Self-Identifying With Your Invisible Disabilities

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By Erica Sabino

Demi Lovato has come a long way from her days acting and singing on the Disney screen. Though she made her debut at the young age of 8 on the show Barney and Friends, it wasn’t until 2008 when she nabbed the lead role in the Disney Channel original movie, Camp Rock, that her career skyrocketed. On the same year of the movie’s premier, she signed a recording deal with Hollywood Records that helped her release her first album, Don’t Forget, which went up to No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100.

Her rise to stardom did not come undeserved. With the success of the movie and her music, Lovato’s popularity saw a tremendous increase, paving the way to cementing her place among other big-named stars in young Hollywood.

Even with all her success, her journey wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Having amassed quite a following on her social media profiles like Twitter and Instagram, the Sorry Not Sorry singer has made it a point to be open about the struggles she has faced and is still facing on an everyday basis.

On October 2011, Lovato entered an inpatient treatment center where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief,” Lovato admitted in an interview. “It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing.”

Her admittance to the rehab facility was not only brought about by the state of her mental health, but also because of her struggles with bulimia, substance abuse, and cutting. Lovato learned to accept her issues and worked hard to find ways to overcome them. She worked with professionals to find a treatment plan that would work for her. “Living well with bipolar disorder is possible,” Lovato says, “but it takes patience, it takes work and it is an ongoing process.”

She understands how hard it is to bounce back from setbacks in life and how some people find it difficult to ask for help. But for Lovato, “asking for help is a sign of strength.” She wants those struggling with mental illness to know that there is always someone who can help and that there will always be a silver lining if they first learn to be strong for themselves.

Lovato has gone through a lot, but instead of letting these obstacles hinder her, she used them to build her strength and has found ways to capitalize on her experiences, so she can help people who are going through the same struggles she continues to go through each day.

Making a big effort to support individuals with mental health, Demi Lovato became the spokesperson for the Be Vocal: Speak Up For Mental Health initiative. Led by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., this campaign also partnered with five leading advocacy organizations namely, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, The JED Foundation, Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Council for Behavioral Health.

This initiative calls people to speak up for the support of mental health. It urges them to “be vocal” in an effort to spread awareness and erase the stigma usually associated with this topic. As a strong advocate, Lovato wants to be a voice not only for herself, but also for others. “It’s important to speak up about the things you believe in, because your voice will be heard no matter what position you’re in,” Lovato said in an interview with Elvis Duran for iHeartRadio’s Label Defiers podcast. “I just happen to be in a position where more people would hear my voice than they would have 10 to 15 years ago, so I use my voice to do more than just sing.”

The pop singer has taken big steps to making her voice heard and pushing forward with her advocacy. In an interview with Tracy Smith for CBS Sunday Morning in 2016, Lovato revealed that she bought into the CAST Centers, a clinic in L.A. where she had undergone treatment. When asked why she did it, Lovato simply said that “it just feels good.”

With her passion for her cause only growing stronger, Lovato took on another project and co-produced Beyond Silence, a documentary which premiered in early 2017 that chronicles the experiences of three individuals living with mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. In her interview with Variety, Lovato said that she “hope[s] that this film will show people that there is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition.” It has become another stepping stone for her to inspire people to share their stories and encourage others to do the same. “There’s something about when you speak out and are vocal about your story, it’s very inviting to others who are dealing with the same thing. And if you can make that impact on somebody’s life, it does something for you spiritually that makes you want to tell the story again and again and again.”

Lovato’s reach is not limited to the United States alone. With fans all over the world, she is a global figure who is a living inspiration to many. Talking about mental health on a global scale, Lovato had spoken to Syrian refugee, Muzoon Almellehan, in a video chat about how important education and mental health is especially to people who are living in conflict and suffering. Lovato says “I want to be able to help people have access to mental health care, no matter where they’re from or what they’ve been through… I think it’s very important that someday, we have a curriculum in school where it’s based on mental health.” In their conversation, Lovato also offered Almellehan her help in ensuring that adequate monetary resources are set aside for the promotion of education through humanitarian efforts.

Taking another step forward in her efforts to being heard, Lovato revealed that she would be releasing I Am: Demi Lovato, a documentary about her life and the experiences she had undergone to get where she is now. “This past year has been one of the most transformative years of my life, and I’m looking forward to bringing my fans on this journey of continued growth and self-discovery in both my music and my personal experiences,” the singer said.

Aside from being an advocate for mental health, Lovato is also a big supporter of female empowerment. In collaboration with Fabletics, an activewear brand co-founded by Kate Hudson, the star helped launch the Demi Lovato for Fabletics collection. With designs inspired by her style and strength, the collection remains in line with supporting the brand’s partnership with the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, which is a movement to raise funds and awareness for the empowerment of women everywhere, especially those in marginalized countries.

Lovato’s accomplishments in her crusade for mental health have not gone unnoticed. Because of her passion, leadership, and campaign to promote and raise awareness on this issue, Lovato was presented with the Artistic Award of Courage on March 2017 at the Open Mind Gala hosted by UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Demi Lovato has gone through and experienced so much at her age. Today, we all need to recognize that not all disabilities are physical. For the singer, her disability was a brain disorder that was hindering her growth as an individual. Although she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she does not want this to be the only thing that defines her. Using her powerful voice, she wants the world to know that she is more than just what she struggles from. She wants people to look at her and see someone they want to emulate: strong, confident, and courageously honest. Through her experiences, she has crafted herself into an inspiring image of what anyone should strive to become, no matter what’s hidden underneath the surface.

“I think what inspires me is remembering that I deserve to be the best that I can be and also knowing people look at me as a role model,” Lovato tells Entertainment Tonight. “It gives me the fire to continue to be strong and try to show people that there’s so much more to life when you take care of yourself and when you are able to be all that you can be.”

Alice Sheppard Proves It’s Time To Redefine Virtuosity

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It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.

Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson’s bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.

And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you’re missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.

“Often for non-disabled audience members,” she says, “the work isn’t real until they see the chair.” Curious requests to know why Sheppard uses a wheelchair are telling of how disability typically traffics in the public imagination. “The movement and the art somehow challenge what they think is possible,” she says.

Excellence in dance is often de ned at the exclusion of disability. The idea of virtuosic performance involves dancers with precise technical control over each body part. The best dance, it’s often assumed, is performed by artists who are intensely able-bodied.

But Sheppard’s work models a truth that is rarely understood among dance audiences: Disability does not signify incompleteness. In fact, it offers novel pathways to several movement styles, each of them whole and generative of unique choreographic forms.

Disability Is A Creative Force

Alice Sheppard initially became a dancer to make good on a dare. It was 2004 and she was a professor in medieval studies at Penn State. During a conference on dis- ability studies, she attended a performance by Homer Avila, a renowned dancer and choreographer who had lost one of his legs to cancer. Sheppard got to talking with him in a bar after his performance. He dared her to take a dance class. About a year after Avila died, she did—and shortly after resigned from academia.

What hooked Sheppard was a question that has motivated her work ever since: How can we move beyond questions of ability to culture and aesthetics? In popular culture, disability often stands in for a vague and generalized adversity. Sheppard wanted to find a radically different process.

“Disability,” Sheppard writes in her “Intersectional Disability Arts Manifesto,” “is more than the deficit of diagnosis. It is an aesthetic, a series of intersecting cultures and a creative force.”

After leaving academia, Sheppard began exploring the techniques of dancing in a wheelchair and learning how disability can generate its own movement. She trained, performed and toured with several physically integrated dance companies, including AXIS Dance Company, Infinity Dance Theater, Full Radius Dance and Marc Brew Dance Company.

Eventually, she launched the New York–based Kinetic Light, which has been invited to residencies at places like the prestigious Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography and Gibney, and to perform at Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out. She chose to form Kinetic Light as a production company rather than a dance company in an attempt to bring the work “outside of the arts bubble,” as she puts it on her website.

The Pursuit Of Wheel Joy

Intersectionality—a term that has become increasingly conspicuous in the dance world—is what activates Sheppard’s work from content to process. As a queer disabled woman of color, she makes dance that explores the multiple identities she inhabits. DESCENT, for instance, imagines a queer and interracial love affair between the mythical figures Andromeda and Venus, performed through the disabled bodies of Sheppard and Lawson.

In their wheelchairs, the dancers pursue what Sheppard often calls “wheel joy.” The pleasures of wheeled movement are palpable when the chairs produce beautifully tight and precise turns, often using inclined planes to harness momentum.

During one sequence, Sheppard lies downstage on her back. Lawson tips forward and launches over Sheppard as her wheels lift behind, her stomach resting on Sheppard’s shins. The dancers spread their arms and hold each other’s stare with intimate tension. Lawson’s wheels spin silently, each spoke catching the cool hues of the lights.

The movements do not represent the triumph over disability. They do not shore up myths about independence. And, even when Sheppard and Lawson dance without their wheelchairs, they do not scorn the wheelchair.

The intersectionality that drives Sheppard’s work also leads her to collaborate with other artists. To design the ramp for DESCENT, Sheppard tapped Sara Hendren, an artist and design researcher for the Accessible Icon Project, which seeks to dislodge the staid blue-and- white wheelchair symbol as the central iconography of disability. And Sheppard turned to Michael Maag, also a wheelchair user, to design the production’s intricate projection system.

Just as she dispenses with the notion that one’s identity can be simplified to just one thing, Sheppard dispenses with the idea that disability artistry must be produced by a sole pioneer. She stresses the interdisciplinary nature of disability art, and recognizes the lineage, influence and conversation amongst artists of the past and the present.

Continue onto DANCE Magazine to read the complete article.

Huey Lewis Opens Up About Sudden Hearing Loss: ‘I Haven’t Come to Grips with the Fact That I May Never Sing Again’

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huey lewis holding microphone on stage

In mid-April, Huey Lewis shocked fans when he canceled all upcoming tour dates, citing a battle with Meniere’s disease that robbed him of his hearing. While he hopes the health problems are treatable, the “Power of Love” rocker says he’s facing the possibility that he may never return to live performance.

It’s a reality that Lewis, 67, admits he’s finding hard to accept. “I haven’t come to grips with the fact that I may never sing again,” the Huey Lewis and the News frontman said in an interview with the Today show on Monday. “I’m still hoping I’m gonna get better. They say a positive attitude is important.”

Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that produces feelings of vertigo, as well as tinnitus (or ringing) and hearing loss. Lewis says he first noticed the symptoms in March during a performance in Dallas. “As I walked to the stage, it sounded like there was a jet engine going on,” he continued. “I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t find pitch. Distorted. Nightmare. It’s cacophony.”

In a tragic twist, the lifelong rocker says his hearing loss is most severe when it comes to music. “Even though I can hear you, we can talk, I can talk on the phone — I can’t sing,” he told Today‘s Jenna Bush Hager. “I can’t hear music. I can do everything but what I love to do the most, which is a drag.”

While there’s no known cure for the disease, Lewis says that his hearing may improve with a new dietary regimen. “No caffeine, lower salt, and keep your fingers crossed. It can get better. It just hasn’t yet.”

On April 13, Lewis posted a message to social media announcing the cancellation of all upcoming tour dates because his condition made it “impossible” to continue singing for the time being.

Continue onto PEOPLE to read the complete article.

Special Olympics USA to host its first-ever video game tournament

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wide shot of gaming arena filled with gamers and people

Esports is coming to the Special Olympics. The organization announced Tuesdaythat its first ever video game tournament will take place on July 2 as part of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.

Special Olympics is partnering with Microsoft’s Xbox division for the tournament, in which teams will compete in rounds of Forza Motorsport 7.

Competitors have been chosen from qualifier events that took place at Microsoft stores last month, creating eight “Unified” teams that will consist of one athlete with and one athlete without an intellectual disability.

“Many of our athletes are avid gamers and research indicates playing video games can potentially boost cognitive and motor skills of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Beth Knox in the announcement, who is the president and CEO of this year’s games.

Continue onto CNet to read the complete article.

Getty is trying to bring disability inclusion to stock photos

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man in wheelchair working on computer

Nearly one in five people have a disability, but just 2% of publicly available imagery depicts their lives. The photo company, alongside Oath and the National Disability Leadership Alliance, is working to change that.

In the stock photo world, images of people with disabilities tend to cluster at two poles. “They’re either depicted as superhuman or super pathetic,” says Rebecca Swift, Getty Images’ director of visual insights. “There doesn’t seem to be that broad range that you get with able-bodied people.”

Getty has seen searched for disability-related images spike in the past year–“wheelchair access” searches were up 371% from 2016 to 2017, and autism-related searches climbed 434%–and the issue of representation became impossible to ignore.

That also became clear to Oath, the parent company of Yahoo and Tumblr, as they were working to set up a website highlighting their work around accessibility in tech and having difficulty finding representative images. So the company, with consult from the National Disability Leadership Alliance, tapped Getty to help change the current representation paradigm from the inside out. Launched May 17, The Disability Collection, a new subcategory of Getty images, will feature people with disabilities in everyday settings.

What you notice first are people’s faces. In contrast to those common images that focus on a person’s hands gripping a wheelchair, or frame a blind person before a window to show what they can’t see–or depict the blur of a prosthetic leg as it strikes a track–the images in the new Getty collection focus on human interaction and people’s facial expressions.

Of course, there are challenges to capturing a range of disabilities. Visual media gravitates toward visual cues, but not all disabilities are necessarily visible. “That’s why the wheelchair tends to be the icon of disability,” Swift says. “This project for us as a business is about getting it all down and saying: Don’t just focus on wheelchairs. Think about the entire range, and think about how people with disabilities want to be depicted.”

For Getty, that meant building out a set of guidelines for photographers in their network to follow. They emphasize focusing on mundane moments from everyday–texting, taking selfies, grocery shopping. A lot of the guidelines come from focus groups with disability organizations that Oath hosted and shared with Getty. “We’ve taken input from a host of advocacy groups about how people in their communities want to be depicted,” Swift says.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

How Xbox Adaptive Controller Will Make Gaming More Accessible

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xbox adaptive controller

On Wednesday night, Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox Adaptive Controller for the Xbox One console, aimed at making gaming more accessible for those with disabilities and mobility limitations as part of their Gaming for Everyone initiative.

The device allows for individual customization through a series of peripheral attachments that allow gamers to cater the controls to their own specific comfort.

For many, the current Xbox controller design (and those of other consoles’ controllers like Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s Playstation 4) presents a challenge to use as it was not designed for individuals with mobility impairments. The Adaptive Controller is a foot-long rectangular unit with a d-pad, menu and home buttons, the Xbox home icon button and two additional large black buttons that can be mapped to any function.

On its back are a series of jacks for input devices and various peripheral accessories, each of which can be mapped to a specific button, trigger or function on the Xbox controller.

“Everyone knew this was a product that Microsoft should make,” Bryce Johnson, inclusive lead for product research and accessibility for Xbox, told Heat Vision.

The original inspiration for the Adaptive Controller came during 2015’s Microsoft One-Week Hackathon, an event where employees develop new ideas and tackle issues with their products. Through a partnership with Warfighter Engaged, an all‐volunteer non-profit that modifies gaming controllers for severely wounded veterans through personally adapted devices, a prototype was put together that would eventually become the Adaptive Controller.

“We had been doing our own stuff for a couple of years before that, making custom adaptive items for combat veterans, and it was kind of a challenge for even the most basic changes, requiring basically taking a controller apart,” Warfighter Engaged founder Ken Jones said. “Microsoft was thinking along the same lines. It was really just perfect timing.”

As development on the project went on, Microsoft began working with other foundations aimed at making gaming more accessible such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Craig Hospital, a Denver-area rehabilitation center for spinal cord and brain injuries.

While third-party manufacturers have created more accessible peripheral controllers in the past, Microsoft is the first of the major gaming publishers to make a first-party offering.

“I think we’re always open to exploring new things,” Johnson said of Microsoft developing their own peripherals for the Adaptive Controller. “Right now, I think the challenge is that there is a super large ecosystem of devices that we intentionally supported as part of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and we want people to go out and find that vast array of toggles, buttons, etc. and have those work with that device.”

Continue onto The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

One-Handed Player Shaquem Griffin Makes NFL History With Seahawks Draft

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Shaquem Griffin just made history.

The University of Central Florida linebacker became the first one-handed player to be drafted into the NFL after being picked by the Seattle Seahawks on the third day of the 2018 NFL Draft at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday.

Griffin — whose twin brother Shaquill also played for UCF and is now a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks — was born with a congenital birth defect that affected his ability to use his left hand and had the extremity amputated when he was a child because of extreme pain.

Following his pick, which took place in the fifth round, the 22-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida, told ESPN that he was speechless from the news.

“I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say. I was trying to get the words out, but I couldn’t talk.”

Griffin had previously told multiple outlets that he expected to be picked up by a team during this year’s draft. But despite making history, the athlete told Today he would rather others not concentrate on his disability.

“One day I’m going to be called ‘Shaquem Griffin the football player’ and not ‘Shaquem Griffin the one-hand wonder,’” he told the outlet. “I don’t need that name. Just call me Shaquem Griffin the football player. I’m good with that.”

Continue onto PEOPLE to read the complete article.

CVS Health Fights Back on High Cost Drugs by Launching Industry’s Most Comprehensive Approach to Saving Patients Money

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New CVS Health initiative seeks to solve one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of consumer financial worry.

Recognizing the threat of rising drug prices and high out-of-pocket costs, CVS Health providing most advanced solutions for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

CVS Pharmacists are key resource for patients in identifying opportunities to maximize their prescription benefits and save money at the pharmacy counter in communities nationwide.

CVS Caremark mitigating impact of high drug costs by providing members and prescribers with robust information and innovative tools to choose lower-cost prescription drugs.

The high cost of prescription drugs is one of the nation’s most pressing problems and a major source of financial worry for consumers across the nation. While CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) has made significant progress in mitigating the impact of high list prices set by pharmaceutical manufacturers, for too many Americans annual out-of-pocket drug costs are still significant. In response, CVS Health announced today that it is fighting back by launching the most comprehensive program in the industry to help patients save money on their medications.

According to a recent national poll, commissioned by CVS Health, 83 percent of Americans said they were concerned personally about the impact of rising prescription drug prices.[1] As prescription drug prices continue to rise and enrollment in high deductible health plans grows, many patients are shouldering higher costs for their prescription medicine.

CVS Health will address this problem with a robust set of initiatives, including the new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder, which will enable the company’s retail pharmacists for the first time to evaluate quickly and seamlessly individual prescription savings opportunities right at the pharmacy counter. This new tool further enhances existing savings opportunities the company’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) CVS Caremark is currently offering its clients such as the preventive drug lists that make medications for many common, chronic conditions available at a $0 copay. In addition, CVS Caremark provides real-time, member-specific drug costs and lower-cost alternatives to prescribers through their electronic health record system and to CVS Caremark members through the member portal and newly updated app. These programs are part of CVS Health’s commitment to helping consumers find the lowest cost prescription drugs by offering more pricing transparency for prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

“Today’s consumers are faced with higher prescription drug prices than ever before and many of them are now paying for a larger share of their prescription drug costs out of their own pockets at the pharmacy counter due to growth in high deductible health plans,” said Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy and External Affairs Officer, CVS Health. “Until now, patients haven’t had the appropriate tools available to them to help them manage these costs. To address this, CVS Health is giving expanded tools to patients, prescribers and pharmacists so they can evaluate prescription drug coverage in real-time and identify lower-cost alternatives. We are committed to finding the right drug at the lowest possible cost for patients to ensure they are able to access and stay on the medications they need. That’s our promise.”

At the Pharmacy Counter

The new CVS Pharmacy Rx Savings Finder enables the retail pharmacist to quickly and seamlessly review a patient’s prescription regimen, medication history and insurance plan information to determine the best way for them to save money on out-of-pocket costs – with the primary goal of helping the patient find the lowest cost alternative under their pharmacy benefits plan.

“Our direct experience is that patients who are confronted with high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter are less likely to pick up their prescriptions and are less likely to be adherent to their prescribed therapy,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, Retail Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy.

“Armed with the information available through our Rx Savings Finder, our more than 30,000 CVS pharmacists can play an important role by helping patients save money on their medications, providing advice on how and when to take them, and ultimately helping them achieve better health outcomes,” Hourican added. “We are beginning this process with our CVS Caremark PBM members and expect to roll it out more broadly throughout the year.”

The Rx Savings Finder will show pharmacy teams:

  1. First, if the prescribed medication is on the patient’s formulary and is the lowest cost option available.
  2. Second, if there are lower-cost options covered under the patient’s pharmacy benefit – such as a generic medication or therapeutic alternative with equivalent efficacy of treatment.
  3. Third, if the patient may be able to save money by filling a 90-day prescription rather than a 30-day prescription.
  4. Finally, if neither a generic nor a lower-cost alternative is available, other potential savings options for eligible or uninsured patients where allowed by applicable laws and regulation.[2]

Pharmacists can also help patients enroll in the ExtraCare Loyalty Program and sign them up for Pharmacy and Health Rewards. Through Pharmacy and Health Rewards, patients receive $5 in ExtraBucks for every 10 prescriptions filled, earning up to $50 in ExtraBucks annually.

At the Doctor’s Office

Another component of the company’s comprehensive savings approach is the recently launched real-time benefits program, which helps bring greater drug price transparency to prescribers and CVS Caremark members. At the point-of-prescribing, providers are able to see the member-specific cost for a selected drug, based on a member’s coverage, along with up to five lowest-cost, clinically appropriate therapeutic alternatives based on the patient’s formulary. PBM members have access to the same information on the CVS Caremark app and member portal. Early results show that prescribers accessing the real-time benefits information through their electronic health record switched their patient’s drug from a non-covered drug to a drug on formulary 85 percent of the time. In addition, when the patient’s drug is covered, prescribers using real-time benefits switch their patient to a lower-cost alternative 30 percent of the time. When the prescriber switched to a lower-cost drug, the difference was approximately $75 per prescription.
“We have been working hard to keep prescription medications affordable for patients,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health. “In fact, in 2017, nearly 90 percent of our PBM plan members spent less than $300 out-of-pocket for their prescription medicines. While this signals progress, for those patients that cost is not insignificant. That is why we are committed to doing even more across our enterprise to help patients find and access the lowest cost drug at the pharmacy which ultimately will help improve clinical outcomes and remove higher downstream medical costs from the system.”

Using Pharmacy Benefit Management Solutions

CVS Health is also making a variety of PBM solutions available to help further drive down drug trend for its PBM clients and drug costs for the patients they support. The company’s Point of Sale (POS) rebate offering allows the value of negotiated rebates on branded drugs to be passed on directly to patients when they fill their prescriptions – and the savings from this program can be significant. In 2013, CVS Health led the industry with the introduction of POS rebates to clients, and today nearly 10 million members are covered by and able to benefit from the program.

In 2017, despite manufacturer brand list price increases on drugs near 10 percent, CVS Health PBM strategies reduced drug trend for CVS Caremark commercial clients to the lowest level in five years, keeping drug price growth at a minimal 0.2 percent. In fact, 42 percent of CVS Caremark commercial clients spent less on their pharmacy benefit plan in 2017 than they had in 2016. CVS Caremark helped members reduce monthly out-of-pocket costs and improve adherence to its highest level in seven years in key categories such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.

Prescription drug trend is the measure of growth in prescription spending per member per month. Trend calculations take into account the effects of drug price, drug utilization and the mix of branded versus generic drugs as well as the positive effect of negotiated rebates on overall trend. The 2017 trend performance is based on a cohort of CVS Health PBM commercial clients, employers and health plans.

About CVS Health

CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its more than 9,800 retail locations, more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 94 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, expanding specialty pharmacy services, and a leading stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, the company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable and effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com.

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[1] The Morning Consult poll was conducted from February 22-26, 2018, among a national sample of 1992 registered voters. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of registered voters based on age, race/ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, and region. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

[2] Prescriptions submitted for reimbursement to Medicare, Medicaid or other federal or state programs are not eligible.

The 2018 Winter Paralympics Kick Off Today in PyeongChang

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Friday’s Google Doodle celebrates the opening of the 2018 Paralympic Games in PyeongChang.

This year’s competition is the biggest winter Paralympics to date, with more athletes and countries participating than ever before. More than 560 athletes will vie for more than 80 medals in six sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, Para ice hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling.

Three countries will be making their first Winter Paralympics appearance in South Korea. North Korea and Georgia are sending two athletes each, while Tajikistan has entered their first athlete.

The U.S. is sending the largest delegation of 68 athletes, with Canada sending 52. As with the Olympic Games, Russia’s athletes will again be competing as part of a neutral delegation, called the Neutral Paralympic Athletes, after a doping scandal resulted in Russia’s disqualification from both the 2018 Olympics and Paralympics.

The Winter Paralympics have been held since 1976, when the Games debuted in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.

Google’s colorful Doodle depicts a line-up of athletes racing in all six qualifying sports.

The Paralympics will run from March 9-18 this year.

Continue onto TIME to read the complete article.

2018 Gerber Baby comes from Army National Guard family

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married couple holding baby

Georgia Army National Guard Spc. Jason A. Warren, an aircraft powertrain repairer with the Marietta, Georgia-based Company D, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, and his wife Cortney garnered national media attention on Feb. 9 when their son Lucas was named the 2018 Gerber Spokesbaby.
The Warrens were amazed when they received the news of Lucas’ win.

“Absolute shock,” said Jason. “It was hard to believe he won out of 140,000 entries.”

Lucas, diagnosed with Down Syndrome, is the eighth Gerber baby since the contest began in 2010. Inspired by the original Gerber baby sketch of Ann Turner Cook, families began sharing their baby photos with Gerber. In response, Gerber launched its first official photo search competition in 2010.

“We hope this opportunity sheds light on the special needs community and educates people that with acceptance and support, individuals with special needs have potential to change the world,” said Cortney. “Just like our Lucas.”

The Warrens hope other families with special needs children can look to Lucas as a source of inspiration.

“We hope this will help people kick-start their own lives and give them more confidence,” said Jason. “They might think if Lucas can do this, what can I do in my life?”

The winning photo shows Lucas, sitting in an overstuffed chair, grinning from ear to ear wearing a black and pink polka-dot bow tie.

“He is very outgoing and never meets a stranger,” said Cortney. “He loves to play, loves to laugh and to make other people laugh.”

“He is just the absolute cutest thing ever,” said Staff Sgt. Misty D. Crapps, supply sergeant with Company D,171st Aviation Regiment. “He always smiles at everybody he sees.”

Jason looks forward to continued service in the Georgia Army National Guard. He feels a sense of pride and family being part of the organization.

“I absolutely love the Guard: the ability to help my community and serve my country,” said Jason. “The benefits of service are always great to have, and it allows me to serve my country the way I want to.”

Continue onto the U.S. Army Newsroom to read the complete article.

‘This Close’ Is by and About Deaf People, but That’s Only the Beginning

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The need for more diversity in Hollywood is a popular topic of conversation these days. But at least one group tends to get left out of the discussion.

“There have been some deaf characters on television, but they are usually there so the hearing characters can learn something from them,” Josh Feldman said. “And then they send the deaf characters back into the shadows.”

He said it with his hands. Sitting in a mellow cafe on a dilapidated strip of Melrose Avenue, he and his writing partner, Shoshannah Stern, carved shapes in the air to tell animated stories, volleys of sign language zinging across the table between them and their two interpreters.

It was at this cafe that the pair first conceived a comic web series about two deaf best friends like themselves living in Los Angeles. On a warm winter morning three years later, they returned to discuss the television show that resulted from it: “This Close,” debuting Wednesday, Feb. 14, on SundanceTV’s streaming platform, Sundance Now.

Created, written by and starring Ms. Stern and Mr. Feldman, the show follows the adventures of two deaf pals in Los Angeles. But the characters’ deafness figures as just one sliver of an effervescent dramedy about friendship, romance, sex and ambition, its sweet but gritty tone inspired by series like “Looking,” “Girls” and “Transparent.”

Kate (Ms. Stern) is an exuberant entertainment publicist determined to make her way in the world without any special accommodations; neither her boss (Cheryl Hines) nor her fiancé (Zach Gilford) make much effort to use sign language, expecting Kate to keep up with their conversation. Michael (Mr. Feldman) is a melancholy gay graphic novelist tortured by writer’s block and trying to blot out the pain of a broken relationship with liquor and sex.

The six-episode show is adapted from “Fridays,” Ms. Stern’s and Mr. Feldman’s rom-comish web series that so impressed Sundance the channel decided to make “This Close” the debut offering for its new digital streaming service.

“I thought to myself, have I ever seen a show where the characters are deaf but it doesn’t define them?” said Jan Diedrichsen, Sundance Now’s general manager. “This felt like a fully realized vision of a life where deafness was just one part of it.”

Ms. Stern grew up in the Bay Area dreaming of becoming an actor, even though there were few deaf role models on screen. For her seventh birthday she asked her mother for an agent. (The answer was no.) Later, during her senior year at Gallaudet University, a liberal arts college for the deaf in Washington D.C., she flew to Los Angeles for an audition and decided to stay.

“I thought, I will just convince people that it would be interesting to see me on screen and that it won’t matter that I’m deaf,” she recalled, signing emphatically.

Ms. Stern’s first major role came as an antiterrorism expert in the short-lived 2003 ABC series “Threat Matrix,” and she has since become one of the most visible deaf actresses in Hollywood, appearing in series like “Weeds, “Lie to Me” and “Supernatural.” “I was always the sole deaf person on set,” she said.

She met Mr. Feldman, an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, through mutual friends, and tried to help him get a foothold in Hollywood as a writer’s assistant. But people were generally unwilling to meet with him.

“They would ask, ‘How would we communicate with him?’ and ‘How can he write dialogue if he doesn’t speak?,’” Ms. Stern said. She decided that one way to change ideas about deafness, on screen and off, was for the duo to collaborate on a script.

Mr. Feldman had never tried to write a deaf character, he said, because “I thought no one would want to pay for anything that had deaf people in it.” But Ms. Stern inspired him to try, and the result was “Fridays.” After shooting a pilot for $250 with themselves in the lead roles, the duo put it on Kickstarter, hoping to raise enough cash to produce four episodes for YouTube.

Pledges quickly shot past their $6,000 goal, much of the money donated by people who weren’t deaf, Ms. Stern said. Also intrigued was Super Deluxe, an entertainment company owned by Turner. Super Deluxe produced five polished web episodes and screened them at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where Mr. Diedrichsen saw in the show’s “singular vision” an ideal original series for Sundance Now.

Ms. Stern and Mr. Feldman revamped the concept to delve into pricklier emotional territory, with the help of the director Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”).

Much of the material in “This Close” feels universal: Love affairs blossom and shatter, family members create emotional turmoil. But some of the stories naturally hinge on deaf-specific experiences, like a harrowing scene — based on something that actually happened to Ms. Stern’s brother — in which a drunk Michael is yanked off an airplane, utterly confused and unable to communicate with airport police.

At the center of the show is Kate and Michael’s codependent friendship, which sometimes leaves hearing characters feeling left out. “We did a lot of two shots so that you could see both Josh and Shoshannah signing together,” Mr. Ahn said. “It makes it feel like they are in a bubble of their own.”

Making television from the perspective of deaf characters forced everyone involved to rethink the usual ways of doing things. “So much of narrative filmmaking convention is based in a hearing world, but if you have a super tight close-up, you won’t see the hands,” Mr. Ahn said.

Read the complete article on the New York Times.