Morning Fizz

Within the Context of the Current Economic Downturn

By Morning Fizz July 23, 2010

1. As we've reported, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy is considering scaling back current guidelines which direct pharmacies to fill all legal prescriptions, including emergency contraception.

Oddly, after successfully defending the rules in court in the first round against a challenge from religious pharmacists, the board is thinking of lowering standards by allowing pharmacies to refer patients to other pharmacies if they don't want to carry the medication.

This week, state Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33, Kent), chair of the Senate's Health and Long Term Care Committee, sent a stern letter to pharmacy board chair, Gary Harris.

State Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33, Kent)

Here's the letter in full:
Recently, the Board of Pharmacy (BOP) has embarked on a rule making process to possibly allow for the denial of filling valid, legal prescriptions in Washington State.  This rule is often referred to "refuse and refer."  I am puzzled as to why the BOP would open this process at a time when there is a case in our courts concerning this issue.  I am also concerned about the manner in which this process was started, with little public notice, even after a rescheduling of the first proposed meeting.  The delay was approximately two business days, again not widely announced.

I would like to know specifically what events have led to this rushed process.  As you should know, the issue of pharmacy refusal is one that has been debated previously within the Legislature.  Also, the BOP itself has already ruled on this issue.  The 9th Circuit Court has issued two opinions, both supporting the original BOP rule.  With this matter still before the courts, this appears to be an ill-timed and ill-conceived action.  I would appreciate knowing what the reasons to justify this process are.

Additionally, I am concerned that the idea of "refuse and refer" is, in the cases of some medications, essentially "refuse."  There are numerous medications that need to have prescriptions filled and taken in a timely manner.  Forcing a patient to go pharmacy shopping places not only an undue burden upon a patient but may, in effect, deny them the treatment which they need.  This policy would not be consistent with providing the best medical care for Washington residents.

I hope you will contact me to discuss this situation as soon as possible.

2. The Stranger posted an elaborate conspiracy theory yesterday about a minor post we'd done .

Making some incorrect and paranoid assumptions, Dominic Holden accused us of falsely claiming we had a scoop when we published the Washington Department of Transportation's draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the deep bore tunnel late Wednesday night.

Our short post made no claims of being a scoop. Because it wasn't one. The documents we published were already available from WSDOT on Wednesday. And the Stranger had published them Wednesday night before we did.

The Stranger—sounding like a stalker ex—monitored our RSS and Twitter feeds and accused us of going in and changing the time stamp on our post so it would appear as if we published the docs before they did. This is not true. The time stamp correctly showed when the post was written and saved as a draft—6:57 PM.

Here's a screen shot that shows Erica uploading the WSDOT docs to PubliCola’s server between 6:45 PM and 6:49 PM on Wednesday while she was writing the brief post. (We got a copy of the WSDOT docs from a PubliCola reader who had done their own public records request for them, not—as Holden's post implies—from the Stranger.)

After uploading the docs, Erica  finished the post and saved it without publishing. (She had a follow-up question for the tipster, and held off on posting until later—1:59 AM.)

Had Holden bothered to call us, we would have gladly told him the post went live on our site late that evening.

We were, in fact, unaware of the 6:57 time stamp. By Thursday, we were busy with that day's stories, including Erica's detailed analysis of the DEIS, which you can read here.

We called Stranger publisher Tim Keck last night after we read the paper's PubliCola conspiracy theory, but he did not call us back.

3. Funding for the city's human services department has increased consistently over the past six years, contradicting a statement by human-services advocate Dorry Elias, director of the Minority Executive Directors Coalition, that "When cuts have to be made, human services are always first."

However, the city's budget policy has, in recent years, explicitly stated that human services are the city's top budget priority. For example: "Within the context of the current economic downturn, the Council establishes Public Safety and Human Services and Housing as its highest priorities," legislation adopting the city's 2009 budget priorities says. "In these difficult times, the City must continue to protect the health and safety of all Seattle's residents, while at the same time providing essential assistance to the most needy among them."

The only year in which funding for human services didn't increase was 2005, when funding went from $113 million to $96 million. In 2006, human service funding went up $9 million; in 2007, it went up more than $13 million; in 2008, it went up $11 million; and in 2009, it went up $19 million.

4. Sightline's Roger Valdez and the Downtown Seattle Association's Jon Scholes mixed it up yesterday in Sightline's comments thread over the so-called "head tax"—the tax on employers whose workers commute by single-occupancy vehicle that was overturned by the city earlier this year.

Valdez, a research associate at Sightline—a local the environmental think tank and blog—did a  post suggesting replacing the head tax with a payroll deduction on employees who drive alone to work, and using that money to pay for sidewalks, bike paths, and transit improvements. Scholes, a DSA lobbyist, argues that such a tax would hurt low-wage workers who have to commute from elsewhere to jobs in Seattle; Valdez responds, "I am so glad to see that the Downtown Seattle Association is taking on social justice issues. Does that mean a change of heart on panhandling legislation?"

It goes on from there.

5. has a neat scoop: In a six-month-long sting called Operation Yellowjacket, the Seattle Police Department just rounded up 15 cab drivers that SPD officials say are responsible for fencing stolen goods in a downtown open-air market at the corner of Stewart St. and Sixth Ave., at a cab stand across the street from the Westin Hotel.

Cops described the cab stand as "an open air bazaar type situation," with cabbies waiting at the stand to buy and sell stolen goods. Read killer crime reporter Jonah Spangenthal Lee's whole story here.
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