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West Plains Mayor Jack Pahlmann, seated, signs the proclamation designating April as Occupational Therapy Month. Standing behind Pahlmann are several of Ozark Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Services staff, left to right: Rebecca Williams, OTR/L; Ann Cisco, COTA/L; Lori Pendergrass, COTA/L; Rhonda Hollingshed, OTR/L; Brian Cote, OTR/L, CHT; Angela Anderson, OTR/L; Dan O’Connell, COTA Student; and Tammy Thies, OTR/L, SIPTC. (provided)

West Plains Mayor Jack Pahlmann, seated, signs the proclamation designating April as Occupational Therapy Month. Standing behind Pahlmann are several of Ozark Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Services staff, left to right: Rebecca Williams, OTR/L; Ann Cisco, COTA/L; Lori Pendergrass, COTA/L; Rhonda Hollingshed, OTR/L; Brian Cote, OTR/L, CHT; Angela Anderson, OTR/L; Dan O’Connell, COTA Student; and Tammy Thies, OTR/L, SIPTC. (provided)

(West Plains) – Ozarks Medical Center (OMC) Rehabilitation Services and the city of West Plains have recognized April as Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational therapy enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them live better with injury, illness, or disability.

According to Pam Ream, director of OMC Rehabilitation Services, occupational therapists and therapy assistants focus on helping patients return to work or activities, which are meaningful to that individual. This can be accomplished despite their challenges that they face.

Ream said therapists work with patients to maximize their potential so that they can thrive at school, work, home or in any setting. Occupational therapists help people overcome their disabilities or medical conditions so they can accomplish their everyday tasks. “Our mission is to work with our patients and help them with the skills they need to live life to its fullest,” Ream added.

Occupational therapy takes into account a person’s psychological, physical, emotional and social makeup as well as their environment. The therapists work with the clients to achieve their goals, function at the highest possible level, concentrate on what matters most to them, maintain or rebuild their independence, and participate in daily activities they need or want to do. Solutions may include:  adaptations for how to do a task, changes to the individual’s surroundings or helping them to alter their own behaviors.

Ream said occupational therapy can also help with fine motor skills and visual perception. Occupational therapy can be of assistance to those who have had a stroke or head injury, or those who have developmental delays or neurological problems. Specialized occupational therapy is offered at the Hand Clinic, a clinic dedicated to treating injuries that affect hand function, which is staffed by a Certified Hand Therapist.

Rehabilitation Services also offers sensory integration testing and therapy for those people who have problems interpreting and processing information they receive through their senses. Sensory integration therapy aids in the behavioral aspects of autism and Asperger’s disorder.

In addition to occupational therapy, OMC Rehabilitation Services also offers physical therapy and speech-language pathology services in the hospital and at area clinics, schools, and work places, and through Riverways Home Health of OMC. For more information about OMC Rehabilitation Services or occupational therapy, call 417-257-5959 or toll-free 888-242-9329 or e-mail rehab@ozarksmedicalcenter.com.

(West Plains) – Area residents can study the poetry of Robert Frost, learn about Missouri politics and government or investigate the impact of video game and movie violence on the growth and development of children in some of the new and unique courses being offered during the 2015 summer intersession, summer session or fall semester at Missouri State University-West Plains.

SUMMER INTERSESSION

The Poetry of Robert Frost (ENG 184) is a one-credit-hour class scheduled from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. May 18-22 that will offer several insights into the life and times of this great American poet.  Students will explore numerous themes and aspects of his poetry, such as his use of nature and philosophy, his development of metaphor, his consideration of existential questions, and his resistance to dehumanization, according to instructor Dr. Phillip Howerton, associate professor of English.

“Robert Frost was arguably the most popular and critically acclaimed American poet of the 20th century, and this course will be a close study of a selection of some of his most important poems,” Howerton said.

Approximately 60 poems will be studied, including “The Tuft of Flowers,” “The Road Not Taken,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Birches,” “Mowing,” “Mending Wall,” “The Oven Bird,” “Dust of Snow,” “Home Burial,” “The Death of the Hired Man,” “Nothing Gold Can Stay” and “Fire and Ice.”  In-class participation, daily quizzes, a three-page response paper and a final exam will be required, Howerton said.

Missouri Politics and Government (PLS 101) is a one-credit-hour class scheduled from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. May 18-22 that will teach students about Missouri’s history and political structure, as well as the state’s governmental structure, according to instructor Dr. Kathleen Morrison, professor of political science.  Offered every other summer intersession, the class is required by the Missouri General Assembly for transfer students who take American Government out of state, but it is open to everyone, she said.

Czardas by Nature: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’s Science (BIO 197) is a one-credit-hour online class May 18-22 during which students will study the interrelationships of biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components, according to per course biology instructor Rochelle McCracken.  Students will develop and use scientific reasoning skills to answer questions and participate in discussions about interactions between living organisms and their environment.

African-American Autobiography: Frederick Douglass (ENG 184) is a one-credit-hour class scheduled from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. June 1-5 that will study the classic American autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.  Discussions will explore the structure of Douglass’ narrative, his attitudes towards slaveholders, the value he places on education, his relationship to the enslaved, his view of himself as an individual, his development as a writer and orator, and his use of rhetorical techniques and elements of creative non-fiction, according to Howerton, who will teach the class.

“Born into slavery in 1817, Douglass escaped to the north in 1838 and became an orator, author, abolitionist, newspaper editor, consultant to President Lincoln, and U.S. minister to Haiti,” Howerton said.  “Douglass was the author of one novel, The Heroic Slave, and three autobiographies, Narrative (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1882), and he was editor and owner of two newspapers, North Star and Frederick Douglass’s PaperNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass chronicles his experiences as a slave and his new life in the north as a laborer and as an abolitionist.”

In-class participation, daily quizzes, a two-page essay, and a final exam will be required, Howerton added.

SUMMER SESSION 

The War Play Dilemma (CFD 197) is a one-credit-hour online course that will look at the impact media-related violence has on children’s growth and development, according to instructor Dr. Renee Moore, professor of child and family development.  “As children are exposed to television, movies, video games and media-linked toys, concern for the impact of exposure to violence is growing,” she said.  “The War Play Dilemma class will look at the role these influences have in children’s growth and development and will explore practical strategies parents and educators can employ to reduce their negative impact.”

SUMMER SESSION AND FALL SEMESTER

Environmental Science (ENV 105) is a four-credit-hour online class that will look at global geological cycles, biodiversity trends, human population dynamics, sustainable land and water usage, pollution impacts, energy challenges, climate change and future predictions for a cooperative global effort toward a habitable planet, according to instructor Debra Mayers, assistant professor of biology.  The online lab component of the class will involve students creating their own solar cooker from recyclable items, measuring nearby trees and calculating board feet, and virtually trapping bears and analyzing their DNA to track their movement, she added.

Understanding Biological Systems Through Inquiry (BIO 111) is a one-credit-hour independent laboratory class that can be used to fill the lab credit for the natural sciences requirement of the Associate of Arts in General Studies degree.  It is scheduled from 2 to 3:50 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer session and noon to 1:50 p.m. and 7 to 9:20 p.m. Mondays and 3:30 to 5:20 p.m. Thursdays during the fall semester.  It also will be offered online during the summer session and fall semester.

This laboratory class is a practical class that relates issues of biology to society, according to Mayers, who added the class, will enhance the laboratory experience of the university’s current lab-included biology and biomedical science classes.

As an entirely hands-on class, students will further develop their skills of gathering information about science, reason scientifically from that information and synthesize responses to questions based upon that information in order to explain biological phenomena, according to Sharath Rongali, one of the instructors.  “The objective of the course is to emphasize the various aspects of biology by helping students understand the biological phenomenon they observe every day,” he explained.

Students must have had or be currently enrolled in the lecture portion of a biology or biomedical science class to enroll in this class, Rongali added.

FALL SEMESTER

Social Justice and Contemporary Civil Rights Narratives (HNR 297/PHI 197) is a three-credit-hour class scheduled for 9:30 to 10:50 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays that will look at how present-day narratives concerning urbanite culture, post-colonialism and hip-hop reflect and engage the legacies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., according to instructor Alex Pinnon, director of the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program.  Students will read the biographies of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., analyze HBO’s critically acclaimed drama The Wire, reflect on the discography of Kendrick Lamar’s hip-hop albums (Section .80, Good Kid/MAAD City and To Pimp a Butterfly), and read essays from notable post-Colonial critics Achebe, Said and K’Naan.

Masterpieces of Modern Continental Literature (LLT 201) is a three-credit-hour class scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays that offers a comparative study in English translation of the prose literature of the European continent of the 19th and 20th centuries, according to instructor Dr. Craig Albin, professor of English.  The course reading list includes Abel Sanchez by Miguel de Unamuno, Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Boll, Bread and Wine by Ignazio Silone, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzheintsyn, The Plague by Albert Camus and The Trial by Franz Kafka.

Introduction to Horticulture (AGR 170) is a three-credit-hour class that will be offered from 5:30 to 6:50 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as online, that will teach students about plant growth and development with an emphasis on horticultural crops, according to instructor Dr. Linda Risner, assistant professor of agriculture.  Students will get their hands in soil and learn about soil fertility in protected structures such as greenhouses, high tunnels and row covers, as well as outdoor soils.  A new greenhouse currently under construction on campus will be a working laboratory where students can conduct exercises on plant propagation, diagnosing and treating plant disorders, growing plants indoors, and media, fertilizers and watering, she said.  Topics will include vegetable gardening, growing fruit and nut trees and bushes and other small fruits, and flower and herb gardening.  For more information, students can call Risner at 417-274-1917.

For a complete look at the 2015 summer session/fall semester schedule, visit grizzlyden.missouristate.edu/Schedule.htm.  Printed copies also are available by calling 417-255-7955.

Regular registration for 2015 summer intersession, summer session and fall semester classes is now underway.  For more information about admissions and registration procedures, call the admissions office at 417-255-7955 or toll free at 1-888-466-7897 or visit the university’s website, www.wp.missouristate.edu.

Vincent Anderson, Reference Librarian; Gwen Khayat, Library Director; Mrs. Annie Abraham; Dr. Simon Abraham. (provided)

Vincent Anderson, Reference Librarian; Gwen Khayat, Library Director; Mrs. Annie Abraham; Dr. Simon Abraham. (provided)

(Mountain Home) – The Dr. Simon and Annie Abraham family recently donated 19 photographs that chronicles life in the White River Valley between 1880s-early 1900s.

This historically significant collection is now on display at the Donald W. Reynolds Library, 300 Library Hill in Mountain Home.

For more information on the library and library programs, visit www.baxlib.org

(West Plains) – In observance of the 64th annual National Day of Prayer on May 7, members of First Baptist Church of West Plains will host a community prayer breakfast.

Interim Senior Pastor, Dr. Rick Hedger, encourages all Christians to attend the free event, which will begin with prayer at 7 AM and breakfast at 7:30 AM. The church is located at 202 Walnut St. in West Plains.

The National Day of Prayer tradition predates the founding of the United States, when the Continental Congress allocated a time for prayer in forming a new nation in 1775. In 1952, Congress established an annual day of prayer and, in 1988, that law was amended, designating the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May.

For more information about the Community Prayer Breakfast, call the church office at 417-256-3128.

(Mountain Home) – The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office is notifying the public that Robert Ernest Camilli, who was previously registered with the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office as a level 3 sex offender, has been released from the Arkansas Department of Corrections and has moved to Arizona.

Camilli had been required to register following his conviction on April 6, 2006 in Baxter County for Sexual Indecency with a Child. After registering, he left Baxter County without notifying law enforcement and without registering elsewhere. A bench warrant was issued in May, 2012 charging him with failure to comply with registration requirements. He was arrested out of state in early 2014 and returned to Baxter County to face the charges. Camilli was sentenced to the Arkansas Department of Corrections in September, 2014 and taken there on November 11, 2014.

Camilli has since been released and left the state without further obligation here.

(Hot Springs) (AP) – Arkansas’ attorney general says her office is launching a new program to provide services for members of the military and also set up a “mobile offices” program that will send her employees to county seats statewide.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge spoke Saturday to the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors Association. She said that active-duty military members and veterans are targeted at times by scam artists and could be in need of specific services. She introduced National Guard Col. Marcus Hatley as the leader of the unit.

Rutledge also said she would send members of her staff to county seats to provide services that might otherwise require a trip to Little Rock. She said she wants her office to be accessible to everyone.

Responsible Reforms

Welfare reform is always a hard topic to tackle when it comes to crafting new, helpful legislation. Each person, even within the same political party, has their own views. This session the General Assembly worked hard to create a practical, yet agreeable piece of legislation called the “Strengthening Missouri Families Act”.  I feel this legislation helps provide safeguards for those who need assistance through one of our state’s welfare programs, while also encouraging recipients to take personal responsibility to ensure those programs do not become a way of life.

Senate Bill 24 restructures the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and parts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As amended, SB 24 would reduce lifetime eligibility for TANF recipients from the current five years to three years and nine months. The Senate position was to limit the program to 36 months, but agreed to the compromise during conference.

Instead of signing up for the long-term monthly cash assistance program, this legislation calls for implementing a cash diversion program that grants eligible TANF recipients lump-sum cash grants for short-term needs, as well as job referrals or referrals to career centers, upon a showing of good cause. Showing good cause may include loss of employment, excluding a voluntary end of employment due to poor job performance; catastrophic illness; domestic violence; or other emergencies rendering a family member unable to care for the basic needs of their family. I think it is important to remember, with this bill, we are trying to encourage people to work and take pride in their achievements. I think we all agree with giving people a helping hand when they are really down and out and need help.

One of the most responsible items placed in this legislation is the provision that the person seeking benefits will be required to engage in work activities before becoming eligible. By encouraging those who are in need of assistance to work hard to help their family overcome the situation, they will be rewarded with integrity, responsibility and a better sense of self-worth. I feel the safeguards helped make this legislation something we could all agree on.

Senate Bill 24 requires TANF recipients to remain employed or continue seeking employment, or face the loss of half of their benefits for a maximum of 10 weeks. If they neglect to meet this requirement, they could forfeit all benefits. TANF recipients also have to be employed to be eligible for food stamps. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allows states with a certain level of unemployment to seek a waiver of the work requirement for assistance. Missouri currently has this waiver, but starting, Jan. 1, 2016, this act removes the waiver and reinstates the work requirements.

I look forward to the governor signing this legislation. If he does not, I am confident there will be enough votes to override his veto, possibly before we end session on May 15.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

House and Senate Reach Agreement on Fiscal Year 2016 Budget (HBs 1 – 13)

After several long days of negotiations and discussion, the House and Senate finally worked out their differences and gave final approval to the Fiscal Year 2016 state operating budget. The bills now move to the governor’s desk a full two weeks ahead of the constitutionally-mandated budget deadline.

During the budget process, the Senate made significant changes to the House version of the state spending plan, including a lump-sum budgeting approach that included 4 to 6 percent cuts to health, mental health and social services programs. These changes drew the scrutiny of some on the House side and even lost the backing of leadership in the Senate as negotiations progressed. The final version of the budget approved by both chambers moves much closer to the original House spending plan, but does take some fiscally responsible steps to rein in the growth of the state’s social welfare programs. The final version of the budget does include the Senate’s plan to move Missouri’s Medicaid population to a system of managed care, but the transition will occur slowly and only after the plan has been reviewed.

The $26 billion spending plan that will take effect on July 1 of this year does include record levels of funding for elementary and secondary education. In total the state is now spending just under $5.8 billion on public K-12 schools, which represents more than 22.2 percent of total state spending. More than $3.2 billion of that funding is state general revenue, which represents more than 36 percent of the $8.85 billion state dollars over which the legislature has direct spending authority. The budget also includes significant boosts to several important education programs, and sizeable funding increases to the state’s public colleges and universities.

Some of the funding highlights contained in the FY 2016 budget include:

• An additional $84 million for the School Foundation Formula for K-12 public education;

• An increase of more than $2.4 million to the Parents as Teachers Program;

• Full funding for virtual education;

• Funding to create a state dyslexia coordinator;

• A $12 million increase for performance funding for Missouri’s public institutions of higher education;

• More than $5 million in new equity funding for Missouri’s two-year colleges;

• Funding to establish a state military advocate;

• A 3 percent funding increase to providers who care for elderly and developmentally disabled Missourians

• A 3 percent provider rate increase for autism projects; and

• Additional funding for MoHealthnet adult dental benefits.

House Sends Unemployment Reform Legislation to Governor (HB 150)

The governor will have the opportunity to sign legislation that supporters say will keep Missouri’s system of unemployment financially stable. House members gave final approval this to a bill that would link unemployment benefits to the rate of unemployment, and ensure the state keeps more money in the unemployment trust fund.

Supporters of the bill said it is meant to protect the state’s unemployment system from insolvency in the event there is another economic downturn. Missouri is the only state that has been forced to borrow money from the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits during each of the last five economic downturns. Borrowing federal dollars has the added negative impact of taking away a portion of a federal tax credit businesses normally receive.

The legislation is designed to make sure the state has enough money in its unemployment trust fund so that businesses don’t have to pay a penalty. Specifically, it would increase the minimum amount of money in the fund before employers’ contribution rates decrease. For example, Missouri businesses would see their contribution rates decrease by 12 percent if the fund has a balance greater than $870 million.

The bill also ties unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate so that more benefits are available when unemployment is high. If the state were in a position of high unemployment (9 percent or higher) benefits would be available for 20 weeks. In periods of low unemployment (lower than 6 percent) benefits would be available for 13 weeks. Supporters noted that a similar system is already in place in states like Georgia and Florida. They call the change an important step toward ensuring Missouri can afford to help its citizens during times when they are without work.

The bill lost some support in the House after key changes were made in the Senate. Several House members who had supported the House version of the bill changed their votes to no because of a Senate amendment that would define severance pay as wages. Opponents said the change would make it even more difficult for unemployed Missourians to obtain the financial support they need to pay their bills and keep food on the table.

The governor now has the option to sign or veto the bill. The legislation received 88 yes votes in the House, which is 21 votes short of the number needed for a successful veto override.

Medical Malpractice Reform Legislation Receives Final Approval (SB 239)

The House and Senate this week approved a compromise version of legislation designed to contain ever-escalating medical costs and to keep medical professionals from fleeing the state.

The legislation would limit the amount an individual can receive for noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In effect, it would reinstate the limits that were put in place in 2005 and then struck down in 2012 by the Missouri Supreme Court, which ruled that a cap on noneconomic damages violates the constitutional right to a jury trial. However, the compromise version of the bill increases the damage limits from where they were originally.

A version of the plan that was approved by the House in March restored the limits to the original level of $350,000. The compromise version of the legislation would cap most noneconomic awards at $400,000. For catastrophic injuries such as paralysis or even death, the bill would cap noneconomic damages at $700,000. The bill also includes a provision to increase the caps by 1.7 percent annually.

Supporters say putting the caps back in place is a necessary step to limit the cost of medical malpractice insurance for physicians. They say keeping costs down is vital to efforts to prevent doctors from leaving Missouri for other states with reasonable limits in place. They also point to the fact the bill would limit only noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, and not the amount an individual can receive for medical costs or lost wages.

While the House version of the bill had numerous critics, the compromise version received strong bipartisan support in both chambers. The bill now moves to the governor’s desk where he can either sign or veto it. The bill received 125 votes in the House. A successful veto override requires only 109 votes.

Municipal Court Reform Bill Receives House Approval (SB 5)

The members of the Missouri House also took action this week to protect Missourians from some municipalities that have exhibited what House Speaker Diehl called “predatory practices” to raise revenue through excessive traffic tickets. The bill approved by the House is designed to shut down “speed traps” by limiting the amount of revenue municipalities can generate from traffic violations.

The plan that now has to move back to the Senate for another round of approval would limit the amount of revenue municipalities can generate from traffic tickets to 20 percent, which is down from the current limit of 30 percent. The bill further limits municipalities in St. Louis County, which has been plagued by excessive traffic violations, so that only 15 percent of their total revenue can be derived from traffic tickets.

The House version of the bill inserts additional protections for Missourians by ending the process of courts issuing failure to appear charges against defendants for missing court dates on minor traffic violations. The bill also would prevent courts from ordering jail time for individuals who fail to pay traffic fines. In addition, the bill now includes provisions to ensure accountability from municipalities in St. Louis County by requiring they meet minimum standards – police services, balanced budget, insurance, etc. – or face dissolution.

The bill drew strong bipartisan support as members from both parties said it will ensure municipalities act in the best interests of their citizens rather than treat them as sources of revenue.

As always, it is an honor to serve the good folks of the 153rd District. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-1066 or you can e-mail me at steve.cookson@house.mo.gov .

(Mountain Home) – A traffic stop in Mountain Home Wednesday has led to the arrest of a Gainesville, Missouri man on drug charges.

30-year-old Travis Rhodes was arrested Wednesday evening, April 22, for drug offenses after a vehicle he was a passenger in was pulled over for an equipment violation. A deputy conducted the stop on Highway 62 East at approximately 10:18 PM, and reportedly obtained consent to search the vehicle, which was owned by relatives of Rhodes. During this search, the deputy reportedly found two rocks of suspected methamphetamine and various drug paraphernalia, including scales, packaging, acetone, and a large quantity of matches, all of which was seized and taken into evidence.

Rhodes faces charges of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver and possession of drug paraphernalia, both felonies. He was released the next day on $5,000 bond with an appearance in circuit court set for May 7.

(Hartville) – The Wright County Sheriff says both his office and the Wright County commission have been getting a number of recent complaints of vehicles heading to and from the area landfill losing trash, and he’s asking area residents to be cautious.

If your trash is loose, Sheriff Glenn Adler says it’s a good idea to have a tarp over your load, even when the trash is dumped, as sometimes trash is left in the container and doesn’t empty out, and can later blow out on roadways.

Sheriff Adler added that he has contacted the landfill to discuss this problem in an attempt to educate haulers coming into the landfill, as well as the Missouri State Highway Patrol to watch for vehicles loosing trash.

The Missouri state statute on littering says:

A person commits the crime of littering if he throws or places, or causes to be thrown or placed, any glass, glass bottles, wire, nails, tacks, hedge, cans, garbage, trash, refuse, or rubbish of any kind, nature or description on the right-of-way of any public road or state highway or on or in any of the waters in this state or on the banks of any stream, or on any land or water owned, operated or leased by the state, any board, department, agency or commission thereof or on any land or water owned, operated or leased by the federal government or on any private real property owned by another without his consent.

Littering is a class A misdemeanor in the state of Missouri.