November 24, 2014

Group asks Hy-Vee to stop selling tobacco products

Hy-Vee store.

Hy-Vee store.

An anti-smoking group has gone public with a campaign calling on Iowa’s largest grocery store chain to stop selling tobacco products and e-cigarettes in its stores that contain pharmacies or health care clinics. Jeneane Moody, executive director of the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance, says they’re targeting Hy-Vee because of their sponsorship of a triathlon and Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative.

“They’ve really developed their brand around health and wellness, so we think this makes them a good candidate to consider this opportunity,” Moody said. The board of directors for the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance sent a letter to Hy-Vee officials in early October about the idea, but have not received a direct response. The alliance chose to go public with their effort today because it coincides with the American Cancer Society’s “Great American Smokeout.”

In a written statement, Hy-Vee noted the company doesn’t advertise tobacco products, but also doesn’t believe it should “police customers’ personal decisions.” Moody is hoping Hy-Vee will follow in the footsteps of the CVS pharmacy chain, which removed tobacco products from its stores earlier this year.

“I think CVS set a great example by showing that because they’re a provider of health services they thought it was incongruous to also sell a product that kills their customers,” Moody said. Hy-Vee is headquartered in West Des Moines and has 235 stores in eight Midwestern states, including 123 in Iowa.

Here’s Hy-Vee’s statement:

For years now, health and wellness has been a major part of who Hy-Vee is, and our commitment shows through the numerous healthy offerings in our stores and the activities we support in communities. As a retailer, we offer consumers a variety of products; we do not believe it is our role to police their personal decisions. We actively try to encourage customers’ healthy choices by keeping tobacco products behind courtesy counters and excluding them from marketing. And in contrast, we visibly tout the convenient access to smoking cessation programs and products provided through our pharmacies and in-store dietitians and clinics.
Hy-Vee has:
220 dietitians in 225 stores.
243 pharmacies; this number includes our Hy-Vee Drugstores, pharmacy clinics and in-store pharmacies.
160 HealthMarkets across our 235 stores.

Hy-Vee has strived to make the HealthMarket a focal point in many of our stores – strategically placing it near the pharmacy and dietitians to provide customers easy access to health and wellness information, products and services. Hy-Vee, Inc. is an employee-owned corporation operating 235 retail stores across eight Midwestern states with sales of more than $8.7 billion annually. Hy-Vee ranks among the top 25 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States. Supermarket News, the authoritative voice of the food industry, has honored the company with a Whole Health Enterprise Award for its leadership in providing services and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle. For more information, visit

Pharmacy Board delays decision on medical marijuana

Pharmacy-BoardThe Iowa Board of Pharmacy today tabled a recommendation that the Iowa Legislature reclassify marijuana. A three-member subcommittee had recommended the full board urge state lawmakers to make marijuana a “Schedule Two” substance, meaning it could be used for medical purposes.

Board Chairman Ed Maier is a pharmacist from Monona County. “I believe we decided to table it to have a little more time to think about it, primarily because of the fact that federal law and state law would be in conflict,” Maier said. Federal law classifies marijuana as Schedule One, which bans most uses of the drug.

Medical marijuana advocate Sally Gaer of West Des Moines said she doesn’t understand the decision to delay a decision, especially since the pharmacy board previously recommended reclassifying marijuana back in 2010. “I’m really disappointed,” Gaer said. “I don’t understand why they need another discussion on all of it. I’m just really frustrated.”

The board will return to the issue at its meeting on January 3. Gaer has a 24-year-old daughter who suffers from intractable epilepsy and is currently taking four different anticonvulsant drugs, including one that’s imported from France and isn’t approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. “So, FDA approval doesn’t mean a ton to me at this point,” Gaer said. “All of her meds she’s been on have not been approved for use in children and she started on them as a child. We’re out of options for medications to try with her, so we would like to try the cannabidiol oil and whatever else might help her.”

Gaer helped lead the lobbying effort earlier this year that resulted in Governor Branstad signing a bill decriminalizing possession of cannabis oil as treatment for chronic epilepsy. But, Gaer notes most states where cannabis oil can be legally purchased also restrict sales to residents of that state. In addition, the ID cards that will protect epileptic patients in Iowa from prosecution if they’re caught with cannabis oil won’t be issued until January 30.

“I’m frustrated with the bill because in the final hours, everything was kind of sliced and diced out of it,” Gaer said. “The reciprocity for hurting Iowans who are refugees in Colorado…they can’t bring their loved ones home (to Iowa) to see their family and bring their medication with their children. That’s frustrating to me too.” Gaer and other parents of children with severe forms of epilepsy have been asking state lawmakers to allow marijuana to be grown here, so cannabis oil can be produced and purchased in Iowa.

Dale Woolery, Associate Director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy, praised the cautious approach of the pharmacy board. “It’s not an easy thing. It tells us how difficult this issue really is,” Woolery said. “We don’t believe moving marijuana out of Schedule One is required to do some of the things that are being talked about, (such as) research and CBD (cannabidiol) access. It’s been demonstrated that can happen with marijuana as a Schedule One.”

While the pharmacy board recommended in 2010 that lawmakers reclassify marijuana, the legislature has not taken any action on the matter.


ISU experts to ‘shore up gaps’ in website with resources for dementia patients

LifelongExperts on aging at Iowa State University are partnering with state officials and the Iowa Alzheimer’s Association to enhance an online guide that lists the resources available for patients with dementia.

“I think it’s been difficult, especially in rural areas, to understand what sort of access people have to long-term supports and services,” says Jennifer Margrett, director of the gerontology program at Iowa State University.

The website is a “resource center” created by the Iowa Department of Aging and the Iowa State University research team will help evaluate and “shore up gaps” in the services available to dementia patients. is a website that’s intended to be a one-stop-shop so people who are facing age-related issues or challenges related to a disability can log on and find access to services in their area,” Margrett says.

According to Margrett, many home and community-based dementia services are underutilized because Iowans don’t know the programs exist or how to access them. Margrett says there are “care deserts” in Iowa, however, as sparsely populated rural areas lack some of these services and, as a result, persons with dementia are often placed in long-term care facilities rather than receiving the care they need at home.

Margrett and her team are working to develop “tools” for family discussions about long-term care plans.

“So hopefully we can start having more conversations ahead of time and get individuals and spouses and families talking about this before there’s a need or when there’s some early needs, so we can start planning so someone doesn’t get to that point where they feel like they don’t have any options,” Margrett says.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that by 2025, Iowa will see an 18 percent increase in the number of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease. If you don’t have access to the internet, there’s also a phone number to call to get the same information available on That number is 866-468-7887.

Two social workers, accused of having sex with clients, surrender licenses

A Mason City woman accused of having a sex with a client she was counseling has agreed to surrender her license to the Iowa Board of Social Work.

According to online documents, Lisa Bailey — who was a licensed social worker – sent “numerous” texts and made phone calls to a client earlier this year and eventually had a sexual relationship with her client. Bailey admits she was “mentally distressed” at the time and taking a prescription drug that affected her judgment. According to the Board of Social Work, Bailey was sent home from work on “multiple occasions” because she was “emotionally distraught” and Bailey was eventually fired from her job due to her “inappropriate relationship” with her client.

The board filed charges against Bailey in August. Bailey has signed a settlement agreement, voluntarily surrendering her social workers’ license.

A 62-year-old social worker from rural Newton who’s accused of having sex with a client has voluntarily surrendered his license to practice, too.

This past summer, Larry Anderson notified the Iowa Board of Social Work that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a client. On July 31st Anderson was charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor. Ankeny police say Anderson had sex with a female client after she grew emotionally dependent on him. Authorities say Anderson and his client had sex in Anderson’s home.

Atlantic woman pleads guilty in fake cancer fund-raising scheme

Leatha Slauson

Leatha Slauson

A western Iowa woman who lied about her daughter having cancer and solicited donations for her treatment has pleaded guilty to 5 charges in the case. Thirty-year-old Leatha Slauson of Atlantic had originally faced a total of 20 counts, but a plea deal was reached last week and details of that agreement were revealed today at a court hearing.

Fourth District Court Judge Mark Eveloff asked Slauson about her actions, including how she raised money for her five-year-old daughter, Riley. Slauson admitted she falsely claimed Riley had terminal cancer in order to collect donations. She also admitted to giving her daughter cannabis oil and other drugs without a prescription.

Cass County Attorney Dan Feistner revealed Slauson spent roughly $13,000 of the money she collected from various fund raisers, but another $13,000 remains in a bank account. “We’re hopeful that through sentencing, regardless of the outcome as far as probation or prison, at least on the theft side, we’re able to work out some means in which she’s ordered to pay victim restitution,” Feistner said. “Who that may go to is a little unique, I think, at this point. But, we do have some of the money, which is in a bank account and frozen.”

Slauson faces up to 21 years in prison when she is sentenced on December 22nd in Cass County District Court. Her attorney, Jay Mez, said his top priority was eliminating the charge of first-degree theft.

“One of the counts was a 25 year sentence, with a mandatory 17 years,” Mez said. “That we did not plea to.” Under the plea agreement, Slauson plead guilty to second-degree theft, two counts of child endangerment causing bodily injury, one count of administering harmful substances, and unlawful possession of a prescription drug.

Slauson is being released from custody to live with her mother in Hampton, Iowa. She is ordered not to have contact with her children or her husband, whom police said wasn’t involved in the scheme. Leatha Slauson must also complete a mental health evaluation prior to her sentencing.

(Reporting by Ric Hansen, KJAN, Atlantic)


Iowa Guard unit on notice for deployment to help with Ebola outbreak

National-GuardAn Iowa Army National Guard medical support unit based in Washington, Iowa got a call from Washington D.C. this weekend. Guard spokesman, Colonel Greg Hapgood, says the unit of approximately 80 soldiers received notice of “pending mobilization” to help fight Ebola.

“The 294th Area Support Medical Company of the Iowa Army National Guard provides full spectrum medical support in a particular area of operations,” Hapgood says. “What they really specialize in is casualty triage, basic medical treatment, life sustainment, and also the transportation of injured and sick personnel.”

He says the Iowa unit would be supporting the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The 294th’s proposed mission in West Africa for Operation United Assistance would be to provide full spectrum medical care to U.S. and coalition personnel in West Africa,” Hapgood says. “Their job is not to treat the local population also coalition forces is contained and that they are doing well, so that’s really their main job.”

While the actual mobilization date has not yet been set, he says it’s a good bet that it will happen. “It’s been our experience, particularly over the last 13 years, that once a unit receives a notification of sourcing, it is highly likely that they will mobilize,” Hapgood says.

This is a different type of mission for the unit, which last deployed in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “This is a humanitarian mission, so it certainly differs from a combat threatre, but the unit’s job is exactly the same whether or not they are in West Africa or Iraq or Afghanistan. Their job really is to provide medical to U.S. personnel and coalition forces and to ensure the health and safety of those forces,” according to Hapgood.

He says the members of the unit are on standby after learning of the call this weekend. “The personnel, they are ready to go. They understand what it is they need to do, when they need to do it, and they are ready to take care of the mission and come home,” Hapgood says. The mission will be like others as the soldiers will report for more training before heading overseas. “The unit will receive additional very specialized training specifically aimed towards the prevention of Ebola. And we believe that training will be very comprehensive,” Hapgood says.

The Iowa Guard expects the deployment will begin in the spring and last for approximately six months. Ebola has claimed more than 5,000 lives in western Africa this year.



Effort continues to get more people to quit smoking

smokesMany Iowans, who are smokers, may have this Thursday circled on their calendars. The third Thursday in November is the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout — an annual effort to encourage smokers to quit for the day or make a plan to quit.

Peggy Huppert, with the American Cancer Society in Central Iowa, says in the early 1970s, more than 40-percent of adult Iowans smoked cigarettes or cigars. Today, that figure has dropped to 18-percent.

“We still think that’s too high,” Huppert said. “We have a lot of emphasis on helping people quit because of the harm that is caused. It is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the nation and in Iowa.” Smoking is blamed for roughly 80-percent of all lung cancer cases in the U.S. and lung cancer is the leading cause of death among all forms of cancer.

Despite the extreme risks associated with smoking, thousands of Iowans have trouble quitting. “It’s extremely hard to quit smoking. Nicotine is the most addictive substance known to humans, more addictive than crack, meth, or any illegal drug,” Huppert said. “The average person has to try seven times to quit smoking before they’re successful.”

Around 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, which equates to just under 1 in every 5 adults. Huppert suggests Iowans who need help quitting smoking or using smokeless tobacco contact Quitline Iowa.

“Within 30 days of quitting, your health can improve significantly and it will add years to your life,” Huppert said. Persons who enroll in the Quitline Iowa program could be eligible for eight weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy, including patches, gum, or lozenges.