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Legislature approves funds for group homes, Alzheimer's units

The state House gave unanimous approval to a measure that will allow group homes for the mentally disabled and Alzheimer's units in adult care homes to tap into a $39.7 million state fund to compensate for the loss of Medicaid money.

The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.

Under federal pressure, the legislature last year changed how people qualify for personal care - help bathing, eating, and walking - that's paid by the government health insurance program.

Many people with mental disabilities living in group homes no longer qualify, and pay for special care for Alzheimer's patients is under new limits.

The bill allows payments to group homes and special care units from a special fund set up to compensate adult care homes for Medicaid losses until June 30. Group home owners, advocates for the mentally ill, and a new group called the N.C. Alliance for Alzheimer's Care want legislators to approve long-term solutions.

Prof: Banning salvia hurts drug research

Bryan RothA medical researcher says banning Salvia would hinder research.

Bryan Roth, a professor of pharmacology at UNC-Chapel Hill, is studying Salvia divinorum and its chemical derivatives to see if they can be of use for anti-psychotic medication.

He said that the herb, traditionally used in indigenous religious ceremonies in Mexico, acts on a different receptor in the brain than other hallucinogens such as LSD. By studying how it works, he hopes to find ways to treat Alzheimer's disease, depression and schizophrenia.

"Outlawing it basically brings research to a halt," he said.

Roth runs a psychoactive drug screening program for the National Institute of Mental Health at UNC. He said he's aware of at least four drug patents from Salvia-derived chemical compounds that have already been submitted, including his own.

Based on his research and other studies, Roth said the herb's active ingredient, Salvinorin A, is not addictive and leads to a dream-like state. Although a few cases have been reported of people becoming violent while using it, he said its effects only last about 15 minutes and typically do not lead to aggression.

Roth said many regular users of hallucinogens have said they do not enjoy the herb's effects and typically use it only once.

"Most people don't like it," he said. "It's just too intense."

Former marathoner stars in Perdue ads

Beverly Perdue is attacking Pat McCrory on stem cell research.

In the ads, Sarah Witt of Raleigh says that she hopes stem cell research will help her recover from paralysis. In one version, she says that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate's support of research gives her hope. In a second version, she criticizes McCrory's stance.

"When I hear politicians like Pat McCrory say he wants to ban embryonic stem cell research, I ask myself, how can he be against hope?"

Witt is a magazine reporter and avid marathon runner who developed primary lateral sclerosis in 2004, a disease similar to Lou Gehrig's disease. She helped start the Magnificent Mile, a one-mile race in support of research into a cure.

The ad ends with text that says "Pat McCrory: More extreme than you think."

In a press release, McCrory said he supports adult and amniotic stem cell research.

"My mother had Alzheimer’s and I watched her struggle with the disease for ten years," he said in a statement. "That’s why I support stem cell research at places like Wake Forest University. These scientists offer us hope that one day, families won’t have to suffer as my family has."

Adult and amniotic stem cells do not come from destroyed human embryos.

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