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Under the sea: New creatures added to museum’s saltwater reef aquarium

HUNTINGTON — A few new creatures have taken up residence in the C. Fred Edwards Conservatory at the Huntington Museum of Art.

A pink pincushion sea urchin and coco worm are among the new additions to the museum’s 210-gallon saltwater reef aquarium, which is located in the conservatory. The pincushion sea urchin, which museum officials say moves around a lot, likes to cover itself with shells and other debris to hide, while the coco worm has feathery projections by its mouth and lives in a tube that it secretes.

The aquarium, plants and sculptures in the conservatory can be viewed at any time during regular museum hours.

Located at 2033 McCoy Road in Huntington, the museum is open for members from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Friday. It is open for general admission 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays and from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Admission to the museum is free on Tuesdays.

W.Va. health panel proposes edibles as permitted form of medical cannabis

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Senate Health Committee on Thursday passed a bill to add edibles to the list of permitted forms of medical cannabis.

Senate Bill 590 adds edible form to the list of permitted cannabis forms for consumption by patients in the medical cannabis program.

The committee amended the bill to include expressly that the packaging must not be enticing for children — for example, coming in the shape of an animal or flavored like candy.

The amendment came about after Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, said he was against the bill because of research showing children’s exposure to cannabis has increased since the introduction of medical cannabis across the country.

According to an eight-year study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, pediatric exposure to cannabis increased in Massachusetts after medical marijuana’s legalization. The study found that calls to the Regional Center for Poison Control for issues related to all cannabis products in children ages newborn to 19 more than doubled — from 29 calls four years before medical cannabis to 69 calls four years after legalization.

The incidence of single-substance cannabis calls increased from 0.4 per 100,000 before legalization to 1.1 per 100,000 after, a 140% increase. The age group of 15 to 19 years had the highest frequency of poison control-reported cannabis exposures; however, children ages newborn to 4 also had a significant increase in calls related to edible products after legalization.

Similar findings were found in studies on Colorado and Washington’s medical cannabis programs.

The JAMA study concluded states need to strengthen regulations to prevent unintentional exposure of children to cannabis, and to enhance efforts to prevent teens from using marijuana.

Enacted into law four years ago, no patient in West Virginia has yet to access medical cannabis. Permits for grow facilities and dispensaries were approved last year and patient registration began in February.

The Health Committee passed the bill, with Azinger being the lone opposing vote. It now heads to the House floor. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell.

Bill to permit workers’ comp for PTSD in first responders passes committee

CHARLESTON — For the fifth time in as many years, a bill to permit first responder agencies to offer workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder is heading to the West Virginia House of Delegates floor.

House Bill 3107 unanimously passed the Judiciary Committee on Thursday after passing the fire departments and emergency medical services subcommittee Wednesday. The bill permits agencies like fire, police or emergency services departments to offer workers’ compensation benefits to their first responders.

The bill, championed by Del. Chad Lovejoy, D-Cabell, passed the House last year but died in the Senate. This year’s bill differs in that it is not mandatory that departments offer this benefit. There have been fears that smaller departments may not be able to afford the added benefit, so HB 3107 allows them to decide if it is right for them.

Currently, workers’ compensation is only available if this PTSD diagnosis is connected to a bodily injury.

During the Judiciary Committee meeting, there was some confusion over whether the bill applied to all first responders or just EMS, leading Del. Ty Nestor, R-Randolph, to apologize for his remarks. Nestor had said he believed it was bad policy to carve out an exemption for one group of workers, adding that “they know what they sign up for.” Upon realizing the bill covers all first responders, Nestor changed his mind.

But his comments sparked passionate remarks from other delegates, including Lovejoy and former sheriff Del. David Kelly, R-Tyler.

Kelly said first responders never know what they sign up for. In the 1980s and ’90s, he said, trauma wasn’t talked about and first responders self-medicated.

“I self-medicated just to get through,” Kelly said. “This destroys relationships. It destroys families. It destroys lives. I can go for months and it seems like everything is OK. Something can trigger it. It can be a smell, a picture; it can be a television show. It can be lights and sirens. Sometimes it doesn’t take anything.”

Lovejoy explained the bill came about after the funeral of Huntington firefighter Chris Coleman. Coleman died by suicide two weeks after returning to work when his benefits ran out. His diagnosis came after responding to many fatal overdoses, including one that carried a personal connection.

“We say we ‘back the blue’ and we get in photos with them when we can, but then we let them die,” Lovejoy said.

In a study published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, researchers found that EMS workers in the United States were about 10 times more likely to have suicidal ideations and/or attempt suicide compared to the CDC national average. Firefighters are also at higher risk for suicide, with one nationwide study finding 46% of firefighters had suicidal ideations.

For West Virginia first responders, the substance use disorder epidemic has made an already difficult job harder. And the pandemic has exacerbated the problem, with fatal overdoses and deaths at home increasing in 2020.

If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK to be connected with support 24/7.

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