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Halfway house residents struggle to buy food, medicine after facility issues run of bad checks | Premium

Residents of a private halfway house in Colorado Springs say they struggled for weeks to access personal funds for food, medication and other necessities while their halfway house-issued checks were rejected by banks and check-cashing services.

The snag at Community Alternatives of El Paso persisted despite administrators’ promises to fix the problem and held up money that belongs to residents, who are required to hand over their paychecks and other income as a condition of their incarceration. The halfway house takes out money for rent and restitution and issues residents periodic allowances.

Remaining funds in the residents’ accounts are returned, minus any rent and restitution, after their release.  

Starting in late August, CAE’s bank, Community Banks of Colorado, repeatedly refused to honor the allowance checks, but not before some residents believed they had successfully deposited them.

The resulting confusion caused some residents to overdraw their personal checking accounts, deepening their financial woes as they prepared for release, several residents told The Gazette. Others were turned away from check-cashing services, forcing them to borrow money from family members and friends to cover their expenses.


Colorado Watch | Colorado halfway houses: Violence, sex and drugs as promised reforms lag

Although food is provided at CAE, many residents leave on work release and eat outside the facility, and others avoid the food that’s served, which comes from the El Paso County jail.

For Robert Thompson, the issue was the latest hurdle to obtaining a critical seizure medication while incarcerated at CAE.

After being transferred to CAE from the El Paso County jail in July, Thompson said he went two days without his daily medication. When administrators took him to an urgent care center after his repeated complaints, a provider there prescribed him half of his normal dose of 1,000 mg twice daily.

Thompson attributes his struggle over medications for contributing to seizures while in CAE custody that led to two trips by ambulance to UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, where doctors restored his normal prescription and said his seizures could cause brain damage and even death.   

“They are endangering my life,” said Thompson, 59, who estimated that up to a third of the population — about 170 people as of August — struggled to access their money.

Thompson provided receipts from Walmart and King Soopers showing that his CAE checks were rejected by check-cashing services at a time he said he needed to refill his prescription. He eventually received a new check from CAE and purchased a refill two days before running out.

He said Walmart and King Soopers had so many problems with checks from CAE that they stopped accepting them.

In a memo posted Sept. 23 at CAE, and obtained by the newspaper, administrators instructed inmates not to cash checks issued between Aug. 20-Sept. 22, citing a “system error at the bank.”  

Two other residents said they had checks returned prior to that period, and receipts examined by the newspaper showed problems continued afterward.


Coronavirus outbreak at Colorado Springs halfway house widens,

Around 1 In 5 Chicago Residents May Have Already Had Coronavirus

EVANSTON, IL — Preliminary findings from a Northwestern University coronavirus study suggest that far more Chicago residents have been infected with COVID-19 than previously believed, with nearly 20 percent of the first group of people tested showing antibodies for the virus.

The Screening for Coronavirus Antibodies in Neighborhoods, or SCAN, project has so far tested the 1,000 blood samples for evidence of an immune response to exposure to the new coronavirus, according to researchers.

The samples were provided by residents of 10 ZIP codes in the city. With additional funding secure, the study has expanded to collect more than 3,000 more samples from across Cook County.

Thom McDade, principal investigator for the project, said the study was not designed to pick a fully representative sample of the city. Instead, researchers picked pairs of adjacent ZIP codes where the infection rate was above average in one and below average in the other.

“There are a large proportion of people who have been exposed but never had any symptoms and never got sick, so we’re using the antibody test to identify where the virus has spread in the community and how it’s been transmitted,” McDade told Patch. “But it also tells me that there’s probably been a higher level of exposure than previously thought. “

About 5 percent of participants reported having been diagnosed with COVID-19 or having tested positive, while the city’s overall rate of confirmed cases is just over 3 percent.

Still, if the early results were to hold true for the rest of the city, hundreds of thousands more Chicagoans have been exposed to the the virus than have tested positive for an active infection. Viral testing has detected 83,000 confirmed cases in the city as of Friday, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Thom McDade, a biological anthropologist and lead investigator in the <a href="https://scan.northwestern.edu/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Screening for Coronavirus Antibodies in Neighborhoods" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Screening for Coronavirus Antibodies in Neighborhoods</a> project, works on a COVID-19 antibody test that requires only a single drop of blood. (Northwestern University)
Thom McDade, a biological anthropologist and lead investigator in the Screening for Coronavirus Antibodies in Neighborhoods project, works on a COVID-19 antibody test that requires only a single drop of blood. (Northwestern University)

Co-Investigator Dr. Elizabeth McNally, director of the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern’s medical school, told the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the preliminary results, that the testing method the study uses is more sensitive than commercial antibody tests, which could be missing one in four cases. Other studies have found that the actual rate of COVID-19 infections were 10 times higher, at least, than the number of detected cases reported by public health officials.

The project’s antibody, or serological, testing requires participants only to prick their finger and mail in a drop of their dried blood, with results provided online within about a month.

“Widespread serological testing is essential for figuring out how the virus is spreading in the community, but it is very hard to screen large numbers of people when the tests require people to come to a health care provider,” McNally said in a May announcement the new one-drop test.

McDade said his Evanston lab has developed about 10 previous blood-spot tests

Residents urged to stay home as second wave widens

Canadian public health officials are warning residents to stay home as much as possible, saying the next few weeks will be critical to the country’s efforts to contain Covid-19.



a group of people standing in front of a building: People wait for Covid-19 tests in Toronto in September.


© Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Getty Images
People wait for Covid-19 tests in Toronto in September.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared that a second wave of the coronavirus was already underway in most of the country. Canada is at a “tipping point” in the pandemic, Trudeau said Friday.

“Not only is the second wave underway, yesterday we hit the highest daily recorded cases, well above what saw this spring,” said Trudeau during a press conference in Ottawa Friday.

The national daily case counts continue to increase sharply, with an average of about 2,000 new cases every day for the past week. That’s a 40% rise in the last week alone, according to government statistics.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak started, Canada has had a total of 175,380 cases and 9,593 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Hospitalizations and deaths continue to creep upward as well, with more than 600 patients currently in hospitals in Canada with Covid-19 and an average of about 18 deaths reported daily.

More than 80% of new infections are from Ontario and Quebec, and those under 40 account for 60% of the cases.

The province of Quebec is of particular concern, with urban hotspots in Montreal and Quebec City. Dine-in restaurants and bars were closed in those cities last week as new daily cases continue to climb.

Quebec reported 1,364 new cases of the virus on Tuesday alone, the highest daily case total since the pandemic began. That prompted a blunt warning to young people in Quebec to take the virus seriously and stay home.

Ontario joined Quebec Friday with targeted closures in its largest urban centers that include a ban on dine-in restaurants and the closure of bars. Both Toronto and Montreal, Canada’s two largest cities, have now shuttered restaurants and bars as hospitalizations increase.

“The young people that are not respecting the rule, they will have an impact on the system,” Christian Dube, Quebec’s health minister, said during a press conference in Quebec City Tuesday. “Don’t take the risk, please don’t test the hospital system.”

As recently as last month, Canada was being lauded for its efforts to flatten the curve.

Trudeau said more targeted closures, instead of a lockdown, are now possible during this second wave because more is known about how the virus is transmitted.

Despite the increase, Canada has had a small fraction of the cases of the United States, which has had 7.5 million cases and nearly 212,000 deaths.

Stay home for Thanksgiving

On Monday, Trudeau warned Canadians to stay home even for the Thanksgiving holiday next week, saying if Canada can once again flatten the curve that the country can “turn things around for Christmas.”

“We are going in the wrong direction now, which is why it is so important for Canadians to do what is necessary, to wear a

D.C. residents to see small increase in health insurance marketplace rates

Rates for individual coverage will increase overall by 0.2 percent and rates for small-group coverage, such as small businesses, will decrease by 0.5 percent, according to the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, which reviews and approves rates for the online marketplace.

The 2021 rates are a “big win for D.C. residents in making health care more affordable and accessible,” said William Borden, a professor of medicine and health policy at George Washington University. He pointed to how people struggled to keep up with rising health insurance premiums even before the novel coronavirus took hold.

“Having health insurance is clearly associated with better health outcomes, and so if there was going to be a sharp increase in insurance premiums that really could be devastating, especially as individuals, small businesses are already struggling financially,” Borden said.

Insurers initially asked for rate increases as high as 30 percent, but most of the insurers decreased their initial rate filings after a virtual public hearing in September.

During that hearing, leaders of the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, which operates D.C. Health Link, the online health insurance marketplace, advocated premium reductions or freezing rates at 2020 levels. More than 30 people signed up to testify.

The gap between what insurers initially proposed and what the DISB approved after the hearing will save D.C. residents more than $17 million, according to the department’s news release Friday.

Open enrollment in the District runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31.

Other jurisdictions also have moved to limit increasing rates.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) approved an average 11.9 percent premium rate decrease for individual health insurance plans through Maryland Health Connection, the state-based health insurance marketplace, in 2021. This is the third consecutive year that individual premium rates have gone down in Maryland. Open enrollment in Maryland runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

The open enrollment period for all three jurisdictions will begin just as the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a case to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which could leave more than 23 million people without health care, according to a report from the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.

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Colorado one of just six states where Latinos are more likely to die prematurely than white residents

Colorado has a reputation as a healthy place to live, but that doesn’t seem to benefit the state’s Hispanic residents, who are more likely to die of causes that could have been treated or prevented.

In all but six states, Hispanic Americans are less likely to die of potentially preventable causes than white Americans, according to a Denver Post analysis of data from the Commonwealth Fund’s state health system scorecard.

In Colorado, however, Hispanic residents are about 20% more likely than white residents to die of treatable conditions, such as asthma attacks, diabetes complications, appendicitis or certain cancers. Deaths of people older than 75 aren’t included in the data.

The information was collected before the pandemic, so it doesn’t reflect COVID-19’s disproportionate hit on communities of color.

Colorado’s Hispanic population is more likely to be uninsured and to go without health care, but that’s also true of the rest of the country, including states where they’re less likely to die prematurely.

There’s no one explanation for the disparity in deaths, experts say, with factors including a history of discrimination, Colorado’s high cost of living and unequal access to quality jobs, education and housing playing a role.

Colorado’s white population has one of the lowest rates of premature death in the country, but that doesn’t fully explain the gap. Some other states, like Minnesota and Massachusetts, have lower-than-average rates of preventable deaths for both their white and Hispanic populations. In Colorado, the Hispanic population actually has more preventable deaths than the national average.

The things that make Colorado a healthy place, like the abundant opportunities for outdoor exercise, aren’t equally available to people who work lower-paying jobs and don’t have the money or free time to enjoy them, said Patricia Valverde, a faculty member at the Colorado School of Public Health’s Latino Research and Policy Center. And who works in low-wage jobs, which also tend to be more dangerous and may not offer health insurance, isn’t random, she said.

Denver was a center of a civil rights movement in the 1960s and ’70s because of widespread discrimination against Latinos in education and other parts of public life, Valverde said. While much has improved since then, people who were discriminated against in school were less able to pursue higher education, which then reduced how much they earned later in life and what opportunities they could give their children — all of which contributes to worse health, she said.

“With each generation, their economic opportunities increase, but you’re already starting behind,” she said.

Some parts of the state, like many of the southern counties, have high rates of premature deaths for all ethnic groups, according to data from the Colorado Health Institute. Others, like Denver and Mesa counties, have relatively low rates for white residents, but high ones for Hispanics.

In Denver, predominantly Latino neighborhoods tend to have less access to healthy food and more pollution, said Emily Cervantes, program manager for public policy research and analysis at the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy

Impact of wildfires affecting residents’ mental health

Paulie Hawthorne is used to fire. She grew up in southeastern Oregon, long a hotbed for wildfires.

“I can remember, even as a kid, there were fires. I mean, it was just kind of a thing that happened,” Hawthorne, 47, said. Hawthorne and her husband had to evacuate in 2017 from their old home in Brookings, Oregon, during the 2017 Chetco Bar wildfire, which burned through more than 190,000 acres, including about 80,000 acres in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Today she lives in Klamath Falls, Oregon, a small city about 280 miles south of Portland that has seen frequent, low-intensity fires over the years. While her current exposure has been mild, when she smells smoke in the air or simply sees ashy skies, it pulls her back.

“The hardest part about evacuating is you just think it’s gonna be like a couple days, and we were out for almost a month,” she explained.

Paulie Hawthorne (Courtesy of Paulie Hawthorne)
Paulie Hawthorne (Courtesy of Paulie Hawthorne)

The lingering dread associated with fires isn’t unique to Hawthorne, and the wildfires that have devastated large chunks of Oregon and California aren’t just decimating towns and driving residents away. Mental health experts say the fear and uncertainty that comes with wildfires can cause long-term psychological impact on residents. Worse yet, just as the region is seeing a growing increase in people seeking therapy, there is a deficit in available therapeutic resources.

Darla Gale, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in trauma and founder of Heartstrings Counseling in Loomis, California, said it is the unknown that is causing an abundance of stress and anxiety.

“We have had a tremendous increase in calls just in the last few months. It’s been overwhelming. I’ve had to hire seven more therapists to handle the load,” she said.

Many of her clients were previously victims of the 2018 Camp Fire, a deadly and damaging California fire that took nearly 90 lives.

“For the fire survivors, it’s the PTSD because of the smoke,” she said, using the acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder. But she also noted that some who survived the Camp Fire have now had to re-evacuate. It’s trauma on top of trauma.

Darla Gale, of Lumos, Calif., in her office. (Courtesy of Darla Gale)
Darla Gale, of Lumos, Calif., in her office. (Courtesy of Darla Gale)

Even residents who did not lose their homes say these wildfires have a lasting impact on their ability to manage daily life, even outside the direct path of destruction.

During the Two Four Two wildfire — which ravaged Klamath County, Oregon, in September — Hawthorne said she and her husband had trouble sleeping and were obsessively checking the sky and internet for information. Though they live some 15 miles away from the path of the fire, they simply didn’t feel safe.

“We both almost felt a compulsion to start getting our stuff together,” she said.

Hawthorne, who is a social worker and mental health therapist, said she is very familiar with the symptoms of trauma and PTSD. But that knowledge has not made dealing with wildfire anxiety any

Leaders in several states warn residents to be on guard as worrying Covid-19 trends emerge

Leaders in states across the country are sounding the alarm about rising Covid-19 cases that experts say could foreshadow a coming surge.



a person taking a selfie in a car: Medical technicians work at a drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility at the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals company's Westchester campus in Tarrytown, New York, U.S. September 17, 2020. Picture taken September 17, 2020. Brendan McDermid/Reuters


© Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Medical technicians work at a drive-thru coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing facility at the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals company’s Westchester campus in Tarrytown, New York, U.S. September 17, 2020. Picture taken September 17, 2020. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

In New York, several Covid-19 clusters have created “hotspot” zip codes, the governor said, with a positivity rate about five times more than the statewide figure. The clusters are a “stark reminder” that New Yorkers need to stay vigilant, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

“Wear a mask, socially distance, follow the public health guidance — because this thing is not over,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Leading health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have also warned that the US could see an especially challenging fall and winter this year. They say cities and counties should prepare by keeping safety measures and guidelines in place.

“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,” Fauci said in a Facebook and Twitter livestream.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear urged the state to stop a recent “escalation” of cases after reporting more than 1,000 new infections for the second day in a row.

“Today’s daily report is too high,” the governor said. “I need your help. It’s up to us and we’ve got to get this done.”

Wisconsin reported its highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations on record, with hospitalized patients nearly doubling in the state since September 18, according to hospital officials. And in Illinois, the governor is tightening restrictions in one part of the state after an increase in positivity rates.

At least 27 states have reported more new cases since the previous week and only nine are reporting a decline, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Nationwide, more than 7.2 million people have been infected and more than 206,000 Americans have died.

When a vaccine could be available to US population

On Wednesday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said if its Covid-19 vaccine is proven safe and effective, it could be available to the general population by late March or early April.

Moderna began its Phase 3 clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine in the US in July. It’s one of four companies that have begun Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trials in the US — the others are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca. The AstraZeneca trial was paused after an unexplained illness in a volunteer, and US health authorities are still considering crucial questions that remain around the injections of the experimental vaccine.

“I think a late Q1, early Q2 approval is a reasonable timeline, based on what we know from our vaccine,” Bancel said at a conference hosted by the Financial Times.

But there are several steps that will have to come before that.

If the safety and efficacy data checks out, Bancel says he expects Moderna will be

WilCo Health Officials Urge Residents To Get Flu Shots

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, TX — Ahead of the upcoming flu season, county officials are urging residents to get vaccinated toward protecting themselves and their families, officials announced Wednesday.

To that end, the Williamson County and Cities Health District urges residents from six months old and older to get vaccinated. Urgency in the advice is heightened given a decrease in use of preventive medical services in light of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders that have kept residents largely at home in efforts to blunt the spread of illness, officials noted.

Who Should Get the Flu Shot?

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, with rare exceptions, because it is an effective way to decrease flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths:

  • Essential workers: Including healthcare personnel (including nursing home, long-term care facility, and pharmacy staff) and other critical infrastructure workforce.

  • Persons at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19: Including adults aged 65 years and older, residents in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and persons of all ages with chronic disease and certain underlying medical conditions.

  • Persons at increased risk for serious influenza complications: Including infants and young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women, adults aged 65 years and older, and other persons with chronic disease and certain underlying medical conditions.

“Take precautions to reduce your chance of getting the flu this season by getting vaccinated in the fall, washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if you’re sick,” officials wrote in an advisory. Health officials added that influenza circulates heavily in Central Texas from typically September through April each year.

Flu information and a vaccine finder are available at TexasFlu.org.

This article originally appeared on the Austin Patch

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Here’s Why Some Cities Are Giving Cash to Residents

Cities including Stockton, Calif. and Hudson, N.Y. are experimenting with different models related to universal basic income. In Stockton, a program that allocated $500 a month to 125 randomly selected households in low-income neighborhoods was scheduled to end in July has been extended until January. Meanwhile, Hudson is launching a pilot program to give $500 a month to randomly selected residents for five years.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
1. The funds have helped recipients get through the pandemic.

More than half of the funds from Stockton’s $3.8 million experiment have been spent on food and utilities, according to preliminary findings. Stockton’s 30-year-old mayor, Michael Tubbs, who pioneered the project, said of the spending, “What we found is that you can trust people to make good decisions.”

2. Critics are skeptical about the concept.

Some economists argue that no-strings-attached cash could be a disincentive for people to find work—especially if the money is only given to low income households. However, studies of universal cash transfers in Alaska and among the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina found no negative effect on work. On a national level, a similar program targeting households within certain income brackets could cost as much as $1.2 trillion, according to economists Melissa Kearney and Magne Mogstad. Kearney said it would likely have to replace existing safety net programs.

3. Some mayors are still willing to give it a shot

Roughly two dozen mayors from cities as large as Los Angeles and as small as Holyoke, Mass., have signed on to a newly formed coalition advocating for a nationwide guaranteed income. “This Covid[-19] economy has just yanked the rug out from our communities across the country in a way we’ve never experienced before,” said Melvin Carter, mayor of Saint Paul, Minn., and a member of the group. He said his city is working with donors to set up its own experiment similar to the one in Stockton.

Read the original article by David Harrison here.

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