News & Politics

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

City officials urge treatment as drug overdose deaths surpass murders

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 12:05 AM

The health department's Joseph Kanter: "Opioid addiction a medical illness. It's not a character flaw,"
  • The health department's Joseph Kanter: "Opioid addiction a medical illness. It's not a character flaw,"

Drug-related overdose deaths surpassed the number of murders in New Orleans in 2016. New Orleans health department medical director Joseph Kanter is urging people struggling with substance abuse to seek addiction treatment.

According to New Orleans Coroner Jeffrey Rouse, of last year's record 211 drug-related deaths, 166 involved opiates — compared to 81 in 2015. Compared to 2015 deaths, the number of people who died with the synthetic opioid fentanyl in their system more than tripled. There were 13 fentantyl-related deaths in 2015, when there were 93 drug-related deaths overall. Forty-eight people died with fentanyl in their system last year.

Kanter says "unfortunately these are in line with national numbers" for drug-related deaths, which climbed to more than 50,000 in 2015. Opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015.

"Opioid addiction is a medical illness. It's not a character flaw," Kanter said. "There's excellent treatment for it. Friends, family members and loved ones who suffer from addiction need to know there is a treatment available, and you should help your loved ones go and seek treatment."

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Monday, March 27, 2017

The New York Times profiles Sidney Torres

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 9:38 PM

Sidney Torres.
  • Sidney Torres.

Garbage tycoon/real estate developer/reality TV star Sidney Torres — will he or won't he run for mayor?

The local speculation went national tonight when The New York Times profiled the star of CNBC's The Deed in a larger story about political neophytes who are eying a political run (some inspired, the story says, by the electoral success of Donald Trump):
Much the way Mr. Trump dismissed questions about his checkered private life, Mr. Torres, who sports a man bun, predicted few voters would care about his having had a child out of wedlock with a model or recoil at an Instagram account that is heavier on images of his Gulfstream jet than of gumbo. In fact, Mr. Torres readily volunteers that he was asked to relocate his private jet when Mr. Trump used a local hangar for a rally last year.

“I believe everybody should have the opportunity to have nice things,” he said.
Torres also says he's ready to put $4 million into the race — if he runs.

Read the whole thing — and our cover story about Torres' possible political ambitions.

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After more than 200 drug-related deaths in 2016, New Orleans Coroner says city "in the midst of an accelerating public health crisis"

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 12:21 PM

A naloxone kit of the kind carried by first responders. The antidote comes pre-measured in a
single-dose syringe that is easily converted into an inhaler, which allows for safe,
easy intranasal administration. - PHOTO BY DORA SISON
  • Photo by Dora Sison
  • A naloxone kit of the kind carried by first responders. The antidote comes pre-measured in a single-dose syringe that is easily converted into an inhaler, which allows for safe, easy intranasal administration.

More than 200 people died from drug-related causes in 2016, more than double the number of similar deaths from 2015. Compared to 2015 deaths, the number of people who died with the synthetic opioid fentanyl in their system more than tripled.

According to a report recently released by New Orleans Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, of last year's record 211 drug-related deaths, 166 involved opiates — compared to 81 in 2015. Forty-eight people died with fentanyl in their system. There were 13 fentantyl-related deaths in 2015, when there were 93 drug-related deaths overall.

“New Orleans is in the midst of an accelerating public health crisis of drug-related deaths, driven chiefly but not exclusively by the ongoing national opiate epidemic," Rouse said in a statement.

2016, Rouse said, was "likely the first time that drug-related deaths have surpassed homicides in the history of New Orleans."

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Landrieu: "NOPD's policy on immigration complies with federal law"

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 7:15 PM

Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order. - KAT STROMQUIST
  • KAT STROMQUIST
  • Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu stood by New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) policy following a report that puts New Orleans on a list of U.S. cities that "limit cooperation" with federal immigration authorities.

Landrieu says targeting immigrant communities is likely to break any trust between them and police, which could prevent people from reporting crimes or testifying as witnesses, under threat of their immigration status being questioned.

“First and foremost, the NOPD does now and will continue to follow federal laws and focus on arresting people who commit crime, regardless of their immigration status," Landrieu said in a March 21 statement. "The NOPD’s policy on immigration complies with federal law and makes New Orleans safer because individuals are more likely to report crime, and victims and witnesses can testify without fear of being questioned about their immigration status. That’s why the NOPD will continue to focus on arresting those who commit violent crimes, not enforcing civil immigration laws."

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Louisiana women won't receive equal pay until 2115, study predicts

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 9:44 AM

PICTURES OF MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • PICTURES OF MONEY / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

According to new projections released today by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the wage gap for women in Louisiana won't close until the year 2115. In the report, Louisiana joins just three other states — North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — in failing to close the gap until the 22nd century.

The group's analysis considered the ratio of women's to men's earnings for full-time workers and how that ratio has changed over time since 1959. The wage gap can cost a woman many thousands of dollars over the course of her career and contributes to lifestyle issues such as difficulty saving for retirement — a serious problem for women, who typically live longer than men.

City and state officials often discuss the egregious pay equity problem statewide and recently have begun to make efforts to address it. The New Orleans City Council established an Equal Pay Advisory Committee and Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for a Civil Service Commission study about gender disparity on its own payroll. Gov. John Bel Edwards and Donna Edwards also hosted a summit earlier this month about pay equity in Baton Rouge.

Though such discussions are limited in their initial impact, it's heartening to know this pervasive issue is on elected officials' radar.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

New Orleans makes list of cities that "limit cooperation" with federal immigration agencies

Posted By on Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 5:45 PM

Protesters in New Orleans march against Trump's immigration orders in January.
  • Protesters in New Orleans march against Trump's immigration orders in January.

As mandated by sweeping immigration actions in a series of executive orders from President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its first weekly report listing cities and counties that "limit cooperation" with immigration authorities.

New Orleans is named in the March 20 edition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) "Declined Detainer Outcome Report" among "jurisdictions that have enacted policies which limit cooperation" with the agency — which could determine whether New Orleans receives federal funding in the future.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

At second line for health care, doctors and nurses speak out for Affordable Care Act

Posted By on Sat, Mar 18, 2017 at 4:38 PM

dsc_0806.jpg

Who fears the loss of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? The previously uninsured, of course, including the more than 300,000 Louisianans who gained coverage under last year's expansion of the state's Medicaid program.

But at a rally and second line held March 18 in support of the act sometimes known as Obamacare, another key constituency spoke out in the program's defense. One after another, health care providers took the mic in front of City Hall to describe the ACA's positive effect on their patients.

"Before the expansion, my patients were often uninsured and lived in fear of a new medical diagnosis," Jason Halperin, a doctor who works with CrescentCare, said. "I see the Medicaid expansion as much more than a card or number. ... Most of all, it upholds dignity."

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Landrieu selects old VA hospital for low-barrier homeless shelter

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 6:05 PM

PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber
Following debate among city officials and residents over the placement of a proposed low-barrier homeless shelter, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced on March 15 an expansion of homeless services at the former Veterans Affairs hospital on Gravier Street. The expansion is expected to add 100 overnight beds with little or no barrier for entry, including no cost of admission or sobriety test, and 24-hour access.

In 2015, Landrieu announced the city had effectively eliminated homelessness among veterans by using a housing-first model and partnering with a broad group of federal, state and local agencies and nonprofit groups. It has since housed nearly 500 veterans. Landrieu said 44 people experiencing homelessness died in New Orleans last year, and the inclusion of 100 new low-barrier beds — in the same building with nearby health and housing services — "can be critical as we seek to connect even more homeless to the necessary services they need to get into stable housing.”

"Today’s announcement allows us to deliver on our promise to expand services and reduce barriers that prevent the homeless in our city from accessing care,” Landrieu said in a statement.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, Rod Dreher to speak at UNO April 17

Posted By on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 at 2:30 PM

HARPERCOLLINS
  • HARPERCOLLINS

J.D. Vance, author of the much-discussed Rust Belt memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, will speak on a panel at University of New Orleans April 17. American Conservative senior editor Rod Dreher also will appear; their talk is called "Faith, Hillbillies and American Politics."

Vance has been regularly quoted in analyses of last fall's presidential election as a voice of the "white working class" some pundits credit with propelling President Donald Trump to power. In the book, he writes about the disillusionment of Rust Belt voters who feel left behind by the modern economy and say that many in national politics don't reflect their values. You can read excerpts from the book in the Washington Post and in National Review.

The event takes place in UNO's Geoghegan Ballroom at the Homer L. Hitt Alumni Center. A reception at 5:15 p.m. precedes the 6 p.m. talk. It's free to attend.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Transgender community offers policy changes to city officials and NOPD

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 9:30 PM

Jada Mercedes Cardona, left, leads a town hall meeting March 10 with New Orleans City Councilmembers Jason Williams and LaToya Canttell with NOPD's LGBT liaison Frank Robertson.
  • Jada Mercedes Cardona, left, leads a town hall meeting March 10 with New Orleans City Councilmembers Jason Williams and LaToya Canttell with NOPD's LGBT liaison Frank Robertson.

Jada Mercedes Cardona knew at 4 years old. "It felt right. I ran to my mom to tell her what I discovered, and what was going to happen now?" Cardona told a crowd at First Unitarian Universalist Church. "Instead of being received with hugs, kisses, understanding and love, I got beaten, and made to proclaim, several times, that I would never repeat those words to anyone again."

Cardona began transitioning at age 35, after living as a gay man, and was tortured by low self-esteem and "a cycle of hate I still struggle with today" — an "internalized oppression," she said, "so much so that you can't see anything good about yourself."

"Living in one's truth isn't easy," Cardona said.  "I lost everything from living in my truth."

Cardona founded the transgender advocacy group Transitions Louisiana, which hosted a town hall meeting March 10 following the recent deaths of three transgender women in Louisiana — including two people in New Orleans — after one of the most deadly years for transgender people in the U.S.

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