$3.5 million allocated for high school substance abuse prevention

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By Sophia Kunthara
Cronkite News

 

PHOENIX – The Governor’s Office for Youth, Faith and Family will release about $3.5 million in new funding for substance abuse prevention programs for high school youth – a key demographic to target when tackling Arizona’s opioid epidemic.

Debbie Moak, director of the office, said at a news conference on Tuesday to discuss Arizona’s opioid epidemic that Gov. Doug Ducey has placed priority on combatting substance abuse. A critical part of the effort is prevention, especially for Arizona’s youth, she said. Continue reading “$3.5 million allocated for high school substance abuse prevention”

Cronkite News Digest for Tuesday, Jan. 17

Here is the Cronkite News lineup for Tuesday, Jan. 17. If you have questions on news stories, please contact Steve Crane in the Washington, D.C., bureau at 202-684-2398 or steve.crane@asu.edu, or call the Phoenix bureau for Kevin Dale at 602-496-5168 or kevin.dale@asu.edu or Venita James at venita.hawthorne.james@asu.edu or 602-496-5280. For business story questions, please contact Christina Leonard at 602-361-5893 or christina.leonard@asu.edu. Questions on sports stories should be directed to Brett Kurland at bkurland@asu.edu or 602-496-5234. Stories promised for today along with photos and links to multimedia elements will move on our client site at cronkitenews.asu.edu/clients.

Continue reading “Cronkite News Digest for Tuesday, Jan. 17”

Arizona charters excited by DeVos nomination, public schools wary

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WASHINGTON – Public school advocates in Arizona are withholding judgment – for now – on school-choice champion Betsy DeVos, who faces a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday on her nomination to become the next secretary of Education.

“Perhaps when she realizes she’s responsible for where 80 percent of American parents send their kids, public schools, she’ll work to improve all of them,” said Cave Creek Unified School District Superintendent Deborah Burdick.

But charter school advocates say DeVos has been improving education for all students with her push for school choice, something they hope to see more of from the Education Department under President-elect Donald Trump and DeVos.

“She (DeVos) doesn’t believe any kid should be trapped in an underperforming school,” said Kim Martinez, Arizona spokeswoman for the American Federation for Children, an organization dedicated to school choice that DeVos led until last year. Continue reading “Arizona charters excited by DeVos nomination, public schools wary”

Farmworker visas more than doubled in state, nation in recent years

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WASHINGTON – The number of H-2A visas issued to agricultural workers in Arizona has more than doubled in the past five years, mirroring a national increase in the temporary “guest worker program” for noncitizens.

The Department of Labor certified 5,391 H-2A workers in the state in fiscal 2016 compared to just 2,110 that were certified in fiscal 2011, according to department data. Nationally, the number jumped from 77,246 workers to 165,741 in the same period.

Farmers say the workers are vital to their operations and that the program is working well and providing a badly needed source of labor. But labor advocates say the visa program is growing for all the wrong reasons: Keeping wages low and workers powerless. Continue reading “Farmworker visas more than doubled in state, nation in recent years”

Arizona lawmakers mirror House, split by party on Obamacare repeal

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WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers followed the rest of the House Friday as it split largely down party lines to approve a budget resolution that marks the first step toward the long-held Republican goal of repealing Obamacare.

The 227-198 vote came one day after the Senate approved the measure, also mostly along party lines. One Republican in the Senate and nine in the House joined Democrats to oppose the repeal resolution.

All five Arizona Republicans in the House and both in the Senate voted for repeal. All four House Democrats from Arizona voted against it. Continue reading “Arizona lawmakers mirror House, split by party on Obamacare repeal”

McCain says a wall alone is not enough to secure border

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WASHINGTON – One day after President-elect Donald Trump promised to start working “immediately” on a wall on the Mexico border, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said a wall alone would not be sufficient to secure the border.

McCain, speaking to reporters Thursday, made the comment in response to a question about Trump’s statement a day earlier that Vice President-elect Mike Pence had already started working to secure the legislative and agency approvals needed to start on the wall.

McCain said he has not spoken with Pence, but that it will take “a lot more than walls” to close the border. Continue reading “McCain says a wall alone is not enough to secure border”

Arizona senators follow party-line vote on Obamacare repeal

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WASHINGTON – Arizona’s senators joined all but one of their fellow Republicans early Thursday to narrowly approve a budget resolution that is the first step in overturning the Affordable Care Act.

While Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake have long opposed “Obamacare,” program advocates criticized the Senate for voting to repeal without offering a plan to cover the millions of Americans who got insurance under the law – as many as 400,000 of them in Arizona.

“Tearing it apart isn’t a solution,” said Caitlin Morris, program director for health system transformation at Families USA. Continue reading “Arizona senators follow party-line vote on Obamacare repeal”

Court: Ministers cannot avoid income taxes with vow of poverty

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WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court said Thursday that the owners of an Arizona ministry cannot avoid paying income taxes by claiming they had taken vows of poverty and were merely being supported by donations to their church.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the “maintenance” payments from Bethel Aram Ministries to Dewey residents Fredric and Elizabeth Gardner should be treated as income, since the Gardners controlled the ministry’s bank accounts.

The court also said that what the Gardners claimed were donations to the ministry were actually quid pro quo payments made in exchange for tax work the couple did for other churches. Continue reading “Court: Ministers cannot avoid income taxes with vow of poverty”

Medical boards looking at Ducey’s recommendation of opioid education

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By Courtney Columbus
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Medical professionals say Gov. Doug Ducey’s letter urging that Arizona doctors receive more education on drug addiction is a step forward in the battle against opioid abuse, but that the curriculum must be detailed and useful.

Ducey said on Monday that he had sent a letter to the Arizona Medical Board and Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners recommending that the boards require doctors to complete one hour of education on addiction or opioid prescribing as part of the 40 continuing education hours that physicians must complete every two years. Continue reading “Medical boards looking at Ducey’s recommendation of opioid education”

Former DREAMer, Phoenix resident raises concerns at Sessions hearing

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WASHINGTON – Former DREAMer and Phoenix resident Oscar Vazquez got his citizenship, served in the Army and is “living the American dream” – a dream he worries could be scuttled for others under a Justice Department led by attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions.

Vazquez was one of 15 witnesses testifying in a divided hearing Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sessions.

Critics claim that the Alabama Republican senator is too conservative and too insensitive to minorities to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer. But supporters hail Sessions’ character and say he will fairly and impartially uphold the nation’s laws. Continue reading “Former DREAMer, Phoenix resident raises concerns at Sessions hearing”

Nearly 900K people watched “Hooked Rx” documentary

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PHOENIX – Based on early television viewership projections, nearly 900,000 viewers tuned in to “Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction,” a Cronkite News report on Arizona’s prescription opioid epidemic, according to early Nielsen rating numbers. That number is expected to rise.

Gov. Doug Ducey was one of the Arizonans who watched the documentary.

“It is incredibly depressing what is happening to these families,” he said. “But I look at it as a responsibility. There’s so much we can do in public policy and through public communication to help these families.”

The Cronkite News special investigation aired on all major Arizona broadcast television stations and most radio stations. During and after the broadcast, the Arizona Broadcasters Association sponsored a call center staffed with experts. Viewers called in seeking help with addiction and to report problems with medical professionals who prescribe opioids.

Continue reading “Nearly 900K people watched “Hooked Rx” documentary”

CORRECTION to Jan. 6 story about opioids and continuing education for doctors

EDS: Clients who used a Cronkite News story slugged BC-CNS-Opioids Doctor Training that moved Friday, Jan. 6, under a PHOENIX dateline, are asked to use the following correction. The error appeared in the eighth graf of the original story. The graf can be fixed by swapping “UA medical school, the state’s only medical school” with “University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, the state’s largest medical school” in that graf and adding “in Tucson” to the end of the fifth graf: She’s in charge of adding new guidelines on how to properly prescribe opioids and address chronic pain in the curriculum at the University of Arizona’s medical school in Tucson. A corrected version of the story has been posted here.

PHOENIX – A Cronkite News story about the role of doctor training in reducing opioid abuse contained inaccurate information about Arizona medical schools that offer doctor of medicine degrees. Both the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix offer degrees.

Orphaned mountain lion cub grows into new life at Out of Africa center

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By KRISTIANA FADDOUL
Cronkite News

CAMP VERDE – A mountain lion cub clings to a tree high above ground, malnourished and frightened.

The cub is rescued, given a name, rehabilitated and moved to a new home at Out of Africa Wildlife Park, where caretakers work to soothe the trauma that still lingers months later.

Li:Bi’s journey is a story of what often happens to wildlife in Arizona that are unwillingly abandoned, left without mothers to teach them how to survive in the wild, destined for a life in captivity.

Continue reading “Orphaned mountain lion cub grows into new life at Out of Africa center”

Backpage.com executives plead Fifth in hearing on sex trafficking

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WASHINGTON – Executives of the online classifieds site Backpage.com refused to answer questions Tuesday from a Senate committee investigating claims that the site facilitated child sex trafficking through its adult ads section.

The hearing came one day after the site – whose former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin co-founded the Phoenix New Times – removed its “adult” ads pages in the U.S. because of what it called unconstitutional censorship.

Lacey, Larkin, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, COO Andrew Padilla and legal counsel Elizabeth McDougall all invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during their appearance before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

A subcommittee report released Monday said National Center for Missing and Exploited Children data indicate that 73 percent of the child-trafficking reports it receives were related to Backpage, which the report calls the “leading online marketplace for commercial sex.” Continue reading “Backpage.com executives plead Fifth in hearing on sex trafficking”

Teaching the teachers to stay in Arizona

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By Keerthi Vedantam
CRONKITE NEWS

PARADISE VALLEY – In a poorly-financed education system, Arizona teachers are battling low salaries, the pressures of mandatory testing and a lack of respect for their profession, making it harder for the state to entice and retain teachers, advocates say. One Paradise Valley mentoring program is trying to grow teachers at home and repair a broken pipeline.

Volunteers in Paradise College Corps, a mentoring program that pairs college students who are aspiring teachers at Paradise Valley Community College with teachers in the Paradise Valley School District, was created in 2013. Laurie Smith, a former teacher and the corps program coordinator at the district, brought the opportunity to Meggin Kirk, education program director at the community college, who decided to implement it into her syllabus as a course requirement.

“The hope was to bring the community into education,” Smith said. “Teachers will remain in the profession if they are teaching in the community where they themselves grew up and went to school.”

Earlier this year, a task force with the Arizona Department of Education called attention to the ongoing issue of teacher retention. The group’s report encouraged local education groups to implement “grow your own” programs to address a teacher shortage where one out of four positions in Arizona go unfilled.

Gov. Doug Ducey proposed an Arizona Teachers Academy to reduce student-loan debts for Arizona college graduates who stay in Arizona to teach.

“I’m looking for the best and brightest to commit to teach in Arizona public schools,” Ducey said in his annual State of the State address this week. “If you make that commitment, we’ll make this commitment: your education will be paid for, a job will be waiting and you will be free of debt. Let’s lift this burden from our teachers, attract new quality individuals into the classroom.”

Other states are pursuing a home-grown model in hopes of spurring retention. South Carolina offered a teaching program in 2015-16 in more than 80 percent of its high schools and provided financial aid to college students who were studying teaching at South Carolina colleges.

Continue reading “Teaching the teachers to stay in Arizona”

Court says Prescott violated contract to treat metals plant wastewater

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WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court Tuesday said Prescott breached its contract to treat wastewater from the Pure Wafer plant when it tried to get the plant to pay for the cost of meeting tougher state environmental regulations.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a lower court’s reasoning, but upheld its finding against a city law requiring the plant to pretreat its wastewater. The appeals court said the law could not be enforced because it breached a contract between the city and plant.

In a partial dissent, Judge N.R. Smith agreed that lower court’s reasoning was flawed but said the circuit court was wrong to rule that the contract was breached, saying that should be a decision for the lower court to make. Continue reading “Court says Prescott violated contract to treat metals plant wastewater”

Gov. Ducey pushes to require drug-addiction training for doctors

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  • EDS: PLEASE RUN THE HOOKED PROMO PHOTO (below) OR THIS BOX WITH THIS STORY IF YOU PLAN TO PUBLISH PRIOR TO JAN. 10:  Watch “Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction,” a 30-minute commercial-free investigative report airing at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 on 30 broadcast TV stations in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma and 97 of the state’s radio stations. For the full report, go to hookedrx.com.

PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey sent a letter to the Arizona Medical Board and the Arizona Board of Osteopathic Examiners pushing to require all Arizona physicians to complete continuing education in drug addiction, he said during his State of the State speech Monday.

 “A critical component to fighting this opioid epidemic is ensuring our state’s doctors have the training and expertise necessary to identify and treat addiction,” he wrote in his letter, published online Monday during the speech.

This came days after Cronkite News published an investigation that found some doctors overprescribed powerful opioid painkillers for years before being disciplined. And in some cases, they continued to practice without restrictions even after they were sanctioned multiple times.

Continue reading “Gov. Ducey pushes to require drug-addiction training for doctors”

Wading through the yuck, researchers study wastewater sludge for public health clues

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By CASSIE RONDA
Cronkite News

TEMPE – Pristine white lab coats hang on a wheeled rack. Handwritten measurements and equations are crammed on whiteboards. And a long line of freezers are filled with containers of super-concentrated human waste.

That’s right. At the Tempe lab of scientist Rolf Halden, researchers study samples of sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. to identify health threats. Sludge also uncovers clues about unsafe chemicals that stick around in the human body and to emerging behavioral trends in communities, like alcohol and prescription-drug use.

“We use wastewater treatment plants as observatories where we can understand the chemistry and the biology of the people,” said Halden, director of the Center for Environmental Security at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. Continue reading “Wading through the yuck, researchers study wastewater sludge for public health clues”

CORRECTION to Jan. 6 story about doctors prescribing opioids

EDS: Clients who used a Cronkite News story slugged BC-CNS-Opioids Doctors that moved Friday, Jan.6, under a PHOENIX dateline, are asked to use the following correction. The error appeared in the 25th graf of the original story. A corrected version of the story has been posted here. (The story correctly stated the doctor’s status in the second-to-last paragraph.)

PHOENIX – A Cronkite News story about doctors who overprescribe prescription pain pills misstated information about Tucson’s Robert C. Osborne, who was indicted in December 2014. He has pleaded not guilty. The error was made during the editing process.

Do you suspect someone is struggling with addiction? Here are some tips

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  • EDS: PLEASE RUN THE HOOKED PROMO PHOTO (below) OR THIS BOX WITH THIS STORY IF YOU PLAN TO PUBLISH PRIOR TO JAN. 10:  Watch “Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction,” a 30-minute commercial-free investigative report airing at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 10 on 30 broadcast TV stations in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma and 97 of the state’s radio stations. For the full report, go to hookedrx.com.

Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The key to stopping opioid addiction is recognizing the potential abuse before it takes hold. But, there are treatment programs for any stage of addiction.

Here are resources to identify abuse and seek assistance:

Continue reading “Do you suspect someone is struggling with addiction? Here are some tips”