By Dan Goldberg | 04/20/2017 05:46 AM EDT

TODAY IN HEALTH — VOCAL New York will rally on the steps of City Hall at 9 a.m. supporting a bill that would mandate regular training for Department of Homeless Services outreach workers and shelter staff on how to administer the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone.

... The Alliance for Positive Change, previously known as the AIDS Service Center NYC, is holding the annual "Voices" Poetry Reading. The reading will take place at Barnes & Nobles in Union Square from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

CURBING TOBACCO — The minimum price for a pack of cigarettes sold in New York City will increase to $13 from $10.50 under a five-part plan Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced Wednesday in an effort to curb tobacco use. The mayor, taking up a fight that helped define his predecessor, wants to reduce the number of smokers by 160,000 over the next three years, in line with a national goal of bringing the adult smoking rate down to 12 percent. The city's current rate hovers around 14 percent. Read my story here.

FOLLOW THE LEAD — Mayor Bill de Blasio said comparisons between elevated lead levels in water at some city public schools and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan are "absolutely unfair, inaccurate and alarmist." The mayor was responding to questions about a recent New York Post article, which found that lead levels in one water fountain at a Brooklyn elementary school were comparable to lead levels in Flint's water. While the Post series has put the issue back in the spotlight, questions about lead in city schools' water have come up repeatedly over the last several years in the wake of Flint crisis. POLITICO New York's Eliza Shapiro has more.

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STEM CELL FOUNDATION RAISES QUICK CASH — White-coated scientists from around the world scurried behind glass windows in the New York Stem Cell Foundation's new building on Wednesday as well-heeled benefactors peered into the wonderful menagerie they funded. The scientists pored over cells, seeking to understand whether one of nature's smallest tools could help cure its biggest diseases. The benefactors toured, asked questions and admired their handiwork on Wednesday, but they soon learned that the foundation had not fully paid for the $22 million facility on West 54th Street, adjacent to De Witt Clinton Park. The foundation was $5 million short, Susan Solomon, who founded the organization 12 years ago, told the assembled dignitaries at an official opening of the new lab. She was speaking to the kind of people who can pledge to write million-dollar checks. And so they did — right there. Before the thank-you speeches concluded three people had quietly pledged $1 million each. "But we still need $2 million," Solomon told the crowd. David Walentas, founder of Two Trees, a real estate development firm, raised his hand and said Solomon could put him down for $1 million, as the crowd of scientists gasped, and one woman choked back tears. The reason Solomon can inspire that kind of generosity from a Walentas or a Michael Bloomberg or a Stephen Ross, founder of Related Companies, is because of the promise stem cells hold for curing devastating diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, bone disease and diabetes. Read more here.

NOW WE KNOW — Are you a super-boring person, lacking in charisma, charm or magnetism? Do you lack a grand vision or any real foresight? Well, don't worry. You can still be the boss, according to five studies, which found an effective boss doesn't need more than the ability to set clear expectations. "Effective leadership may be based in part on leader's ability to recognize when a particular mental state is needed in their employees and to adapt their own mental state and their behaviors to elicit that mindset," Brent Scott, a Michigan State University professor of management and study co-author, said in a press release. "Part of the story here is that you don't have to be Steve Jobs to be an effective leader. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing." Read more here.

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IT'S A SCOURGE — At a post-budget stop in Suffolk County on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the increase of opioid and heroin use the "worst drug scourge this nation has ever seen." "It's worse than meth," Cuomo said. "It's worse than crack in the 1980s. It's worse than the heroin crisis of the 70s." The state's $151.3 billion budget included $200 million to support prevention, treatment and recovery programs. Cuomo called opioids "more insidious" than other drugs because they are legal.

HEALTH CARE HELP — State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's health care helpline recovered nearly $3 million in restitution and savings for New Yorkers last year, his office announced today. The helpline, according to Schneiderman's office, resolved roughly 3,000 complaints in 2016 for issues including incorrect medical billing, wrongful health plan rejection, wrongful termination of health insurance and improper processing of health insurance claims. Read the 2016 annual report here.

MAKING ROUNDS — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded the World Trade Center Health Program's Clinical Center for Excellence at NYU Langone Medical Center $12.5 million dollars to aid in the medical and mental health treatment of first responders from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The money is used to provide medical monitoring exams; medical and mental health treatment for certified World Trade Center related health conditions as well as and social services assistance to 9/11 rescue, recovery, restoration and clean-up workers and volunteers. "Our multidisciplinary team works together to provide personalized care that is meaningful and valuable to each of our patients," Dr. Denise Harrison, the director of the WTCHP program at NYU Langone, said in a press release. "This new contract allows us to continue to provide high quality medical monitoring and treatment to responders at 9/11. We look forward to continuing to provide invaluable healthcare while expanding our services to reach even more responders over the next five years."


FOLLOW THE MONEY — Kaiser Health News reports: "A nonprofit organization that has orchestrated a wide-reaching campaign against foreign drug imports has deep ties to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the powerhouse lobbying group that includes Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Bayer. A PhRMA senior vice president, Scott LaGanga, for 10 years led the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a nonprofit that has recently emerged as a leading voice against Senate bills that would allow drug importation from Canada. LaGanga was responsible for PhRMA alliances with patient advocacy groups and served until recently as the nonprofit's principal officer, according to the partnership's tax forms.


HEALTH GROUPS CUT BIG CHECKS FOR TRUMP INAUGURAL — Health care giants shelled out big dollars for President Donald Trump's inaugural committee, which has raked in a record $106.7 million so far, according to new FEC filings. (That's about double the amount President Barack Obama raised for his first inaugural). Major health care donors include Pfizer ($1 million), Amgen ($500,000), Centene ($250,000), and more. Read more here.

WHAT'S MISSING — My colleagues in D.C. have this smart take about what was missing from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid rule released last week: "Hospitals claimed victory late last week when CMS announced a 90-day meaningful use reporting period next year as part of its first major payment rule issued in the Tom Price era. But a bigger story is that the Department of Health and Human Services didn't delay the required use of 2015 certified Electronic Health Records — although most of the health IT community had been pushing for that delay. The eagle-eyed Mari Savickis, CHIME regulatory policy guru, pointed to page 1,390 of the rule, which states that CMS predicts 85 percent of hospitals and 75 percent of doctors will have 2015 certified products by the start of next year, when providers are currently mandated to start using them. Those predictions are based on the experience of the move to 2014 certified products. Those numbers weren't enough to get CMS to slow down the 2015 certification timeline. In contrast, the readiness promoted CMS to go with a 90-day reporting period for meaningful use, the agency said. The key point comes on page 1,403 of Friday's rule, where CMS says it'll work with ONC to monitor the status of 2015 certified EHRs.

SENATE COMMITTEE SCHEDULES VOTE ON FDA NOMINEE — The Senate HELP Committee will vote next Wednesday on advancing Scott Gottlieb's nomination to run the Food and Drug Administration. Gottlieb is expected to be easily confirmed, despite concerns over his deep industry ties. The committee will also consider four public health bills with bipartisan support next week.

TRUMP EXTENDS PRIVATE CARE FOR VETS — President Donald Trump signed legislation extending a VA program that subsidizes non-VA medical care for veterans who have trouble accessing care at VA medical facilities. Extension of the Veterans' Choice Program eliminates the August sunset date and provides nearly $1 billion in funding. The White House said the extension will buy more time for lawmakers and the VA to draw up a long-term fix. The Washington Times has more.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from The New York Times: "If we can be mindful while cleaning the bathroom, we can be mindful during any moment throughout our daily lives."


RISING SUN — Japan became the first country to approve a lymphoma drug developed through research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The drug, Mundesine, was approved earlier this month, and uses an enzyme-inhibition technology to treat patients with a type of lymphoma called peripheral T-cell lymphoma, a disease more common in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

STUDYING THE SODA TAX — STAT reports that "a new analysis takes a deeper look at how "soda taxes" worked in the first US city to implement them. Berkeley, Calif., residents reported drinking 13 percent fewer calories from sugar-sweetened beverages after the 2015 tax was put in place than they did beforehand, and upping their consumption of milk and water instead. But while that percentage change might sound impressive, the residents of Berkeley weren't serious soda-sippers to start with; the drop amounted to about 6 fewer calories per person per day and wasn't considered statistically significant. The study didn't establish how the tax might have impacted health outcomes. People didn't spend much less on groceries, but the city did get a big bump from the taxes: Berkeley collected just over $1.4 million from the tax during the first year."

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