We must talk about suicide

We must talk about suicide

Gazette Column
For Iowans between the ages of 15 and 34, suicide is second-leading cause of death On Monday we learned a third person connected to a mass shooting took his own life. Jeremy Richman, a 49-year-old neuroscientist and father of Newtown, Conn., shooting victim Avielle Richman, took his own life in the town hall offices of the nonprofit he co-founded to research violence and named for his daughter, the Avielle Foundation. His death closely followed those of two survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Also gone are former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cheerleader and recent graduate Sydney Aiello, 19, who lost her best friend in the rampage, and an unidentified sophomore at the school. (Author’s note: After this column was filed, the family of Calvin Desir identified him as the second Parkland shooting survivor to…
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Iowa House bars school lunch shaming

Iowa House bars school lunch shaming

Gazette Column
Feeding kids linked to academic achievement, economic productivity Members of the Iowa House unanimously voted this week to protect Iowa school children from shaming — and give communities an economic edge. House File 2467 directs school districts to feed children, even those with meal accounts in the red, while continuing to pursue parents for payment. Alternate meals remain permissible, if the alternate is available to all students and not only those with negative meal account balances. It’s an effort to end what’s known as “shaming” of children whose parents and guardians don’t or can’t pay. Across the nation, and here in Iowa, students have had lunch trays taken from their hands and dumped into trash cans while other students watched. For some students in the Cedar Rapids area, this happened…
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Iowa Legislature is ignoring red flags

Iowa Legislature is ignoring red flags

Gazette Column
Debate on bill, amendments aimed at preventing gun violence denied Wary lawmakers in Iowa and around the nation insist ongoing debate about gun violence should center on mental illness, and not guns. So why is legislation aimed at temporarily removing guns from people in crisis being ignored? Iowa Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, made headlines this week for killing his own amendment, a red flag law he’d attached to a bill concerning mental health. The bill, which came out of the House Human Resources Committee, added provisions for involuntary commitments and hospitalizations and provided rules about how behavioral health information is disclosed to law enforcement agencies. Staed’s amendment would have allowed concerned family members and close friends to petition the court for a temporary weapons injunction against a person who…
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Triage for mental illness makes sense

Triage for mental illness makes sense

Gazette Column
Iowans need jail alternatives County law enforcement officials are asking Iowa lawmakers to create regional triage centers for Iowans experiencing mental health episodes or an addiction crisis. It would be a much needed and smart move by lawmakers. The six triage centers proposed by the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association would assess individuals committed voluntarily or involuntarily so that those people can receive proven treatment that’s cost-effective. Currently, these people in crisis are being funneled into highest cost care, generally hospitals, jails and prisons. The flip side of the coin is why this is happening, and has been happening for several years. Iowa doesn’t have nearly enough treatment options for those with mental illnesses. This was true four years ago, when I wrote a two-part series about a Johnson County criminal case. It involved…
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Recommit to support veterans

Recommit to support veterans

Gazette Column
Parades, free meals and organized ceremonies took place Friday as Iowans observed Veterans Day. That leaves this day, the actual date of Veterans Day, open for personal reflection and recommitment to those who wore the boots. Since 1775, nearly 1.4 million military members have died in war and conflicts. More than 40 million men and women have served in the armed forces during war; millions more during peacetime. Men and women have served on bases and in conflicts around the globe, including in Afghanistan for the past 16 years. They’ve served regardless of current events or political sentiment — although all returning have been subject to the whims of a society shaped by these factors. Within that context, the pomp and circumstance of Veterans Day is important and inadequate. Pausing…
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Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Gazette Column
Economic recommendations for Appalachia unveiled by a nonprofit and four U.S. senators this week could benefit the whole of rural America, if they garner a champion. The Appalachian region includes all of West Virginia and portions of 12 more states, spanning from upper Mississippi to lower New York. It’s generally an area that’s coping with multiple and nuanced economic and cultural issues including shifting workforce priorities and the opioid epidemic. In May the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center began work with U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to establish a task force to develop recommendations for overcoming economic strife and isolation in four topic areas: education and workforce, entrepreneurship and job creation, energy and infrastructure, and rural health. On Wednesday the group…
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Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Index: Iowa needs better crisis plans

Gazette Column
The new National Health Security Preparedness Index is out, and Iowans continue to lag behind in plans for the state’s most vulnerable. Across most of the 139 measures used to compile the index, Iowans fare well with rankings at or slightly above the national average. Iowa gets an overall score of 7 out of 10 — the same score it’s had for the past three years. But while Iowa has stagnated, other states have improved. The 7 that placed Iowa above the pack in 2014, now puts it in the middle. Drilling further down, it’s apparent that there is one section in particular where Iowans are lagging behind. Index authors labeled it as “Community Planning and Engagement Coordination,” which includes actions taken to develop and maintain supportive relationships among government…
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‘Precedent’ no reason to not seek answers

‘Precedent’ no reason to not seek answers

Gazette Column
We give cover to those with whom we agree Trying to name the political elephant that won’t budge from the corner and keeps mucking up the floor? His name is Precedent, and he appears to be here for the long haul. I’m not exactly sure when he arrived, but I do know what makes him thrive. And, collectively, we’ve been serving him buckets upon buckets of scandalous food. For a prime example, let’s travel back in time to 2007, when the George W. Bush administration was taking heat for dismissing at least eight U.S. attorneys. When Congress requested the White House release administrative documents related to the U.S. attorneys, the public found out that White House staffers had been conducting official business on private servers run by the Republican National…
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Pardon me for not rejoicing

Pardon me for not rejoicing

Gazette Column
Another day, another spitting match between Gov. Terry Branstad and a public employee union. The latest lawsuit was launched by AFSCME in response to Branstad’s shuttering of two of the state’s four mental health institutes. The union was joined in the Polk County filing by 20 state lawmakers. “Iowa law clearly states that the state of Iowa shall operate mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda,” said AFSCME President Danny Homan. “This was the law when the governor announced his decision to close these facilities. This was the law when the legislature passed, with bipartisan support, the funding to keep these facilities open. This was the law when he closed these two facilities. It still is the law today.” The entire situation could nearly be cut-and-pasted from the aftermath…
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Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Gazette Column
Iowa City pastor was deported to Honduras in March The connection left a lot to be desired. But, actually, that was the point. Pastor Max Villatoro and his son, Anthony, reunited in a public setting this week to discuss their first Father’s Day apart. The Villatoro family has been separated since the man known simply as Pastor Max was arrested in Iowa City as part of a federal immigration sting and deported to Honduras in March. Father and son were brought together with the help of technology on Thursday as part of a webcast by advocacy group America’s Voice. In so many ways, it was a heartbreaking reunion to hear and watch. [caption id="attachment_1082" align="alignleft" width="300"] Pastor Max Villatoro, a former resident of Iowa City who was deported to Honduras…
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