Darts and laurels (11-5-11)

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2011

Laurels to the successful fundraising campaign that will preserve the Governorís School for at least another summer. The highly regarded program for intellectually gifted high school juniors and seniors had been in jeopardy after state legislators eliminated its annual appropriation as part of state belt-tightening. So far, the N.C. Governorís School Foundation has raised upwards of $520,000 to support the program, with hopes of surpassing $1 million. The response to the fundraising campaign is strong evidence of how highly alumni and other donors value the summer school. The two-campus program may still have to be downsized or shortened from six weeks, but supporters are optimistic the reprieve will allow time to look for a more permanent funding solution for the school, which was established under Gov. Terry Sanford in 1963.

Dart to a steep increase in fatal overdoses of prescription painkillers. The number of such deaths has nearly quadrupled in a decade, accounting for 14,800 fatalities in 2008, federal health officials reported this week. Deaths from painkillers now exceed those from cocaine and heroin overdoses combined. The reason for the increase is no mystery: The quantity of powerful prescription painkillers being sold has soared, also quadrupling in the same time period. Health experts say much of the problem stems from ěpill millsî that dispense medications without conducting medical exams and from patients who obtain multiple prescriptions by visiting several different doctors. Bringing the numbers down will be a challenge, but part of the solution lies in better drug-monitoring programs that have been implemented in North Carolina and many other states.

Laurels to another decline in North Carolinaís infant mortality rate, which is now at a record low. Health officials attribute the drop to investments in programs that emphasize the importance of healthy births, including prenatal nutrition, breastfeeding and safe sleeping. With seven infant deaths for every 1,000 live births, North Carolina is now near the national average of 6.8 deaths per 1,000 births. However, some child advocates warn that future numbers may not be as encouraging because of budget cuts, including elimination of the Health and Wellness Trust Fund.