Regional News In Review - March 2013

Pedestrians get more time

People don’t walk quite as fast as once thought, so within the next two years, most Twin Cities area counties and cities plan to give pedestrians more time in a crosswalk, anywhere between two and six additional seconds to cross the street. Conversion of the signals will take a few years but it could be a lifesaver for people

In the United States, crosswalks are timed on the width of the intersection, assuming most people walk at about 4 feet per second. But, researchers looking at the aging population determined people need more time than that. In 2009, the federal government recommended states and cities slow crosswalks to a speed of 3.5 feet per second. More than three years later, most agencies are only now making changes, because the massive undertaking requires time and money.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) traffic engineer Sue Groth said her department is currently updating 1,300 traffic signals run by the state. MnDOT has reprogrammed around 200 signals so far, and hopes to finish the rest by the end of summer in 2013.

“The 3.5 feet per second will give people an additional 2 to 6 seconds depending on the width of the intersection, so we are pretty confident that is going to improve, but you do have to be intentional, we want people to push the button and be ready to move when the walk signal comes up,” said Groth.

In Minnesota, every intersection is considered a crosswalk whether marked or unmarked and the motorist is required to stop.

The state also launched a pedestrian safety campaign, Share the Road, just as 2012 started off with a surge of pedestrian accidents. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 876 pedestrians were injured or killed last year. (Source: KARE 11)

 

Man accused of faking Alzheimer’s

Hermantown resident James W. Smith was considered an effective spokesperson for those with Alzheimer ’s disease. In speeches and web posts he described how his work as a computer expert was derailed, when he was only in his mid-40s. He left a high-ranking job at American Express Financial Services and became an advocate for those with Alzheimer’s.

Smith lobbied state and federal elected officials and was named a “Health Care Hero” by KARE-11 Television. But he recently was found to have faked his symptoms and is awaiting sentencing for fraud.

Prosectuors stated Smith defrauded the government out of $144,293 and collected more than $300,000 from Met Life in disability payments. The fraud occurred between 2006 and August 2010.

Medical experts said it is rare for someone to fake the disease, but that it can be done.

Smith will be sentenced in U.S. District Couirt this spring. (Source: Star Tribune)

 

 

Bracelet helps find missing child

The Washington County Sheriff’s Department has been publicizing the benefits of electronic tracking bracelets. One was used last month to find a missing Lake Elmo boy. The 7-year-old boy, who wears one of the bracelets because of his cognitive disabilities, was found within about 45 minutes at a nearby house.

He was not in a dangerous situation, said Washington County Detective Sgt. Lonnie Van Klei, He had told the people he was with that his parents knew where he was. If not for the bracelet other agencies would have been called in to help search about 600 homes in the Cimarron mobile home community where the boy lived.

Washington County works with a company that provides the battery-operated bracelets for a fee. They are available for adults or children who are at risk of wandering or becoming lost, Van Klei said. When someone wearing the bracelet is reported missing, Washington County officers bring a tracking device to the area and follow the signal emitted by the bracelet. (Source: Pioneer Press)

 

 

Minnesota among states winning awards

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced the first recipients of State Innovation Model awards made possible by the Affordable Care Act. Nearly $300 million in awards will provide flexibility and support to states to help them deliver high-quality health care, lower costs, and improve their health system performance.

“As a former governor, I understand the real sense of urgency that states feel to improve the health of their populations while also reducing total health care costs, and it’s critical that the many elements of health care in each state — including Medicaid, public health, and workforce training — work together,” Sebelius said.

Model Testing awards will support Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont in implementing their plans for health care delivery system transformation. The six selected states will use funds to test multi-payer payment and service delivery models, including approaches already under way at CMS, such as Accountable Care Organizations, on a broader scale within their state. Through the State Innovation Model Testing awards, CMS will learn whether these new models produce greater results when implemented broadly and combined with additional state-wide reforms.

An additional 19 states will receive awards to further develop proposals for comprehensive health care transformation. (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

 

 

ASL petition drive continues

Activist Adrean Clark is continuing her efforts to have American Sign Language (ASL) recognized as an an official language. The Burnsville woman, 33, has placed a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website calling for recognition of ASL as an official language, including in schools. While some states already allow students to take ASL as a language option, Clark wants to broaden that. She also wants schools to stop treating ASL as a foreign language. She is waiting for a response from the White House.

Clark’s petition has more than 32,000 signatures .

Learn more about the petition and other efforts to promote ASL at www.alsfor.us Clark is deaf and grew up with parents who pushed her to learn to speak, rather than focus on ASL. She eventually convinced her mother to try using sign language,

Clark’s interest in ASL grew at the North Carolina School for the Deaf and Gallaudet University.

Clark is the author of seven books, including How to Write American Sign Language. Read about her work at www.adreanaline.com (Source: Star Tribune)

 

Woman accused of bilking the state

Lana Barnes, whose high-profile fight over her husband’s living will drew attention two years ago, is now accused of cheating the state out of funds for personal care attendant (PCA) services.

The 58-year-old from Scandia is accused of bilking the state out of more than $110,000 in PCA services for her husband, between 2007 and May 2010. Felony charges have been filed against Barnes. A pre-trial hearing is March 19.

Many of the time cards for PCA care indicate Barnes’ son was caring for her husband. The son was working out-of-state at the time.

Two years ago Barnes was accused of falsifying her husband’s living will. She battled with Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park over the level of care he should receive. Doctors believed she was making decisions that were futile. Doctors filed a court order to take away her ability to make decisions for him but Al Barnes died in February 2011 before the case was resolved. The fraud allegations are among many pursued by the state’s Medicad fraud unit. Nineteen criminal fraud cases were filed in 2001, with 14 convictions. (Source: Star Tribune)