Teaching young drivers good habits behind the wheel

by Bonnie Shelton


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MERIDIAN — It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week and Idaho State troopers are doing what they can to promote safety by reaching out to the youngest drivers on Idaho’s roads.

ISP said they’re sending a strong message to new drivers through the “5 to Drive” campaign. It stresses five rules for staying safe on the road.

1. No cell phones while driving

2. No extra passengers

3. No speeding

4. No alcohol

5. No driving or riding without a seat belt

Officers told us limiting distractions is important for any driver, but especially one just learning the rules of the road.

“Distracted driving is one of the biggest things that we deal with. Cell phones, it seems like everybody has a cell phone. Sometimes, you really think teen drivers especially they’re more worried about who’s texting them than operating the vehicle that they’re in charge of,” said ISP Trooper Kenny Walker.

In 2012, there were 62,000 licensed drivers between the age of 15 and 19 on Idaho roads, according to the Idaho Department of Transportation. That makes up about six percent of total drivers in the state.

ITD officials say young drivers are also more likely to be involved in fatal or injury related crashes.

School Lunch Programs a Casualty of Government Shutdown Mess

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“We don’t have any idea what may happen if the shutdown goes further or if it affects funding for November.”

While Idaho’s congressional delegation join their House and Senate peers in debating who is to blame for the shutdown of much of the U.S. government, the repercussions of the stalemate are inching closer and closer to home.

Here’s a question: What happens to kids from low-income homes who access free or reduced/cost school lunches?

Last year, more than 5 billion lunches were served to more than 31 million students in the U.S. through Federal School Nutrition Programs. Today, funding for the programs totals more than $16 billion in cash and commodity payments to schools.

Currently in the Boise School District, 11,442 students access free or reduced cost school meals.

During the 2012-13 school year, 127,691 Idaho school children participated in free or reduced lunch programs; 10,310 in the Meridian school district, 8,992 in Nampa and 5,108 in Caldwell.

“We’ve been told that any meal that we served in September would be federally reimbursed,” Dan Hollar, spokesman for the Boise Independent School District, told Boise Weekly. “Beyond that, it’s unknown.”

And it’s nearly impossible to get any answers.

“Many Food and Nutrition Service staff will be furloughed pending reinstatement of funding by Congress,” read an Oct. 1 letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to school districts. “These staff will not be available by phone or email, and cannot carry out work for the agency, until funding is restored.”

A Minnesota boy’s blue and orange wish comes true

by Justin Corr


Posted on September 26, 2013 at 6:39 PM

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BOISE — It was a blue-carpet welcome Thursday at the Boise Airport as a young man’s wish came true.

A crowd of cheerleaders, media, and onlookers gathered at the arrival gate. After a 45-minute delay of his flight, the man of the hour, and really, the entire weekend, arrived.

“I saw through the doors, and I’m like, OMG!” said Shane Swanson.

As the 12-year-old from Bloomington, Minnesota came through the doors, cheerleaders and total strangers cheered and applauded.

Swanson has battled spinal bifida his entire life. “He’s had over 30 surgeries, 40 hospital stays. He has a currently broken leg right now,” said Shane’s mother Wendy.

But this weekend, all Shane is thinking about is his favorite team – Boise State. “Oh my gosh, I’m excited for basically everything!”

‘Everything’ is a VIP weekend. For the third-straight year, Make-A-Wish Idaho has partnered with Boise State University to bring a young Bronco fan from out-of-state to the blue.

“He’ll have a lot of intimate time with players and coaches. He’ll get to eat lunch with the team. A lot of surprises to come,” said Brenda Vogt, director of program services with Make-A-Wish Idaho. “Saturday, game day, he’ll have a personal tailgate just for him, and VIP seats.”

State warns consumers about health insurance scams


BOISE — The Idaho Health Insurance Exchange, or Your Health Idaho, is scheduled to go live in less than three weeks.

People still have a lot of questions and scammers are taking advantage of that.

You don’t have to buy insurance from the exchange if you’re already insured or if you want to buy from somewhere else.  It’s an option.

But, it’s also apparently an opportunity for scammers.

Bill Deal, the Director of the Idaho Department of Insurance, says Idahoans are being scammed.

“These scammers are out there popping up across the state,” Deal said.

He says there is still a lot of people confused about what the upcoming state health insurance exchange named Your Health Idaho, will look like. And scammers are preying on that.

A couple of the scams they’re seeing involves a phone solicitor trying to pressure you into purchasing a limited time offer, or claiming that you could go to jail for not having health insurance.

Idaho’s governor sets a five-year goal for implementing an education task force’s proposals.

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Gov. Butch Otter signaled that his top spending priority springing from a new report will be getting back the operational revenue that school districts have lost since 2008.

“We’ve got to backfill some things,” Otter told the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. “There were some cuts we made between ’08 and ’10 that were necessary but unfortunate.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, welcomed Otter’s suggestion. Bedke was among a group of legislative leaders who met with Otter on Tuesday to discuss the recommendations of a task force the governor empaneled in December. The panel issued its report last week.

Bedke said he will urge the Legislature’s K-12 Educational System Interim Committee to “pick up where the task force left off” and smooth the way for lawmaking in the 2014 Legislature. That committee meets Sept. 12 and Oct. 2.

Girls donate money raised from bake sale to Beaver Creek firefighters

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by Stephanie Zepelin

HAILEY, Idaho — The Beaver Creek fire has touched the lives of just about everyone in Blaine County, whether or not they were among the evacuees.

And it seems like everyone wants to show their support for the firefighters and help out.

On Thursday, three 13-year-olds showed their support when they presented a $1,200 check to incident command.

Emily and Leah Thayer and Dakota Hutton wanted to do something to show the fire crews their appreciation.

Originally, they wanted to make cookies for the firefighters, but decided to host a bake sale instead.

Sleep Can Reduce Anxiety in Worriers, Study Shows

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New research published this June in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that the lack of sleep commonly associated with anxiety disorders may actually exacerbate symptoms of worrying. Results from the study strongly support the theory that sleep loss triggers the excessive anticipatory brain activity associated with anxiety, indicating that maintaining a healthy sleep pattern can help alleviate symptoms of anxiousness.

While past research has shown that people with anxiety disorders tend to show hyperactivity in two major emotional brain regions known as the amygdala and anterior insula cortex, researchers from the present study were the first to establish a pattern of causation by directly testing the impact of sleep deprivation on anticipatory brain responses preceding emotionally salient events.

The study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley examined the brains of 18 healthy adults, once while sleep-deprived and again while well-rested. Researchers used fMRI scans to monitor brain activity while participants viewed a series of either neutral or disturbing images. Prior to viewing the images, participants were primed with visual cues intended to trigger anticipatory anxiety. The cues depicted a red minus sign to warn for unpleasant images, a yellow circle to warn for neutral images or an ambiguous white question mark intended to provoke feelings of more intense anticipation in viewers.

Idaho gets $20.3 million grant for health exchange

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by Associated Press


Posted on August 8, 2013 at 8:49 AM

BOISE — The state of Idaho has just received a $20.3 million federal grant to help craft its own health insurance exchange.

Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Executive Director Amy Dowd announced the grant Wednesday. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will be used to help create the online marketplace where individuals and small business owners can go to buy health insurance coverage.

Dowd says the federal money will help the state meet upcoming deadlines for having the exchange operational.

Idaho is one of several states creating its own insurance exchange, which is a key component to the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The exchanges are aimed at providing a transparent way for people who don’t currently have insurance to compare and purchase policies.

Mental Health in Schools: A Role for School Resource Officers

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By Laura Usher, NAMI CIT Program Manager

In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, NAMI has been flooded with questions about how to recognize when a young person has an emerging mental health condition and how to keep schools safe. We’ve responded with resources on what to do when a child might have a mental illness and strong advocacy for the early identification of mental health conditions. The early treatment of mental illness helps children and youth stay on track in school and meet developmental milestones. With support, young people with mental health conditions can succeed in school, get a job and maintain healthy relationships.

The risk of violence by people living with mental illness, especially children, is very low. Myths and perceptions to the contrary are driven by misunderstanding and fear. Still, schools and communities want to know how to keep everyone safe and how to respond effectively in a crisis. Many mental health crises can be prevented, especially if schools, parents and community members know what to look for. Schools can start by training staff on the early warning signs of mental health conditions and connecting children and youth exhibiting those warning signs with mental health services. Children and youth spend the majority of their waking hours in school, and staying in school is crucial to their success.

Unfortunately, these are not new issues for NAMI. In 2009, NAMI embarked on an effort to expand CIT for Youth programs, which equip school resource officers (SROs) with skills to recognize mental health concerns, safely de-escalate a crisis and work with schools, parents and children’s mental health providers to link students with mental health care. As part of that effort, NAMI sat down with SROs to get their perspective on the mental health needs of children and youth in schools.

Their input and ideas, published in this report, echo the concerns we hear from families and community members around the country. They said:

Schools are overwhelmed and struggle to respond to the mental health needs of youth. School counselors focus primarily on testing and college preparation, not mental health needs, and teachers often don’t know how to cope when a child’s behavior changes due to a mental health condition.
Mental health needs are not addressed early, so school based officers and school leaders frequently encounter children who are in crisis, self-injuring or suicidal. Although they can often recognize a crisis, they do not feel adequately trained to respond and there are not adequate services to help a child in crisis.
There are not enough psychiatrists, psychologists and case managers to provide services and supports to youth. And when a child is able to get an appointment, lack of transportation and other barriers make it difficult for the family to get the child to the appointment.
Families need more support. They are often overwhelmed and don’t know how to cope with a child’s changing behavior. They also do not know how to get mental health services for their children.
These SROs have identified the key issues that schools, law enforcement, mental health provider agencies and families are struggling with and need to work together to address.

As part of his post-Sandy Hook policy initiatives, President Obama is calling for an increase in the number of SROs in schools. This proposal has led to concern from many that SROs in schools will increase the number of students involved in the juvenile justice system, and that arming school-based officers will make schools less safe. These are legitimate concerns because far too many youth get caught up in the “school to prison pipeline” when their needs and behavior are not addressed proactively. Fortunately, SROs, when well-trained to respond to a mental health crisis, can play a vital role in ensuring that students get the help they need and school environments are positive, healthy and conducive to learning. SROs should not be working alone; entire communities need to come together to help meet the needs of youth with mental health conditions. When schools, provider agencies and law enforcement work together, and provide adequate training and support to respond to youth in crisis, SROs can be powerful allies in linking children and youth to needed services.

To learn more about NAMI’s position on a variety of issues, check out our Public Policy Platform. To learn more about responding to children and you with mental health needs, visit our CIT for Youth Resource Center.

Man hospitalized with Idaho’s first West Nile case

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Posted on July 26, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Updated today at 12:31 PM
BOISE — A 40-year-old Payette man is in the hospital with Idaho’s first West Nile case of the year.

Southwest District Health officials confirmed the positive test results of this potentially serious illness Friday.

West Nile is usually spread to animals and humans from the bite of an infected mosquito, not person to person. Health officials say most people that get it don’t show the symptoms, but some become seriously ill.

Symptoms include: fever, headaches, body aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash typically occurring 2 to 14 days after being bitten.

The Idaho Department of Agriculture also confirmed Friday that two horses have tested positive for the virus.