Beat the Summer Heat by Keeping Your Cool

Many people don’t realize this, but maintaining your air conditioning system is important to help avoid costly repairs or breakdowns at times when it matters the most, like when the temperature is in triple digits outside. Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating and cooling system inefficiency and failure. That’s according to Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals save money and improve energy efficiency. To ensure efficient system operation, it’s important to perform routine maintenance beyond simply changing the filter every month.

You can do this by calling in a licensed contractor to do annual pre-season check-ups. Ask neighbors, friends, and family for HVAC contractor recommendations. Check the status of the contractor’s license with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) before you hire at www.cslb.ca.gov. Contractors get busy once summer comes, so it’s best to check the cooling system in the spring. Energy Star recommends the following typical maintenance efforts:

  • Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
  • Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
  • Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increase the amount of electricity you use.
  • Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels. If plugged, the drain can cause water damage in the house, affect indoor humidity levels, and breed bacteria and mold.
  • Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to ensure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
  • Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Check your central air conditioner’s refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system’s efficiency by up to 15 percent.

And remember—don’t be pressured into buying a new system, especially if it’s unnecessary. CSLB has issued warnings about upselling scams. Before replacing your system, read CSLB’s guidelines. For more tips on how to heat and cool efficiently, visit https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_hvac.

May is Mental Health Month

Do you know how it feels to be adrift in one’s own mind? According to Mental Health America, one in four American adults lives with a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition. May is Mental Health Month, which began more than 65 years ago by Mental Health America to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness. Home

Last month, in support of mental health wellness, Assembly Bill 89, authored by Assemblymember Marc Levine, (D-Marin County), and sponsored by the California Board of Psychology, passed out of the Assembly. The bill requires applicants for licensure with the California Board of Psychology to complete a minimum of six hours of coursework or applied experience under supervision in suicide risk assessment and intervention.

“Suicide kills twice as many people in California as homicide, but not all mental healthcare providers have the training they need in suicide risk assessment and prevention,” said Assemblymember Levine. “AB 89 will save lives by making sure that psychologists have the training they need to identify suicidal individuals.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data, suicide is the third leading cause of death for Californians ages 15 to 34, and the tenth leading cause of death for Californians of all ages.

Moreover, in Sacramento County, nearly 355,000 residents live with mental illness, but research shows that only one-third of those individuals will seek help primarily due to the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness. 

The amount of training licensed psychologists receive varies widely from as few as six hours, to over 50. Assembly Bill 89 will standardize the minimum number of hours of suicide prevention training required for licensure in the State of California. This training can be completed through coursework, continuing education, or through applied experience.

On May 24, join mental health advocates on the East Steps of the State Capitol  for Mental Health Matters Day 2017.  The Each Mind Matters coalition has come together to plan and host this event to better the lives of people with mental illness.

In addition, learn more about reducing stigma and discrimination at StopStigmaSacramento.org and show your support on social media by following the project on Twitter @StopStigmaSac and be sure to ‘like’ the project on Facebook . Engage in positive mental health messages using the hashtag #StopStigma.

To check the licensing status of a psychologist, please visit the Board of Psychology’s website at www.psychology.ca.gov.

To learn more about Mental Health America, visit their website at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing the Air on Speech and Hearing Disorders

Maintaining harmony in life is a balancing act—keeping that balance may be more challenging for those who can’t hear well or have speech problems. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has designated May as Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) in order to raise awareness about communication disorders, remove the mystery surrounding them, and let everyone know where to seek help.

Even just going through a normal day can affect your hearing:

 

Speech disorders occur when a person can’t produce sounds correctly or fluently, or has problems with their voice. Language disorders occur when a person has trouble understanding others (receptive language) or sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings completely (expressive language).

Fortunately, there are professionals who can help.

Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems? The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the Hearing Health Foundation reports that:

  • 40 million Americans have communication disorders
  • 6–8 million Americans have some form of language impairment

Audiologists provide care in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders for people of all ages. Statistics show that:

  • Approximately 36 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss
  • One in five Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear
  • Approximately 26 million Americans, ages 20–69, have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ Speech-Language, Pathology & Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board regulates licensees in both of these professions. To check on the license of a hearing aid dispenser, speech-language pathologist or audiologist, please visit the Board’s website at http://www.speechandhearing.ca.gov/

 

Safe Sandal Season Brings Awareness to Potential Dangers of Pedicures

Proper salon cleaning procedures are essential to avoid serious diseases

A pedicure can be a great way to pamper yourself, but did you ever think you could get a life-threatening infection from one? It’s possible if the salon isn’t using proper cleaning and disinfection techniques. Lurking in the depths of a foot spa basin may be bacteria, fungal strains, and other dangerous microorganisms that thrive in warm, moist environments. Any break in the skin—like insect bites, scratches, scabs or razor cuts—are gateways for those microorganisms to cause infections. Whirlpool foot spas must be cleaned and disinfected after each use, at the end of each day, and every week.

California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology licenses and regulates salons and the people in them that provide the services, and has established cleaning and sanitation procedures that are required by law for infection control.

Watch this quick video before your next salon visit—it shows what has to be done and why it’s critical (some graphic content):

The board also offers these pre-pedi safety tips:

  • Don’t shave or wax your legs 24 hours before a pedicure. If you have broken skin or lesions on your lower legs, don’t get a pedicure until they have healed.
  • Always verify the licenses of anyone working on you. Current licenses are required to be posted on the wall in plain sight. You can verify licenses through the board’s website and check to see if your salon or cosmetologist has been disciplined for rules violations.
  • Ask how the salon cleans and disinfects its pedicure equipment. You also have the right to see the pedicure cleaning and disinfection log. Wiping out the tub between clients isn’t enough. For example, in the case of whirlpool foot spas and air-jet basins, special disinfectant must circulate through the equipment for 10 minutes between patrons.

As for those “fish pedicures,” you won’t be finding Nemo in any California salons—the practice is illegal statewide. Among other reasons, fish can’t be properly disinfected between customers. Learn more here: www.barbercosmo.ca.gov/forms_pubs/publications/fish_peds.pdf.

To learn more about salon safety or to file a complaint, visit the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology’s website.

DCA Daughters and Sons Discover the Working World

The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) welcomed 18 young people for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

The kids got the opportunity to see where their parents spend their days working and learned how the department operates by visiting various offices for a behind-the-scenes look.

The day’s highlights included a stop in the mail room where they learned to sort mail, a visit to the Executive Office and a chat with Director Dean R. Grafilo, and a trip to the Office of Public Affairs where they helped create social media messages for the department.

One of the kids said, “We got to experience everything that DCA is responsible for – from distributing mail to enforcing rules.”

Some children were interested to see where their parents worked and enjoyed meeting their parents’ bosses. Others were impressed with the fact that the DCA building was the original Arco Arena and was once home to the Sacramento Kings basketball team.

Delilah, 17, called her visit “informational” and said it helped her to explore different career options.

Mark, 12, deemed the day “good” and said he learned a lot especially about how many professions the department licenses.

Kamari, 13, said he learned “lots of real world stuff that is essential to actual life.”

Who knows, some of these daughters and sons could one day become DCA staffers!

Got Drugs? Clear Them Out Safely!

Do prescription bottles fall out of your medicine cabinet every time you open the door? Do you even remember what some of them are for? Here’s a safe way to clear that clutter: drop them off on April 29 from 10 am to 2 pm during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

The event provides a free, safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired prescription drugs that might be hanging around in your medicine cabinet.

It’s important to get these drugs out of the house: In a recent survey, the majority of prescription drug abusers said they get their drugs from unsuspecting friends and family. Leaving medications around can be tempting for curious teens and anyone who enters your home.

The most heavily abused medications are prescription opioid painkillers, which many people are prescribed for pain—but they’re hard to get. Abuse of opioids can be devastating and can result in overdose and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said opioids accounted for 20,808 drug overdoses—78 a day—in 2014.

Abusers are not the only ones at risk. Seniors may mistakenly take discontinued medications they have in their medicine cabinets and young children could be accidentally poisoned by swallowing medications not properly stored out of their reach.

The Department of Consumer Affairs’ California State Board of Pharmacy encourages the public to participate in Drug Take-Back Days; to get ready for the event, consumers are asked to remove pills from bottles and put them into a plastic bag and seal it. Liquids should be kept in the original bottle. Items that will be accepted during Drug Take-Back Day include prescription and non-prescription medications, controlled substances, and veterinary medications. Items that will not be accepted include sharps or lancets, medical waste, illicit drugs, marijuana products, aerosols, or hydrogen peroxide.

During last year’s Drug Take-Back event, Americans turned in 447 tons of unused prescription drugs—the largest amount since the event began in 2010. At the 2016 Drug Take-Back, Californians turned in 32 tons of medications, which put the state in the No. 2 slot for most drugs collected. This shows that Californians are taking the issue very seriously.

To find a collection site, go to the U.S. Department of Justice website or call 1-800-882-9539.

A Cannabis Cure-All for Your Pet? Proceed With Caution

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Watching a loved one suffer is stressful. Medical cannabis users say the drug alleviates levels of pain, but could it also help your sick furry friend?

Although many pet owners are already using the drug as medicine, experts warn it’s wise to take caution.

“The problem today is that there is no scientific data that supports the benefits of using cannabis products on pets and therefore, the medical claims are not evidenced based,” said Annemarie Del Mugnaio, Executive Officer with the Veterinary Medical Board.  “Veterinarians are treating a higher number of toxicity cases where dogs have come into contact with cannabis and ingested enough to cause them to become very ill.  We really have no idea what’s in the hemp/cannabis pet products to be able to confirm their intended use or benefits and these products are not FDA approved or regulated.”

According to the DCA Veterinary Medical Board, veterinarians in California cannot prescribe medical cannabis because it’s deemed a schedule I drug and licensees are prohibited from writing a prescription or recommendation for the drug. A veterinarian may be subject to disciplinary action for violating state or federal prescribing laws.

Meanwhile, a growing number of companies are marketing cannabis products for pets despite questions over legality, and pet owners are giving cannabis edibles and topical ointments to sick pets.

Most of these pet products, which aren’t regulated, contain cannabidiol or CBD, a chemical compound found in cannabis that doesn’t get pets or humans high. They contain little or no tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the cannabis compound known for its psychoactive effects.

Medicinal cannabis for pets is being sold as pet medicine at many licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

The DCA is tasked to regulate both medical and recreational cannabis through the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation (BMCR) and is responsible for issuing distribution, transportation, laboratory testing, and dispensary (sale) licenses beginning in 2018.

Medical cannabis is legal in 28 states, however, it remains illegal under federal law.

For updates on prescription medical cannabis for animals, or to check the license and license status of a Veterinarian, please call the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board at (916) 515-5220, or visit their website at vmb.ca.gov.

For more information about the Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation, visit their website at bmcr.ca.gov.

 

The Disconnection Effect: Social Media and Young People

By design, social media connects young people to one another on a regular, even minute-by-minute basis. They see pictures and videos of others vacationing, having fancy meals, getting together for parties. What do these social media-driven images leave them feeling like? Oftentimes, disconnected and lonely.

A recent study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine focused on how U.S. young adults’ extensive social media use (more than two hours a day) can lead to feelings of isolation. The study assessed time and frequency of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. What they found was that the more young people were checking out others’ posts, the higher was their perception of social isolation.

Replacing face-to-face relationships with social media can also affect overall well-being. Research published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked into Facebook activity and its effects on physical and mental health, life satisfaction, and body mass index. The study reported that “the negative associations of Facebook use were comparable to or greater in magnitude than the positive impact of offline interactions, which suggests a possible trade-off between offline and online relationships.”

If you’re finding yourself increasingly lonely and even depressed, take important steps to improve your mental health. Cut down on social media use and consider seeking the advice of a professional. To check the license of a professional psychologist, visit the Board of Psychology website at www.psychology.ca.gov.

 

April is an Ideal Time to Focus on Health

The weather is warming up, making it an ideal time to get healthy by getting active outdoors and taking advantage of the in-season fruits and vegetables. As further inspiration, a slew of campaigns focusing on health management through exercise, diet, and regular health care are happening this month. Here are a few to get you started:

  • April is Defeat Diabetes Month, sponsored by the Defeat Diabetes Foundation. As part of the campaign, the Foundation is challenging participants to track how many activities and good habits they candevelop this month. The website www.defeatdiabetes.org has an activity calendar of daily suggestions to stay active and eat well; for example, plant your own garden, try papaya and asparagus, go hiking, visit your doctor for a check-up, and explore a wildlife refuge.
  • According to volunteer eye health and safety organization Prevent Blindness, more women than men have eye disease. In an effort to educate women about preserving their vision, Prevent Blindness has designated this month as Women’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month. From using cosmetics safely and wearing UV-blocking sunglasses to making regular optometry visits and learning about your family history of possible eye disease, there are many ways to take care of your vision. Find out more about the event and women’s eye care by visiting the Prevent Blindness website at www.preventblindness.org.
  • What is occupational therapy? Find out during National Occupational Therapy Month, founded by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The event recognizes the important role occupational therapists play in helping people return to everyday activities after injuries, assisting children with disabilities participate in school and social situations, and enabling the elderly to stay as independent as possible. Learn more about occupational therapy and the month long celebration at the AOTA website, www.aota.org.

To verify the license of your healthcare providers, visit the appropriate board’s website: Medical Board of California at www.mbc.ca.gov, Board of Optometry at www.optometry.ca.gov, and the Board of Occupational Therapy at www.bot.ca.gov.

Animals in April: Monthlong Events Highlight Animal Health and Well-Being

Spring is here, meaning a bumper crop of young animals. This influx of animals makes it the ideal time to help raise awareness about how to prevent animal cruelty, as well as how to use first aid to increase the odds of your pet’s survival after an injury.

Sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the campaign “Prevention of Animal Cruelty Month” seeks to inform Americans about the prevalence of animal cruelty and to urge reporting instances of animal neglect and abuse. Cruelty issues include dog fighting, puppy mills, animal hoarding, and horse slaughtering. As part of the campaign, on April 26, ASPCA will join California lawmakers and animal advocates at California Voices for Animals Day, an annual advocacy and adoption event at the state capitol. Stop by and show your support. For more information about Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month and California Voices for Animals Day, go to the ASPCA’s website at www.aspca.org.

April is also Pet First Aid Awareness Month, started by Pet Tech Productions. The event highlights the importance of knowing first aid for your pet. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, 25 percent of pets would survive if a first aid technique was used prior to emergency veterinary care. For more information, visit Pet Tech’s website at www.pettech.net. Contact your pet’s veterinarian to learn more about animal first aid. To check the license of a veterinarian, visit the California Veterinary Medical Board at www.vmb.ca.gov.