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U.S. Indian Health Service Doctor Indicted on Charges of Sexual Abuse

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A U.S. Indian Health Service doctor was indicted Thursday on charges of sexually abusing his Native American patients at a health center in South Dakota, deepening a crisis over the handling of sexual misconduct that has consumed the federal agency for a year.

The doctor, Pedro Ibarra-Perocier, a family medicine physician, was indicted on eight counts of sexual abuse involving four different adult patients at the agency’s clinic on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, in the town of Wagner in the southeastern corner of the state.

A lawyer for Dr. Ibarra-Perocier declined to comment. A U.S. District Court clerk in Sioux Falls said he had pleaded not guilty.

The IHS’s broader sex-abuse crisis began with revelations about another IHS doctor, Stanley Patrick Weber, who was sentenced on Monday to five lifetime prison terms for sexually abusing Native American boys in his care at the agency’s Pine Ridge, S.D. hospital.

The IHS mishandled accusations about Weber dating back to the early 1990s, an investigation last year by The Wall Street Journal and the PBS series Frontline showed. Officials transferred him between hospitals after he fell under suspicion for sexually abusing boys, ignored warning signs and punished whistleblowers who accused Weber until the pediatrician finally retired in 2016, in the face of a federal probe.

For more than two decades, government pediatrician Stanley Patrick Weber raised suspicions that he was a pedophile. The Wall Street Journal and Frontline investigate how the Indian Health Service doctor was transferred from reservation to reservation and allowed to continue to treat children despite accusations he was sexually abusing Native American boys. Photo composite: Adele Morgan and Mike Shum/Frontline/WSJ

After the Journal and Frontline’s report, the agency overhauled its policies for preventing sexual abuse and protecting patients, but a government watchdog has said the changes don’t go far enough.

“Patients and employees of the Indian Health Service should never face sexual harassment or abuse,” a statement provided Thursday by an IHS spokeswoman said. “We will continue to institute the reforms necessary to create the high quality care environment that our patients and employees should expect in our clinics and hospitals,” the statement said.

Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said Thursday he expected the agency to brief lawmakers on Dr. Ibarra-Perocier’s actions and its response to them. Lawmakers have “made it clear that IHS needs to address patient abuse and employee misconduct,” he said.

In late 2018, Dr. Ibarra-Perocier was removed from his duties at the Wagner clinic and escorted out of the facility after one of the women he treated complained that he had abused her, people close to the agency said. A worker at the facility reported that incident to law enforcement, the people said.

The agency launched an internal investigation at that time, the people said, and placed the doctor on administrative leave. But in April of last year, Dr. Ibarra-Perocier was allowed to return to work at the agency’s administrative offices in Aberdeen, S.D., the people said.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General meanwhile identified the additional women who complained about Dr. Ibarra-Perocier’s conduct in the exam room, people familiar with the matter said.

The charges don’t describe the exact nature of the complaints about Dr. Ibarra-Perocier. They allege he caused his patients “to engage in a sexual act by threatening and placing [the victims] in fear,” and coerced them into sexual contact.

The new allegations aren’t the first about Dr. Ibarra-Perocier, some of the people familiar with the matter said. At least two nurses accused him internally of workplace sexual harassment in past years, the people said. Dr. Ibarra-Perocier’s wife, who left her job due to illness in 2017 and died the next year, was his supervisor during that time, they said.

In December, the HHS inspector general found the agency’s patient-protection policies don’t go far enough.

The inspectors concluded the agency had focused so narrowly on medical providers who commit child sexual abuse that it didn’t adequately direct employees on how to respond to other kinds of perpetrators, victims or types of abuse.

A separate White House task force convened to examine the widening scandal is expected to release additional recommendations for improving safety at the agency’s facilities next week.

The IHS also commissioned a review of its own handling of the Weber case that is expected to lead to additional changes. The private contractor the agency retained to do that work completed its report, but the agency has withheld the document, arguing that it is a record of quality assurance program that by law is confidential.

“IHS is committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement,” an agency spokeswoman said in a January statement. “We also respect and protect patient privacy.”

Write to Christopher Weaver at christopher.weaver@wsj.com and Dan Frosch at dan.frosch@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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California governor to address homelessness, mental health in State of the State speech –

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s governor is expected to call for better mental health care to help the state’s huge homeless population when he addresses one of the state’s most pressing problems in his second State of the State speech.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom offered what he called “a little preview” of his Wednesday speech.

“We’re committed to radically re-imagining our behavioral health system. Not mental health system — our behavioral health system,” Newsom said.

Behavioral health is a broader approach that includes not just mental well-being but also addresses interrelated physical challenges such as drug and alcohol abuse or poor diet and exercise.

Newsom recently called for changing provider reimbursements during an interview by the Public Policy Institute of Californian to promote “the integration of brain health and physical health in a way that we think also would do justice to this deeper issue of homelessness.”

Newsom’s State of the State address is set for mid-morning in the ornate Assembly Chambers and is likely to be more focused than his marathon budget address last month that lasted nearly three hours.

The Democratic governor will speak while his most vocal critic — President Donald Trump —visits Southern California. Newsom and the Republican president have repeatedly traded tweet storms over whether California’s leaders are doing enough to get transients off the streets. Trump on Tuesday criticized Los Angeles’ officials for failing to stem that city’s homelessness epidemic, warning that the federal government will intervene if Los Angeles doesn’t “clean it up fast.”

While homelessness in most states has declined, the number of people living on California streets jumped 16% in 2019 to about 151,000. Local governments have historically handled the bulk of homeless services, but state officials have boosted funding in recent years by more than $1 billion.

This year, Newsom wants to spend another $750 million combating homelessness and wants to give the money to as yet unnamed regional administrators instead of local governments. The independent Legislative Analysts’ Office has criticized that approach, saying it likely won’t have a meaningful impact.

Newsom counters that the homelessness problem is so bad the state needs to try something different. Earlier this year, he sent camping trailers from the state fleet to cities in need and ordered excess state land to be used for temporary shelters.

He’s asking state lawmakers for nearly $700 million, doubling to $1.4 billion by 2022 including federal funds, to shift the focus of California’s Medicaid program that provides free or low-cost medical services. He wants state and local emphasis on preventative health care, but with a broad approach that could include non-traditional assistance in finding housing, even providing rental assistance if homelessness is linked to heavy use of expensive health care services.

The governor also created a state and local “behavioral health task force” to look at the link between mental illness and substance abuse.

He expects to offer changes this spring to a tax on millionaires approved by voters in 2004 to help those with mental illness who are homeless, among other efforts.

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Local healthcare provider receives grant to expand child dental care

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A healthcare provider with a Glendale location has received a $150,000 grant to expand its dental services to more underserved children.

Comprehensive Community Health Centers, which also operates facilities with dental care in Eagle Rock and Sunland, will use the grant to partially fund the salaries of a pediatric dentist and general dentist.

Funds will come from L.A. Care Health Plan, a public agency that offers healthcare plans to low-income and other vulnerable populations, also known as a “public option.”

The agency awarded $1.65 million in grants for the purpose of expanding dental care to 11 healthcare providers throughout L.A. County, including Comprehensive Community Health Centers.

“The reality is dental care is often overlooked, just as behavioral health is often overlooked,” said Dr. Richard Seidman, chief medical officer of L.A. Care.

That leads to the progression of preventable tooth decay, which can lead to more serious, and more costly, medical problems, according to Seidman.

“We’re aiming to put the mouth back in the body and address the needs of the whole person,” Seidman said.

Comprehensive Community Health’s Glendale center has worked to integrate its medical and dental-care models, according to Toyin Idehen, director of development for all of the centers.

The idea is to screen children for tooth decay, also known as dental caries, while they are getting their medical checkups.

If risk is identified, the child can potentially walk over to the dental-care provider and receive treatment the same day.

That could reduce the number of times parents have to take off work and children have to take off school, as well as other burdens that low-income and communities of color in particular face when accessing healthcare, according to Idehen.

Now, Comprehensive Community Health will try to build the same model at its newer Sunland center, where the pair of dentists the provider plans to hire will focus their time.

“We are kind of replicating and marrying what we are doing at Glendale because it is a successful program,” Idehen said.

Last year, the Glendale center saw 4,315 children in its dental department. About 9,330 dental patients in total were treated across all sites during the same year. Nearly 700 were uninsured.

“That’s a huge number,” Idehen said.

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FBI recognizes UF Health employee for emergency preparedness work

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An emergency preparedness coordinator for UF Heath was recognized Tuesday as a recipient of the 2019 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Jennifer Silvey-Cason works to ensure that Jacksonville’s medical community can successfully serve patients’ needs following a disaster.

Silvey-Cason has strengthened the Duval County Emergency Preparedness Plan by donating her personal time and expertise. She also formed an all-volunteer group that focuses on victim reunification after a mass casualty event.

Additionally, Silvey-Cason has brought attention to the need for improved mental health programs for first responders and victim advocates.

Silvey-Cason said Jacksonville has a spirit of resiliency due to proper management and planning ahead of a potential mass causality situation.

“With all my travels around the country, speaking about this, we are so far ahead because we are already coming together,” Silvey-Cason said. “All of our partners, we’ve established relationships, we’re training together, we’re educating together and we’re having those conversations prior to an incident happening. And we’ve learned from other lessons that have occurred.”

She encourages all families to have a family disaster plan that covers natural disasters, such as hurricanes and fires, and mass causality events.

FBI Director Christopher Wray will present the award to Silvey-Cason at a ceremony in May at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2020 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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