January 19, 2007

Schumer proposes better diabetes screening


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Jean Ward and her husband, Arthur, are shown in their Cortland apartment. Jean Ward has diabetes, a disease that prevents her body from producing or properly using insulin. A report by Sen. Charles Schumer shows that cases of adult and juvenile diabetes have risen more than 35 percent in upstate New York since 1999.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Jean Ward was nervous and just a little scared after she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in spring 2005.
Although the 54-year-old Ward had a family history of diabetes, she said she had not been worried about contracting the disease.
Ward is one of the 2,357 cases of diabetes in Cortland County, according to statistics cited Thursday by U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer.
Figures from the New York State Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2003-05 and the U.S. Population Census Estimates for New York state 2005 show that in 1999 there were 1,553 diagnosed diabetes cases in the county. Since then, there have been 804 additional cases.
According to the American Diabetes Association, there are two types of the disease. Type 1 results from the body’s failure to produce insulin, the hormone that “unlocks” the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance, a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin.
Schumer attributes the diabetes “epidemic” to health insurance companies spending money on costly end-of-life procedures and not preventive care.
“We need to shift our focus to strongly fight the causes of the disease,” Schumer said. He added that $132 billion was spent last year on end-of-life procedures, but insurance companies do not cover diabetes screening, or education on proper health and nutrition.
“Medicare and Medicaid are not pulling their weight in diabetes care,” Schumer said. “We need to shift our focus from costly end-of-life procedures to preventive care.”
Ward said she had not received preventive care before she was diagnosed.
Ward is supposed to test her blood glucose levels three times a day every day for the rest of her life, but because she has no health insurance and she is not eligible for Medicare, she tests sparingly.
“I test once a week or every two weeks, when I feel something is wrong,” Ward said. In addition to testing to monitor her blood glucose levels, Ward takes two medications, Glucophage and Avandia. Ward said she gets her medications for $8 each, but test strips, which monitor her blood glucose levels, cost approximately $50 for a box of 50.
Schumer Press Secretary Josh Vlasto said it costs $30,000 to amputate a leg and $150 for a visit to the podiatrist before foot complications with diabetes occur. He also said it costs $350 for every kidney dialysis treatment, but $75 for a visit to a nutritionist.
Marianne Ludwigsen, a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at the Cortland Regional Medical Center, agreed there needs to be a change in emphasis in diabetes detection and treatment.
“We absolutely need early intervention,” she said. “They (insurance companies) all pay when things have gone wrong.”
To try to remedy the problem, Schumer said he is asking Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to make diabetes screening and prevention for Medicare beneficiaries a top priority. The senator said he asked Leavitt to include in his 2008 budget proposal a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies to find and screen the 40 percent of Medicare recipients with pre-diabetes — blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, which according to Ludwigsen is between 100 micrograms per deciliter and 126 micrograms per deciliter.
Schumer said he is also asking for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office of diabetes and pre-diabetes services covered by state Medicaid programs. The senator added that he wanted an examination on per-patient spending and mortality rates in each state’s Medicaid program.
“Because our health care is so piecemeal, you only get attention when you get sick and that has to change,” Schumer said. “The reason why other nations are paying less for health care and people are living longer, is because they have a more national health care system.”
Schumer also said legislation was being drawn up to increase access to diabetes screening and early interventions, but he declined to go into detail.
For now, Ward said she is following her doctor’s advice, which is to lose weight and exercise.
Ward said at times she gets angry about her situation.
“I don’t think you have to be homeless and without a dime to your name before you can get some help,” she said. And to the insurance companies Ward said, “Come live in my shoes.”


Legislators talk about health facility options

Ideas include keeping the current plan to build on south Main Street or looking at other available sites.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — For the first time since neighborhood outcry and shrinking support from elected officials pressed many legislators into questioning the county’s decision to purchase property on south Main Street for a proposed public health facility, legislators met Thursday to publicly discuss the proposal.
A meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee that drew 15 of 19 county legislators saw a wide variety of ideas discussed, including pushing forward with the project while working to accommodate the public, keeping the property and preparing it for resale and looking at other locations for the facility.
While concerns were raised about the cost of backing out of agreements to purchase nine parcels on south Main Street for $894,000, the general consensus seemed to be that, even if the county is contractually locked into the agreements, it still has options.
Committee Chairman Ron Van Dee (D-5th Ward) kicked off discussion by pointing to other properties potentially available for purchase, including the former Wickwire building on south Main Street, property on River Street behind the Hampton Inn, and unnamed properties in Cortlandville.
Van Dee also, after the meeting, restated his intent to, at the Jan. 25 session, call for a reconsideration of the December vote to purchase the property.
Should a reconsideration pass, it could come at a cost to the county, which would be breaking its contract with the owners of the properties, County Attorney Ric Van Donsel said.
This prompted some legislators to seek ways to both keep the property and look for other options for the public health building.
“I’m perfectly happy owning this property,” said Legislator Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward). “I think now we should step back, see what else might be available, and very publicly and openly weigh the pros and cons of each option.”
Legislator Merwin Armstrong (R-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) suggested that the site could be used to house the local office of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, while Legislator John Daniels (D-Cortlandville) suggested that the county could attempt to resell the property.
“I don’t think it was a mistake to purchase that property, even if we don’t build the mental health (office) there,” Daniels said. “I think it might make sense to demolish some of the less desirable buildings, get it all set to market, and we won’t necessarily lose money.”
Still, other legislators were reluctant to believe that it was cost-effective to consider other properties for the building at this point.
“Maybe that’s not the best place for a mental health building, but once the word’s out that we’re looking at other properties, the costs are going to go way up, and that’s what scares me,” said Legislator Tom Hartnett (D-4th Ward).
County Administrator Scott Schrader agreed, saying one potential property he had looked at had been sold a few years ago for $22,000, but once the county’s interest was made public, it had a price tag of $250,000.
“I think that’s proof that the way we handled this was appropriate,” Schrader said, referring to complaints that the county had kept purchase offers for the properties secret until days before it was to vote.
Meanwhile, not everyone was willing to write off the south Main Street site for the public health building.
“I still think that’s the perfect spot for it — I think it would go a long way towards cleaning that block up and helping that area of Main Street,” said Legislator Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville). “I think if we could scale the designs back a little bit, maybe look at putting the parking somewhere else, and then put a nice park or something as a buffer, people in that neighborhood would be happy with it.”


Woman guilty of setting boyfriend’s house on fire

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — It took a jury about two hours Thursday to find Holly Revette guilty of two counts of arson and two counts of burglary.
Despite the conviction, Revette smiled after the verdict was read and even smiled as a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed her.
She could face as many as 30 years in state prison.
“I think she’s shocked,” Revette’s attorney, Randolph Kruman, said of his client. “I’m certainly disappointed with the verdict and somehow we’re going to get this in front of an appellate court.”
Revette, 39, of 7816 Cowles Settlement Road, was accused of setting her ex-boyfriend’s house on fire over a custody dispute.
Prosecutor Timothy Hennigan told the jury that Revette was disgruntled because her ex-boyfriend had custody of their 17-year-old son and temporary custody of her 7-year-old son of whom he was not the father.
Revette was arrested in January of 2006 after the house at 7822 Cowles Road, which was under construction at the time of fire, burned to the ground on Dec. 30.
Kruman told the jury that Revette lived across the road from the house and she discovered the fire when she went outside of her home at around 1 a.m. to have a cigarette. Kruman said that Revette saw a light in the house and when she realized it was a fire, she went to a neighbor’s house to call 911.
Revette was convicted on two counts of third-degree arson and two counts of third-degree burglary, felonies. One count of arson and one count of burglary are related to the fire on Dec. 30, while the other counts are the result of a fire that was set in the house on Dec. 4. That fire caused minor damage to the house before a construction worker extinguished it.
In his closing statements, Hennigan, a special prosecuted appointed to the case from the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office, argued Revette’s guilt based on her motive and opportunity to start the fire.
“My biggest concern was that they (the jurors) wouldn’t be able to rule out every other possibility,” he said after the verdict.
Hennigan, who was appointed to the case because one of the witnesses for the prosecution is related to District Attorney David Hartnett, said that in most arson cases it is difficult to provide physical evidence and witnesses because it is a crime of “stealth.”



Police say  exposure to weather caused death

Staff Reporter

PREBLE — The elderly man found dead Wednesday in his car in a field off Route 11 most likely died of exposure to the weather, police said.
Sgt. Jason Newcomb, of the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, said this morning that police believe Alfred M. Fitzpatrick, 79, of 3564 JC Ave., Marietta, died from a combination of exposure to the winter weather, his age and possibly an unknown illness.
Newcomb said there appears to have been no foul play involved in the man’s death, but he did not yet have an official autopsy report.
Fitzpatrick was found in his car when a passing motorist saw the 2005 Ford Focus in a stream about 100 yards off Route 11 in Preble.
The car was partially submerged in a few feet of water but did not appear to have any major damage. The airbags were not deployed, one witness said.
Fitzpatrick was reported missing Tuesday night after he did not return home from his nightly dinner at the Arbor Inn at 2424 Otisco Valley Road, Marietta. The restaurant is located about 14 miles northeast of the crash site.
Newcomb said officials are still unsure why Fitzpatrick was traveling south on East Homer-Baltimore Road before he veered into a field and drove several hundred yards before his car stopped in the stream.