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Nursing home residents and young children are society's most vulnerable members, especially in Arkansas where our record of elder care remains shamefully substandard on several levels, including dangerous medication errors.

That was the finding of a story by reporter Hunter Field in this newspaper last week.

Quoting the indefatigable Martha Deaver of Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents: "The outcome of these serious violations of our laws not only causes harm, but in many cases the nursing home resident does not survive. ... They are at the mercy of their nurses to make sure they receive their medications properly."

I've forgotten how many columns I've written on the disgraceful state of nursing-home care across Arkansas. Deaver speaks forcefully for so many victims. Field's story documents medication errors in our state's homes being four times higher than other states in our Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services region.

Our homes have been dinged more times than those in Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma combined during the past five years. Over 20 percent of our state's care homes have been cited each year, compared with an average of 5 percent for those states.

Arkansas experienced 261 prescription errors in these homes between 2013 and 2017. That's downright disgraceful when you realize our grandparents, parents and friends who attract millions in Medicaid dollars for the owners are the victims. When totaled, these errors constitute a growing threat.

Opioid crackdown

Our state's medical board has unanimously approved draft regulations to limit the number of prescriptions doctors can write for narcotic painkillers.

That move seems to be positive and reasonable, well, unless you're one of the older Arkansans who regularly need such medications to hold chronic pain at bay.

The new requirements will include limits of 5-milligram tablets of hydrocodone to 10 a day or two 15-milligram tablets of oxycodone, as well as prescriptions for acute pain to a seven-day supply.

The goal behind limiting these opioid medications is to attack and reduce the number of addictive pain killers flooding the nation, leaving addicts in their wake. The primary culprits are hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone.

I've wondered why anyone in their right mind would want to take these powerful drugs into their bodies, knowing how addictive and crippling they can be. Obviously, I've forgotten what it was like to be young and fascinated by bans on any brew or potion beyond our reach as juveniles. Back in the 1960s it was mostly beer. But nowadays, the ante has been raised to include these powerful opiates.

Testing reveals sustained opiate intake progressively weakens the portion of our brains that exerts self-control. That means once addicted, the possibility for quitting is unlikely. Better off never starting.

Self-protection

Sadly enough, it's time for every adult American to acquire a concealed-carry permit and become trained for self-protection. Surely in today's climate, I don't have to explain. From the murderous attack on churchgoers that claimed 26 and injured 20 more in remote little Sutherland Springs, Texas, to the two knife attacks at Minnesota malls in less than a year, the need for effective means to resist random lethal attacks in our workplaces, shopping malls, sporting events and even houses of worship have led us to this unpleasant place.

I also understand there are citizens who won't arm themselves under any circumstances. That's certainly their choice.

Yet I also see the reality of 2017 America and how self-defense has taken on an entirely new meaning that includes the ability to meet lethal force in kind.

Many churches thankfully have security teams in place. I feel certain they wish they didn't have to resort to armed guards to protect their flocks. I wish the good folks at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs had such a team in place last month.

But this is the nation we've allowed to be created and must adapt, even in the smaller towns.

I'll never believe any crazed or radicalized person will choose not to commit mass murder because their victims are unarmed. That's exactly the vulnerable people cowardly demons seek. Gathering places with signs advertising "no weapons allowed" are appealing places to armed psychopaths and religious zealots.

Growing up in the '50s and '60s, such an extreme defensive climate wasn't on anyone's radar. Such murderous attacks were isolated abominations beyond imagination. Today, we share a threatening environment where such horror is becoming commonplace.

I acquired a concealed-carry permit last year, which made me feel at home with eight others around our morning group coffee table. Yes, it is regrettable to have reached this point, but more prudent than ever in the possibility they could become needed.

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 12/12/2017

Print Headline: So many errors

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