Morning Press: Supplies of medical pot, dental care, Medicaid service in question

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The stories of the weekend

Medical marijuana users worry about recreational pot regulations

photoJohn, 64, has used marijuana to manage his chronic pain since 2010. John purchases his medical marijuana through a collective garden.

(/The Columbian)

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John first smoked marijuana to alleviate his pain in 2010.

That first hit came after taking thousands of narcotic pain reliever pills prescribed over several years. It came after the methadone and oxycodone changed his personality, left him moody and depressed, and made his world foggy.

John found the relief he was looking for in marijuana.

“I don’t think people understand the benefit it has for people,” John, a 64-year-old Camas resident, said.

Since that first hit, John has weaned himself off the methadone and oxycodone. He hasn’t taken a narcotic pain reliever in more than two years. Instead, he smokes marijuana daily to manage his pain.

But recent legislative efforts to regulate the state’s medical marijuana system have John, and other patients like him, worried about the ramifications. They fear the new system will make medical marijuana difficult to access and, if subject to the same tax structure as the recreational market, considerably more expensive.

Lawmakers and state officials, however, argue that the state’s current, largely unregulated medical marijuana system puts patients at risk for federal prosecution and could interfere with the state’s ability to establish a legal market for recreational marijuana.

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Dentists ride to the rescue in mobile clinic

photoDentist Martin Hikido, right, and dental assistant Terri Erickson tend to patient Randy Hash in a dental van. Volunteers from the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington and Medical Teams International treated a couple of dozen uninsured Clark County adults for five hours Friday morning.

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The waiting game for uninsured Clark County residents in need of dental services can stretch for months at the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington.

The clinic has 275 adults currently waiting for treatment. It may take two to three months for a person to make their way to the top of that list. Another 330 adults are waiting to be screened so they, too, can be added to the treatment waiting list. That wait list is about three to five months out, said Carolyn Noack, dental manager at the Free Clinic.

But on Friday, a couple of dozen people on the treatment list received the care they've been waiting for — thanks, in part, to a partnership between the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington and Medical Teams International, a nonprofit Christian global health organization.

For five hours Friday morning, volunteers with Medical Teams International parked their dental van next to the Free Clinic's van and the two organizations worked side-by-side to care for uninsured Clark County adults.

"It's huge," Noack said. "With a restorative list that's already backed up, it's huge."

The two organizations have teamed up for a handful of other events, such as Project Homeless Connect, but Friday was the first time the Medical Teams International van was at the Free Clinic site. The additional van, and volunteer dentist, allowed for twice as many patients to receive care, Noack said.

Such collaborations help the clinic to not only see more patients but also to occasionally provide services it may not typically be able to offer, such as cleanings, Noack said. The clinic works with numerous other local organizations — such as Kaiser Permanente, Gillespie Dental and Clark College — and relies on dentists, hygienists and dental assistants who volunteer their time, she said.

For the complete story, click here.

Providers watch for Medicaid overflow

photoThe Vancouver Clinic will no longer accept new Medicaid clients and, over the next three years, will reduce the amount of Medicaid services it provides to Clark County residents.

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The Vancouver Clinic's announcement this week that it will not accept new Medicaid clients has left other local providers to wonder where the patients will go.

The county's next-largest Medicaid provider, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, suspects it will feel the pressure as a result.

"It will definitely impact not just us, but anyone providing medical care for Medicaid patients," said Lynnette Pickup, clinic manager for the Clark County Sea Mar clinic. "We anticipate that will put more strain on us. We will have to look at how we're going to respond to that. It will be difficult."

Sea Mar, The Vancouver Clinic and other local providers are still grappling with a surge of new Medicaid patients who enrolled in the program through the Medicaid expansion that changed eligibility requirements to allow more low-income adults to join the program.

Since October, the expansion added about 19,000 new Clark County adults to the Medicaid program, bringing the county's total number of Medicaid clients up to an estimated 100,000 people.

As a result of the expansion, The Vancouver Clinic added about 5,000 new adult Medicaid clients. At the same time, the county's two Sea Mar clinics have nearly doubled the number of Medicaid clients they're seeing, from 10,500 to 20,900 clients.

But the bigger concern, particularly in light of The Vancouver Clinic's announcement, is finding specialty care for local Medicaid clients, Pickup said. Finding specialty care for Medicaid clients has long been a problem, she said.

At the Hudson's Bay Medical Group, some patients are already sent to Longview or even Seattle for specialty care, said clinic administrator Fran Langan.

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County looks at long-stable stormwater fees

photoCary Armstrong, Source Control Specialist with the Clark County Department of Environmental Services, shows a well maintained stormwater site in a Vancouver neighborhood, Thursday, April 7, 2011.

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The last time Clark County residents saw their stormwater rates increase, Bush v. Gore was before the U.S. Supreme Court and Vladimir Putin was becoming Russia's president for the first time.

It was the year 2000, memorable, in part, for Y2K's passing with the faintest blip of real-world repercussions. The county's stormwater rate, however, has had staying power.

For 14 years, the fee has been $33 a year for single-family residences. Attempts to increase it have been fruitless. Don Benton, director of environmental services, is now proposing an increase, which county commissioners will discuss this week, along with other fees that would pay for the clean water program.

The Benton fee increase for residences would break down like this: The rate for people living within the urban growth area would increase by $14, to $47 a year. Rates for rural homeowners would increase by $2, to $35.

Even with the increases, county residents would pay the lowest stormwater rates of any local jurisdiction.

Currently, county residents pay less than half what people in Ridgefield pay. In Vancouver, the fee is nearly three times as high as the county's. And Washougal ranks at the top of the heap countywide, with an annual fee that totals $165.

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Local chips met at the market by new — local? — brand

photoEmployees at AHA do a taste test between Juanita's and Josefina's corn chips on Monday.

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Juanita’s Tortilla Chips has achieved the kind of customer loyalty that money can’t buy.

Maybe that’s because people love the way the chips taste. At least, it seems that way from The Columbian’s highly unscientific taste test.

Juanita’s, out of Hood River, Ore., faces a market challenge from snack food giant Frito-Lay, which has unleashed a rival chip product called La Cocina de Josefina. While the Josefina’s chips are sometimes displayed locally in supermarkets with a “Made in Vancouver” sign, nowhere does the label identify Josefina’s as a Frito-Lay product. It does, however, list the address of the Frito-Lay plant on Fruit Valley Road as the location of a company named La Cocina de Josefina, and Frito-Lay has confirmed that it is test-marketing Josefina’s in the Northwest.

That means Juanita’s faces a giant challenge. Frito-Lay, a division of Pepsico, owns many of the world’s top chip brands, including Doritos, Fritos and Tostitos. It owns about a 60 percent share of the U.S. salt-snack foods market and a 40 share of the global market, selling in 120 countries, according to industry sources. It’s constantly looking to add new brands and eliminate weak performers as it works to dominate supermarket shelf space.

The company’s strategy of launching a brand that downplays an industry giant’s ownership is hardly original. Joe Cote, professor of marketing at Washington State University Vancouver, cites the example of Blue Moon beer as a product from a national giant — Coors Brewing Co. — that gives the appearance of a local craft beer. “It’s a common ploy used across a variety of products,” Cote says.

Still, The Columbian’s report on March 19 about Frito-Lay’s stealth marketing campaign for Josefina’s triggered a strong reaction on social media. The story circulated widely on Facebook and other sites, regularly resurfacing over several weeks as one of this newspaper’s top online stories of the day.

In recent months Josefina’s has been displayed prominently in some stores, and even been given away at no cost in small packages. But it’s nowhere to be found in some supermarkets. And it appears that the new product is having trouble matching Juanita’s on price. Juanita’s standard-sized 15-ounce package was selling for its regular $2.39 price at Fred Meyer’s Grand Central store last week, slightly less than Josefina’s sale price of $2.50. (The regular price was listed as $3.49.)

For the complete story, click here.

Missing woman found dead

photoBeverly Goheen, 33, went missing on April 29. Her remains were found Saturday.

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The remains of a Battle Ground woman who went missing nearly a month ago have been located in an abandoned outbuilding in Salmon Creek, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Family and friends searching for Beverly Goheen, 33, discovered the woman’s body early Saturday afternoon and called 911, a CCSO bulletin said. The outbuilding was in the 2000 block of Northeast 138th Street, near Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.

Goheen was last known to be at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center on the early morning of Tuesday, April 29, the CCSO said.

Anyone with information about Goheen’s disappearance is asked to call Detective Scott Kirgiss at 360 397-2028 or Sgt. Kevin Allais at 360 397-2020 in reference to case S14-5718.

A Facebook page was set up for her: https://www.facebook.com/findingbev.

For the complete story, click here.