Health

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Environment Colorado, the Arc and others rally for multiple causes

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 6:32 PM

Advocates from the Arc Pikes Peak Region display facts about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Advocates from the Arc Pikes Peak Region display facts about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Wednesday, Aug. 29 seemed like the perfect day to exercise First Amendment rights, as groups gathered in front of City Hall and ACE Cash Express to drum up support for their respective causes.

A handful of representatives from the Arc Pikes Peak Region, an organization that advocates for people with disabilities, said they were rallying in front of City Hall to stress the importance of benefit programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid, as well as accessible buildings and infrastructure.

"We want people with disabilities to get out and have their voices heard, so that starts with registering to vote and then getting to the polls in November," says Christina Butero, guardianship coordinator for the Arc Pikes Peak Region. "Far too often people with disabilities feel like their voice won’t be heard if they vote, and that’s just not true."

Charlotte McClanahan, a community facilitator in the Arc's guardianship program, cares for a woman who uses a wheelchair. They stopped by the Arc's event to push for a city that's easier to navigate.

"Downtown, the immediate downtown, is very accessible, but you get very far and you’ve got broken sidewalks and issues along those lines," McClanahan says.

(The Independence Center, a local nonprofit serving people with disabilities, recently organized a survey of parking lots in the region. Surveyors found more than 100 parking lots that weren't fully compliant with ADA standards. That may be because neither the city nor the Regional Building Department enforces them.)

Supporters of the Campaign to Stop Predatory Payday Loans protest in front of ACE Cash Express. - ANA TEMU
  • Ana Temu
  • Supporters of the Campaign to Stop Predatory Payday Loans protest in front of ACE Cash Express.

A similarly sized group stood in front of ACE Cash Express at Academy Boulevard and Galley Road, representing the Campaign to Stop Predatory Payday Loans. That campaign's Proposition 111 will be on the ballot this November.

Proposition 111 would lower maximum charges for payday loans to an annual percentage rate of 36 percent. Currently, the maximum charges are $20 for the first $300 loaned, 7.5 percent of any amount over $300, and a 45 percent interest rate.

Proponents of the measure argue that payday lenders take advantage of vulnerable communities.

“We’ve seen many families fall prey to this never ending debt trap due to unscrupulous fees and ridiculously high interest rates and believe they deserve a better chance to rise out of financial pitfalls and live a dignified life,” Meghan Carrier, lead organizer for Together Colorado, is quoted in an Aug. 28 statement from the campaign.

Clean-air advocates rally in support of low-emissions vehicle standards. - ENVIRONMENT COLORADO
  • Environment Colorado
  • Clean-air advocates rally in support of low-emissions vehicle standards.

And last week, another group flexed its First Amendment muscle in support of low-emissions vehicles.

Environment Colorado's event Aug. 23 in Acacia Park encouraged the public to support Gov. Hickenlooper's plan for stricter emissions standards. The governor announced June 19 that Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment would develop an LEV program in line with California's. That executive order came in response to the federal government's rollback of  vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for model years 2022 and beyond.

Environment Colorado collected nearly 1,500 petitions and more than 200 sign-ons from businesses supporting clean-car standards in the 72 hours leading up to its event in Acacia Park, says director Garrett Garner-Wells. The group will continue to push people to voice their support for low-emissions vehicle standards for the duration of the public comment period, which ends in November.

"Coloradans are really excited about this with the summer that we’ve had when it comes to wildfires," Garner-Wells says. "It’s wild what we’re doing to our air here in this state, and this is something we can do that’s a concrete step to begin cleaning that up and addressing climate change as an underlying factor in things like wildfires as well."
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Showered with Love takes homeless hygiene mobile

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 4:29 PM

The Showered with Love trailer has three stalls with showers, sinks and toilets. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • The Showered with Love trailer has three stalls with showers, sinks and toilets.

Kelly Terrien, a local business owner and veteran, created Showered with Love when she "wanted to do something to give back to the community — something that was needed."

The result: a three-stall trailer with showers, sinks and toilets, where people experiencing homelessness can have access to "the basics for self-care."

For now, Terrien will park the trailer outside the Salvation Army's R.J. Montgomery Center shelter, where it will serve guests as the shelter remodels its bathrooms to make them more family-friendly. The Salvation Army will also partner with Showered with Love to bring its services to different areas of the community that may be far from downtown's shelters and nonprofits.

"There are homeless neighbors throughout the entire city," says Salvation Army spokesperson Jeane Turner. "If you can show them that they're loved and help them clean up," she says, that could be a first step on the path out of homelessness.

David Kauffman, the Salvation Army county coordinator, mentions Powers Boulevard as one area where homelessness is less visible than in downtown, but where services like Showered with Love's are of use. "This is one of the ways we can make a touchpoint with them."

Terrien also hopes her trailer can help the working homeless. Perhaps that looks like someone with a minimum-wage job, living in a car — someone who might not be as noticeable as a chronically homeless individual, but still needs a place to shower.

She says the nonprofit is looking for donations and volunteers. Currently, Terrien has just one other person on staff, but wants to hire a full-time operations manager. Showered with Love also needs a truck to pull the trailer, and items such as shampoo, conditioner and feminine hygiene products.

You can donate online here.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mental Health Colorado helps kids handle back-to-school stress

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2018 at 3:30 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
When it comes to youth mental health, Colorado doesn't score well. Mental Health in America ranks it 48th in the country, in fact, according to a set of factors that include rates of youth depression, substance use and available services.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24 in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (Nationally, it's the third leading cause).

And Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for overall suicides, with El Paso County among the hotspots. In 2016, there were 15 completed youth suicides, a jump from seven in 2014 and 14 in 2015, according to El Paso County Public Health.

These statistics are a dismal way to start the conversation about how to treat mental health in schools, but represent both a crisis and an opportunity, says Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado.

"The crisis is that kids are struggling and suffering and too often dying on account of untreated mental illness," Romanoff says. "And the opportunity I think here is to become a national leader. I mean Colorado is growing fast, but we’re still a relatively small state, and we could turn this state around. We could become a national leader in mental health."

Mental Health Colorado hopes to help the state edge closer to that goal through its School Mental Health Toolkit, a free online resource released in June meant for schools, districts, teachers and parents across the state. It outlines steps schools can take — such as screenings, suicide prevention and wellness plans — to combat mental illness and keep their students safe.

Romanoff, a former state House speaker, wants to make the toolkit available in every district around the state. With 178 districts and 1,800 schools, that's no small task. Mental Health Colorado is working with local allies to launch the toolkits in schools, and seeking grant money to make the strategies easier to implement.

There's a crucial difference between mental health challenges students face now, versus just a generation ago, Romanoff points out.

"In the era of social media where your life is often online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that can add to the stress," he says. "It used to be that your chances of being bullied might have gone down dramatically once you got out of school, and now that threat can follow you home and keep you up all night and drive you to some pretty bad consequences."

To help parents and kids understand and deal with that reality, Mental Health Colorado also provides free five-minute, doctor-approved online screenings. The informal questionnaires test for a range of disorders, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD and more.

There's also a questionnaire for parents, which helps them identify whether their child may be showing signs of mental illness.

Romanoff says he's heard from some districts that they've met with resistance from parents when trying to implement new strategies. For that reason, he says it's important to educate parents in particular about mental health.

"Parents don’t want their kids to be labeled or diagnosed or branded," he says. "Some parents feel like it’s a reflection on their skills as parents. What we’re trying to help people understand is that mental illness is not a character flaw. It’s a medical condition. And it doesn’t have to be a death sentence: It’s treatable."

Anyone — teens, parents, teachers, readers — experiencing a mental health crisis can call Colorado Crisis Service's free, confidential number at 844/493-8255, or text “TALK” to 38255.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A map of the red-light camera locations chosen by the city

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 1:39 PM

WALTER BAXTER
  • Walter Baxter
After analyzing factors like collision data, traffic volume and speeding, the city has chosen four intersections for red-light cameras:

• Northbound Academy Boulevard at Carefree Circle
• Eastbound Platte Avenue at Chelton Road
• Westbound Briargate Boulevard at Lexington Drive
• Southbound Academy Boulevard at Dublin Boulevard

Violators caught by cameras will be fined $75, not including court costs.

It's not the first time Colorado Springs has taken a swing at red-light cameras. The first, short-lived attempt began in 2010 before Steve Bach's tenure as mayor. Cameras were placed at four intersections (completely different from the newly selected ones) for about a year. But the project got the red light in October 2011, just over a year later, when the city found it was "not meeting safety expectations" and Bach called for an end to the unpopular program.


"According to data supplied by program partner, American Traffic Solutions, Inc. (ATS), while there was an overall modest (30 percent) reduction in red-light running violations through September, results varied widely," reads a 2011 release from the city announcing the shutdown.

"For example, the program had a 22 percent increase in violations at the north-bound approach on Nevada Avenue at Bijou Street. In addition, preliminary information from the City’s Traffic Engineering and Police Departments showed the program had no impact on dangerous front-to-side collisions at program intersections."

Colorado Springs Police Department Chief Pete Carey supported shutting down the program in 2011. “A review of the data after one year shows conflicting information at best," he's quoted in the city's release. "We discussed the program with Mayor Bach and determined citizens would be best served if we reassigned personnel to other priority functions.”

However, Carey last fall argued for reinstating red-light enforcement, saying cameras were necessary because of an officer shortage and a rising number of traffic accidents and fatalities.

This year is set to break traffic fatality records in Colorado Springs. Last year, there were a total of 39 accident-related deaths, the most ever. This year, there have already been 32 (compared with only 22 at this time in 2017).

“If [installing cameras] saves lives and prevents hospital visits, I think we should do it," Carey said at a public forum last year.

But whether they do is still an if. Studies have shown mixed results as to whether red-light cameras actually make people safer. Some show that installing cameras results in fewer T-bone crashes, but more rear-ends.

There's also the "training effect" on drivers.

The Gazette quotes Mayor John Suthers as saying the cameras will help, because people "forget exactly which intersection it is, so it has the effect of making people a lot more careful within a radius.”
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Independence Center honors veterans with disabilities

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 at 1:15 PM

Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. - COURTESY MATT GETZE
  • Courtesy Matt Getze
  • Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

El Paso County has the fifth largest population of veterans with disabilities in the country, Mayor John Suthers said in a speech at the Independence Center's annual ADA Luncheon, Celebrating Veterans with Disabilities.

Out of 100,000 veterans in the county, 37,000 have disabilities, Suthers said. That amounts to more than Cook County, Illinois or New York City.

And that's partly why the community gathered July 26 to recognize the local organizations that do the most to serve those who serve us, on the 28th anniversary of the day President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Independence Center's 2018 award recipients:

Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition: This organization works to end veteran homelessness by providing transitional housing. The coalition's Crawford House in Colorado Springs is a temporary, structured environment for those overcoming addiction.

Achilles Pikes Peak: The team at our local chapter of Achilles International provides adaptive recreation opportunities for veterans with disabilities, including cycling, running, hiking, and more.

Military Artistic Healing Program at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center: "The ability for veterans to share their feelings is a vital part of the healing process," Suthers says. These art classes help them to do just that.

Team Rubicon: This organization helps veterans "find a sense of identity through service," Suthers says. Veterans who are part of the program help those affected by natural disasters, using their skills and experience from the military to respond to emergencies.

Home Front Cares: This program helps create a safety net for veterans by providing grants for rent, utilities, car repair and other forms of emergency assistance for those at risk of homelessness.

At the luncheon, the Independence Center also highlighted its Veteran in Charge program, which helps veterans who might otherwise be placed in a nursing home to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. That support includes a flexible monthly budget that allows veterans to choose the services they need, including assistive devices such as chair lifts, meal delivery, transportation and in-home care.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

EPA invites community members to speak about PFC contamination

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 8:57 AM

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Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency will visit Colorado Springs on Aug. 7 and 8 to hear from community members about perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), toxic chemicals used by the Air Force for firefighting, that contaminated water supplies in Colorado.

Members of the public who've been affected by PFCs in their drinking water can sign up online for three-minute speaking slots Aug. 7 between 4 and 10 p.m. A working session, also open to the public, is set for Aug. 8 from 9:45 a.m. to noon.

Both events will be held at the Hotel Eleganté, located at 2886 S. Circle Dr.

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition and Fountain Creek Water Sentinels are among organizations speaking at the Aug. 7 event, says Liz Rosenbaum, cofounder of the coalition.

Rosenbaum says the Clean Water Coalition has been working with the EPA to ensure there's plenty of time for residents to voice their opinions.

"I absolutely think something good will come out of this," Rosenbaum says. "Because it’s the first time the community can be heard."

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition was among organizations across the country that protested the EPA's unwillingness to let community groups, journalists and even legislative staff attend a national summit on PFCs in May.

Since then, EPA representatives have visited a New Hampshire community affected by PFCs, and will visit Pennsylvania on July 25.

Aquifers in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas that were affected by PFCs are now safe for drinking, officials say, after the city of Fountain began treating water through a new process. The Clean Water Coalition is still pushing for health studies to learn more about the effects of the contaminants, Rosenbaum says.

And tests recently showed PFCs in several groundwater wells that supply drinking water to north metro Denver, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced July 12.

The Denver Post reports that South Adams County Water and Sanitation District officials found levels of PFCs ranging from 24 parts per trillion (ppt) to 2,280 ppt in 12 wells along Quebec Parkway near Interstate 70. That's up to 32 times more than the EPA's current acceptable limit for PFCs, which is 70 ppt.

However, a study released June 20 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry suggests that safe drinking water should contain less than 12 ppt.

All together, the contaminated wells in Denver supply water to 50,000 residents across 65 square miles, the Post reports.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

NAMI offers free "Mental Health First Aid" events

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 2:00 PM

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A series of free events from the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Colorado Springs, better known as NAMI Colorado Springs, will help family, friends and supporters of those dealing with mental illness learn how to best help.

The first, NAMI Bridges of Hope, is geared toward faith communities. At this July 24 breakfast, participants will learn from presenters about how mental illness affects individuals, families, and communities; and how "faith communities can help congregants touched by mental illness," according to an email from spokesperson Lisa Hawthorne. The event is 8:30 to 10 a.m., and location information will be provided upon registration. Call 473-8477 or email info@namicos.org to register.

Then there's NAMI's Mental Health First Aid Training, an eight-hour class in partnership with AspenPointe that teaches participants "how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis," and how to "identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses."

Mental Health First Aid trainings are offered in 23 countries, says Madeline Arroyo, class coordinator with AspenPointe. The class helps participants learn to recognize symptoms of major mental health issues including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and suicide.

Arroyo says the training is best suited to those over the age of 18, because of the emotional toll that comes with interacting with someone in crisis.

Out of everyone else, "there’s not one person that wouldn’t benefit."

"One in five individuals in any given year is faced with a mental health crisis," Arroyo says. "In the course of a lifetime, one in two. And if it’s not us, it’s one of our loved ones."

Those classes are offered on Aug. 24, Sept. 21, Oct. 26 and Nov. 16 (all Fridays) in the Nautilus Room of the Citizens Service Center, located at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road. Register online at http://www.mhfaco.org/findclass.

A survey released in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 17 percent of Colorado teens had seriously considered suicide in the past year, 13.3 percent had made a plan to commit suicide and 7.2 percent had attempted suicide, according to a statement from the Jason Foundation.

We recently wrote about NAMI's Below the Surface campaign, which seeks to raise teens' awareness of Colorado's Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 service for people feeling depressed, anxious or upset.

The crisis line, run by Colorado Crisis Services, is free and confidential. Anyone seeking help can call 844/493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.
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Friday, July 13, 2018

Planned Parenthood opens HIV drop-in center in Denver

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 10:46 AM

shutterstock_756241675.jpg

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
has announced the upcoming opening of a new community drop-in center, The Spot, which will offer programming related to HIV. Hosted at PPRM's Denver Central health center (921 E. 14th Ave.), The Spot’s schedule will include “a variety of activities, including sex education courses, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) navigation, group discussions, movie and game nights and more,” according to a press release.
Free HIV testing will be offered regardless of the other programming taking place.

The Spot, while unique to Colorado, has precedence in the region, bearing some similarity to a program led by Planned Parenthood of New Mexico in Albuquerque: N’MPower, a program of the national Mpowerment project. According to its Facebook page, N’MPower’s goal is to “prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs among young gay/bi men and trans individuals between the ages of 18-29 through education and community building.”

The Spot will be open to the public on weekdays from 4-10 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., and Saturdays upon request, starting July 22. While a programming schedule is not yet finalized, interested parties should keep an eye on the PPRM website for updates and more information.

Disclosure: This reporter volunteers for PPRM as a health center activist in Colorado Springs.
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Friday, June 29, 2018

City leaders break ground on Ronald McDonald House, set to open next year

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Steve Bigari, Nancy Parker-Brummett, Mayor John Suthers, Beth Alessio, Joel Yuhas and Greg Raymond get dirty. - RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE CHARITIES OF SOUTHERN COLORADO
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado
  • Steve Bigari, Nancy Parker-Brummett, Mayor John Suthers, Beth Alessio, Joel Yuhas and Greg Raymond get dirty.

Officials and business leaders broke ground on the new Ronald McDonald House on June 27. The construction site on the UCHealth Memorial North campus will soon be a temporary home for families with critically ill, hospitalized children.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado currently has a 6,500-square-foot facility near UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, where it houses up to 11 families per night. The new location will be four times that size, according to a news release from Ronald McDonald House. It's expected to open in spring of next year.

An architect's rendering shows a Ronald McDonald House four times the size of the charity's current location. - RTA ARCHITECTS
  • RTA Architects
  • An architect's rendering shows a Ronald McDonald House four times the size of the charity's current location.

Ronald McDonald House has served more than 10,000 families in its central location, which opened 31 years ago. The nonprofit's mission is to keep families near their children during medical crises, providing them with access to a kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry room, along with indoor and outdoor play areas for children.

The new facility will serve children from Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and beyond, the release said.

Mayor John Suthers, UCHealth CEO Joel Yuhas, and Beth Alessio, the nonprofit's CEO, were among those who got their hands dirty at the groundbreaking ceremony.

"The new House will impact the lives, health and well-being of seriously ill children and their families well into the future," the release read. "We are thrilled for this important moment in the history of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado."
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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

City Council approves creekside camping ban in initial vote

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 3:59 PM

Trash piles like this one, near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek, aren’t uncommon along the Springs’ waterways. That waste can end up polluting water. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Trash piles like this one, near the confluence of Shooks Run and Fountain Creek, aren’t uncommon along the Springs’ waterways. That waste can end up polluting water.

In a first vote, City Council members approved by 7-2 an ordinance that bans camping within 100 feet of creeks. Councilors Yolanda Avila and Bill Murray were opposed.

The ordinance, pushed by City Councilors Tom Strand and Merv Bennett, would specifically ban all municipal camping within 100 feet of a public stream. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 189 days in jail.

The ordinance targets homeless camps along creeks, which proponents say pose risks to health and public safety. It cites the above-standard presence of E. coli in the Fountain Creek watershed, indicated by a September study by the U.S. Geological Survey (though scientists haven't determined whether human waste was a significant factor in the contamination).

Colorado Springs has had a camping ban on public property for years, but police currently have to give camp occupants 24-hour notice (under department policy, not city code) and ensure there’s shelter space available before dismantling camps. The new ordinance, Strand says, would make the ban easier to enforce by doing away with those requirements.

Councilor Andy Pico spoke out at the June 26 City Council meeting in support of the ban. In response to concerns of other councilors that the ban ignored the broader issues of pollution and homelessness, Pico said the ban was a necessary first step on the path to solving them.

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a broken fan belt," Pico said. "And [creekside camping] is our broken fan belt and we need to fix this right off the step."

Councilor Murray questioned whether the ordinance would survive a legal challenge. (The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado has voiced concern about the ban, and in the past, courts have found that cities cannot outlaw homeless people’s basic survival — which could be at issue if law enforcement doesn't ensure there's shelter space available before forcing campers to move.)

Murray pointed out two reasons the ordinance might not pass legal muster: It wouldn't keep campers from walking down to the creek to dump waste, and the city doesn't have solid data to prove that campers caused contamination.

"How do we sustain a court challenge that says we actually targeted these people instead of attempting the resolution, which we understand is [shelter] beds?"

Councilor Bennett responded by saying the ordinance could save people living in creekside camps from flash floods and would protect the general public from the risk of contaminated needles left by campers, as possible reasons a ban would be defensible.

Dee Cunningham, executive director of Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful, works with the police department’s Homeless Outreach Team to clean up camps after officers have told their occupants to move on. For years, she's seen campers dump waste into the creek, she said, and her reaction to the ban's initial approval was positive.

"I’m really pleased with some forward momentum," she said.

Shawna Kemppainen, the executive director of Urban Peak, a nonprofit that serves youth experiencing homelessness, said her agency will remain focused on helping people get out of homelessness regardless of whether the ordinance becomes law.

"Anything that's going to make it more difficult for people to find a place where they can be when they don't have a place inside to be is just going to make their walk out of homelessness more challenging," Kemppainen said. "It's not to say that [issues such as creekside camping] are not important issues, but we have to put our focus and attention on the places where we can really make some headway that helps clear the path for people."

A final vote is expected for July 10.
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Town hall shows sharp division over creekside camping ban

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 10:58 AM

Dozens of residents packed City Council Chambers for a town hall on the proposed creekside camping ordinance. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Dozens of residents packed City Council Chambers for a town hall on the proposed creekside camping ordinance.

Citizens on both sides of a proposed ban on creekside camping gathered June 14 at City Hall to voice their opinions before City Council.

The proposed camping ban, pushed by City Councilors Tom Strand and Merv Bennett, would specifically ban all municipal camping within 100 feet of a public stream. Violations would be punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to 189 days in jail.

Colorado Springs has had a camping ban for years, but police currently have to give camp occupants 24-hour notice (under department policy, not city code) and ensure there’s shelter space available before dismantling camps. The new ordinance would theoretically make the ban easier to enforce by doing away with those requirements.

Supporters of the ban, who slightly outnumbered opponents speaking at the town hall, tended to focus on the issue of safety around creeks and trails, where several mentioned they had been accosted or threatened by individuals camping there. Others emphasized the need to keep waterways clean — both for health and aesthetics reasons.


"The reason people come to Colorado Springs and for tourism is generally west of the Interstate, and this is having a negative effect on our tourism industry, our mom-and-pop industry, up throughout the whole pass,

" said Welling Clark, former president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors. Clark added that the complex problem of creekside camping could not be solved without regional cooperation.


Homeless camps near stormwater infrastructure put the city's water quality at stake, said Westside resident Sharon Mullaly. "We’ve got an EPA lawsuit because of our lack of efforts to keep the storm drains clear."

Opponents of the camping ban argued that it disregards the rights of individuals forced to live outside, and ignores the root problem: the lack of affordable housing in Colorado Springs.

And it's not just campers causing the trash problem, said Aimee Cox, a former Manitou Springs city councilor.


"The dog waste in this community is prolific," she said. "And if we really want to begin to address some of the water quality issues and share this equitably, we’d say we can’t have dogs within 100 feet of the waterway either. But if you do that, that begins to impact people who are housed and they wouldn’t stand for that."


Colorado Springs resident Juliette Parker pointed out that even if the ordinance kept the people experiencing homelessness from setting up camp away from streams, it couldn't keep them from polluting the water.

"You know what they’re going to do when they need to go to the bathroom or wash their hands, all the things that you’re trying to prevent? They're going to walk 100 feet," she said.


District 2 Councilor David Geislinger ended the town hall on a note of relative optimism.


"This is an incredibly complicated issue because there are so many right sides," Geislinger said. "I think it is right to protect our waterways, to protect our environment, but it is equally right as people have said, that people who are outside, have a place to go to the bathroom, to wash their hands, and to wash their clothes. Just because one side is right doesn’t make the other side wrong, and tonight I heard a respect for that."


The creekside camping ordinance is scheduled for a first vote June 26.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Independence Center launches campaign to improve business access for people with disabilities

Posted By on Tue, Jun 12, 2018 at 2:49 PM

The Independence Center is a nonprofit for people with disabilities. - COURTESY OF THE INDEPENDENCE CENTER
  • Courtesy of the Independence Center
  • The Independence Center is a nonprofit for people with disabilities.

If a business doesn’t have accessible parking, ramps and signage, a person with a disability may have no choice but to drive away. That not only makes life more difficult for the individual in question, but also affects the business — it could lose customers and be liable to lawsuits.


A new campaign from the Independence Center, a nonprofit for people with disabilities, will provide business owners with free information about how to make their parking lots easier to navigate.


The Better Access is Better Business campaign is meant to help businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation passed in 1990 that sets certain requirements, such as designated parking, ramps and wide entrances to make facilities more accessible. The act has led to a number of “drive-by lawsuits” locally and nationally, in which an individual might sue a business for violating the requirements.


The problem with these lawsuits is that in many cases they don’t actually lead to change. Plaintiffs will choose to accept settlement money rather than continue the legal process, and the business owner may never fix the problem.


Patricia Yeager, the Independence Center’s CEO, said the Better Access is Better Business campaign offered a new approach.


“We thought, instead of drive-by lawsuits, why don’t we do drive-by ADA assistance?” she said.


With help from ADA Surveys and Plans, a consulting organization, The Independence Center plans to assess 100 parking lots in El Paso, Teller and Pueblo counties for ADA compliance this month. They’ll recommend changes for business owners for free.


“Part of our mission is to help not only people with disabilities and their families, but the community to thrive,” Yeager said. “And this is our way of helping the businesses in our community to thrive by adding new customers — people with disabilities.”


Yeager said oftentimes, business owners just aren’t sure what the requirements are or how to meet them.

"A building owner may have thought he got his certificate of occupancy and everything was good, but for a long long time, I mean years, there’s been no one really checking the parking lots for access," Yeager said.


Interested business owners can contact Teri Ulrich at 719-357-6654 to have their business added to the survey list.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bike to Work Day: Why and how to register

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2018 at 12:53 PM

Back in 2015, UCCS grad Stacy Sprewer set out to bike accross America to support affordable housing. Which kind of makes riding to work on one day out the year seem more doable. - RYAN LANCASTER
  • Ryan Lancaster
  • Back in 2015, UCCS grad Stacy Sprewer set out to bike accross America to support affordable housing. Which kind of makes riding to work on one day out the year seem more doable.


Your daily commute is on track to get interesting June 27, as the city ramps up its annual Bike to Work Day event with multiple breakfast locations around the city and a corporate competition.


This year, you can register for free breakfast at one of 28 locations, many of which also offer games, prizes, bike repairs, music and more. Some spots are at businesses, others at trails and parks. It’s a big change from two years ago, when breakfast was served at one centralized, downtown location — making it difficult for riders in other parts of the city who weren’t interested (or didn’t have the stamina) to bike all the way downtown and then to work.


After expanding the event to 18 locations last year proved successful, the city is adding even more spots for riders to replenish lost calories.


“The new model will support a higher level of engagement across a wider section of our community,” said Allen Beauchamp, who chairs the engagement committee at Bike Colorado Springs.


The Corporate Challenge offers businesses the chance to prove their competitive edge, as well as their commitment to health and the environment. Companies are separated into “classes” based on the size of their workforce and given a score based on the rate of employee participation. An online leaderboard shows company stats.


After work, there are also a handful of bars and breweries offering deals to help you quench the thirst from a double-workout day. Just flash your helmet at one of the participating locations, no separate registration necessary. (Imbibe responsibly, and don’t forget you can get a DUI on a bike.)


“They have offered some deals for riders that are going back from work to stop by and enjoy a gorgeous afternoon on their patio, and to celebrate bikes both early in the morning and then also in the evening,” Beauchamp said. “People are driving along, it’s late in the afternoon, they see all these bicycles parked...and they’re like, ‘Hey, I should have done that. That looks like fun.’”


Bike to Work Day may affect the city’s Bicycle Friendly Community status from the League of American Bicyclists. Currently, Colorado Springs has earned the Silver designation, thanks in large part to its recently adopted Bicycle Master Plan — a vision for more bike lanes, bike sharing, trails and more. Events such as Bike to Work Day to encourage “a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling” could help boost the city nearer to a Gold or Platinum designation.


Register online as soon as possible to ensure there’s enough food and prizes to go around. If you’re not stopping for breakfast but still want to bike, consider registering anyway so the city has a headcount of the number of participants.


Beauchamp said the main objective of Bike to Work Day is to create cultural change.


“We’re not trying to force people out of their cars and say you always have to ride to work, but just know that it’s an option,” Beauchamp said. “It’s getting on board with the idea and then equipping them with success for the rest of the year.”


This event is sponsored by KOAA News 5 and the Colorado Springs Independent. Organizing sponsors are Bike Colorado Springs, the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, and Mountain Metro Transit.


Register for 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. breakfast at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/25th-annual-bike-to-work-day-registration-45135783343


Register for the Corporate Challenge by emailing COSChallenge18@gmail.com


Here’s a list of breakfast locations and offerings:


Angler’s Covey: 295 S 21st St.

• Breakfast: Muffins, yogurt, fruit, juice

• Extras: One free fly fishing class


Buffalo Lodge: 2 El Paso Blvd.

• Breakfast: Coffee, juice, fruit, muffins, waffles and toppings

• Extras: Free wooden token worth a $5 drink


Cafe Velo: Santa Fe Trail at North Gate Road

• Breakfast: Bagels, power food, water

• Extras: Mechanical support


Council of Neighbors and Organizations: Rock Island Trail at Academy Boulevard and Constitution Avenue

• Breakfast: Bagels and cream cheese, water

• Extras: Free individual CONO memberships ($25 value), stickers


Criterium: 6150 Corporate Dr.

• Breakfast: Burritos, juice


Downtown Businesses at Acacia Park: Nevada Avenue and Bijou Street

• Breakfast: Downtown businesses breakfast co-op

• Extras: Games, giveaways


El Paso County Public Health: Sinton Trail at El Paso City Citizens Service Center

• Breakfast: Burritos, fruit, coffee and water

• Extras: “Swag” and information related to cancer screenings and tobacco prevention


Good Neighbors Meeting House: 505 E. Columbia St.

• Breakfast: Coffee and goodies


Ivywild: 1604 S. Cascade Ave.

• Breakfast


Lincoln Center: 2727 N. Cascade Ave.

• Breakfast: Smoothies from Cafe Red Point


Mountain Metro Transit at Tap Traders: 3104 N. Nevada Ave., Unit 100

• Breakfast: Burritos

• Extras: Music, BOGO beer ticket for the ride home, T-shirt raffle


Organization of Westside Neighbors: Pedestrian Bridge over I-25, Monument Valley Pool

• Breakfast: Burritos

• Extras: Live music, stickers


Pedal Station/MER: 1026 S Tejon St.

• Breakfast


Pikes Peak Market: 315 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

• Breakfast


Popcycle Bridge: Pikes Peak Greenway Trail at Van Buren

• Breakfast: Pancakes, fruit, energy bars, drinks

• Extras: Mayor John Suthers serving breakfast, KOAA photo booth, giveaways


RideCo Bike Shop: 9625 Prominent Point

• Breakfast


SRAM: Pikes Peak Greenway Tail at Templeton Gap

• Breakfast: Coffee, water, lemonade, breakfast burritos

• Extras: Bike repair station, stickers, “swag”


Sustainacenter: 702 E Boulder St.

• Breakfast: Switchback Coffee Roasters/Willamette Market partner


UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central: 1400 E. Boulder St.

• Breakfast


University Village Colorado: 5246 North Nevada Ave.

• Breakfast


Urban Steam: 1025 S Sierra Madre St.

• Breakfast


YMCA- Briargate: 4025 Family Place

• Breakfast

• Extras: Basic bike repair and safety checks, music, giveaways


YMCA- Cottonwood: 3920 Dublin Blvd.

• Breakfast

• Extras: Basic bike repair and safety checks, music, giveaways


YMCA - East Side at Province Springs Senior Living: 2960 Tutt Blvd.

• Breakfast

• Extras: Basic bike repair and safety checks, music, giveaways


YMCA - Fountain at Welte Teen Center: 330 Lyckman Place

• Breakfast


YMCA- Prospect Lake Beach House: 619 Prospect Lake Dr.

• Breakfast

• Extras: Basic bike repair and safety checks, music, giveaways


YMCA- Southeast: 2190 Jet Wing Dr.

• Breakfast

• Extras: Basic bike repair and safety checks, music, giveaways


YMCA - Tri-Lakes: Santa Fe Trail at Baptist Road

• Breakfast



...and a list of “Bike Home from Work Stations”:


Atrevida Beer Company: 204 Mount View Lane

• 10 percent off if you ride


FH Beerworks: 521 S. Tejon St.

• $1 off


Fossil Craft Beer Company: 2845 Ore Mill Road

• $1 off your first beer


Goat Patch Brewing Company: 2727 N. Cascade Ave.

• $1 off pints


Gold Camp Brewing Company: 1007 S. Tejon St.

• Free half pint with purchase of a pint


Peaks N Pines Brewing Company: 4005 Tutt Blvd.

• $2 off a pint


Phantom Canyon Brewing Company: 2 East Pikes Peak Ave.

• Show the staff your bike helmet and receive a free pint


Piglatin Cocina: 2825 Dublin Blvd.

• $2 tacos and Tecates for bikers


Red Leg Brewing Company: 4630 Forge Road

• $1 off pints


Smiling Toad Brewery: 1757 S. 8th St.

• BOGO


Storybook Brewing: 3121 N. El Paso St.

• BOGO, first pint only


Trails End Taproom: 3103 W. Colorado Ave.

• 20 percent off beer wall


Whistle Pig Brewing Company: 1840 Dominion Way

• BOGO

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Clean Water Coalition, left out of PFC summit, hits back at EPA

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 4:54 PM

FOUNTAIN VALLEY CLEAN WATER COALITION
  • Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition


The Air Force fire-fighting chemicals that contaminated Security, Widefield and Fountain water could be even more dangerous than the Environmental Protection Agency thought — and local activists are not happy with the feds’ response.


Perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, have contaminated water supplies near military bases around the world. Aquifers that supplied residents of Security, Widefield and Fountain were among sites affected.


The water district has taken measures to protect its residents from unsafe water, and this year’s federal budget allocated additional money for the military to install and maintain water filters to reduce the contamination or purchase water elsewhere. The water has been labeled officially safe for drinking. However, the problem could be worse than the federal government had maintained.


Politico first reported a couple of weeks ago that the EPA sought to cover up a study from the Center for Disease Control lowering the standard for acceptable levels of PFCs in drinking water by one-sixth. In 2016, the EPA reduced the acceptable level of PFCs from 400 parts per trillion to 70. The report, however, indicated that safe exposure levels could be as low as 12 ppt.


Liz Rosenbaum, the Democratic candidate for House District 21 and cofounder of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition, said the report came at no surprise to her community.


“The information being put out by the water districts that the water is safe, I believe is covering up the fact that we’ve been polluted for three, four decades and our entire Windmill Gulch aquifer is destroyed,” Rosenbaum said. “And the people who knew, the companies that knew this was a cancer-causing chemical need to be held accountable for ruining our aquifer.”


The EPA drew further ire from clean-water activists when it refused to allow community representatives to attend the National Leadership Summit on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) this week. EPA chief Scott Pruitt described the summit as a way to bring together “federal partners, several tribes, dozens of industry, non-governmental groups and other national organizations” to “share valuable recommendations for how EPA should deal with PFAS in communities and communicate the risks associated with PFAS.” However, community groups, journalists and even legislative staff were excluded from attending the summit.


Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition and 36 other communities across the country affected by PFCs responded by posting photos online displaying statistics about their communities and reasons they felt they should have had a say. Fountain Valley’s photo showed a sign that read: “We need a seat at the table because PFAS toxins from the Air Force base are in our bodies and people are getting sick.”


The EPA recently announced it will visit communities in Michigan, New Hampshire and Colorado where PFCs have contaminated drinking water.


Rosenbaum says it’s essential that agency representatives take the time to meet with activists in the Widefield, Security and Fountain area.


“What I’m hoping happens with the EPA coming here is that they actually meet with the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition,” Rosenbaum said. “If they don’t access us and what we have to say, elections are coming in November, and we will have our voices heard.”

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Penrose-St. Francis Health Service rethinking $550 million hospital project

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 12:35 PM

St. Francis Medical Center at Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road. - COURTESY CENTURA HEALTH
  • Courtesy Centura Health
  • St. Francis Medical Center at Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road.
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is rethinking its proposed high-rise hospital on Fillmore Street just west of Interstate 25, the Colorado Springs Business Journal reports today.

Penrose bought the property last summer and agreed to limit the height to 165 feet for the $550 million medical campus.

The Journal's Helen Robinson reports the reconsideration is part of a new strategic plan process for the health services provider.

From the story:
Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is kicking off a new strategic plan for Colorado Springs, reassessing whether it needs to build the new hospital planned for its Fillmore Street site, completing a $102 million expansion at St. Francis Medical Center, and seeking a new CEO.

It’s a big year.

Interim CEO Brian Erling, appointed after longtime CEO Margaret Sabin stepped down March 16, is at the helm through all the changes. He’s focused on navigating a rapidly evolving health care landscape and working out what Colorado Springs really needs.

That includes taking a hard look at plans for a $550 million medical campus — which would be Penrose-St. Francis’ third hospital in the Springs — and deciding whether to go ahead.

Penrose-St. Francis is still “very interested” in using the 80-acre site at the corner of Fillmore Street and Centennial Boulevard, Erling said, but new plans will unfold based on new information.

“You do have to take a step back and say, ‘Gosh, are you going to spend half a billion dollars and end up with only a handful more beds and a handful more [operating rooms] to meet the community need? Was that really the best use of that much money?’” he said. “So we’re asking those questions — and the answer might be yes, that is a good use of the money, let’s build the hospital over there; it just needs to be a bit bigger.”

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