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Coos Bay library set to host free robotic demonstrations for kids

COOS BAY — The Coos Bay Public Library is partnering with the Coos Bay School District this summer to offer weekly free robotic demonstrations from June 25 to August 13 in the children’s section of the public library. The introductory series is set to teach children the basic skills needed to assemble and program robots.

Youth services librarian Rebekah Westmark said this series is a first for the library going beyond just building, but actually showing children how to do some computer coding.

“We got a LEGO Mindstorm robot from a STEM grant a couple of years ago, but haven’t done much programming with it,” said Westmark. “Right now, there’s a huge need for technology skills especially for kids in rural areas that don’t always get these opportunities.”

The series, LEGO Club 2.0: Robotics, will feature a few pre-built robots, about three laptops for programming, a full competition style table and two buckets full of robotic attachment pieces.

Coos Bay School District chairman and robotics coach/mentor Adrian DeLeon will be leading the demonstrations and is hoping to not only teach kids the fundamentals of robotics but also do some potential recruiting. DeLeon has been crucial in the district’s development of robotic teams. Currently, the district has four teams, which have been split between Sunset Middle School and Millicoma Middle School.

The teams are registered with the FIRST LEGO League, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, which is a nonprofit organization created to promote children’s interest in science and technology. Each year, the teams take part in a regional competition, which is hosted by the league.

“We want to find new members as soon as possible so that we can get them trained up before the season starts,” said DeLeon. “For this series, I really want to give kids some hands on experience, which would be programming, building robots and their attachments.”

Depending on the turnout and varying skill level, DeLeon said they will discuss how to navigate the robots, how to use their sensors and how to get them to interact with their environment.

The demonstrations are scheduled to take place each Monday at 2 p.m. from June 25 to August 13. According to Westmark, no registration is required and children of any age are welcome to attend.

“I’m looking forward to learning about robotics myself,” said Westmark. “I’m excited to gain some new skills and bring it to our own LEGO club we have here at the library. Hopefully, we can continue doing something like this in the future.”

Fishing Vessel runs aground on the North Spit after losing power

COOS BAY — Around 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, a 28-foot commercial fishing vessel known as the Kluane lost power on its way out to sea and ran aground at low tide on the North Spit.

After the vessel lost power it drifted into a rocky area of the North Spit known as the Cribs Jetty. The tide going out caused the vessel to sustain significant hull damage and become stuck.

“The vessel apparently lost power and drifted up onto the rocks where it became lodged on the Cribs Jetty. The tide went out and it wasn’t able to get off of the rocks,” commanding officer at Coast Guard Station Coos Bay Kary Moss said.

A Coast Guard team from Astoria has already come down to clean up environmental concerns associated with the wreck.

“Sector Columbia River opened up a federal fund and contracted to have all of the diesel fuel, oils, and pollutants removed from the vessel so that there is no environmental hazard,” Moss said.

Shortly after the vessel became stuck the owner decided to wait until the next high tide to try and maneuver the boat free. However, the Coast Guard deemed that to be an unsafe operation.

“We asked him to get off the boat because we felt like it was an unsafe situation… He had a friend of his come and pick him up off the boat. We had a couple of our assets standing by in case we were needed,” Moss said.  

The Coast Guard does not remove vessels in these situations. It is up to the owner to have it removed.

“It’s up to the owner to submit an approved salvage plan to the captain of the port up in Columbia River, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” Moss said.

Bay Area Hospital remodels psych and emergency departments
Renovations to be finished in the fall

COOS BAY — While other hospitals continue to reduce psychiatric beds, Bay Area Hospital plans to add more.

In fact, Bay Area Hospital is renovating its entire Acute Psychiatric Unit and Emergency Department with plans to finish both by the fall.

The $1 million project began a year ago, funded through the hospital’s capital budget because it is seen as an important move by the hospital board.

“We have long been in need of additional space in the (psychiatric unit),” said Kera Hood, clinical nurse manager for psychiatric service at BAH. “The board has placed a great emphasis on mental health, as well as physical health. It’s allowed us to get this remodel.”

The Acute Psychiatric Unit is moving from 11 beds to 13. BAH Chief Nursing Officer Regina Rose explained that the unit has seen an increasing demand as more and more facilities across the state begin to shut down or scale back available space. For example, when Portland combined all of its psychiatric facilities and built the Unity Center for Behavioral Health, Rose said “that decreased the number of beds available, not increased it.”

“While the other facilities in the state close their doors and units because it’s the cost effective thing to do, we have stepped up our game and continue to support and grow our psychiatric care for our community,” Rose said.

When asked why, she said, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Last year, the average daily census, or beds filled, was seven. Since November, that average went up to a consistent 10 or 11, filling the unit to capacity.

“As space continues to decrease in the state, we increase in our census because our population needs somewhere to get treatment,” Rose said.

The Acute Psychiatric Unit renovation is including research-based aesthetics, meaning it will feel more like home than a hospital.

“We have chosen a beach cottage theme,” she said. “The colors are very welcoming and warm. It is a calming place to be, with soothing colors and open spaces.”

Once the unit is finished, Hood said the public will notice how the hospital is putting special importance on keeping everyone safe, from patients to staff. This is being done with more secure beds placed in softer settings separate from each other.

“This means we will be able to keep a depressed individual away from another patient who may be psychotic schizophrenic, which can be potentially frightening,” Hood said. “There will be more security and peace on the unit.”

Though BAH is seeing a growing increase of patients in its Acute Psychiatric Unit, Hood pointed to the community’s mass efforts to create more effective preventative and follow-up care.

“In the process of mental illness, our part is when things are the worst of the worst,” she said. “We get patients back on their feet and back into the community. The effects of this preventative and follow-up care is something we will eventually see, but it is taking time to get caught up with the need.”

Those community efforts include Crisis Intervention Training with the local police departments and Coos Health and Wellness.

As the renovation picks up in the psychiatric unit, beds will initially downsize for three and a half months. The unit is also being completely relocated on July 10 until the remodel finishes in October.

“We’re working with the state and community partners so hopefully everyone can be supportive to help us manage through that time as well as possible until we are finished,” Hood said.

Emergency Department renovation

The remodel inside the Emergency Department is expected to finish in November with 22 beds and all private rooms.

“We don’t have the luxury to close an ER, so we have appreciated the public’s patience because we have had to reduce our bed count during this time,” Rose said.

Because of this, the hospital has focused on adding a provider in triage during the peak hours of the day. Emergency Department Manager Rebecca Davisson said this allows patients to be seen faster, getting any labs or x-rays started while the more critically ill patients move on to beds.

“This has led to shorter wait times,” Davisson said.

Davisson extended her thanks to the public for being patient during the renovation process, especially since they have endured loud construction while waiting to be seen while sick.

“We appreciate their support for this project,” she said.

Still no word on reunification of migrant families

McALLEN, Texas — Two days after President Donald Trump ordered an end to the separation of families at the border, federal authorities Friday cast about for jail space to detain them together, leaving hundreds of parents in the dark on when they would be reunited with their children.

Meanwhile, The Trump administration is calling for the expanded use of family detention for immigrant parents and children who are stopped along the U.S.-Mexico border, a move decried by advocates as a cruel and ineffective attempt to deter families from coming to the United States.

Immigration authorities on Friday issued a notice that they may seek up to 15,000 beds to detain families. The Justice Department has also asked a federal court in California to allow children to be detained longer and in facilities that don't require state licensing while they await immigration court proceedings.

"The current situation is untenable," August Flentje, special counsel to the assistant attorney general, wrote in court filings seeking to change a longstanding court settlement that governs the detention of immigrant children. The more constrained the Homeland Security Department is in detaining families together during immigration proceedings, "the more likely it is that families will attempt illegal border crossing."

There was nothing but frustration and worry for many of the parents separated from their children and placed in detention centers for illegally entering the country over the past several weeks.

Some parents struggled to get in touch with youngsters being held in many cases hundreds of miles away, in places like New York and the Chicago area. Some said they didn't even know where their children were.

Trump himself took a hard line on the crisis, accusing the Democrats of telling "phony stories of sadness and grief." He met with parents who had children killed by immigrants in the country illegally to make the point that they are the real victims of weak borders.

"We cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants," the president tweeted.

Trump on Friday told his fellow Republicans in Congress to "stop wasting their time" on immigration legislation until after the November elections. GOP leaders said they'd press on anyway, but his comments further damaged their attempt to win over wavering lawmakers for a measure already facing likely defeat.

Trump's tweet on immigration legislation was the latest example of his abrupt reversals on issues, to the dismay of Republicans who crave his backing as a seal of approval for conservative voters. Just Tuesday, he met privately with GOP lawmakers and told them he supported the immigration legislation and would have their backs in November.

"Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November," he tweeted. "Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solve this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!"

Trump's history of turnabouts has made it harder for congressional leaders to win over other lawmakers for the immigration bill. The measure would grant young "Dreamer" immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children a chance for citizenship — a move many Republicans worry would enrage conservative voters who'd view it as amnesty.

"You just fear that tweet in the morning," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a supporter of efforts to help Dreamers. She said members think, "The day's not over. Heck, it's not even noon yet. How many times could he change his mind?"

Despite Trump's stance, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the chamber would press ahead on legislation next week. Differences between conservative and moderate Republicans delayed a vote initially planned for Thursday.

More than 2,300 children were taken from their families at the border in recent weeks. A senior Trump administration official said that about 500 of them have been reunited since May.

Federal agencies are working to set up a centralized reunification process for all remaining children at a detention center in Texas, said the senior administration official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

An ICE official said it is unclear how families will be reunified.

"It's a big question. There have not been a lot of answers," Henry Lucero, a director of field operations, confessed at a forum in Weslaco, Texas.

In the meantime, federal authorities appear to be easing up on the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting all adults caught illegally entering the U.S. — though the Justice Department flatly denied there has been any change.

Meanwhile, a 7-year-old boy and his mother, separated a month ago, were reunited Friday after she sued in federal court and the Justice Department agreed to release the child.

They were brought back together around 2:30 a.m. at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland, hours after the government relented.

The mother, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, had filed for political asylum after crossing the border with her son, Darwin, following a trek from Guatemala. She said that she cried when the two were reunited and that she is never going to be away from him again.