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What's up, Doc? Staff therapists could be a competitive advantage for restaurants

The death by suicide of the charismatic Bourdain ... resonated with many restaurant workers.

Restaurant jobs have always been difficult, but the mental stress has gotten worse during the pandemic as restaurants closed or cut hours — or became ground zero for the fight over mask-wearing.

"It is totally nerve-wracking sometimes because all of my tables I’m interacting with aren’t wearing their masks," said Nikki Perri, a server at French 75, a restaurant in downtown Denver. "I am within 6 feet of people who are maskless."


Health News on The Sentinel

Perri is 23, a DJ, and a music producer. And she’s not just worrying about her own health.

"I’m more nervous about my partner. He’s disabled. He doesn’t have the greatest immune system," she said.

After the initial shutdown, French 75 was having problems finding employees when it reopened. So were other restaurants.

"We put a Survey Monkey out and pay was No. 3," said chef and owner Frank Bonanno. "Mental health was No. 1. Employees wanted security, and mental health, and then pay."

His company, Bonanno Concepts, runs 10 Denver restaurants including French 75, Mizuna, and Denver Milk Market. The survey went out to employees of all 10. Bonanno said these jobs offer competitive pay and good health insurance, but the mental health benefits aren’t very good.

"Most such psychologists and psychiatrists are out-of-pocket for people to go to. And we were looking for a way to make our employees happy," he said.

That, according to his wife and co-owner, Jacqueline, was when they had a revelation: Let’s hire a full-time mental health clinician.

"I know of no other restaurants that are doing this, groups or individual restaurants," she said. "It’s a pretty big leap of faith."

It took a little while to figure out what exactly employees wanted and what would be most helpful. Focus groups began in summer 2021 and they made a hire in October 2021.

Qiana Torres Flores, a licensed professional counselor, took on the new and unusual role. Her title is "wellness director." She’d previously worked one-on-one with clients and in community mental health. She said she jumped at the chance to carve out a profession within the restaurant world.

"Especially in the restaurant and hospitality industry, that stress bucket is really full a lot of the time. So I think having someone in this kind of capacity, just accessible and approachable, can be really useful," she said.

Traveling among the 10 restaurants, Flores has led group sessions and mediated conflicts between employees. She has taught the company’s 400 employees techniques to cope with stress, and put on Santa’s Mental Health Workshop to help with holiday-related sadness and grief. She has done one-on-one counseling and referred some employees to more specific types of therapy.

"Not only is there help, but it’s literally 5 feet away from you and it’s free and it’s confidential. And it’s only for you," Flores said.

The owners say her presence gives them a competitive advantage and hope it helps them retain their employees.

Restaurant staff members often work difficult hours and can be prone to substance use issues — a grind-it-out mentality is part of the job culture. Many workers either don’t ask for help or don’t always see mental self-care as important.

"It has been a really important option and a resource for our team right now," said Abby Hoffman, general manager of French 75. "I was just overjoyed when I found out that this program was starting."

She gives the effort high marks, and said it builds on earlier efforts to recognize the psychological toll of restaurant jobs.

"I think the conversation really started around the death of Anthony Bourdain, knowing how important mental health and caring for ourselves was," Hoffman said.

The death by suicide of the charismatic Bourdain, a celebrity chef who openly struggled with addiction and mental illness, resonated with many restaurant workers.

Bourdain died in mid-2018. Then, Hoffman said, came the pandemic, which helped relaunch tough conversations about the psychological impacts of their jobs: "We were, again, able to say, ‘This is so stressful and scary, and we need to be able to talk about this.’"

Voicing these concerns, she speaks for an entire industry. The Colorado Restaurant Association recently conducted a survey, and a spokesperson says more than 80% of its members reported an increase in the stress levels of their staff over the past year. A third of the restaurants fielded requests for mental health services or resources from employees in the past year. More than 3 in 4 restaurants reported a rise in customer aggression toward staff members.

Denise Mickelsen, a spokesperson for Colorado’s restaurant association, said she’s unaware of other restaurants or groups hiring a full-time staffer dedicated to health and wellness.

"It’s fair to call what they’re doing fairly unique and/or innovative," said Vanessa Sink, director of media relations for the National Restaurant Association. "It’s something that some of the larger chains have been trying but is not widespread."

Other projects in a similar vein are springing up. One is called Fair Kitchens. It describes itself as a "movement fighting for a more resilient and sustainable foodservice and hospitality industry, calling for change by showing that a healthier culture makes for a healthier business." It cited research by Britain-based Unilever Food Solutions that found most chefs were "sleep deprived to the point of exhaustion" and "felt depressed."

Back in Denver, the server Perri said she’s grateful her employers see workers as more than anonymous, interchangeable vessels who bring the food and drinks "and actually do care about us and see us as humans. I think that’s great. And I think other places should catch up and follow on cue here."

And if that happens, she said, it could be a positive legacy from an otherwise tough time.

This story is part of a partnership that includes Colorado Public Radio, NPR and KHN.

Spartans win regional basketball title


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Andrew Beyers accepts the regional championship plaque for the Spartans on Friday at the Rocket Center. St. Joseph-Ogden deflected two come-from-behind attempts by Unity to win the title game, 58-50. SJO plays next at Clifton Central where the team will face El Paso-Gridley in the sectional semifinal on Tuesday. More photos from this epic title game coming soon.

STATE CHAMPION!

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Unity's Lexi Ritchie stands at the top of the podium after defeating Richwood's Jaida Johnson (on her right) for the 155-pound title at the inaugural IHSA Girls' Wrestling State Finals on Saturday. Ritchie carved out a 10-8 decision over Johnson to not only become the first female wrestler in the state to earn the title at that weight class but also Champaign County's first female high school state wrestling champion. She finished her sophomore season with a 23-9 record on Saturday. On her left on the podium is bronze medal winner Valeria Rodriguez from Schaumburg.

Rockets drop fierce battle in basketball regional title game

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Unity's Blake Kimball goes up for a shot down the baseline on St. Joseph-Ogden's Coy Taylor during the second half. After an 11-all first quarter start, the Rockets' basketball season came to an end with a 58-50 loss to the Spartans at the Rocket Center on Friday. Visit oursentinel.com next week for more photos from this game.

Guest Commentary: Ukraine needs their allies

by Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator


Everyone will face insurmountable challenges in life. The price of longevity is heartache, opposition, failures, grief and life events that come out of nowhere. Life is filled with the death of loved ones, financial ups and downs, daily health challenges and world events that impact us whether we like them or not.

Russia is going to invade Ukraine. Most of us don’t like Russia anyway but we have to sit here and watch what they are doing to someone else while it negatively affects our energy, financial stability, our military, and our everyday lives. We don’t like it; we don’t want it but we will be impacted by the evil decisions of Russia’s leadership. Can you imagine how the people of Ukraine feel?

We despise what Covid-19 has done to all us. Mask wearing, vaccinations and the fear of gathering have tormented us. The loss of family and friends who went into Intensive Care Units and never came home haunts us. Can we begin to imagine how they felt as they struggled to breathe on respirators their last few days of life?

We have all faced news that a loved one was killed on the battlefield, or someone died suddenly of a heart attack, or received news of terminal cancer.

Typically, we ask why? We ask God, "Why has this happened?" or "Why me, God?" Often there is rarely a good answer. We can analyze and say, "This could have been prevented. Or, this is how he or she should have lived their lives." Sports fans making suggestions from their recliners while watching reruns always see how the play could have been run better.

Life is always in motion. We make decisions. We react to situations differently. We don’t always do the right thing and emotions often overturn commonsense.

The reality is that we all face and walk through fires. Most of the time we’re hopeful that everything will work out alright. Often, things do. Unfortunately, everything doesn’t always work out alright. If we manage to survive, that’s when we have to help others who are crushed in spirit, who can’t see the light of day for the darkness in their lives.

Ukraine needs their allies or they will never be the same. It can’t be all the United States. We can’t save everyone and have proved it over and again from Afghanistan to Iraq to Vietnam.

There are always those around you who need your emotional and spiritual support. If nothing else, friendship and a word of kindness and support are always meaningful.

Most of the time, we feel as if we face our greatest challenges alone. A lonely place of desperation is a dark place to be.

Don’t ever go there. Look to God. When money, friends, education, hospitals, doctors and the church can’t fix what you are facing God can see you through. He never leaves us or forsakes us. His hand is strong and nothing can pull us out of his mighty hand.


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Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of Grandpa's Store, American Issues, and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.

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This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and views from our readers. Submit your letters to the editor or commentary on a current event 24/7 to editor@oursentinel.com.


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Viewpoint | Who is in control of your school?

Over the last two years schools, along with everyone else, have navigated territories that have not been experienced in our lifetime. While global pandemics are not new in history the context of each has brought its own unique challenges.

Most recently, in Illinois, we have watched a battle unfold between various groups that traditionally are all working towards the same end. A great deal of that battle has centered on who is in control of schools. Last night, just before midnight, the Illinois Appellate Court for the 4th District spoke to this question and concluded that the state's authority will remain restrained per a lower court decision, which was established in the Sangamon County Circuit Court case, and also indicated that the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), per their vote this week, did not extend the ability of for Illinois Department of Public Health (IDHP) to implement the emergency rule.

Ultimately this all answers the question of who is in control of schools, and the answer, in regard to these topics and many more, is that locally elected school boards have that authority. In this case, while the state has been restrained from implementing mitigation measures, locally elected school boards, in publicly held meetings, have full authority to determine the context of the conditions in their communities and make decisions that are in the best interest of the students and families that have elected and represent them.

Illinois is a local control state, which is an important characteristic in order to best meet the needs of students around a very diverse and large region. We all know that the "one size fits all" mentality does not work well and the same is true for schools. What "fits" well in Robinson, Illinois, where there is a Hershey's Chocolate Factory, which employs a great deal of people in the region, likely doesn't fit well in Vienna, Illinois, which is located in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest.

Unfortunately there seem to be constant attempts to erode the control of locally elected school boards. I believe that a great deal of these attempts at eroding local control are not ill intended. For example, when state level officials, whether in the legislature, governor's office, or other state level agencies see a perceived need and or problem they attempt to address it, which is good. However, the means by which we address those perceived needs and or problems is extremely important.

You need not look far to find examples of this beyond the one at hand. If you were to look back over the last few years of attempted, and unfortunately, many adopted state level curriculum mandates, then add up the minutes that it would take to effectively implement each of those items into the classroom, you would quickly find that students would need to go to school 24/7 in order to have time to cover them all. This is not reasonable.

We have a tendency to go for the "nuclear option" of making a new statewide rule and or law that impacts everyone, as opposed to going through a process that honors an effective and well built system. That well built system has local schools boards, local teachers, local administrators, and a plethora of other components that can solve problems and better enhance opportunities for students around that state.

While this appellate decision centers on one narrow issue it serves as an example of the need for us to continue the decision around local control of schools in our community.

Sincerely,
Joshua W. Stafford
School Superintendent


Joshua W. Stafford is the superintendent of schools for Vienna District 13-3.

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This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and views from our readers. Submit your letters to the editor or commentary on a current event 24/7 to editor@oursentinel.com.


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Wedding on a budget? Save money with a smart plan

Photo: Sergio Souza/Pexels
NewsUSA -- The to-do list for newly engaged couples can be daunting. Finding a venue, booking a caterer, choosing a dress -- there are many details that need to be factored into a wedding budget, regardless of who is paying. Starting a new life together is a perfect opportunity to establish solid financial habits that will serve you well throughout your marriage.

With the pandemic slowly fading into the rearview mirror, most young couples probably won't have the budget or resources to have that storybook ceremony the bride has dreamed of since she was a child. An intimate setting with 40-50 guests may be a better option. Today's wedding budget should be something the bride and groom pay for comfortably. After all, there's no need to go into debt to impress a gathering of family and friends.

Setting your priorities as a couple early on will set the tone for financial decisions in the future.

A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help couples develop a smart plan to manage engagement and wedding expenses. Setting priorities early on can help avoid conflicts as the big day approaches. Start by considering these four elements of planning for wedding expenses:

  • Make a list. Write down everything you both need or want for your dream wedding. That includes items large and small, from the number of guests to the types of flowers or favors.
  • Rank the list. Now that you have your list, put things in order of priority. Assign a number to each item in order of importance, such as a live band, sit-down dinner or elaborate cake. Or start by sorting needs and wants into categories, using 1 as most important, 2 as moderately important and 3 as least important. You will need to agree on the most important items, whatever those may be.
  • Budget the list. Assign an estimated price to each category or item, according to how much you are able and willing to spend. Consider cutting back on flowers in order to fund a sit-down dinner, for instance, or opt for a buffet-style dinner so you can invite more guests.
  • Listen to the lists. This is the time to be a good listener. Hear what your partner has to say about needs and wants; what is important to one of you may not be as important to the other. Financial compromise is a skill that will serve you throughout married life.

Data from loan services show that approximately 45% of couples racked up debt to pay for their wedding, and that ultimately the debt resulted in consideration of divorce. Nip that risk in the bud by avoiding debt when you assess your wedding expenses. A CFP® professional can help you think outside the box and guide you in making smart financial choices during the wedding planning process.

Visit LetsMakeAPlan.org for more information about managing wedding expenses and planning your financial future.

College scholarships available for future Illinois teachers

Photo: Janko Ferlic/Pexels


Do you like working with young children or have an interest in pursuing a degree in the education field?

The Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) is offering college scholarships to students and daycare professionals that plan to teach or become administrators in the early childhood care and education field in Illinois once they have earned their degree. The scholarship is available for students studying at any one of 63 colleges and universities in the state.

If you currently work or have worked in the early childhood education field and want additional credentials like a 2- or 4-year degree, you may be eligible for the scholarship. The award is designed to help cover college costs for an academic year - including a summer session - after financial aid from other sources has been received by the applicant.

"The program was created to address the shortage of qualified early childhood educators by encouraging the pursuit of credentials and advancement of already-held degrees in early childhood education, with an aim toward building a strong, well-prepared workforce," according to scholarship announcement on the isac.org.

The application deadline for the upcoming academic year is March 1. For more information and to apply, follow this link: ECACE Scholarship Program.

Memory Monday | Spartan wrestlers suffer home loss to Falcons

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Spartans' Jordan Hartman pins Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Jeremy Smolek during their match on November 27, 2012. Before the Spartans fell in their home match 54-30, Hartman took just 40 seconds to stick Smolek for his first win of the season.


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
St. Joseph-Ogden's David Trewyn fights to stay in a neutral position in his match against Falcon's Dylan Donner during their 126-poound match. Trewyn was later pinned by Donner.


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Matt Knipfer tries to take down GCMS' Austin Dill during their 132-pound match. Dill prevailed with at a third-period pin.


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Going at it hard in their 145-pound match SJO's Gage Haga vs GCMS' Aaron Carter maneuver for position to score points. Carter pinned Haga in the second period for a win.


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Austin Hedrick tosses Falcon's Austin Rosenbaum to the mat during their 160-pound match during the SJO's home opener in 2012. Despite Hedrick's first period pin, St. Joseph-Ogden lost their season opener to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley.


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Spartans' Austin Upton sticks Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Michael Cler during their 170-pound match. Except for the three forfeits, every match ended in a pin for the Falcons or the Spartans. It took Upton just 55-second to earn his first win of the season.


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
Future state champion Wesley Kibler pins GCMS's Jacob Franklin in the first match of his prep wrestling career. Kibler won his 195-pound match in the first period at 1:47.


Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
After the varsity contest, St. Joseph-Ogden's Gunnar Meeker wrestles Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley's Will Donner in a junior varsity match.


Prepare for a healthy pregnancy

Photo: Amr Taha™/Unsplash
Family Features -- If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, now is a perfect time to make a plan. There are steps you can take to increase your chances of having a healthy, full-term pregnancy and baby - and part of that includes learning about birth defects. Understanding birth defects across the lifespan can help those affected have the information they need to seek proper care.

Each year, birth defects affect about 1 in 33 babies born in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mainly developing in the first three months of pregnancy as a baby's organs form, birth defects present as structural changes and can affect one or more parts of the body (heart, brain, foot, etc.). They can cause problems for a baby's overall health, how the body develops and functions, and are a leading cause of infant death.

Common birth defects include congenital heart defects, cleft lip, cleft palate and spina bifida. An individual's genetics, behaviors and social and environmental factors can impact one's risk for birth defects. Even though all birth defects cannot be prevented, there are things you can do before and during pregnancy to increase your chance of having a healthy baby.

"It's critical that women who are planning to conceive or are pregnant adopt healthy behaviors to reduce the chances of having a baby with birth defects, which are a leading cause of infant death," said Dr. Zsakeba Henderson, March of Dimes senior vice president and interim chief medical and health officer. "We also encourage these women to get the COVID-19 vaccine since high fevers caused by an infection during the first trimester can increase the risk of birth defects."

To help prepare for a healthy pregnancy and baby, consider these tips from the experts at March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit fighting for the health of all moms and babies, and the CDC:

1. Have a pre-pregnancy checkup. Before you become pregnant, visit your health care provider to talk about managing your health conditions and creating a treatment plan. Talk about all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and supplements you're currently taking. You should see your provider before each pregnancy.

2. Get vaccinated. Speak with your health care provider about any vaccinations you may need before each pregnancy, including the COVID-19 vaccine and booster, and flu shot. Make sure your family members are also up to date on their vaccinations to help prevent the spread of diseases.

Pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 compared to those who have not been impacted by the infectious disease. Research shows babies of pregnant people with COVID-19 may be at an increased risk of preterm birth and other complications. High fevers caused by any infection during the first trimester of pregnancy can also increase the risk of certain birth defects. The COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people ages 5 and older, including those who are pregnant, lactating, trying to become pregnant or might get pregnant.

3. Take folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that prevents serious birth defects of the brain and spine. Before becoming pregnant, take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to help ensure your baby's proper development and growth. While pregnant, increase to 600 micrograms daily.

Add to your diet foods containing folate, the natural form of folic acid, such as lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans and orange juice. In addition, you can consume foods made from fortified grain products, which have folic acid added, such as bread, pasta and cereal, and foods made from fortified corn masa flour, such as cornbread, corn tortillas, tacos and tamales.

4. Try to reach a healthy weight. Talk to your health care provider about how to reach a healthy weight before becoming pregnant, as excess weight can affect your fertility and increase the risk of birth defects and other complications. Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes eating healthy foods and regular physical activity.

5. Don't smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful substances. Cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain harmful substances that can damage the placenta or reach the baby's bloodstream. Smoking cigarettes can cause certain birth defects, like cleft lip and palate.

It is also not safe to drink alcohol at any time during pregnancy. This includes the first few weeks of pregnancy when you might not even know you are pregnant. Drinking alcohol can cause serious health problems for your baby, including birth defects. Additionally, do not take opioids, which are drugs that are often used to treat pain. Opioid use during pregnancy can lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome, preterm birth and may cause birth defects. Consult your physician before stopping or changing any prescribed medications.

Find more resources to support your family across the lifespan at marchofdimes.org/birthdefects and cdc.gov/birthdefects.

Understanding Common Birth Defects

Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects in a baby's lip and mouth that can be repaired by surgery. Additional surgery, special dental care and speech therapy may be needed as the child gets older.

Clubfoot is a birth defect of the foot where a baby's foot turns inward, so the bottom of the foot faces sideways or up. Clubfoot doesn't improve without treatment, such as pointing, stretching, casting the foot or using braces. With early treatment, most children with clubfoot can walk, run and play without pain.

Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are heart conditions babies are born with. They can affect how the heart looks, how it works or both. CHDs are the most common types of birth defects. Babies with critical CHDs, which can cause serious health problems or death, need surgery or other treatment within the first year of life.

Hearing loss is a common birth defect that can happen when any part of the ear isn't working in the usual way and may affect a baby's ability to develop speech, language and social skills. Some babies with hearing loss may need hearing aids, medicine, surgery or speech therapy.

Families are not happy with states requiring Covid tests for nursing home visits

This is a huge inconvenience, but what’s most upsetting is that no one seems to have any kind of long-term plan for families and residents

As covid-19 cases rise again in nursing homes, a few states have begun requiring visitors to present proof that they’re not infected before entering facilities, stoking frustration and dismay among family members.

Officials in California, New York, and Rhode Island say new covid testing requirements are necessary to protect residents — an enormously vulnerable population — from exposure to the highly contagious omicron variant. But many family members say they can’t secure tests amid enormous demand and scarce supplies, leaving them unable to see loved ones. And being shut out of facilities feels unbearable, like a nightmare recurring without end.

Photo: Avelino Calvar Martinez/Burst

Severe staff shortages are complicating the effort to ensure safety while keeping facilities open; these shortages also jeopardize care at long-term care facilities — a concern of many family members.

Andrea DuBrow’s 75-year-old mother, who has severe Alzheimer’s disease, has lived for almost four years in a nursing home in Danville, California. When DuBrow wasn’t able to see her for months earlier in the pandemic, she said, her mother forgot who she was.

"This latest restriction is essentially another lockdown," DuBrow said at a meeting last week about California’s new regulations. "The time that my mom has left when she can recognize in some small locked-away part of her that it is me, her daughter, cleaning her, feeding her, holding her hand, singing her favorite songs — that time is being stolen from us."

"This is a huge inconvenience, but what’s most upsetting is that no one seems to have any kind of long-term plan for families and residents," said Ozzie Rohm, whose 94-year-old father lives in a San Francisco nursing home.

Why are family members subject to testing requirements that aren’t applied to staffers, Rohm wondered. If family members are vaccinated and boosted, wear good masks, stay in a resident’s room, and practice rigorous hand hygiene, do they pose more of a risk than staffers who follow these procedures?

California was the first state to announce new policies for visitors to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities on Dec. 31. Those took effect on Jan. 7 and remain in place for at least 30 days. To see a resident, a person must show evidence of a negative covid rapid test taken within 24 hours or a PCR test taken within 48 hours. Also, covid vaccinations are required.

In a statement announcing the new policy, the California Department of Public Health cited "the greater transmissibility" of the omicron variant and the need to "protect the particularly vulnerable populations in long-term care settings." Throughout the pandemic, nursing home residents have suffered disproportionately high rates of illness and death.

New York followed California with a Jan. 7 announcement that nursing home visitors would need to show proof of a negative rapid test taken no more than a day before. And on Jan. 10, Rhode Island announced a new rule requiring proof of vaccination or a negative covid test.

Patient advocates are worried other states might adopt similar measures. "We are concerned that Omicron will be used as an excuse to shut down visitation again," said Sam Brooks, program and policy manager for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, an advocacy group for people living in these facilities.

"We do not want to go back to the past two years of lockdowns in nursing homes and resident isolation and neglect," he continued.

That’s also a priority for the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which has emphasized since Nov. 12 residents’ right to receive visitors without restriction as long as safety protocols are followed. Nursing homes could encourage but not require visitors to take tests in advance or provide proof of covid vaccination, guidance from CMS explained. Safety protocols included wearing masks, rigorous hand hygiene, and maintaining adequate physical distance from other residents.

With the rise of omicron, however, facilities pushed back. On Dec. 17, an organization representing nursing home medical directors and two national long-term care associations sent a letter to CMS’ administrator asking for more flexibility to "protect resident safety" and "place temporary visitation restrictions in nursing homes." On Jan. 6, CMS affirmed residents’ right to visitation but said states could "take additional measures to make visitation safer."

Asked for comment about the states’ recent actions, the federal agency said in a statement to KHN that "a state may require nursing homes to test visitors as long as the facility provides the rapid antigen tests, and there are enough testing supplies. … However, if there are not enough rapid testing supplies, the visits must be allowed to occur without a test (while still adhering to other practices, such as masking and physical distancing)."

Some relief from test shortages may be at hand under the Biden administration’s new plan to distribute four free tests per household. But for family members who visit nursing home residents several times a week, that supply won’t go very far.

Since the start of the year, tension over the balance between safety and residents’ rights to visitation has intensified. In the week ended Jan. 9, 57,243 nursing home staffers reported covid infections, almost 10 times as many as three weeks before. During the same period, resident infections rose to 32,061, almost eight times as many as three weeks earlier.

But outbreaks are occurring against a different backdrop today. More than 87% of nursing home residents have been fully vaccinated, according to CMS, and 63% have also received boosters, reducing the risk that covid poses. Also, nursing homes have gained experience handling outbreaks. And the toll of nursing home lockdowns — loneliness, despair, neglect, and physical deterioration — is now far better understood.

"We have all seen the negative effects of restricting visitation on residents’ health and well-being," said Joseph Gaugler, a professor who studies long-term care at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. "For nursing homes to go back into a bunker mentality and shut everything down, that’s not a solution."

Amid egregious staffing shortages, "we need people in these buildings who can take care of residents, and often those are visitors who are basically functioning as unpaid certified nursing assistants: grooming and toileting residents, turning and repositioning them, feeding them, stretching, and exercising them," said Tony Chicotel, a staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

Nearly 420,000 staffers have left nursing homes since February 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, worsening existing shortages.

When DuBrow learned of California’s new testing requirement for visitors, she arranged to get a PCR test at a testing site on Jan. 6, expecting results within 48 hours. Instead, she waited 104 hours before getting a response. (Her test was negative.) Eager to visit her mother, DuBrow called every CVS, Walgreens, and Target in a 25-mile radius of her home asking for a test but came up empty.

In a statement, the California Department of Public Health said the state had established 6,288 covid testing sites and sent millions of at-home tests to counties and local jurisdictions.

Photo: John Cameron/Unsplash

In New York, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has pledged to deliver nearly 1 million covid tests to nursing homes, where visitors can take them on the spot, but that presents its own problems. "We don’t want to test visitors who are lining up at the door. We don’t have the clinical staff to do that, and we need to focus all our staff on the care of residents," said Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, an industry organization.

With current staff shortages, trying to ensure that visitors are wearing masks, physical distancing, and adhering to infection control practices is "taxing on the staff," said Janine Finck-Boyle, vice president of regulatory affairs at Leading Age, which represents not-for-profit long-term care providers.

"Really, the challenges are enormous," said Gaugler, of the University of Minnesota, "and I wish there were easy answers."


Subscribe to KHN's free Morning Briefing.

5 Easy Ways to Enhance Digestive Health

Photo:Angele J/Pexels

Family Features -- As your social schedule picks up steam and you attend more social gatherings and celebrations, you may find yourself with an unexpected issue: digestive troubles. Problems like this can have a negative impact on your overall wellness, so it's important to make healthy digestion a priority.

According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of how to live long and be healthy, the health of the digestive system is the core of optimum health. Ayurvedic medicine asserts the digestive system is based on the strength and balance of its Agni (fire), which enables the body to absorb, digest and assimilate food. The teachings suggest an imbalanced Agni creates undigested residues, which form toxins that create imbalances and can lead to disease.

Some of the dietary guidelines for healthy digestion and strong Agni include:

  • Allowing 4-6 hours between meals
  • Avoiding eating between meals
  • Avoiding foods with cold, wet and heavy qualities
  • Drinking ginger tea or hot water to stimulate the Agni
  • Starting a meal with pungent (hot), sour and salty flavors
  • Consuming a small amount of bitter taste before a meal to increase the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach

Take steps to protect and nurture your digestive health with these tips:

Add Fiber to Your Diet Plant-based foods that are high in fiber fill you up faster, so you're less likely to overeat, and they also help with digestive regularity. Increase your intake of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Take a gradual approach to avoid upsetting your digestive tract and bump up your water intake as you go since fiber will absorb it and decrease the likelihood you experience gas or cramping.

Stay Hydrated Keeping your body well hydrated is like making sure your car's engine is well lubricated. It keeps all your moving parts in sync and operating for top performance. Some fluids can also help with detoxification, which can be especially beneficial when your social calendar is full and your opportunities to overindulge are greater.

An option like Buddha Teas' Detox Dharma contains detoxifying herbs that stimulate your digestive system. Strengthening and soothing herbs are also incorporated into this balanced formula resulting in an effective yet gentle detox tea. For another solution, Turmeric Ginger Tea contains enough black pepper to make curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) bio-available in hot water, helping build healthy Agni.

Eat Slower In today's busy world, it's easy to scarf down a meal in record time. However, slowing down gives your body more time to process food. You'll give your brain more time to communicate with your stomach and be more aware of when you've satisfied your hunger.

Start Exercising If you need one more reason to get moving, your digestive health could be it. Regular physical activity promotes better digestion. However, if you jump into a workout too quickly after eating, you could actually do the opposite. Eat light before exercising then have a protein-rich balanced meal for recovery afterward.

Manage Stress Too much stress can manifest multiple physical problems, including interrupting your digestion. Try mindful meditation or another method of relaxing and relieving stress. Getting plenty of rest can also help keep stress in check. If you're looking for a good night of sleep, consider Buddha Teas' CBD Sleepy Buddha Blend. Herbs for calming and relieving stress are paired with organic, water-soluble, THC-free CBD to leave you feeling restored and rejuvenated.

Find more solutions for enhancing your digestive health at buddhateas.com.

Online platform helps indies and gig workers take control of key aspects of their venture

NewsUSA -- Even before the COVID-19 pandemic swelled, the ranks of work-from-home employees, freelancing was on the rise as workers across a range of fields sought more flexibility and control over their work lives, enabled by the latest advances in technology. In 2020, there were 59 million people doing freelance work in the United States. This is an increase from 2014, when there were about 53 million people freelancing according to Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data.

The demonstrated success of working remotely means that independent workers will be key to the future of work, even as many people return to in-person office settings.

To thrive both professionally and personally, independent workers need support and tools to promote their skills and manage their business.

New app helps independent workers and freelancers stay organized and in contact with clients.
Photo: Yan Krukov/Pexels

An online platform known as Indy provides these features and more. Indy offers a complete productivity suite that helps independent workers take the management of their businesses to the next level, with tools and guidance for creating contracts, generating invoices, and everything in between. Additionally, their blog, The Independent Worker, is focused on addressing topics of interest to freelancers, ranging from business development to managing burnout.

"We proudly empower today's 'Indies' - including solopreneurs, freelancers, consultants, contractors, microbusinesses and side hustlers - to streamline the most time-consuming parts of operating their businesses. We help them work smarter, get paid faster, and thrive," says Sebastian Gyr, CEO and co-founder of Indy.

The Indy app offers freelancers a suite of tools designed to help them own three key aspects of their business: :

  • Marketing. Indy provides templates for proposals, project briefs, and profiles to help you organize your pitches, and showcase your unique skills.
  • Organization. Time tracker and task management tools help you keep everything organized, and Indy also offers a chat feature that freelancers can use for quick communication with clients.
  • Business management. Templates for legally-binding contracts and non-disclosure agreements take a lot of the effort and stress out of contract creation, so you can get right to work and invoicing tools will let you quickly and easily send highly professional invoices to the client directly to be paid either electronically or the old-fashioned way - via a check in the mail.

Indy takes pride in empowering an inclusive and diverse community of freelancers, including the LGBTQ community, Black Americans, BIPOC, and workers with disabilities, who are often underserved in the workplace despite the recent rise in equity initiatives. Leaning into these tenets, Indy recently launched a new, digital series called 'Miss Independent' featuring a Black drag queen who offers short videos commenting on freelancing and the freelancing life.

"We're spotlighting what's currently missing for today's virtual workforce and are boldly embracing the opportunity to drive conversations and narratives around equitable pay, diversity, and inclusion, by enabling the success of all workers, especially those from underserved communities," according to the company.

"We celebrate the uniqueness of those human beings that we serve by providing the products, services, space, and the megaphone for them to be their authentic selves, shine, and thrive."

Visit weareindy.com for more information and to create an account for free.

Guest Commentary: Can you imagine what it would be like if American truckers went strike?

by Glenn Mollette, Guest Commentator


Grocery store shelves are not like they used to be. Before the pandemic there was plenty of whatever we typically wanted. It’s not like that today.

Car dealerships have changed. Before the pandemic most dealers had plenty of new and used cars to sell. We were accustomed to browsing several lots as we shopped and compared models and prices. It’s not like that today.

When you needed your car fixed, parts were readily available or just an overnight order away. Today, you might wait three or four months for a part.

I recently looked into adding an additional heating unit to my house and was told, "Order it now and you might have it by summer."

A friend of mine ordered a small boat last August with the hopes he will have it by May or June this year, maybe.

The pandemic has changed our lives in more ways than sickness and death. The new normal is having to wait longer on what used to be so available.

If you think America’s products, food and merchandise are difficult to get now, then can you imagine if our American truckers all went on strike?

Canadian truckers have recently blocked the flow of goods into the United States. The protest follows rallies over opposition to COVID-19 mandates in cities across Canada. In a show of solidarity with a demonstration in Ottawa that has gone on for more than a week by the so-called Freedom Truck Convoy. The protests have paralyzed the Canadian capital’s business district and led the mayor to call for 2,000 extra police officers to quell the nightly demonstrations.

Several people involved in the protest Tuesday in Canada said the demonstrations had expanded from its original purpose, opposing mandates for cross-border truck drivers, and were there in opposition to all vaccine mandates, in addition to supporting truck drivers, the Windsor Star reported.

"Any delay or disruption in the supply chain creates problems, not just for agriculture but the state economy," said Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, which represents businesses that support farmers, early in the closure.

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, which represents the Detroit Three automakers, called for an end to the protest, citing its effect on the country’s economy. (NNY.360.com)

If the American truckers stopped driving today, the grocery stores would dry up and the movement of most everything you would want or need would not be available.

Truckers work hard. They have long hours. They sacrifice a lot by being gone so many hours, days and weeks. They deserve whatever they are paid and I’m sure in many cases are deserving of more. However, to our truckers, I have this request, please help us keep this country moving. We have enough problems in this country. A shut-down of any kind by America’s truckers would create severe hardship on the people everywhere in America.

We respect you. We appreciate you. We need you to keep this country moving. Furthermore, God bless you for what you do.


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Dr. Glenn Mollette is a syndicated American columnist and author of Grandpa's Store, American Issues, and ten other books. He is read in all 50 states. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily representative of any other group or organization.

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This article is the sole opinions of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Sentinel. We welcome comments and views from our readers. Submit your letters to the editor or commentary on a current event 24/7 to editor@oursentinel.com.


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Radon is common in most homes and easy to fix

StatePoint -- Radon is present at high levels in a surprisingly large number of American homes, schools and other buildings. While this naturally-occurring gas is odorless, tasteless and colorless, it’s far from harmless. Experts are raising awareness about the serious health risks associated with radon exposure and what you can do about it.

"Elevated radon in homes is more common than you may think. In fact, at least one in 15 American homes have elevated levels of radon, and this is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States," says Albert Rizzo, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. "The good news is that it is easy to test for radon. Do-it-yourself test kits are simple to use and inexpensive."

In an effort to eliminate this preventable lung cancer risk factor, protect all communities and buildings, and save lives, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with strategic partners like the American Lung Association, have launched a new five-year National Radon Action Plan. The campaign is sharing five important things to know about radon:

1. Radon exposure is life-threatening. Radon-related lung cancers are responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths annually in the United States.

2. Smoking and radon exposure can separately increase the risk of lung cancer. If you smoke, exposure to both tobacco and radon enhances the risk of lung cancer even further.

3. The only way to detect radon in your home is to test the air. The EPA urges anyone with radon levels above 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) to take action to fix their homes. Both the EPA and the American Lung Association recommend that mitigation be considered if levels are greater than 2 pCi/L. After high levels are detected and confirmed, a radon mitigation system should be installed by a radon professional.

4. Radon testing should always be done when you buy a home and after building a new home. Many states now require radon results (if known) to be disclosed during a real estate transaction. Some states require testing in priority buildings like schools and daycares.

5. When high levels of radon are detected, professional radon mitigation should be a priority. Do‑it‑yourself radon mitigation is typically not an effective long-term solution. Some state health departments offer financial assistance or low interest loans for radon mitigation.

Learn more about radon testing and mitigation at Lung.org/Radon.

While elevated radon is common, it is a problem that is easy to address. By finding, fixing and preventing high indoor radon levels, its health impacts are preventable.

Breaking ~ Illinois to go maskless on Feb. 28

CHICAGO -- With the spread of the Coronavirus and hospitalizations numbers going downward, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced today the state's indoor mask mandate will come to an end at the end of this month.

"If these trends continue, and we expect them to, then on Monday, February 28, we will lift the indoor mask requirements for the State of Illinois," Pritzker said at his 2pm press conference in Chicago. Currently, Illinois is one of nine states that still required masks inside public places.

After the 28th, masking will then be optional in grocery stores, bars and restaurants, public buildings, and non-scholastic sporting events - vaccinated or not.

There will be some indoor areas and venues where masks will still be required until further notice.

  • Schools.
  • Day cares.
  • Health care facilities.
  • Congregate care facilities.
  • Public transportation, including buses, trains and airplanes.
  • Federal buildings in areas of high of substantial risk of transmission.
  • Long-term care facilities when in communal areas.
  • In businesses that privately require mask use.
  • When in municipalities, like cities or counties, that have mask mandates.
  • Local business and places of employment

As far as metrics to end the current mask mandate that started August 30 last year, the governor announced those earlier during the day in Champaign.

"My intention is as we've seen these numbers peak at about 7,400 hospitalizations, and heading downward significantly — we're now I think under 2,500 hospitalizations, so that's almost a third of where we were at the peak and heading even further downward — to lift the mask mandate in the indoor locations by February 28," he said at morningn news conference in the downstate college town.

Gov. Pritzker also said businesses and private organizations can enforce their own indoor mitigations, which includes wearing masks.

"I want to be clear, many local jurisdictions, many business and organizations have their own mask requirements and other mitigations that must be respected. Having stricter mitigations than the state requirements is something that must be adhere to. Doing what is right for your private business or for your local communities is encouraged.

"The lifting of the state's mask mandate should not invite people not wearing mask disuade those who chose to wear masks."

Wayback Wednesday: Rockets topple Comets to advance to 3A title game

Unity linemen Logan Sehie and Tyler Crowl point the way toward Memorial Stadium in Champaign where the Rockets will be playing on November 23. The Rockets defeated the Comets at home 56-21 advancing to the Class 3A championship game. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Rockets' Mitch Negangard runs through the game banner before the start of Unity's playoff game against the Greenville Comets on November 17, 2012. The 6'-1", 205-lb hard-hitting senior led the team during the season with 59 tackles heading into the title game.

Photo: PhotoNews Media


Greenville's Cameron Walker finds running room through the Unity defense in the first quarter of their semifinal playoff game.

Photo: PhotoNews Media


 

Left: Rockets' Micah Johnson tries to pull away from a Greenville tackler during second-quarter action. Johnson, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry, scored 14 TDs heading into the title game. Right: Unity's Mitch Negangard heads into the Greenville secondary during a second-quarter play. After the game, Negangard's season statistics boasted an impressive 947 yards on 94 carries with 12 touchdowns. Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

After weaving his way past Greenville's Kerry Patrich and Dalton Kuhn, Unity's Justin Deters finds plenty of open grass through the Comets' defense in the second quarter. After his team's 13th game of the seaon and 183 carries, Deter's had amassed 1,272 rushing yards for the Rockets.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Mitch Negangard dives into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter. Negangard scored twice as the Rockets during the 2012 semifinal.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Unity defense end Jared Abrahamson blows by Brett Mueller while playing defense in the first half.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Unity head coach Scott Hamilton gets his team's postgame victory celebration going after beating Greenville at Hicks Field. The Rockets played their final game of the season just 11 miles to the north at Memoral Stadium against Aurora Christian for the Class 3A title.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


2012 Season Schedule

Date Opponent W/L Own Opp
*8/24 Macon (Meridian)    W    59     6
*8/31 Maroa (M.-Forsyth)    W     7     6
*9/7 Moweaqua (Central A & M)    L    41    47
*9/14 Argenta (A.-Oreana)    W    29    26
*9/21 Sullivan [S.-Okaw Valley Coop]    W    49    20
*9/28 Decatur (St. Teresa)    W    49    21
*10/5 Monticello    W    18    14
*10/12 Clinton    W    47    28
*10/19 Shelbyville    W    50    12
*10/27 Pana (H.S.)    W    46     8
*11/3 Pleasant Plains    W    22     7
*11/10 Williamsville    W    10     7
*11/17 Greenville    W    56    21
*11/23 Aurora Christian    L    12    42


To view more photos from this game, please follow this link to place a request to see additional photos in the PhotoNews Media Archives.

Prep Sports Notebook: SJO, Rockets add another win to their record.


Unity bounces back

With 16 points to her credit, Taylor Henry dropped points in all four quarters of the Rockets home game against Monticello on Monday. The senior was also credited with six rebounds as Unity picked up the conference win, 37-34.

Raegen Stringer delivered three assists and racked up four steals as the team's second-leading scorer with eight points.

Producing just a single free throw, Katey Moore led the Rockets' rebounding effort with seven boards to break a three-game skid.


Mboyo-Meta leads Tigers' scoring effort

Gabrielle Mboyo-Meta scored 11 points in Urbana's 64-29 loss at home to Champaign Central. The junior was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.

Destiny Barber had 8 points and Jasmine McCollough scored seven in the Big 12 Conference loss rounding out the top three scorers for the Tigers.


Spartans notch 20th win

It didn't take long for first-year St. Joseph-Ogden head coach Drew Artega to notch his first 20-win season. The Spartan girls basketball team ended the conference season with a 50-28 win at home over Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

Draining four treys for SJO, Peyton Jones turned in a 16-point game-high performance on Monday. Addison Frick, who was 2-for-3 from the charity stripe, also finished in double-digits with 10 points. Senior Ella Armstrong chipped in another six.

Lorena Arnett spearheaded the Panthers' scoring effort with 8 points. The senior converted on all four trips to the free-throw line.


SJO boys win road game

The St. Joseph-Ogden boys basketball team still have their magic touch. The Spartans toppling Bloomington Central Catholic on the road 73-61 to earn their 19th victory of the season.

Study suggests young marijuana smokers may be at greater risk of recurrent stroke

Photo courtesy American Heart Assoc.


NEW ORLEANS -- Among younger adults who had a previous stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA) and were later hospitalized for any cause, recurrent stroke was far more likely among patients with cannabis use disorder, according to preliminary research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2022, a world premier meeting for researchers and clinicians dedicated to the science of stroke and brain health to be held in person in New Orleans, and virtually, Feb. 8-11, 2022.

Cannabis use disorder is defined as dependent use of cannabis despite having a psychological, physical and social functioning impairment. According to the American Heart Association, stroke rates are increasing in adults between ages 18 and 45, and each year young adults account for up to 15% of strokes in the United States.

"Since marijuana use is more common among younger people and is now legal in several U.S. states, we felt it was crucial to study the various risks it may impose," said Akhil Jain, M.D., lead author of the study and a resident physician at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania. "First-time stroke risk among  cannabis users is already established, so it intrigued us to investigate whether continued marijuana dependence also predisposes younger people to develop further strokes."

The researchers examined health information from the National Inpatient Sample, a large, publicly available database that compiles data on more than 7 million hospital stays annually across the U.S. For this study, the sample included 161,390 adults between 18-44 years of age who had been hospitalized for any reason between October 2015 and 2017, and whose health records indicated a previous stroke (either clot-caused or bleeding stroke) or TIA.

Using hospital diagnosis codes, researchers identified patients within the sample who met the criteria for cannabis use disorder, excluding those with charts indicating their cannabis dependence was in remission. This divided the sample into 4,690 patients who had been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder and 156,700 who had not. The median age for both groups was 37 years.

The study found that when compared with patients without cannabis use disorder, patients with the condition were:

  • More likely to be male (55.2% vs. 40.9%), Black adults (44.6% vs. 37.2%), or to smoke tobacco (73.9% vs. 39.6%).
  • More likely to be diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (21.5% vs. 19.0%), depression (20.4% vs. 16.1%) or psychosis (11.2% vs. 7.5%).
  • Significantly more likely to abuse alcohol (16.5% vs. 3.6%).
  • Less likely to have high blood pressure (53.1% vs. 55.6%), diabetes (16.3% vs. 22.7%), high cholesterol (21.6% vs. 24.1%) or obesity (12.0% vs. 19.6%).

Compared to current hospitalizations, the analysis found:

  • Among adults with cannabis use disorder, 6.9% were hospitalized for a recurrent stroke, compared to only 5.4% hospitalized without the disorder.
  • After adjusting for demographic factors and relevant pre-existing medical conditions (age at admission, sex, race, payer status, median household income, type of admission, hospital bed-size, region, location/teaching status and other medical conditions including traditional cardiovascular risk factors), patients with cannabis use disorder were 48% more likely to have been hospitalized for recurrent stroke than those without the disorder.
  • Cannabis use disorder was most prominent among males, young Black or white adults and those who lived in low-income neighborhoods or in the northeast and southern regions of the U.S. 

"Young marijuana users who have a history of stroke or TIA remain at significantly higher risk of future stroke. Therefore, it is essential to increase awareness among younger adults of the adverse impact of chronic, habitual use of marijuana, especially if they have established cardiovascular disease risk factors or previous stroke episodes," Jain said.

Possible mechanisms that have emerged from other research on cannabis use disorder include impairment of blood vessel function, changes in blood supply, an increased tendency towards blood-clotting, impaired energy production in brain cells, and an imbalance between molecules that harm healthy tissue and the antioxidant defenses that neutralize them.

Results from this study may not be generalizable to older adults (ages greater than 44), who are more likely to have a greater number of chronic health conditions and cardiovascular risk factors. The study is also limited in that all data was collected at a single point in time, rather than following participants over time. In addition, while the hospital coding identified cannabis use disorder, the data did not include information on the exact amount and duration of cannabis use or medications used.

"Our study is hypothesis-generating research for future prospective and randomized controlled studies. More research work is required to look deeply into this concerning clinical question. Most importantly, the impact of various doses, duration, forms of cannabis abuse, and the use of medicinal cannabis on the occurrence of recurrent strokes are critical questions that need to be answered," Jain said.

According to an August 2020 scientific statement from the American Heart Association, preliminary studies have found that cannabis use may negatively impact the heart and blood vessels. Although cannabis may be helpful for conditions such as spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, among others, cannabis does not appear to have any well-documented benefits for the prevention or treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

Co-authors of the study include: Rupak Desai, M.B.B.S.; Terry Ricardo Went, M.B.B.S.; Waleed Sultan, M.B.B.Ch.; Dwayne Wiltshire, M.B.B.S.; Geethu Jnaneswaran, M.B.B.S.; Athul Raj Raju, M.B.B.S.; Roshna Asifali; Aamer Mohammad, M.B.B.S.; and Bisharah Rizvi, M.D.

SJO FFA to host auction fundraiser this Saturday

The annual St. Joseph-Ogden FFA Auction will be held Saturday at the high school. The event is open to the community.

Dinner and the silent auction will begin at 5 pm, with the live auction starting an hour later at 6 pm. In addition to the regular bidding, there will be a special auction for young bidders at this year's event.

Items that will be up for bid include discounts on corn or soybean seeds, tools, sporting event tickets, gift cards to local retailers, and a variety of other services.

Some of the services up for bid include a one-hour photo session with Emilee Sorenson Photography, three hours of babysitting and farm labor services by FFA members, on-site combine inspection from Birkey's Farm Store, and lawn mower repair and maintenance service from Matt Sharp.

Attendees can also bid on arc welders, impact drivers, grease gun kits, a battery-powered weed trimmer, and a 5lb ABC fire extinguisher, along with a safety escape ladder. A list of items in this year's sale can be found here.

Other items under the hammer include a solo stove firepit and two GCI rocker chairs from Gifford State Bank; a furnace clean and safety inspection or A/C check from Kelso Heating & Cooling; a truckload of firewood from Keith Ames; a private tour and tasting for ten at Riggs Beer Company; 50 pounds of ground hamburger from Aden Family Farms; and a 40-pound beef bundle from Hesterberg Beef.

All funds are earmarked for the agricultural education program and will be used by the school chapter. Proceeds from the sale are also slated for chapter scholarships, preparation, and competitions.

Recipe: Irresistible Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib
Photo provided
Family Features -- Avoid dinner reservations and unseasonably cold temperatures this Valentine's Day with a delicious, romantic date-night dining that doesn't take you any further than your own kitchen. You don't have to be an accomplished chef to set the table for a memorable romantic dinner at home. You can take inspiration from simple, quality Italian dishes anytime to celebrate the link between food and love.

As with this and two other of our favorite recipes show, a romantic meal can be ready in minutes or, like a great love story, simmered to perfection. To plan the ultimate date night at home, start by choosing one of these dreamy main dishes made with a mouthwatering sauce. Whether you make the Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu featured below, or the Italian Sausage, Spinach & Tomato Rigatoni, or the Creamy Italian Garlic Chicken, your romantic candlelit dinner will be one fondly remembered for years to come.

Flavorful sauces make a great Italian meal, but the sauce doesn't need to be made from scratch (at least, not completely). For example, Bertolli d'Italia sauces are made in Italy for authentically delicious flavor. They are crafted with tomatoes vine-ripened under the Italian sun, finely aged Italian cheeses, fresh cream, and Mediterranean olive oil. The result is a sauce that's perfect for your date-night meal.

Once you select your main course, prepare a simple salad of greens with a drizzle of Italian vinaigrette or Caesar dressing.

There is nothing better than a loaf of bakery-fresh Italian or focaccia bread warmed in the oven served with butter or olive oil for dipping. If you're so inclined, cap off the meal with a classic Italian dessert from your local bakery, like tiramisu, cannoli, or a creamy panna cotta topped with fresh fruit.


Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib Ragu

Prep time: 25 minutes / Cook time: 3 hours
2 tablespoons olive oil

4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs

salt, to taste

ground black pepper, to taste

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 small onion, chopped

8 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh sage leaves, chopped

8 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 jar Bertolli d'Italia Marinara Sauce

2 cups beef bone broth

water

24 ounces pappardelle pasta or preferred pasta

freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 F.

In 5-quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Season short ribs with salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Place one layer of short ribs in pot. Set remaining ribs aside.

Cook ribs 3-4 minutes per side until browned. Transfer to plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining short ribs.

Add celery, carrots and onion to pot used to brown ribs. Stir and cook until vegetables are browned, about 15 minutes.

Add garlic and stir 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste. Cook 2-3 minutes.

Carefully pour red wine into pot.

Stir and scrape any browned bits from bottom of pot. Cook 3-4 minutes until wine is almost completely absorbed into vegetables.

Add rosemary, sage, thyme and bay leaves to pot. Add sauce, bone broth and browned ribs. Cover pot and place in oven 2 1/2-3 hours, or until ribs are fall-apart tender.

Remove pot from oven. Transfer ribs to plate or cutting board. Remove and discard herb stems and bay leaves. Remove bones from ribs then shred meat into bite-sized pieces using two forks or tongs. Return shredded ribs to pot with ragu. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Bring large stockpot of water to boil. Boil pappardelle pasta until al dente. Add drained pasta to pot with beef ragu and toss until combined.

Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Find more romantic dishes perfect for sharing at Bertolli.com.

Memory Monday | SJO baseball team falls to Chargers

Spartan pitcher Cody Bohlen
St. Joseph-Ogden's Cody Bohlen winds up to unload a pitch in the Spartans' away game against Champaign Centennial on March 31, 2010. The Chargers won the non-conference game, 5-3.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


SJO catcher Jared Orcutt

St. Joseph-Ogden catcher Jared Orcutt gets in front of a bad pitch pitch during the game.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


Blake Hoveln plays second base

Shortstop Blake Hoveln makes a catch on second base in a pick-off attempt on Centennial baserunner Drew Alves.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


Spartans' Luke Gones throws out a runner

SJO'a Lucas Gones makes a throw from the mound to throw out a baserunner. The right-hander entered the game to relieve Bohlen.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


Andy Bensyl puts the ball in play for St. Joseph-Ogden. The loss to the Chargers was one 17 during the 200-2010 season. The Spartans won 13 games in what has been the last sub .500 season for the SJO program.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks


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Northern Ireland agency could be a model for US juvenile-justice system

    by Jonah Chester, Illinois News Connection


As lawmakers in Illinois and across the nation consider reforms to the nation's juvenile-justice system, one country across the Atlantic could serve as a model.

Northern Ireland's Youth Justice Agency places an emphasis on early diversion, community involvement and restorative justice.

Kelvin Doherty, assistant director of the Agency, said the goal is to keep kids out of police custody and prevent them from building a criminal record.

"Let's address these concerns and these issues before the police are called, and before they get into a court setting," Doherty urged.

Doherty pointed out the restorative-justice process can take one of several paths: including a simple apology, community service or mental-health treatment. According to data from the Youth Justice Agency, more than 97% of victims said they are satisfied with the restorative-justice process.

The Youth Justice Agency was established in 2002, and was born out of the Good Friday Agreement. Doherty explained the program was part of a multipronged effort to modernize Northern Ireland's justice system.

"And the modernization process said, well, for a new justice system in Northern Ireland, it has to be not just about children and reducing reoffending," Doherty explained. "But it also has to be for victims and for communities as well."

From April 2020 to April 2021, Northern Ireland's Justice Department saw a nearly 17% decline in cases where kids came into contact with the criminal-justice system.

Doherty noted early diversion and support programs, typically used when the child is between 10 and 12 years old, can help prevent kids from coming into contact with the criminal-justice system down the line.

"Problems can be resolved in the child's life before they get worse," Doherty asserted. "And it has a better outcome for agencies and service providers, because it often involves less effort and more success, the earlier you are intervening or diverting children within the justice system."

According to the Children's Defense Fund, nearly 2,000 children are arrested in America every day. While the organization noted the overall number of kids in the juvenile-justice system was halved from 2007 to 2020, severe racial disparities persist, as children of color are nearly two times more likely to be arrested than white children.

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