Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Importing drugs from Canada may be a pipe dream

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM

  • Shutterstock
Colorado’s effort to legalize the importation of drugs from Canada as a cost-saving measure for patients could be in trouble.

Canadian officials say they haven’t been consulted on the program, which also is being pursued by Florida, the Colorado Sun reports.

Our neighbor to the north could pass a law blocking prescription drug exports or add the drugs to its export control list, which would complicate Americans obtaining drugs from Canada.

Not surprisingly, PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry trade group, and the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, oppose it.

Even without those roadblocks, several steps remain for approval by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, including drafting rules, taking public comment and finalizing those rules.

On the other hand, the Trump administration appears to support creating rules for states to set up programs to import prescription drugs from Canada.
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Should you buy a Breathalyzer?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 4:47 PM

  • Shutterstock
Should you buy a Breathalyzer?

If you've ever asked yourself that question, now might be your best chance to answer in the affirmative. A device that measures your blood alcohol content can keep you out of jail — and more importantly, save lives — if you heed its warning before getting behind the wheel.

Plus, the Colorado Department of Transportation has partnered with BACtrack to offer Coloradans a 50 percent discount through September, or while supplies last, on personal Breathalyzer-type devices.

The BACtrack Mobile Pro device for sale is not necessarily cheap — $49.99 after the discount — but it just might be worth it.

I mean, think about the possibilities. Not only can you make sure you aren't too drunk to drive, but you can annoy all your friends at parties by forcing them to test their blood alcohol content before they leave.

State and local agencies across the state are conducting extra enforcement operations to catch impaired driving between Aug. 16 and Sept. 3. Last August and September, 44 people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers — accounting for more than 20 percent of impaired driving-related fatalities for the year, according to a statement from CDOT.

During last year's Labor Day DUI enforcement period, 936 impaired drivers were arrested in Colorado.

Colorado laws specify that a BAC above 0.05 percent can land you a citation for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), and a BAC above 0.08 percent equates to a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) citation. (If you have consumed any amount of alcohol, and appear impaired to a police officer, you can get a DWAI citation even when your BAC is below 0.05 percent.)

BACtrack's personal device integrates a police-grade device with a mobile app, and it looks pretty nifty. It'll even help you estimate how long it will take for your BAC to hit 0 percent. Check it out here.

Not in the market at the moment? The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility offers a "Virtual Bar" to provide estimates of what your BAC could look like after consuming different amounts of alcohol and food, based on your height, weight and age.

For example, if I took a shot of tequila right now, the Virtual Bar estimates that my BAC would be 0.068 percent — enough for a DWAI. But if I'd had some pepperoni pizza 15 minutes before drinking, it would be around 0.047 percent. (Probably still a little too close for comfort.)

If you're bored at work, it doesn't hurt to check out the Virtual Bar. And if what you find surprises you, maybe you should buy a Breathalyzer.
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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Rabies found in Rainbow Falls bat, impacted visitors urged to get help immediately

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2019 at 3:06 PM

Bats, like this one, can carry rabies. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Courtesy El Paso County Public Health
  • Bats, like this one, can carry rabies.

A bat with rabies was found at the Rainbow Falls Historic Site on the western edge of Manitou Springs, El Paso County Public Health reports.

Any people or pets who may have come into contact with a bat in the area are urged to immediately contact the Public Health Communicable Disease Division at (719) 578-3220. Vaccines are available for people who have been infected with rabies, a virus that can be fatal if allowed to progress to its later stages.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The first symptoms of rabies may be very similar to those of the flu including general weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache. These symptoms may last for days.

There may be also discomfort or a prickling or itching sensation at the site of the bite, progressing within days to acute symptoms of cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. As the disease progresses, the person may experience delirium, abnormal behavior, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and insomnia. The acute period of disease typically ends after 2 to 10 days. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive. To date less than 20 cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been documented, and only a few survivors had no history of pre- or postexposure prophylaxis.

Here's the full release:
El Paso County, CO – A bat found at the Rainbow Falls Historic Site near Manitou Springs was recently confirmed to have rabies, making it the 12th animal to test positive for the disease in El Paso County this year. People who may have come in contact with, or had their pets come in contact with, the bat are encouraged to contact the Public Health Communicable Disease Division at (719) 578-3220.

Rabies is a virus that infects wild mammals, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Squirrels and rabbits are not considered a rabies risk. The disease is more common in the summer months, and El Paso County Public Health urges people to protect their pets and families by taking the precautions listed below.

“We want to make sure that everyone remains safe around wildlife,” said El Paso County Public Health Communicable Disease program manager Kimberly Pattison. “People should stay away from animals that are acting abnormally, like a bat that is outside during daytime hours or unable to fly. Strange behaviors are indicators that the animal might be sick. The best practice is to always keep yourself and your pets at a safe distance from wildlife.”

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain and other parts of the central nervous system, causing brain swelling and damage, and is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear. Rabies spreads primarily through the bite of rabid animals, via infected saliva. Rabies can also be spread when saliva from an infected animal gets into open wounds, cuts or enters through membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Preventive vaccination is available for people known or suspected to have been bitten by a rabid animal. It is important for people bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal to contact their doctor immediately.
Rainbow Falls Historic Site is on the west side of Manitou Springs. - EL PASO COUNTY
  • El Paso County
  • Rainbow Falls Historic Site is on the west side of Manitou Springs.
Take these precautions to prevent rabies:

Vaccinate your pets against rabies by using a licensed veterinarian. Rabies shots must be boosted, so check your pet’s records or talk to your veterinarian.
When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash.
Keep cats and other pets inside at night to reduce the risk of exposure to other domestic animals and wildlife. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard, or on leash) during the day while outside.
Contact your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal.
Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals such as skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available – please do not leave pet food outdoors.
• If people or pets are bitten or scratched by an aggressive wild or unknown animal, call your doctor and report to El Paso County Public Health.
Bat bites can be difficult to detect. If you find a bat in your house and are unsure how long it has been there, do not release the bat. Contact Public Health at 719-578-3220.
• If you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat, contact the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region for options at (719) 473-1741.

So how common is rabies in our area? The Health Department provides these statistics:
Reports of Confirmed Rabies in El Paso County, Colorado (2010-2019)

2019: 12 (3 bats, 7 skunks, 1 fox, 1 dog)

2018: 67 (6 bats, 60 skunks, 1 raccoon)

2017: 28 (7 bats, 21 skunks)

2016: 3 (bats)

2015: 6 (5 bats, 1 cat)

2014: 10 (bats)

2013: 8 (4 bats, 2 foxes, 2 skunks)

2012: 3 (bats)

2011: 15 (5 bats, 1 fox, 9 skunks)

2010: 17 (8 bats, 4 foxes, 5 skunks)
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Officer-involved shooting update: Police release body cam footage

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2019 at 1:21 PM

A group gathers in front of City Hall Aug. 5 to protest the shooting death of De'Von Bailey. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • A group gathers in front of City Hall Aug. 5 to protest the shooting death of De'Von Bailey.

The Colorado Springs Police Department has released the body cam footage from officers involved in the Aug. 3 shooting of De'Von Bailey. WARNING: Graphic material.

CSPD OIS August 3 2019 from COS Police Department on Vimeo.

—————-UPDATE TUESDAY, AUG. 13—————

The Colorado Springs Police Department and El Paso County Sheriff's Office have committed to releasing the body-worn camera footage by the end of the week, in the following joint statement from Aug. 9 (emphasis added):
Following the Sheriff’s Office’s announcement on the pending conclusion of its investigation in the Devon Bailey case next week, CSPD anticipates releasing body worn camera footage from two responding officers at that time. The footage scheduled for release captured the moments leading up to, including and immediately following the shooting. As the releasing authority, CSPD has committed to releasing the footage only at such a time when it will not jeopardize or compromise the investigative or judicial process. We thank the community for its patience as we work through the process required to effectively investigate an officer-involved shooting.

New developments emerged in the death of De'Von Bailey, a black teenager shot by at least one Colorado Springs Police Department officer Aug. 3.

Mayor John Suthers released the following statement Aug. 6 (emphasis added):
The City of Colorado Springs and CSPD recognize the concerns of many citizens of our community following the officer-involved shooting of Devon Bailey on Saturday night. It is in the best interest of everyone involved, and our entire community, to ensure that the incident is fully and effectively investigated and an appropriate conclusion is reached. We know that there can be frustration with the time this takes, but we cannot compromise the investigation by failing to spend the appropriate time gathering the facts; that would serve no one.

We pledge that the City and CSPD will work cooperatively and diligently with the investigating agency, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, to ensure a thorough evaluation of the evidence, and there is a robust process in place to accomplish this. The evidence gathered by the EPSO will be provided to the district attorney who will review the evidence and apply the Colorado law regarding use of force by police officers. The DA can decide whether or not to bring charges or refer the matter to a Grand Jury to make the determination. If the DA decides not to charge an officer with criminal conduct, he is required by law to issue a public report explaining his findings. A Grand Jury, in its discretion, can issue a report concerning its decision.

A credible investigation and charging decision takes time and I ask the community to exercise patience as we allow the investigative and judicial process to work.

On Aug. 7, the Gazette published surveillance video that appears to show the shooting. In the video, a black man is seen running away from two white officers before he collapses and slumps forward.

A third officer picks up an unknown object from the ground and takes it to Bailey.

While the officers were reportedly wearing body cameras, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office will not release body-worn camera footage at this time, nor is it the agency that will release the footage, says Natalie Sosa, a sheriff's office spokesperson.

"Once we complete our investigation, we turn those findings over to the district attorney's office," Sosa says.

After the DA makes a decision about the officer-involved shooting, the police department could decide to release the body-worn camera footage, says Lt. James Sokolik, a police department spokesperson.
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Peak Vista receives $1.5 million from El Pomar Foundation for new Southeast clinic

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 3:58 PM

Peak Vista Community Health Centers received a $1.5 million grant from the El Pomar Foundation to help finance its new medical clinic in Southeast Colorado Springs.

The funding, to be paid out in three annual installments of $500,000, will help pay for extensive renovations for the Health Center at Jet Wing.

In other Peak Vista news, Dr. Lisa Ramey, the nonprofit’s former senior vice president of medical services, moved into a new role as chief medical and dental officer.

In addition to leading the medical, dental and behavioral health departments at Peak Vista, Ramey will “focus on effectively and strategically promoting the well-being of the organization to community partners for the benefit of all community members,” the nonprofit noted in a statement.
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Thursday, August 8, 2019

El Paso County received more than 125 million prescription opioid pills in seven years, Washington Post database shows

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 8:38 AM

  • Scotyard via Shutterstock
Last month, The Washington Post published a trove of federal data on opioids on its website, making the data accessible through an interactive database.

"The Washington Post sifted through nearly 380 million transactions from 2006 through 2012 that are detailed in the [Drug Enforcement Administration’s] database and analyzed shipments of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, which account for three-quarters of the total opioid pill shipments to pharmacies," the national news publication explains.

The database breaks down by state and county the amount of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills shipped in those seven years — a timeframe within which, the Post notes, prescription opioids led to the deaths of almost 100,000 people.

(While a figure for El Paso County in that same timeframe was not immediately available online, opioids claimed the lives of 78 people in the county in 2018, and 92 the year prior.)

The database also includes data on the largest suppliers, and the pharmacies that received the largest numbers of pills.

The Post found that three companies manufactured about 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, Actavis Pharma and Par Pharmaceutical.

We reviewed the Post's data for Colorado and included some of the findings below.

  • Colorado pharmacies received 1,022,073,725 prescription pain pills between 2006 and 2012. Of those, 46 percent were manufactured by SpecGx LLC, a subsidiary of global pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt.

  • The Omnicare of New York pharmacy in Golden received the highest number of pills in the state.

  • In El Paso County, pharmacies received 125,820,253 pills — enough for 30 pills per person, per year. About 44 percent of those came from Actavis Pharma Inc., a generic drug manufacturer that later merged with Allergan, a branded drug company, in one of the largest pharmaceutical deals of all time.

  • Walgreen Co. received more pills than any other distributor in the county.

How does El Paso County compare to other, similarly sized counties in Colorado? Denver County, though it has a similar population, received fewer pills than we did — 76,643,537 prescription pain pills, or an average of 18 per person, per year.

In Arapahoe County (the state's third-largest county, after Denver and El Paso), distributors received 99,985,887 pills, or 25 per person, per year.

Pueblo County, which has less than a third of Arapahoe County's population, received 74,629,205 prescription pain pills, or 68 pills per person, per year.

The chart below shows some of the data for Colorado's 10 largest counties. Visit The Washington Post's online database to see data for other counties, and to compare Colorado with the rest of the country.

More than 1,600 cities, counties, states, Native American tribes, labor unions and other entities have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, seeking payback for what they call fraudulent and deceptive marketing that sparked the opioid crisis.

Former state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in Denver District Court last year, and her successor, Phil Weiser, has furthered the state's role in that lawsuit.

Besides Colorado’s lawsuit and others filed in state courts, hundreds more seek compensation in a multi-district federal lawsuit overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. Colorado plaintiffs involved in that case include Huerfano, Pueblo, Jefferson, Conejos and Adams counties, and the cities of Lakewood, Thornton and Brighton.

In El Paso County, however, county commissioners elected to not pursue damages for lives ruined or stolen by addictive painkillers.

That's despite the fact that County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly estimated in April 2018 that his office alone had spent $219,810 in 2017 for autopsies conducted on 102 people whose deaths were related to opioids.
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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Independence Center tackles accessibility at the dentist

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 2:30 PM

The Independence Center plans to gift accessible equipment to dental offices. - COURTESY OF VERSATILT
  • Courtesy of Versatilt
  • The Independence Center plans to gift accessible equipment to dental offices.
About a year ago, The Independence Center, a nonprofit serving people with disabilities in Colorado Springs, announced it was accepting nominations for primary care providers who should have accessible exam tables and lifts gifted to them.

The nonprofit received 23 nominations last year from Medicaid and Medicare recipients across the region. It gifted tables and lifts to nine practices, and portable hearing systems to three.

Now, The Independence Center hopes to continue its efforts by investing another $75,000 from its IC Fund into health care.

"We're planning to work with dental health care providers to expand accessible dental services here in the Pikes Peak region," CEO Patricia Yeager announced at the nonprofit's annual ADA Celebration Luncheon, celebrating the 29th anniversary of the Americans Disabilities Act.

Medical masks can be designed to help deaf and hard-of-hearing patients read lips. - COURTESY OF THE INDEPENDENCE CENTER
  • Courtesy of the Independence Center
  • Medical masks can be designed to help deaf and hard-of-hearing patients read lips.
The Independence Center did its research to figure out how to improve accessibility at dental offices.

The nonprofit conducted a study this spring to solicit dental care feedback from local participants with disabilities. Feedback included concerns that affect care, including anxiety, autism, blindness and low vision, deafness, mobility issues, chemical sensitivities and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Of the 39 respondents, 24 percent said they did not have access to effective communication at the dentist, "either because they did not have an American Sign Language interpreter or because while their providers were wearing facial masks, they could not read their lips."

One participant quoted in the research report noted that without an ASL interpreter, "It's like you are an alien lying on a table, and they are dissecting you."

Nineteen percent of the respondents said the dental procedure room was not accessible, and 5 percent said it was too small.

"I go [to the dentist], but it's a huge effort," said one participant, who was quoted in the report. "I go without my oxygen tank while I'm in the chair because there's nowhere to put the tank. When my oxygen numbers are low, I get more anxious. I hate it."

Medicaid or Medicare recipients with disabilities are invited to nominate their dental provider to receive accessible medical equipment through a form online.

Dental offices selected for a gift "can receive a wheelchair lift, medical masks that allow patients to read lips, and other tools that can make the experience of going to the dentist more enjoyable for people with disabilities," according to The Independence Center's website. The selected offices will also receive an Americans with Disabilities Act  audit evaluating the accessibility of their facility and a disability competency training session.
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Proposed rule change could keep 33,000 Coloradans a month from getting SNAP benefits

Posted By on Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 1:00 AM

  • Shutterstock
A proposed federal rule would change the process for determining who qualifies for food assistance, and could impact 33,000 Coloradans each month, according to the state Department of Human Services.

The rule would mandate that people between 18 and 59 who are making between 130 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,910 for a two-person household) could no longer receive benefits through the Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Parents whose households bring in between 130 and 200 percent of that amount could only receive SNAP benefits if they also qualify for at least $50 in other federal assistance each month.

The federal government argues that the changes will “create a clearer and more consistent nationwide policy” and help ensure that government assistance programs have a greater positive impact.
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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Rabid bat found

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2019 at 4:45 PM

  • Courtesy El Paso County Public Health
Authorities recently confirmed another animal in El Paso County carried rabies, prompting a warning to pet owners.

Found in a home in the city, the bat is the 10th animal to test positive this summer, along with seven skunks, a fox and a dog.

Rabies is a virus that infects wild mammals, especially bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Squirrels and rabbits are not considered a rabies risk, El Paso County Public Health stated in a release.

People bitten or scratched by an unfamiliar animal should contact their doctor immediately. Public Health urges residents: to vaccinate pets; contact a vet if a pet is exposed to a wild animal; don’t touch or feed wild animals; keep dogs on a leash and cats inside at night. If you find bat in your house, call Public Health at 578-3220.

The worst year for confirmed rabies cases was 2018 when six bats, 60 skunks and one raccoon were infected.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Weld County, state commission wage war of words over oil and gas

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 12:01 AM

Local governments can now set stricter rules than the state for oil and gas. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Local governments can now set stricter rules than the state for oil and gas.

As Weld County, the state’s largest producer of oil and gas resources, sets up its own regulating and permitting system, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission warns that a new state law doesn’t allow jurisdictions to come up with less stringent regulations than the state’s.

Senate Bill 181
, a contentious piece of legislation passed earlier this year, changes the state’s relationship with the industry by moving from “fostering” oil and gas development to “regulating” it, and gives local jurisdictions the power to impose further regulations.

In response to that law, Weld County commissioners created an internal oil and gas department earlier this month.

But the state commission warned that while the law “provides local governments with siting authority over oil and gas surface locations, it does not diminish the COGCC’s authority to regulate the orderly development of oil and gas throughout the state.”
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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

If feds approve reinsurance, Colorado's premiums are likely to decrease

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2019 at 10:13 AM

  • Shutterstock
The Colorado Division of Insurance has predicted that health insurance premiums will decrease next year — as long as the federal government OKs a reinsurance program that state lawmakers passed this session.

Colorado health insurance providers expect premiums on individual plans (for those who do not get insurance through an employer or a government program) will decrease by an average of 18.2 percent.

In the Colorado Springs area, premiums would decrease by an average of 15 percent. (See a full breakdown of projected impacts here.)

The proposed reinsurance program is a state enterprise that covers a portion of high-cost claims so that insurance carriers can lower premiums. It's contingent on the federal government's approval of a waiver under the Affordable Care Act, which allows states to try innovative strategies to improve access to health care.

The program would be funded partly through a special fee assessed to hospitals, and partly through "pass-through funding" from the federal government. 

The state Division of Insurance describes the "pass-through funding" this way:

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), for people with household incomes under 400 percent (4 times) of the Federal Poverty Level, tax credits from the federal government are available to help make health insurance in the individual market more affordable. These tax credits are tied to health insurance premiums, so that when premiums go up, tax credits go up, and when premiums go down, the tax credits also go down.

As the reinsurance program brings health insurance premiums down, the amount of money the federal government has to spend on tax credits will also go down. But rather than letting it pocket the money, Colorado will ask the federal government to pass that money through to the state to fund the reinsurance program and maintain the lower premiums and stability it will bring to the individual health insurance market.

"Reducing health care costs for Colorado families has been a primary focus of my administration, and today we are seeing the first signs that our hard work is paying off,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a July 16 statement announcing the possibility of lower premiums.
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Friday, July 19, 2019

Greccio's senior housing project to likely get federal financing through city

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 5:54 PM

  • 4 PM production via
Nonprofit Greccio Housing will likely develop the first project ever to use a special type of bond financing granted to Colorado Springs by the Internal Revenue Service.

The project: A 54-unit affordable housing project for seniors age 62 and up, dubbed Atrium at Austin Bluffs. It's located at Austin Bluffs Parkway and Templeton Gap Road.

The financing: Private activity bonds, which can be used by projects that successfully apply for extremely competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits through the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. (These federal tax credits provide capital for affordable housing developments, and in return, investors who purchase them receive a dollar-for-dollar break on their taxes.)

In the past, Colorado Springs has given away its allocation of private activity bonds for projects in El Paso County.

But City Council decided to keep its private activity bond allocation for 2018 and 2019. The city now has about $49 million total financing available to help fund affordable housing projects, says Housing and Urban Development Program Manager Steve Posey. Atrium at Austin Bluffs would use about $8 million, should Council approve the bond allocation at its July 23 meeting. (The city could not incur any debt by allocating the bonds.)

Colorado Springs also donated the parcel of land where the project will sit, Posey says.

"The thing that's really exciting about this project, is that we've got a local nonprofit housing provider, that’s Greccio Housing, we’ve got the city donating a piece of land to make this project happen, and then we've got the city playing a key role in the financing for this project, and that’s a first," he points out.

The project includes:
  • six units for people making less than 30 percent of area median income ($19,550 for a two-person household);
  • six units for people making 40 percent of AMI ($26,070 for a two-person household) or less;
  • 21 units for people making 50 percent of AMI ($32,600 for a two-person household) or less;
  • and 21 units for people making 60 percent of AMI ($39,100 for a two-person household) or less.
While plans aren't yet finalized, the development will likely also include a health center, community room, fitness center, grab-and-go library and business center, says Lee Patke, Greccio Housing's executive director.

Atrium at Austin Bluffs doesn't just represent a new kind of way to tackle affordable housing for the city, but is also something new for Greccio, Patke says.

"Our primary method of bringing new units on board in the past has been acquisition and renovation of existing properties," he says. "The upside to that is, when there is an available supply of apartments, that tends to be less expensive — because the property already exists, and so all we do is renovate."

But four or five years ago, he adds, a changing real estate market made acquiring such properties much harder, and Greccio had to begin looking at new ways of adding affordable housing.

"Not only is real estate much more expensive now than it was five years ago, but it’s much more competitive, which has also driven up prices," Patke says. "So the older model doesn't work as well, because not only are prices higher and there's a need for a greater level of financing, but there just aren't as many available apartment complexes available for sale right now."

This is the first time Greccio has been the primary developer on a project that uses tax-credit financing, and Patke hopes it won't be the last.

In the meantime, Posey says there's several projects "in the pipeline" that could likely use the remaining $41 million of the city's private activity bond allocation. It's too early to announce details, he says: "They’re projects where the development team is still working out how many units can they put on the site, can they make the numbers work for the project, do they think that they can get all the approvals that they need for the project, and what income levels are they trying to help with those rentals."

In June, five developers applied for tax credits to build affordable housing in Colorado Springs. The winners of those awards, who would be eligible for private activity bonds, have yet to be announced.
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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Immigration raids, fines in the forecast this Fourth of July weekend

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 5:36 PM

Donald Trump speaks on immigration policy in 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center. - GAGE SKIDMORE VIA FLICKR
  • Gage Skidmore via Flickr
  • Donald Trump speaks on immigration policy in 2016 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

As the administration of President Donald Trump prepares to carry out immigration sweeps in 10 cities this weekend, National Public Radio reports that the Department of Homeland Security is also issuing notices to undocumented immigrants saying they are subject to fines, some up to $500,000.

Ingrid Encalada Latorre, an undocumented immigrant in sanctuary at a Boulder church, was one of those issued a fine.

“After 3 years of no word from them they send me this letter with only 30 days to pay and it’s a lot of money for me," she said in an emailed statement via American Friends Service Committee Denver, an advocacy organization. "Really I will not get any benefit from this money, not a work permit or residency. What they want to do with these letters is to intimidate us and scare us."

The Immigration and Nationality Act includes a provision passed in 1996 that allows the government to fine any migrant who "willfully fails or refuses" to comply with an order to leave the country, up to $500 per day (now adjusted to $799 for inflation). However, the provision has not been enforced in this manner by other administrations, according to media reports.

After receiving a notice of intention to fine (NIF), the immigrant "has 30 days to respond, and is granted procedural rights to establish a defense if they believe a fine should not be imposed," reads an emailed statement from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson.

An ICE [Enforcement and Removal Operations] Supervisor will review all possible evidence to determine if a NIF was properly issued, and will make a final decision – in coordination with the local Field Office Director – that may be appealed with the Board of Immigration Appeals.

If the alien fails to respond to the NIF, or exhaust all procedural avenues without being granted any relief, then the penalty becomes a unappealable order, and will be assessed as a formal debt to the government.

The total number of people fined was not available from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As for the immigration sweeps, Trump has said that they would begin after the July 4 holiday if Congress did not make changes to asylum law:

Media outlets have reported that those sweeps will target recently arrived migrants in 10 U.S. cities.

When asked whether Denver would be affected, ICE spokesperson Alethea Smock emailed this response:

"ICE does not conduct raids. ICE performs daily, targeted immigration enforcement operations, which maintain the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and also help improve public safety by removing criminal aliens from local communities.

"ICE deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement operations daily nationwide as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety, and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls. These operations involve existing and established Fugitive Operations Teams."

CNN reports that according to ICE data, deportations increased about 13 percent between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, when 256,085 people were deported. In 2012, Barack Obama's administration deported more than 400,000 people.
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Bike to Work Day is June 26

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Mayor John Suthers and police officers were among those to participate in the 2018 Bike to Work Day. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • Mayor John Suthers and police officers were among those to participate in the 2018 Bike to Work Day.

Colorado Springs' Bike to Work Day is June 26, and there are plenty of reason to press your feet the pedals — starting with your stomach. The event, for which the Independent is a sponsor, features over 30 locations for cyclists to get a free breakfast including local businesses with yummy offerings. (Find yours on the map!)

You don't have to register to get breakfast, but you are encouraged to: It's a way for the city to judge how many people are getting out on their bikes and that factors into a lot of decision-making on how best to accommodate cyclists. You can register as late as the morning of Bike to Work Day!

Feeling nervous about your route? Check the city's bike map to figure out the safest way from home to work.

By the way, Bike to Work Day is just one of many events for Bike Month. So be sure to check out the other happenings.

Here are some tips to keep you safe on the road:

Under state law bicyclists are considered vehicles, however, they are much more vulnerable on the road. Please consider the following safety suggestions to help make for a pleasant ride to work that morning.
• People get around our city on foot, in car, by bus, on bikes and wheelchairs. Let’s be mindful so that we all arrive safely.
• Always wear a helmet.
• Always signal when riding on the road and obey all Colorado traffic laws.
• Be visible and alert to surroundings.
• Respect and be considerate of others on the roads and trails.

Want to hit a Happy Hour on the ride home and get a special deal? Here's the list:

Stop at any one of the local breweries listed below for a special deal as you bike home from work:
• Brass Brewing Co. (318 E. Colorado Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• Brewer’s Republic (112 N. Nevada Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• Cerberus Brewing Co. (702 W. Colorado Ave), $1 off beer all day, $2 off beer during Happiest Hour (4-7 p.m.)
• FH Beer Works Downtown (521 S. Tejon St), $1 off pints for riders
• FH Beer Works East (2490 Victor Pl/ Rock Island Trail & Powers), $1 off pints for riders
• Goat Patch Brewing Co. (2727 N Cascade Ave, #123/ Lincoln Center), BOGO for riders
• Local Relic (320 S. Weber St), ½ off first flight or full pour, plus BOGO select bottles
• Peaks N Pines Brewery (4005 Tutt Boulevard 80922), BOGO for riders
• Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. (2 East Pikes Peak Avenue 80903), free pint with purchase of an appetizer ($10 minimum)
• Storybook Brewing Co. (3121A, N El Paso St), BOGO for riders on BTWD, 10% off for riders all year
• Tap Traders (3104 N Nevada Ave #100), BOGO for riders on BTWD
• Trails End Taproom (3103 W. Colorado Ave), 15% off beer pours for riders
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AG strikes health care anti-trust pact

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:08 PM

Attorney Phil Weiser reached agreement to continue certain health benefits for people in Colorado Springs. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Attorney Phil Weiser reached agreement to continue certain health benefits for people in Colorado Springs.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser reached agreement in an anti-trust challenge involving UnitedHealth Group and DaVita Inc. to make sure those in Colorado Springs who have health care through Medicare Advantage aren’t subject to anticompetitive effects of a merger of the two companies.

At issue is UnitedHealth Group’s $4.3 billion bid to acquire the physician practice group of DaVita Inc.

DaVita Medical Group owns two large physicians groups here, while UnitedHealth is the largest provider of Medicare Advantage plans in the region .

In December 2017, UnitedHealth Group announced its subsidiary, Optum, would acquire DaVita Medical Group. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission investigated the merger but declined to seek any remedies to protect Colorado consumers.

Weiser then sought to enforce the antitrust laws and address foreseen anticompetitive outcomes in Colorado.

A consent judgment filed June 19. It requires UnitedHealth to lift its exclusive contract with Centura Health for at least 3.5 years, and DaVita Medical Group to extend its agreement with Humana, a UnitedHealth rival, through at least 2020.
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