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Mental health bill approved by House

Compiled from staff and wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Olympia

The House approved a far-reaching, pricey mental health bill Thursday that would dramatically reform the state’s approach to mental illness and chemical dependency, which sometimes go hand in hand.

“This is a very aggressive bill, but one I feel is long overdue for the mental health and chemical dependency programs in the state,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle.

The House voted 73-22 in favor of the bill, which the Senate passed last month. Because the House amended the bill, it now heads back to the Senate for a vote on the changes.

The bill’s primary goal is integration of screening and treatment for mental illness and for drug and alcohol addiction.

Disease expert to speak at North Idaho College

Mankind is smart but can’t harness nature, which periodically proves its dominance with surprise natural disasters and devastating diseases.

Few, if any, people in the world know more about those diseases – AIDS, Ebola, Marburg, hemorrhagic fevers, for example – than Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Laurie Garrett. Garrett has traveled the globe and interviewed infectious disease experts and victims worldwide.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Garrett will share her knowledge with the public at North Idaho College’s Schuler Auditorium. Her presentation is free. The Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Medical Center invited Garrett as part of a new focus on preparing communities to prevent or mitigate potential disasters.

A preparedness grant from U.S. Health and Human Services paid for the visit from Garrett.

“Right now we need to take a deep breath, rethink how much we’ve scared ourselves to death, go through a list of priorities and see if it makes sense,” Garrett said Thursday. “We need to be prepared for anthrax and have hospital drills for terrorism. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing we’re ready for whatever nature throws our way.

“We still have a long way to go.”

The focus on terrorism has shifted U.S. dollars from public health programs that protect drinking water and enforce health standards in restaurants to bioterrorism preparedness, Garrett said.

“We’re well over $3 billion in spending for bioterrorism since 9/11, and the White House is actually proposing to cut the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) budget by 12 percent,” she said.

Police seek suspect in Walgreens holdup

Spokane Police are seeking the public’s assistance in finding a man who reportedly stole cash and a small alarm clock from Walgreens at Division Street and Empire Avenue about 1 p.m. Thursday.

He was described as a white 20-year-old who was about 5 foot 6 with a very pale complexion, said police spokesman Dick Cottam.

Witnesses said the man, who was wearing a jacket and a garden-type sunhat with a red tie under the chin, indicated he had a handgun and demanded cash from a clerk, then fled on foot, heading north.

Cottam said although the man indicated he had a gun, no one saw a weapon.

Anyone with information should call 242-TIPS.

Layoffs announced as Hanford site studied

The contractor handling construction of a nearly $6 billion waste treatment plant at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation announced plans Thursday to lay off 700 workers as the plant’s design is reviewed to determine whether it could withstand a severe earthquake.

Bechtel National already had announced layoffs of about 300 workers in the past two weeks. An additional 350 workers were laid off Thursday, reducing the total number of construction workers at the site by almost half.

The company had employed about 1,400 construction workers in March.

Another 350 employees not handling construction work also were to receive 60-day layoff notices. Bechtel employs about 2,400 such employees at the site.

“The waste treatment plant is being built to treat millions of gallons of radioactive waste left from Cold War-era nuclear weapons production.

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