Personal Touch Home Care will cease operations in Ohio as of April 20, according to a Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notice filed with the state with this week.

The company did not provide a reason for the shutdown.

Locally, Personal Touch employs 76 people at its Independence office and 21 at its Wooster office. Its website also lists a satellite office in Fairlawn. The filing said the company it anticipates 257 permanent layoffs statewide.

A Jackson Township doctor is facing a 272-count indictment —including two counts of involuntary manslaughter — for allegations that he operated a “pill mill” linked to the deaths of at least two patients.

A Stark County grand jury handed down the indictment against Frank D. Lazzerini, Stark County Prosecutor John D. Ferrero said in a statement Friday morning.

Lazzerini is accused of operating a pill mill that improperly doled out powerful painkillers at his medical practice, Premiere Family Practice on Fulton Drive NW in Jackson Township.

The charges resulted from an investigation by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the Jackson Township Police Department, and the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office with the Stark County Sheriff Metropolitan Narcotics Unit, the Ohio Attorney General, the Ohio Medical Board and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier said the collaborative investigation “reflects a strict no-tolerance policy for lethal activity.

“Lazzerini took advantage of his position and directly contributed to creating a dangerous environment for his patients and the community,” Maier said. “We remain dedicated to removing these dangerous criminals from our streets and to keeping the communities we serve safe.”

The doctor’s office was raided two years ago by local and state officials, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office reported.

The charges include: one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, one count of telecommunications fraud, one count of grand theft, one count of medicaid fraud, one count of tampering with records, nine counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs with major drug offender specifications, 81 counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs, 89 counts of trafficking in drugs and 86 counts of illegal processing of drugs documents.

Lazzerini also was indicted on two counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of two of his patients due to his prescribing, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“The Stark County Prosecutor’s Office intends to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law rogue physicians who, by acting for profit, abuse their great privilege and noble profession by fueling our county’s opioid addiction and causing needless harm to our citizens,” Ferrero’s office said in a statement.

Lazzerini agreed to give up his medical license indefinitely in June 2016 and admitted he was the subject of a criminal investigation related to the prescribing of controlled substances in his practice, according to a consent agreement with the State Medical Board of Ohio.

Summa Health lost money last year, but the Akron-based health system didn’t lose as much as it predicted.

For the 12 months ending Dec. 31, Summa said its operating loss was $28 million, according to public financial disclosures posted this week on a website for bond holders.

In late June, Summa Interim CEO Dr. Cliff Deveny warned that the hospital was projecting a $60 million loss for the year and that if the hospital didn’t get on solid financial footing following turmoil that began earlier in the year, the hospital could be the target of a potential sale.

However, in mid-November, when Summa’s credit worthiness was downgraded by a national credit rating agency and the financial outlook of the system was revised from stable to negative, Deveny said the system expected to end the year with a loss of $35 million.

The hospital stemmed that loss by $7 million. By comparison, the hospital made $29.5 million for the year in 2016.

Summa Interim Chief Financial Officer Thomas O’Neill said the health system was “more aggressive in right-sizing the organization” with cuts in staffing and operations during the second and third quarter of the year.

In June, Summa officials said they would eliminate about 300 positions — about half of which were filled at the time — and would discontinue and consolidate some services.

In November and December, the health system saw “a little more activity” though “I wouldn’t say we were extremely profitable,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the flu and other respiratory illnesses spiked near the end of December, accounting for some of the uptick in volume. Elective surgeries, which tend to increase toward the end of the year when patients meet their yearly insurance deductibles, also were up, but “I don’t think it was anything dramatic,” he said.

For 2017, the hospital’s revenue was $1.31 billion, down 3.9 percent or $53.1 million from $1.36 billion in 2016.

In its filing with the Electronic Municipal Market Access website, Summa said surgical cases increased 2 percent last year. All other types of care were down, including inpatient admissions (9 percent), emergency-room visits (6 percent), outpatient visits (6 percent) and observation cases (7 percent).

Summa’s total employment number is about 7,000, spokesman Mike Bernstein said. That reflects about 250 job reductions systemwide last year.

About 295 former Summa employees transitioned to a new joint venture Feb. 6 for home health care and hospice services. Another 55 employees were not included in the transition, though some found other jobs with the health system, Bernstein said.

Ben Sutton, Summa senior vice president for strategy and performance management, said Thursday the new joint venture was not “about right-sizing in any way and not part of any reduction plan. That really is about an opportunity to partner with someone for growth.”

Deveny was hired as Summa’s interim president and chief executive officer last March following the resignation of CEO Dr. Thomas Malone amid demands by hundreds of doctors for a change in leadership.

The situation was exacerbated with the abrupt changeover in Summa’s emergency room physician staffing in January 2017 and subsequent loss of accreditation to train emergency medicine resident physicians. The hospital’s overall probation of its residency programs was lifted by an accreditation agency in October and hospital officials say they are determined to get the emergency medicine residency program reinstated.

Bernstein said the search for a permanent Summa CEO is ongoing. Deveny has said he is a candidate.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

CLEVELAND: The Cleveland Clinic has been named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by the Ethisphere Institute for the eighth time in 10 years.

The Cleveland Clinic, which operates Akron General, is one of 135 companies in 24 countries on the list.

“This award demonstrates our pledge to do what’s right, whether it’s for our patients, our caregivers, the community or the overall organization,” Cleveland Clinic Chief Integrity Officer Donald A. Sinko said in a prepared statement. “Cleveland Clinic is committed to transparency, social responsibility, environmental stewardship and ethical decision-making in all facets of our enterprise.”

The Ethisphere Institute is based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Ethisphere CEO Timothy Erblich described the health system as “a trailblazer in creating innovative strategies and techniques to provide health care services in a more efficient and effective manner … Cleveland Clinic’s focus on sustainability and its impact on the community is truly amazing.”

The Ethisphere Institute evaluates companies and nonprofits on various categories, including corporate citizenship and responsibility; ethics and compliance program; corporate governance; leadership, innovation and reputation; and culture of ethics.

To read the full list, go to: https://tinyurl.com/ethicslist18.

Organizations in Akron and Summit County combatting infant mortality will share in more than $1.7 million from the Ohio Department of Medicaid to help their efforts.

The $1.74 million is part of $26.8 million in the department’s budget over the next two years to support community-driven proposals with proven track records that will help combat infant mortality at the local level, said the Ohio Department of Medicaid. That’s in addition to almost $50 million in the state’s general revenue funding and federal grants dedicated to improving birth outcomes and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

The funding builds on almost $87  million in investments made during the past six years, the department said.

Akron is one of nine communities that the Ohio Equity Institute identified as accounting for 86 percent of black infant deaths in Ohio in 2016.

Ohio Medicaid data shows Summit County had the highest premature birth rate in the state last year and ranked fourth highest in infant deaths the year before.

The city of Akron’s initiative, Full Term First Birthday, and Summit County Public Health won the award from the state. Akron and the county health department will pass the money on to eight local organizations: Greenleaf Family Center, Akron Summit County Action Inc., Project Ujima, AxessPointe Community Health, Summa Health Centering, Minority Behavioral Health Group, Charisma Community Connections and Child Guidance & Family Solutions, Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said.

Funded projects include hiring of additional community health workers, expanding a home visiting program and piloting and expanding of centering pregnancy programs.

“We’ll be able to help these partners and its some different partners, which will be good. They all have different strategies. It all comes together to battle infant mortality,” she said.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan praised the funding to help the “infant vitality initiative to reduce premature births and end infant mortality in Akron through partnerships with over a dozen community organizations.”

The purpose of the initiative is to “move from well-intentioned collaboration to true coordination that results in more healthy moms and babies in Akron,” Horrigan said.

“Together with our community partners, Full Term First Birthday will develop current and future partnerships, including education initiatives; implement shared common metrics among service providers and pursue possible data-sharing initiatives; and seek grants and other potential sources of funding to reduce premature birth and infant mortality in Akron,” he said.

City of Akron Health Equity Ambassador Tamiyka Rose said it will be good to be able to have “everyone all in the same room sharing different ideas and coordinating with one another.

“This is another opportunity to know which women we are actually reaching and ones we are not reaching and not duplicating services,” she said.

The number of Ohio infants who died before their first birthday in 2016 was 1,024, according to data released by the Ohio Department of Health. Though Ohio’s infant mortality rates are all trending downward over time, the state’s rate — especially the black infant mortality rate —remains too high and exceeds the national average, the Ohio Department of Medicaid said.

The city’s Full Term First Birthday is working on three goals:

• Premature births among African-Americans — the leading cause of infant mortality — can be cut in half by 2025.

• Preventable sleep-related deaths can be eliminated.

• Institutions should acknowledge and correct structural racism with cultural competency and other training.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

We’re talking about women’s health for this month’s Healthy Actions.

What are things that women should do at all stages of their lives to stay on top of their health?

This month’s expert is Dr. Edward Ferris, Summa Health’s chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and medical director of women’s health services.

Preventa­tive checkups and tests are important for women — and men — to stay healthy, he said. But there are plenty of people who push off going to the doctor or make excuses for not getting screenings, such as a mammogram. (I have a few friends like that. Do you?)

Checking in with your doctor is important, “even if it’s just about counseling on disease prevention or the importance of self-breast exams, smoking, talking about your weight, diet, immunizations, routine screening tests or now even screening for hereditary cancers,” Ferris said.

Here are Healthy Actions from Ferris as girls and women age:

Teens

• First gynecologist visit: Ferris said he often starts to see teens around age 14 to 15. Girls usually do not need to have a pelvic exam until they’re 21, unless there is a medical concern. That often takes the scary part out of the equation, he said. Some girls may need contraception for issues they’re having with their periods and doctors also will “have a one-on-one, heartfelt discussion about smoking, drugs, contraception, STDs and talking to them about the importance of diet and exercise.”

“It’s an important time for those younger girls, even if they’re not sexually active… that seeing your OB-GYN doesn’t have to be anxiety-producing experience for them to get to know us,” said Ferris.

Parents should also discuss the Gardasil immunizations to protect against HPV with the pediatrician or gynecologist, he said.

20s

• First pap smear: The recommendation is to get a pap smear, starting at age 21, every other year, regardless of sexual history, Ferris said.

• Birth control: Discuss options with your doctor.

• Pregnancy: “We start talking about pregnancies and planning for pregnancies and the importance of being on prenatal vitamins and folic acid and avoiding smoking,” Ferris said.

• Abuse screening: Ferris said it varies by providers, but he recommends talking to woman about whether she feels safe at home. “Abuse issues are in the national forefront and it’s an important topic we should be a little more forthright about discussing,” he said.

• Exercise: Regular exercise is important.

• Mammogram: If multiple members of your family have had breast cancer or breast cancer under the age of 50, you may need to get screened as soon as age 25, Ferris said.

30s

• Pap smear: Every other year.

•Breast self-exam: These are a little controversial, Ferris said, but he recommends them once a month. “The common response is ‘I don’t know what I’m feeling.’ My answer to them is, ‘I’m not expecting you to know what you’re feeling. I just want you to be familiar with what your breast tissue feels like so you can tell me if something is different.’ ” A clinical exam is still important, he said.

• Pregnancy: After age 35 and especially closer to your 40s, begin discussing the risks of advanced maternal age and pregnancy with your doctor, Ferris said.

• Changing metabolism rate: “Your metabolism starts to slow down once you hit 30. After a child or two, that’s when we start to see weight gain.”

• Exercise: A lot of young moms will talk about the difficulties of keeping the weight off (since they eat the leftover chicken nuggets off the plate) and having time to exercise. Find a gym with a day care or things to do outside with your kids, Ferris said. “Get back to your fighting weight in between pregnancies because holding onto the weight gained during pregnancy and then getting pregnant again will mean you have a bigger hill to climb.”

• Cholesterol, high-blood pressure screening: Begin regular screenings in consultation with your doctor.

• Dermatology screening: This is often an overlooked screening, Ferris said. Your family doctor or dermatologist can screen you for any concerns.

• Mammogram: If you have a family history of breast cancer, the recommendation is to begin at age 35. Otherwise, in general, they can start at age 40.

40s

• Cancer awareness: “Once you get into your 40s, you have to be a little more cancer aware of breast cancer, ovarian and uterine cancer. It is more so in your 50s and beyond, or if you have family history,” Ferris said.

• Birth Control: “If you’re done with child-bearing, birth control is still an issue. You can still get pregnant in your early 40s.”

•Mammogram: Guidelines vary, but in general, mammograms can begin at age 40 every one to two years and yearly at age 50, if there is no previous family history. Some patients complain that a mammogram is painful. It really depends on the patient, Ferris said. “Some women are very tolerant and others think it’s the worst thing ever. Yes, mammograms can be uncomfortable. What’s more uncomfortable is if you get breast cancer and you need surgery and chemo. That’s going to be a lot more impactful on your life than 10 minutes of squeezing.”

• Breast self-exam: Continue once a month self-exams.

• Exercise.

50s

• Colonoscopy: Get your baseline at age 50 or younger if there is a family history. Repeat every five to 10 years, depending on your risk. Ferris said a lot of patients fear the preparation and the procedure itself. Ferris, who recently had a colonoscopy, said the prep was easier than expected. “The colonoscopy itself is a piece of cake,” he said. “They put you under and the next thing you know, you can go about your normal activity. We went straight to lunch after. A lot of patients are really misinformed about colonoscopies and even mammograms.”

•Re-examine your diet: Your metabolism continues to slow down. You may not be eating differently, but you can’t keep the weight off. You have to be disciplined about diet and alcohol. “It’s very common to hear, ‘I have one or two glasses of wine every night of the week.’ That’s not necessarily a good thing and [the person is] usually underestimating how much and how many calories,” Ferris said.

• Calcium and vitamin D intake: Both are recommended for prevention of osteoporosis. Recommendations include 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium per day and 400 to 800 IU (international units) of vitamin D. If you are taking more than 500 mg per day, it should be divided doses for better absorption. There are two types of calcium: Calcium carbonate, which is best taken with food and Calcium citrate, which can be taken with food or on an empty stomach and is more expensive.

• Mammogram: After age 50, mammograms are recommended yearly.

• Menopause Awareness: The average age of menopause is 51, but can be late 40s or early 50s. The definition of menopause is once you’ve stopped your period for 12 straight months. Women may or may not have typical menopausal symptoms throughout, which include night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mood swings and decreased libido.

• Exercise.

60s

• Osteoporosis and bone screening: You may need to go earlier if there is a family history or other risk factors. You may also want to do a bone-density screening.

• Colonoscopy: Repeat ever five to 10 years, depending on your risk.

•Mammogram: Yearly.

• Pap smear: Women can stop getting pap smears at age 65, if there is no recent history of an abnormal pap smear, or if the woman has had a hysterectomy for noncancerous reasons.

• Exercise.

70s and older

• Pap smears end: A yearly pelvic exam is still recommended.

• Colonoscopies end: In general, most people can stop screening at age 75.

• Mammograms end: In general, most women can stop screening at age 75, but engage in a shared decision-making conversation with a physician.

• Stability and dementia: “If you start to find that you’re becoming forgetful, that’s when we start to see problems with dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Ferris said. “If you’re concerned about anything that is more than what is normal memory loss, if your family is starting to comment that ‘we just talked about this five minutes ago,’ you might look at mental acuity screenings.”

• Low-impact exercise: “Stay active,” Ferris said. “When you’re in your 70s, most people aren’t going to be marathoners or Crossfitters. You should still exercise and swim and do low-impact or low-intensity weights. Those are very good for overall flexibility and endurance.” Ferris also suggests keeping your mind mentally active.

• After menopause, any vaginal bleeding should be addressed: “Once your periods stop, you should never bleed again,” he said. If you have any breakthrough bleeding, contact your doctor.

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

Akron-based Right to Life Northeast Ohio is launching a billboard and social media anti-abortion campaign this month pegged to Black History Month.

The billboard campaign is in response to what Right to Life Northeast Ohio Executive Director Denise Leipold said are 16 “destructive and dishonest” billboards targeting minorities by Preterm, an abortion clinic in Cleveland.

Leipold said the anti-abortion campaign will include at least 12 billboards and some bus advertising in the Cleveland area.

The messages include: “Abortion is systemic racism,” “Abortion is fake feminism,” “Abortion is violence,” “Abortion is lost fatherhood” and “Abortion is injustice anywhere.”

The billboards and social media campaign also encourage people to visit the website, http://www.whatabortionreallyis.com.

The initiative is a partnership with Coalition for Life Cleveland and the Radiance Foundation, a faith-based nonprofit that calls abortion “systemic racism” and has labeled the NAACP the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.”

The Northeast Ohio campaign is part of a Black History Month effort led by Ryan Bomberger, the chief creative officer of the Radiance Foundation.

The anti-abortion groups say their campaign counters billboards by Preterm, including ones saying “Abortion is sacred,” “Abortion is necessary,” “Abortion is gender equality” and “Abortion is good medicine.”

The anti-abortion groups maintain that Preterm places most of its billboards in communities that are 70 percent or more black.

“Abortion is epidemic among black Americans,” said Bomberger in a prepared statement. “Poverty has increased as fatherlessness has drastically increased. … No one needs abortion. Everyone needs love and support.”

A Preterm spokeswoman didn’t respond to a phone message this week seeking comment.

Judi Hill, president of the Akron Chapter of the NAACP, said she is frustrated that both campaigns use “inflammatory terms to heighten people’s fears and frustrations” to work for their side of the issue.

“Let’s stop playing the games and taking things out of context,” Hill said. “It takes away from the greater narrative. We have racial equality issues in America. It has less to do with sex and sexual orientation or abortion and more about, let’s talk about the issues we have with race in America.”

In the Akron area, the group will spread its message via a social media campaign using Twitter and Facebook, Leipold said.

At this time there are no plans for the billboard campaign in Summit County, Leipold said.

However, she said, the organization may bring the campaign to the area to combat an abortion clinic in Cuyahoga Falls on State Road that has the same medical director as the Preterm clinic.

The city of Massillon has reached a deal with Affinity Medical Center’s owner to potentially save the community hospital, the Canton Repository is reporting.

Attorney Lee Plakas, hired by the city to delay or block the closure, told the Repository that the city would get more than $25 million worth of property and assets on the Affinity campus under the proposed settlement.

The city could then pursue potential options, including an employee- or community-owned hospital, Plakas told the newspaper.

The deal was hashed out during a hearing this morning in Stark County Common Pleas Court. Massillon City Council unanimously approved the deal at a special meeting Thursday night, WKSU (89.7-FM) tweeted.

Affinity’s corporate owner stunned the Stark County community last month when it announced the hospital would cease taking new patients this Sunday, end clinical operations in February and be shuttered for good in March.

For-profit Tennessee-based Quorum said it failed to find a buyer for the hospital, which it said has lost money in each of the last six years.

However, officials from at least two area hospital systems — Aultman Health Foundation and the Cleveland Clinic — said they were unaware of Quorum’s plans to sell or close Affinity until this month’s announcement.

Government leaders, state lawmakers, local physicians, a nurses’ union representing RNs at the hospital and others in the community have been fighting plans to close the 156-bed acute-care facility, which has about 800 employees.

A Stark County Common Pleas judge issued a temporary restraining order last month requiring the Stark County hospital to stay open at least temporarily in response to a lawsuit filed by the city of Massillon, a group of Affinity doctors and others against Affinity’s owner to keep the hospital open.

Read the Repository’s story here.

The family of the late Jim Chenot, a longtime and well-known local radio personality, has filed a lawsuit against Summa Health, its physician group and two of its psychiatrists, saying they caused his suicide.

Chenot, a Cuyahoga Falls resident, died Nov. 30, 2016. He was 62.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Summit County Common Pleas Court on behalf of Chenot’s son, Evan, alleges Chenot died by suicide hours after seeking care.

“Less than 24 hours after his departure from the care and treatment by Defendants, James Chenot jumped off the roof or a balcony at his apartment building and committed suicide,” the complaint says.

The suit, which has been assigned to Summit County Common Pleas Judge Jill Flagg Lanzinger, names Evan Chenot as the administrator of his father’s estate. The defendants are Summa Health, its physician group formerly known as Summa Physicians Inc. and now called Summa Health Medical Group and two of its psychiatrists, Drs. David Deckert and Heather Lewis.

The suit claims the physicians “deviated” from the standard of care and “caused his death.”

His death “caused the beneficiaries of the Estate to lose the care, companionship, consortium, society and services of James Chenot, respectively, and will continue to do so for the balance of their lives. The Estates has also incurred the reasonable funeral and burial expenses,” the lawsuit says.

Summa spokesman Mike Bernstein said: “We have not received notification regarding the matter in question. In the event a lawsuit is filed, I can confirm that we do not comment on active litigation.”

Attorneys for Chenot’s family did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Chenot spent more than 30 years behind the microphone at WONE (97.5-FM), The Summit (91.3-FM) and other stations.

Before settling in at 91.3 for 15 years, Chenot, a Canton native, got his start in radio in Muscle Shoals, Ala. He spent time at stations in Canton, Massillon and Cleveland before becoming one of the signature voices on the then-new WONE.

His fans appreciated his deep knowledge of popular music, his sense of humor and catchphrases, and how he often treated local artists on his Sunday evening show, Jim Chenot’s Radio Sandbox, as if they were already big stars.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

A lot has changed in the four decades since psychologist Georgette Constantinou arrived at Akron Children’s Hospital.

“The hospital was moving from a well-loved community hospital and over the next couple decades it grew into the world-class institution it is,” she recalled.

The world has changed, too, with the internet, smartphones and social media making those already difficult adolescent years even more challenging for kids and parents.

It used to be, she said, “if kids were having a bad day, the world wouldn’t know. If as a teenager I made a misstep, my friends might know, or my immediate circle might know. But everybody in the world wouldn’t know.

“We are giving this potential weapon to kids who have limited judgment … in the moment and they can’t really calculate the long-term consequences. Suddenly, they have this little machine at their disposal,” she said.

Constantinou, 69, is retiring Wednesday after nearly 40 years as a pediatric psychologist at Akron Children’s and, most recently, administrative director of the division of pediatric psychiatry and psychology.

Leaders at the hospital and in the community say she leaves behind a legacy of advocating for and developing mental health services to care for children and their families.

“For many people, she has been the single most important person in the arena of advocating for children’s mental health,” said Dave Lieberth, a longtime community advocate, lawyer and former deputy mayor.

Constantinou was active in coordinating work among county advocates and agencies and their work with neglected and abused children, Lieberth said.

“Summit County is a good place to be a child. We have this safety net … and this aura of cooperation and collaboration,” Lieberth said. “Georgette is responsible for much of the safety net that exists today for children who are neglected or abused.”

Akron Children’s Hospital Chief Executive Officer Bill Considine, who has one less year of tenure than Constantinou with 38 years, said it will be difficult to imagine the hospital without her.

“She has been a ‘true north’ voice in telling me what our patients and their families need, and always sees the world through their eyes,” Considine said. “It would be impossible to guess how many lives she has touched, and how many children and teens are now successful adults, better able to cope with the complexities of today’s world because of her.”

Constantinou was one of the first liaisons with the Parent Advisory Council, giving patients’ parents a voice to hospital administrators.

She also had a hand in developing many behavioral health programs and services, including the hospital’s partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs, behavioral health emergency services and the recent expansion of the inpatient behavioral health unit. She advocated for the creation of the NeuroDevelopmental Science Center, the consultation/liaison service and the model of having pediatric psychologists embedded in clinical programs to help children — and their families — deal with ongoing difficulties of chronic illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.

In addition, she has worked to include a mental health therapist at every Akron Children’s Hospital primary-care office to make it easy for families to get easy access to integrated care.

“I think I’m proudest of standing for patients and families and their needs no matter what. I was always being honest with the hospital about what the patients and families need,” said Constantinou said in a recent interview as she reflected on her career and the changes in children’s behavioral health since she came in July of 1978.

Parents need to step away from wanting to be their child’s friend, be aware of what their kids are doing and make tough decisions and hold their kids accountable, she said.

She said she is a big proponent of something that has been lost with many families — family time, whether that is a shared meal or other time together.

Constantinou has “a passion for children and parents and what’s needed for what healthy families need to grow — that every child in this situation not only comes with physical problems or challenges, but they also come with emotional and family issues as well, that’s part of treating the whole child,” said Dr. Stephen Crosby, director of the hospital’s division of pediatric psychiatry and psychology and Constantinou’s co-leader for 15 years.

Constantinou’s first time applying for a grant was about 10 years ago when she asked, with Crosby, the then Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation (recently renamed Peg’s Foundation) for $1.2 million to establish a special program within the emergency room for children in a mental health crisis. The Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) allows for an evaluation 24 hours a day to help families determine the next step for their child.

Having that specialized part of the ER is invaluable to families in crisis, Peg’s Foundation President Rick Kellar said.

“If you break your arm, you go in [to the ER] and get care and come out with a pink or blue cast. If you go in and you’ve cut yourself or there’s self harm, you walk into the emergency room and there’s an emotional need and first aid that’s required for that adolescent,” Kellar said.

He had no idea when he was at the ribbon cutting for the new program funded by his organization that a few months later he would be there with his own teen daughter in a mental health crisis.

“Thank goodness that obviously those services were there,” he said.

An Akron native and Firestone High School graduate, Constantinou went to Vassar College and then to Ohio State University for her doctorate. While working in Chicago, she was asked to come back to Akron to take a one-year position at Akron Children’s.

“The truth of the matter is it was not my intention to come back here,” she said.

She met her husband of 35 years, Stavros Constantinou, a geography professor at Ohio State’s Mansfield campus, and they raised two now-grown children in Akron.

Constantinou credits Considine for giving her full support and “understanding the needs of behavioral health and really allowing us to grow and develop over all of these years.”

Constantinou said she’s not sure about her post-retirement plans. She will stay on as an on-call retiree at primary-care sites for children.

“I’m going to look for my next act. I’ve been to Ukraine and Belarus to help countries that were coming out of the fall of Communism with huge drug and alcohol problems. How do you care for traumatized children? For my second act, I have to let that evolve.”

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

“For many people, she has been the single most important person in the arena of advocating for children’s mental health.”

Dave Lieberth

Community advocate, lawyer and former deputy mayor

SEATTLE: Amazon is diving into health care, teaming up with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and the New York bank JPMorgan Chase, to create a company that helps their U.S. employees find quality care “at a reasonable cost.”

The leaders of each company, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Buffett, and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, offered few details Tuesday and said that the project is in the early planning stage.

“The ballooning costs of (health care) act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Buffett said in a prepared statement. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”

The new company will be independent and “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.” The businesses said the new venture’s initial focus would be on technology that provides “simplified, high-quality and transparent” care.

It was not clear if the ultimate goal involves expanding the ambitious project beyond Amazon, Berkshire or JPMorgan. However, JPMorgan’s Dimon said Tuesday that, “our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans.”

Shares in health care companies took a big hit in early trading Tuesday, hinting at the threat of the new entity to how health care is paid for and delivered in the U.S.

Before the opening bell, eight of the top 10 decliners on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index were health care companies.

The need for a solution to the health care crises in the U.S. is intense. With about 151 million non-elderly people, employer-sponsored coverage is the largest part of the U.S. health insurance market.

Health care costs for companies routinely rise faster than inflation and eat up bigger portions of their budgets. Americans are mired in a confusing system that creates a mix of prices in the same market for the same procedure or drug and offers no easy path for finding the best deal.

The rising costs of health care have dragged on U.S. companies, big and small, and employees are increasingly feeling that pain. Employers have hiked deductibles and other expenses for employees, meaning less spending power for almost all Americans.

Only 50 percent of companies with three to 49 employees offered coverage last year, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s down from 66 percent more than a decade ago. The federal Affordable Care Act requires all companies with 50 or more full-time employees to offer it.

Amazon, Berkshire and JP Morgan say they can bring their scale and “complementary expertise” to what they describe as a long-term campaign.

Amazon’s entry into the health market has been perceived as imminent, even though the company had announced nothing publicly.

It has been watched very closely on Wall Street, which has seen Amazon disrupt numerous industries ranging from book stores to clothing chains.

Amazon, which mostly sold books when it was founded more than 20 years ago, has radically altered the way in which people buy diapers, toys or paper towels. Most recently it has upended the grocery sector, spending $14 billion last year for Whole Foods Market Inc.

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AP writer Joseph Pisani contributed to this report from New York. Murphy reported from Indianapolis.

WASHINGTON: In an ironic twist, the Trump administration’s embrace of work requirements for low-income people on Medicaid is prompting lawmakers in some conservative states to resurrect plans to expand health care for the poor.

Trump’s move has been widely criticized as threatening the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. But if states follow through, more Americans could get coverage.

“I think it gives us a chance,” said Kansas state Rep. Susan Concannon, a moderate Republican who pushed unsuccessfully for Medicaid expansion last year in her state.

In Utah, the office of Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said the Trump administration’s willingness to approve work requirements is one of several concessions the state would demand to cover more poor residents through Medicaid.

“Is it a big deal?” said Herbert spokesman Paul Edwards. “Yeah, I think it’s a big deal.”

Utah state Rep. Robert Spendlove, a Republican working on legislation to partially expand Medicaid, said the Trump administration has sent a positive sign. “I have a lot of confidence that they will be willing to work with us and approve this,” Spendlove said.

There’s already an economic argument for states to expand Medicaid, since it translates to billions of federal dollars for hospitals and medical service providers. But Republican Mike Leavitt, a former U.S. health secretary and Utah governor, said the ability to impose work requirements adds an ideological motivator.

“Republicans want Medicaid to help people who are doing their best to become self-sufficient but need temporary help to get there,” said Leavitt, who now heads a health care consulting firm.

Medicaid is a federal-state collaboration originally meant for poor families and severely disabled people. Over the years, it’s grown to become the largest government health insurance program, now covering 1 in 5 people. Overall, Americans have a favorable view of the program, and oppose funding cuts.

Under former President Barack Obama’s health law, states got the option of expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults. Thirty-two states and Washington, D.C., expanded, adding about 11 million beneficiaries.

But 18 mostly conservative states are still holding out. They include population centers such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia — where newly installed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has vowed to cajole a closely divided legislature into expanding Medicaid.

For the first time in the program’s half-century, the Trump administration recently announced it will approve state proposals requiring “able-bodied adults” to work, study, or perform some kind of service. Officials promptly signed off on Kentucky’s work requirement plan.

“There are both political and legal challenges, but as long as it is optional for states, and appropriately thoughtful and nuanced … this can definitely work,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the nonpartisan National Association of Medicaid Directors. “It could possibly mean the difference between some of the non-expansion states embracing the expansion, or at least ensuring that some of the expansion states maintain political support for the program.”

His organization, which represents state officials, does not have a consensus on work requirements.

Another carrot for reluctant states is the repeal of the health law’s requirement that most people carry health insurance. Congressional Republicans repealed the “individual mandate” in the tax bill, and President Donald Trump signed it into law. For states, it means that fewer residents may sign up for expanded Medicaid, trimming potential costs. Although states pay no more than 10 percent, that’s still a significant impact on their budgets, which generally must be balanced each year.

Advocates for low-income people say such arguments for work requirements are misguided. They contend Medicaid is a health care program and such requirements run contrary to its legally established purpose.

“I don’t see this as necessarily creating the opportunity for states to expand or stay in the expansion,” said Judy Solomon of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which advocates for the poor. “I think what is really important to point out is how this undermines the expansion.”

Nonetheless polls show strong support for requiring “able-bodied” adults on Medicaid to work, said Robert Blendon of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Most of those adults already do.

“People are much more sympathetic to the idea of helping low-income people who work,” said Blendon, who tracks opinion trends on health care.

While the Trump administration’s actions have shifted the politics of Medicaid expansion, Missouri Hospital Association president Herb Kuhn said he doesn’t see opposition in his state crumbling quickly. His group was unable to convince lawmakers, even though hospitals that would benefit from expansion are major employers in local communities.

“It’s not a slam dunk, but I think there is a fair conversation,” said Kuhn. “In states that were already leaning in for expansion, this might be something that helps re-energize the conversation.”

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AP writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Michelle L. Price in Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed to this report.

The Hudson-based Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation has changed its name, but not its focus.

Effective this month, the foundation, which aims to “improve the lives of people with serious mental illness by investing in innovative projects in Northeast Ohio having national transformational impact” will be named Peg’s Foundation.

Rick Kellar, president of the foundation, said the board and staff spent over a year reviewing the name and brand, wanting to ensure the message accurately represented the founder’s personality. Peg Morgan, who died in 2013, never used her formal name — for anyone who knew her, she was Peg, he said.

“Our message through this rebranding is for others to understand Peg, our founder, the way we knew her. She was a fashion designer; she loved sports, arts and dessert. She was a college graduate and valued education but most of all she loved her family and wanted appropriate care for her son suffering from schizophrenia. The foundation represents a mom first, who even having great financial means, still struggled to find help for her son Dave,” Kellar said.

An avid Cleveland Indians fan, Morgan was married to the late Hudson businessman Burton D. Morgan.

Mental health is the primary focus of Peg’s Foundation, with many grants guided by the personal experiences of the Morgan family, Kellar said. Adopting a new tag line, “Think Bigger,” Kellar describes how Peg was a petite woman who attended board meetings, more often listening than speaking, but always taking notes.

The foundation’s new website is http://www.Pegsfoundation.org.

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty.

Summit County’s opioid crisis is evolving.

Both overdoses and accidental overdose deaths are declining compared to the second half of 2016 when the powerful synthetic drugs fentanyl and carfentanil first devastated the area, sending nearly 20 people per day to hospitals after overdosing.

Yet the executive director of the county’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board Jerry Craig isn’t sure whether the downward trend will continue.

“We’re entering a new phase,” Craig said.

Over the past 40 years, Summit County, like the nation, has experienced waves of deadly drugs, starting with crack, then methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil, he said.

“When people are addicted, they’re looking for the next high,” Craig said.

This week, for example, Alliance police sent a warning to other area law enforcement after discovering that the skin on a heroin user’s arms looked as if it had been eaten away. The heroin user told officers he was using heroin mixed with Rizzy powder — a floral additive that, when mixed with water and absorbed through flower stems, makes flower petals glow phosphorescent under black light.

It may be the first report of heroin spiked with Rizzy.

But addicts are often on the prowl for other drugs, including other street drugs if they can’t find the drug they are addicted to, Craig said.

Meth not safer

Heroin addicts may turn to meth if they can’t find heroin, Craig said, because meth can soften the effects of detoxing from heroin.

Area police agencies and federal officials last year said Greater Akron and parts of Ohio were seeing a surge in crystal meth, often called “ice” on the streets.

“This isn’t your shake and bake stuff people were making 10 years ago,” Craig said. “It’s Walter White grade.”

(White is the main character in the AMC series Breaking Bad about the transformation of a high school chemistry teacher into a meth-making wizard.)

Some Summit County addicts seeking emergency help through a division of Portage Path Behavior Health have said they have turned to meth, assuming it’s a safer alternative to heroin, which they know is often laced with potentially lethal doses of fentanyl or carfentanil.

But that’s not true.

The Summit County Medical Examiner’s office won’t have a final report on last year’s overdose deaths for another month or two. But preliminary data show that many of the 199 overdose deaths last year involved meth, cocaine, heroin and other drugs mixed with fentanyl or carfentanil.

In some of those cases, people were likely taking multiple drugs, Craig said.

But police in Akron and elsewhere have said they’ve also seen cross-contamination. Drug dealers don’t package their supplies in a lab. Police say they often mix and package heroin cut with fentanyl or carfentanil on the same table they use to package everything from marijuana to meth.

Mixtures deadly

The recent spread of fentanyl from heroin into other street drugs so troubled Columbus public health officials this week that they sent out a news release urging anyone who uses recreational drugs or knows someone who does to carry Narcan, a brand name for naloxone which can reverse opiate overdoses.

In Franklin County, about 30 percent of people who died from overdosing in 2017 had both cocaine and fentanyl in their systems, health officials reported.

Health Commissioner Mysheika Roberts said Friday that officials have no data from law enforcement showing whether street drug supplies have been intentionally spiked.

But anecdotal evidence from EMTs and hospital emergency rooms points to that happening.

“When people are revived, they say ‘I’m not an opiate user, why would Narcan work on me? I was using cocaine’,” Roberts said.

“We believe dealers and suppliers are intentionally putting fentanyl into street drugs to make them more potent, to drive users back to their product and, because fentanyl is so cheap, to stretch their product and make more money,” she said.

And fentanyl, Roberts said, can be mixed with any street drug without users knowing it’s there.

In Summit County, officials have two barometers to measure what’s happening in the opioid crisis — hospital statistics about overdose cases and medical examiner reports, Craig said.

Last week, between Jan. 12-18, 23 Summit County residents sought treatment at hospital emergency rooms after overdosing. That’s half the number of weekly overdoses reported through much of 2017. But if the pace continues, slightly more Summit County residents will overdose this January than last.

Unintentional overdose deaths in 2017, meanwhile, appear to have decreased by about 100 compared to 2016. That year, 299 Summit County residents overdosed and died here, along with 41 others who lived outside the county.

“Maybe we’re doing some things that are having an impact,” Craig said. “But I’m not prepared to take credit for that.”

Quicker treatment

Craig did point to several public health accomplishments here since the opioid crisis began.

Among other things, the wait time for outpatient treatment in Summit County has plummeted from 45 days at the beginning of the crisis to about eight days now. Craig said officials aim to decrease it to five days.

There’s still about a 30- to 35-day wait for residential treatment, he said, but pregnant women are bumped to the top of the line and others on the waiting list can do outpatient treatment until a bed opens.

Additionally, Craig said Summit County residents are disposing more of their unused medications, often seen as a gateway to addictions. More drugs were incinerated in Summit County during the first nine months of 2017 (9,238 pounds) than in all of 2016 (8,159 pounds).

And quick-response teams — comprised of a medic, police officer and a counselor — are now working in 10 Summit County communities, including Akron. The teams go to the homes of those who have overdosed in hopes of preventing another overdose.

About 40 percent of the time, addicts agree to go into treatment, Craig said.

And no person visited by a team in Summit County has since died from a later overdose.

But, Craig said, that could change any day. Or a new drug — or drug mix — could hit the streets and make overdose deaths soar again.

“I’ve never seen anything this lethal in 30 years,” he said. “We don’t know what we don’t know, and that’s what makes this so daunting.”

Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or [email protected].

A Stark County judge has given Affinity Medical Center in Massillon at least a temporary lifeline.

Stark County Common Pleas Judge Chryssa Hartnett issued a temporary restraining order Friday requiring the Stark County hospital to stay open for 120 days.

A preliminary injunction hearing will be held on Feb. 1 for the judge to decide whether to continue the temporary order, which continues for 14 days or until a new order is issued.

The order was in response to a lawsuit filed by the city of Massillon, a group of Affinity doctors and others against Affinity’s owner to keep the hospital open.

Friday’s order also says Affinity’s management must cooperate with efforts by the city to create a plan for a new entity to buy the hospital or coordinate appropriate closure to transition patient care.

“This decision by Judge Hartnett recognizes and avoids the public health crisis that the sudden closing would have otherwise caused,” said Collin Wise, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “This decision by Judge Hartnett allows time for community leaders to continue evaluating whether possible alternative partners and options exist that present viable ways to keep the hospital open long term.”

Affinity’s corporate owner stunned the Stark County community earlier this month when it announced the hospital would cease taking new patients this Sunday , end clinical operations in February and be shuttered for good in March.

Tennessee-based Quorum said it failed to find a buyer for the hospital, which it said has lost money in each of the last six years.

However, officials from at least two area hospital systems — Aultman Health Foundation and the Cleveland Clinic — said they were unaware of Quorum’s plans to sell or close Affinity until this month’s announcement.

Government leaders, state lawmakers, local physicians, a nurses’ union representing RNs at the hospital and others in the community have been fighting plans to close the 156-bed acute-care facility, which has about 800 employees.

Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry, a registered nurse who worked at Affinity for 20 years, said the judge’s order was good news to stretch out Quorum’s “reckless” timeline.

“I know the importance of having a hospital in the community. Had this company come to us, we would have tried to help them. No one knew they were in trouble,” she said. “To abruptly announce you’re going to close the hospital, it’s reckless, it’s heartless. We are so very pleased with the injunction today.”

Catazaro-Perry said the community and doctors need time to plan instead of an abrupt closure. If there is new ownership, for example, it could take 60 to 90 days to get new credentials

There also is a medical residency program for training doctors and those students have been thrust into uncertainty, she said.

Dr. Mona Shay, chief of staff at Affinity, said she and other doctors, along with city officials, need time to figure out how to best take care of their patients.

“Is the hospital still marketable for a potential buyer to salvage and, if not, give us more time to establish what we’re going to do with the patients. Thirty days is not a reasonable time to figure out what to do with our patients,” said Shay, a gastro­enterologist who has been a physician in the area for 20 years.

Michelle Mahon, a registered nurse and national representative for the 250 Affinity nurses through the National Nurses United union, said news of the temporary restraining order was a pleasant surprise for all parties fighting to keep the hospital open. The union is not a party to the city’s lawsuit, but its lawyers assisted in some supportive work.

“This is obviously a very important first step” toward keeping the hospital open indefinitely, Mahon said.

“Unfortunately, Quorum left everybody with a timeline that turned this community on its head,” she said.

“There is some work to do even though the 120 days is there,” said Mahon, adding that she was proud of the nurses for rolling up their sleeves and fighting the closure.

“It’s just incredible to see people decide to take a stand. I know it’s not over yet, but the power of people is really unstoppable when they have the hope and faith they can achieve something,” she said.

Representatives of the union met with officials of Quorum on Thursday to discuss their demands. Mahon did not go into detail about what was discussed, but said “we are still in discussions with Quorum. The nurses were there with a demand, which is to keep this hospital open and be responsible for their obligations to this community.”

Wise said the hospital is needed, especially during a national flu epidemic that has hit Stark County.

“This decision by Judge Hartnett enables Affinity to continue to serve the needs of the community in facing those challenges,” he said.

A message for Quorum representatives was not returned. However, Affinity Chief Executive Officer John Walsh released this prepared statement to the Beacon Journal on Friday afternoon:

“The hospital was notified of Judge Chryssa Hartnett’s ruling earlier this morning. We have temporarily suspended wind down efforts for the 14-day period it requires and will continue operating all services for which we have appropriate staffing available.

“Our efforts to negotiate with the Mayor’s Office and other interested parties the last few days have not been productive and we share the court’s interest in identifying an equitable solution.

“Most importantly, we’d like to recognize and applaud our dedicated staff for their professionalism and constant focus on our patients during this uncertain time. They are the embodiment of the term ‘caregiver’ and we are grateful for the contributions of each nurse, physician, administrative and support employee and volunteer.”

When told of the statement, Catazaro-Perry said she was not surprised by Walsh’s reaction.

“We’re protecting our community,” she said. “It is very important for our residents.

“We are the second largest city in Stark County and we need a hospital in western Stark County.”

Medical writer Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

State officials Thursday abruptly suspended the license of a Medina pharmacy and recommended that patients stop using any drugs dispensed from there.

Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy said took swift action against Clinical Apothecaries Inc., 4087 Medina Road, “for engaging in compounding practices that pose immediate and serious harm to the public.”

The board found many issues at the pharmacy — which makes prescription medications in house to the strength and dose prescribed by physicians and veterinarians — including potential problems with its clean room, documentation of the calibration of instruments and expired drugs or chemicals.

“Due to the serious nature of the infractions, the (pharmacy) board strongly recommends patients immediately discontinue the use of all medications dispensed from Clinical Apothecaries,” a release from the board said.

Patients should contact their physicians, health care providers or veterinarians to obtain new prescriptions, the board said.

Officials with the pharmacy board are reviewing the pharmacy’s records and plan to contact patients who may be impacted by their findings.

It was not clear if any patients had been negatively impacted by drugs made and dispensed by the pharmacy.

But the pharmacy board encouraged anyone who suspects they had a reaction from medication dispensed by Clinical Apothecaries to contact the board at [email protected] or 614-466-4143.

Patients who use email should include their full names, telephone numbers, the names of medications taken and a description of the adverse reaction, the board said.

STOW: Cleveland Clinic is opening a new outpatient medical center on the border of Stow and Cuyahoga Falls next week.

The Cleveland Clinic Medical Outpatient Center, Stow-Falls is a 33,000-square-foot renovated facility at 857 Graham Road that will offer Express Care, Falls Family Practice, dermatology, children’s therapy services and lab services.

All services but the children’s therapy, which opened late last year, will begin seeing patients on Monday.

Stow Mayor Sara Kline could not be happier that the Cleveland-based health system is now occupying the large space.

The site has been empty since the former Tops grocery store closed in late 2006. That site was among 28 Tops grocery stores in Northeast Ohio not sold or converted to Giant Eagle stores after the Pittsburgh-based grocer bought 14 Northeast Ohio Tops locations. At the time, Tops, a division of Dutch grocer Royal Ahold NV, said it was selling all 46 of its Northeast Ohio locations and leaving the market.

“We are beyond thrilled,” Kline said Tuesday. “We have pondered and talked about incentives to someone to use that space.”

Cleveland Clinic found the space on its own, so “we really didn’t have to do anything to attract them,” Kline said.

Kline said over the years, there have been no significant projects that looked at the property. The former Sears Hardware next door to the shuttered grocery store became a Planet Fitness several years ago.

Kline hopes the new Cleveland Clinic site will jump-start activity in some of the plazas nearby along Graham Road.

In anticipation of the new location, the former locations of Falls Family Practice and Cleveland Clinic Akron General Express Care Clinic, Cuyahoga Falls will close effective Wednesday.

Falls Family Practice previously was renting space inside Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls but was not affiliated with the hospital, Cleveland Clinic Akron General spokeswoman Kelly Ward-Smith said.

The Express Care Clinic location closing on Wednesday is in a small medical office building down the street. Akron General leased part of the building for Express Care, but does not own that building, she said.

The new location is in Stow, but has a Cuyahoga Falls mailing address.

Cleveland Clinic Children’s therapy services helps children from birth through young adulthood who are chronically ill or who are recovering from serious injury increase their functional abilities. The new location features two gyms, a sensory room and rock wall.

The Express Care Clinic offers walk-in medical attention for common health problems, including cold and flu symptoms, conjunctivitis, ear and throat infections, minor bumps and cuts, seasonal allergies, skin rashes, simple sprains and strains, sinus infections, urinary tract infections and upper respiratory tract infections.

Falls Family Practice sees patients of all ages, from newborns to older adults.

The facility is open 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, Friday 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and is closed Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information about the Cleveland Clinic Medical Outpatient Center, Stow-Falls, call 330-923-9585.

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected]. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at http://www.ohio.com/betty

Nurses at Affinity Medical Center rallied outside the Massillon hospital Tuesday morning to seek public support to keep the facility from closing.

Affinity’s corporate owner Quorum Health Corp. on Friday stunned the Stark County community when it announced the hospital will end clinical operations in February and be shuttered for good in March. Tennessee-based Quorum said it failed to find a buyer for the hospital, which it said has lost money in each of the last six years.

In a related statement, nearby Aultman Health Foundation in Canton said Tuesday it had not been approached regarding Affinity and had no prior knowledge of the closure announcement.

As many as 75 Affinity nurses affiliated with the National Nurses United union and others stood outside the hospital’s Eighth Street Northeast entrance for the 10 a.m. rally. The union represents about 250 RNs at the hospital. Speakers denounced the impending closure and implored the public to put on the pressure to keep Affinity open.

One of the speakers, Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry, said the city was devastated by the closure announcement.

“They have thrown our city into chaos and panic,” Catazaro-Perry said.

Quorum is worried more about its publicly traded stock than patients, the mayor said.

She noted that she is a nurse and was a hospital patient at Affinity two years ago with an infection that led to the hospital staff having to retrain her how to walk.

“If this facility closes, we will lose Massillon residents. People will die,” Catazaro-Perry said.

The mayor said she asked Quorum to keep the hospital open past the announced deadline but the company said no.

She urged the public to make telephone calls and write letters to put pressure to keep Affinity open. The 156-bed acute-care facility has about 800 employees.

“Don’t sit back,” Catazaro-Perry said. “I will not leave one stone unturned.”

Political support

The mayor and other public officials are working to find ways to keep Affinity Medical Center open.

Catazaro-Perry noted she was going to meet later in the morning with another rally speaker, former U.S. congressman Dennis Kucinich, to discuss options.

Kucinich, who announced this week he will run for Ohio governor, told those at the rally that the city can seek a court restraining order to prevent the closure.

Democrat Kucinich, also a former Cleveland mayor, said the city can look into eminent domain proceedings to take over the hospital.

Quorum’s announcement that it will close Affinity shows the corporation does not think the hospital has any value, meaning the city can use eminent domain to take possession, Kucinich said.

Ed Roth, president and chief executive of Aultman Health Foundation, issued a prepared statement Tuesday regarding Affinity Medical Center.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the closing of Affinity Medical Center and the impact this will have on the hospital’s patients, employees and the Massillon and surrounding communities as a whole,” Roth said. “We were not aware of the hospital’s closing before the announcement was made last week, and we were never contacted regarding partnering with Affinity.

“However, as Affinity transitions its patients to other area care locations over the next month, we will work collaboratively to make that process as convenient as possible for patients coming to our facilities at Aultman West, Aultman Orrville Hospital and Aultman Hospital main campus,” he said. “We remain committed to providing the highest-quality care to the residents of Stark and Wayne counties.”

Other hospital systems in nearby Northeast Ohio had little to say Tuesday regarding Affinity.

Summa Health said it encouraged Affinity employees, particularly those in nursing and allied health, to look at Summa’s job openings.

Both Cleveland-based University Hospitals and Sisters of Charity Health System, owner of Mercy Medical Center in Canton, declined comment.

Cleveland Clinic Akron General spokesman Joe Milicia said the health system was also unaware of Affinity’s planned closing before the announcement. Milicia said the Clinic had “no information to share at this time. We are committed to serving the community and meeting their health care needs.”

‘Life or death’

Debbie McKinney, a registered nurse at Affinity for 18 years and a member of the nurses union bargaining committee, said in the few days since the closure announcement, there has been strong public support to save the hospital.

“No one wants this hospital to close,” McKinney said. “This hospital means life saving for the community.”

Someone having a heart attack or stroke in Massillon will need to travel at least an additional 15 to 20 minutes to get to another hospital if Affinity closes, she said. That extra time can lead to heart muscle death or brain death.

“We’re talking life or death here,” McKinney said.

Massillon resident Dennis Lewis said Affinity Medical Center saved his life last June when he had a heart attack. It took six minutes for him to get to Affinity to be treated, the 61-year-old said.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this hospital,” he said. “The emergency room took great care of me. Two days later, I ended up having six bypasses, a heart valve replacement,” he said.

Lewis said he went into a coma for more than three weeks, plus had pneumonia, and was placed in cardiac critical care.

“These guys took great care of me,” he said. “I walked out the door of the hospital. … If they hadn’t have been here, if I had to go to Canton, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”

Registered nurse Scott Nappi, who works in the hospital’s cardiac care unit, said Lewis is a perfect example of why Affinity and its services need to stay open.

“When it comes to hearts, time is such a critical thing,” he said. “That extra 20 minutes is the difference between life and death. If you do survive, that extra 20 minutes can be the difference between being a cardiac cripple and being a productive person in society again.”

Beacon Journal reporter Betty Lin-Fisher contributed to this story. Reporter Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected]. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ

Via Beacon Journal news partner News 5 Cleveland

Read more: Affinity Medical Center in Massillon to permanently close in March, but city officials vow to find options

Alliance Community Hospital has become an affiliate of Aultman Health Foundation. The definitive agreement, effective Jan. 1, was signed by Aultman Health Foundation and Alliance Community Hospital in October.

The affiliation builds on a longstanding relationship between the two nonprofit hospitals, officials with both institutions said. They already share services and assist each other with best business practices. Aultman and Alliance established a joint venture 20 years ago that aided in the construction of a new hospital in Alliance. In addition, they have worked together as members of the Independent Hospital Network. Alliance also partnered with Aultman to establish a Heart Center and a Cancer Center in Alliance.

The new partnership combines a regional health care center with a community hospital in a continuum of care serving the residents of Stark County and beyond. This regional network combines Aultman Health Foundation with its tertiary medical center and its nationally recognized health care plan AultCare, with Aultman Orrville, a critical access hospital, and Alliance Community Hospital, the only Planetree hospital in the state of Ohio.

According to Edward J. Roth III, president and CEO of Aultman Health Foundation, the arrangement is an investment in the future of Alliance Community Hospital and a commitment to provide high-quality and cost-effective, patient-centered care to the community. “This affiliation means Alliance Community Hospital will remain a not-for-profit, community hospital with a local voice and we believe that’s good for both of our institutions and the communities we serve,” Roth said.

Stan Jonas, Alliance Community Hospital CEO, agrees. “We are excited to join forces with an organization we trust and highly respect. The agreement gives our patients improved access to important specialty care and advanced services.