score them on a range of A to Bs from across the city. We take into account competition from alternative services. We consider frequencies. We evaluate bus stops, where users board and alight. And we account for time of day, which is how we came across the night bus opportunity.

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The Top 10 Opioid Terms People Search For

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 16:41

Google searches for opioids have increased steadily since the start of 2016. We used Google Trend data to see exactly which opioids, opiate classes and related drugs have been most commonly searched in the last year. The following drugs and drug classes have seen a growth in Internet search interest over the last five years, and several opioid terms have taken on new life as the crisis has reached epic levels.

The rate of prescription drug deaths grew from 1999 to 2008 in correlation with the number of prescriptions, but we expect that as this crisis continues, the opioid terms searches will only increase.

The U.S. Top 10 Most Searched Opioid Terms:

#1 Alprazolam
Alprazolam isn’t an opioid, but a mild tranquilizer, known commercially as Xanax, used in the treatment of panic attacks and related symptoms. However, because of its calming effect, it is very often used medically alongside opiates to reduce distress. But, it can be combined with depressants such as heroin to increase the drug’s psychological effects. Alprazolam is the 14th most prescribed drug in the U.S. as of 2014 with 49.4 million prescriptions nationwide, according to the IMS Institute.

Searches for alprazolam have been much higher than searches for opioids as a drug class over the past five years, except for one large spike in June of 2016 after an epidemic of fentanyl-laced heroin hit New Haven, Conn., and made national headlines.
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#2 Heroin
Heroin is an illegal opiate that is made from morphine. While popular media usually portrays heroin being injected, it can also be snorted or smoked. Heroin is one of the most commonly-used illegal drugs in the United States.

Heroin is the top search in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. All eight states are ranked in the top half of states for drug overdose deaths.
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#3 Tramadol
Used to treat moderate-to-severe pain, tramadol is a narcotic-like pain reliever and was classified as a Schedule-4 drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014. As of 2014, tramadol was the 19th most prescribed drug in the U.S., with 44.2 million, up over 14 million over five years, according to the IMS Institute.

Tramadol is the third-most searched opiate over the past year but has higher search volume than heroin in 19 of 50 states. It’s also been the top search in South Dakota over that time period, where in 2016 over 3 million days worth of tramadol refills were prescribed by doctors.
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#4 Oxycodone
For years, oxycodone was considered relatively safe by the medical community, but research has found that it can be extremely addictive. Overuse is relatively easy as patients typically gain a tolerance to oxycodone quickly, and abuse can lead to severe withdrawals if stopped, or death if overdosed by shutting down the respiratory system.

The interest on oxycodone is highest in Arizona and New Mexico states that border Mexico and where counterfeit pharmaceuticals and drug abuse is among the highest in the country.
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#5 Hydrocodone 
Hydrocodone is the second-most prescribed drug in the United States as of 2014, with 119.2 prescriptions dispensed, according to the IMS Institute. Because of its widespread availability, it is one of the most abused drugs in the nation. It is often compared to oxycodone for its effects and risk of dependency, but until 2014 was not considered in the same class as oxycodone, when it was upgraded to a schedule II drug.

Search for hydrocodone is highest in Arkansas by a wide margin, where in April the governor signed a law strengthening the monitoring of prescriptions. This measure was taken specifically with prescription and abuse of hydrocodone and oxycodone in mind.
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#6 Analgesic 
Analgesic is a family of drugs that are used to achieve analgesia pain relief. Several of the drugs in this class include over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin. However, it also includes many drugs on this list, including tramadol, buprenorphine, oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone, methadone and fentanyl.

Analgesic is more searched for than heroin in South Dakota, Nebraska and Arkansas. It’s generally highest in states with the largest opioid crises and is more searched than tramadol in Hawaii.
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#7 Methadone
While methadone is highly regulated and has similar effects to other opioids, it is actually used as a way to help decrease dependency on other narcotics by many health systems. That doesn’t prevent it from being deadly though, as it accounted for over one-quarter of opioid poisoning deaths in 2011.

Searches for methadone are among the highest in the country in New England, as well as West Virginia, the top state for opioid overdose deaths.
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#8 Morphine
Morphine acts directly on the central nervous system to decrease feeling and limit pain. It is typically administered within a medical facility for severe and/or acute pain, such as dealing with a heart attack or during labor. While morphine is on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines, it can also be used to make illicit substances like heroin.

Five states have higher search interest for morphine than hydrocodone: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware. All of which are in the top half of states for drug overdose deaths in 2015.
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#9 Fentanyl 
Fentanyl is one of the most powerful opiates on the planet, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimating that it is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is typically used as an anaesthetic during medical procedures and is closely monitored in healthcare environments. However, when used as a recreational drug, its potency has caused over 5,000 overdoses in North America since 2013.

Fentanyl showed a strong spike in June of 2016 after the massive New Haven, Conn., overdose event. During this news cycle, fentanyl was more searched for than even alprazolam.
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#10 Buprenorphine 
An analgesic that can be administered in a doctor’s office or given as a prescription, buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic, opioid partial agonist. This means that while buprenorphine can produce some of the most common opioid effects, there is less euphoria and a lower ceiling on opioid effects, meaning a lower potential for misuse than stronger opioids like heroin or methadone. It is used to help decrease dependency on other narcotics by doctors affiliated with Yale’s School of Medicine, and buprenorphine is listed alongside methodone as a strategy of the Connecticut Opioid REsponse Initiative.

Buprenorphine has generally lower search volume than most other drugs on this list. However, it is an extremely much more popular search in West Virginia than any other state by a two-to-one margin over the last 12 months.

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By Alex Bryant, EMS1 Contributor

The post The Top 10 Opioid Terms People Search For appeared first on EfficientGov.