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KUNR Today: Fentanyl overdoses rising in Washoe Co., Reno-Tahoe airport hosts industry conference

An image of a vial of liquid fentanyl
National Institute on Drug Abuse

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.

Washoe Co. Sheriff calls local fentanyl overdoses a crisis
By Michelle Billman

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is seeing a rise in fentanyl-related overdoses. Sheriff Darin Balaam released a statement saying that in the span of just 12 hours on Sunday, his officers responded to two calls related to fentanyl overdoses.

For one call, an infant under the age of one was exposed to the drug. Narcan, an antidote to opioid overdose, was used to treat the baby. For the other call, a 24-year-old was found dead from an overdose. Balaam referred to the situation as a crisis and said even a very small dose of the drug can be lethal. He added that, often, people will buy illegal drugs and be unaware that those substances have been laced with fentanyl.

Reno airport hosts industry conference as passenger counts climb, travel restrictions loosen
By Kaleb Roedel

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport is hosting one of the largest conferences to land in Northern Nevada since the pandemic brought tourism to a halt.

More than 1,200 industry experts from across North America attended the Reno-Sparks Convention Center for Airports Council International’s annual conference. The four-day event, which wraps up Tuesday, gives airport leaders a chance to discuss plans for moving forward as holiday travel season nears.

The industry got a shot in the arm Monday when the U.S. reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries.

The new rules come as passenger counts climb across the country. The Reno airport, for one, saw nearly 303,000 passengers in September. That’s up 85% from the year before, but still down 23% from September 2019.

Asian Americans push for representation via redistricting
By The Associated Press

Activists are pushing states to ensure growing Asian American and Pacific Islander communities can be equally represented in government during the redistricting process. They’re asking lawmakers to draw districts in a way that accounts for population growth and doesn’t dilute their political power. Surveys point to some consensus among Asian American and Pacific Islander voters on issues such as taxes, health care and guns. In Nevada, questions over whether to protect incumbents or draw majority AAPI districts may challenge the Democratic-controlled statehouse, where non-Asian members represent districts where the AAPI population is concentrated.

Head of Nevada health insurance exchange to step down Dec. 3
By The Associated Press

The governor’s office announced Monday the head of Nevada’s health insurance exchange will leave her position in less than a month. Heather Korbulic briefly headed the state unemployment office during the height of pandemic-related job losses and served as Gov. Steve Sisolak’s policy director during the 2021 state Legislature. Sisolak's office says she'll leave the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange on Dec. 3. As interim head of the overwhelmed Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation from April to June 2020, Korbulic helped oversee the launch of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. She cited threats to her personal safety when she left the post and returned to her role at the insurance exchange.

Federal proposals could expand telehealth, rural healthcare access
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

Proposals in Congress would permanently expand the kinds of services that patients can receive by video chat or over the phone. That could have a big impact in rural areas.

The use of telehealth increased more than ten times during the pandemic, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. That’s because Medicare and Medicaid expanded the kinds of remote care they’d pay for, in order to help people avoid exposure to COVID-19. A number of lawmakers from our region have signed on to legislation seeking to make that permanent.

Dr. Daniel Spogen directs the rural residency program for the University of Nevada, Reno’s medical school. He said the change would go a long way to improving access in remote communities.

"Some of the patients that we see in our Elko clinic live 200 miles away, and it’s really hard for them to get in, especially in the winter months when there might be snow and ice on the road," Spogen said.

Spogen added telehealth can also help older patients with mobility issues, and virtual visits are usually shorter, so a doctor can see more patients per day.

UNR to offer Nevada's 1st online marijuana education program
By The Associated Press

The extended studies program at the University of Nevada, Reno is launching the first online courses in the state to obtain non-credit certificates in cannabis education. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports the first courses begin Nov. 15, ranging from business of the industry; to agriculture and horticulture; law and policy and healthcare and medicine. Jodi Herzik, interim vice provost for Extended Studies at UNR, says the intention is to meet tremendous job growth in a $1 billion industry that employs 10,000 just in Nevada. She says the industry is changing.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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