WLKY: Senate to delay vote on health care bill until after July 4 recess Tuesday, Jun 27 2017 

By Dan Stefano | WLKY Lacking sufficient party support, a vote on the Senate GOP’s health care bill will be delayed until after the July 4 recess, according to multiple reports. Two sources told CNN on Tuesday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who originally wanted a vote this week, relented so Republican leaders could make […]

Medicaid Rollback Could Make It Harder For Pregnant Women Seeking Addiction Treatment Monday, Jun 26 2017 

At stake in the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is whether pregnant women and new moms will be able to access treatment for drug addiction.

The GOP plan includes a gradual defunding of Medicaid expansion, including Kentucky’s, by 2024.

Pre-expansion in 2014, women making up to around $20,000 a year qualified for Medicaid — the state insurance program for low-income and disabled people — if they became pregnant. But 60 days after giving birth, women lost their coverage.

Post-Medicaid expansion, women making up to 138 percent of the poverty limit – around $27,000 for a family of three – can stay on Medicaid after giving birth.

And that detail is crucially important for the 22 women who are currently in residential and outpatient drug treatment at Louisville’s Freedom House.

“We are concerned that any reduction to Medicaid will have a direct effect on our ability to deliver healthy babies to our community and our ability to welcome women into treatment because they now have coverage under Medicaid,” said Jennifer Hancock, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-States, which runs the drug treatment programs.

Hancock said many of the women now in Freedom House’s programs have expanded Medicaid coverage. She said because of that, they’ve been able to rely less on private donations and more on reimbursements from Medicaid. Now, with the possibility of the expansion going away, Hancock is looking to the state for money to fill that potential gap.

Erika Ruth, an addiction psychiatrist at Freedom House, said most of the women there are recovering from opioid addiction. She said that recovery process can take years, and sometimes involves medication-assisted treatment to help wean women off. She recalled what it was like for clinicians and patients before the Medicaid expansion when they had a 60-day cutoff.

Lisa Gillespie | wfpl.org

Erika Ruth, psychiatrist at Freedom House, holds one of the babies living there while his mom gets treatment.

“For a lot of them it was, ‘how do we get you off this medicine in the next six weeks.’ And in my opinion that’s not the appropriate time to taper them and make sure they have all the coping skills to stay sober,” Ruth said.

Medications like buprenorphine can help pregnant women and new moms gradually come off drugs, like heroin, and kill cravings. But Ruth said in her experience, it has to be done slowly.

“We’ll go down two to four milligrams for the month, and then we’ll see if they’re stable,” Ruth said.

Although pregnant women could get coverage prior to the Medicaid expansion, the process of gaining it was more complicated, according to Jamie Daw, a women’s health researcher at Harvard University.

“Pregnancy-related Medicaid may be too late,” Daw said.

She said that’s because the woman first has to realize she’s pregnant, then sign up for Medicaid, and then find a doctor or substance abuse help.

“A lot of the benefits of treatment that could prevent substance use resulting in poor birth outcomes could have been addressed if they’d had coverage,” said Daw.

Gov. Matt Bevin last summer submitted to the federal government several changes to Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion. But if Republicans in Congress succeed in replacing the Affordable Care Act, and funding for Medicaid is phased out over time, it’s unclear how Bevin’s proposed changes and changes made by the federal government would play out.

Senate Republicans Alter Health Care Bill To Avoid So-Called ‘Death Spiral’ Monday, Jun 26 2017 

Senate Republicans have updated their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, attempting to patch a hole that threatened to destabilize the individual insurance market.

The original Senate bill, unveiled last week, required insurance companies to offer coverage to everyone, including people with pre-existing medical conditions. But there was no requirement that individuals purchase insurance. Critics said that created a perverse incentive for healthy people to go without insurance, only buying coverage after they got sick. Without enough healthy customers making regular premium payments, insurance companies would be forced to raise prices, driving more customers away — a situation sometimes described as a “death spiral.”

The revised bill attempts to solve that problem by imposing a penalty on those who don’t maintain continuous insurance coverage: People who let their coverage lapse for at least 63 days in one year would be locked out of the insurance market for six months the following year.

The change comes as congressional forecasters are trying to predict how the Senate bill would affect insurance costs and coverage. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its analysis of the bill early this week.

It’s not clear whether the threat of a six-month waiting period would be enough to keep healthy customers in the insurance market. The Affordable Care Act already includes a limited enrollment window when people can sign up for coverage, along with a tax penalty for those who don’t. Even with those provisions, many insurance companies have struggled to attract a good mix of healthy and less healthy customers.

The bill passed by House Republicans relies on a different mechanism to encourage healthy people to buy coverage. Those who don’t would have to pay a premium when they finally did sign up.

Senate GOP Health Care Bill Discussion Draft 

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Senate Health Bill Would Eliminate Key Programs In Louisville Sunday, Jun 25 2017 

If the U.S. Senate’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare becomes law, the Jefferson County Health Department would lose more than $1 million in funding for programs like stroke prevention and lead poisoning remediation.

And that doesn’t take into account the potential reduction in available treatment options if members of Congress succeed in rolling back Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky unveiled the bill — drafted by 13 senators behind closed doors — earlier this week. It would make fundamental changes to the health care delivery system, including a rollback of consumer protections that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It would also eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that everyone have health insurance.

The reductions to public health efforts in the legislation have received less public attention.

Jefferson County Health Department Medical Director Sarah Moyer said Congress needs to slow down.

“Let public health experts have the opportunity to weigh in before they move forward so quickly,” Moyer said.

The Senate bill would cut 12 percent of funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This money funds programs across the country designed to help prevent conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and to provide immunizations.

That funding also pays for lead testing. Every child 1-2 years old is tested for lead in their blood. And if levels come back elevated, the funding helps the Jefferson County Health Department to go to their home to find the source and replace it.

Moyer said the program is essential to identifying a simple problem that can have significant consequences later in life, including developmental delays.

“I would hope we’d find some way to keep it going,” she said. “We know that high lead levels leads to a greater chance of being incarcerated and not graduating high school.”

Medicaid Expansion Eliminated

The Senate bill would also roll back the ACA-driven Medicaid expansion by 2024.

More than 400,000 Kentuckians have gained coverage since the income threshold for Medicaid was raised to around $15,000 a year. And that means more people are able to access treatment for conditions like drug addiction.

Staff | wfpl.org

Syringe

Moyer said the health department has come into contact with a lot of those Medicaid recipients through the county’s syringe exchange, which has served 10,000 people in the past two years. The health department runs the program, and besides serving as a place to get clean drug syringes, it connects users to drug treatment.

Although the exchange itself isn’t on the chopping block, Moyer said without the Medicaid expansion, her staff won’t have many places to send people who want to get help.

“If Medicaid coverage is decreased, it’d be hard for us to refer them to treatment and it’d be more out-of-pocket costs for them,” she said. “And any stressor is a barrier for treatment.”

The bill also would let states eliminate requirements that insurance cover 10 essential health benefits under the ACA. Those include mental health and substance abuse treatment.

How The Senate Health Care Bill Could Disrupt The Insurance Market Saturday, Jun 24 2017 

Senate Republicans have little margin for error as they prepare for a vote this coming week on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Some lawmakers are already raising concern that the bill could aggravate the problem of healthy people going without insurance, driving up costs for everyone else.

“If you can get insurance after you get sick, you will,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told NBC’s Today Show. “And without the individual mandate, that sort of adverse selection, the death spiral, the elevated premiums, all of that that’s going on gets worse under this bill.”

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, tried to address that problem by requiring all Americans to have health insurance, or pay a penalty. But that so-called “individual mandate” is one of the least popular provisions of the law. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his colleagues are determined to get rid of it.

“We agreed on the need to free Americans from Obamacare’s mandate so Americans are no longer forced to buy insurance they don’t need or can’t afford,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday.

But the Senate bill preserves another, more popular, piece of Obamacare: the requirement that insurance companies cover everyone, even those with pre-existing medical conditions. Imposing a coverage requirement on insurance companies without a corresponding mandate for customers runs the risk of creating a very shaky insurance market.

“What you don’t want to have is a situation where you’re saying we’re going to have everybody, regardless of their health problems, come in, and then have all the healthy people exit the market,” said health policy expert Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute. “Because then the average cost of those who remain goes up really high.”

As premium costs rise, more healthy people drop out, which causes costs to rise even further. That’s the so-called “death spiral.”

The House version of the health care bill tries to discourage healthy people from fleeing the market by allowing insurance companies to charge a premium for those who don’t maintain continuous coverage. Senate staffers say they’re open to adding a similar provision to the Senate bill.

“I believe that the bill that the Senate will vote on, assuming they get to that point, will have some sort of mechanism to cause participation in it,” said former GOP Senate staffer Rodney Whitlock.

So why isn’t the continuous-coverage provision already in the bill? Whitlock offers three theories:

One possibility is that McConnell is worried the provision runs afoul of the procedural rules allowing Republicans to pass the bill with a simple majority vote. If so, he might be waiting until the last minute to introduce the continuous-coverage language, so Democrats have less time to raise the issue with the Senate parliamentarian.

Another theory is that Republicans are waiting for the insurance industry to demand the provision be inserted. That would allow the GOP leadership to show flexibility, while also adding credibility to the continuous-coverage mechanism.

Finally, Whitlock suggests, senators could be deliberately trying to create a rickety market, so states will be forced to take matters into their own hands.

“There are folks in the Republican conference who desperately want this to devolve to the states,” said Whitlock, who’s now vice president for health policy at ML Strategies, a lobbying and consulting firm. “So do I completely rule that out as a possibility of why you go that route? I don’t rule it out completely.”

The Urban Institute’s Blumberg warns that without a strong provision to keep healthy customers in the market, insurance companies will lean on states for permission to offer more bare-bones policies. That could leave some customers in the individual market with even fewer choices than they had before Obamacare.

“What will be available are policies that don’t cover a number of benefits that people are used to getting coverage for today,” Blumberg said. “They will have much higher deductibles than they are used to seeing. And as you get older, the coverage will be less and less affordable.”

AARP is already on record against the Senate bill, citing what it calls an “age tax” as well as cuts to Medicaid. The senior lobby is promising to hold all senators accountable for their votes.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Senate Republicans Reveal Long-Awaited Affordable Care Act Repeal Bill Thursday, Jun 22 2017 

Updated at 2:32 p.m. ET

Senate Republicans unveiled their long-awaited health care overhaul proposal on Thursday. The Senate bill, called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” would repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The broad outlines of it look a lot like the House bill, the American Health Care Act, which was passed in May.

In a lot of ways, the Senate’s bill looks like the House bill: it rolls back the ACA’s Medicaid expansion — making for deep spending cuts to that program, compared to current law. The Senate bill also proposes eliminating many ACA taxes, and the employer penalties associated with the employer and individual mandates would be repealed retroactively, dating back to the start of 2016. And like the House bill, young adults up to the age of 26 could stay on their parents’ health care plans.

Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, summed up his thoughts on the bill on Twitter on Thursday: “In broad strokes, the Senate bill is just like the House: Big tax cuts, big cut in federal heath spending, big increase in the uninsured.”

As with the House bill, the Senate proposal also allows insurance companies to charge older people five times more than younger people — under the ACA, that ratio is 3 to 1. That’s just one provision that could hit older Americans hard.

A small group of Republican senators has written the bill in secret in recent weeks, with many Americans and even some fellow Republicans eagerly awaiting details about what’s in the bill. After the bill was released on Thursday, protesters gathered outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Video from NBC showed police removing some of those protesters from the hallway.

Big changes to Medicaid

Some of the biggest changes this bill makes are to Medicaid, the entitlement program that provides health care to low-income Americans. In that sense, it looks like the House bill, which the CBO said would cut Medicaid by $834 billion over a decade (relative to current law), with a loss of 14 million beneficiaries.

Both bills roll back a Medicaid expansion undertaken under the Affordable Care Act. That law extended the program to some low-income Americans above the poverty level. The Senate proposal would roll back that expansion, though it would do so more slowly than the House bill proposes.

As with the House, the Senate also proposes giving states either a per capita cap on Medicaid spending or a block grant of funds. That’s a fundamental change; currently the program is “open-ended,” meaning funding increases as need increases.

But there’s another change on top of that. Those caps would vary based on the rate of inflation, and the inflation rate the Senate would attach to those caps is one that is lower than the inflation rate the House attached.

That might sound like a minor wonky change, but it’s not, says one former Medicaid administrator.

“That’s a big deal. It’s a big shift,” said John Corlett, president of the Center for Community Solutions who also served as a Director of Ohio’s Medicaid program. “It means billions of dollars less in federal aid to states for their Medicaid programs.”

Tax cuts for richer Americans

The Senate bill is also much like the House bill in that it would repeal most of the taxes associated with Obamacare (it would bump out the implementation of the so-called “Cadillac Tax” on expensive, employer-sponsored health care plans, from 2025 to 2026).

Repealing those taxes, as the Tax Policy Center reported in May (regarding the AHCA), would overwhelmingly benefit higher-income Americans. The taxes in Obamacare were largely progressive, as Kyle Pomerleau of the right-leaning Tax Foundation told NPR.

To one health policy expert, those tax cuts, combined with the cuts to Medicaid, mean the bill isn’t a health care overhaul.

“It is a tax cut bill, and they had to find a way to finance it, and Medicaid beneficiaries are going to be the ones who hurt,” said Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan Law School professor who specializes in health law.

A different tax credit system

One other big change this bill could make is creating a new system for who gets premium tax credits, and how big those premiums are.

For example, it cuts the upper-income limit that determines who gets premium tax credits. Currently, that upper limit is at 400 percent of the poverty level. This bill would limit that to 350 percent.

It also would determine those credits based on age and income — that’s a change from the House bill, which based credits mostly around age.

There are a few other ways the Senate bill mirrors the House bill. It bans the use of any federal funds for any health care plan that covers abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest or where the pregnancy puts the mother’s life in danger.

As of 2020, the bill also eliminates cost-sharing subsidies that help low-income Americans pay for their insurance.

The Senate’s proposal allows states substantial freedom in determining their own health care programs — even more freedom than the House bill allows for. Under the Affordable Care Act, states can apply for “innovation waivers” exempting them from parts of the law and allowing them to determine their own health care systems, to an extent.

However, there are strict rules in place stating that states getting those waivers must provide coverage that is “at least as comprehensive” as they would be otherwise, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services explains.

The Senate proposal greatly widens that loophole, saying that states can get those waivers, provided their alternate plans simply don’t grow the deficit.

 

Kentucky AG Investigating Drug Manufacturers’ Influence On Opioid Crisis Wednesday, Jun 21 2017 

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced on Wednesday that he is working with attorneys general from across the country to investigate whether drug manufacturers contributed to the opioid epidemic “by illegally marketing and selling opioids,” according to his office.

The action follows a suit filed in May by Ohio’s attorney general.

In Kentucky, there were more than 1,248 overdose deaths in the first half of 2016, a 25 percent increase from 2014.

“The single greatest threat to Kentucky is our drug epidemic,” Beshear said in a statement. “The crisis is killing our family and friends – this is the crisis of our times, and finding a solution requires everyone working together.”

Lawsuits have been filed against drug manufacturers and distributors in numerous other states and cities. Ohio’s lawsuit filed earlier this year is against Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon and Allergan. It alleges these drug companies misled doctors about the safety of prescription opioids.

Beshear’s office previously settled a lawsuit with Purdue Pharma over OxyContin. It provided $8 million from that settlement directly to 15 substance treatment centers throughout Kentucky.

From a different drug company settlement, Beshear’s office put $2 million toward expanding Rocket Docket programs that expedite drug cases and allow select defendants rapid access to substance abuse treatment.

Recently, Beshear joined a multi-state lawsuit alleging the maker of Suboxone, a drug used for treating opioid addiction, tried to monopolize the market.

Kentucky Lawmaker Proposes Limited Medical Marijuana Bill Wednesday, Jun 21 2017 

Some Kentucky lawmakers want the state to be the next to legalize medical marijuana, at least for end-of-life and hospice care.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, said Kentucky shouldn’t be the last state to legalize the drug.

“There are other states doing this, we know there are benefits to doing it, and we know we can do it in a responsible way that provides ready and available relief to a lot of people,” McGarvey said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing marijuana to be prescribed as a medicine.

Eight states and D.C. have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

McGarvey proposed a bill during this year’s legislative session that would have allowed physicians to prescribe marijuana for palliative or end of life care, and created a task force to study the issue.

The legislation didn’t get a hearing this year, but McGarvey said he’s hopeful it will in the next session.

“People right now are seeking out marijuana in Kentucky when they have cancer, when they have really serious illnesses, but they’re doing it illegally,” McGarvey said. “What we’re hearing from Democrats and Republicans, from physicians, from people across the board is we need to provide some relief for people who have really serious illnesses.”

Lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare discussed the proposal on Wednesday.

Rep. Kim Moser, a Republican from Independence, said that the time is right to discuss the issue.

“I think that pulling all of that research together and really understanding what we’re looking at scientifically is imperative,” said Moser, who also serves as the director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

Several lawmakers expressed reservations about moving forward with any type of legalization effort while the drug is still classified as a Schedule I drug at the federal level.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Democrat from Louisville, downplayed worries about medical marijuana, comparing it to the “right to try” bill passed this year by the legislature — it allows doctors to prescribe drugs not yet approved by the FDA in end of life situations.

Jaime Montalvo, founder of Kentuckians for Medical Marijuana, expressed opposition to the bill, favoring a scheme that would allow businesses to open medical dispensaries.

“If we regulated it and a business owner had say, $200,000 invested into a license before they even get a building, they’re going to protect that investment,” Montalvo said.

“So they’re going to prevent children from going into that business, they’re going to prevent people who are not registered from going into that business and they’re going to help society that way.”

A lawsuit was recently filed challenging Kentucky’s criminal ban on marijuana.

Nearly 80 percent of Kentucky voters support allowing medical marijuana according to a 2012 Kentucky Health Issues Poll.

Bevin Plans To Work With Legislature On Repealing Health Insurance Tax Wednesday, Jun 7 2017 

Gov. Matt Bevin can’t repeal a 1 percent tax he said was one reason to dismantle the state health insurance exchange before he was elected in 2015. So he’s planning to work with the legislature next session to remove the tax, which funded the now-defunct Kynect.

The tax was created to initially fund Kentucky’s high risk insurance pool back in 2000. When former governor Steve Beshear decided to go on its own to create Kynect under the Affordable Care Act, the tax then went to pay for its creation and maintenance.

“One of the arguments they were using was, why should everyone pay a 1 percent fee on something that only 90,000 people are using?” said Dustin Pugel, a research and policy associate with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

It’s true: Every Kentuckian who has health insurance pays a 1 percent tax that still goes to pay for Kynect. It’s no longer functioning to sign individuals up for coverage, but it still exists for small employers. Any of the remaining revenue goes to pay for Medicaid.

Amanda Stamper, a spokeswoman for Bevin, said the tax is written into law, so the legislature would have to repeal it.

“The Bevin administration will work with the legislature during future sessions to help evaluate whether or not to keep the Kentucky Access assessment in place,” Stamper said.

Republican state Sen. Ralph Alvarado said whether the tax is eliminated also depends on what happens to the Affordable Care Act. The U.S. Senate is currently looking at a possible repeal and replacement of the legislation that allowed Kentucky to expand its Medicaid program, under which more than 400,000 low-income Kentuckians have since gotten health insurance.

In April, the House of Representatives came up with a version that would have progressively phased out expansion.

“Assuming the ACA is still in place, we’re looking at looming for Medicaid costs, we’re going to have to find a way to cover those costs,” Alvarado said.

The state is also facing a $113 million budget shortfall, and the governor’s office has indicated that Bevin is considering cutting state spending or dipping into the state’s reserve.

That doesn’t bode well for the prospect of the legislature cutting the tax.

Jim Waters, president of the conservative-leaning Bluegrass Institute, said he wants the tax repealed if it’s no longer paying for Kynect. However, he acknowledges that might be a hard sell.

“Have you ever met a government official that told you that we don’t need more revenue?” he said.

‘Reel Recovery’: Men With Cancer Find Camaraderie At The Lake Friday, May 26 2017 

Robert Wilson is watching the water with a fishing pole in hand. This morning he’s only concerned with catching a fish. That, and taking the five pills a day that are an alternative to chemotherapy.

Wilson is at a free Reel Recovery Retreat in southern Indiana. Besides learning how to fish, it’s a chance for Wilson to talk about his cancer with 13 other men who understand.

For the last nine years, Wilson has been dealing with stage four prostate cancer. The disease costs a lot of money to treat, but for men struggling with it, the hardest part can come from the social isolation that sometimes follows. Wilson says he doesn’t really talk about it much with family anymore.

“They’ll say, ‘you in remission, you’re going to be alright, don’t tell anybody you’ve got cancer anymore,'” he says. “How you know? I get so mad, they think they know more about this than they do.”

Lisa Gillespie | wfpl.org

Robert Wilson (pictured right) gets instruction from his fishing buddy on how to fly fish.

Outside of this fishing retreat, most of the men cope with the daily activities they have to do to live: painful biopsies, hospital stays, chemotherapy sessions, dealing with insurance companies.

All that creates worry. And most of these men don’t have other male friends back home who have cancer or are cancer survivors. Wilson has been single since his diagnosis. He didn’t think any woman would want to have a partner who can no longer work. Before his diagnosis and treatment, Wilson was a floor technician, or the guy who rips up and puts down floors in hospitals, houses, wherever.

“I was a master of my craft,” he says. “But now, it’s hard for me to get down on my knees.”

That’s because the radiation treatment targeted his pelvis, making his bones ache, making it harder to walk. He’s now on disability.

For men like Wilson, all the worries just fester, says Michael Lubeach, who organized the retreat.

“They will withdrawal from their friends, and some of their friends withdraw from them, and then they commiserate and think that’s all there is to it,” Lubeach says. “It’s a macho thing, and we try to break that barrier down.”

Leo Link is 74, and had prostate cancer, too. That’s now gone but last summer, doctors took out a tumor in his left lung the size of a grapefruit. And now he might have cancer in his right lung. He’ll find out next week.

Link’s family has been supportive, and when he was in the hospital and too sick to see anyone, friends would sit in the waiting room and let him know they were just there.

Lisa Gillespie | wfpl.org

Leo Link is one of fourteen men at the Reel Recovery Retreat in Henryville, Indiana.

“I never get tired of giving testimonial with regards to my recovery; I never get tired of answering the questions,” says Link.

He considers himself lucky. Unlike chronic conditions that can slowly kill people – like diabetes and cardiovascular disease – sometimes cancer doesn’t take that much time. Link says that’s always on his mind.

“Just six weeks ago, I was sitting in church with somebody who had just gotten back from his sister’s funeral from cancer, and just making general conversation,” he says. “And about a week later, he wasn’t in church because he had stage three cancer. And within 30 days, he’d passed away.  And that’s not an isolated situation. My situation is — the recovery is more isolated.”

While the retreat’s days are full of fly fishing, the evenings are for conversations. Ted Larrison, a retired social worker, leads these talks, and says they help participants break down the social behaviors that are expected of men, even among family.

“Most of the guys are taught, don’t show pain, don’t act afraid, don’t cry and so, what are you left with,” he says. “That’s one of the powers of this retreat, because we say we’re going to lay those rules aside and talk openly.”

And that’s what participants say makes this retreat so valuable. Wilson says it’s a safe space to talk about their emotions, without having to worry about seeming weak.

And the 14 men here at the lake get it.

“I can relate to guys that are here,” Wilson says. “I can open up and talk to them, because they’re experiencing the same thing I’m experiencing.”

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