CVS’s abrupt dismissal of SCOTUS case was surprise to opposing counsel

By Alison Frankel: For Complete Post, click here…

Public interest lawyer Gerald Flanagan of Consumer Watchdog was deep in preparations for his first-ever U.S. Supreme Court argument when he saw what he called a “strangely worded” press release issued Wednesday by CVS Pharmacy Inc, Flanagan’s opponent in a case scheduled to be argued on Dec. 7.

The press release touted CVS’s partnership with disability rights groups to assure equal access to healthcare. That’s the issue in Flanagan’s case, in which several John Doe plaintiffs with HIV challenged a CVS policy that required them to receive their medication only by mail, not in person at store pharmacies. CVS’s argument at the Supreme Court has been that the ACA and a 1973 predecessor bar only intentionally discriminatory policies, not those that have a disparate impact on disabled people.

The press release didn’t exactly renounce that argument, but it dropped a bomb in its second paragraph: CVS said it was dropping the Supreme Court case.

That was news to Flanagan and his co-counsel from Whatley Kallas and Public Citizen. “We got no heads up before the press release,” Flanagan said. In fact, he said, the first official word he received about the demise of the case was an email early Thursday morning from CVS counsel Lisa Blatt of Williams & Connolly.

“There is a selfish disappointment,” Flanagan told me Friday. “But that’s irrational. We won unanimously at the 9th [U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals]. I’m relieved that our clients are not at risk of losing at the Supreme Court.”

So why did CVS ditch the case just weeks before oral argument? CVS counsel Blatt declined to comment. CVS spokespeople provided an email statement that’s short on specifics: “We’ve agreed to pursue policy solutions in collaboration with the disability community to help protect access to affordable health plan programs that apply equally to all members,” the statement said.

Parent/Child Programs Need to Be Accessible to Parents With Disabilities

By Kris McElroy: For Complete Post, click here…

I was excited as a new dad to enroll my daughter in the early toddler parent/child classes for the fall. I had experience with her newfound toddler activity level; had my anxiety, communication, and sensory overload strategies; and my plan to manage my fatigue, energy, and physical adaptations. In my head, it worked. My daughter is social, a climber, jumper, and at that time was starting to run. So, my partner and I thought the class would be a great fit especially since the description had running, balls, parachute, and music in it. My excitement was through the roof. Then in the middle of the first class, my heart sank.

As much as I thought I was prepared, I found there were activities in the class that my daughter could do but I physically could not engage in due to my physical disability and the way the activity was designed. During those moments in the class, my partner tapped in, and I watched from the sidelines. I felt defeated, excluded, and incapable as a new dad. Yet, at the same time, I felt ecstatic, proud, and joyous as I watched my daughter fully engage and have fun during the program.

After the first class, the experiences brought up the question of how we advocate for accommodations as a parent in a parent/child class for children without disabilities. Even though we had many conversations about many different topics, especially parenting and raising a child in a family with multiple dynamics of difference and disability before and after our daughter was born and we brought her home, it didn’t necessarily translate to real-time experiences such as this one. The program has a section offered to children with disabilities that provides more adaptations, but our daughter isn’t eligible for that. The paperwork required before the class all pertained to my daughter, so all the accessibility/accommodation questions regarding physical, emotional, psychological disability did not pertain to her for this class. However, they pertained to me as her parent. But there was no guidance for that. So, we naively went into the class with the assumption that I would just adapt on the spot as I do with a lot of things in our lives. But this was my first time in a parent/child class as a parent with a disability of a child without a disability and my strategies didn’t transfer as they do in other settings.

How the Pandemic Helped Spread Fentanyl Across the US and Drive Opioid Overdose Deaths to a Grim New High

By Andrew Kolodny: For Complete Post, click here…

The number of fatal drug overdoses in the US over a 12-month period has surpassed 100,000 for the first time. Fentanyl is the main driver of the spike in deaths.

For the past 20 years, I have been engaged in efforts to end the opioid epidemic, as a public health official, researcher and clinician. And for every one of those years I have looked on as the number of deaths from drug overdoses has set a new record high.

Yet even knowing that trend I was surprised by the latest tally from the CDC showing that for the first time ever, the number of Americans who fatally overdosed over the course of a year surpassed 100,000. In a 12-month period ending at the end of April 2021, some 100,306 died in the U.S., up 28.5% over the same period a year earlier.

The soaring death toll has been fueled by a much more dangerous black market opioid supply. Illicitly synthesized fentanyl – a potent and inexpensive opioid that has driven the rise in overdoses since it emerged in 2014 – is increasingly replacing heroin. Fentanyl and fentanyl analogs were responsible for almost two-thirds of the overdose deaths recorded in the 12 months period ending in April 2021.

It is especially tragic that these deaths are mainly occurring in people with a disease – opioid addiction – that is both preventable and treatable. Most heroin users want to avoid fentanyl. But increasingly, the heroin they seek is mixed with fentanyl or what they purchase is just fentanyl without any heroin in the mix.

While the spread of fentanyl is the primary cause of the spike in overdose deaths, the coronavirus pandemic also made the crisis worse.

The geographical distribution of opioid deaths makes it clear that there has been a change during the pandemic months.

Before the COVID-19 health crisis, the skyrocketing increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in America was mainly affecting the eastern half of the U.S., and hit especially hard in urban areas like Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. A possible reason behind this was that in the eastern half of the U.S., heroin has mainly been available in powder form rather than the black tar heroin more common in the West. It is easier to mix fentanyl with powdered heroin.

COVID-19 resulted in less cross-national traffic, which made it harder to smuggle illegal drugs across borders. Border restrictions make it harder to move bulkier drugs, resulting in smugglers’ increased reliance on fentanyl – which is more potent and easier to transport in small quantities and as pills, making it easier to traffic by mail. This may have helped fentanyl spread to areas that escaped the earlier surge in fentanyl deaths.

Assisted dying laws could expand to include children, prisoners or those who are lonely or depressed

By Ben Borland: For Complete Post, click here…

Opponents of assisted suicide are stepping up their campaign to defeat proposed legislation which is set to go before the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs have been invited to “webinar” this week featuring medical experts from Holland and Canada, where assisted suicide is legal, as well as a disabled academic who will speak against the planned Bill.

The event has been organised by Care Not Killing (CNK) Scotland and Not Dead Yet UK, the two groups spearheading opposition to Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur‘s Bill.

Theo Boer, Professor of Health Care Ethics at Groningen University, will tell MSPs that 4.5 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands are now preceded by assisted dying, rising to 15 per cent in some regions.

He is expected to say: “Once assisted dying is legal, the Dutch and other experiences show that new groups of patients will request justice – and equal treatment:

“Why only terminally ill patients, and not people with a longer life expectancy?

“Why only physically ill patients, whereas people with psychiatric illnesses may suffer much harder?

“Why only competent adults and not people with advance directives (dementia patients)?

“Why only people whose suffering is caused by a medical illness, rather than anyone who suffers hopelessly?

“All five expansions have indeed occurred in the Netherlands. The Dutch example testifies that once assisted dying is legal, this changes our views of dying, suffering, vulnerability, and care dependence, similar to the way flying has changed tourism, friendships, politics, and the economy.”

A peer-run center in North Carolina offers alternative for psychiatric care

By Maura Barrett and PJ Tobia: For Complete Post, click here…

After Becky Bagley made plans to take her own life, involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility meant she submitted to a strip search before she spent days staring down white walls, isolated, feeling like a liability. 

She’s now on the peer support staff at the Retreat @ the Plaza, a peer-run respite in North Carolina designed to be an alternative to hospitalization for those experiencing mental health distress.  

The house-like setting is starkly different from the hospital. Water features and greenery adorn the outdoor patios, while guests can gather in the open kitchen or the sitting area filled with plush couches and chairs and inspirational prints hanging on the walls. The doors stay unlocked, and guests may come and go as they please.

In this space, Bagley is treated as an expert because of her experience of struggle, rather than a liability.  

“Here, you immediately come in and everything feels so intentional: the light, the sounds, the love,” Bagley said recently in an interview at the respite. “When they listen, they listen to understand. We’re not trying to diagnose or label you — it’s up to you. It’s empowering. I just know this place is exactly what I needed at that time.”  

Public Meeting Regarding Onboard Wheelchair on Single-Aisle Aircraft

Online Event from Phil Bratta: For Complete Post, click here…

Dec 16, 2021 09:30 AM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Webinar Registration

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Access Board will hold a virtual public meeting on December 16 to collect information on wheelchairs that are specifically designed for use on aircraft during flights. The agencies will use this information to finalize performance standards and advisory guidelines for aircraft onboard wheelchairs.Attendance to the meeting requires registration by December 9, 2021. Requests to submit written materials to be reviewed at the meeting or to provide oral testimony at the meeting must also be sent via email to OBWpublicmeeting@dot.gov by December 9, 2021. Communication access real-time translation and sign language interpretation will be provided, but requests for additional accommodations because of a disability must be submitted to OBWpublicmeeting@dot.gov by December 9, 2021.

Build Back Better Act Passes House

From Justice in Aging: For Complete Post, click here…

Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Build Back Better Act – a package of transformational investments in the health and economic security of older adults and families. The $150 billion investment in Medicaid home-based care will directly improve the lives of millions of aging adults and people with disabilities. This funding—the largest investment in home-based care since Medicaid began—will ensure older adults and people with disabilities have the care and supports they need to live with dignity and that workers who provide these essential services are fairly paid. We also applaud the inclusion of four weeks of paid leave for workers, which will bring relief to people who face impossible choices like caring for a loved one or risking their economic security or going to work sick and endangering others. The package also includes historic investments in housing supports that will increase access to affordable housing for older adults and people with disabilities, caps Medicare Part D out-of-pocket costs, adds a hearing benefit to Medicare, and expands Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to the territories. As the Senate takes up the legislation, Justice in Aging will continue to advocate for the inclusion of dental and vision benefits in Medicare and further improvements to SSI. We urge the Senate to act quickly to pass the Build Back Better Act. As we begin to recover from the pandemic and chart a more equitable future, older adults and families are counting on Congress to deliver on these transformational investments. 

New York wants to curtail a program that aids disabled residents

By Michelle Del Rey: For Complete Post, click here…

ngd-I guess the current program isn’t killing expensive people off fast enough…

The state Department of Health is attempting to rein in a program that has grown popular with people with long-term physical and mental disabilities that enables them to choose their own caregivers. 

The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program benefits 139,000 participants statewide. Under the initiative, participants use financial intermediaries to handle administrative tasks, including paying their caregivers on time. Caregivers are paid through the program. 

New Department of Health provisions would curtail the number of financial intermediaries that cater to patients by shutting their services down entirely.

If the move is implemented, it’s estimated that 80 percent of patients would need to find new financial intermediaries to help them complete tasks essential to their care, which can seem near to impossible in certain parts of the state where access to those organizations would be close to nil. 

In Onondaga County, not one financial intermediary license was awarded due to the new guidelines.

EU law must ensure trustworthy and accessible Artificial Intelligence (AI) for persons with disabilities!

By Natalia Suárez: For Complete Post, click here…

We call on the EU co-legislators to ensure trustworthy and accessible AI systems and practices that respect the right of persons with disabilities to non-discrimination, equality, privacy and data protection, and promote their social participation and independent living.

On the 21st of April, the European Commission (EC) released a proposal for new legislation establishing a legal framework on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the EU. This proposal is a step in the right direction. However, much work still needs to be done to improve the existing regulation and establish trustworthiness of AI for persons with disabilities.

The EU and all member states, as signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), are legally obliged to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination, promote their equality, ensure equal access to information and communications technologies and systems, ensure respect for privacy, and protect their rights to education and health as well as work and employment. The existing proposal falls short in these areas. Additionally, the regulation should promote development of AI that will benefit independent living and social participation of all persons with disabilities.

In terms of accessibility, the EC proposal lacks mandatory accessibility requirements for AI systems and practices. Accessibility should be required for all AI systems, irrespective of perceived or actual level of risk (‘high-risk’ or ‘non-high-risk’) because lack of accessibility can risk life and well-being of persons with disabilities. We are disappointed that the text falls short of the commitments under the CRPD and lacks consistency with EU accessibility legislation such as the European Accessibility Act.

The proposal also allows the use of AI for job recruitment purposes, biometric identification, determining education access, by law enforcement, and to assess whether a person might pose a ‘health risk”, among others, opening the door to a wide range of possibilities of AI discrimination against persons with disabilities. Furthermore, under the existing EU Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), not all persons with disabilities will be able to refuse consent for processing their data. The proposal does not resolve this, nor does it sufficiently establish how to object to data collection or who to contact in case of a data breach.

To mitigate potential risk by AI technologies and ensure that they bring benefits for persons with disabilities, we call on the EU legislators, namely the European Commission, European Parliament, and Council of the EU, to:

  • Ensure horizontal and mainstreamed accessibility requirements for AI systems, irrespective of level of risk.
  • Prohibit several practices listed under Annex III related to the use of AI biometric identification and categorisation of natural persons, determining individuals’ opportunities to access education, employment, access to and enjoyment of essential private services and public services and benefits; and use of AI by law enforcement and for certain use in migration, asylum, and border control management (see specific suggestions in the Position Paper).
  • Ensure that privacy and data protection of all persons with disabilities are ensured when their data is processed by AI systems, and measures are set for individuals to be informed and object when their data is being gathered and processed by AI systems.
  • Ensure protection of fundamental rights of individuals within the context of AI application, including measures to flag issues, file complaints to authorised bodies, and seek remedies in case of abuse that are accessible for persons with disabilities.
  • Ensure ex ante human rights impact assessments for high-risk AI systems before putting them into use, as well as accessibility checks as part of conformity assessments.
  • Ensure that AI providers and users whose outputs affect individuals outside of the European Union are subject to same requirements as those whose outputs affect persons within the Union.
  • Ensure EU and Member States, as obliged by article 4.3 of the CRPD, closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities, through their representative organizations in the development, implementation, and monitoring of European and national AI policies. Doing so will not only reduce potential risks of AI but also ensure promotion of AI that can strengthen rights of persons with disabilities to independent living, freedom of movement and equal socio-economic participation.

Olay Developed an Easy-Open Moisturizer Lid for People With Limited Mobility

BY NICOLA DALL’ASEN: For Complete Post, click here…

After receiving customer complaints about how difficult the Regenerist Moisturizer lids are to open, the brand is introducing a more accessible alternative. 

“I literally had to Google how to open this jar.”

That’s just one of the many complaints customers have written online about Olay’s range of face creams. Packaged in colorful jars with somewhat flat, circular lids, the brand’s star moisturizing lineup — Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, Vitamin C + Peptide 24 Face Moisturizer, Retinol 24 Face Moisturizer, and Collagen Peptide 24 Face Moisturizer — has never been all that accessible to people who have limited mobility. 

It’s the motive behind Olay’s new Easy Open Lid, which was created specifically to improve the product’s accessibility with the help of “consumers with a wide range of conditions, from dexterity issues and limb differences to chronic issues causing joint pain and vision impairments,” a press release from the brand states. Olay also consulted physical therapists, occupational therapists, and UX experts during the development process, a representative from Olay tells Allure. The lid has wings on either side, a raised top with some texture for grip, higher-contrast product labels, and Braille text that reads “face cream.”