Midwives Move to Medi-Cal

Midwife_Cvr2Affordable access to midwives’ services—and, consequently, home births and birth center deliveries—will soon get easier.

Last week, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 407 (Morrell) into law, allowing licensed midwives to provide comprehensive services to Medi-Cal patients. The new law means a greater number of low-income women can choose to use a midwife and, as a result, have access to a range of prenatal and postpartum support. Services can include nutrition assessments, breastfeeding counseling, childbirth and parenting education, and mental health services.

In addition to allowing for more provider choices to low-income women, the law should save the State money. According to the author’s comments on the bill, using a licensed midwife for a home or birth center delivery can save up to 80 percent compared to the cost of a hospital birth. Also, “Increasing the number of comprehensive perinatal Medi-Cal providers alleviates wait times and access issues within the overall perinatal health delivery system, allowing women to receive timely and personalized care.”

A California-licensed midwife is a health care practitioner who can attend to normal childbirth cases and provide prenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum care, according to the Medical Board of California (Board). In order for pregnancy and childbirth to be defined as normal, certain conditions must exist, such as a single fetus, absence of disease during pregnancy, and no pre-existing maternal disease of condition that would affect pregnancy.

For more information about midwives and their services and licensing requirements, read the article “California Midwives: Delivering Health Care at Home,” in the summer issue of DCA’s Consumer Connection magazine, and visit the Board’s website at www.mbc.ca.gov.

BEWARE OF UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS

If you’re considering doing renovations on your home, it pays to do some research on the company you plan to hire. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who have had bad contractor experiences, whether it’s sloppy workmanship, cost overruns or even worse, a contractor who takes your money upfront and doesn’t return to do any work whatsoever.

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What can you do to protect yourself from phony contractors and not get ripped off?

The first and most important thing, says Steve Breen, a spokesperson for the Contractors State License Board, is to hire a licensed contractor. “You’re at a greater risk of being exposed to shoddy or even dangerous work by hiring an unlicensed contractor,” Breen says. “So we really warn consumers—especially seniors who are often targeted–to not just take a contractor’s word that they are licensed, but to also check their credentials thoroughly.”

Breen says contracting without a license can carry a penalty of up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail for first-time offenders. Contractors who also fail to mention in advertisements that they are licensed can be fined up to $1,000.

The Contractors State License Board’s website, cslb.ca.gov, provides consumers quick and easy access to check a contractor’s credentials and license history .

Here are a few additional tips to consider when hiring a contractor.

    • NO PRESSURE—Watch for contractors who use pressure tactics such as “limited time offers” that require you to make hasty decisions and hire them on the spot.
    • SAY WHAT? –Never enter into a verbal agreement with a contractor. Get all the work you’re requesting in writing just in case disputes arise. You should never pay a contractor the total amount for services up front. In California, contractors are only entitled to deposits of 10 percent of the total cost of the job or $1,000—whichever is less—unless the contractor has a special bond.
    • KEEP YOUR CASH–If a contractor insists you pay with cash, beware. Always pay for your services with a check or credit card. This protects you in case the contractor botches the job and or fails to complete the work. In addition, you can call your bank and put a stop payment on a check and depending on your bank/credit card provider, cancel the payment and have it refunded back to you.
    • CLICK OR CALL CSLB–For more information about hiring licensed contractors, check out the CSLB website or call 1- 800-321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts.

Going for Gold: Statewide Golden Lawn Contest

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Letting your lawn go gold not only helps conserve water during our historic drought—you may have a chance to win a substantial credit toward your water bill if you enter the Golden Lawn Contest sponsored by Golden State Water Company and California’s Statewide conservation education program, Save Our Water.

“The majority of California’s residential water use is for outdoor irrigation, and this contest is a great opportunity to both recognize customers who are using water responsibly and embrace lawns that have gone gold,” said Denise Kruger, Senior Vice President of Regulated Utilities for Golden State Water.

Entering the contest is easy: Submit a photo of your golden lawn by Tuesday, September 29 for a chance to win the first-place prize: A $100 credit on your water bill, or second prize: A $50 credit on your water bill. Prizes will be awarded on September 30. Photos can be submitted via email at contest@gswater.com or sent to @GoldenStateH2O on Twitter using the #GoGoldCA hashtag.

For information on contest guidelines and submission details, visit gswater.com/contest or saveourwater.com. For updates and information about the drought and conservation, follow Golden State Water (@GoldenStateH2O) and Save Our Water (@SaveOurWater) on Twitter.

DEA Prescription Drug Take-Back is Saturday

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This Saturday, get rid of unused, expired and unwanted drugs at the 10th Annual DEA National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

On September 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., hundreds of locations throughout the state will accept unneeded and expired prescription drugs, including controlled substances, for safe and legal disposal.

The Take-Back event aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the public about the potential for the abuse of medications.

The family medicine cabinet is where many drug abusers get prescription medications that they use to get high. Anyone who has access to that bathroom – including teens, relatives, guests and workers in your home – can remove some or all of the medications. Prescription painkillers are especially sought out by abusers, as are muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications.

Prescription drug abuse has been declared a national epidemic and thousands of people die every year from overdoses and poisonings. Studies show that many of those prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends.

In the previous nine nationwide Take-Back events for the last four years, 4,823,251 pounds or 2,411 tons of drugs were collected.

To find a collection site near you, go to www.dea.gov .

National Preparedness Month: Don’t Wait. Communicate.

shutterstock_209851783The recent Northern California wildfires may have you thinking about what you would do in case of an emergency. Are you prepared to evacuate if necessary? Do you have a plan for you, your family and your pets?

September is National Preparedness Month and it’s the perfect time to plan for an emergency situation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends the following:

Make a disaster kit: Create a disaster kit that includes food, water, and medications in sufficient quantities to last for at least 72 hours.

Make a plan: Create a plan to communicate with your family in case of an emergency. Have important contact information that includes phone numbers, email address and medical information.

Pick a meeting location: When you identify a meeting location for your family, decide on safe, familiar places where your family can go for protection or to reunite in case you are separated.

  • Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs.
  • If you have pets or service animals, think about animal-friendly locations.

Examples of meeting places:

  • In your neighborhood: A mailbox at the end of the driveway, or a neighbor’s house.
  • Outside of your neighborhood: A library, community center, place of worship, or family friend’s home.
  • Outside of your town or city: A home of a relative or family friend. Make sure everyone knows the address of the meeting place and discuss ways you would get there.

Practice: Have regular household meetings to review your emergency plans, communication plans, and meeting place after a disaster. Then, practice just as you would for a fire drill.

Use the FEMA App: FEMA has a free mobile app for Apple, Android, and Blackberry devices available in English and Spanish that offers:

  • Tips on surviving disasters, and ways to customize your emergency checklist and save meeting locations.
  • Receive alerts form the National Weather Service.
  • Locate open shelters and Disaster Recovery Centers.
  • Upload and share your disaster photos.
  • Stay connected on social media and to the FEMA blog.
  • Go to www.fema.gov/mobile-app

For more information about disaster preparedness, visit www.ready.gov.

Gel Manicures: How Safe Are They?

shutterstock_260352359The durability of a gel manicure is stuff of a manicure-junkie’s dream. Although more costly than a regular manicure, a gel manicure is relished for its high-gloss polish that can last for weeks.

After application, you need to “cure” the gel polish by putting your nails—and hands—under an ultraviolet (UV) lamp. We frequently hear about the skin cancer dangers of UV radiation from sunlamps and tanning beds, but what about UV exposure from nail lamps?

A 2014 study by the Journal of American Medical Association/Dermatology concluded that because of low UV levels, the risk of skin cancer from nail dryers is small. However, there are some caveats. No regulation exists for nail lamp manufacturing, so your exposure to UV light can vary from device to device and even on how the lamp is set up.

Because of those inconsistencies that can affect the amount of UV exposure, consumers should take precautions to limit skin cancer risk as well as prevent premature aging of their skin. Limit your number of gel manicures, and wear sunscreen on your hands and UV-protective gloves while under a nail lamp.

Also, make sure that you’re going to a reputable and licensed salon. Visit the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology’s website, www.barbercosmo.ca.gov, for more information and to verify a license.

Contractors State License Board Offers Resources for Northern California Wildfire Victims


CSLB sweeps burn areas, provides information to help protect against scams

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SACRAMENTO – The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has activated its disaster response support for residents of Amador, Calaveras, and Lake counties whose homes have either been destroyed or damaged in recent days by the devastating Butte and Valley Fires.

Property owners can access CSLB’s Disaster Help Center at www.cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com to tap into helpful publications that can be ordered or downloaded. These include “After a Disaster, Don’t Get Scammed” and “What You Should Know Before Hiring a Contractor.” CSLB’s “Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster” video also is available on YouTube. In addition to the website, all information can be requested by calling CSLB’s Disaster Hotline, 800.962.1125, staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or its 24/7 automated information line, 800.321.CSLB (2752).

CSLB also is warning wildfire victims to be wary of unscrupulous and unlicensed contractors who may solicit to rebuild their homes or businesses. Avoid rushing into any agreement or contract until you have verified with CSLB that the person is licensed for the type of work that is being offered. Remember: Construction work that costs $500 or more in combined labor and material costs must be performed by a state-licensed contractor.

CSLB investigators are already in the fire-ravaged parts of Amador, Calaveras, and Lake counties, educating fire victims, and looking for any signs of unlicensed contracting. Warning signs also are being posted. Anyone found contracting without a license in an area for which a state or federal state of emergency has been declared can face felony charges. Those convicted of unlicensed contracting in a declared disaster zone are subject to a maximum of 16 months in state prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 (Business & Professions Code 7028.16).

CSLB will join multiple other state and local agencies at Local Assistance Centers that are expected to be opened within a few days in the affected communities.

“It is heartbreaking that residents have lost so much,” said CSLB Registrar Cindi Christenson. “The fire victims need to be vigilant and protect themselves against predators who might try to take advantage them at their weakest moments. We strongly encourage homeowners who are looking to rebuild to first check CSLB’s website before deciding on a contractor.”

CSLB urges everyone to follow these guidelines before hiring a contractor:

  • Avoid hiring the first contractor who comes along;
  • Avoid rushing into repairs – get at least three bids for comparison and check references;
  • Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a photo ID;
  • Always check the license number on CSLB’s website at cslb.ca.gov or CheckTheLicenseFirst.com, and contact the business directly if you have any questions;
  • Down payments are limited to 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less. (There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special blanket performance and payment bonds; these exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website);
  • Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the work; and
  • Get a written contract, and don’t sign until you completely understand the terms.

CSLB also reminds residents to make sure their contractor pulls necessary permits and receives required inspections from city or county building departments for any construction, reconstruction, or installation of air conditioners, heaters, or water heaters.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on CSLB’s website or by calling (800) 321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts. CSLB licenses and regulates about 285,000 contractors in California, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2014-15, CSLB helped recover nearly $68 million in ordered restitution for consumers.

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To view CSLB news releases, click here.

Check Out the New Consumer Guide to Locksmith Companies Brochure from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services

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Did you know that California locksmith companies and locksmiths must carry a Bureau-issued registration card and a California-issued driver’s license that consumers should ask to see before allowing them to conduct business?

Or did you know that your auto insurance company may offer locksmith benefits or recommend a locksmith if you get locked out of your car?

Learn more when you read the new Consumer Guide to Locksmith Companies brochure created by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services at http://www.bsis.ca.gov/forms_pubs/locksmith.

Check Out the New Consumer Guide to Alarm Companies Brochure

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The California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services wants consumers to know the ins and outs of purchasing a home security alarm system. This new brochure tells who at alarm companies must be licensed, what should be included in the contract, how to choose a reputable company and how to file a complaint against an alarm company. See it now at http://www.bsis.ca.gov/forms_pubs/alarmco.pdf.