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Mississippi's Official Website Overhauled

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www.ms.gov, relaunched Wednesday after its first major update in over a decade. The site serves as a gateway to an array of official partner sites, including 135 online services, 139 agency websites and 130 social media sites. The primary mission of ms.gov is to provide enhanced government information and service delivery to Mississippi residents, visitors and businesses. “Since I was State Auditor, I have pushed for stronger e-Government initiatives, and today’s launch brings government closer to the people it serves,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “This new site allows residents, businesses and visitors to easily access government services and information any time.” Members of the redesign team focused their efforts on improving the site’s usability and interface and used web analytics, market research and government web design best practices to set priorities for the overhaul. Interface advancements such as cached text size, print version presentation, multi-lingual translation and mega drop down menus are standard throughout the site. The second phase of the redesign is expected to launch later this year and will feature additional content enrichments and free mobile applications for smartphone users. In addition to an updated look and feel, the site offers robust functionality improvements: Live Chat: allows citizens to chat online with a member of the ms.gov support team Interactive Mapping: plots government and tourism points of interest, from state agencies to airports Mississippi Showcase: highlights citizen-submitted photos of Mississippi’s natural beauty and unique heritage Find It Here: enables citizens to search and instantly find government information using Google technology Search for Online Services: enables site visitors to find interactive services by keyword, agency or category Feedback: allows users to submit individual comments about the site from any page Social Media: connects users with social media outlets for the state and partner agencies Promotional Service Advertisements: promotes featured government services The improvements—valued at $250,000—were accomplished at no cost to the taxpayer through a public-private partnership between Mississippi Interactive, a subsidiary of NIC, and the State of Mississippi. Mississippi Interactive is the official e-Government solutions provider for the state of Mississippi. The company builds and manages interactive government services on behalf of the state and is a wholly owned subsidiary of e-Government firm NIC (EGOV). NIC Inc. (EGOV) is the nation’s leading provider of official government portals, online services and secure payment processing solutions. The company’s innovative e-Government services help reduce costs and increase efficiencies for government agencies, citizens and businesses across the country. NIC provides e-Government solutions for more than 3,000 federal, state and local agencies that serve 98 million people in the United States.]]]]> ]]>

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Health

MS Health Department emphasizes importance of flu vaccines

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(Photo by by LuAnn Hunt from Pixabay)

Seasonal influenza vaccinations are now available for children and qualifying adults at all Mississippi State Department of Health county health departments. Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months old and older as the best protection against the flu.

“We recommend that all Mississippians get their flu shots every year, but especially this year with COVID-19. We don’t want to risk overwhelming our hospitals,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers in a statement.

Byers said flu season can occur as early as November and as late as March in Mississippi, but usually peaks anywhere from December through February.

Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the ILI System, made up of health care providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH lab. State health officials use this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.

“We recommend getting vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccine is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65 and those with underlying health problems,” Byers said. “Flu vaccination is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.”

Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program is accepted for children’s flu shots. A list of all VFC providers can be found at www.HealthyMS.com/vfc.

Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches and fatigue. Most people recover from the flu without complications, but nationwide there are up to 200,000 hospitalizations from flu each year.

While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether individuals are vaccinated or not. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick and washing your hands frequently. Wearing a face covering in public places offers additional protection against the flu.

Please call your local county health department to make an appointment for your vaccination.

For Vicksburg and Warren County residents, the Warren County Health Department is located at 807 Monroe St. in Vicksburg, and it is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 601-636-4356 for more information.

To locate other county health department clinics or for more information on flu, visit the MSDH website.

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Purdue Pharma agrees to plead guilty and pay $8.3 billion regarding OxyContin

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Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin, the drug many say began the opioid crisis in the United States, agreed to plead guilty Wednesday to federal criminal charges in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and also agreed to pay $8.3 billion in fines.

The charges against the company stem from its marketing of the highly addictive drug and its role in the nationwide crisis that has killed more than 450,000 Americans since 1990. Purdue has agreed to plead guilty a three-count felony information charging it with one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement reaffirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multipronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”

The criminal resolution includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. For the $2 billion forfeiture, the company will pay $225 million on the effective date of the bankruptcy, and the department is willing to credit the value conferred by the company to state and local governments under the department’s anti-piling on and coordination policy. Purdue has also agreed to a civil settlement in the amount of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.

Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages to resolve its civil False Claims Act liability.

The deal does not release the company or its owners from further criminal charges, and the DOJ investigation continues. It also does not protect the company or its owners from other civil litigation. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Purdue and the Sackler family.

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors since 2018, said in a statement.

The timing of the deal suggests that the company wanted to settle under the Trump administration, believing it could get a better deal than with a Biden DOJ. Numerous state attorneys general have raised questions as to how effective the deal is as punishment for the Sackler family. Their $225 million settlement is pocket change for a family whose estimated wealth is at least $13 billion, much of it coming from sales of OxyContin diverted to family-controlled trusts and holding companies even as the company was under investigation.

“Purdue is doing everything they can to get this deal done in this administration,” Joe Rice, a negotiator for local governments that are suing Purdue, told The New York Times. “It’s advantageous to both sides.”

The company filed bankruptcy last year and will likely emerge as a new corporation once the dust settles. In the meantime, it’s unlikely that it will pay the entire amount of the settlement as creditors typically pay pennies on the dollar during bankruptcies. As of now, the DOJ is in line with other creditors.

“DOJ failed,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wrote on Twitter in a response to the news of the settlement. “Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Massachusetts has scheduled depositions next month against some Sackler family members. The family continues to claim it acted “ethically and lawfully” and that “all financial distributions were proper.”

Read about how opioid addiction has affected Vicksburg:
‘It was just kind of normal.’  A Vicksburg family struggles with opioid addiction
“‘This makes me feel better.’ A daughter’s story.”
‘That’s his nature.’ Opioids and violence destroy a military marriage

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Crime

VPD reports auto burglary and car crash

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The Vicksburg Police Department reports the following incidents for Tuesday, Oct. 20, and Wednesday, Oct. 21.

On Tuesday at 12:44 p.m. an auto burglary was reported at the police station. The victim said the theft occurred four days earlier, sometime Friday, Oct. 16, while the vehicle was parked in the 2100 block of Clay Street. A 9 mm Taurus handgun was taken. The vehicle had no signs of forced entry.

In a separate incident, shortly before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, a Vicksburg police officer observed a white Cadillac Escalade traveling at a high rate of speed on North Washington Street. After losing sight of the vehicle, the officer continued traveling in its last known direction until he located it. The Cadillac had crashed near the intersection of North Washington Street and Highway 61 North. The driver was transported to Merit Health River Region for treatment.

If you have any information on either of these incidents, please call the Vicksburg Police Department at 601-636-2511.

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