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Sharp increase in psychotropic drugs for Medicaid kids

Ethanol expo in town; Boogaard repercussions; charitable gambling’s concerns about revenue targets; caterpillars on the march; and more.

Yeah, you might want a second — or third — set of eyes on this sort of thing. Jeremy Olson of the Strib writes: “Concerned by a sharp rise in the use of powerful psychiatric drugs for adolescents, Minnesota will start requiring doctors in many cases to begin using a state-funded consulting service before prescribing such medications for children. The state Department of Human Services on Monday awarded a two-year contract to Mayo Clinic to run the service, which will advise pediatricians and family doctors on whether antipsychotic and stimulant medications are appropriate for their young patients. The system was created to address an alarming increase in psychotropic drug prescriptions among Minnesota’s foster children and disabled and poor children in the state’s Medicaid fee-for-service program. A Star Tribune report last summer found that the program’s spending on antipsychotics for children surged from $402,000 in 2000 to $6.8 million in 2006 — and matched a questionable increase in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder as a childhood disease.” So apparently telling the kids to “go watch TV” doesn’t work anymore.

There’ll be a lot of talk about mash and boilers in Minneapolis this week. Leslie Brooks Suzukamo of the PiPress writes: “The largest trade show for the country’s ethanol producers will be in Minneapolis this week as the industry tries to find its way now that a federal tax credit for blenders of the fuel has expired. The 28th International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo, which began Monday … at the Minneapolis Convention center, hasn’t been in the Twin Cities since 2001, said Tim Portz, the convention’s program director. … The expo, which is expecting 2,200 attendees from 550 ethanol producers, runs through Wednesday. The producers are responsible for 87 percent of U.S. ethanol production, but also include international companies from ethanol powerhouses like Brazil. The industry has changed drastically since 2001, when the convention was last held in Minneapolis, Portz said. Eleven years ago, annual U.S. ethanol production was less than 2 billion gallons, but now it’s roughly 14 billion gallons and hitting its maximum limit, he said.”

The Strib whips up an editorial on the pill-peddling of deceased hockey player Derek Boogaard’s various team physicians: “Ultimately, Derek Boogaard was responsible for his own behavior, including which drugs he took. And no one knows how many pills Boogaard might have bought on the streets or received from teammates or friends. Nevertheless, the Boogaard case appears to represent a catastrophic failure on the part of the NHL, the Wild and the Rangers franchises and their affiliated doctors. The Wild refused to take questions from an editorial writer, relying instead on an official statement that cited patient-doctor confidentiality. The team owes Boogaard’s family a much more thorough explanation about the seemingly cavalier way in which it handled the health crisis of one of its players.”

It was good thrust and parry in the Bo Beckman Ponzi scheme trial Monday. John Welbes of the PiPress writes: “U.S. prosecutors portrayed Jason “Bo” Beckman as a serial liar in court, working Monday to take apart his credibility and tie him tightly to the $194 million Ponzi scheme that put him on trial for multiple fraud charges. In two hours of heated exchanges with Assistant U.S. Attorney David MacLaughlin, Beckman — on the stand in his own defense — disagreed with practically everything the prosecutor asked. … Beckman admitted that he was with other students at the Air Force Academy in 1988 when the group ended up in a car accident after a night of drinking and didn’t return to campus until the next morning. Beckman didn’t get in trouble for the incident, MacLaughlin said, but for lying to the honor board by saying he fell asleep in the library that night. ‘I made it up,’ Beckman admitted after several questions. Beckman also fielded questions about taking certificates of deposit from his deceased grandfather’s estate and depositing them into his own account. ‘You’re not even remotely close to correct,’ Beckman told MacLaughlin. Beckman was later sued by his mother over his handling of the grandfather’s estate and settled the case. MacLaughlin then displayed evidence that Beckman paid that settlement — $12,500 per month for several months — by using investor money from various accounts controlled by Beckman’s alleged co-conspirators in the Ponzi scheme. But Beckman said he thought the money was his. ‘This is a prime example of the Ponzi scheme they were running,’ Beckman said.” Everyone involved in this story is straight out of some screenwriter’s fever dream.

The Court of Appeals has stepped in on a case that reads very badly in the harsh light of day. Emily Gurnon of the PiPress says: “A former employee of an Alexandria, Minn., insurance agency should not have been denied unemployment benefits after she quit, alleging sexual harassment by the agency head, the state Court of Appeals ruled … Agency owner Marvin M. Martinson had given Mavis Angell unwanted hugs, put his hand under her blazer, tried to kiss her and told her that her ‘perfume smelled so good it drove him wild and (she) looked so sexy,’ Angell alleged, according to the ruling. Angell, now 68, had worked for the agency from November 1998 to December 2010.She alleged that Martinson, 74, began sexually harassing her in June 2010. At the time, his wife was dying of cancer, and other staff said in a hearing before an unemployment law judge that ‘it was not unusual for employees to hug Marvin at work,’ the Court of Appeals ruling said.”

The ink is still drying on the Vikings stadium deal and already local charities are fretting about negative revenue impact. Jean Hopfensperger of the Strib reports: “Gambling managers such as Laurie Gluesing of the nonprofit Climb Theater in Inver Grove Heights have crunched the new numbers and are worried. Climb is among roughly 1,200 Minnesota nonprofits being counted on to generate $348 million in taxes to underwrite the state’s share of the cost of a new Vikings stadium. ‘To reach my same profit level with the new taxes and new higher prize level, I would have to do more than $2 million in gross sales,’ she said. ‘But can I sell $2 million more in pulltabs’? The stadium deal contains several tax changes that charities had requested. But the overall tax structure, which favors charities using games with higher payout rates, concerns many.” Ma’am, if you care at all about being major league, you’re just going to have to man up and get it done.

Remember “The Hellstrom Chronicle”? Bill McAuliffe of the Strib writes:Forest tent caterpillars are once again eating their way through the forests of northern Minnesota, but this year’s defoliation is “not the big one, but the one leading up to a big outbreak in a few years,” said DNR forest health specialist Jana Albers. The caterpillars, which during peak infestations can make a stinky mess of the outdoors, develop in cycles over the course of decades or more. They set a record in 2002-03, clearing 7.5 million acres of hardwood trees of their leaves in central and northern Minnesota.”

Sarah Bleau of MyFox Memphis says Pinnacle Airlines is being wooed by Minnesota: “Joe Williams, Corporate Communications Manager for Pinnacle, says Minnesota has approached the Memphis-based company about moving their headquarters there. ‘When a company is in Chapter 11, one of the requirements is to review every element of its business plan, leases and contracts. That’s what we’re doing now,’ says Williams. ‘We currently have no plans to move, but every part of our business must be and will be reviewed.’ If Pinnacle does take flight out of Memphis it’s taking jobs, revenue and economic growth with it.”

Burrowing through comments to Neil De Mause’s Field of Schemes blog, I find one from last week, after the Strib story about the muted, disjointed opposition to the stadium. The note comes from Tom Goldstein, arguably the most thorough and skeptical researcher of the deal’s true (as opposed to preferred) financial reality. Says Goldstein, regarding the Strib:

“Pretty ironic for the StarTribune to write about the disorganized opposition. According to my count, based on the archive on the newspaper’s website, there were approximately 170 articles written about the stadium during the last year, of which only six bothered to cover either the presence of an opposition or things about the deal that might not have been kosher (such as the Vikings source of funds for the project, the actual job numbers, etc.). And the pro-stadium editorials were pretty relentless. … The only interesting point of the article is the quote from Councilmember Gary Schiff about how TakeAction Minnesota, the succesor to Progressive Minnesota, which led the fight for the charter amendment and opposition to the Twins St. Paul sales tax initiative in 1999, played no role in this battle because their board is dominated by labor. That’s exactly true, despite the denials of the organization’s executive director that they’re more focused on ‘state issues,’ and shows another trend in play — how the decimation of the economy has created a dynamic where labor organizations have stopped being strategic and now will support just about any large scale project that promises jobs, no matter the type of project or how its paid for.”