Regional News in Review - April 2013

Pet owners get help during crises

Losing a pet is hard enough but surrendering a pet because of hospitalization is even harder. Carver County mental health officials have launched a program to prevent people with severe depression or other mental illness from losing ownership of their pets during times of crisis. In some cases, pet owners who had no one to care for a creature had to surrender beloved pets for adoption. But Shawna Vivant, who works on the county’s mental health crisis team, recently organized an anonymous foster system. Volunteers care for pets temporarily until they can be returned to their owners. The project is in cooperation with county law enforcement.

“I’ve witnessed people who got out of the hospital and had lost their pet,” Vivant told the Star Tribune. Law enforcement agencies and other professionals had no choice but to take pets to the pound. After about a week, animals in Carver County usually go to a rescue agency to be adopted. Pets with no one else to care for them would be taken when someone in crisis is a danger to themselves or others and needs immediate hospitalization, such as during episodes of acute psychosis or after a suicide attempt.

In other cases, hospitalization might be needed to evaluate someone or change their medications, she said. Some clients refused help if it meant surrendering and possibly losing a pet.

“For people that have mental illness, a pet can be their life,” Vivant said. “I work with people all the time who are suicidal and I ask them what’s preventing you from committing suicide and they say it’s my dog.” (Source: Star Tribune)

 

Family claims pool staff discriminated

Spring break meant many families went to indoor swimming pools but one Clearwater mother claims her family’s spring break wasn’t fun. Hatti Edwards contends that staff members at the Monticello Community Center discriminated against her disabled son. Center management disagrees, even though the management sees the situation differently. 

“Jeremiah will be 12 years old in June and I can honestly say I have never ever felt the way I felt yesterday,” Edwards told KARE 11 News. Edwards’ son Jeremiah was born premature. Jeremiah has cerebral palsy, is blind, is deaf, has a lung disease and a seizure disorder. He uses a wheelchair much of the time, and loves being in the water with a special “water walker” floatation device. The device helps him stay independent.

Edwards says lifeguards at the pool told her that her son’s device was blocking the way for kids to get by on a day the pool was crowded during spring break. Her family then moved to a deeper, more secluded area of the pool away from the crowds. Monticello Community Center Director Kitty Baltos said the center always strives to be inclusive and ensure that everyone has a good experience, and stressed that she tried to accommodate Edwards’ needs. Edwards disagreed and made her complaints known.

Monticello Mayor Clint Herbst called Edwards’ claims an opportunity to learn. He invited the family back to the community center to educate the staff on how to better accommodate people with disabilities. (Source: KARE 11 News)

 

Research targets muscular dystrophy

Using stem cell technology, University of Minnesota has sparked muscle regeneration in laboratory mice with a fast-moving form of muscular dystrophy, a disease that severely weakens muscles. Researchers hope their breakthrough in mice will one day lead to more effective treatments for humans who have the disease known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

 

The fatal degenerative disorder typically affects boys before the age six. Symptoms include muscle weakness, difficulty walking, fatigue and learning disabilities.

 

Researchers took a number of steps in their research, to correct the disease in reprogrammed skin cells. While results appear promising, researchers are cautious. The work didn’t cure ill lab mice but restoration of some cell function was seen. While many challenges are ahead, work will continue.

 

The University of Minnesota study is published in the journal Nature Communications. It was funded with grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Muscular Dystrophy Centre Core Laboratories, the Dr. Bob and Jean Smith Foundation and the Greg Marzolf Jr. Foundation. (Source: Minnesota Public Radio)

 

 

Man charged with prosthetics theft

Peter Stasica, a 52-year-old man from Coon Rapids was charged in March in federal court for allegedly stealing prosthetics and related supplies from the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Stasica faces as much as 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. He is alleged to have stolen items from his work and sold them online during 2011. Sale of at least 21 devices was traced to his eBay account.

Stasica was manager of Fairview’s orthotics and prosthetics department. He is also alleged to have solicited prosthetics from patients who weren’t using them. He didn’t tell the patients that he planned to sell the devices.

According to Fairview policy, old prosthetics were supposed to be donated to injured war veterans. But several prosthetic devices, including a lower leg, an arm and a knee, were found in a search of his home.

He was suspended without pay in the fall of 2011 pending the investigation. He had worked for Fairview since 1994 and was secretary of the Minnesota Society of Orthotists, Prosthetists and Pedorthists, a nonprofit industry group that promotes ethical standards. (Source: Star Tribune)