Regional News in Review - February 2012

 

Texting helps suicide prevention

Minnesota’s suicide call center is getting as many cell-phone text messages from teens in a day as it used to get phone calls from teens in a month. That’s because Carlton County applied for and received a $1.44 million federal grant to roll out a seven-county texting hotline for suicide prevention.

“We looked at recent suicides, and we looked at what kids were doing prior to those suicides,” said Dave Lee, director of Carlton County’s public health and human services. “They were texting people or they were on Facebook.”

The texting hotline has already been promoted in all Carlton County school districts and the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School. The Carlton County Public Health and Human Services Department is in the midst of meeting with other districts, Indian reservations and mental health centers in St. Louis, Cook, Lake, Aitkin, Itasca and Koochiching counties.

When work is complete this school year, about 22,000 middle and high school students are expected to be in possession of both texting and telephone numbers to the state suicide hotline.

Northeastern Minnesota has one of the highest suicide rates among all ages in the state, Lee said, and data from a 2010 Minnesota Student Survey shows an “alarming rate” of suicidal tendencies and behavioral health issues among area youth. In St. Louis County, for example, eight freshmen and six seniors said they had attempted suicide in the last year, and 37 freshmen and 29 seniors said they had suicidal thoughts in the last year. In Carlton County, seven freshmen and three seniors said they had attempted suicide in 2010.  [Source: Duluth News-Tribune]


Thompson Hall wins historic status

Thompson Hall, the nation’s oldest social hall for the deaf, has won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.  Club officials recently learned of the decision, after it was published in the National Register. The quest for national historic status began several months ago. The national designation will help with preservation efforts for the historic structure, which is in the Merriam Park neighborhood of St. Paul.

Charles Thompson Memorial Hall was built in 1916 in St. Paul. The National Register of Historic Places designation recognizes Thompson Hall’s historical significance as a building that continues to serve its original mission as a clubhouse and civic center for the deaf community, and also recognizes the historical contributions of the community in establishing and maintaining this cherished building. It was a gift from a deaf woman, Margaret Thompson, in memory of her deaf husband’s desire to give the deaf community a place to gather and find strength in numbers. It was designed by a nationally recognized deaf architect, Olof Hanson.

Supporters hope that the National Register designation will help increase awareness about this unique “living history” property, and enable Thompson Hall to receive preservation and interpretation funding so that it can become more accessible to the community and the public in the future.

The Thompson Hall Board of Trustees, the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, Will Stark of Stark Preservation, Dan Pratt of ARCH3 and the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans (MCDHH) worked on the designation effort.  [Source: Minnesota Association for Deaf Citizens]


Wrong letter sent, say state officials

The controversy over changes to Special Needs BasicCare grew more complicated last month when state officials mistakenly sent out letters to some Minnesotans. The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) inadvertently sent out letters in January informing some people under age 18 that they would be enrolled in Special Needs BasicCare (SNBC) effective March 1, 2012. The notice was sent in error as DHS is not enrolling people under age 18 into SNBC for March 2012.

Individuals who were mistakenly sent a notice do not have to return the form included in the letter. The individuals who received the letters will continue to receive their Medical Assistance coverage through fee-for-service at this time. If and when a person under 18 becomes eligible to enroll in SNBC, a new letter will be sent.

State officials have apologized for the confusion. Anyone with questions should contact DHS. [Source: State of Minnesota]


Girl’s wheelchair stolen

A seven-year-old Minneapolis girl has a new wheelchair, thanks to a generous donor. But police are still looking for the persons who stole her chair last month. Moira Stomberg has cerebral palsy and can only walk short distances. She wears leg braces and can only be on her feet for about 20 minutes at a time.

“Any time the distance exceeds a block, she needs to be in her wheelchair,” Moira’s mom, Katie Copeland Stomberg, told KMSP-TV.

“If I go long distances, sometimes my legs will start to hurt,” said Moira. “Sometimes I get red marks on my legs.”

The girl’s chair was stolen from the family’s yard. Her father recently lost his job and family members questioned how they would be able to replace a $3,000 chair without insurance. The missing child-sized wheelchair is a black and grey Invacare. It isn’t motorized. Shortly after the family reported the wheelchair missing, a neighbor spotted three teenagers with a wheelchair near 45th Street and Sheridan Avenue. The wheelchair has not been seen since. But after stories about the theft were aired, donors stepped forward asking if they could help and a new wheelchair was purchased. Police would still like information in the case. [Source: KMSP-TV]

 


Man accused of swindle

A St. Paul man faces potentially thousands of dollars in civil penalties and possible revocation of his insurance producer license for allegedly befriending vulnerable senior citizens and encouraging them to invest more than $71,500 in fictional annuities. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s case against James Ronald Redden of JRR Enterprises LLC will be considered during a prehearing conference Feb. 16 at the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings. Redden faces eight administrative violations, including failing to repay a loan. He faces a potential penalty of $10,000 per violation, according to the department.

“Establishing phony friendships with impressionable seniors is exactly how many unscrupulous fraudsters get their foot in the door,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. Redden allegedly scammed Lloyd Abraham, an 85-year-old retired St. Paul police officer, now dead, and Norman Anderson, 88.

In October 2009, Redden persuaded Abraham to lend him $10,000. After he sold his mobile home and moved into an assisted-living center, Abraham then invested $40,000 from the proceeds of that sale into JRR Enterprises. Other neutral third parties or his family members weren’t consulted. Before he died in September 2010, Abraham’s family learned of the payments to Redden before his death in September 2010 and sought repayment, the department said. Anderson had sued Redden in October 2009 over the $21,500 in unpaid loans. That lawsuit apparently was settled and Redden paid Anderson a “substantial” sum, the department said.  [Source: Pioneer Press]


Well-liked teacher dies

A well-liked, veteran Minneapolis Public Schools special education teacher has died in a one-vehicle accident.

Minneapolis Roosevelt High School teacher Holly Brett died in a car crash in her hometown of Lakeville on January 20. Brett, 56, was killed when her sport-utility vehicle left the road, struck a tree and rolled several times.

The crash occurred after she’d left school for the day, said Roosevelt Principal Michael Bradley, whose school was closed Monday in preparation for a new semester the next day.

“There are a lot of students who are going to miss her,” Bradley told the Star Tribune. “She was very caring and really connected well with her students.” Brett started her teaching career in special education in 1993 at Barton Elementary in Minneapolis and moved to Roosevelt in 2008. Her family has asked that memorials be directed to the special education department at Roosevelt. [Source: Star Tribune]


County government service center is closed

The Hennepin County Eden Prairie Service Center, located at 479 Eden Prairie Center Drive, closed Jan. 20.

That means longer trips for service for some Hennepin County residents. The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, facing significant budget cuts for 2012, approved closing of the center as part of the 2012 budget.

The decision was made to close the Eden Prairie Service Center because it handles fewer transactions, and residents are served by other nearby service centers, said Kathy Schons, service centers division manager.

The closest county service centers to Eden Prairie are at Southdale in Edina and at Ridgedale in Minnetonka. The county also has service centers at the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, the Midtown Exchange in south Minneapolis, at Brookdale in Brooklyn Center, and in Maple Grove. For service center locations and hours, go to the service centers website—http://www.hennepin.us/servicecenters —or call 612-348-8240.

To save time, make an appointment online by going to the website. The service centers offer more than 40 services, including driver’s license duplicates, renewals and reinstatements; driver’s permit renewals; motor vehicle tabs, plates, titles and registration; birth and death certificates; marriage licenses and certificates; passports; Minnesota state ID duplicates and renewals; notarizations; watercraft, snowmobile and ATV registrations; hunting and fishing licenses and more.

In late January commissioners agreed to look closely at its remaining service centers. [Source: Hennepin County]


Changes in autism definition

Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed. The changes also might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services, a new analysis suggests.

The definition is under review by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. The proposed change would consolidate all three diagnoses under one category, autism spectrum disorder, eliminating Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) from the manual.

Tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. Rates of autism and related disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome have taken off since the early 1980s, to prevalence rates as high as 1 in 100 children in some populations. Many researchers suspect these numbers are inflated because of vagueness in the current criteria.

“The proposed changes would put an end to the autism epidemic,” said Dr. Fred Volkmar, director of the Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine and an author of the new analysis. “We would nip it in the bud – think of it that way.” But some families say that changing the criteria could block their children from receiving needed services.

At least 1 million children and adults have a diagnosis of autism or a related disorder, such as Asperger’s syndrome or PDD-NOS. People with Asperger’s or PDD-NOS endure some of the same social struggles as those with autism but do not meet the definition for the full-blown version.  [Source: New York Times]