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Monday, April 30, 2012

Illinois State Senator Darin LaHood, (R) - Medicaid ‘Entitlement mentality’ statement runs counter to the facts | April 30, 2012

‘Entitlement mentality’ runs counter to the facts
'Opinion' By TOM LOEWY | The Register-Mail

When a state senator walks into a room filled with senior citizens, opens a discussion on the issue of the precarious state of Medicaid funding in Illinois and decries an “entitlement mentality” that “has permeated through many parts of our urban cities” one might be left wondering what, exactly, that representative is talking about.

That’s what State Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, told a group at a local retirement living center Monday.

Here’s the entire quote:

“I’ll tell you many (Senate) members that you meet in Chicago, they come from an entitlement mentality, that you are entitled to things,” LaHood said that day. “That’s not what made our country great. You can work hard, get an education, and the sky is the limit in this country. Many of you have done that ... but it’s not about being entitled to things. That has permeated through many parts of our urban cities and that, in turn, affects many of the legislators. That entitlement mentality, I don’t think has served us very well in certain aspects of our society.”
For many years, “urban” often served as a code word for “black.” Or, among the more generous separatists who sought to avoid being labeled as racists, the term “urban” was used as a nice way of saying “ghetto dwellers.”

We’ll give LaHood the benefit of the doubt. Obviously, in our enlightened age, he couldn’t have intended those inferences.

But what is clear from LaHood’s words is he sought to pander to an audience from a largely rural county. In an arena where, presumably, most of the spectators draw Medicare, LaHood sought to reassure recipients of that “entitlement” that a portion of the “others” receiving Medicaid have a “mentality” that runs contrary to the things that “made our great country.”

I think that’s a fair interpretation of what LaHood said. Now let’s see if it stands up.

There are, as of the start of this year, roughly 2.8 million Illinoisans enrolled in the Medicaid program. That’s one out of every five people in the state.

Who are the people on Medicaid?

Well, for starters, kids. All kinds of kids. The children of single mothers and parents who work low-wage jobs. The kids being raised by grandparents or in foster homes. Kids from families where a parent or both parents have lost their jobs or work for small businesses that could never hope to afford employee-sponsored health benefits.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of the children living in poverty in Illinois get their healthcare through Medicaid. Another 65 percent of children living in low-income homes in the state get their healthcare through Medicaid.

That’s just for starters. There are plenty of disabled adults who receive Medicaid. People saddled with mental or physical disabilities. People who were injured and cannot work.

To call Medicaid a vital safety net for state residents is an understatement.

Now let’s consider rural Knox County, where there are roughly 10,500 residents enrolled in the Medicaid program. Interestingly enough, that’s one fifth of the population of the county.

Here are some more quick facts about Knox County:
Roughly 36 percent of the county’s population is poor or near-poor, which means they manage to survive at 185 percent of the federal poverty level of roughly $24,000 a year for a family of four.Just over half the children in the county are eligible to receive free and reduced lunches because they live in homes at or below 185 percent of the poverty level.Obviously, people in our county enroll their children in the Medicaid program because kids need medical care — and, increasingly, their parents can’t afford to get it any other way. Perhaps the parents in “urban” areas face the same pressures.

We in our rural setting are, in fact, no different than those in the “urban” environs.

Medicaid funding is a problem — a problem that, in fact, started when federal taxes were slashed for the expressed purpose of strangling programs like Medicaid. Politicians of every stripe can spend from now until end times arguing over philosophy, but that is a fact. We collect fewer tax dollars today than at any time in recent memory. Our need for austerity — and our lack of Medicaid funding — is born of the decision to stop collecting what is due from our citizens, millionaires and middle-class alike.

Striving to eliminate Medicaid fraud is a worthy goal. People shouldn’t cheat the system. Containing costs is another goal states should pursue with great vigor. Having a reasonable discussion of taxation also might be a good idea.

But residents of Knox County shouldn’t tolerate a politician who walks into our midst and spouts off about an “entitlement mentality” when our friends and neighbors are struggling to find affordable medical care for their children.

We should never tolerate a politician who tries to pit “us” against “them” when we are all citizens of the same state, faced with the same crushing economic uncertainties as those who live in other ZIP codes.

Sorry, but that kind of attitude never made our country great.


Tom Loewy is a reporter/columnist with The Register-Mail. Contact him at tloewy@register-mail.com or 343-7181, ext 256.
http://www.galesburg.com/tom_loewy/x1942563980/Tom-Loewy-Entitlement-mentality-runs-counter-to-the-facts?zc_p=0

For Illinois State Senator Darin LaHood, (R)| 37th District :
http://www.senatorlahood.com/

City of Chicago wants gag order in police neglect case of a person with a disability : Christina Eilman case | April 30, 2012

UPDATE - Jan 15, 2013 - follows original post

Lawyers want to keep Christina Eilman's family from speaking to media


By David Heinzmann, Chicago Tribune | April 29, 2012

In the wake of a damaging appellate court ruling against the Chicago Police Department, lawyers for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration have asked a judge to keep the family of a mentally ill California woman from speaking publicly about the case.

The move was prompted by a sharply critical statement Christina Eilman's family issued after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that their lawsuit could proceed after a two-year delay, a legal opinion that likened police conduct to throwing her in a lion's den.

{photo: Christina Eilman and family}

The family blamed the city's legal maneuvering for dragging out the lawsuit, which seeks as much as $100 million for the devastating injuries Eilman suffered after police released her into one of Chicago's highest-crime neighborhoods. She was sexually assaulted and fell from the seventh-floor window of a public housing building.

City lawyers filed a motion Friday asking U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall to enter a formal gag order in the case after emailing Eilman's lawyer to accuse the family of violating a previous, informal agreement among the parties to not talk to news media.

The family's attorney, Jeffrey Singer, responded that the January 2010 agreement was made in anticipation of a jury trial that was scheduled to start soon in the case, and "all bets were off" once the city filed a last-minute appeal that Kendall warned might simply be a stall tactic, according to a portion of the email exchange that the city attached to its motion Friday.

Although Singer has not himself commented publicly since the agreement, in the interim his clients have made public statements at least twice, including Thursday's written release. However, Singer told city attorney Matthew Hurd in the email that his clients have had no obligation to remain quiet since the city moved to delay the case.

"You guys chose to do this and essentially assured no imminent trial. In my view, all bets were off once the trial date was vacated — over two years ago. That was your decision — not mine," Singer wrote in an email Friday to Hurd.

City officials said they want the judge to clarify whether her informal agreement of should be interpreted as a gag order. "The fact that it was issued orally doesn't make it any less an order," said Roderick Drew, spokesman for the city Law Department.

City lawyers said they planned to appear in court Thursday to argue their motion, but Kendall on Friday scheduled a status hearing in the case for Monday morning.

In the court filing, Hurd noted that the statement by Eilman's parents appeared in a front-page story in Friday's Tribune. The motion also referenced part of a transcript from the hearing in January 2010 when Kendall asked the parties to enter into "a gentleman's and ladies' agreement" to no longer speak to the news media as the parties prepared to pick a jury.

At the time, the city had filed a motion to delay the trial because of publicity. Kendall said she didn't think a delay, or a formal gag order, were necessary but that they would need to question the jury pool "to know whether the jury's read these articles, and the articles are front-page articles with a lot of detail."

The details of the Eilman case shocked many and raised further questions about police oversight at a time when the department was already dealing with multiple misconduct scandals.

Eilman suffered what experts have described as a bipolar breakdown while she was in Chicago in May 2006 and was arrested at Midway Airport. Police took her from the airport to the nearby Chicago Lawn police station. They contacted her parents, who informed officers that her behavior was due to mental illness.

Instead of following department policy requiring a hospital evaluation for mentally ill people in custody, officers booked her and transported her seven miles to a lockup facility in one of the city's highest-crime neighborhoods. The next night, they released her without any direction, and she wandered the neighborhood before being lured into a public housing high-rise.

Eilman's catastrophic injuries included a severe brain injury with permanent damage. Now 27, she lives in California with her parents and is dependent on state aid for her around-the-clock care.

dheinzmann@tribune.com
Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-police-lawsuit-eilman-0430-20120430,0,4971455.story

###


TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2013

City of Chicago settlement $22.5 Million of bipolar woman police released in high crime area | Jan 15, 2013


Nearly seven years after Christina Eilman wandered out of a South Side police station and into a catastrophe, her tragic entanglement with the Chicago Police Department began to come to an end Monday — with a proposed $22.5 million legal settlement that may be the largest the city ever offered to a single victim of police misconduct.

Though the settlement is a staggering sum on its own, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has placed a second eight-figure police settlement on Tuesday's City Council Finance Committee agenda. A $10.2 million settlement is proposed for one of the victims of notorious former police Cmdr. Jon Burge, bringing to nearly $33 million the amount aldermen could vote to pay victims of police misconduct in a single day.

The latest Burge settlement would be for Alton Logan, who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and who alleged in a federal lawsuit that Burge's team of detectives covered up evidence that would have exonerated him — a departure from previous cases that documented torture used by Burge's team to extract false confessions. The Logan case would bring the tab on Burge cases to nearly $60 million when legal fees are counted. Burge is serving 41/2 years in federal prison for lying about the torture and abuse of suspects.

The settlement in the Eilman case would avert a trial detailing the events of May 2006, when the then-21-year-old California woman was arrested at Midway Airport in the midst of a bipolar breakdown. She was held overnight and then released at sundown the next day without assistance several miles away in one of the city's highest-crime neighborhoods.

Alone and bewildered by her surroundings, the former UCLA student was abducted and sexually assaulted before plummeting from a seventh-floor window. She survived but suffered a severe and permanent brain injury, a shattered pelvis, and numerous other broken bones and injuries.

Her lawyer and family declined to comment Monday. The case, which has dragged in the courts for six years, was set to begin trial next week. Pretrial litigation had produced scathing rebukes from federal judges of the city's behavior toward Eilman — both on the street and in court.

The city's argument that it was not responsible for her injuries because she was assaulted by a gang member was blasted in a ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year. a ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year. Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook described the Police Department's release of Eilman, who is white, into a high-crime, predominantly African-American neighborhood by saying officers "might as well have released her into the lion's den at the Brookfield Zoo."

While Emanuel's Law Department endured some criticism for delays in the Eilman case since the mayor took office in 2011, he has noted repeatedly that the police misconduct highlighted in these and many other cases are legacies from the Richard M. Daley administration that he — and taxpayers — are stuck with.

The mayor's office referred calls to the city Law Department, but a spokesman there declined to comment.

If approved, the Eilman settlement would surpass the $18 million settlement paid to the family of LaTanya Haggerty, who was mistakenly shot and killed by police in 1999. It is frequently referred to as the city's biggest single-victim settlement.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., 21st, said city officials have not taken a hard enough line against police misconduct for years, and now taxpayers are footing the bill.

"We've known this was going to bust our budget, and here we are," Brookins said. "The administration (under Daley) should have made police conduct and behavior a higher priority. They didn't, and now we're seeing these costly settlements over and over, to pay for officers mistreating people."

The Logan case was set to go to trial last month, but on the first day of jury selection, city lawyers decided to settle the case. Logan's attorney Jon Loevy said the settlement includes about $1.5 million in legal fees.

Logan sat in prison for 26 years until a stunning 2008 revelation after another man, convicted murderer Andrew Wilson, died. Wilson had told his attorneys in 1982 that he committed the murder in which Logan was accused, but the lawyers said the attorney-client privilege kept them from going public with the admission until after Wilson's death.

Although relieved the city settled the case instead of battling on, Loevy said his client would gladly give up the $8.7 million to have nearly three decades of his life back.

"I don't know who would take that much money to lose their 20s, 30s and 40s," Loevy said. "From his perspective, no amount of money can make him whole and he'd rather have his life back."

While Logan lost the middle chunk of his life, Eilman dwells in a childlike mental state and feels as though she has lost the rest of her life, her family has told the Tribune.

Hobbled by a brain injury that has permanently impaired her cognitive function, she lives with her parents in suburban Sacramento. She requires constant medical treatment and therapy. Doctors have said she will not get better.

Eilman came to Chicago on May 5, 2006, at a time when her bipolar condition was worsening. When she tried to catch a return flight from Midway to California a couple of days later, she was ranting and screaming and appeared to be out of her mind.

Police officers eventually arrested her and took her to the Chicago Lawn district near Midway. Court records and depositions in the case show that officers were alarmed by Eilman's behavior.

A female sergeant called her father, Rick Paine, who told the officer Eilman had been treated for bipolar disorder the year before. One of the arresting officers testified that the watch commander ordered that Eilman be taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, per department protocols. But the officers never took her because they said they did not have a car, according to court records.

Instead, Eilman was transferred to the Wentworth district lockup several miles east and held overnight. Bewildered by the changing situation, Eilman's mother, Kathy Paine, began nearly hourly calls to the Wentworth district. Over nine telephone calls to the station, Kathy Paine said she was repeatedly told to call back later until an officer told her that Eilman had already been released.

Police escorted Eilman to the back door of station, and she wandered a few blocks east to a takeout restaurant, where men began to gather and talk to the petite blonde, who was dressed in a skimpy jogging suit.

Witnesses said she appeared to be disoriented and behaving erratically. A short time later she walked a few blocks to the last remaining high-rise of the Robert Taylor Homes. Eilman eventually went with a group of people to a vacant apartment on the seventh floor of the public housing project.

One resident said she repeatedly warned Eilman that she was not safe there. Several men asked Eilman to perform oral sex, but she refused, at one point saying she would jump out the window if touched, witnesses said.

Reputed gang member and convicted felon Marvin Powell eventually demanded the others leave the apartment but prevented Eilman from going with them, saying, "I'm gonna show this bitch who the real killa is," according to witnesses.

Powell was eventually convicted of abducting Eilman but not sexually assaulting her or causing her to go out the window. He served part of a 12-year sentence before being paroled last spring, while Eilman and her family were still battling the city in court.

By David Heinzmann ; Chicago Tribune reporter
January 14, 2013

Tribune reporter John Byrne contributed.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-emanuel-seeks-to-settle-2-cop-misconduct-cases-for-nearly-33-million-20130114,0,4742395,full.story

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

http://abilitychicagoinfo.blogspot.com/2013/01/city-of-chicago-settlement-225-million.html

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In East Peoria IL, Life Academy prepares disabled young adults for life after High School | April 28, 2012

East Peoria High School program teaches basic skills for functioning in the community

By LESLIE RENKEN of the Journal Star

In the nine years she's been teaching life skills to developmentally disabled young adults at East Peoria High School's Life Academy, Erika Ridge has had one goal that's proved painfully illusive - finding her students paying jobs in the community.

"What I would love from this article is to get five calls from businesses in the community interested in hiring my students," Ridge said while sitting in a classroom at the high school recently.

{photo: Life Academy teacher Erika Ridge works with her student Tito Wouimet, 21, during a recent training session at Culver's in East Peoria. Wouimet has been training at the restaurant since September and hopes one day to get a paying job there}

Ridge, who has a degree in special education, set up the Life Academy program nine years ago in an effort to give students with a variety of developmental disabilities the basic skills needed to function in the community after leaving school. They learn how to cook, clean and grocery shop. They spend extensive time in the community, doing activities that are both fun and educational. They even receive vocational training, but unfortunately, only a few of them find jobs. For Ridge, this has been a difficult reality she refuses to accept.

"I'll know this program is a success when I can go into this community five or 10 years from now and see my students are out in the community, engaging in activities that they love," she said. "When I see that individual in a job that they are being paid for and they like - that's what gives us quality of life, and it's no different for them."

In Illinois, students with disabilities are allowed to be in public school programs until they turn 22. After that they rely on a complicated system of publicly and privately-funded programs to cover their needs, from vocational training to finding a spot in a group home. To receive funding from the state, students must get onto the Illinois Priority and Urgency of Need list, or PUNS, said Ridge.

"That list is incredibly long," she said. "Students wait for years to obtain that funding. Because of this they go home and wait for the funding. They can't get into a group home or PARC."

Having worked with disabled people for her entire career, Ridge understands the limitations of the system. She's looking for another route for her students.

"We need to continue our conversation with the community about what we can give to each other that is valuable," she said. "I have some of the hardest working kids you'll find. They take pride in their work."

A valuable employee

Tito Wouimet, 21, bends over a trash can at Culver's restaurant in East Peoria, concentrating as he ties the garbage bag closed. Suddenly Ridge lets out a loud whoop and begins to applaud. Wouimet looks up from his perfect knot, beaming.

"Tying bags has been a struggle," Ridge explained later.

Wouimet has been training at Culver's once a week since September. Ridge hopes that one day their efforts will lead to a paying job.

The East Peoria restaurant knows the value of hiring people with developmental challenges - another East Peoria special education student began working there about three years ago. Natalie Curiel, 24, does the same job Wouimet has been training for. During the lunch rush hour five days a week she performs a variety of tasks to keep the dining area neat and the food orders flowing smoothly from kitchen to customer.

Each work day Curiel takes the bus to and from work. The job gives her life structure as well as a paycheck, but Curiel's favorite part is the people.

"I like the customers and the people and my bosses. They're all nice," she said after finishing her shift recently.

"She's a very social person," said Curiel's father, Javier Curiel. His daughter has met many people through her job, both employees and customers.

"We'll be at a gathering and someone will be smiling at her and I'll ask how he knows her and he'll say 'she brings me my chili,' " said Natalie Curiel's mother, Jane Counterman, who was instrumental in getting her daughter the job.

Natalie Curiel trained on the job for more than six months with a job coach from Community Workshop and Training Center. Since the learning curve is often steeper for people with developmental disabilities, job coaching is key to creating a valuable employee.

Ridge has been able to rearrange her schedule at the school to fit in the once-a-week training sessions with Wouimet at Culver's. On a recent Tuesday she and practicum student Morgan Newcomb used a visual training guide to help Wouimet remember all of the 13 tasks he is responsible for during his shift. When he finished one task, he referred to the guide with its little photos of each duty.

"He has trouble anticipating what needs to be done next," said Ridge. "The visual schedule helps."

Newcomb and Ridge recently came up with the idea of the visual schedule. Because the abilities of her students vary wildly, Ridge is quite skilled at coming up with innovative ways to teach each individual.

"I have another student who loves to write. He's an excellent reader. I could just write out the list for him," she said. "He'd probably cross things off as he got them done. That's just the way he is."

Once an employee is trained, however, he or she can become a loyal, long-time asset to the business, Javier Curiel said.

"Some jobs that people might say 'that's beneath me,' someone with special needs would do proudly," he said. His wife said that Natalie Curiel is very proud of her job.

"She loves Culver's," she said.

Job coaches wanted

Doris Hayes, vice president of education services for PARC, believes special needs adults have a lot to offer in the workplace.

"Research shows that people with disabilities tend to have better attendance, are more punctual, and show more excitement about going to work than someone without a disability," she said. Yet only about 15 percent of disabled adults are employed in their communities, Hayes said.

She wants to change that. Hayes is waiting to get approval on a grant through the State of Illinois that will form a partnership between two high-school based special education programs, PARC and several area businesses in an effort to get more disabled adults into jobs.

"It's called the HIRE grant - Help Illinois Rethink Employment," she said.

Through the grant, students from East Peoria and Richwoods High School will receive job training at the PARC facility in north Peoria. Once they've mastered a few basic skills they'll begin on-the-job training with one-on-one assistance from job coaches at three local businesses - AmericInn, Advanced Medical Transport, and Peoria Production Shop.

Students from East Peoria Life Academy already do vocational training at PARC once a week, but the HIRE grant will expand that program and allow for the hiring of job coaches for on-site training, which is key, Hayes said.

"There's only so much a teacher can do in the classroom," she said. While Ridge was able to carve a little time out of her teaching schedule to job coach Wioumet at Culvers, she can't do that for all her students.

"The teachers we work with do an amazing job with the resources they have. That's why I think this partnership is going to be really good," said Hayes.

If the grant is approved, she hopes to have the program up and running when students return to class in August.

"It will help bridge the gap in transitioning students from the school environment into the work force," said Hayes. "It will also expose businesses to people with disabilities, showing them that they do have value, that they do have employable skills."

A valuable contributor

At the East Peoria Culver's, assistant manager Ruth Burnette had nothing but praise for Natalie Curiel.

"Oh, she's a sweetie," Burnette said as Curiel, on hands and knees, picked up French fries and other garbage from beneath a nearby table. "She loves her job. She's really dedicated. We're proud of her."

Having a paying job has allowed Curiel to contribute to her own needs, said her father. "She paid for her own computer printer and everything."

He believes that putting special needs people to work is also a positive thing for the community at large. Ultimately they cost the system less as they contribute to society through their work and by paying taxes.

While Counterman and Curiel at first had qualms about sending their daughter out into the work-world where they would not be able to protect her from people who might not understand her disability, they say the employees at Culver's have been very good to Natalie. But the fact that she is a good worker came as no surprise, since she is an eager contributor in her own home.

"We have four kids, and she's the best," said Curiel's mother. "She knows how to do the dishes, she vacuums, she dusts. Everybody needs a Natalie."

______

Prospective employers interested in more information about hiring adults with special needs can call East Peoria High School Life Academy teacher Erika Ridge at 698-7508 or Doris Hayes, vice president of education services at PARC at 691-3800.

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeslieRenken.
______

# http://www.pjstar.com/news/x677627759/Life-Academy-prepares-disabled-young-adults-for-life-after-school

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Los Angeles to pay $2.1 million in legal fees to disability group - emergency plans did little to address the needs of people with disabilities | April 25, 2012

Los Angeles Times - The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to pay $2.1 million in legal fees for a group that had alleged that city officials had no strategy for evacuating people with disabilities after a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The nonprofit group Communities Actively Living Independent and Free, along with San Fernando Valley wheelchair user Audrey Harthorn, sued Los Angeles three years ago, saying the city’s emergency plans did little to address the needs of people with disabilities after a major fire, earthquake or other crisis. The lawsuit said the plan left 500,000 disabled residents at “extreme and unacceptable risk.”

In response, a federal judge ordered the city to hire a consultant to review and revise the plan so that it accommodates the needs of disabled residents, said William Carter, chief deputy to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. The plan must be revised within three years.

The legal payment was approved on a 10-0 vote. The funds will go to the legal team Disability Rights Advocates, according to the city clerk.

For Disability Rights Advocates visit: http://www.dralegal.org/

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/04/la-to-pay-21-million-in-legal-fees-to-disability-group-.html

Chen Guangcheng, Blind China activist makes "escape" | April 27, 2012

By Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard


..BEIJING (Reuters) - Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, one of the China's most prominent human rights advocates, has escaped from home imprisonment, activists said on Friday, but uncertainty over his whereabouts and fears about his health have worried supporters.

Chen, a self-schooled legal advocate who campaigned against forced abortions, had been restricted to his village home in Linyi in eastern Shandong province since September 2010 when he was released from jail.

His confinement and relentless surveillance with his family fanned protests by Chinese sympathizers and criticism from foreign governments and activist groups.

Chen's reported escape and the furor it has unleashed could add to the headaches of China's ruling Communist Party, which is striving to ensure stability and authority ahead of a leadership transition later this year.

Bob Fu, president of the Texas-based religious and political rights advocacy group ChinaAid, said in a statement that Chen was in Beijing and "100 percent safe".

"There is speculation that Chen is in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing," the group added. The U.S. Embassy and China's Foreign Ministry both said they had no immediate comment.


YouTube Published on Apr 27, 2012 by IBTimesTV

In a video posted on YouTube, Chen confirmed he had escaped, and asked Premier Wen Jiabao to order an investigation in the maltreatment of him and his family by local officials.

"It was not at all easy, but I have escaped," he said in the video. "Everything that was said on the Internet about the violence directed against me by Linyi, I'm here to say that it was all true."

Chen did not say where he was nor what his plans were.

"I want Premier Wen to open a probe into this corrupt behavior. The money paid by the people in taxes should not be wasted by corrupt local officials to hurt us," he added.

While Reuters was not able to authenticate the video, there was scant doubt it was Chen, wearing his trademark dark glasses and speaking in his halting, Shandong-accented Mandarin Chinese.

Fu earlier said in a telephone interview that Chen's wife, daughter and mother were still at the family's village home, which was surrounded by authorities after they discovered Chen had disappeared.

"The entire village and government leaders were stunned by the developments when Chen Guangcheng was not found. So they are surrounding his home," he said.

"SCARED OF REVENGE"

Another activist, He Peirong, told Reuters that Chen had talked with her.

"His spirits are okay, but he is passing blood and is very weak," she said. "His hands won't stop shaking."

She said Chen was worried about his family.

"He is really worried about his wife, child and mother now he has escaped. He is scared the guards will take revenge now he has escaped. The guards have beaten his old mother this year. They broke some of his wife's bones which have yet to heal."

Chen's fate has become a test of wills, pitting a crackdown on dissent against rights activists who have rallied around his cause and that of artist Ai Weiwei.

Officials in Shandong did not comment immediately on Chen's escape.

The news was widely discussed on China's popular Twitter-like service Weibo, with users referring to him as "the blind man" to avoid censorship of his name, reflecting his status as a Chinese cult hero.

"He has escaped from the clutches of the devil," wrote "Brave to speak".

"Never has the fate of single blind man moved the hearts of an entire nation," added "Jing Huili".

Phelim Kine, Senior Asia Researcher for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, expressed concern about Chen's health.

"If Chen has successfully escaped, it comes not a moment too soon as there have been reports that Chen has been in extremely poor health due to severe multiple beatings by his captors," Kine said in an email.

Chen angered Shandong officials in 2005 by exposing a program of forced abortions as part of China's one-child policy. He was formally released in September 2010 after four years in jail on a charge of "blocking traffic".

Chen and his wife endured a "brutal four-hour beating" by local authorities last July, ChinaAid has said.

Last year, dozens of supporters were blocked from visiting Chen. Many of them were beaten by men in plain clothes.

In December, Hollywood actor and "Batman" star Christian Bale was roughed up by security guards while trying to visit Chen. Bale had been in China to promote a movie with Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

Guo Yushan, a Beijing-based researcher who has campaigned for Chen's release, said he believed Chen remained free as of midday on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Temple Grandin Interview ; Grandin on the autism surge

Temple Grandin tells Salon what the new numbers mean to her, and why increased autism awareness isn't always good

{photo: Temple Grandin (Credit: Rosalie Winard)}

Intervied by Thomas Rogers, Salon Arts Editor
Salon Media Group | Apr 24, 2012

In the last few weeks, new autism figures have created widespread controversy among American parents. In early April, the CDC released its latest, shocking report on the disorder, which showed a massive uptick in the number of diagnoses — according to the numbers, one in 88 children and one in 54 boys are now on the autism spectrum. That’s an astonishing 78 percent increase since 2002. In the weeks since, pundits and doctors have spent a lot of time debating what these changes actually mean: Are they due to increased detection, loosened definitions of autism or are we in the middle of a genuine upsurge in autism among American children? As Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, told reporters, this change may “entirely the result of better detection. We don’t know whether or not that is the case.”

For Temple Grandin, the country’s most high-profile autistic person, this news is a source of both relief and concern. Grandin was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and didn’t speak until age 4, but went on to become one of the country’s best known authorities in livestock facility design. (In 2010, she was the subject of a well-received HBO biopic, “Temple Grandin.”) Grandin is also the author of several books, including, most recently, “Different … Not Less,” a collection of inspiring personal essays by people on the autistic spectrum who are also gainfully employed. The collection, she tells Salon, was meant to inspire young people with autism to attain successful working lives.

Salon spoke to Grandin over the phone about the newest autism numbers, the problem with autism awareness — and what the government can do to help parents with kids on the spectrum.

The CDC recently released a shocking report that showed a huge uptickin autism numbers. What do you make of it

I’m very familiar with those figures. One big question that’s come up is: Has autism increased on the mild side of things? I don’t think so — they’ve always been here. Some of this is increased detection. I’ve worked with tons of people that I know who are on the spectrum — but now I think severe autism has really increased. There may be environmental contaminants. I read an article the other day that a supposedly very harmless pesticide on cattle was making bulls infertile, so this brings up the issue of genetics.

There is some concern that by expanding the numbers of people with autism, the CDC is diluting the autism diagnosis.

The problem with these diagnoses is they’re not precise. They’re talking about changing the DSM and replacing it with Social Communication Disorder and they’re sitting around in rooms discussing it. It’s not a precise diagnosis like tuberculosis. You show certain behaviors, like social awkwardness, or fixated interest or repetitive behavior, and that’s labeled autism. But it’s a very big spectrum. On one hand you’ve got people working in technology jobs and on the other hand you’ve got someone who’s nonverbal with epilepsy, and that’s one of the big problems. Steve Jobs would probably be on the spectrum, and so would Einstein.

On the other hand, this newly expanded number may also make a lot of parents of kids with autism feel much less alone.

I think that’s really important. When I was young my mother was totally alone. It would have definitely made a lot of difference. She would have had other parents to talk to in a support group and none of that existed in the ’50s.

Nevertheless, while people have been talking a tremendous amount about autism and Asperger’s in recent years, you suggest that’s not been entirely productive for children with autism.

To a certain extent it’s a good thing. On the other hand, you get to the smart kids who could go have successful careers in Silicon Valley getting held back by labels. One kid goes to Silicon Valley, the other stays home to play video games, and they’re the same geek. I visit people in [autism] meetings, and a 9-year-old will come up and want to talk about his autism. I’d rather talk about his science project. You get fixated on your favorite thing as a kid, and now kids are getting fixated on autism instead of dogs or medieval knights. I’d rather get them to fixate on that something that could give them a career.

Is that the reason why you put together an essay collection like “Different … Not Less”?

The thing that motivated me to to put it together is seeing way too many people with high functioning autism and Asperger’s not getting jobs and making transitions to adult life. Having worked in a technical field my whole adult life, I think, “Where are the aspies?” I think about people I went to college with, the geeky kids, different kids. One of the things hurting people with Asperger’s today is they’re not being taught social skills from old people on the spectrum who managed to be employed their whole life.

So we got about 25 entries [for the book] and I picked half of them. Some of them are people well known in the autism field but I also wanted to have a wide variety of people. They had to be employed their whole life and have an actual diagnosis, but they all had childhood jobs, they all were bullied in school, and I wanted to show that to young people on the spectrum. I didn’t fill it up with happy people in Silicon Valley. There is a person who is a tour guide, a doctor, a psychiatric aide, retail clerk, advertising executive. There’s a real big variety of people, and they talk about how the diagnosis helped them to understand their problems.

There was one person who was a computer lady. Her dad died and she was devastated by that. She got diagnosed because she got depressed. Her boss asked her, “If you’d gotten the diagnosis when you were younger, would you have achieved what you achieved?” The problem with some of the young people on the spectrum is that parents are reluctant to push them out of their comfort zone, and they’re unemployable. I wanted to show in this book that we can succeed.

The same week the new CDC figures were released, another study found that mothers of autistic children are 56 percent more likely to be under the poverty line. Why do you think that is?

Autistic children are very difficult to take care of, especially severely autistic ones. When I was 4 I had almost no language; when I was 3 I had none at all. It’s much more work for the mother of an autistic child to have a job, because working with an autistic child is such a hassle until they go to school. Then it might be easier, but there are still likely to be more interruptions and things, and a mother might be restricted on what she can do in terms of travel.

What do you think needs to be done in order to change that?

My mother’s been working with a group called Families Together. For a family that has severely autistic kids, the divorce rate is through the roof. [Families Together] put on weekends where families meet up and they get the whole family working together so they don’t get so frazzled and fall apart. That’s a huge issue.

Should there be more government support for parents with kids on the autism spectrum?

Parents need to have respite so they can go out to a restaurant and have some time off. That’s a huge problem for parents. And then there’s the cost of therapy, a lot of schools have only two hours of speech therapy per week. If you talk with these kids when they’re very young, 20 to 30 hours a week with a good teacher, that improves the prognosis. But then you also need better services for adults. If you’ve got a non-verbal adult, what happens after he’s 21 or 22 and he ages out of school? That’s a huge problem, especially for severely autistic adults.

http://www.salon.com/2012/04/24/grandin_on_the_autism_surge/singleton/

National Safely Discard Prescripti​on Drugs on Saturday, April 28, 2012

NATIONAL TAKE-BACK INITIATIVE

April 28, 2012
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has scheduled another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day which will take place on Saturday, April 28, 2012, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This is a great opportunity for those who missed the previous events, or who have subsequently accumulated unwanted, unused prescription drugs, to safely dispose of those medications.

Americans that participated in the DEA’s third National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on October 29, 2011, turned in more than 377,086 pounds (188.5 tons) of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at the 5,327 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states and U.S. territories. When the results of the three prior Take-Back Days are combined, the DEA, and its state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed 995,185 pounds (498.5 tons) of medication from circulation in the past 13 months.

“The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “DEA remains hard at work to establish just such a drug disposal process, and will continue to offer take-back opportunities until the proper regulations are in place.”

“With the continued support and hard work of our more than 3,945 state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners, these three events have dramatically reduced the risk of prescription drug diversion and abuse, and increased awareness of this critical public health issue,” said Leonhart.


Collection Site Locator: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/NTBI/NTBI-PUB.pub?_flowExecutionKey=_c5CECDCBC-F995-D5EE-FB37-35AF26F04C76_kDB938C65-23F3-2379-19F2-34DBEC6D2B8C

Law Enforcement Agencies Only: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/takeback_042812.html

Take-Back Day Partnership Toolbox: http://www.justice.gov/dea/take-back/takeback-day_2012.html

General Public Inquiries:
Inquiries can be made at 1-800-882-9539

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mistreatment of 7-Year-Old Girl With Cerebral Palsy puts TSA Under Fire (again) | April 26, 2012

Yahoo Trending Now ; report By Melissa Knowles

The Transportation Security Administration is under scrutiny for its treatment of a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. When Dina Frank traveled through New York's JFK International Airport with her parents, she and her family were pulled out of line as they tried to board their plane.

The airport's TSA agents and the Franks are in dispute over how the family was treated at security after Dina endured what the Franks referred to as an "exceptionally aggressive screening." Dina walks with the aid of metal crutches and leg braces, so she can't go through a traditional metal detector and has to be manually patted down. Dina's parents say that she is developmentally disabled and often gets frightened by the procedure, so they often request that TSA agents introduce themselves before screening Dina.

Her father, Dr. Joshua Frank, began taping the screening with his iPhone, but said that he was screamed at, cursed at, and threatened as he tried to document what was happening. The Franks said a supervisor eventually allowed them to go to their gate, having decided that inspecting the crutches was acceptable.

However, an hour after the family had arrived at their departure gate, TSA agents showed up and said the Franks would need to return to the security area for an additional screening. By the time the family had returned to the gate after Dina's rescreening, their flight had departed.

Dr. Frank, a pediatrician from Long Island, and his wife, Marcy, believe their daughter was unfairly singled out. He says he understands that the TSA is charged with protecting national security, but says "they're harassing people" and have a "totally misguided policy."

On social media, people are generally agreeing with the Franks, with one person tweeting "Is this really necessary?"

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/trending-now/tsa-under-fire-mistreatment-7-old-girl-cerebral-164507761.html

Chicago Police Can be sued for neglect of disabled woman - Federal Appeals Court | April 26, 2012

Court: Parents of disabled woman can sue Chicago police for neglect

{photo: Christina Eilman, 22, back at home with her parents Rick and Kathy in a suburb of Sacramento, Calif. in 2007. (Chicago Tribune Photo by Nancy Stone / April 26, 2012)}

Tribune reporter - David Heinzmann ; Chicago Tribune

More than two years after getting the case, a federal appeals court today ruled that a mentally ill California woman can sue the Chicago Police Department for releasing her into a violent neighborhood where she was raped and nearly killed.

“They might as well have released her into the lions’ den at the Brookfield Zoo,” Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote in the opinion from the three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the only way to sort out whether officers violated Christina Eilman's rights is to have a trial.

The ruling comes one day after the man convicted of attacking Eilman was released from state prison on parole.

The appellate court took an usually long time to decide the appeal from city of Chicago lawyers, which was filed in February 2010. Eilman's attorney had filed three motions over the last two years asking the appellate court to hurry up, and recently he asked the federal trial judge to move forward with another part of the case not on appeal.

The judge was still weighing whether to take the unusual step of splitting the case in two when the appellate ruling came down today. The judge had indicated that if she did move forward, the case would go to trial by October.

In the appellate ruling, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote that police knew Eilman was suffering a bipolar breakdown and that responsibility for the sexual assault and injuries she suffered after police released her into a high-crime neighborhood the night of May 8, 2006 has to be decided in a trial.

The city's appeal had asked the court to dismiss the case against 10 police officers accused of negligence, arguing the police had no responsibility to take care of Eilman, a 21-year-old former UCLA student who had been arrested after creating a disturbance at Midway Airport.

The appellate ruling left most of the police defendants in the case, but the judges excused two officers whose role in the case didn't involve responsibility for making decisions about whether Eilman needed care. Decisions about the status of two other officers were sent back to U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Kendall to evaluate.

In reciting the narrative of what happened that night, Easterbrook suggested the police showed little regard for the danger they were putting Eilman in when they released her.

"She was lost, unable to appreciate her danger, and dressed in a manner to attract attention," Easterbrook wrote. He added, "she is white and well off while the local population is predominantly black and not affluent, causing her to stand out as a person unfamiliar with the environment and thus a potential target for crime."

Eilman, who was thrown or fell from the 7th floor of a public housing building after being assaulted, requires around-the-clock care at her parents' home in California and is dependent on state welfare because she has no health insurance.

Eilman's parents, Rick and Kathleen Paine, released a written statement on the ruling, lamenting the amount of time the appeal has taken. The physical injuries she endured have made Eilman's bipolar disorder worse, and she has been hospitalized for emergency psychiatric care several times in recent years, they have said previously. Because she has no insurance, she is dependent on state aid for medical care.

"Christina's tragedy continues. Six years of litigation without a trial compounds the tragic circumstances here. And, it's time the city's Corporation Counsel's Office stop the incessant delay," the statement said. "We look forward to a public forum -- a Federal courtroom -- for all to see and hear how certain police officers and the City turned away from helping a young disabled person in desperate need."

Roderick Drew, spokesman for the Corporation Counsel's office, declined comment.

The family has previously said that the $100 million in damages they are seeking in the case take into consideration that Eilman will never be able to live independently and that she will require costly treatment and therapy for the rest of her life.

As a result of the fall, Eilman suffered numerous broken bones and a shattered pelvis, and a severe brain injury from which she will never fully recover.

In the last four years, Eilman's progress has reached a plateau, and she will remain in an impaired state, with a childlike grasp of reality, for the rest of her life, doctors say.

Pretrial testimony and court filings in the case outlined a troubling series of events after Eilman was picked up at Midway.

Several officers involved in Eilman's arrest at Midway had an ongoing discussion at the Chicago Lawn District about how to handle the woman who was behaving so strangely. One officer testified she called Eilman's parents in California, learned that she was "probably bipolar" and then relayed the information to a watch commander and the arresting officers.

Police Department policy requires officers dealing with mentally ill people to take them to a hospital for an evaluation. But instead of arranging transportation to a hospital, police ultimately sent Eilman miles away to the Wentworth District lockup, where multiple witnesses said jail guards dealt with her erratic and bizarre behavior by repeatedly telling her to "shut up."

City officials have stood by the decision not to send Eilman to a hospital, saying Eilman seemed lucid and apologetic during a roughly half-hour interview with a police sergeant.

The city also has said Eilman's father used the word "probably" when discussing whether Eilman was bipolar. But Paine recalled that he told the officer that his daughter had been hospitalized for bipolar disorder a year before.

Officers involved in the arrest contradicted each other's statements, but one of the arresting officers testified that a watch commander instructed him and his partner to transport Eilman to a designated hospital for a mental health evaluation. But word came back that no car was available, according to records.

Eilman's parents made nine telephone calls to the Wentworth District and were repeatedly told to call back later until an officer said Eilman had already been released. Police escorted Eilman to the back door of the Wentworth District, which also houses an area detective headquarters.

She then wandered along 51st Street a few blocks east to a takeout restaurant, where men began to gather and talk to the petite blonde, who was dressed in a skimpy jogging suit. Witnesses said she appeared to be disoriented and behaving erratically, unable to make eye contact or track what people were saying to her.

A short time later she walked to the since-demolished public housing high-rise at 5135 S. Federal St., at the time the last remaining building of the Robert Taylor Homes.

Reputed gang member and convicted felon Marvin Powell was convicted of kidnapping Eilman and restraining her in the apartment. Though authorities said Eilman had been sexually assaulted, Powell was not convicted of that crime.

He was paroled Wednesday, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.


Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-court-parents-of-disabled-woman-can-sue-chicago-police-20120426,0,2030426.story

Governor Quinn Honored for Work to Improve Life for People with Developmental Disabilities in Illinois | April 26, 2012

Governor Quinn Receives The Arc of Illinois “2012 President’s Award” for Rebalancing Initiative That Expands Community Care


CHICAGO – April 26, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today received The Arc of Illinois 2012 President’s Award for his leadership to improve life for people with developmental disabilities by rebalancing Illinois’ approach to providing care. The Governor’s Rebalancing Initiative uses a person-centered approach to increase the number of people with disabilities living in communities across Illinois. The Arc of Illinois, a non-profit statewide advocacy organization representing over 220,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, presented the award to Governor Quinn at its 62nd Annual Convention. Governor Quinn is the only Illinois governor to ever receive the award.

“I am committed to improving the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities and their families in Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “For far too long, Illinois has relied on an outdated system of care for people with developmental disabilities. Today, as we continue to increase community care options and safely transition our citizens to community care settings, we can all be proud that Illinois is moving forward to empower all people to reach their full potential.”

In November, Governor Quinn announced his intention to rebalance Illinois’ use of institutionalization for the care of people with developmental disabilities. Illinois lags behind the rest of the nation in the utilization of person-centered, community-based care. Community-based care has been proven to empower people with developmental disabilities to lead more active, dynamic lives.

Community settings allow individuals to receive the care they need – including 24-hour care – in their hometowns and even their family homes. Community care is also significantly less costly than institution-based care. The rebalancing initiative dovetails with the administration’s recent settlement of a series of court cases related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, requiring the expansion of community care settings.

”We are honoring Governor Quinn for his leadership in rebalancing the disability system in Illinois,” Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois said. “This Governor, by far, has created the largest system change that I have seen under any governor in my career, and we are proud to honor Governor Quinn for his important work on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families.”

The rebalancing initiative calls for a “person-centered approach,” meaning individuals and their families will be a significant part of designing the program that best fits their needs and desires. As part of the “money follows the person approach” to rebalancing, each transitioning resident will be evaluated to receive an individualized budget based on their particular support needs.

Working with parents and guardians, individuals will be evaluated to determine their needs, desires and the best community care setting. Unlike state institutions, which may be hundreds of miles from an individual’s hometown, individuals and families will choose the community in which their care options are developed. Options will also be available for community care at home, if the individual and their family desires.

A total of 600 individuals with developmental disabilities will transition into community settings over the next two years. As a result, the Department of Human Services will close up to four state institutions over the next two and a half years, beginning with the Jacksonville Developmental Center in Jacksonville and the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia.


IGNN Press Release : http://www.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=1&RecNum=10201

In Illinois Promoting independence for people with disabilities earns awards | Apr 26, 2012

The Associated Press
Posted Apr 26, 2012



The Illinois Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities has presented awards for efforts to promote the independence of people with disabilities and hiring the disabled.

Several state officials were at the state fairgrounds Wednesday to recognize leaders in an awards program that promotes independence, access and opportunities for workers who have disabilities.

Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, is the Carl Suter Legislator of the Year. Judith West is a rehabilitation mobility instructor for the state Department of Human Services and was named Employee of the Year.

Univision Radio and Doug Levy, and the Progress Center for Independent Living and its executive director Horacio Esparza, won the Media Award. The Non-Profit Award went to the Lake County Center for Independent Living.

Agencies hiring disabled employees were also recognized.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

REPORT SHOWS MEDICAID CUTS WILL HURT ILLINOIS ECONOMY - April 25, 2012

Washington, DC—A new report from Families USA and the Campaign for Better Health Care shows that Governor Quinn’s proposed $2.7 billion one-year reduction in Medicaid spending would hurt “Illinois’ economy, its health care providers, and the Illinoisans who depend on Medicaid for health care.”

The report, released today, emphasizes Medicaid cuts mean both lost jobs and lost business activity. For example, a 5 percent reduction in state Medicaid spending would jeopardize more than 7,000 jobs and cost the state about $923 million annually in business activity. A 10 percent reduction doubles those figures. Quinn’s proposed 18 percent cuts mean the potential loss of more than 25,000 jobs and more than $3.3 billion in lost business activity. Short-sighted cuts can have long-term negative effects on Illinois’ economy.

Estimated Impact on Jobs and Business Activity
from Cuts in State Medicaid Spending

Spending Reduction - Jobs at Risk - Lost Business Activity
(in millions)
5% - 7,208 - $923.2
10% - 14,416 - $1,846
18% (Quinn’s proposal) - 25,615 - $3,280.8

Source: Families USA Medicaid Calculator

“Just because Medicaid gets cut doesn’t mean that people will get any less sick or need any less medical care. With no source for preventive or primary care, patients will eventually end up in the emergency room with a more severe illness or complications,” notes Jim Duffett, Executive Director of the Campaign for Better Health Care. “Chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiac issues must be managed or the consequences can be fatal.”

“Medicaid is not just a safety net. It helps strengthen families in tough times, and it provides security for the most vulnerable, such as our kids, who are the future. For those of us who have private insurance and think we are immune from drastic cuts and changes in the Medicaid Program, think again. Slashing eligibility and services will financially cost you and your family more than the political rhetoric of some who say gutting the program will save you money." Duffett explains, "The expanded cost to pay for uncompensated care is then passed on to consumers, employers, and businesses in the form of higher insurance premiums. It is estimated that, in 2008, family coverage cost $1,017 more because of higher premium charges (cost shifting) that resulted from passing along the costs of uncompensated care.”

Illinois Hospital Association President & CEO Maryjane Wurth says that blunt cuts are devastating to patients and the entire health care system. “Drastic Medicaid cuts hurt everyone—not just the Medicaid patients. Hospitals will be forced to reduce jobs. Local businesses will be impacted. And hospitals will be forced to cut or eliminate medical services that everyone uses—there is not a separate set of staff, equipment and facilities just for Medicaid patients.”

The cuts would be costly for the state as well, since Illinois receives slightly more than one dollar in federal matching funds for every dollar it spends on Medicaid. The federal match brings new money into the state that the state would not otherwise have.

“We have workable solutions such as expanded coordinated care that will not compromise patient care,” says Wurth. “We have presented these multi-year proposals to members of the General Assembly and look forward to working with them to create a more effective Medicaid system. It’s important that Medicaid patients get the most efficient, high-quality care possible.”

“The Governor’s proposed cut to Illinois’ Medicaid program is both cruelly insensitive and economically unsound,” said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “His proposal will deny the state more than a billion dollars in federal support, cost the state billions in economic activity, put tens of thousands of jobs at risk, and hurt the state’s most vulnerable families and senior citizens. For many reasons, this is the wrong direction for Illinois in these difficult economic times.”

The report is available at www.cbhconline.org.


The Illinois Hospital Association and Families USA that shows exactly how the proposed Medicaid cuts will hurt the Illinois economy. Almost 26,000 jobs are at risk, as well as the lives that will be affected.

Please contact your state representatives and let them know that these cuts hurt Illinois families AND our economy.

U. S. Access Board Webinar (free) on Communication Elements on May 3, 2012

The next webinar in the Access Board’s free monthly series will take place May 3 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will review requirements for communication elements and features in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards. The session will cover elements such as fire alarm systems, signs, telephones, detectable warnings, assistive listening systems, automatic teller machines, and two-way communication systems and highlight updated provisions in the latest editions of the standards.

To register for this free webinar, visit www.accessibilityonline.org.

Questions for the webinar can be submitted in advance through this website.

Questions over how to evaluate special ed teachers | April 2012

Struggle over how to evaluate special ed teachers

Published April 24, 2012
Associated Press


MIAMI – Since the first day of class this school year, Bev Campbell has been teaching her students how to say their names.

Some of the children in her class have autism. Others have Down syndrome or other disabilities. "People don't understand where they've come from," she says. "It's slow."

Just one has learned how to say his name. Still, the South Florida teacher sees signs of growth in the nine kindergarten to second-grade students in her class.

Those little steps are what teachers like Campbell consider major leaps for students with the most significant physical and cognitive disabilities — and what are the most challenging to capture on a test. Yet that will be a significant part of the way school districts in Florida and in many other states will evaluate teachers.

Spurred by the U.S. Department of Education's $4.35 billion Race to the Top grant competition, more than a dozen states have passed laws to reform how teachers are evaluated and include student growth as a component. For most students, that growth will be measured on standardized tests. But for special education students that is considerably more complicated.

"I don't know how they would ever do that for my students," said Campbell, who has 28 years of experience teaching special ed.

In its guidance to states applying for the funds, the Department of Education set as a priority increasing the number of effective teachers in special education, language services, and hard-to-staff subjects such as science and math. Effectiveness would be determined, in part, by whether students reached "acceptable rates" of academic growth. Federal officials provided some criteria for what should be included in teacher evaluations, but left states to decide how student growth should be measured.

The result is that in Illinois, Florida, New York and other states, education leaders and teachers unions are trying to create evaluations that take into account factors such as a student's prior performance, socio-economic background and English language skills. Creating those measurements for general education teachers has proven challenging enough, but for special education teachers, it is even more trying, as officials try to find a way to evaluate growth that often can't be measured on a test.

"The great concern right now in many states is they're using the same criteria for the general education teachers that they're going to use for the special education teachers and there's real resistance to that," said George Giuliani, director of the special education program at Hofstra University's Graduate School and executive director of the National Association of Special Education Teachers.

In a survey by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, 63 percent of special education teachers said they believed student achievement gains should be a component of their evaluations, but only 21 percent thought standardized test scores were an appropriate measure.

Seventy-eight percent said their state hadn't determined how to measure the growth of students with the most profound disabilities. Complicating matters is the very limited research available on special education assessments and evaluations. That means states will have to study and modify their systems as they go along.

"It's a very complex process and it's kind of trial and error," said study co-author Lynn Holdheide, a research associate at Vanderbilt University.

In New York and Illinois, recently passed laws require districts to base a significant percentage of each teacher's evaluation on student growth. Both are still working to determine how that will be done for special education students, a category that encompasses a vast range of conditions, not all of which negatively affect academic performance. In Florida, the process has already begun, with a committee examining a broad range of conditions, from dyslexia to traumatic brain injuries, and analyzing the effect on test scores.

"The performance varied quite a bit based on disability," said Kathy Hebda, Florida's deputy education chancellor.

Because of that, the committee decided students with similar disabilities who can take Florida's statewide math and reading assessment should be compared to one another. The student's prior academic achievement will also be factored in. Teachers will then be evaluated based on how much above or below the average their students performed.

That, however, won't work for students such as those in Campbell's class. For now, most of them are too young to take Florida's statewide assessment, but when they are older, they'd likely take an alternate test. Officials are still deciding how that exam could be used to measure student growth.

"A large number of special education students are able to make learning gains," said Will Gordillo, administrative director for the division of special education at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation's fourth-largest school district.

Those with the most significant cognitive disabilities, however, may not.

"There's concern with this group," he said.

All three states are running up against deadlines: In New York, districts will use a growth component in this year's evaluation, and transition to a "value-added" measure like the one being used in Florida and other states next school year. Chicago will also begin implementing a new teacher evaluation system in the fall.

Some have already expressed concern that the process is moving too quickly, and that it could have negative repercussions for disabled students.

Kevin Kumashiro, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, was one of 88 professors who recently signed a letter raising questions about Chicago's plans. In an interview, Kumashiro said there has been a trend when high stakes are placed on standardized test scores: students who require special services are either turned away or not tested.

"And neither situation is really good," Kumashiro said.

In Florida, the stakes have already been set: 50 percent of teacher evaluations this school year will be based on student growth. For Campbell, that will consist of the school-wide average of students who do take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — students she has no involvement in teaching.

"We're trying to implement something that wasn't well thought out and now the clock is ticking," said Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for Florida's statewide teachers union. "It's a real problem."

On a recent morning, Campbell took her students at Amelia Earhart Elementary School in Hialeah, Fla., through their exercises. She put on a song and spent time with each student, saying their name, and encouraging them to look into a mirror and repeat it. Next she read from a giant book, about a third her size, about farm animals causing a ruckus in a house.

She went around the room with a small board that had images of a cow, horse and duck. She asked them to point to the cow. Some of the students chose the right image, but others didn't. Some looked off in another direction, delighted by the attention, but unable to respond to the question.

For others she helped guide their hand to the right answer.

"It's taken them a long time, and they're just starting to get these three," she said.

Campbell marvels at what others might see as tiny, insignificant improvements. She likes teaching students others might give up on, sometimes even their parents. One autistic student in her class came in unable to say his name and hardly spoke any words. Now he's reciting many letters of the alphabet and words such as window and couch. Another child, confined to a wheelchair, used to scream and cry all day. Now she stays calm and follows the activities. A child with Down syndrome has begun correctly identifying pictures.

"These are little things," she said, "but it's a lot."

Ligas v. Hamos - Advocates for disabled to explain changes - Crystal Lake, IL 0n May 3, 2012

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Self Advocacy Council of Northern Illinois will host speaker Tony Records, court monitor for the Ligas v. Hamos consent decree, after its meeting May 3.

The meeting will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in room B-166-167 at McHenry County College, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake.

The Ligas v. Hamos lawsuit was filed in July 2005 on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities who were residing in private, state-funded facilities of nine or more people or were at risk of being placed in such facilities.

Records will answer questions and describe how the decree will be implemented in McHenry County and across the state, plus systematic changes needed to comply with the decree‘s requirements.

Plaintiffs sought placement in community-based settings and receipt of community-based services. On June 15, a consent decree was approved by the court.

This historic agreement reflects momentous change in state policy for serving people with developmental disabilities, according to a news release from the council. People with developmental disabilities will have a choice in how and where services and support will be provided.

People who want services in the community will have that option. Services will not be limited to those that currently are provided.

Ligas class members are people 18 and older with an intellectual or developmental disability; are Medicaid eligible; live in a private, state-funded facility with nine or more residents or live in the family home and are seeking services; and Illinois has a current record of the person seeking community-based services or placement.

For information and to RSVP, contact Cathy Christensen, adviser, Self Advocacy Council of Northern Illinois, at 815-382-1530 or clchristensen100@aol.com.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Autistic ten-year old boy Humiliated and Tormented by his Teacher and Aide - Father taped the Teacher/Bully (video report) | April 24, 2012

Teacher/Bully: How My Son Was Humiliated and Tormented by his Teacher and Aide


Published on Apr 20, 2012 by StuChaifetz

My name is Stuart Chaifetz, and my son, Akian, is a ten-year old boy who has Autism. Akian has always been a sweet and non-violent child, and that is why it was so distressing when notes started coming home from his school, Horace Mann Elementary in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, saying that he was having violent outbursts, including him hitting his teacher and aide.

I could not understand why this was happening. I had never witnessed Akian hit anyone, nor could I dream of him lashing out as had been described to me. In October, I had a meeting with the IEP team (the teacher, school social worker, occupational therapist and speech teacher) to try to figure out what was going on. From that meeting, a behaviorist was called in who wrote a report. I sat down with the behaviorist on February 8, 2012 to review the findings.

It was pointless; even though the behaviorist was in the classroom a number of times, not only had he never witnessed any violent event, but when he tried to create a scenario that would cause one to happen, he failed.

Something was terribly wrong. I felt I was beginning to lose my son -- that these outbursts were changing his very nature. The teacher and school social worker tried to downplay it, to the point of almost mocking me for my concern. But I knew my son. I knew this wasn't him. And I knew I had to find out what was happening in his class that was having such a dramatic impact on him.

On the morning of Friday, February 17, 2012, I wired my son and sent him to school. That night, when I listened to the audio my life forever changed, for I heard my son being bullied by his teacher and aide.

For more audio and information, please visit www.hnva.net/teacherbully
Contact info: Akian5@comcast.net

Sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/to-the-new-jersey-legislature-and-congress-pa...

News Coverage
http://www.myfoxphilly.com/dpp/news/local_news/nj-father-records-teachers-bul...

http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video/#!/news/local/Father-Says-His-Autistic-S...

ALERT - LIVE webcast on Department of Justice's Guidance on Access to Pools and Spas Under the ADA - NOW April 24, 2012 4:30 ET

Hearing Information

Hearing on:
The Department of Justice's Guidance on Access to Pools and Spas Under the ADA

Tuesday 4/24/2012 - 4:30 p.m.

2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Subcommittee on the Constitution

By Direction of the Chairman

Witness List

Hemant D. Patel
Chairman
Asian American Hotel Owners Association


Christa Bucks Camacho
Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program
Social Security Administration


Ann Cody
Director, Policy and Global Outreach
BlazeSports America
Minh N. Vu
Partner
Seyfarth Shaw LLP

***The hearing today will have an interpreter and the webcast will have closed captioning.***

FOR WEBCAST : http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/Hearings%202012/hear_04242012.html

In Illinois Breast Cancer Survivor, Jailed Over Accidental $280 Medical Bill | April 23, 2012

Lisa Lindsay, Breast Cancer Survivor,
Jailed Over Accidental $280 Medical Bill

The Huffington Post | By Harry Bradford

In the latest example of aggressive debt collector tactics, an Illinois woman found herelf jailed over a bill she didn’t even owe in the first place.

Breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay of Herrin, Illinois was put in debtors' prison over a $280 medical bill that was sent to her by accident, the Associated Press reports (h/t The Daily Mail). Even after Lindsay was told she didn't have to pay the bill, it was sent to a collection agency. Eventually state troopers took her from her home in handcuffs. Lindsay ended up having to pay $600 to settle the charges.

Episodes like Lindsay’s are becoming increasingly common as the number of debts referred to third-party collection agencies has doubled since 2000. Because one third of U.S. states currently allow debtors to be imprisoned, thousands of Americans have been jailed because they can't pay their bills.

Indeed, the problem has become so widespread in Lindsay's state of Illinois that a bill to prevent debtors from going to jail will be heard this Tuesday in the Illinois state Senate after passing the House of Representatives.

That's because other Illinois residents have faced a fate similar to Lindsay's. Disabled roofer Jack Hinton, for example, was put in an Illinois prison for not settling a $300 bill with a lumberyard, according to the AP.

But the problem spans other states. In Colorado, Kelly Wiedemer spent four days in jail last summer for unpaid traffic fines.

Some people are fighting back. In California, for example, the number of lawsuits accusing debt collectors of "violating federal law" has exploded in the last seven years, according to the Sacramento Bee.

While collection agencies are responsible for the most consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission of any industry, it’s not always due to imprisoning debtors. In Oregon, 85-year-old Anne Sessions sued Wells Fargo in February after a debt collector continued to badger her, eventually calling in a fake report that she had threatened suicide. As a result, Sessions was left with over $1,000 worth of hospital bills when police required that she was evaluated.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/lisa-lindsay-breast-cancer-survivor-debtors-jail_n_1446391.html

Monday, April 23, 2012

Minority Health Blogger Townhall - Tuesday, April 24th at 12:30pm ET - an open dialogue on racial and ethnic health disparities

As posted at HealthCare.gov


Watch the event live at : www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Join Us for an Online Minority Health Townhall

By Sherice Perry Dillard, HHS Special Assistant for Specialty Media and Broadcast

Posted April 20, 2012
As part of our observation of National Minority Health month, we would like to invite you to participate online in a Minority Health Townhall on Tuesday, April 24th at 12:30 p.m., streamed live from The White House.

The event will be an interactive, open dialogue with stakeholder groups and the media to highlight what the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, is doing to improve the health of racial and ethnic minorities.

This year’s theme, Health Equity Can’t Wait. Act Now in Your CommUNITY!, is a call to action for all of us to work together to reduce health disparities. Join us and learn more about how the Administration is working to improve the health of minority communities and achieve health equity for all Americans.

You can watch the Townhall live at www.whitehouse.gov/live. Please submit questions in advance using the hashtag #MinorityHealth or on our Facebook page.

WHAT: Minority Health Townhall
WHEN: Tuesday, April 24th, 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: Watch live at www.whitehouse.gov/live or join the conversation on Twitter at #MinorityHealth
WHO: Cecilia Munoz, Director of Domestic Policy Council, The White House

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, US Department of Health & Human Services

Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General, US Department of Health & Human Services

Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health & Director of the Office of Minority Health, US Department of Health and Human Services

Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Health Policy, Office of Health Reform, US Department of Health & Human Services

B. Smith, Iconic Restaurateur, Author, and Lifestyle Expert

Dr. Dirk Schroeder, Executive Vice President, Univision’s HolaDoctor

Dr. Tyeese Gaines, Health Editor of theGrio

# http://www.healthcare.gov/blog/2012/04/minorityhealthtownhall042012.html

ADAPT Protesting U. S. Medicaid Cuts - Hundreds of demonstrators - Seventy-six people, including actor Noah Wyle, were arrested Monday | April 23, 2012

{photo: Former "ER" star Noah Wyle being arrested during a Capitol Hill protest to urge Congress not to cut Medicaid}

An occasional look at the showbiz folks who come to Washington with a cause. Monday’s visitor: Noah Wyle.

Venue: Cannon House Office Building

Cause: Disability rights

Bona fides: Not a doctor, but he played one on TV, in 11 seasons of “ER.” Now fights aliens on “Falling Skies.”

Backup: Fellow members of ADAPT, a group that supports policies enabling people with disabilities to get care in their own homes.

What he wants: To prevent Medicaid cuts that ADAPT claims would force more sick and elderly into nursing homes.

What he did: Got arrested! Just like his old co-star George Clooney at the embassy of Sudan last month, Wyle did the civil-disobedience thing. About 100 ADAPT supporters, some in wheelchairs, were cuffed during the protest in the building’s rotunda.

###

76 arrested in Capitol protest over Medicaid cuts

By Paul Courson, CNN

Washington (CNN)-- Seventy-six people, including actor Noah Wyle, were arrested Monday at a demonstration protesting cuts in Medicaid proposed by the House Republican leadership, authorities said.

Hundreds of demonstrators filled the ornate rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building for the protests. The 76 were arrested on suspicion of unlawful conduct and demonstrating in a Capitol building, police said.

Wyle, formerly of "ER" and current star of "Falling Skies," was among those handcuffed and taken away. Police said he and most of the others would face a misdemeanor fine and be released after processing.

The rally against the proposed cuts in Medicaid was organized by ADAPT, the Americans with Disabilities for Attendant Programs Today. A statement handed out during the event called for "accountability," against the House's proposed one-third cut to federal Medicaid spending.

"Today, I took part in an effort by ADAPT to bring attention to the Medicaid cuts that have been made by many states and are threatened to be made on a federal level," Wyle said in a statement.

"To institutionalize a disabled American costs four times as much than to give assistance for independent living. This issue is about civil rights, not about medicine. People who have the ability to live in integrated, affordable and accessible housing should have the right to do so."

The group wants House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to require states to provide long-term alternatives to nursing homes and institutions that are often mandated by Medicaid rules.

Instead of home and community support when she's older and unable to live on her own, protester Madeleine McMahan of Pennsylvania told CNN, "My generation? The Baby Boomers? we're looking at nursing homes if we don't do something about it."

She spoke in handcuffs, waiting for police to escort her to an elevator for arrest processing.

Also in handcuffs and a wheelchair, Denise McMullin-Powell of Delaware said lawmakers proposing the Medicaid cuts are "completely ignoring that we even exist in the stupid budget that they have."

She said "it's worth getting arrested, it's worth dying for, but they're gonna kill us first because of the cuts. If we can't stay in our home, if we can't get the things we need through Medicaid, we will die in the streets without that type of thing."

Wyle said, "This effort is to end the longstanding bias of the Medicaid system toward institutions and away from community care. The real shame is to see so many productive, intelligent people expending their energy on the fight for basic services to ensure their survival."

CNN's Anisa Husain contributed to this report.

# http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/23/us/medicaid-protest/index.html

Illinois Medicaid Mess : Illinois Did Not Report All Medicaid Overpayments In Accordance With Federal Requirements | April 2012

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services did not report all Medicaid overpayments totaling $324,100 ($165,000 Federal share) in accordance with Federal requirements during the period August 1, 2007, through July 31, 2009.

Below is the copy of letter from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG)
XXX

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),
OFFICE OF AUDIT SERVICES, REGION V 233 NORTH MICHIGAN, SUITE 1360 CHICAGO, IL 60601
April 13, 2012
Report Number: A-05-11-00044

Ms. Julie Hamos Director Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Prescott E. Bloom Building 201 South Grand Avenue East, 3rd Floor Springfield, IL 62763

Dear Ms. Hamos:

Enclosed is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG), final report entitled Illinois Did Not Report All Medicaid Overpayments In Accordance With Federal Requirements. We will forward a copy of this report to the HHS action official noted on the following page for review and any action deemed necessary.

The HHS action official will make final determination as to actions taken on all matters reported. We request that you respond to this official within 30 days from the date of this letter. Your response should present any comments or additional information that you believe may have a bearing on the final determination.

Section 8L of the Inspector General Act, 5 U.S.C. App., requires that OIG post its publicly available reports on the OIG Web site. Accordingly, this report will be posted at http://oig.hhs.gov.

If you have any questions or comments about this report, please do not hesitate to call me, or contact Lynn Barker, Audit Manager, at (317) 226-7833, extension 21, or through email at Lynn.Barker@oig.hhs.gov. Please refer to report number A-05-11-00044 in all correspondence.

Sincerely,
/Sheri L. Fulcher/ Regional Inspector General for Audit Services

###

For the Full Report (15 pages) from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Inspector General (OIG) visit:
http://oig.hhs.gov/oas/reports/region5/51100044.pdf

Housing Action Illinois’ Webinar Series! - Medicaid Reform - May 1, 2012 at 10:30 a.m - RSVP


Medicaid Reform
Tuesday, May 1 at 10:30 a.m.


UNDERSTANDING MEDICAID REFORM

Join us on May 1 at 10:30am while Amber Smock of Access Living helps you understand Medicaid Reform. She'll be discussing the Keep Illinois Strong principles, identifying who the key decision makers influencing Medicaid Reform are, and showing you how you can join current advocacy efforts.


Last change to register!

Visit http://www.housingactionil.org/events
For more info, contact Rachelle Born at rachelle@housingactionil.org
or Gianna Baker at gianna@housingactionil.org.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sioux City Journal - OUR OPINION: We must stop bullying. It starts here. And it starts now. | April 22, 2012




Iowa paper devotes front page to fighting bullying

By TIMBERLY ROSS | Associated Press | April 22, 2012


In a rare and forceful act of advocacy, an Iowa newspaper devoted the entire front page of its Sunday edition to an anti-bullying editorial after a gay teen committed suicide.

Relatives have said 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. suffered intense harassment, including threatening cellphone calls and nasty comments posted online, after coming out to family and friends about a month ago. He died April 15 from what the local sheriff's office described only as a "self-inflicted injury."

The Sioux City Journal's front-page opinion piece calls on the community to be pro-active in stopping bullying and urges members to learn more about the problem by seeing the acclaimed new film, "Bully," which documents the harassment of a Sioux City middle school student. It notes that while many students are targeted for being gay, "we have learned a bully needs no reason to strike."

"In Kenneth's case, the warnings were everywhere," the editorial said. "We saw it happen in other communities, now it has hit home. Undoubtedly, it wasn't the first life lost to bullying here, but we can strive to make it the last.

Editor Mitch Pugh said the newspaper has run front-page editorials before but has never devoted the entire page to one.

"A lot of newspapers shy away from putting editorials on the front page, but we feel we have to be a strong advocate for our community," he said. "And if we don't do that, we're not sure who else is."

Weishuhn's mother, Jeannie Chambers, told the Journal last week that she and the rest of the family knew he was being harassed but didn't realize the extent of the bullying. His sister told a local television station that Weishuhn, a freshman, had many friends and was popular at South O'Brien High School in Paullina until he came out. Then students turned on him.

Weishuhn's family couldn't immediately be reached Sunday by The Associated Press.

Pugh said the newspaper didn't consult the family before printing the editorial.

"This was a bigger issue than one person," he said.

Andy Marra, a spokesman for the national anti-bullying group GLSEN, said the Journal's decision makes "complete sense."

"Public education is absolutely vital to addressing bullying and harassment in schools," he said, adding that community pressure could push schools to do more.

####

OUR OPINION: We must stop bullying. It starts here. And it starts now.



By the Journal editorial board Sioux City Journal | Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2012


Siouxland lost a young life to a senseless, shameful tragedy last week. By all accounts, Kenneth Weishuhn was a kind-hearted, fun-loving teenage boy, always looking to make others smile. But when the South O'Brien High School 14-year-old told friends he was gay, the harassment and bullying began. It didn't let up until he took his own life.

Sadly, Kenneth's story is far from unique. Boys and girls across Iowa and beyond are targeted every day. In this case sexual orientation appears to have played a role, but we have learned a bully needs no reason to strike. No sense can be made of these actions.

Now our community and region must face this stark reality: We are all to blame. We have not done enough. Not nearly enough.

This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area. Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots. Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient -- maybe even painful -- to address. But we can't keep looking away.

In Kenneth's case, the warnings were everywhere. We saw it happen in other communities, now it has hit home. Undoubtedly, it wasn't the first life lost to bullying here, but we can strive to make it the last.

The documentary "Bully," which depicts the bullying of an East Middle School student, opened in Sioux City on Friday. We urge everyone to see it. At its core, it is a heart-breaking tale of how far we have yet to go. Despite its award-winning, proactive policies, we see there is still much work to be done in Sioux City schools.

Superintendent Paul Gausman is absolutely correct when he says "it takes all of us to solve the problem." But schools must be at the forefront of our battle against bullying.

Sioux City must continue to strengthen its resolve and its policies. Clearly, South O'Brien High School needs to alter its approach. We urge Superintendent Dan Moore to rethink his stance that "we have all the things in place to deal with it." It should be evident that is simply not the case.

South O'Brien isn't the only school that needs help. A Journal Des Moines bureau report last year demonstrated that too many schools don't take bullying seriously. According to that report, Iowa school districts, on average, reported less than 2 percent of their students had been bullied in any given year since the state passed its anti-bullying law in 2007. That statistic belies the actual depth of this problem, and in response the Iowa Department of Education will implement a more comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment policy in the 2012-13 school year.

But as Gausman and Nate Monson, director of Iowa Safe Schools, are quick to remind us, this is more than a school problem. If we want to eradicate bullying in our community, we can't rely on schools alone.

We need to support local agencies like the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention and national efforts like the one described at stopbullying.gov. Bullying takes many forms, some of them - Internet, Facebook, cell phone - more subtle than others. Parents should monitor the cell phone and Internet usage of their children. All public and private institutions need to do more to demonstrate that bullying is simply unacceptable in our workplaces and in our homes. We need to educate ourselves and others.

Some in our community will say bullying is simply a part of life. If no one is physically hurt, they will say, what's the big deal? It's just boys being boys and girls being girls.

Those people are wrong, and they must be shouted down.

We must make it clear in our actions and our words that bullying will not be tolerated. Those of us in public life must be ever mindful of the words we choose, especially in the contentious political debates that have defined our modern times. More importantly, we must not be afraid to act.

How many times have each of us witnessed an act of bullying and said little or nothing? After all, it wasn't our responsibility. A teacher or an official of some kind should step in. If our kid wasn't involved, we figured, it's none of our business.

Try to imagine explaining that rationale to the mother of Kenneth Weishuhn.

It is the business of all of us. More specifically, it is our responsibility. Our mandate.

If we're honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge our community has yet to view bullying in quite this way. It's well past time to do so.

Stand up. Be heard. And don't back down. Together, we can put a stop to bullying.

.Copyright 2012 Sioux City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Read more: http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/opinion/our-opinion-we-must-stop-bullying-it-starts-here-and/article_adf6bdae-590f-5021-9eee-398dd2c13a22.html#ixzz1spAp8hIp