Health

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Crossroads detox facility to shut down temporarily

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 9:21 PM

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting

The county's detox program, which monitors intoxicated people, allowing them to safely sober up, has had a wild ride over the past decade. Now, it's about to go offline (again), which will lead to overflowing emergency rooms.

Problems with detox date to 2009, when local mental health care provider AspenPointe abruptly shut down their detox program, slamming hospital ERs. Then-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa swooped in to help, replacing detox (often referred to informally as "the drunk tank") with a county program.

Maketa built a $1.76 million facility next to the county jail to house about 40 people who needed to sober up. The program — which was subsequently managed by various branches of county government — was funded money from local hospitals and the state. Then, in late 2017 detox management was handed over to Crossroads' Turning Points, Inc., a Pueblo-based nonprofit. The county said the move would allow for more extensive detox services.

Another benefit: Crossroads planned to move to a new location, freeing up the county facility to potentially help alleviate overcrowding at the jail. Sheriff spokesperson Jackie Kirby says the old detox facility could be used for “lower-classification inmates who aren’t a high risk.” But as of Jan. 15, officials hadn’t finalized plans.

The facility was supposed to be available to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the end of June, when Crossroads was expected to have finished renovating its new building at Interstate 25 and B Street. When Crossroads repeatedly ran into construction issues and administrative delays, the Board of County Commissioners voted to extend the deadline to Sept. 30, then Dec. 31, and finally Jan. 15.

Now, according to Leroy Lucero, Crossroads’ president and CEO, the organization has encountered additional issues that won’t allow it to begin operating in the new facility until early February. But the county didn’t offer another extension — so detox patients will have to go elsewhere for now.

“There will be a gap in services,” Lucero told the Independent Jan. 9.

Lucero says Crossroads notified UCHealth Memorial Hospital and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services that it couldn’t accept detox patients after Jan. 15. He expects most patients to end up at those hospitals’ emergency rooms or other community facilities, and El Paso County patients may be transported to Crossroads’ Pueblo facility on an “emergency, case-by-case basis.”
Sharon Cerrone, clinical nurse manager of emergency departments at Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Medical Center, says she was informed of the development on Jan. 9, and was preparing to call in extra nurses to deal with an expected influx of detox patients.

Crossroads did not tell Cerrone when it planned to resume operations in the new building, she says, just “that they’re having some complications with the renovation and they’ll let us know.”

“Once we increase our nursing staff, I think we’ll be fine,” Cerrone says.

UCHealth, on the other hand, expressed displeasure with the delay.

“Many of these patients do not require the high level of medical care provided in our Emergency Departments, but will be brought to us as the only other place to turn, placing additional strain on critical resources,” Mark Mayes, associate chief nursing officer for UCHealth Memorial Hospital, said in an emailed statement.

Local hospitals formerly shouldered more of the detox program’s costs (about a third of the $2 million budget in 2015), but Lucero says they now provide only a small fraction of funding. The program currently costs about $1 million, Lucero says. Most of that is covered by $792,000 in state detox funds.

Penrose-St. Francis told the Indy that it made monthly payments to the detox program, but could not disclose the current amount. UCHealth says it no longer provides funding for detox at all.

“We haven’t gotten enough financial support from the hospitals,” Lucero says. “... We’re hoping that by being able to have our own permanent location along with more beds, that maybe the hospitals will step up their financial support of these kind of services, because we take a lot of patients from the hospitals.”
Detox offered a place — other than the ER — for people to sober up. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Detox offered a place — other than the ER — for people to sober up.
The new facility will have 20 beds initially, Lucero says — the same number Crossroads operated before Jan. 15 — and will add another 15 beds soon after. The goal, he says, is to eventually get back to 40 beds, the county’s former total.

Julie Krow, the executive director of El Paso County’s Department of Human Services, which ran detox for a while, called Crossroads “a very good partner” despite the delays.

Transferring management of the detox facility to Crossroads was beneficial in part, she says, because it can bill Medicaid for services, which the county could not. Crossroads also has an outpatient facility in Colorado Springs and several residential treatment programs in Pueblo, allowing it to refer patients elsewhere after a short-term stay at the detox facility.

“As a longer-term strategy, having detox with a private provider that has that full continuum of care is much better for the citizens of El Paso County,” Krow says.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

El Paso County needs SNAP paperwork early due to shutdown

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 12:15 PM

Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado will hold a food distribution event Jan. 18.

Due to a federal government directive, state and local agencies around the country are sounding an urgent message to those in need of food benefits: Get your paperwork in before funding runs out.

Those in El Paso County whose food assistance cases are due for redetermination must submit documents by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, in order to be eligible for February benefits, according to a Jan. 11 statement from the county's Department of Human Services titled "Urgent Update to Food Assistance Program in Government Shutdown."

Normally that paperwork wouldn't be due until February, says El Paso County DHS spokesperson Kristina Iodice. But the federal government shutdown has left agencies around the country scrambling to let SNAP recipients know about deadline changes.

This shutdown, which has left nine federal departments and dozens of agencies without funding, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed or working without pay (including thousands in Colorado), is the longest in history. It began Dec. 21 when a stopgap funding measure expired, and President Donald Trump refused to sign new legislation to fund the government that did not include $5 billion for a border wall — a demand that Democrats have firmly opposed.

As of the morning of Jan. 14, there were about 2,000 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient households in El Paso County that needed to submit redetermination paperwork, Iodice says. The documents may be submitted online at http://colorado.gov/PEAK, by fax at 719-444-5139 or 719-444-8353, or in person at El Paso County DHS locations.

El Paso County DHS' main location at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road will stay open until 8.p.m. — three hours later than usual — on Jan. 14 to accommodate an increased demand for services.

SNAP funds for February will be distributed by Jan. 20, weeks earlier than normal, to those who have complete files. However, the statement notes that the county "cannot guarantee assistance" even if documents are received by the appropriate deadlines.

"At this time, there is no information available about March food assistance," the statement continues.

The directive to distribute funds early came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which announced Jan. 8 that it would utilize a provision in the last stopgap funding measure allowing certain payments within 30 days of the measure's Dec. 21 expiration date. It expects February SNAP benefits to cost around $4.8 billion.

The USDA also announced it will continue funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) through February, using some unspent funding from prior years.

Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado hoped to address another need created by the government shutdown — food for federal workers who haven't received pay since December. The food bank will host a free food distribution Jan. 18 from 3 to 6 p.m. at its Colorado Springs facility, located near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue, at 2506 Preamble Point.

"Please help us spread the word to families and individuals affected by the government shutdown, or anyone who is in need," Care and Share posted on Facebook. "It is drive-thru style. Volunteers and staff will load fresh produce, frozen and staple food items into vehicles. Everyone is welcome and will receive food!"

Lynne Telford, the southern Colorado food bank’s president and CEO, says Care and Share is looking at options to address an anticipated need from federal workers and SNAP recipients who didn’t turn in paperwork on time.

That could include using reserve funds to buy food, she says, “but it’s important that we maintain enough reserves for our ongoing operations.”

“We really are hoping that the community will once again rise when we have a community emergency, much like they did for Waldo Canyon Fire or Black Forest Fire,” Telford adds. “The community made sure we were able to take care of the people who were impacted.”

Care and Share is asking the community for financial donations in particular, says Joanna Wise, the food bank’s marketing and communications director.

“We’re always in need of food donations year-round, but when it comes to something that we have to react to quickly, monetary donations are more effective for us,” Wise says. “It saves us a lot of time, because with food donations we have to inspect it and sort it and repack it. When we purchase it, we’re able to eliminate that step so we can get it to our partners a lot faster.”
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Friday, January 11, 2019

Independence Center to host watch party for Disability Integration Act

Posted By on Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 12:33 PM

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People with disabilities who need longterm services are often forced to leave their homes for assisted living facilities because Medicaid won't pay for at-home care. Disability rights activists say that legislators in Congress can change that by passing the Disability Integration Act, set to be introduced in both the House and Senate on Jan. 15.

Disability rights supporters will be watching across the country — including at the Independence Center, a local nonprofit for people with disabilities.

The bill, introduced last spring in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and in the House by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, would require states, local governments and insurance providers to provide community-based services for people with disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization.

States and local governments would be required to work with housing authorities to ensure sufficient quantities of affordable, accessible, integrated housing where people can receive services while remaining in the community.

The list of Senate cosponsors includes Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner. Gardner, the latest cosponsor to sign on, was the only Republican to do so as of Jan. 8.

It's possible that pressure from disability rights organization ADAPT, the legislation's main backer, led to his decision. ADAPT supporters were arrested multiple times in Gardner's offices where they were pressuring him to cosponsor the legislation, according to a statement from the organization. And in November, the statement says, ADAPT had an airplane bearing the message “GARDNER SUPPORT S910 DIA FREE OUR PEOPLE!” fly around Gardner's Washington, D.C., office building. That evening, ADAPT projected the same message "shining like a bat-signal" on the front of the building. Gardner added his name a month later.

Last legislative session, all of Colorado's House representatives also signed on as cosponsors.

Neither the House nor Senate bill made it out of committee last session, but advocates are hopeful that this year, things will be different.

“The Disability Integration Act (DIA) is the next step in building a fulfilling and sustainable world for persons with disabilities," Becca Michael, advocacy manager at the Independence Center, said in an emailed statement. "...The Independence Center is excited about this legislation, as our mission is to work with people with disabilities, their families, and the community, to create independence so all may thrive."

The Independence Center, located at 729 S. Tejon St. will host a watch party Jan. 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to livestream the bill's introduction and discussion. The event is open to the public, and snacks will be provided.

"The Independence Center is hosting this watch party, not only because it is important for our consumers and employees, but because it is gaining momentum, and we want to make sure it makes it over the finish line," Michael said. "For now, we want to raise awareness of the legislation, and celebrate the effort!”

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Friday, January 4, 2019

Man who died days after finally getting off the streets is remembered

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 5:18 PM

Paul Gabrielson in his new apartment. - COURTESY OF RICHARD JOHNSON
  • Courtesy of Richard Johnson
  • Paul Gabrielson in his new apartment.

The day Paul Gabrielson moved into his own apartment, the first address to his name in years, he was glowing.

Within a few hours, the 50-year-old had put on music and decorated the space with a few spare belongings, recalls Richard Johnson, a relative who helped Gabrielson move.

"He was like a little kid," Johnson says. "He was so excited about this brand new home, his new start on life."

But two days after Gabrielson — who had been chronically homeless since at least 2013, couchsurfing and frequenting the Springs Rescue Mission when he wasn't camping outside — gained the keys to his own apartment, tragedy struck.

While the coroner's report isn't finalized, word is that an undiagnosed condition, possibly related to Gabrielson's alcoholism, took his life.

Gabrielson was a frequent patron at Westside Cares, a nonprofit that provides food and services for people experiencing homelessness. At a Dec. 20 memorial service for Gabrielson, the nonprofit's building was packed with those who knew and loved him: family members, friends who had lived with him on the streets, volunteers who'd felt appreciated by his kindness, and others who knew him in passing but felt the impact of his loving personality.

"We’ve had a lot of memorial services, but none as big as this," one volunteer remarked to Gabrielson's sister in passing.

It's not surprising, given the impression Gabrielson clearly left on the homeless outreach community. He received services, but gave what he could himself, too — like the Broncos cap he gave to Pastor Eric Sandras, who led the memorial service, and a beanie sported by Kristy Milligan, CEO of Westside Cares, as she delivered opening remarks. Gabrielson often helped serve meals at Sandras' The Sanctuary Church, Sandras says. And those he met on the streets recalled his habit of lending a helping hand when he could.

"Paul had a really big heart and he inspired a lot of people, whether to become Christian or be thankful for what you have," says Janeice Queen, Gabrielson's sister. "... He didn’t have a lot, but he did have a big heart, and we’re going to miss him."


At Westside Cares, Gabrielson took the VI-SPDAT housing assessment, which looks at a variety of factors to determine level of vulnerability and potential for placement in permanent supportive housing. After a long process involving heaps of paperwork and doctor's appointments, he eventually was selected for an opening in one of Homeward Pikes Peak's permanent supportive housing units — like "striking gold in this town," says Deb Mitguard, Westside Cares' director of volunteer engagement.

"We saw him really working hard this last year to create a different kind of life for himself," Mitguard says, "and of course it took him making up his mind about that, but it also took several people walking beside him and helping him just kind of jump through all of the hoops that had to be jumped through to get from here to there."

Gabrielson was enrolled at Pikes Peak Community College from 2010 to 2014, according to a PPCC spokesperson, but never got a degree. Johnson says he had planned to complete the remaining courses needed for an associate's degree and transfer the credits to Colorado State University at Pueblo in the summer or fall.

COURTESY OF WESTSIDE CARES
  • Courtesy of Westside Cares
He loved dancing and martial arts, Queen says, and had a job interview scheduled the last time she spoke with him.

"I don’t understand why it takes some people and doesn’t take others, the alcohol," she says. 


Through everything — decades of alcoholism, the deaths of two of his friends last year, and a recent beating that landed him in the hospital — friends, family and acquaintances agree that Gabrielson put others before himself, sometimes to his own detriment. And contrary to one stereotype of chronically homeless people, it was clear he didn't choose the lifestyle he led. That much is evidenced by his 2017 interview with Milligan for a video series promoting Westside Cares.

"I’m a wuss on the streets. I hate the cold," Gabrielson says. "I don’t want to be out there for anything. I just sustained some medical issues and a [traumatic brain injury] and I just had some problems that unfortunately I found myself on the streets, and you know, it can happen to anybody... Sometimes I get in dire straits. I just, I’ve gone through this before and I’ve learned how to survive and take care of myself and what have you, but not everybody knows how to do that. And I’m just trying to do my part to do whatever I can to help anybody that needs the help utilize the resources that are available."

Johnson hopes Gabrielson's journey out of homelessness will inspire other patrons of Westside Cares, even if it did end in tragedy.

"Folks working here can say, 'Remember Paul? How he made changes in his life? There's hope.'"

Francie Crary, a volunteer who helped Gabrielson with his housing assessment, says she remembers a visible change in his appearance the last time she saw him at Westside Cares. It was a few days before he would receive the keys to his apartment.

"He was floating," Crary says. "I mean, he was so full of light anyway, but he was floating. He was absolutely floating."

Milligan takes comfort in one outtake from the interview that she still recalls.

"
I asked him what gave him hope, and he said God gave him hope," Milligan says. "Which makes me feel better about losing him... He believed that he was wrapped up in God’s arms, and that’s what I would wish for someone at their last moment."

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

5 mental health tips for the holidays

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2018 at 5:43 PM

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Contrary to one myth that's been perpetuated in mainstream media, suicides don't increase around the holidays. In fact, November and December have the lowest monthly average suicide rates, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

But the holidays can come with unique mental health challenges.

"I think it’s reconnecting with family members when there’s unresolved issues," says Lori Jarvis-Steinwert, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Colorado Springs. "I think it’s just that whole notion of going home, wherever home is. And I think it’s also, we’ve created expectations around the holidays as this joyous time of year. And so if your life isn’t particularly joyous, for whatever reason...things that you might be coping with OK on a day-to-day basis, it’s just everything’s in stark relief during the holidays."

The Indy asked locally based mental health advocates and providers for advice on maintaining mental health this holiday season, and recommendations on where to get help. Here's what they had to say:

1. Try not to isolate yourself. It helps to spend time with healthy, supportive people — who may or may not be your relatives — during the holidays, says Charlton Clarke, director of health care services at AspenPointe. If you can't or don't want to be around others, Jarvis-Steinwert suggests scheduling time to do something you enjoy, like going to the movies.

2. Now's not the time to take a break from therapy, even if it seems like a good idea, Clarke says. "This is a time when you should really continue to engage with therapy, if that’s what you’re doing, or if people have never thought about therapy and they’re feeling depressed and the holidays are stirring that up, this is the perfect time to actually begin to engage with mental health services." (See a list of resources below.)

3. If your therapist will be out of town, make a backup plan, says Brenna Sturgeon, a licensed professional counselor and level 2 certified addiction counselor at Peak Vista Community Health Centers. That could include checking whether they have someone else on call you can reach, or asking them to recommend other mental health resources.

4. Know the numbers. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text "TALK" to 38255 to connect with Colorado Crisis Services' trained counselors for free, 24/7. TESSA of Colorado Springs has a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and their children: 719-633-3819.

5.  In crisis? Visit a walk-in center. AspenPointe operates two walk-in crisis centers for Colorado Crisis Services. One, at 115 S. Parkside Drive, is open 24/7. (Locations and hours below.) "That’s probably the best first step, is if someone feels like they’re in crisis and they don’t know what to do, to go to one of those places to try to start the process," Clarke says.

Resources around town (in alphabetical order):

AspenPointe offers counseling, therapy, medication services and substance use treatment at locations around Colorado Springs. Call (719) 572-6100 for more information.

AspenPointe walk-in crisis centers:

115 S. Parkside Dr. (Open 24/7)

6071 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 135 (Open 7 a.m.-11 a.m., 7 days a week)

Brain and Body Integration, located at 1115 Elkton Dr. #300, offers counseling, biofeedback treatment and medication management. Call (719) 357-6471 for more information.

Insight Services, located at 212 E. Monument St., offers individual and group therapy (including yoga therapy) and substance use treatment on a sliding fee schedule. Call 719-447-0370 for more information.

NAMI Colorado Springs, located at 510 E. Willamette Ave., offers free support groups and classes for those experiencing mental illness and their loved ones. Call (719) 473-8477 for more information.

NAMI Colorado Springs support groups (do not meet Dec. 24-25 or Dec. 31-Jan. 1):

The non-faith-based Connection Support Group meets Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m. on the second floor of First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave. A group for family members of those living with mental illness meets across the hall.

Thrive Connection Support Group, a faith-based group, meets on second and fourth Mondays from 6:30-8 p.m. at Woodmen Valley Chapel, 290 E. Woodmen Road, Room 115. A faith-based support group for family members meets in Room 114.

Peak Vista Community Health Centers offers counseling, therapy, psychological exams and psychiatric support at locations around Colorado Springs. Call 719-632-5700 for more information.

Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care, located at 2550 Tenderfoot Hill Street, offers grief support groups for both adults and children, and individual grief counseling for individuals. Call 719-633-3400 anytime for more information or to speak to a grief counselor.

TESSA of Colorado Springs, located at 435 Gold Pass Heights, provides emergency shelter, food, case management, counseling and victim advocacy for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault and their children. Call 719-633-1462 for more information or 719-633-3819 for the 24-hour SafeLine.
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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Texas ruling on Affordable Care Act won't affect your coverage, officials say

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 2:02 PM

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According to a federal judge in Texas, the Affordable Care Act should go.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth delivered a victory to conservatives Dec. 14, ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, and that the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act were "inseverable" and therefore "invalid." The ruling ended (for now) a months-long court battle between a group of Republican-led states who had sued the United States and a group of intervening Democrat-led states.

Colorado wasn't involved in the lawsuit. But state officials want residents to know that this decision won't affect them anytime soon.

"This decision will now be part of a long, drawn-out legal process, as it will be appealed and likely work its way to the U.S. Supreme Court," reads a statement from the Colorado Division of Insurance. "And the Trump administration is assuring the country that the ACA will remain in force during the appeals process."

(Those assurances came separately from the president's tweet.)


State officials also sought to reassure Coloradans with pre-existing conditions.

“I said it in June when this case first bubbled up, and I’ll say it again: Guaranteed health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is enshrined in Colorado law,”  interim Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway is quoted in the statement. “The Division of Insurance will continue to enforce Colorado law and maintain this important protection for our citizens."

Open enrollment for people who buy individual health insurance plans ends Jan. 15. Visit Connect for Health Colorado for more information and to enroll.

While many Republicans, including Colorado's Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Doug Lamborn, remained silent on the ruling, Democrats were quick to make their disapproval known. Sen. Michael Bennet issued the following statement Dec. 15:

“For years, Republicans have tried to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. After trying and failing over 70 times to repeal the bill without offering a replacement, Republicans added a provision to last year's disastrous tax bill to sabotage the individual mandate, providing the argument used in the Texas court's ruling.

“The ACA is not perfect, but it has provided health care coverage to millions of Coloradans and Americans with preexisting conditions and coverage for essential health benefits. Republicans should abandon their efforts to attack the ACA and instead work with Democrats to fix its flaws, so that we can provide quality, affordable health care coverage to every American.”

And the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonpartisan membership-based advocacy organization, issued a forceful rebuke.

“This unprecedented attack and irresponsible Republican lawsuit is the biggest threat for consumers in the Trump Administration’s relentless efforts to sabotage the ACA,” Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement, is quoted in the organization's statement. “This court case could strip more than 600,000 Coloradans of the health coverage they need, throw the insurance market into chaos, and leave our state budget in crisis."
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Christmas could land you in the hospital, study finds

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 1:54 PM

My brother ended up in the emergency room after slipping on wrapping paper. - COURTESY OF ANITA MILLER
  • Courtesy of Anita Miller
  • My brother ended up in the emergency room after slipping on wrapping paper.

About seven years ago, in the midst of Christmas cheer, my 6-year-old brother slipped on wrapping paper and hit his head on the coffee table. The deep gash wasn't serious, but it did require stitches — and evaporated everyone's holiday spirit. (To my now-teenaged little bro: Sorry, this photo was too good not to use.)

When my parents took my brother to Memorial Hospital North on Christmas Day, they were shocked by how busy it was.

They shouldn't have been surprised. Turns out, a lot of people fall victim to Christmas-related injuries, according to a forthcoming study in Advances in Integrative Medicine.

Researchers analyzed 2007-2016 data on product-related injuries from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a probability sample of U.S. hospitals with emergency services.

Over those nine years, emergency departments treated more than 173,000 injuries related to Christmas trees, decorations, presents and Santa impersonators.


More than 80,000 people were injured by "non-electrical decorations," and 36,000 people were injured by "electrical decorations."

Injuries related to Christmas trees, tree stands/supports and tree lights amounted to nearly 55,000. (In case you're wondering, people who went to the emergency room for a tree-related injury were eight times more likely to have been hurt by an artificial tree than by a real one.)

About 2,300 injuries came from Christmas presents. Sadly, 277 children were injured by Santa impersonators.

Almost all people who went to the ER for Christmas-related injuries were Caucasian, the study found. Injuries were most common among children, adults between the ages of 30 and 60, and seniors 70 and older.

Not sure if any of this would have made my brother feel better, but hey, now he's an internet celebrity.
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Fountain, Security, Widefield residents have higher-than-normal blood levels of toxic PFASs, study finds

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 10:03 PM

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Residents south of Colorado Springs whose drinking water supply was contaminated with toxic PFASs have high levels of the chemicals in their blood, according to initial results from a study from the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines.

Researchers collected 220 blood samples from people who lived in the Fountain, Security and Widefield communities for at least three years before August 2015. While drinking water in those water systems is now being treated for PFASs, used in Air Force firefighting chemicals, some residents were exposed to the toxic compounds for years before government agencies recognized their potential dangers.


(Wondering why we are now referring to the chemicals as PFASs, though we referred to them as PFCs in other stories? Read this from the Environmental Protection Agency.)

Little is known about the health effects of PFASs in humans. However, studies on laboratory animals have shown that high concentrations of certain chemicals can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, immunological effects and tumors, according to the EPA. The most consistent finding among human studies is increased cholesterol, with more limited findings related to cancer, thyroid hormone effects, infant birth weights and adverse effects on the immune system.


The initial results of the study revealed that study participants had blood levels of one toxic compound, PFHxS, that were about 10 times as high as U.S. population reference levels. Levels of this chemical were higher than those for residents in other communities that were highly exposed to PFASs.

Study participants had about twice as much PFOS, another chemical in the PFASs group, as the general population. Previous studies have linked this chemical to thyroid hormone effects in humans.


For study participants, levels of the chemical PFOA — which human studies have linked to cancer — were 40 to 70 percent higher than U.S. levels.

To understand what residents may have been exposed to before water suppliers changed sources or added treatment systems in 2015, researchers also measured PFASs in the untreated wells that communities used prior to that. Total PFASs in the untreated wells ranged from 18 to 2300 ppt.

The Environmental Protection Agency's current acceptable standard for drinking water is 70 ppt, though a June study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry indicated safe levels could be as low as 12 ppt.

Researchers plan to present more results in the first half of 2019, and will begin recruiting more participants for blood sampling in April.

The full presentation from the Colorado School of Public Health and Colorado School of Mines is available on the study website and embedded below.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"Quarry" homeless camp targeted for cleanup by City

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2018 at 5:27 PM

Dozens of campers living in the "Quarry" camp southeast of downtown must leave by Dec. 11, according to a Dec. 3. statement from the city.

The camp, a large portion of which encompasses land where nonprofit Concrete Couch plans to build its new headquarters, exploded in recent months as police conducted sweeps in nearby areas, Steve Wood, Concrete Couch's director, told the Indy recently.

The city and Colorado Springs Police Department, in partnership with local nonprofits, planned to conduct a Service Provider Outreach Day on Dec. 5 in hopes of providing campers with resources to help them find shelter and eventually exit homelessness.

While city officials and Mayor John Suthers have opposed self-governing campsites as a solution to homelessness issues, the Quarry has proliferated on private land for years. The recent move by the city is probably tied to the addition of 150 new low-barrier shelter beds at Springs Rescue Mission, which will open Dec. 10, the day before campers must leave.

"I can tell you that the private property owners have asked us to assist them in encouraging people to leave," says Lt. Michael Lux, who leads the police Homeless Outreach Team (HOT). "We were involved with this months ago, monitoring it, watching it, even though it’s not city property, it’s private property. But we had some issues with one parcel of the property that the attorneys for the city were working on contacting the owners that were not in the city. And they were working on that. So that led to us holding off and not to move forward with moving people until this time."

Many homeless people prefer to camp outdoors versus staying in shelters. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Many homeless people prefer to camp outdoors versus staying in shelters.
Recent publicity about the Quarry may have also served to draw further attention to the campsite, which is illegal per city zoning requirements.

Wood and his colleagues at Concrete Couch had hoped the site could serve as transitional housing for campers before the nonprofit opened its new headquarters. However, the number of campers on the site increased rapidly before Concrete Couch could close on the property, and Wood acknowledged even this summer that such a vision, which would involve imposing rules such as sobriety requirements and cleaning duties, would be difficult to see through.


At a town hall Nov. 15 to discuss the city's Homelessness Action Plan, at least one person who had lived in the Quarry was present. He and a handful of others asked city officials to allow campers to remain there legally.

"My question is why can’t the city allocate some land, a campsite, where maybe the [police Homeless Outreach Team] can come through, if your campsite is not clean you cannot be there?" asked Brandon Robbins, who called himself the Quarry's "longest-standing tenant."

"The shelter is not always for everyone," Robbins said. "It actually makes people’s anxiety worse, their mental illness worse, and you don’t get treated the right way sometimes, and so we say, 'You guys, we’re out. We’re going to go camp.' And yeah, there’s certain spots you can’t camp. Those are the people you need to take care of. But where we’re at we police ourselves in the best manner we can."

But city officials, as in the past, seemed unlikely to consider such a proposal.

Staff research shows "legal encampments that have been successful have been just as expensive, if not more expensive to run, as just adding shelter beds" due to security costs, replied Andrew Phelps, the city's homelessness prevention and response coordinator. "The reason that we’re adding shelter beds is that the services are already there. We have nonprofits in our community that are stretched thin. The case managers are stretched thin. They don’t have the time to get out to the camps, so it’s easier and it’s cheaper to just add the beds."

City Councilor Richard Skorman said he thought there "could be possibilities" for legal encampments in the future.

"Personally, I’m not opposed to small encampments that are well-managed," he said at the town hall. "I know they did this at Rocky Top [Resources] and there was 55 campsites there...It was very clean. They had their own security. They worked with the stormwater folks to build their latrines and the county took it away. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t look into that, but there is skepticism from some bad examples out there."

Lux says campers responded well to the outreach day Dec. 5. Around 30 received hepatitis A vaccinations, important in light of an increase in reported cases of the liver infection in El Paso County. Others, he says, connected with nonprofits that could help them find housing and other resources.

"I liked all the providers coming together," Lux says, "...and on the way out they said, 'Let’s do it again. If you get another large camp, this is the way to do it.' And I said, 'That’s great.' The city wants to do things the best way we can for all the citizens and this just seems reasonable.'"

While the city only requires police to give campers 24 hours notice to move, Lux noted that in this particular situation, with 100-plus campers, giving them more time was the "right thing to do."

Lux says that campers who are unwilling to move by Dec. 11 could be prosecuted for trespassing, but anticipates most will voluntarily leave.

Read the city's statement on Service Provider Outreach Day at the Quarry:

City, CSPD to Convene Service Providers Ahead of Quarry Camp Cleanup
Wednesday Morning Gathering Intended to Direct Campers to Shelters, Services

A week before the posted clean-up date for the “Quarry” camp southeast of downtown, the City of Colorado Springs, together with the Colorado Springs Police Department, have coordinated an outreach event aimed at connecting individuals experiencing homelessness with local non-profits which offer shelter, counseling, health care and mental or substance abuse assistance.

“We are fortunate in Colorado Springs to have a number of well-qualified agencies that are prepared to offer services that can make a difference,” said Andrew Phelps, homelessness outreach and prevention coordinator for the City of Colorado Springs. “I’ve said before that camping is not a safe or dignified option, nor is it a legal one. By connecting the campers at the Quarry with qualified service providers, we hope we can get people out of the elements and connect them with services that can actually set them on the path to permanent housing.”

Among the non-profits providing outreach on Wednesday are the Salvation Army and the Springs Rescue Mission, which are working together to add a combined 320 additional low barrier shelter beds. The Rescue Mission’s 150 new beds will open on December 10. The camp has been posted for cleanup on December 11.

Other non-profits participating are Aspen Pointe, Catholic Charities, Coalition for Compassion and Action, the Community Health Partnership, the El Paso County Department of Human Services, Homeward Pikes Peak, Peak Vista, RMHS Homes for All Veterans, Urban Peak and Westside Cares.

Also, in the wake of the announcement from the State Health Department, the El Paso Department of Public Health will be in attendance offering Hepatitis A vaccinations to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus, which has recently appeared in the community.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

UCHealth pays COS health foundation $675,475 in revenue sharing

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:27 AM

Memorial's stroke center includes an emergency vehicle to respond to stroke patients throughout the community. - PHOTOS COURTESY UCHEALTH MEMORIAL
  • Photos Courtesy UCHealth Memorial
  • Memorial's stroke center includes an emergency vehicle to respond to stroke patients throughout the community.
The city's lease of city-owned Memorial Hospital to UCHealth is again paying off, with a $675,475 revenue-sharing check issued to the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, UCHealth said in a release.

It's the fourth consecutive year UCHealth has issued such a payment since the lease began on Oct. 1, 2012. Revenue sharing totals $4.45 million over the four years. The money is used by the foundation to improve the health of the community.

This year's payment is lower than previous checks due to UCHealth's investment in the local system, including achieving the first Level 1 Trauma Center designation for a facility outside the Denver metro area at Memorial Central and obtaining certification as a comprehensive stroke center. (Despite Memorial having the only such stroke center label in Southern Colorado, the city has instructed emergency crews not to give preference to Memorial for stroke patients, but to also transport them to Penrose Hospital.)
UCHealth Memorial is operated under a 40-year lease that includes participation in providing training to medical students.
  • UCHealth Memorial is operated under a 40-year lease that includes participation in providing training to medical students.
In addition, UCHealth invested in Grandview Hospital to expand the innovative orthopedic care the hospital can provide, UCHealth said in a release.

“Grandview now offers advanced orthopedic specialties from a host of talented surgeons using state-of-the-art equipment," Joel Yuhas, president and CEO of UCHealth Memorial, said in the release. "While such investments in physician growth, new services and new facilities in fiscal year 2018 resulted in a decrease this year in our revenue-sharing payment, we are confident these investments will benefit the health of residents in southern Colorado for years to come.”

Revenue-sharing payments stem from earnings in excess of baseline percentages outlined in the 40-year lease, under which UCHealth also pays the foundation roughly $5.6 million a year, among other provisions.

From the release:
Growth this past year included:
• A 19 percent increase in hospitalized patients at Memorial Central and North
• A 39 percent increase in Emergency Department visits at both campuses
• A 25 percent increase in outpatient visits
• The addition of 70 physicians to the UCHealth Medical Group, improving access to primary and specialty care

Among the many advancements made in the past year:
• In April, the State of Colorado designated UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central as a Level I Trauma Center, making it the only hospital in southern Colorado to achieve the highest classification for trauma care.
• The expansion of Memorial Hospital North continues, with eight additional exam rooms, including two new trauma suites, recently added to the emergency department. Two new operating rooms were also opened, and a new 47-bed tower is scheduled to open to patients in February. The new tower adds additional bed capacity for maternity and medical/surgical services, as well as an expansion of the cancer center.
• In January, Memorial Central became the first hospital in southern Colorado designated as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, a classification given to programs that offer the highest and most advanced level of stroke care.
• A new state-of-the-art air ambulance helicopter was added to UCHealth LifeLine’s transport fleet to ensure patients throughout southern Colorado and northern New Mexico receive rapid and safe transport to needed medical services.
• Pikes Peak Regional Hospital in Woodland Park joined UCHealth.
• Grandview Hospital became fully owned and operated by UCHealth.

“UCHealth has advanced the level of care in Colorado Springs, and those are dividends that play out in multiple ways – in the health of our families that receive care there and via the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, which will use the funds to address crucial needs in our region and support organizations that encourage healthy living,” City Councilor Merv Bennett said said in the release. “This is not only a tribute to the entire team at UCHealth Memorial, but also a reminder to the citizens of Colorado Springs that they made an important decision in 2012 in choosing UCHealth to lead the hospital.”
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Monday, September 24, 2018

Where to get free flu shots in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 4:02 PM

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Last flu season, El Paso County Public Health recorded 489 influenza-related hospitalizations: a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

It's about that time again.

To stay out of the hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone 6 months and older should get an influenza vaccine, which can be life-saving for kids. It's best to get one by the end of October.

"When a person receives a flu vaccine, it causes the body to create antibodies,"  a statement from Penrose-St. Francis Health Services explains. "This process takes approximately two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection from this year’s anticipated strains of the flu virus. This is why people need to get a flu shot annually — the vaccination is based on the strains that research indicates will be most common for that year."

Getting a flu shot is especially important for members of high-risk groups, including children younger than 5, adults older than 65, pregnant women, nursing-home residents, and those with certain medical conditions, the statement adds. People from these groups are prone to complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections.

Try vaccinefinder.org to find locations near you with the flu vaccine. If you're uninsured or don't have vaccine coverage, never fear. Penrose-St. Francis Faith Community Nurses will stick it to you for free at the following clinics for adults and children over 4:

Saturday, Oct. 5 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Mission Medical, 2125 E. LaSalle St.

Monday, Oct. 15 from 2:30 to 4:30 pm. @ Dream Center Women’s Clinic, 4360 Montebello Dr. # 900

Wednesday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. @ Family Connections, 917 E. Moreno Ave.

Friday, Oct. 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Connections 4 Life, 6436 US-85, Fountain

Friday, Oct. 19 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. @ Ecumenical Social Ministries, 201 N. Weber St.

Tuesday, Oct. 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. @ Westside CARES, 2808 Colorado Ave.

Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. @ Grace Be Unto You Outreach Church, 3195 Airport Road

Monday, Oct. 29 from 12 to 2 p.m. @ Tri-Lakes Cares, 235 Jefferson St., Monument

Monday, Nov. 5 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. @ Mercy’s Gate, 4360 Montebello Dr. #300

Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ Marian House Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs, 14 West Bijou St.

Tuesday, Nov. 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. @ Iglesia Nueva Vida, 124 Delaware Dr.

Wednesday, Nov. 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Springs Rescue Mission Thanksgiving Dinner) @ Colorado Springs City Auditorium, 221 East Kiowa St.

On Sunday, Oct. 6 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., you can also attend the 9Health Fair at Mission Medical Center to get free flu shots, Pap smears, Body Mass Index tests, and foot screenings, as well as low-cost blood screenings ($20 to $40). Just make sure to register online.
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Friday, September 14, 2018

Three ways to help women beat ovarian cancer

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 2:06 PM

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One woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer every day in Colorado. And every 40 hours, the disease kills a Colorado woman, according to the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society.

The Southern Colorado nonprofit works to raise awareness of ovarian cancer, and helps the women fighting it pay for medical expenses, prescriptions, household expenses and health insurance deductibles.

Since there's no test for ovarian cancer (it's not covered in a Pap test), women's best defense against the disease is being able to recognize its symptoms, the Ovarian Cancer Society says. Those can include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urgent or frequent urination. Women experiencing these symptoms for more than two weeks may have early-stage ovarian cancer, and should see a gynecologist for further testing.

If the disease is diagnosed early, a woman's chance of survival is 93% — more than double her chances when the diagnosis is late-stage cancer.

Here's how you can show your support for the women fighting this disease for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and into the future.

1. Get a tattoo

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Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 15, Fallen Heroes Tattoo is donating $40 for every $60 tattoo to the Ovarian Cancer Society. On Saturday, the business will host an all-day party with lunch from Bird Dog BBQ, vendors and more to conclude its five-day Tattooathon event.

If you haven't scheduled an appointment, owner Brenda Brown says there's still a few times available through the 15th. "We are willing to stay as late as people are willing to come," she promises.

This is Fallen Heroes Tattoo's third year supporting the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society. Brown says the goal is to raise $15,000 — nearly double the $8,000 raised last year.

Call (719) 635-7431 to schedule an appointment with Fallen Heroes Tattoo, located at 524 W. Colorado Ave.

2. Get your exercise

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The Ovarian Cancer Society's 10th Annual Be Ovary Aware 5K Run 3K Walk is Sunday, Sept. 16 at America the Beautiful Park. Registration is $35 for adults and $25 for youth 16 and under ($40 and $30 if you wait till the day of).

There are cash prizes for the first, second and third place 5K winners in each category. Whether or not you beat out the competition, you'll get an event shirt, a runners' bag, a door prize ticket and post-race snacks from Wooglin's Deli.

The event will also feature a pre-run yoga stretch, door prize drawings and a memorial balloon release.

3. Rock out

Double Your Trouble will donate a portion of proceeds from its Oct. 20 concert at Stargazers Theatre to the Ovarian Cancer Society. - JOHN ODEN
  • John Oden
  • Double Your Trouble will donate a portion of proceeds from its Oct. 20 concert at Stargazers Theatre to the Ovarian Cancer Society.
Clear your calendar Oct. 20 for Double Your Trouble's Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute concert at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center.

Double Your Trouble consists of Randy Stephens on guitar and vocals, Bill Taylor on bass and Kevin McBride on drums.

Tickets are $15 to $20 plus fees, and a portion of the proceeds will support the Ovarian Cancer Society. Stephens says Double Your Trouble will also give away a Stevie Ray Vaughan replica guitar at the event.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and doors open at 7. Stargazers Theatre is located at 10 S. Parkside Dr.
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

FDA cracks down on teen e-cigarette use

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 9:46 AM

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on e-cigarette retailers, including a handful in Colorado Springs.

After a "nationwide, undercover blitz" of retailers around the country this summer, the FDA issued 1,300 warning letters and fines to businesses that illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarette products to minors, according to a Sept. 12 announcement. The statement called teen e-cigarette use a problem of "epidemic proportions," citing data that showed more than two million teens used the products in 2017.

Six businesses in Colorado Springs got warning letters, and one, Extreme Vape Pens, was issued a fine. (About 50 retailers earned warning letters or fines statewide.)


Colorado has the highest rate of teen e-cigarette use in the country, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than one in every four Colorado teens, or 26.2 percent, use e-cigarettes or products such as e-cigars, e-pipes, vape pipes, vaping pens, e-hookahs, and hookah pens. That's nearly twice the national average of 14.3 percent.

On the other hand, just 7 percent of Colorado teens use cigarettes, compared to 8.2 percent of teens nationwide.

FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb addressed the increased use of e-cigarette products among teens in strong terms, vowing to make business difficult for manufacturers that didn't work to solve the problem.

"In enabling a path for e-cigarettes to offer a potentially lower risk alternative for adult smokers, we won’t allow the current trends in youth access and use to continue, even if it means putting limits in place that reduce adult uptake of these products,” he is quoted in the FDA's statement.

The FDA issued letters to the top five manufacturers of e-cigarette products (JUUL, Vuse, MarkTen XL, blu e-cigs, and Logic), demanding within 60 days plans "describing how they will address the widespread youth access and use of their products."

If the plans aren't sufficient, the FDA says it might require manufacturers to take flavored products — which it claims are particularly appealing to teens — off the market. The agency is also reexamining its timeline for manufacturers to comply with strict new federal guidelines announced last year. 
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

ACLU thinks prison population can be cut in half by 2025 in Colorado

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 11:23 AM

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Colorado can and should cut its prison population in half by 2025, according to a Sept. 5 report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

The report is one of 50 Blueprints for Smart Justice from the ACLU that identify problems with mass incarceration on a state-by-state basis. The point is to open discussion about each state’s unique situation and find solutions that work.

Here are the main takeaways from Colorado’s Blueprint.

How we stack up:

Colorado’s prison population is 20,136 as of June, down from 23,274 at its peak in 2008. The state ranked 16th in the nation for the number of people incarcerated, or under community supervision like parole or probation, on a per-capita basis: 2,830 per 100,000 adult residents in 2015.

Colorado had the ninth highest incarceration rate for black people, and the fourth highest for Latino people, as of 2014.

Of those incarcerated, 18 percent were in private prisons, compared to 7 percent of the state prison population across the U.S. The number of people in Colorado’s private prisons increased 83 percent between 2000 and 2018.

Colorado ranked 11th in the number of people serving life sentences as of 2016.

The problems:

The ACLU’s report argues that harsh sentence enhancement laws, such as those for habitual offenders, and mandatory minimum sentences are driving mass incarceration in Colorado.

Although Senate Bill 13-250 helped reduce prison sentences for drug possession (14 percent of people convicted of possession were sent to prison after the bill’s 2013 passage, compared to 19 percent before), drug sentences still account for one in seven admissions.

Racial disparity is staggering. While black people made up 4 percent of Colorado’s adult population in 2017, they constituted 18 percent of the prison population. Latino people made up 19 percent of the adult population and 32 percent of the prison population. And American Indians made up less than 1 percent of the adult state population, but they represented 3 percent of the prison population.

The number of imprisoned women increased 58 percent between 2000 and 2018 — more than twice the rate for men.

Almost three-fourths of prisoners had issues with substance abuse as of June. While 37 percent of prisoners were considered to have mental health needs, only 5 percent were enrolled in mental health programs.

The solutions:

Colorado should start looking at addiction not as a crime, but as a public health problem, the ACLU’s report says. That means looking into alternatives to incarceration such as diversion programs and community-based treatment.

The ACLU recommends creating legislation that will reduce overcharging and disincentivize plea bargaining, and remove mandatory minimums or indeterminate sentences in some cases.

Colorado should decriminalize nonviolent conduct and reclassify nonviolent felony offenses to misdemeanors, the report says.

The report also stresses the necessity of implementing racial justice strategies, such as ending overpolicing in communities of color, eliminating bias in charging and plea-bargaining practices, eliminating wealth-based incarceration.

The ACLU proposes reducing the prison population by 9,086 people, which would save the state more than $675 million.

That’s no easy task, but here’s what it suggests:

1. Institute alternatives that end all admissions for drug possession.
2. Institute alternatives that reduce admissions by 60 percent for public order offenses.
3. Institute alternatives that reduce admissions by 50 percent for drug distribution, theft, other property offenses and fraud.
4. Institute alternatives that reduce admissions by 40 percent for assault, burglary and robbery.
5. Reduce the average time served by 60 percent for public order offenses, assault, burglary, robbery, drug distribution, theft, other property offenses, fraud, motor vehicle theft and weapons offenses.

Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, has made criminal justice reform one of his top priorities while in office, sponsoring a long list of bills that include revamping the Division of Youth Services and expanding restorative justice programs. Lee called the ACLU's Blueprint for Smart Justice "very well-written" and said it "proposed some practical, though difficult to implement remedies."

Lee, along with Republican Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, recently sponsored a bill to expand the use of community corrections as an alternative to prison — one of the ACLU's suggestions for cutting down the prison population.
The community corrections system in Colorado provides services to convicted adults who are “halfway in” or “halfway out” of prison. Community corrections, which includes housing and supervision, is either a “last chance” before being sent to prison, or a way for those leaving the criminal justice system to transition back into the community.

Lee's bill, which Gov. Hickenlooper signed in May, requires the Colorado State Board of Parole to submit a list of offenders for community corrections transition placement referrals to the state Department of Corrections, who will choose whether or not to make a referral. Community corrections boards, which then decide whether to accept or reject an offender, must do so through a “structured, research-based decision-making process that combines professional judgment and actuarial risk and needs assessment tools,” according to the bill.
Rep. Pete Lee, flanked by Rep. Tony Exum. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Rep. Pete Lee, flanked by Rep. Tony Exum.
Before the bill's passage, Lee says the state's community corrections program was often bogged down by a lack of communication. There were problems with the system that had "common-sense" solutions, he says.

For example, if a local community corrections board didn't want to accept a certain offender, it could just reject someone, sending the person back to the Department of Corrections and contributing to overcrowding, Lee says. The bill, he adds, helps ensure decisions are more "rationally based" by requiring a response about why someone was rejected, and keeping the door open for that person to be accepted in the future after meeting further requirements. Perhaps a local board would want an offender to get a GED so they could work in the community, for example.

But community corrections is just one piece of the puzzle. Lee believes another imperative is changing the bail system to reduce wealth-based discrimination, which can disproportionately affect minority communities. He says bail should be based on whether someone is a danger to the community, and whether they're a flight risk.

"Poor people don’t have bail, so they stay in jail, and the decision as to whether or not they should stay in jail is based on not having money," Lee says. "We have the local sheriff’s department asking for a tax increase to get more bed space in the jail because we’re reaching capacity. Well, we wouldn’t reach capacity if we had a better bail system, or non-monetary bail if we did a risk-based release system."

Is the ACLU's ambitious proposal doable? Lee says it will take bipartisan support, especially on issues such as reducing sentences. "A lot of the ideas that are recommended in that ACLU report have been proposed in the Colorado legislature," he says.

Democrats and Republicans have in the past found common ground on criminal justice reform. Gardner and Lee, for example, recently joined forces to lead a comprehensive review of Colorado's juvenile justice system, in partnership with the Council of State Governments Justice Center. They'll introduce proposed changes at next year's legislative session.

"The fundamental principle I operate from is that we ought to reserve the most expensive option, prison, for people who really constitute a risk to public safety," Lee says.

Lee is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in the House this fall, but is running for the state Senate District 11 seat, left vacant by departing Sen. Michael Merrifield. Gardner's term ends in 2021.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

20-year-old hiker missing in Mount Herman area

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 3:51 PM

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UPDATE: As of Sept. 10, the search for Kevin Rudnicki, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was still underway a week after he went missing in the Mount Herman area.

The search continues for Kevin Rudnicki, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wyoming who went missing Labor Day weekend in the Mount Herman area.

Rudnicki was last seen around 8:45 a.m. Sept. 2, and was known to be hiking in the Mount Herman area near Raspberry Mountain, says El Paso County spokesperson Jacqueline Kirby.

At first, it seemed normal for Rudnicki to be absent — he often camps and hikes in the area while on vacation from school, Kirby says. But concerns grew when he wasn't home by late evening. Kirby says he was expected back at school Sept. 3.

El Paso, Douglas and Fremont counties' search and rescue teams, the Forest Service, and private citizens have joined in the search effort.

Rudnicki is 5'9" and weighs 140 pounds, according to a missing poster shared on Facebook. He was last seen wearing a green T-shirt, khaki cargo shorts, a Wyoming baseball cap and tan military boots.

The disappearance is all the more disturbing a year after the death of cyclist Tim Watkins, who vanished last September while riding in the Mount Herman area. His body was found three days later near Limbaugh Canyon. The case is still unsolved.

It's unknown at this time whether foul play was a factor in Rudnicki's disappearance, Kirby says.

Any tips or information need to be reported to the Palmer Lake Police Department 719-481-2934.
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