Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 5/8 – Medford Turning Point Program to Receive $6.02 Million Housing Funding Award & Other Local and Statewide News…

The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday,  May 8, 2024

Rogue Valley Weather

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Oregon Housing and Community Services awards nearly $23 million to create more than 150 affordable homes across Oregon including MedfordMay be a graphic of text that says 'OREGON HOUSING & COMMUNITY SERVICES'

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) announces the approval of nearly $23 million toward creating 157 new homes across the state. These investments will continue to help establish concrete pathways for Oregonians to pursue homeownership.  This includes Breath of Life in  Medford for Turning Point Program with 38 units which will receive $6.02 million.

“While no one community is identical, there is a shared need across communities for more affordable housing options. Even in this tough economy, our imperative is to continue fighting to ensure that Oregonians can still realize the dream of homeownership,” said OHCS Executive Director Andrea Bell.

This year, OHCS changed how it grants Local Innovation and Fast Track (LIFT) Homeownership funding for the development of new affordable homes through a rolling application process.

“By providing multiple opportunities for developers to apply for funding instead of all at once, this new process can help accelerate new construction timelines in service to getting homes into communities faster, especially in rural areas,” Bell said.

In fact, 30% of the awarded projects will be built in rural communities. The Hope St. Project is a prime example of that and is the first affordable homeownership community in Hood River.

“After 32 years of building in the Gorge, Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity is very excited to build permanently affordable homes for the first time in Hood River,” said Chad Krause, executive director of Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity. “With the help of Oregon LIFT funding, these new homes will be built and sold to hardworking members of our community who can’t afford market-rate homes. Hood River teachers and retail workers—needed desperately in our small town—may now be able to purchase their own Habitat homes.”

Here are the 10 developments receiving this round of funding awards:

Project Location Awardee Units Total Award
1201 E 5th St Newberg Newberg Area Habitat for Humanity 2 $400,000
Adams Commons Sisters Sisters Habitat for Humanity 19 $3.8 million
Breath of Life Medford Turning Point Program 38 $6.02 million
Hope St Project Hood River Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity 4 $800,000
Myrtlewood Way Gresham Habitat for Humanity Portland Region 20 $2.68 million
Rooted at 19th Redmond RootedHomes 22 $2,599,996
Rooted at Antler Redmond RootedHomes 18 $1.47 million
Southtown II Corvallis DevNW 16 $2,815,610
Timber Cottages Redmond Bend-Redmond Habitat for Humanity 13 $1.45 million
Woodlands Sisters Sisters Habitat for Humanity 5 $950,000

Since the creation of the program in 2018, $71.3 million in LIFT funds have resulted in 47 projects with a total of 752 homes that are affordable to Oregonians.

For more detailed information about each recommended project, please refer to the Housing Stability Council packet from April 26, 2024.

About Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS)  – OHCS is Oregon’s housing finance agency. The state agency provides financial and program support to create and preserve opportunities for quality, affordable housing for Oregonians of low and moderate income. OHCS administers programs that provide housing stabilization. OHCS delivers these programs primarily through grants, contracts, and loan agreements with local partners and community-based providers. For more information, please visit: oregon.gov/ohcs.

In Custody Death at Josephine County Jail
Press Release

DETAILS: On May 3rd, 2024, at approximately 5:40 PM, an Adult in Custody (AIC) was found unresponsive in their single cell at the Josephine County Jail.  Medical assistance was rendered until personnel from the Grants Pass Fire Department and AMR arrived and took over attempting life saving measures. Despite the efforts performed, 32-year-old Zachary Dumont, a Brookings, Oregon resident, was pronounced deceased.

Detectives from the Oregon State Police are investigating this incident which includes determining the cause of death.  No further information will be provided by the Sheriff’s Office at this time.

 

White City Sheriff’s Deputies Capture Shooting Suspect Attempting to Flee, Victim in Local Hospital 
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JCSO Case 24-2445

WHITE CITY, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies responded to a report of a gun shot victim in White City with a suspect running from the scene. JCSO White City deputies were on scene within minutes to provide life-saving measures to the victim and capture the suspect attempting to flee.

Sunday night at 11:15 p.m. ECSO Dispatch received a call for shots fired and someone running from the scene. At 11:23 p.m. JCSO White City deputies located the victim near the intersection of 29th Street and Falcon and began life-saving measures. Nearby on Falcon Street, another White City deputy located the suspect attempting to flee and detained him without incident.

The victim was transported via Mercy Flights to a local hospital and is in serious but stable condition. The suspect, Romualdo Balero, 33, of White City, is charged with second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, felon in possession of a firearm, menacing, and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. Balero is also known as Romualdo Angulo Llanes. He was booked and lodged in the Jackson County Jail.

JCSO detectives arrived on scene and took over the investigation. This case is open and ongoing with detectives following additional leads. There is no more information available at this time.

 

Eagle Point Police Recognized for Excellence in Policy Management and Training

May be an image of text that says 'LEXIPOL CONNECT 2023 GOLD'The Eagle Point Police Department is proud to announce they have been recognized for excellence in policy management and training in 2023 by Lexipol, the nation’s leading provider of policy, training, and wellness support for first responders and public servants. This is the 3rd consecutive year EPPD has received the award.

The Lexipol Connect program tracks performance on five metrics proven to measure success in policy management. Eagle Point Police Department achieved Gold, the highest level of recognition offered, for consistent and effective policy dissemination to personnel, timely policy updates as laws change, and officer training on policies.

Policy management is critical to ensure compliance with changes to law and procedures and ensure staff regularly trains on those changes.  We are honored to be recognized as an agency and continue to strive to provide the highest level of service possible for our community.  Our commitment to policy and policy training helps to provide trained staff through nationally recognized best practices.

For more information about the program, visit www.lexipol.com

 

Search & Rescue Assisting Klamath County Sheriff in Search for Missing Jackson County Mushroom Hunter 
May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'MISSING SHERIFF PERSON Gerald Severson Missing Mushroom Hunter Hunter Last Seen in Klamath County 56-Year-Old White Male 5'4" Tall, 140 Ibs. Gray Hair, Blue Eyes From Ruch, Ore. IF SEEN CALL 911 LAST SEEN THURSDAY, MAY 2ND 7 P.M. EAST SIDE LAKE OF THE WOODS'

LAKE OF THE WOODS, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SAR) is assisting the Klamath County Sheriffs Office on a missing mushroom hunter case. We are searching for Gerald Severson of Ruch, Ore. He was last seen Thursday evening near Lake of the Woods in Klamath County.

Severson is described as a 56-year-old white male, 5’4” tall, weighing 140 pounds with gray hair and blue eyes. Severson was staying at a cabin on the east side of Lake of the Woods and left to search for mushrooms at about 7PM on Thursday, May 2nd. SAR teams have been searching since Friday, May 3rd at 1PM when Severson was reported missing.

If you have any information regarding Severson’s location please call 911 and report it. The area he was last seen is populated and has multiple busy roads. It’s very possible Severson could have been picked up. Authorities are very concerned for the safety of Severson and the searchers as the weather in the area is very poor at this time.

 

May be an image of ‎tree and ‎text that says '‎Grants Pass ROGUE ص Drgir GET INVOLVED URBAN TREE ADVISORY COMMITTEE‎'‎‎

Applications are being accepted for a position on the Urban Tree Advisory Committee due to a vacancy. This position will expire on April 5, 2025. The purpose of the committee is to review, develop, and implement programs and activities that promote, protect, and enhance the urban forest as a part of the Tree City, USA program. The deadline to apply is 5 PM, June 5, 2024. More information is available here: https://www.grantspassoregon.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=3274

 

May be an image of 8 people and text that says 'Grants Pass Maker's Market'

Grants Pass Maker’s Market re-grand opening — This Saturday 9am to 1pm. 5th street between E and F www.gpmakersmarket.com

 

Child Exploitation Task Force Arrests Eagle Point Man for Victimizing Children Online Nationwide, Investigators Looking for Additional Victims

JCSO Case 22-4129 EAGLE POINT, Ore. – The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force arrested a Medford man on multiple child sex crime charges at 2:28 p.m. today in Eagle Point. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) and Eagle Point Police Department assisted with the arrest at a business near the intersection of Hwy 62 and West Linn Road.

During their investigation, SOCET discovered the suspect was communicating nationwide with at least five underage victims through several social media sites. SOCET investigators identified a 13-year-old victim from Kansas City, Missouri, and are attempting to identify the additional underage victims.

The suspect, Zachary Elijah Bowen, 22, of Medford, Ore., was arrested on 12 felony charges including using a child in display of sexually explicit conduct, 10 counts of second-degree encouraging child sexual abuse, and luring a minor. He was booked and lodged in the Jackson County Jail.

SOCET started investigating Bowen after more than a dozen National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) cyber tips led to multiple residences where he lived in Portland and at a licensed marijuana farm in Trail, Ore. SOCET served a search warrant on February 7, 2023, at the marijuana farm in the 4700 block of Highway 227 in Trail. Investigators seized digital devices for forensic examination by Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force (SOHTCTF).

Investigators found evidence of Bowen communicating nationwide with at least five underage victims through social media sites such as SnapChat, Instagram, Kik, and Google under the username “zach_grant2152.” If you have any information on Bowen, contact investigators through the Sheriff’s App “Submit a Tip” feature. Download the App here: https://apps.myocv.com/share/a72997501. You can also call the JCSO Tip Line at (541) 774-8333 and reference case number 22-4129.

SOCET is a joint inter-agency task force that started in June of 2020 to combat child exploitation and human trafficking. The task force consists of investigators from JCSO and Homeland Security Investigations with some collaboration from Oregon State Police and Medford Police Department; as well as prosecutors from our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in Jackson and Josephine County.

This case is under further investigation with detectives following additional leads and attempting to identify other victims. Jackson County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. There is no further information available for release.

 

Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center Is Contacting More Patients and Families About Infections Amidst Criminal Drug Diversion Case

Shlesinger & deVilleneuve, a Medford law firm, states the hospital involved in a criminal drug diversion investigation is notifying more former patients or their families about possible injury or death related to more cases of in-hospital infection.

Medford attorney David deVilleneuve told NewsWatch 12 today his firm, Shlesinger & deVilleneuve, has a possible new civil case client who says Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center (Asante) contacted the client this week to notify that its related patient, who died, could have been infected at Asante.

“I’m interested in whether the hospital staff responded appropriately, not necessarily that the hospital staff was perpetrating a crime or actually stealing fentanyl, though I’m not ruling that out, either,” said deVilleneuve. “I’m investigating whether Asante responded to the increase in infections in a timely manner and in a responsible manner.”

deVilleneuve said today his firm now has 74 prospective client cases related to Asante and possible deadly drug diversion there. He said 15 cases with the strongest evidence could bring his firm’s initial civil case filings in the next 30-60 days.

deVilleneuve said eight of those 15 cases involve deaths of Asante patients, besides the new prospective client contact this week which indicates Asante is notifying more former patients who could have been affected adversely by a bacterial strain while at the hospital. He said the possible new case that surfaced this week involves a patient hospitalized at Asante in 2022.

“I’m concerned that maybe there’s a list or maybe a group of patients on their list that they (Asante) want to notify or they’ve tried to reach out, to some degree tried to reach out, but have never been contacted,” said deVilleneuve. “And maybe they’re in our community, and they don’t know they’re a potential victim because they’ve never been contacted.”

About Asante, deVilleneuve says, “I see no efforts on their part to inform the public about what’s going on. They are making efforts to whom they have articulated as potential victims. I’m concerned that maybe their search criterion isn’t going to pick up some of the potential victims. That’s why people who have not been notified by Asante or Medford Police Department should still call us because most of these people on our list have not been contacted by Medford PD or Asante, and they’ve all suffered from infections. That number (of his firm’s cases) alone doesn’t match up with the CDC numbers (for Asante in-hospital infections), so there’s a much higher rate of infections, I think, than has been reported, and so it begs the question, ‘Are there other people?’”

The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office said last week it had received Medford Police Department’s (MPD) criminal investigation of drug diversion at Asante. MPD said it started that investigation in December when Asante administration alerted police to its concern that hospital staff might have diverted drugs prescribed for patients. MPD said Jan. 3, 2024, “Additionally, there was concern that this behavior resulted in adverse patient care, though the extent of the impact on those patients is yet to be determined. MPD is actively working on investigating these claims.”

One claim became a civil case filed in February by Idiart Law Firm, when it listed Asante and its former nurse Dani Schofield as defendants for a case by the estate of Horace Wilson, who died at Asante Feb. 25, 2022. The case said Schofield charted that she administered fentanyl to Horace Wilson on several dates beginning Jan. 29, 2022, and, “In order to divert the fentanyl, Defendant SCHOFIELD replaced this entire quarter of a liter of ‘missing fluid’ with non-sterile tap water, thus reintroducing new inoculums of the bacterium Staphylococcus epidermidis into Horace Wilson’s bloodstream via his central line each time she administered the solution.”

MPD also said in January this year that the Department, “has received numerous calls from individuals asking if they or a family member have been impacted by the suspected actions of the former Asante employee. Asante has informed MPD that they have identified the involved patients and have notified or are in the process of notifying them or their families.”

deVilleneuve said this week’s Asante call to his prospective client causes him to expect more clients and claims to surface.

He said his firm’s investigation has noted that perhaps 10% of hospital staff are involved in drug diversion, which suggests it could be underway more broadly than the public knows.

deVilleneuve also said his firm’s investigation found some drug diversion involving clear fluid medicine either substituted saline solution as a sterile replacement or substituted nothing, leaving an intended patient in pain, so he’s surprised a medical professional would use tap water to replace an IV drug, knowing the possible illness it could cause. (SOURCE)

 

These are pretty good odds: About 1 in every 4 students who apply for an RCC Foundation scholarship will receive one. Most awards are $1,000-$6,000 per year. 💵💰
But you can’t receive a scholarship if you don’t apply! The deadline to apply for 2024-25 scholarships is June 1.  —-   Visit roguecc.edu/scholarships to get started.

David Grubbs’ Murder Investigation Remains Active

Community still looking for answers in violent 2011 murder of David Grubbs on Ashland, Oregon bike path The Ashland Police Department’s investigation into the murder of David Grubbs on November 19, 2011 remains open and active. Recently two new detectives have been assigned to look into new leads that have come in.

This case remains important to David’s family, the community, and the Ashland Police Department. As detectives continue to pursue these new leads, anyone with additional information is encouraged to reach out to the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-2211. The reward for information leading to an arrest on this case remains at over $21,000.

Fauna Frey, 45, disappeared in Oregon on a road trip, June 29, 2020, following her brother’s death  —

https://original.newsbreak.com/@ada-e-1668135/3304227455096-fauna-frey-45-disappeared-in-oregon-on-a-road-trip-june-29-2020-following-her-brother-s-death

PART 2 – Newsweek Podcast Focusing on The Disappearance of Fauna Frey From Lane County

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040 PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public. READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com.

Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

 

 

OHA launches Fentanyl Aware social media campaign

Risks, harm-reduction strategies, recognizing and responding to overdose, and Oregon’s good Samaritan law to be focus of five-week online promotion

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Health Authority (OHA) today kicked off a social media campaign spotlighting the public health harms caused by fentanyl, and how people can prevent the deadly overdoses that devastate communities around the state.

Fentanyl Aware Northwest

The campaign, called Fentanyl Aware, will run for five weeks, with posts in English and Spanish. Fentanyl Aware will focus on teaching people about fentanyl risks, harm reduction strategies, recognizing and responding to an overdose, and Oregon’s good Samaritan law, which provides legal protections for individuals and the people they’re helping during a drug overdose.

The Fentanyl Aware campaign begins with a series of social media messages with facts about fentanyl – “What it is, where it can be found and why you need to be aware,” according to the first post. It then moves into messages about the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone, including how it’s given, how it works and where to can get it, followed by posts about Oregon’s good Samaritan law.

The campaign wraps up with posts warning about risks of mixing drugs with other substances, relying on fentanyl tests and using drugs alone.

OHA’s statewide campaign borrows from a social media campaign that Lane County Public Health created in 2023 with support from OHA funds. The county also shared its campaign materials with local public health partners to adapt and share – Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties collaborated to launch the Fentanyl Aware Northwest campaign through this partnership.

Just today, Multnomah County launched its own fentanyl awareness campaign, called Expect Fentanyl, focused on Portland-area youth ages 13-20.

The statewide Fentanyl Aware campaign launches on National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a day of observance that recognizes those who have lost loved ones to the overdose crisis and raises awareness of the lethal danger of illegally made fentanyl (IMF).

Cara Biddlecom, OHA’s interim public health director, said Fentanyl Aware contains youth-informed messaging, but it is intended for general audiences.

“We want everyone to see these important messages because anyone can be affected by fentanyl – teens and young adults, older Oregonians, even young children,” Biddlecom said. “These messages won’t end the fentanyl crisis, but they could help equip people with information that could help them save a life, whether it’s someone else’s or their own.”

Fentanyl is now showing up in a wide variety of drugs on the illicit market, including counterfeit pills made to look like common prescription painkillers or anti-anxiety medications. These may contain enough fentanyl in a single pill to cause an overdose.

According to OHA data, the number of people in Oregon dying from unintentional and undetermined overdoses continues to increase at an alarming pace, from 1,083 people in 2021 to 1,289 people in 2022. Fentanyl has surpassed methamphetamine as the most common substance identified as the cause of death in unintentional and undetermined drug overdoses.

In Oregon, the number of individuals who experienced an unintentional/undetermined fentanyl overdose death between 2020 and 2022 more than tripled (for all ages). And those at higher risk for unintentionally dying from a drug overdose continued to include non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives, non-Hispanic Black/African Americans, and males, though patterns of use across communities is similar. These inequities are avoidable and point to structural racism in the health system and the need for long-term policy change.

Nasal naloxone is now available over the counter, without a prescription. It can be purchased at many retail pharmacies in Oregon, and it costs about $45 for two doses. Most insurance companies cover the medication but may charge a co-pay. Oregon Health Plan (OHP) members can get naloxone at no cost at most pharmacies. Those who use drugs can get medication for overdose reversal and other harm reduction materials such as fentanyl test strips at no cost through syringe service programs. Syringe services are available to everyone that uses drugs, regardless of whether they’re injected. Visit OHA’s Opioid Overdose Reversal Medications webpage for a list of syringe and needle exchange services available in Oregon.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance use, please reach out for help. Speak with a health care provider or visit OHA’s Fentanyl Facts webpage for support and treatment resources. You are not alone.

Fallen officers honored during annual Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony

SALEM, Ore. — A ceremony held Tuesday, May 7 in Salem commemorated law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty in Oregon. Hundreds gathered for the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony to honor the state’s fallen officers and those they left behind.

The annual event is held at the Oregon Public Safety Academy, site of the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial. Tuesday’s ceremony remembered two fallen officers whose names were recently added to the memorial: Sergeant Jared J. Miller of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, end of watch Dec. 9, 2021, and Reserve Corporal Joseph W. Johnson of the Nyssa Police Department, end of watch April 15, 2023.

The ceremony was attended by Oregon Governor Tina Kotek, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, elected officials and public safety professionals from throughout the state. Governor Kotek, in her address to the audience, spoke of the sacrifices made by the fallen officers and their families.

“Sergeant Jared Miller and Reserve Corporal Joseph ‘J.J.’ Johnson were known for rising to the occasion every time. Known for showing up as their best selves when the chips were down. As heroes. And as people who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Governor Kotek said. “There is no sacrifice more noble, no pledge to the public more honorable.”

Sergeant Jared J. Miller fell ill in November 2021 while working as a shift sergeant at the Marion County Jail during an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility. He died from complications of COVID-19 on Dec. 9, 2021. Sergeant Miller had served with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for 16 years, and is survived by his wife, father, sister, brother, and grandfather.

Reserve Corporal Joseph W. Johnson shot and killed on April 15, 2023, while making a traffic stop in Nyssa. After being dispatched to a domestic incident, Reserve Corporal Johnson engaged in a short vehicle pursuit with the suspect, who stopped and opened fire on the officer while he was still in his patrol vehicle. Reserve Corporal Johnson succumbed to his injuries at the scene. He had served with the Nyssa Police Department for almost five years, and also served as a corrections officer with the Oregon Department of Corrections for 15 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.

The memorial bears the names of the 196 officers who have died in the line of duty since the 1860s. This includes law enforcement, corrections, and parole and probation officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies.

Keynote speaker Mike Reece, Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, heralded the sacrifices of the law enforcement members and their families, and stressed the importance of honoring their sacrifices and their memories.

“These men and women were exceptional. Their value to their families and friends, their service to others, and their ultimate sacrifice deserves our eternal gratitude,” Reece said. “So as we gather today at this annual ceremony, we say their names and we give our sacred promise to never forget.”

The ceremony is a significant event that the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) is proud to host each year in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, and Oregon’s various statewide law enforcement associations.

Oregon’s memorial ceremony is held ahead of National Police Week events in Washington, D.C. so that family members and coworkers can attend both memorial ceremonies. More than 23,000 officers who have died in the line of duty are honored on the national memorial.

### About DPSST— The mission of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) is to pursue excellence in training and accountability for public safety professionals. DPSST certifies and licenses police, corrections, and parole and probation officers, as well as regulatory specialists, emergency telecommunicators and medical dispatchers, criminal justice instructors, private security providers, private investigators, fire service professionals, and polygraph examiners in the state of Oregon.  DPSST works with public and private safety agencies around the state to provide basic, leadership and specialized training at the 237-acre Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem and regionally throughout the state.

For more information on the Oregon Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Memorial please visit https://www.oregon.gov/dpsst/Memorials/LawEnforcement/Pages/default.aspx.

UO Admin Warns Of Punishments As Hundreds Rally In Support Of Student Protest Encampment

Hundreds gathered at the University of Oregon on Tuesday, May 7th, for a pro-Palestine rally.

The Daily Emerald, the student newspaper at the University of Oregon, reported late Monday that protesters have been told that those who don’t leave the encampment by Tuesday at noon will no longer be eligible for “academic amnesty” and could face other disciplinary consequences. University spokesperson Angela Seydel would not confirm any details about negotiations to end the encampment.

Officials at the University of Oregon say they are negotiating with the pro-Palestinian leaders of a student encampment that has grown to about 150 tents over the last week, in hopes of reaching a peaceful resolution.

But students and university leaders are still far apart, according to some faculty observers. And in a Sunday email to students and their families, the university pointedly noted that the encampment in front of the Knight Library is “unauthorized” and said that protesters have been advised that they are in violation of university policies.

The deadline came and went without any significant changes to the encampment. Students have said they don’t plan to leave. The university has pledged to allow more meetings with student representatives in coming days.

Issues with unemployment benefits in Oregon predate new computer system, state agency says

The Oregon Employment Department rolled out a new system, Frances Online, in February. Many people continue to report issues receiving benefits.

For just about anyone, losing a job is a stressful prospect in and of itself. It can mean struggling to pay rent, cover bills or buy groceries — particularly for those without enough rainy day savings set aside.

Unemployment benefits are intended to fill that gap, providing funds that workers can draw on to tide them over, having paid into the system while still employed. But in Oregon, receiving those benefits may be easier said than done, adding stress upon stress.

The Oregon Employment Department says it’s made progress in helping people sign up for its new online claims system. But Governor Tina Kotek and ordinary Oregonians who contact the KGW newsroom practically every day say the state agency is not doing enough.

OED rolled out the new platform, Frances Online, in March. It’s been in the works for several years and was intended to replace the agency’s outdated system from the ’90s. Many Oregonians will remember less-than-fondly how that old system contributed to a meltdown during the early months of the pandemic, as thousands of out-of-work Oregonians sought benefits. Slowdowns lasted far beyond that.

Frances Online is the same system used by the new Paid Leave Oregon program, which launched last September but was dogged by complaints from families who waited months to receive benefits well into this year.

Gov. Tina Kotek addressed the ongoing issues during a press conference late last week.

“It is one of those things that I’ve been really not happy about, and we’ve had conversations directly with the department about this,” Kotek said. “What I’ve said to the agency is we have to do better. I don’t want to read any more stories about someone who can’t pay the rent and is going to lose their housing. That would be counterintuitive to what we’re trying to achieve.”

OED itself has refused to do any interviews or directly answer questions about the issues. But in a press release last week, they said that the new computer system is working as intended.

The agency said that it had paid about $111 million in benefits in the nine weeks after the Frances Online system launched, and they’d processed about 30,000 claims a week for the preceding six weeks. They claimed that 93% of people are able to use the system successfully.

The problems that persist, OED said, predate Frances Online. Long phone wait times and delays in getting claims approved are the result of staffing shortages, which the agency attributed to chronic federal underfunding of the unemployment system.

Kotek said that the state legislature approved funding for OED to add new staff but added that the agency needs to give her a better plan to address the ongoing issues.

“The legislature did allow for more money at the employment department; they’re up to hiring 70 new staff to help with the backlogs to get people through,” the governor said. “The numbers are improving, but not up to my satisfaction, and we’re continuing to work hard with the agency … like, we need to see some new ideas in addition to getting those staff on board.

“So, I wish I had a better answer today. I want people to know I’m not happy; I don’t want people left behind. I lived through the pandemic as the (Oregon House Speaker) when we had a lot of people who couldn’t get help. I want to make sure people are getting the benefits they need, and we’re still working on it.”

OED’s statement said that they are also working on adjusting staff workflow in order to address the problems, adding overtime hours for some staff. They added that they plan to improve the way they communicate to people filing claims and looking for answers by updating their messaging to the public to be clearer, as well as providing more detailed information as to why claims are being reviewed.

The agency provided some hard numbers as evidence that things are improving. The average time for an employee to handle an unemployment-related call has gone from 17 minutes to 11, suggesting they can get to more calls. The average number of items employees can complete in the Frances system went from 3.3 items an hour to 6.8.

The average time for employees to resolve an issue with a claim once they start working on it has gone from nine days down to two, OED said. (SOURCE)

First Lady Jill Biden Visits Portland Thursday

First Lady Jill Biden is coming to Portland this week. The White House says Biden will deliver a speech at a political finance event in Portland this Thursday night. The visit is part of a the First Lady’s tour of several western states this week. After Portland, she’ll travel to California and Arizona.

Governor Kotek Hosts Event to Commemorate Progress on Housing and Homelessness in Legislative Session — Governor ceremonially signs SB 1537, SB 1530, SB 1564, and HB 4134

Monday, Governor Kotek hosted a signing ceremony for a package of bills that passed during the 2024 session that are aimed at addressing the housing and homelessness crises.

“Across the state — from big and mid-size cities to small, rural towns — Oregonians are straining under the pressure of an increasingly unaffordable housing market,” Governor Kotek said. “But the actions we’re taking today – and will continue to take in the coming years – will be key to creating healthier and safer communities and supporting economic growth.”

Governor Kotek ceremonially signed Senate Bill 1537, Senate Bill 1530, Senate Bill 1564 and House Bill 4134. Speakers at the ceremony included Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-N/NE Portland), Senators Kayse Jama (D-East Portland, Damascus, Boring) and Dick Anderson (R-Lincoln City), Rep. David Gomberg (D-Lincoln and Western Benton & Lane Counties), Portland Commissioner Carmen Rubio, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency executive director Jimmy Jones, and NAYA interim CEO Oscar Arana.

“Cities across Oregon are excited to implement the historic investment in housing infrastructure made possible by the legislature in Senate Bill 1530, helping to deliver on Governor Kotek’s annual housing production goal,” Mayor Vinis said. “In Eugene alone, the funding from SB 1530 will support the development of 1,200 new housing units, across all income levels.”

“Services alone are not enough. We must also have supply side answers,” Jimmy Jones said. “Our best path forward to a tomorrow where no child, no family, no person sleeps outside, is the construction of thousands of safe and affordable units in the coming decade. Senate Bill 1537 is the beginning of our efforts to rebalance the housing supply in Oregon.”

The ceremony took place in North Portland at the construction site for Tistilal Village, a 57-unit affordable housing development owned by NAYA Family Center that is currently being redeveloped to serve Native American families, including those experiencing homelessness.

“NAYA was a strong supporter and advocate of the housing bills being signed here today,” NAYA interim CEO Oscar Arana said. “We know these programs and funding sources are desperately needed to create more housing opportunities, like Tistilal Village, for our community.”

The following is a description of the bills Governor Kotek ceremonially signed today:

Senate Bill 1530: Provides $278 million total, including funding for infrastructure projects that support housing development ($100 million), emergency shelters ($65 million), homelessness prevention ($40 million), recovery housing projects ($18 million), land acquisition for affordable housing ($10 million), the Healthy Homes Repair Fund ($7.5 million), and more.

Senate Bill 1537: Provides a menu of tools to encourage more housing production across Oregon, including the creation of the Housing Accountability and Production Office, the allocation of $75 million to establish the Housing Project Revolving Loan Fund, the allocation of $3 million to establish the Housing Infrastructure Support Fund (HISF), and a provision allowing cities that meet specific criteria the ability to make a one-time expansion of their urban growth boundary with a requirement that at least 30% of new housing is affordable, and more.

Senate Bill 1564: Directs the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) to adopt model ordinances that cities may use in order to implement housing-related statewide land use planning goals.

House Bill 4134: Provides $21.3 million for grants to specified cities for infrastructure projects that support housing developments in which at least 30 percent of the units are affordable to households earning 130 percent or less of the county median income. (SOURCE)

 Gene Editing Helps Patients In OHSU Study

A medical trial at OHSU that uses gene editing had positive results for improving sight in people with a certain type of inherited retinal disease. The CRISPR [[ crisper ]] gene editing process was used. Around 79 percent of the study participants had improved sight. The study included 12 adults and two children. The inherited retinal disease affects around two out of every 100-thousand people.

Oregon National Guard Program Offers Students Paid Opportunities To Earn High School Credit And Learn Career Skills

 “The Oregon Plan,” renewed its approval with the Oregon Department of Education, is open to high school students throughout Oregon.

High school students in Oregon will have a paid opportunity to learn professional technical training while earning high school credit, as part of the newly endorsed program called The Oregon Plan.

Created by the Oregon National Guard, the plan received official approval last month from the Oregon Department of Education, which is required as part of its regular renewal process.

“Through this exciting program students get paid to earn high school credit, learn career skills such as basic finance, medic training, construction and engineering and practice working in teams,” said Dr. Charlene Williams, Director of Oregon Department of Education. “As students plan their summer of learning and work, I hope they consider this enriching and life changing option.”

Background On The Oregon Plan –
Established in 1995 as the Military Career Education Cluster Concept, “The Oregon Plan” enables school districts across the state to award academic credits to students who complete qualified military training and instruction. Approximately 700 high school students have joined the Oregon Guard since 2020.

“The Oregon Plan has been providing valuable education pathways for Oregon students for nearly 30 years,” said Brig. Gen. Alan Gronewold, Adjutant General, Oregon. “We’re proud to highlight this innovative program that recognizes the skills our young recruits gain through their military service.”

Multiple high schools across Oregon participate in the program, including Pendleton, Hermiston, La Grande, Elgin, Wallowa, Baker, Ontario, and Grant Union High School in eastern Oregon. Additionally, high schools in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Douglas, Union, Umatilla, Wasco, Hood River, Malheur, Baker, and Wallowa counties have also approved use of The Oregon Plan.

By enabling credit proficiencies through military training, the Oregon National Guard and The Oregon Plan exemplify a commitment to developing educated, skilled, and work-ready youth for future success.

“Our recruiters consistently hear from educators about the value of this flexible credit program, “said Lt. Col. Jessy Claerhout, Executive Officer, Recruiting Retention Command.  “It provides a helpful pathway for students to turn their military experience into academic progress toward graduation, while obtaining life skills and leadership training.”

Many of the credits earned may also translate into college credits towards a higher education degree. Sophomores and Juniors in high school can learn more about the program here. You can also learn more about the Oregon Guard’s 100% College Tuition Assistance program here.

 

 

During Mental Health Awareness Month, OHA reminds Oregonians of support resources for those in need and their loved ones 

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority is recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month during May by promoting resources that support mental well-being for all Oregonians.

One in five people will experience a mental health condition in a given year, and about half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their lives, according to national statistics.

Nearly everyone faces challenges in life that can affect their mental health and emotional well-being.

“Too many people in our state are facing mental health challenges, and we want everyone to know you do not have to struggle alone,” said OHA Director Sejal Hathi, M.D., MBA.

Dr. Hathi, who has spoken about her mental health journey, added, “In many of our communities, societal or cultural norms discourage people from reaching out, or even admitting that we may need some help. Mental Health Awareness Month is a critical opportunity to highlight that mental health is health.”

Here are a few highlights of resources available for Oregonians:

  • OHA provides support for Community Mental Health Programs that provide services related to mental health, substance use, and problem gambling, in counties and communities across Oregon. A directory of these services, listed by county can be found
  • In Oregon, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The easy-to-remember 988 number is available for people experiencing any type of mental health challenge, substance use crisis or thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Anyone who needs support can call, text or chat in English and Spanish (interpretation services and American Sign Language are also available) and connect with trained crisis counselors. The 988 Lifeline is also a resource for friends and families concerned about a loved one.
  • The Mental Health Toolkit was created through a collaboration between OHA and Oregon Department of Education to help educators increase students’ academic achievement through meeting their mental and behavioral health needs.
  • Online resources from Sources on Strength – Sources of Strength has two online resource packets. The first is Resources for Practicing Strength at Home, and the second is a shorter version that also offers a wellness plan. Any resource in these packets can be used in classrooms, staff meetings, in individual or group counseling, or to practice strength wherever you are.

OHA encourages communities, organizations, and individuals to use the month of May to help raise awareness of mental health and well-being.

May is Wildfire Awareness Month

SALEM, Ore. – May is Wildfire Awareness Month. Oregon experiences its heaviest wildfire activity during the summer months, but fires occur all seasons of the year including spring. Keep Oregon Green, in partnership with federal, state, tribal and local fire agencies, will be spreading the word about the steps we all can take to prevent the start of careless, unwanted wildfires this summer, and encouraging Oregonians to create defensible space around homes and outbuildings.

At stake: lives, property and scenic beauty – Each year, over 70% of Oregon’s wildfires are started by people. Many are a result of escaped debris burn piles or gas-powered equipment and vehicles casting sparks or catching fire.

During the 2023 fire season, the Oregon Department of Forestry reported that people were directly responsible for sparking 823 wildfires that burned 6,197 acres. Any spark can gain traction in dry vegetation, spread quickly and impact lives, personal property, and the many benefits provided by Oregon’s scenic natural areas.

Before heading outdoors this summer, contact the agency or landowner who manages the land at your destination for an update on current fire restrictions or bans. Any visitor to Oregon’s natural areas should be familiar with these restrictions before building campfires or using equipment that could ignite a wildfire.

Put Your Smokey Hat On – Smokey Bear is celebrating his 80th birthday this year. Smokey is a beloved and trusted American icon that has educated the public on preventing human caused wildfires since 1944. His timeless and important message celebrates people who take responsibility and prevent wildfires. Smokey’s hat is the driving force behind Keep Oregon Green’s 2024 summer wildfire prevention campaign. “Put Your Smokey Hat On” is a call to action, encouraging the public to predict the outcome of their actions and do everything they can to prevent wildfire ignitions. Campaign artwork, PSAs, and additional wildfire safety tips can be found at keeporegongreen.org and its various social media platforms.

Coming soon: More Wildfire Awareness Month tips – During May, a new wildfire prevention topic will be shared each week to help homeowners and recreationists learn how to prevent their outdoor activities from sparking the next wildfire. For more information, visit the websites for Keep Oregon Green at www.keeporegongreen.org, the Oregon Department of Forestry at www.oregon.gov/odf, and the Oregon State Fire Marshal at https://www.oregon.gov/osfm/education/pages/prevent-wildfires.aspx

Follow Oregon wildfire news and prevention updates on social media: Twitter @keeporegongreen, @ORDeptForestry and @OSFM

Oregon Offers Electric Car Rebates Again – Apply Now Until June 3rd

Home

Due to high demand and limited funding, OCVRP will be open for a short time in 2024. Vehicles must be purchased or leased between April 3, 2024, to June 3, 2024, to be eligible for a rebate. Applicants have six months from their date of purchase or lease to apply. Low- and moderate-income households can prequalify for the $5,000 Charge Ahead rebate by completing the application now at https://apps.oregon.gov/DEQ/Voucher/apply.

 

 

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