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Morning Headlines: Ohio Gets OK to Expand Medicaid Services; Emergency Call Center Funds Available

A stock photo of stethoscope and chart.

Here are your morning headlines for Monday, Sept. 30:

  • Ohio gets OK to expand Medicaid services;
  • Emergency call center funds available;
  • 1 million Ohioans lack access to high-speed internet;
  • Police seize 1,500 fentanyl pills in Richland County;
  • Former Akron Beacon Journal editor Dale Allen dies;
  • Walsh University starts new initiative to get students to graduate on time;
  • LeBron James's high school jersey to be auctioned off;

Ohio gets OK to expand Medicaid services
The federal government is allowing Ohio more flexibility in what services it can provide to Medicaid patients addicted to opioids. The expanded options are through a substance use disorder demonstration waiver that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently approved. Gov. Mike DeWine said the waiver will help the state confront the deadly epidemic tied to prescription painkillers, heroin and illegal fentanyl. It will allow Ohio to provide critical care to mothers and babies exposed to opioids, expand recovery support and enhance residential treatment services. The state's waiver application said the demonstration would permit Ohio's Department of Medicaid to provide medically-necessary health care, mental health and substance use services in the most appropriate and cost-effective setting, which often is a community-based facility rather than a hospital.

Emergency call center funds available
Gov. Mike DeWine is inviting local governments to apply for grants to upgrade their emergency call centers. DeWine said the funding, available through the Ohio Department of Commerce, will help expand Ohio's 911 capabilities to keep pace with changing technology. Grants will cover up to 60% of the costs of upgrading to Next Generation 911, or NG 911. They're made possible by a $4.3 million grant from the federal government. NG 911 is an internet protocol-based system that allows local police and fire departments to use digital information, including text messages and eventually photos and videos. It can more precisely identify caller locations and better manage emergency responses and call overloads.

1 million Ohioans lack access to high-speed internet
A new report finds about 1 million Ohioans, mostly in Appalachia, lack access to high-speed internet service. The report released by Gov. Mike DeWine's administration identified a number of causes for that lack of access to include outdated tax codes, missed funding opportunities, flawed maps that incorrectly show where service is available and bureaucratic red tape. The report found rights of way along limited-access highways could be leveraged to expand broadband access. Rising private investment in broadband projects and Ohio's efforts to develop "smart" transportation corridors requiring robust internet access may provide additional momentum. DeWine said his administration is committed to making sure broadband is part of the state's overall infrastructure strategy.

Police seize 1,500 fentanyl pills in Richland County
Police in Richland County said a recent drug seizure of more than 1,500 pills were disguised as the prescription painkiller Oxycodone but actually contained the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. The Mansfield News-Journal reports city of Ontario police posted a public safety announcement after lab testing revealed the contents of the pills. They said fentanyl can be lethal in dosages as small as 700 micrograms. Officials said these pills contained more than 168,000 times that amount, enough to potentially kill thousands of people. The drugs were seized when police recovered a stolen vehicle earlier in September. A Kentucky man was charged with receiving stolen property in that case, but no charges have been brought in connection with the drugs.

Former Akron Beacon Journal editor Dale Allen dies
A former Akron Beacon Journal editor who helped lead the newspaper to two Pulitzer Prizes has died. The paper reports Dale Allen died over the weekend. He was 81. After joining the paper in 1980, Allen helped guide many of the paper’s most successful journalists including Thrity Umrigar, David Giffels, Regina Brett and Terry Pluto. With Allen as editor, the Beacon took home Pulitzer Prizes in 1987 and 1994. 

Walsh University starts new initiative to get students to graduate on time
Walsh University in North Canton will offer a graduation guarantee starting next year. The Canton Repository reports the initiative promises participating students will graduate on time or the university will cover their remaining tuition for up to two semesters. To participate in the program officially known as the Four-Year Graduation Guarantee, students must sign a commitment in their first month of college and declare a major by the end of their sophomore year. They also need to take at least 15 credit hours of coursework a semester and hold a minimum 2.0 GPA. Baldwin Wallace University in Berea offers a similar program.

LeBron James's high school jersey to be auctioned off
A sweat-stained jersey LeBron James wore while playing Ohio high school basketball in is being auctioned off. The online listing said the gold mesh jersey from the NBA star's days with the St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish in Akron features green lettering with the word "Irish" and number 23 — the same number he'd later wear playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Goldin Auctions said James gave the jersey to its current owner, an unidentified seller who attended the school. The auction house said 5% of the proceeds will go to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. The auction runs until Oct. 19. Early bidding reached $37,000. It’s the same jersey James wore in his first cover shoot for Sports Illustrated. James now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.