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Boise, Idaho Falls and CdA vie for $1.5M mental health crisis center

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says a decision about where to build a $1.5 million state-funded behavioral-health crisis center will likely be within a week. Spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr tells the Post Register (http://www.postregister.com) that a committee is reviewing proposals from three cities. Idaho Falls in eastern Idaho, Boise in southwestern Idaho, and Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho are vying for the center that would serve as a safety net to treat at-risk mentally ill people whose symptoms often land them in hospitals or jail. Health and Welfare requested from state lawmakers $600,000 in startup money and $4.56 million to operate three crisis centers. Lawmakers earlier this year approved the $600,000 grant, but they reduced operations funding to $1.52 million, enough for only one crisis center.

Idaho reports first flu death of the season

Idaho has reported its first flu death of the season, an elderly south-central Idaho resident. “Our condolences go out to the family of the person who died from complications of the flu,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “This underscores how important it is for all of us to take precautions to avoid influenza infections. Now is the time to call your health care provider or local public health district and schedule an appointment to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Health & Welfare is urging everyone over six months old to get a flu shot; last year, 35 Idahoans died of flu-related illnesses. Click below for the full H&W announcement.

Two Idaho children die from flu

Two Idaho children have now died from the flu, the state Department of Health & Welfare reports, bringing the total number of deaths for the flu season to 21. The other 19 people who died all were over age 50. Last year, Idaho had no children under 18 die from the flu, but the year before, there were two, and the year before that, four.

“Our sympathies are with the families of all the victims, and especially with those grieving the loss of a child,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “Although influenza has hit the older population particularly hard this season, these pediatric deaths are a tragic reminder that influenza can be a very serious infection for all age groups.”

She said, “Influenza activity is still high, and as long as the virus is circulating in our communities, the best protection for you and your family is to get the vaccine. It is not too late to get the shot.” Click below for the full announcement from Health & Welfare.

Idaho flu deaths climb to 15 for season

Fifteen people have now died of flu in Idaho since Oct. 1, the state Department of Health & Welfare reports, all of them over age 50. “Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones because of complications from the flu,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “Influenza activity is still high, and as long as the virus is circulating in our communities, the best protection for you and your family is to get the vaccine.” Click below for the full announcement from H&W.

Idaho docks Medicaid contractor $3 million

Idaho is docking its payment to a Medicaid claim processing company, Molina Medicaid Systems, by $3 million because of the major problems the company had implementing its new system last year, the Associated Press reports; meanwhile, the state is still trying to recover nearly $10 million in double payments that were made to Medicaid-covered health care providers amid the chaos. Nevertheless, the state says Molina is improving and has made progress toward fixing the problems. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Bad News:Idaho’s divorce, abortion, suicide rates increase

TWIN FALLS — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s 2009 compilation of residents’ vital statistics shows an increase in negative aspects and decrease in positive aspects.

The report says the number of marriages fell almost 6 percent compared to 2008, while the number of divorces increased by about that amount. The Times-News reports that the compilation also found that the number of births in the state fell almost 6 percent while the number of abortions went up 10 percent.

Male suicide rates increased from 26 per 100,000 residents in 2008 to 30 per 100,000 in 2009. Among women, suicide moved from 12th to 10th among leading causes of death with 72 suicides. Almost 3 percent of Idaho’s deaths in 2009 were suicides.


Girl’s death in foster care prompts suit

The state of Idaho is responsible for the death of a Post Falls toddler, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Karina Janay Moore was 2 when she died Jan. 16, 2009, from injuries sustained 10 days earlier in her Post Falls foster home. 

According to police, her foster mother said the little girl fell down a flight of carpeted stairs. However, the Spokane County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide due to “blunt force” head trauma. 

Now Karina’s estate – including her biological mother, Samantha Richardson (right), her maternal grandmother, Karin Rogers, and her two siblings – is suing the state Department of Health and Welfare, two state employees, and the foster parents, Jeremy and Amber Clark.

The case was filed Dec. 30 in federal court. Roland Watson, Richardson’s attorney, said he also filed the case in state court because the claims fall into different jurisdictions.

“A child died and the explanations are just not believable,” Watson said. “I’m more than willing to take that in front of a jury.”

Read the rest of Alison Boggs' story here.

Past coverage:

March 15, 2009: Girl's mother seeks justice

Rabid bat attacks fisherman near Hailey

A fisherman on a tributary of the Wood River west of Hailey encountered an aggressive bat last weekend, and is now being treated for rabies after the bat tested positive for the fatal viral illness. It’s the second rabid bat of the season identified in Idaho; last year, there were eight.

The bat was aggressively flying around the man while he was fishing, and when he packed up to leave, he found it attached to his life vest, handled it and killed it. “Bats and other mammals can carry rabies, making it extremely important for people to avoid bats or other animals, wild or domestic, that may appear sick or are acting aggressive or in an abnormal manner,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, deputy state epidemiologist. “People should not pick up or touch any bat. People should call their health care provider immediately if they have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Medical therapy administered to people soon after a possible rabies exposure is extremely effective in preventing rabies.”

The first rabid bat found in Idaho this year was found in Shoshone County in March; here’s a link to the full announcement from Idaho Health & Welfare.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announces layoffs, office closures

In a move that’s expected to save $7 million, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare will lay-off 126 employees and close nine of its 29 offices.

“Hopefully things will recover,” said Tom Shanahan, a spokesman. “We’re worried about future cuts more than anything. We just don’t know what 2011 brings if state revenues don’t start picking up.”

Bonners Ferry is among the offices slated for closure, and although the St. Maries office will remain open, it won’t offer walk-in public assistance. The offices in Coeur d’Alene, Ponderay and Kellogg will remain open.

Why Project Filter ran out of money

Idaho’s “Project Filter” is now once again offering four weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy to smokers who want to quit, after the program was suspended in May and June due to lack of money. The start of the state’s new budget year yesterday put the nicotine-replacement program back in place with the new fiscal year’s funding. It’s a popular program started in July of 2008, authorized by the state Legislature through the Millenium Fund (tobacco settlement money) and operated by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. But the demand for it soared in late spring after a big hike in the federal tobacco tax. That, in turn, caused a huge jump in the number of Idaho smokers who wanted to quit, according to Health & Welfare - and the rest of the year’s worth of funding was quickly used up.

Jack Miller, program manager for Project Filter, said, “We know that there are many Idahoans who are serious about quitting smoking. Once someone makes that decision that today is the day to quit, we’re here to help.” The replacement therapy includes a free four-week supply of nicotine patches, gum and lozenges. It’s available at (800) QUIT-NOW or www.idaho.quitnet.com.

Study: Despite improvements, Idaho kids still going hungry

A new nationwide study of child hunger shows Idaho making two contradictory top-10 lists - one for the most improvement in rates of child hunger, and the other for being among the 10 worst for hungry kids under age 5. “We actually have improved from where we were - we were so bad,” said Kathy Gardner, director of the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force. State Health and Welfare officials are “a little puzzled” by the conflicting results, said spokesman Tom Shanahan. “We don’t have a good answer for it. … We may have been a little behind the curve, and we’re headed in the right direction now.”

The study, “Feeding America: Child Food Insecurity in the United States,” looked at hunger rates for children by state. It compared data from 2005 through 2007 to earlier data, from 2003 to 2005. It also, for the first time, broke out data for children under age 5. Gardner said the improvements Idaho showed in the study fit in with several bright spots for the fight against hunger in the Gem State. Idaho’s food stamp program, which she called “the front-line program for childhood hunger and family hunger,” is rapidly expanding, and on Monday, dropped its asset test for one year - potentially making an entire new population of laid-off Idahoans eligible for help. “Everyone once in a while we do something that’s very progressive,” she said. You can read my full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.