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$150K Outreach RFP to Assist ARC Workforce Partners

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 16:19

The Appalachian Regional Commission is accepting proposals through June 1, 2017, from public, private or nonprofit organizations to provide technical assistance for communications and community outreach to ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grantees.

The immediate scope of work includes:

  • Assisting participating ARC POWER grantees in strengthening their communications and community outreach skills
  • Expanding the communications and community outreach capacity of participating ARC POWER grantees, many of whom have limited staff capacity for these tasks
  • Fostering a peer-to-peer communications and community outreach network across participating grantees

The three-part project begins with a brief training session during at ARC’s Peer-to-Peer POWER Convening being held June 28-29, 2017, in Huntington, W.Va. Other tasks include leading regional workshops and technical assistance over the next several months.

Review the RFP on ARC’s website.

Learn about the most recent POWER grantees:

Coal Communities Receive $26M for Jobs Training

Read about POWER grantees workforce training:

TechHire Eastern Kentucky Teaches Coding in Coal Country

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Opioid Epidemic Resource Guide: Navigate the Crisis

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 11:02

As part of a 2017 spring focus on public health, we’ve compiled an Opioid Epidemic Resource Guide to help you navigate this issue facing most communities.

We’ve included tools like an interactive map of drug overdose deaths and a fentanyl overdose primer for medics. There are grant leads and insights into topics like addiction as a disease, the public bathrooms crisis, addiction awareness and more.

Navigate the Resources

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Mass. County Sheriff Criticizes Out-Of-State Prisoner Work Ban Bill

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 10:53


By Evan Lips

BOSTON — Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson fired back at Beacon Hill Democrats on Wednesday night, labeling them and specifically the sponsor of a leadership-backed bill passed along party lines hours before — one which bans corrections inmates from working across state lines — as “ignorant.”

“That’s the thing about Representative Cabral — he couldn’t answer the questions, and he basically filed a bill out of ignorance, not knowing anything, and that usually happens — especially in this case — because he wanted to fit a political agenda,” Hodgson said about state Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), whose legislation soared through the House along party lines despite a bevy of questions from GOP members regarding its urgency.

Hodgson made headlines in January when he offered to send inmates serving time at his Bristol County House of Correction to the Mexican border in order to assist with the construction of President Donald Trump’s proposed controversial border wall. Wednesday’s House vote, however, dealt with universal legislation aimed at prohibiting prisoners from voluntarily participating in any work detail assignments outside the commonwealth — let alone the southwestern U.S. border.

Continue reading the story on the New Boston Post website.

Bills Could Stop Mass. Sheriff from Supplying Prisoners to Build Border Wall

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The 5 Biggest Blows of Trump’s Proposed 2018 Budget

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 17:12

The $4 trillion plus “taxpayer-first” proposed 2018 budget boosts defense spending and school choice. Here’s a roundup of the five biggest blows to municipal governments.

#1 It Kills Numerous Funding Programs

President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal eliminates 66 federal programs for a savings of $26.7 billion, according to The Hill.

On the list: ending the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Community Development Block Grants, National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER grants), National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and so many more programs that fund local programs cities, counties and towns rely on.

Review the full list on The Hill’s website.

#2 “Savage” on Environment

While major environmental program cuts have been expected, “By the standard of the last 30 years of American politics, these are unprecedented proposals for the EPA specifically,” according to the Atlantic.

The 2018 budget proposal is not much different than the “skinny budget” President Trump proposed in March, which reduces EPA’s budget by 30 percent, cutting enforcement by 40 percent and the agency’s overall workforce by 20 percent.

Superfund cleanups would be cut by 25 percent.

Numerous National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Energy and other agencies’ work related to climate change, clean innovation and general pollution control are all on the chopping block.

The Atlantic reported these changes are unlikely to become reality, however, because any federal budget passed before 2021 is subject to the Budget Control Act, which set some automatic spending cuts and prohibited increasing defense spending while cutting non-defense discretionary spending. Bi-partisan support in the Senate would be needed to get the proposed 2018 budget approved.

Read the full story on the Atlantic.com.

See our previous coverage of how these program cuts could cost 14,000 jobs in Colorado.

#3 “Catastrophic” on Affordable Housing

Overall, President Trump proposed to reduce the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) discretionary budget by $8 billion, down to approximately $40.7 billion, according to Donna Kimura at Affordable Housing Finance.

This budget, if enacted, would deal devastating blows to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities,” said Matthew Chase, executive director of the National Association of Counties, noting that elderly citizens, the disabled and children would be stripped of safety nets from heating assistance to child services.

HUD cuts also slash the public housing capital fund to $628 million, down from $1.9 billion and reduce public housing operating funds by more than half a billion dollars.

Access the article on proposed HUD cuts on Housingfinance.com.

See our previous coverage of 9 Proposed Trump HUD Program Cuts & The Case for Block Grants.

#4 “Contradicts” Education Promises

According to Time Magazine, critics say the 2018 budget “contradicts President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to make college more affordable at a time when student debt is ballooning,” calling him elitist.

The budget proposes to eliminate subsidized student loans, saving $1 billion, and end the student debt forgiveness program.

For elementary and secondary education, the budget proposes an additional $1 billion in funds to encourage school districts to advance choice options, through charter and voucher-type programs. There is also $250 million in scholarships for low-income families to attend private schools, and $167 million for charter schools.

Get the full story on Time.com.

#5 “Targets” Health

Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for another two years, but cut it by $5.8 billion, according to the Chicago Tribune.

More than 7 million are covered under CHIP. More than half of U.S. states cover children above the administration’s proposed cutoff — Federal payments would no longer match state spending on coverage for kids whose families make more than two-and-a-half times the federal poverty level, about $51,000 for a family of three.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates federal Medicaid spending reductions in the proposed budget amount to $839 billion over 10 years, although the White House told PBS the budget does not touch Medicare.

Find the full details on the Chicago Tribune website.

Highlights of Recently Negotiated 2017 Federal Spending:

Positive Housing Money & Grants in 2017 Spending Bill

Transportation Money & Grants in the 2017 Spending Bill


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FEMA Emergency Messaging to Start on Nextdoor App

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 15:11

Nextdoor has announced that it will now carry geo-targeted messages from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the more than 140,000 U.S. neighborhoods, representing over 70 percent of the country, using the application. Communities will now receive FEMA emergency messaging leading up to, during and after natural disasters, such as hurricanes, snow storms and major flooding.

The partnership enables FEMA to deliver hyperlocal emergency and disaster preparedness updates through the platform.

Neighbors are already using Nextdoor to discuss emergency and disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

Our neighbors are often the first people we turn to for help in times of need,” said Nirav Tolia, Nextdoor co-founder and chef executive officer.

Nextdoor is free for both neighborhoods and FEMA. Neighborhoods establish their own communities on the app, and FEMA will not be able to access residents’ websites, contact information or content.

View the original announcement.

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Vancouver Cracks Down on Commercial Short Term Rentals

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 14:44

The city of Vancouver has escalated enforcement on three high profile residential operators illegally operating commercial short term rentals.

Onni, Carmana Plaza and Vancouver Extended Stay were busted for violating local ordinances. Short term rentals are not currently allowed in Vancouver. At present, only hotels and licensed bed and breakfast operators can rent residential units for less than 30 days at a time.

City Confirmed Illegal Short Term Rental Activity

In April, media outlets reported to the city that these commercial operators were renting multiple units as short term rentals. The city investigated these cases and gathered evidence to confirm the illegal rental activity, and is pursuing enforcement actions based on the response.

Onni’s The Level was issued orders related to illegal operations, and has paid fines totaling $24,000 related to activity over the past six months.

Bylaw violations by Vancouver Extended Stay and Carmana Plaza have been referred to prosecution.

Most High Profile Short Term Rentals Will Stop

Onni agreed to immediately stop short term rentals.

Vancouver Extended Stay offers property management services to owners of suites, and have also agreed to immediately stop short term rentals. The property management service and the suite owners must all obtain business licenses to come into by-law compliance, according to the city’s website.

Carmana Plaza received zoning approval to convert 96 suites to hotel use, but conversion is not complete. The company must obtain occupancy permits and a business license. Thus, short term rentals in the 96 suites is currently illegal, and the company agreed to stop accepting new short term rental reservations.

Carmana Plaza is not willing to cancel existing future short term rental reservations, however.

Vancouver to Legalize Some Short-Term Rentals

The city is developing a policy framework to legalize some short term rentals, with “the goal of enabling people who want to live and work in Vancouver to rent their principal residence in the short term, while also putting measures in place to protect the long-term rental stock.”

Residents Encouraged to Report Short Term Rental Violations on 3-1-1 System

Vancouver residents are encouraged to call 311 if they suspect illegal short term rentals and should be prepared to provide an address and evidence of the activity.

Read the original notice on the city of Vancouver’s website.

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Local Governments Tweeting Gratitude During EMS Week 2017

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 14:03

During EMS Week 2017,  paramedic chiefs, agency public information officers, hospitals and field personnel have taken to Twitter to share their appreciation for EMS. Here is a collection of our favorite tweets.

Kenneth Robles, son of #FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo, joins Comm Nigro at @EmpireStateBldg #EMSWeek Lighting Ceremony https://t.co/qCV8e2Tj0S pic.twitter.com/xNl3038HFT

— FDNY (@FDNY) May 19, 2017

Here’s the rules. Now get out there, #loveamedic & share for all to see. Don’t forget to hashtag it. Happy #EMSweek #EMSweek2017 pic.twitter.com/6aPDhcetxP

— Jon McCarthy (@JonMassCasualty) May 21, 2017

Happy EMS Week! #EMSweek #EMSweek2017 #happyemsweek #alwaysinservice pic.twitter.com/SbkGb27eeq

— Nature Coast EMS (@NatureCoast_EMS) May 21, 2017

We kicked off #EMSWeek w/an EMS appreciation breakfast w/mayor @JimDonchess and a presentation by Mindy Sherman, MD from @MassGeneralNews pic.twitter.com/lalmPgSxdK

— Southern NH Health (@SNHHealth) May 19, 2017

In honor of #EMSweek I chose to go to a local station (Port Isabel) and captured the men & women who serve us, show some love! pic.twitter.com/CouuTeuKgE

— OhWowSomeoneActually (@Jaytee931) May 19, 2017

#EMSWeek2017. Thank you for the lifesaving services you perform every day and we honor those who have died in the line of duty. pic.twitter.com/jV1ME8hfsM

— West Des Moines Fire (@wdmfire) May 22, 2017

#EMSWeek2017 is underway. Introducing RAA Paramedic of the Year James Scott Kiniry with Dr JP Ornato. More ROSCs than anyone else in 2016/17 pic.twitter.com/fghYNnKhk6

— Richmond Ambulance (@RAAEMS) May 22, 2017

Hopefully you never need us, but if you do…we’re #AlwaysInService. Thank you #EMS providers; the unsung heroes! #EMSWeek2017 pic.twitter.com/1z3Hb5qf5B

— St. Louis Fire Dept (@STLFireDept) May 22, 2017

How RCA does #EMSWeek2017 pic.twitter.com/XAwhyB3b6q

— RCA EMS (@RCAAMBULANCE) May 21, 2017

The AMAZING nurses at @BrowardHealth Coral Springs are washing rescue trucks this morning as a thank you to start off #EMSWeek2017 pic.twitter.com/Tr92O8aACM

— Coral Springs FD (@CoralSpringsFD) May 22, 2017

The traditional start to #EMSWeek2017 here where Chief Harbour becomes Chef Harbour for the Pancake Breakfast this morning #EMSstrong pic.twitter.com/h0Z8hAZasN

— Richmond Ambulance (@RAAEMS) May 22, 2017

CHIEF Joanne Hayes-White of the San Francisco Fire Department kicks off #EMSweek2017 with EMS DAY FOR KIDS https://t.co/82FXJPdzzT

— San Francisco Fire (@sffdpio) May 19, 2017


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Readying Georgia’s Health Evacuation Registry for Hurricanes

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 13:52

The Florida Times-Union

By Terry Dickson

BRUNSWICK, GA. — People with medical and other needs and no ability to evacuate for a storm are encouraged to register with a local county health department.

The Functional, Access and Medical Needs Registry is composed of residents who may need transportation and medical help during a hurricane evacuation and have no family, friends, neighbors or church members to help them, the Coastal Health District said in a news release.

The Health Evacuation Registry includes:

  • Children and adults with physical, sensory, mental health, cognitive or intellectual disabilities that affect their ability to function without help;
  • Individuals who require the support of medical professionals including those who may need help managing unstable, terminal or contagious conditions that require ongoing observation or treatment.

Continue reading the story on Jacksonville.com.

Learn more about the state’s registry from this Georgia Department of Public Health Coastal Health District video:

The post Readying Georgia’s Health Evacuation Registry for Hurricanes appeared first on EfficientGov.

Report: Infrastructure Investment Gaps Costs Households $3,400

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 16:26

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2017 Failure to Act: Closing the Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future report said inadequate infrastructure investment costs every American household $3,400 per year.

ASCE’s economic study identified the 10-year needs across 10 categories of infrastructure is $3.3 trillion, including a $1.4 trillion investment gap. The gap comprised:

  • Surface transportation needs $1.1 trillion, including roads, bridges, transit and commuter rail.
  • Electricity infrastructure requires an additional $177 billion.
  • Water and wastewater infrastructure has a $105 billion hole.
  • Airports require an added $42 billion to stay current with technology.
  • Inland waterways and ports need an additional $15 billion.

The annual study found that overdue infrastructure investment will result in many economic losses:

  • $3.9 trillion in GDP
  • $7 trillion in business sales
  • 2.5 million job losses in the year 2025
  • $3,400 in a family’s annual disposable income each year from 2016 to 2025, which equals $9.33 a day

The longer infrastructure investment is delayed, the more likely it will need replacement instead of repair, ASCE cautioned.

The organization also noted it would cost American households less to invest and close the infrastructure investment gap within 10 years — $3 per day per household.

By increasing the investment by $144 billion a year for the next 10 years at the federal, state and local levels, we can upgrade our infrastructure, and protect our GDP, jobs, families’ disposable income and our nation’s competitiveness,” according to ASCE.

Learn more and access the report on the Infrastructure Report Card website.

Looking at Infrastructure Investments to Boost Economic Growth

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Senators on Pre-Existing Conditions in Trumpcare

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 15:52

According to the Hill, some conservatives, including Senator Mike Lee of Utah want to repeal pre-existing conditions and other ObamaCare mandates and let states decide to ensure funding healthcare.

But, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, a fellow member of the Republican Party is in favor of pre-existing condition protections and wants to leave many of the regulations conservatives say drive up costs. The Hill reported he endorsed a “Jimmy Kimmel test” for the bill, where no one can be denied coverage.

“The president’s been pretty adamant that he wants to take care of people with pre-existing conditions,” Cassidy said.

States Opt-In or Opt-Out Program Suggested

An option for states to waive out is also being debated. A waiver program could require states to auto enroll people into a basic state health plan, perhaps with a tax credit to pay for it, and eliminate the individual mandate.

Conservatives do not like the ideal of auto enrollment — they want individuals to opt-in. One conservative aide called auto enrollment “socialized medicine.”

Repealing Essential Health Benefits Could Kill Passage with Reconciliation

By voting to relate healthcare law changes to the Federal budget process, as the Senate and then House of Representatives did in January, changes would pass with a simple majority vote without the chance for filibuster.

In order to repeal coverage for pre-existing conditions, some lawmakers propose funding high-risk pools to step in and provide coverage. However, opposing senators have argued those pools are underfunded, and others suggest an actuary be brought in to determine how much funding will be needed to fund high-risk pools.

There is a question whether repealing Essential Health Benefits, which require pre-existing conditions coverage, can be repealed under budget reconciliation.

Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin argued that all of ObamaCare could be repealed under reconciliation because the regulations drive up premiums, which in turn drives up government spending on subsidies. “They’re all budget related,” he said.

Read the original story on The Hill’s website.

Latest Healthcare Bill Promises Lower Costs & Pre-Existing Condition Changes

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3 Things Cities Can Do Ahead of Bombings in Public Places

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 14:32

After bombings like the one that took place at an Ariana Grande concert last night in at the Manchester, England, Arena, or the coordinated attacks in 2015 in Paris or at Mumbai in 2008, it behooves municipal leaders to focus energy and resources on emergency preparedness.

EMS teams can do threat assessments for mass gathering venues, and there are critical public safety and communications planning tasks essential for municipal governments to get ahead of.

#1 Review EMS Protocols for Bombings at Mass Gathering 

According to a rapid response by EMS1.com after the Manchester attack, the top questions municipal leaders should ask are:

The steps advised are:

  1. Review blast injury assessment and treatment
  2. Anticipate secondary devices, actors and shooters
  3. Anticipate EMS will respond and transport the most severely injured
  4. Plan and practice patient tracking procedures
  5. Continuously hone risk and threat analyses for nearby mass gathering locations on an ongoing basis

Access the original story on EMS1 for critical EMS and first responder resources.

Ensure concerts are planned properly with these 7 Critical Steps for Planning Music Festivals.

#2 Plan for Public Safety Response at Multiple Locations

Not all mass gathering attacks are perpetrated by lone wolf actors or are suicide bombings. Evaluating the potential for a second device, actor or shooter should be part of an incident’s response.

Last September, New York City encountered multiple devices after a pressure cooker bomb exploded on a Saturday night in Manhattan. Coordination among public safety and surveillance operations — along with a mass communication via text — led to not only the safe capture of the three yet unexploded devices, but capture of suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami within the first 48 hours.

While municipalities may need to set up incident command systems (ICSs) for bombings like the Manchester Arena Ariana Grande concert attack, cities like Mumbai or Boston, or counties like San Bernardino, Calif. or Broward County, Fla., need them for multiple coordinated attacks at public places.

ICS is an emergency response coordination model developed in the 1970s for command, control and organized response of both near and long-term field-level operations for a broad spectrum of emergencies, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Management Institute.

Most cops groan at the mere thought of organizing ICS, so add to your response list the local and state emergency management agencies. Go do your cop stuff and let the ICS gurus organize it for you. Every state has Incident Management Teams — folks who live and breathe ICS — so turn ‘em loose and they’ll organize down to the tiniest detail,” advised Richard Fairburn, a criminal intelligence analyst on Police1.com last year.

Fairburn noted there are three things cities and counties will need for response to multiple terrorist attacks:

  1. Every available officer
  2. Organized response under the fire commander
  3. An intelligence director with a recon team

After Mumbai in 2008, Fairburn wrote a three-part series on Multiple Assault Counter-Terrorism Action Capabilities (MACTAC) that was used by the National Tactical Officers Association and Los Angeles Police Department in their rapid deployment and response training.

Access Fairburn’s full multiple terrorist attacks advice on the Police1.com website and MACTAC series links for officer log-in.

#3 Organize Risk Communications & Social Media Crisis Strategies

The community and news media will be looking to municipalities and various agencies for statements and information. With social media, there are opportunities to quickly disseminate messages and instructions and clarify misinformation, such as what happened in Manchester after the concert bombing.

Amid all the chaos outside the stadium, there was a rumor ripping through social media that the local hospital had an active shooter. According to The New York Times, two local news affiliates reported on it, and the local council’s police agency took to Twitter very quickly to reconcile the erroneous information.

Police have attended an incident @roh
Scene searched, no offences and all staff &patient’s are safe &well

— GMP Oldham (@GMPOldham) May 23, 2017

Express.co.uk then confirmed that while there was no active shooter, the hospital was on lock down. The police agency also confirmed 19 dead — not 22, as was widely reported in the hours following the event.

In addition to basic crisis communication plans, municipalities can develop a separate social media crisis communications plan. Social media crisis communications requires active social listening or monitoring, fast response and coordinated messaging.

Basic crisis communication planning developed by the Minnesota League of Cities in 2008 recommends the following steps:

  1. Establish key audiences
  2. Identify communications vehicles
  3. Choose a spokesperson
  4. Draft key messages
  5. Organize and update information

Hootsuite recommends the following guidelines for a social media crisis management:

  1. Define roles and responsibilities
  2. Develop a communication plan for internal updates
  3. Approve and disseminate messaging, images and information to post and share on social media
  4. Share the most current social media policy with staff

Access the full article on Hootsuite’s website.

Review a case study on how Morris County, N.J., handled communication during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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Virginia Awards Transitioning Veterans Workforce Program

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 17:45

RICHMOND, VA. — Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the recipients of the 2017 Governor’s Public Service Awards during a ceremony last week in conjunction with Virginia Public Service Week. The awards honor state employees who have demonstrated exemplary service to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and this year’s awards recognize a transitioning veterans workfroce program launched late last year.

They represent the dedicated time and effort our excellent state workforce spends providing the services that are the backbone of state government. These awards demonstrate the commitment of our workforce and their excellence in customer service, innovation, teamwork and volunteerism,” said Governor McAuliffe.

The awards recognize state employee achievements in several categories and honored a Department of Veterans team for their efforts in creating the the Military Medics & Corpsmen (MMAC) transitioning veterans program, which requires partnering with healthcare systems to retrain and hire skilled veterans.

Teamwork Award Announcement:

“Launched last July, this three-person team of Mark Whiting, Beverly Van Tull and Philip Trezza embodies the spirit of teamwork, collaboration, leadership and engagement by changing the way healthcare systems hire veterans in Virginia. The MMAC program is the first and only state program of its kind in the nation to partner with major healthcare systems in Virginia, working closely with six partner healthcare systems and multiple state agencies. In 2015, the Governor and general assembly recognized the need for a pathway to employment and education for recently discharged veterans and transitioning service members who served as medics or corpsmen and wanted to stay in the healthcare field.

The MMAC team has made a significant contribution toward the Governor’s goals of creating long-term, high-paying jobs for veterans, reducing staff shortages in healthcare and keeping veterans and transitioning service members in Virginia. Since December 2016, eight MMAC applicants have already been hired. The program has received 45 applications, with 36 in the screening and hiring process and dozens of veterans who did not qualify for MMAC have received assistance to find employment in Virginia. In addition, MMAC staff built the infrastructure for the program, including the screening and referral systems, online application and the marketing plan.”

Read the full announcement on the Governor’s website.

Learn more about Virginia’s MMAC transitioning veterans program on the state’s website.

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How Animal Therapy Can Treat Substance Abuse Disorder

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 17:00

According to partners of Foundations Recovery Network, pet or animal therapy for treating mental health disorders in substance abusers may make avoiding relapse a lot easier for sufferers of both, or substance abusers with mental symptoms of depression and anxiety during detox and recovery.

“While some recovering individuals may not necessarily have full-blown mental health disorders, they might suffer with feelings of failure and loneliness when they have hit rock bottom and decide to seek help,” according to a partner’s article on Pet Therapy in Rehab.

Animal therapy for addiction treatment is based on the biophilia hypothesis, the belief that because human beings once relied on animal signals as a means of survival, biofeedback that comes from working with animals triggers positive outcomes during detox and psychotherapy treatment. Both dogs and horses are used in animal therapy for addiction to opioids and other substances.

Canine Animal Therapy

A calm animal can trigger a relaxed mood in a person, and that can help a person with substance abuse disorder during detox. It may also help open up conversation during psychotherpay sessions.

In one 12-week study of 56 substance abusers, 64 percent “seemed to achieve the primary goal of actively participating in an event that provided some enjoyment or nurturing for them,” while 56 percent opened up about their past and their substance abuse habits to therapists when therapy dogs were present.

Canine physical activity needs also help recovering substance abusers get exercise, which is usually recommended by treatment practitioners.

A dog’s companionship may also reduce feelings of anxiety or loneliness that can trigger relapse. In one canine therapy study of 55 students, rates of anxiety and loneliness dropped by 60 percent.

Therapy dogs are also recommended post treatment, since relapse rates for substance abuse disorder average between 40 and 60 percent. An ongoing relationship with a dog may increase resistance toward relapse.

Animal Therapy with Horses

Working with horses or equine therapy can give a person with substance abuse disorder greater insight into how to make personal motivation changes by learning skills essential to recovery, such as being present and honest, managing emotions and being assertive in setting limits.

Equine therapy treatment is going through a series of predefined tasks with a trained horse and a licensed therapist. Since the patient’s focus is on the task with the horse, it allows him or her to interact with a therapist in a non-judgmental way. Work with horses also requires respect. Intimidation, bargaining, threats or coercion are ineffective in having a horse complete a task, so any such habits are rendered ineffective.

“Instead, people must deal with a horse using patience and a relaxed manner,” according to an article on Animals in Therapy.

Trust is required in building a relationship with a horse. Practitioners find that those with substance abuse disorder that are withdrawn and predisposed to mistrusting others — due to weak peer relationships and betrayals — can be reached through equine therapy.

Gateway HorseWorks of Pennsylvania, which offers equine therapy programs for addiction treatment, is a partner of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). The seminal equine therapy organization researches how horse response provides more effective feedback than traditional psychotherapy alone.

A client may say, ‘This horse is stubborn. That horse doesn’t like me,’ etc. The lesson is that by changing ourselves, the horses respond differently. They provide this immediate feedback to real changes that we make,” according to EAGALA.

Another benefit of animal therapy with horses is improved mind-body connection and better control over thoughts, or cravings. When people struggle with cravings, their body language may say distracted or angry. Those with substance abuse are usually unaware that their cravings are visible to others. By working with a horse that does not respond to a command, the therapist will ask the person to assess his or her physical posture and think about what is causing it. The exercise specific to equine psychotherapy has been shown to teach recovering addicts how to identify and have better control over their thoughts and cravings.

Working with horses and other animals has also been shown to slow heart rates and increase feelings of calm, which is helpful for anxiety and other stressors that comes with detox and recovery.

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5 Gadgets That Alert Drinkers to Date Rape Drugs

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 14:49

In every college town in America, and really anywhere there’s a bar, such as a club or party, encountering date rape drugs in any drink is a possibility.

EMS train on the effects of date rape drugs like gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), and how alcohol compounds symptoms like seizures, apnea or coma. An overdose of GHB in alcohol helped lead to the double rape of AJ Januszczak, a Canadian woman who was living in Florida in 1996. Responding paramedics found her moments from death after two strangers spiked her cocktail with GHB, according to the Toronto Sun.

“I have a real problem with the ‘date’ rape drug, because there’s no date. GHB is a weapon,” Januszczak told a meeting of National Organization for Women in Palm Beach County, Fla., in 2010.

Individual reports of drug-facilitated sexual assaults are plentiful, but there is no source that tracks frequency. The most recent data on reported rapes at college campuses — which may not always involve a date, date rape drugs or even alcohol — dates back to 2014. Trends tracked by the U.S. Department of Education Campus Safety & Security program reveal about 100 institutions with at least 10 reported rapes on their main campuses. Rape prevention advocates are quick to point out that many, if not most rapes, go unreported at universities and otherwise.

“An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted at college – and that’s totally unacceptable. We’re going to help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault on their campuses,” said former President Barrack Obama in January 2014.

By five years ago and more, developers and inventors began working on silver bullet solutions that could alert potential victims that their drinks have been compromised with popular date rape drugs. There’s coasters, cups, straws, nail polish and even a smart device that has the potential to reverse drug-facilitated sexual assault trends. The following list of five detection gadgets discusses pros and cons, and their status.

#1 Only Coasters are Currently Available 

The biggest pro for this date rape drugs detection gadget by Drink Safe Technologies of Tallahassee, Fla., is that its available on their website and Amazon.com. Bars, schools, safety advocacy organizations, social groups and individuals can buy them and pass them out.

The coasters can be stored in a wallet or purse, and do not interact directly with a drink, which means the product did not require U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Although usage may be thorny. The website indicates the coasters require light, two dabs or splashes of a drink and then a few minutes to determine if GHB or ketamine is present. Accuracy in usage may diminish based on user error and environment.

Drink Safe coasters do not detect for Rohypnol or roofies, which is a con for some, though Lance Norris of Drink Safe told NOVA in 2014 that roofies can turn a drink blue and are slow to dissolve. Another con is pH is a factor in testing some drinks — like margaritas, for example.

#2 The Nail Polish Launch May be Imminent 

Four engineering students at North Carolina State University began developing a nail polish to detect date rape drugs in 2015. Their company, Undercover Colors, was named the 2016 Startup to Watch by the North Carolina Technology Association.

Undercover Colors is wearable tech — a pro, in theory. A user dips a polished fingernail into a drink and the color of the polish will change if date rape drugs are present.

But according to the Alliance for Natural Health, the product is problematic because the detection chemical comes into contact with a person’s skin and food, and they say FDA is holding up this and other products like it.

While the nail polish is not yet available, the company has received funding, including $5.5 million in November, and the invention earned a mention — though not by name — on the popular show Modern Family, according to the company’s Facebook page.

The global partnership Vital Voices also gave the founders an award:

“If we have any hope of ending violence against women,we need young men like Stephen & Tyler to set an example @sethmeyers @UndercoverColor pic.twitter.com/75BDBqbxVN

— Vital Voices (@VitalVoices) December 6, 2016

“Much to come in 2017…be sure to sign up on our website for updates!” the company posted in a reply to a thankful fan.

#3 Cups Were Invented in 2012

After being drugged while out one night, Boston attorney Michael Abramson went on to develop DrinkSavvy drinkware that continuously monitors beverages for date rape drugs. The company also developed straws that could detect GHB, ketamine and roofies.

Drink Savvy raised more than $50,000 in 2012 through a one-month crowdfunding campaign, according to CNN. The following year, Abramson told NBC Connecticut the products would soon be sold to bars and individuals.

However, the company has little information on its website and its social media properties. A reply to an inquiring Facebook fan in mid-year 2016 said, “Thanks for your patience, as we will be releasing hopefully at the end of this year!”

#4 The Race for Smart Straws

DrinkSavvy is not the only one trying to bring a smart date rape drug detection straw to market. Three students at Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest, Fla., invented Smart Straws that turn blue in the presence of the most common date rape drugs. Dubbed the Straw Ladies, they won first place in the 2017 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School Track and are seeking patent protection.

But they may also have competition from a third team. An Israeli doctor and a chemist at Tel Aviv University developed a color-changing stick they debuted at a nano conference in 2011, according to Science Daily. The pocket-size device detected GHB and ketamine in ten microliter samples to 100 percent accuracy during a live demo of 50 drinks, some spiked. At the time, the team was working on expanding the technology to detect other date rape drugs.

The non-toxic medium works with an optical sensor, not active reagents. The device would be reusable and light up or beep, but there is no company website or further information on when and if the device will ever be produced. In 2012, the team indicated their Smart Straw invention needed funding.

#5 Personal Drink Gadget

Called the pd.id, the personal drink gadget is about the size of USB flash drive. The team in Toronto developed it to be reusable, simple and cost about $75, according to a closed crowdsourcing campaign. Red and green LED lights tell the user if a drink is safe or not. It could also send smartphone alerts if a drink is drugged.

The device uses light to determine if date rape drugs are present. It can be rinsed with water.

While the website is limited to a splash page and the company’s social media properties have been relatively inactive since 2014, a post to its Facebook page in December said, “we just received two grants worth $45,000 from the Canadian Federal and Ontario Provincial Government towards further scientific research to make this project happen!!”

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Airbnb’s Latest Short Term Rental Tax Agreements

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:56

More states, cities and counties are working with Airbnb on short term rental tax agreements to generate revenues, but there are myriad concerns:

  • How Airbnb reports data
  • How short term rentals affect rental markets and neighborhood quality of life
  • How to impose rental caps to both streamline burdens on less frequent hosts, as well as help preserve rental supplies in neighborhoods where owners might essentially convert rentals into short term rentals

Counties Level the Playing Field

In 2016, more than 2.1 million stays in New York state were booked through Airbnb, according to Community Newspapers Holding Inc. The report also indicated that so far, 12 New York counties have signed contracts with Airbnb to collect taxes on rooms and homes rented out over the online platform.

In Otsego County, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, operators of local inns and bed and breakfast businesses are pleased the county now has a mechanism for getting its bed tax money from Airbnb customers, said Otsego Treasurer Dan Crowell.

Cities Grapple with Community & Market Concerns

Smaller cities are also working with Airbnb on their own short term rental tax agreements. Union City, N.Y., is working on a deal for Airbnb to collect the city’s 12.45 percent hotel room tax rate to Airbnb users whenever they book a room, home or apartment, according to the East Bay Times.

Beginning in June, under a recent agreement with the city of Hot Springs, Ark., Airbnb will collect a 3 percent lodging tax on bookings in the city.

In the town of Woodstock, N.Y., opponents of short-stay rentals have voiced concerns that short-term rental hosts are violating town codes by not being on the premises when they rent their homes, or are not adequately maintaining properties. However, Union City is considering requiring Airbnb hosts to take out business licenses that would subject short term rentals to code enforcement checks that could address some opponent concerns there.

In large cities, Airbnb is often opposed by both hotel or neighborhood groups.

The New York Hotel Trades Council is fighting hard to disrupt any chance at a short term rental tax agreement in New York City. Earlier this year, hotel associations issued a report that criticized Airbnb’s tax agreements with 12 cities for “unusual and legally questionable latitude to determine how much they will pay in taxes.”

Union City City Attorney Ben Reyes said Airbnb will only provide the city with aggregated, anonymous data about rentals under that city’s impending deal. But, Airbnb audits are possible.

It is currently illegal in the Big Apple to rent a space for fewer than 30 days without being properly licensed as a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. The state of New York also passed a law fining Airbnb hosts that advertise illegal New York City listings. In March, a landowner in Trump Tower was fined $1,000 for an Airbnb advertisement. In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio added 16 new positions to the Office of Special Enforcement devoted to inspecting and fining landlords and leaseholders that rent out for fewer than 30 day, according to Crain’s New York.

In Los Angeles, organizations like Keep Neighborhoods First are proposing a 60-day cap they believe would limit incentives for landlords to enter the short term rental market and preserve affordable housing. The city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee is considering a Home Sharing Ordinance that governs a 14 percent Transient Occupancy Tax that is currently projecting $27.5 million in revenues for the next fiscal year, according to City Watch LA. City officials are reportedly considering caps and how they would reduce the projected revenue.

Housing Impact Fees

Airbnb began collecting and remitting city sales and lodging taxes for all hosts in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and the city council is considering additional impact fees on short-term rentals to help fund community housing.

But a move to generate revenue and thereby address affordable housing concerns with seed funding would require an independent impact study. The city would need to answer questions like how impact fees would affect the market, according to Steamboat Today.

The squeeze might not be worth the juice,” said Councilman Scott Ford, after elected officials received a legal briefing.

States Seeking Revenue Opportunities

While states like New York appear far from making statewide short term rental tax agreements, in February, Airbnb began collecting state, county and city taxes from Arkansas hosts under a state deal.

The Massachusetts Senate is currently looking at a state budget proposal that would accrue an estimated $18 million from new state tax collections on nightly Airbnb stays. But, Governor Charlie Baker has proposed applying the short term rental tax only on hosts that rent at least 150 days per year. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh believes any state short term rental revenue should also come back to the city.


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Transforming Big Box Stores into Culinary Destinations

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 14:07

According to the Daily Bulletin, Ranch Cucamonga, Calif., is working on turning a closed J.C. Penney into a culinary destination called Haven City Market.

The space is 85,000 square-feet. The store closed in 2014, so the city wants to turn it into an engine of economic development that magnetizes millennials while it attracts all ages. Not far from City Hall, the converted space will include a food hall, a gourmet food market and retail space for food and beverage boutiques and retailers.

The idea came from the popular Anaheim Packing District, a historic 42,000-square-foot former Sunkist citrus packing house that city of Anaheim developers renovated and opened in 2014.

Dominick Perez, the Ranch Cucamonga’s associate planner, has approved all interior improvements, with exterior building permits still in review and pending approval.

“There is going to be outdoor garden eating area and that’s going to be 20,000 square feet,” Perez said. “It will be connected to the south end of the building.”

There is also talk of an entertainment permit for the space.

It’s exciting because it’s probably the first one in this general area, probably in San Bernardino County besides more of the traditional mall and food court settings,” said Rancho Cucamonga Planning Director Candyce Burnett.

The city of Redlands also plans to reinvent another historic packinghouse, the Redlands Packing Plant, and offer space for restaurants and specialty food retailers. That property will include history displays, public art and common areas.

Read the original story on the Daily Bulletin.

Converting Vacant Properties Like Downtown Department Stores

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NEA Creative Placemaking Grants Up to $200K

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:33

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is accepting Our Town grant applications for creative placemaking projects that transform communities and achieve livability goals through art, culture and design strategies. This funding supports local efforts to enhance the quality of life for residents and create or preserve a distinct sense of place.

Creative placemaking is when artists, arts organizations and community developers integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work. The purpose is to bring art into consideration with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure and public safety projects and strategies.

NEA awards range from $25,000 to $200,000 for projects beginning in or after August 1, 2018. A 50 percent non-federal match at a rate of at least one-to-one is required.

Our Town creative placemaking grants also require partnerships between arts organizations and government, other nonprofit organizations and private entities. NEA is looking for project applications in two areas:

  • Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning and Design Projects. These projects represent the distinct character and quality of their communities. These projects require a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity, with one of the partners being a cultural organization.
  • Projects that Build Knowledge about Creative Placemaking. These projects are available to arts and design service organizations, and industry, policy or university organizations that provide technical assistance for place-based projects. Matching grants range up to $100,000.

Learn more about the opportunity on the NEA website.

Review application requirements and instructions.

Additional Resources:

Placemaking, What is It?

Placemaking Grants Reimagine Long Beach

Driving Resilience With Placemaking




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Uber Brings Electric to Portland Drivers, Underserved Communities

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:41

According to Tech Crunch, Uber is taking to Portland, Ore., to set benchmarks for electrifying its fleet. There are currently 100 active drivers with electric vehicles (EVs) operating in the city.

“The City of Portland has also adopted some of the nation’s most aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Uber released in a prepared statement.

According to CityLab, Portland was named the 2016 most EV-friendly out of 36 U.S. cities by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, based in large part on its vast network of charging stations.

Uber is teaming up with the non-profit Forth (formerly Drive Oregon) to facilitate the process and attract more of its 6,000 Portland drivers. The company’s goal is to make 10 percent of its statewide fleet electric by 2019 through a combination of incentives and educational initiatives

Uber will work with Portland’s Black Parent Initiative in partnership with Forth’s efforts to serve underserved communities, Cynergy E-Bikes to connect UberEATS couriers with electric bikes and Arcimoto, an Oregon-based EV company.

Uber’s auto-lease subsidiary Xchange Leasing plans to offer in-house deals to drivers that make the switch to EVs.

Read the original story on TechCrunch.

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Cook County First Municipality Hit by WannaCry Ransomware

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 06:03


By Jason Shueh & Chris Bing

A fast-spreading global ransomware campaign has found its first local government target in Illinois, StateScoop has learned. Cook County’s incident is the first known government infection of the WannaCry virus in the U.S.

The county, which includes the city of Chicago, confirmed to StateScoop that its Bureau of Technology found the ransomware on “a small number of systems” on Friday.

“We initiated our standard security procedures to address the issue. No major Cook County operations are impacted at this time,” said spokesperson Frank Shuftan.

Continue reading the story on State Scoop’s website.

Get details on the state of cybersecurity and a checklist of actions for local governments.

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HUD Grants for Cooperative Research Agreements Available

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 17:37

The U.S. Office of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has unsolicited funding through the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). There is funding still available for cooperative research agreements before the next budget is approved, according to a PD&R grant specialist that spoke with EfficientGov.

PD&R accepts unsolicited research proposals that address research priorities.

Research projects require a 50 percent match by philanthropic entities or Federal, state, or local government agencies. Cooperative research agreements must advance one of the following areas:

  1. Strengthening Housing Markets: Homeownership and Housing Finance
  2. Affordable Quality Rental Housing
  3. Housing as a Platform for Improving Quality of Life
  4. Resilient and Inclusive Communities
  5. HUD Research Assets

An example cooperative research agreement project is called Coming Home, which tests the current tenant selection criteria in New York City public housing by allowing 150 formerly incarcerated individuals to return to New York City Housing Authority housing and move in with their families. The PD&R-funded research evaluation examines the program’s design and implementation, and assesses feasibility for scaling-up and replicating in other jurisdictions. Partners also include the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the New York City Department of Homeless Services and nonprofit reentry service providers. The Vera Institute of Justice is evaluating the pilot under this HUD opportunity.

Formerly the Office of University Partnerships, this HUD agency was established to encourage and expand university research efforts that focus on solving urban and rural challenges.

Learn more and explore other funded projects.

Review priority research questions in PD&R’s Research Roadmap.

Submit research partnership proposals to ResearchPartnerships@hud.gov.

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