At Border Patrol Checkpoints, an Impossible Choice Between Health Care and Deportation

At 17, Lucia Ramos feared she would be killed or kidnapped at her home in the Mexican state of San Luis de Potosi. Terrified and poor, she crossed the Texas-Mexico border illegally in 1999. Years later, her fears came true as her brothers, who were involved in organized crime, were kidnapped from their home.

Lucia (not her real name) moved to Laredo, married and had a daughter three years later. Diana was born with scoliosis and no arms, possibly due to an undiagnosed genetic disorder. Without specialized care and surgery, doctors said, Diana’s backbone could eventually bend so much that it could cause her lungs, stomach and heart to shut down.

But Lucia found no doctors in Laredo who could give Diana the medical treatment she desperately needed. From 2002 to 2005, Lucia twice traveled with her daughter, a U.S. citizen, through an internal Border Patrol checkpoint for doctor’s appointments at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi. Lucia feared deportation, but agents let her pass freely when she presented them with a binder of Diana’s medical records.

On their third trip to the hospital in 2006, Border Patrol agents at the same checkpoint detained Lucia for about six hours of questioning and deported her to Mexico. Fearing for Diana’s life instead of her own this time, she crossed the border illegally again in 2006 to care for her daughter. But with the threat of deportation looming between their home and the hospital, Diana’s condition went untreated for 11 years.

In July 2017, after hearing rumors that agents were letting undocumented parents travel with sick children, Lucia and her husband, who had a work permit, tried crossing the checkpoint again to take their daughter, now 15, to Corpus Christi doctors. But just as in 2006, Lucia was detained by Border Patrol agents and deported. Diana couldn’t travel without her mother, who she needed every step of the way, including for help going to the restroom. She returned to Laredo with her father, who also cared for Diana’s three brothers, Lucia said.

‘Not Bad Enough’: The Families Left Behind by Texas’ Medical Marijuana Program

During the summer of 2016, Micah Jensen told his mother, Bonnie, he wanted to spend his birthday free of the severe migraines that had been plaguing him for months. Micah has autism and temporal lobe epilepsy, which causes recurrent, unprovoked seizures. But the migraines were new and getting worse. Just a week before he turned 11, his pain became unbearable. Micah woke up in the middle of the night screaming in agony. Bonnie rushed him to the ER. The doctor prescribed an antidepressant that was supposed to control migraines, but the pain didn’t go away.

“He was on the antidepressant for nine days,” Jensen said. “He was so spaced out, like a zombie. When I tried to call his name, he wouldn’t even look at me.”

A few weeks later, Jensen took Micah to a new neurologist, who determined that Micah’s frequent seizures were causing inflammation and swelling in his brain, triggering the migraines. His anticonvulsant, Lamictal, had stopped working, so the dose had to be increased. But the powerful drug comes with side effects, including weight gain and the triggering of autistic behaviors such as self-injury.

Jensen started reading news reports about children who successfully used cannabis to treat autism or epilepsy in Colorado. Since Micah is diagnosed with both, she hoped cannabis could wean him off Lamictal, but Jensen learned her son didn’t qualify for Texas’ nascent medical marijuana program.

In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed the Compassionate Use Act, the state’s first medical marijuana program. Though it’s tiny in scope compared to other states’ laws, the measure allows doctors to prescribe cannabis products with very low THC levels to patients with intractable epilepsy. Access to the state’s three marijuana dispensaries, which are expected to open in early 2018, is limited to patients who can’t control seizures with federally approved drugs — a restriction that leaves out hundreds of thousands of other patients, including Micah.

Indy lawyer could inspire more women to launch tech startups

In 2013, Haley Altman sat in her office after midnight surrounded by hundreds of documents, looking for the one needed to close a $30 million-dollar deal.

Altman had spent 10 years working as a transactional lawyer, helping venture capital firms and businesses with funding, acquisitions and initial public offerings.

At that moment, she decided what her profession really needed was technology that helped lawyers digitize all their documents, allow for e-signatures, smooth out business transactions — and ditch the mounds of paper.

But she couldn’t find anything that did the job.

“I took the next step on trying to build it on my own,” Altman said.

Bible, family picture grace Vice President Mike Pence’s official portrait as governor

He sits on his desk with law books on his left and a family portrait and Bible on his right. With a casual smile and unbuttoned suit jacket, Vice President Mike Pence’s official portrait as governor of Indiana aims to show a man serving the state, not the federal government.

It also reflects his Christian faith and family focus.

“The portrait is really just about paying tribute to all those who are not the subject of the portrait,” Pence said Friday at the painting’s unveiling at the Statehouse.

Pence, the state’s governor from 2013-17, was accompanied at the unveiling by Second Lady Karen Pence, his daughter Audrey Pence, his mother Nancy Pence and Gov. Eric Holcomb and his wife, Janet. State and local officials also attended. The event was open to the public, drawing about 300 people to the south atrium.

After his mother, wife and daughter removed draping to unveil the portrait, Pence’s voice cracked with emotion as he gave his remarks.

How a low-key pharmacy could help ease the opioid epidemic

Drug addicts are resourceful when they want chronic pain medication.

They can go “doctor shopping,” looking for doctors who fail to check the state’s drug monitoring database. They can duplicate prescriptions that are supposed to be filled in the months ahead. And they can steal, a method that has ranked Indiana highest for pharmacy robberies.

Now, a new pharmacy hopes to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic by keeping a tight rein on prescriptions and thieves away from their front door.

Cordant Health Solutions, a Denver-based health care company, opened a controlled substance pharmacy in Indianapolis in October. Physicians send drug prescriptions for chronic pain electronically or via couriers to the pharmacy. After checking the state’s prescription drug database and, if applicable, a patient’s drug test results, the pharmacy delivers the medication to the patient’s home or work.

It is not a walk-in pharmacy. The doors are closed to the public. The address is not shared publicly.