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Noted: Studies show suicide and altitude related 

Altitude a suicide factor

A new study that shows altitude is a risk factor for suicide adds to the understanding of El Paso County's high suicide rate, says Janet Karnes, executive director of the Suicide Prevention Partnership of the Pikes Peak Region.

The study, conducted at the University of Utah School of Medicine, reports suicide risk goes up by nearly a third at altitudes of about 6,500 feet above sea level, according to a report on the website psychcentral.com. After analyzing data from 3,108 counties in the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia, researchers concluded that people suffering from mood disorders, such as depression, might be at greater risk for suicide at higher altitudes.

Colorado, with an average elevation of 7,217 feet, had 15.8 suicides per 100,000 people, the seventh-highest rate, based on 2006 data. Nevada had the highest rate, at 19.6 per 100,000. El Paso County's rate averaged 17 per 100,000 from 2000 to 2008, according to the 2010 Quality of Life Indicators report released last week.

"People always want to know why, why, why," Karnes says. "It's one piece of the answer." But she says people shouldn't think living at high altitude means you're at risk.

The study can be found in the American Journal of Psychiatry. — PZ

Council approves Section 16

City Council has unanimously approved using Trails, Open Space and Parks tax funds and other monies to buy the popular west-side Section 16 open space from the state. The 640-acre property will cost $3.8 million, plus $321,000 for a 99-year mineral rights lease, and the State Land Board will give its final approval Oct. 8.

Great Outdoors Colorado awarded TOPS a $1 million grant toward the purchase. El Paso County, Palmer Land Trust, Manitou Springs, the TOPS committee and the Intemann Trail Committee have contributed a total of $253,500, with TOPS paying the remaining $2.9 million. — JAS

Extreme makeover?

Now that El Paso County owns the former Intel building at 1575 Garden of the Gods Road — closing was to take place Wednesday — the remodeling bill is a whopper: $19.7 million. That, on top of the purchase price of $22.13 million.

Part of the remodeling costs will cover work on the Corporate Ridge building, county spokesman Dave Rose says in an e-mail. The second floor is a shell — no walls, no furniture, concrete floors. "This space will be laid out to accommodate waiting rooms, examination rooms, laboratories, refrigeration for vaccines and the sensitive medical and test equipment required by the health department," Rose says.

Another portion of the $19.7 million will go to "repurpose" the current sheriff's training academy for the coroner's use, and the county office building for sheriff operations. There's no mention of costs associated with moving commissioners to Centennial Hall. The county plans to spend another $8.6 million for energy-saving improvements on nearly all county facilities, Rose says.

The Corporate Ridge building's price was dropped by $2.87 million after the county found problems with utilities and the heating/cooling system. — PZ

Penrose project performs

In January, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services invited Old North End residents to participate in a pilot program intended to improve their health. The Healthy Neighborhood Project, a free eight-month program, offered screenings and assessments with follow-up plans, coaching, classes and prizes for progress.

Of 289 who signed up, 203 completed the program, and Penrose is calling it a huge success. Participants lost 1,053 pounds and 68.1 waistline inches. The number considered "healthy" rose from 61 percent in January to 84 percent in August; those in the "moderate risk" category dropped from 32 to 15 percent; and those in high risk dropped from 7 to 1 percent.

"We're hoping to grow," Penrose spokesman Chris Valentine says. "It was such a successful pilot program ... but we're looking for funding sources." — JAS

Child-only plans may stay

Recently, Colorado health insurance companies were dropping "child-only policies" at a precipitous rate ("Preventive measures," News, Sept. 23) to avoid insuring children regardless of pre-existing conditions, as required under reform laws that went into effect Sept. 23.

The state Division of Insurance was concerned, and apparently, so were the insurance companies. On Sept. 23, a compromise was struck and emergency regulations were put in place that set up enrollment periods for child-only plans. The regulations are intended to prevent families from buying insurance only when a child is sick, then dropping it when a child gets better, and are expected to result in insurance companies continuing to offer child-only plans. — JAS

NAACP hosts awards gala

A big event for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is coming up. The NAACP Freedom Fund Community Awards Gala will feature Peggy Shivers and the Shivers Multicultural Ensemble at 6 p.m., Oct. 9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Drive. Tickets are $65 and include a president's reception, dinner, awards and music. To RSVP, or for information, call 475-7255. — JAS

Grants, grants, grants

Big-dollar grants have been flowing into the community. A few highlights:

• School District 11 received a $15.17 million federal grant from the Teacher Incentive Fund to implement a performance-pay program for teachers (bonuses based on student achievement). Ten high-needs schools will be affected: Hunt, Lincoln, Monroe, Queen Palmer, Twain, Wilson, Galileo, Swigert, Mitchell and Wasson. D-11 also received a $5.18 million federal grant from the Magnet Schools Assistance Program to continue to develop the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy.

• Harrison School District 2 received a $1.1 million grant from the nonprofit Daniels Fund, awarded because Harrison has instituted widespread reforms such as pay-for-performance, and because the district has raised student test scores.

• The Colorado State Library has been awarded a $2.3 million federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to open and improve computer facilities in libraries across the state, including the Pikes Peak region. Money will be used statewide — along with another $1 million provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, local libraries and community organizations — to purchase 692 laptop computers, 451 desktop computers, 69 computer stations that are accessible to people with disabilities, and to train library users in vital skills like computer use. — JAS

Aiding soldiers' transition

Soldiers, families and community members are invited to an evening of dialogue about the challenges of reintegrating soldiers from war to the home front, from combat to civilian life. Sponsored by Boulder-based nonprofit ONE Freedom, the two-hour session begins at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 5 at the City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St.

Holocaust survivor, author and psychologist Edith Eger will speak on transitioning from war to life after war. Other guests include Ramina Wilkerson, a Baghdad native who worked with the United Nations and was given political asylum in the mid-1990s, and Special Forces Iraq combat veteran A.J. Arango.

ONE Freedom's website says its mission "is to transform the growing national stress epidemic by providing educational programs that empower system-change and to research innovative methods of trauma recovery that improve self-mastery of stress." For information, see onefreedom.org. — PZ

Eye on energy

Want to find out more about what lies ahead for fossil fuels and renewable energy? Join the Energy Innovations for Our Future summit Oct. 14 at Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort, 3225 Broadmoor Valley Road.

A luncheon, which costs $30 and begins at 11:30 a.m., will feature Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte and Gary Krellenstein, J.P. Morgan's managing director of energy and finance for the corporate office. From 2 to 5 p.m., Catamount Institute will host a "community conversation" on Utilities' future energy portfolio.

Make a reservation no later than Oct. 11 by calling Shawn Dahlberg, 884-2832, or sdahlberg@csedc.org — PZ

Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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