COOS BAY — Coos County law enforcement, mental health professionals and city and county officials gathered Monday for a workshop about the growing partnership between local police agencies and Coos Health and Wellness.
“The whole goal of it is to keep people with mental illness out of the jail as much as possible,” Coos County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kelley Andrews said.
The workshop outlined common scenarios and how they play out when a person with mental illness comes in contact with police. Those at the workshop are then offered opinions on how to develop a strategic plan moving forward so that the mentally ill receive the treatment they need insisted of finding themselves in and out of county jail.
“The takeaway from that workshop is we had to really figure out where all the gaps are and which ones we need to focus on,” Ross Acker of Coos Health and Wellness said.
The strategic plan includes crisis intervention training for members of law enforcement as well as the expansion of the treatment court system where people who are mentally ill that have been charged with a crime but are diverted out of the criminal justice system and into treatment programs instead.
“They have to agree to treatment and they have to follow through in order to get their charges dropped,” Acker said.
One of the things Acker and Andrews are really trying to push is more involvement in a monthly collaboration meeting where law enforcement meets with Coos Health and Wellness to bring cases that they’re having problems with.
“We bring in complicated cases that we’re having difficulty in the community with. Each of us individually can’t solve them, so we have to work together to solve that,” Acker said.
The relationship between Coos Health and Wellness and local law enforcement began back in 2014, when Acker started riding along with Andrews and talking down mentally ill folks in crisis scenarios.
“We would go to persons with mental illness who were in crisis and we’d go out and talk to them. It was more him talking and me standing back, but then I started learning from him and we started working together more,” Andrews said.
Since many state run mental health facilities have closed due to lack of funding, there have been significantly more cases of mentally ill people who find themselves without treatment.
“When I started 20 years ago, mental health and cops didn’t talk at all. They did their thing and we did our thing. You can’t do that anymore,” Andrews said.
Coos Health and Wellness has a mobile crisis team for both adults and children that assists law enforcement with calming distressed people who are having a mental crisis. Currently the mobile response teams only assist until 10 p.m., but Coos Health and Wellness is working to provide enough staff for those teams to operate 24 hours a day.
“We get to be on scene versus having someone in crisis be brought to our building which might not be the best place for them to receive help. The goal is to provide that intervention right there and then and see what we can do to help,” Coos Health and Wellness’ mobile crisis team leader Megan Ridle said.
Ridle said that the partnership with law enforcement has been beneficial for both police and their crisis mediators.
“I think it’s a great learning experience for both agencies who haven’t historically necessarily seen eye to eye. Because of this collaboration that we’re doing, we’re understanding each other. My team is starting to understand how law enforcement works and the things that they go through. And they’re learning how we deal with the situation … We have two different expertise that are coming together and saying hey we’re going to help you to move forward and get you where you need to go,” Ridel said.
Coos Health and Wellness is uncertain when they will be able to upgrade the mobile response teams to a 24-hour service, because currently they lack the staff to do so.
“Right now it really is just about staffing for us and filling those positions on the team. I actually have four clinical therapists that are willing to do mobile crisis and move to the 24-hour model, I’m just waiting for another position to be filled right now,” Ridle said.
Ridle said that her team has learned a lot about approaching crisis situations cautiously from law enforcement.
Last year, the sheriff’s office and other local police agencies sent some of its personnel to Crisis Intervention Team training. According to Andrews, the training has helped the officers and deputies who went through it quite a bit when looking at a scenario where an individual is in a state of crisis.
Another of these CIT training courses will be available to law enforcement in the first week of March. At this time, Coos Health and Wellness is not offering the CIT training to the public. Once more officers get trained, it may open the training up to the public.
“We have about 10 total that are certified. We’re sending another eight to ten this time. That’s kind of our plan, every time there’s a CIT conference here were sending eight to 10 of our staff,” Andrews said.
COOS BAY — This week is National Engineers Week. To celebrate and draw in a new generation of engineers, Southwestern Oregon Community College had its 12th annual Career Exploration Dinner. Attending were members of the southwestern chapter of Professional Engineers of Oregon, including its president Ron Stillmaker.
“This dinner is presented by the local organization of engineers to introduce high school students to what careers are available in engineering, from civil, electrical to mechanical,” Stillmaker told The World.
Previously this dinner has brought in 80 to 90 students from around Southern Oregon. Presenting to the crowd were representatives from Oregon State, Portland State University, Oregon Institute of Technology, SWOCC and the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying.
“We’re trying to get these students interested, to see if they have any inkling to make engineering a career,” Stillmaker said. “We’re teaching them about what makes it desirable and what kind of salaries to expect. There is a need for engineers in this world and it’s a career where you can better yourself and better the world.”
Since being part of the career development dinner, Stillmaker has seen positive results from attending students. One year after he presented on structural engineering, one North Bend High School teen spoke with him and later went on to get a masters dgeree in structural engineering.
“I’d like to think it’s due to this dinner and our discussion,” he laughed. “We’re just needing to get out the idea to the high school community that there are lots of great engineering jobs and it’s an industry that needs people.”
In fact, the engineering industry is moving in the way many other industries across the nation are going. With the baby boomer generation aging out of the workforce, companies and communities are seeing an ever-widening gap form.
“There is a shortage and there will continue to be a shortage so there will continue to be a demand,” Stillmaker said. “It’s similar to other careers throughout the country because we’re losing one generation and need to fill out with younger generations. That’s why it’s important to build interest, to encourage students with an inclination for math and science to look into this field and contact these colleges to find out more.”
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — On the one hand: The world gathers for a scripted, globalized spectacle of competition and unity. North Korean athletes and performers stream into the rival South for a display of cooperation that maybe, just maybe, could ease anxiety about possible nuclear war. The North's head of state announces plans to visit the South for the first time. The U.S. vice president is stopping by, too.
On the other: Angry South Koreans bump up against riot police to protest the arrivals. The North's government immediately calls the demonstration a "spasm of psychopaths." The president of the United States insists that America must become "great again" — and goads the North Korean leader on Twitter.
And outward from there it ripples, across a planet riven by uncertainty and anger.
That the world is a contradictory and quarrelsome place is hardly breaking news. But on the week that the 2018 Winter Olympics begin, tucked away in chilly mountains that loom over one of the planet's most contentious patches of earth, it somehow seems more so at this moment.
When the torch is lit during the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang's Olympic stadium on Friday night, it will become one of many flames being fanned around the world. Few others are anywhere near as uplifting.
"It's hard to talk about these Olympics without bearing in mind that for all the wonderful ideals that are brought to mind by the Olympic Games, and rightfully so, right now the Korean Peninsula is the most dangerous place on Earth," says Mark Hertsgaard, author of "The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World."
As its organizers often say, an Olympics are an opportunity to sublimate politics into healthy competition and show that the world can come together for a noble purpose: an excellence of body and mind produced by hard work and sheer determination.
And yes, that's happening in Pyeongchang even before the Games begin, most dramatically with the joint Korean women's hockey team, which will feature players from the long-divided North and South skating and competing together on the same ice.
But bypassing political bumpiness entirely is a challenge when the other main point of the Olympics — national pride, as seen through the prism of sports — can come with some serious geopolitical baggage.
This is also the first Games to take place since Donald Trump became president of the United States in early 2017. And whether you love him or hate him, it's clear that he has changed the global conversation through his willingness to be voluble in ways previous presidents have avoided.
One of Trump's hallmarks has been his attitude of America first. That has always played to a mixed audience at the Olympics, and this edition will be no exception. For all its country-specific fervor, the Olympics is a proudly multilateral event taking place this year in a world that, from Brexit to Trump policies, is awash in a burst of unilateralism.
How those two notions mix — particularly with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and North Korea's figurehead head of state, Kim Yong Nam, both planning to visit Pyeongchang with clear political agendas — will prove interesting.
There is also the specter of non-athletic scandal around the edges.
• The Russian team is banned because of doping issues; Russian athletes, however, are competing — but without their flag to wrap themselves in.
• U.S. Gymnastics, a staple of the Summer Games, is reeling after its team doctor was convicted of sexually assaulting dozens of athletes.
• Even the fall of TV personality Matt Lauer, a fixture of past Olympic coverage for American viewers, was linked to sexual misconduct at the Sochi Games.
But geopolitics hang heaviest.
This corner of the world is filled with countries whose histories run deep with unique, often tense relationships with each other and with the United States. That's true not only of the two Koreas but of neighbors Japan and China, the locations of the 2020 and 2022 Games respectively. With that trifecta in mind, it's hard to imagine that regional relationships won't affect the tenor of not only these Olympics but the next two as well.
That's on display this week. Pence is coming to Pyeongchang as a kind of bulwark against too much good feeling about Korean cooperation. "We'll be ensuring that whatever cooperation that's existing between North and South Korea today on Olympic teams does not cloud the reality of a regime that must continue to be isolated by the world community," he said Monday.
Not to be outdone, the North's official news agency is weighing in regularly as the opening of the Games approaches. "The U.S. has revealed its intention to make the Winter Olympics a theatre for stand-off with the DPRK," it said, using the initials for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Against this backdrop, it will be interesting to watch the opening ceremony, typically a moment for a country to showcase vivid imagery about its own history. What space, if any, will that performance give to North Korea and the conflict that divided the peninsula seven decades ago?
"There is a way in which countries use especially the opening ceremony to talk about their narrative, their myth, their origin," says Sarah Mendelson, head of Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College's program in Washington and the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council.
"It's going to be very interesting to see how they deal with this — with the Korean War," she says. "How do you not talk about the seminal event?"
WASHINGTON — Senate leaders brokered a long-sought budget agreement Wednesday that would shower the Pentagon and domestic programs with an extra $300 billion over the next two years. But both Democratic liberals and GOP tea party forces swung against the plan, raising questions about its chances just a day before the latest government shutdown deadline.
The measure was a win for Republican allies of the Pentagon and for Democrats seeking more for infrastructure projects and combatting opioid abuse. But it represented a bitter defeat for many liberal Democrats who sought to use the party's leverage on the budget to resolve the plight of immigrant "Dreamers" who face deportation after being brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The deal does not address immigration.
Beyond the $300 billion figure, the agreement adds almost $90 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Senate leaders hope to approve the measure today and send it to the House for a confirming vote before the government begins to shut down at midnight today. But hurdles remain to avert the second shutdown in a month.
While Senate Democrats celebrated the moment of rare bipartisanship — Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a "genuine breakthrough" — progressives and activists blasted them for leaving immigrants in legislative limbo. Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, herself a key architect of the budget plan, announced her opposition Wednesday morning and mounted a remarkable daylong speech on the House floor, trying to force GOP leaders in the House to promise a later vote on legislation to protect the younger immigrants.
"Let Congress work its will," Pelosi said, before holding the floor for more than eight hours without a break. "What are you afraid of?"
The White House backed the deal — despite President Donald Trump's outburst a day earlier that he'd welcome a government shutdown if Democrats didn't accept his immigration-limiting proposals.
Trump himself tweeted that the agreement "is so important for our great Military," and he urged both Republicans and Democrats to support it.
But the plan faced criticism from deficit hawks in his own party.
Some tea party Republicans shredded the measure as a budget-buster. Combined with the party's December tax cut bill, the burst in military and other spending would put the GOP-controlled government on track for the first $1 trillion-plus deficits since President Barack Obama's first term. That's when Congress passed massive stimulus legislation to try to stabilize a down-spiraling economy.
"It's too much," said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., a fiscal hawk.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., however, backed the agreement and was hoping to cobble together a coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans to push it through.
Despite the 77-year-old Pelosi's public talkathon, she was not pressuring the party's rank-and-file to oppose the measure, Democrats said. The deal contains far more money demanded by Democrats than had seemed possible only weeks ago, including $90 billion in disaster aid for Florida and Texas. Some other veteran Democrats — some of whom said holding the budget deal hostage to action on Dreamer immigrants had already proven to be a failed strategy — appeared more likely to support the agreement than junior progressives elected in recent years.
The budget agreement would give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies relief from a budget freeze that lawmakers say threatens military readiness and training as well as domestic priorities such as combating opioid abuse and repairing the troubled health care system for veterans.
The core of the agreement would shatter tight "caps" on defense and domestic programs funded by Congress each year. They are a hangover from a failed 2011 budget agreement and have led to military readiness problems and caused hardship at domestic agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the IRS.
The agreement would give the Pentagon an $80 billion increase for the current budget year for core defense programs, a 14 percent increase over current limits and $26 billion more than Trump's budget request. Nondefense programs would receive about $60 billion over current levels. Those figures would be slightly increased for the 2019 budget year beginning Oct. 1.
"For the first time in years, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe," said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "It will help us serve the veterans who have bravely served us. And it will ensure funding for important efforts such as disaster relief, infrastructure and building on our work to fight opioid abuse and drug addiction."
The $90 billion in disaster aid would bring the total appropriated in the wake of last year's hurricane season to almost $140 billion.
The agreement would increase the government's borrowing cap to prevent a first-ever default on U.S. obligations that looms in just a few weeks. The debt limit would be suspended through March of 2019.
The House on Tuesday passed legislation to keep the government running through March 23, marrying the stopgap spending measure with a $659 billion Pentagon spending plan, but the Senate plan would rewrite that measure.