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Virginia Awards Transitioning Veterans Workforce Program

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 17:45

RICHMOND, VA. — Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the recipients of the 2017 Governor’s Public Service Awards during a ceremony last week in conjunction with Virginia Public Service Week. The awards honor state employees who have demonstrated exemplary service to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and this year’s awards recognize a transitioning veterans workfroce program launched late last year.

They represent the dedicated time and effort our excellent state workforce spends providing the services that are the backbone of state government. These awards demonstrate the commitment of our workforce and their excellence in customer service, innovation, teamwork and volunteerism,” said Governor McAuliffe.

The awards recognize state employee achievements in several categories and honored a Department of Veterans team for their efforts in creating the the Military Medics & Corpsmen (MMAC) transitioning veterans program, which requires partnering with healthcare systems to retrain and hire skilled veterans.

Teamwork Award Announcement:

“Launched last July, this three-person team of Mark Whiting, Beverly Van Tull and Philip Trezza embodies the spirit of teamwork, collaboration, leadership and engagement by changing the way healthcare systems hire veterans in Virginia. The MMAC program is the first and only state program of its kind in the nation to partner with major healthcare systems in Virginia, working closely with six partner healthcare systems and multiple state agencies. In 2015, the Governor and general assembly recognized the need for a pathway to employment and education for recently discharged veterans and transitioning service members who served as medics or corpsmen and wanted to stay in the healthcare field.

The MMAC team has made a significant contribution toward the Governor’s goals of creating long-term, high-paying jobs for veterans, reducing staff shortages in healthcare and keeping veterans and transitioning service members in Virginia. Since December 2016, eight MMAC applicants have already been hired. The program has received 45 applications, with 36 in the screening and hiring process and dozens of veterans who did not qualify for MMAC have received assistance to find employment in Virginia. In addition, MMAC staff built the infrastructure for the program, including the screening and referral systems, online application and the marketing plan.”

Read the full announcement on the Governor’s website.

Learn more about Virginia’s MMAC transitioning veterans program on the state’s website.

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How Animal Therapy Can Treat Substance Abuse Disorder

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 17:00

According to partners of Foundations Recovery Network, pet or animal therapy for treating mental health disorders in substance abusers may make avoiding relapse a lot easier for sufferers of both, or substance abusers with mental symptoms of depression and anxiety during detox and recovery.

“While some recovering individuals may not necessarily have full-blown mental health disorders, they might suffer with feelings of failure and loneliness when they have hit rock bottom and decide to seek help,” according to a partner’s article on Pet Therapy in Rehab.

Animal therapy for addiction treatment is based on the biophilia hypothesis, the belief that because human beings once relied on animal signals as a means of survival, biofeedback that comes from working with animals triggers positive outcomes during detox and psychotherapy treatment. Both dogs and horses are used in animal therapy for addiction to opioids and other substances.

Canine Animal Therapy

A calm animal can trigger a relaxed mood in a person, and that can help a person with substance abuse disorder during detox. It may also help open up conversation during psychotherpay sessions.

In one 12-week study of 56 substance abusers, 64 percent “seemed to achieve the primary goal of actively participating in an event that provided some enjoyment or nurturing for them,” while 56 percent opened up about their past and their substance abuse habits to therapists when therapy dogs were present.

Canine physical activity needs also help recovering substance abusers get exercise, which is usually recommended by treatment practitioners.

A dog’s companionship may also reduce feelings of anxiety or loneliness that can trigger relapse. In one canine therapy study of 55 students, rates of anxiety and loneliness dropped by 60 percent.

Therapy dogs are also recommended post treatment, since relapse rates for substance abuse disorder average between 40 and 60 percent. An ongoing relationship with a dog may increase resistance toward relapse.

Animal Therapy with Horses

Working with horses or equine therapy can give a person with substance abuse disorder greater insight into how to make personal motivation changes by learning skills essential to recovery, such as being present and honest, managing emotions and being assertive in setting limits.

Equine therapy treatment is going through a series of predefined tasks with a trained horse and a licensed therapist. Since the patient’s focus is on the task with the horse, it allows him or her to interact with a therapist in a non-judgmental way. Work with horses also requires respect. Intimidation, bargaining, threats or coercion are ineffective in having a horse complete a task, so any such habits are rendered ineffective.

“Instead, people must deal with a horse using patience and a relaxed manner,” according to an article on Animals in Therapy.

Trust is required in building a relationship with a horse. Practitioners find that those with substance abuse disorder that are withdrawn and predisposed to mistrusting others — due to weak peer relationships and betrayals — can be reached through equine therapy.

Gateway HorseWorks of Pennsylvania, which offers equine therapy programs for addiction treatment, is a partner of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). The seminal equine therapy organization researches how horse response provides more effective feedback than traditional psychotherapy alone.

A client may say, ‘This horse is stubborn. That horse doesn’t like me,’ etc. The lesson is that by changing ourselves, the horses respond differently. They provide this immediate feedback to real changes that we make,” according to EAGALA.

Another benefit of animal therapy with horses is improved mind-body connection and better control over thoughts, or cravings. When people struggle with cravings, their body language may say distracted or angry. Those with substance abuse are usually unaware that their cravings are visible to others. By working with a horse that does not respond to a command, the therapist will ask the person to assess his or her physical posture and think about what is causing it. The exercise specific to equine psychotherapy has been shown to teach recovering addicts how to identify and have better control over their thoughts and cravings.

Working with horses and other animals has also been shown to slow heart rates and increase feelings of calm, which is helpful for anxiety and other stressors that comes with detox and recovery.

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5 Gadgets That Alert Drinkers to Date Rape Drugs

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 14:49

In every college town in America, and really anywhere there’s a bar, such as a club or party, encountering date rape drugs in any drink is a possibility.

EMS train on the effects of date rape drugs like gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), and how alcohol compounds symptoms like seizures, apnea or coma. An overdose of GHB in alcohol helped lead to the double rape of AJ Januszczak, a Canadian woman who was living in Florida in 1996. Responding paramedics found her moments from death after two strangers spiked her cocktail with GHB, according to the Toronto Sun.

“I have a real problem with the ‘date’ rape drug, because there’s no date. GHB is a weapon,” Januszczak told a meeting of National Organization for Women in Palm Beach County, Fla., in 2010.

Individual reports of drug-facilitated sexual assaults are plentiful, but there is no source that tracks frequency. The most recent data on reported rapes at college campuses — which may not always involve a date, date rape drugs or even alcohol — dates back to 2014. Trends tracked by the U.S. Department of Education Campus Safety & Security program reveal about 100 institutions with at least 10 reported rapes on their main campuses. Rape prevention advocates are quick to point out that many, if not most rapes, go unreported at universities and otherwise.

“An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted at college – and that’s totally unacceptable. We’re going to help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault on their campuses,” said former President Barrack Obama in January 2014.

By five years ago and more, developers and inventors began working on silver bullet solutions that could alert potential victims that their drinks have been compromised with popular date rape drugs. There’s coasters, cups, straws, nail polish and even a smart device that has the potential to reverse drug-facilitated sexual assault trends. The following list of five detection gadgets discusses pros and cons, and their status.

#1 Only Coasters are Currently Available 

The biggest pro for this date rape drugs detection gadget by Drink Safe Technologies of Tallahassee, Fla., is that its available on their website and Amazon.com. Bars, schools, safety advocacy organizations, social groups and individuals can buy them and pass them out.

The coasters can be stored in a wallet or purse, and do not interact directly with a drink, which means the product did not require U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Although usage may be thorny. The website indicates the coasters require light, two dabs or splashes of a drink and then a few minutes to determine if GHB or ketamine is present. Accuracy in usage may diminish based on user error and environment.

Drink Safe coasters do not detect for Rohypnol or roofies, which is a con for some, though Lance Norris of Drink Safe told NOVA in 2014 that roofies can turn a drink blue and are slow to dissolve. Another con is pH is a factor in testing some drinks — like margaritas, for example.

#2 The Nail Polish Launch May be Imminent 

Four engineering students at North Carolina State University began developing a nail polish to detect date rape drugs in 2015. Their company, Undercover Colors, was named the 2016 Startup to Watch by the North Carolina Technology Association.

Undercover Colors is wearable tech — a pro, in theory. A user dips a polished fingernail into a drink and the color of the polish will change if date rape drugs are present.

But according to the Alliance for Natural Health, the product is problematic because the detection chemical comes into contact with a person’s skin and food, and they say FDA is holding up this and other products like it.

While the nail polish is not yet available, the company has received funding, including $5.5 million in November, and the invention earned a mention — though not by name — on the popular show Modern Family, according to the company’s Facebook page.

The global partnership Vital Voices also gave the founders an award:

“If we have any hope of ending violence against women,we need young men like Stephen & Tyler to set an example @sethmeyers @UndercoverColor pic.twitter.com/75BDBqbxVN

— Vital Voices (@VitalVoices) December 6, 2016

“Much to come in 2017…be sure to sign up on our website for updates!” the company posted in a reply to a thankful fan.

#3 Cups Were Invented in 2012

After being drugged while out one night, Boston attorney Michael Abramson went on to develop DrinkSavvy drinkware that continuously monitors beverages for date rape drugs. The company also developed straws that could detect GHB, ketamine and roofies.

Drink Savvy raised more than $50,000 in 2012 through a one-month crowdfunding campaign, according to CNN. The following year, Abramson told NBC Connecticut the products would soon be sold to bars and individuals.

However, the company has little information on its website and its social media properties. A reply to an inquiring Facebook fan in mid-year 2016 said, “Thanks for your patience, as we will be releasing hopefully at the end of this year!”

#4 The Race for Smart Straws

DrinkSavvy is not the only one trying to bring a smart date rape drug detection straw to market. Three students at Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest, Fla., invented Smart Straws that turn blue in the presence of the most common date rape drugs. Dubbed the Straw Ladies, they won first place in the 2017 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School Track and are seeking patent protection.

But they may also have competition from a third team. An Israeli doctor and a chemist at Tel Aviv University developed a color-changing stick they debuted at a nano conference in 2011, according to Science Daily. The pocket-size device detected GHB and ketamine in ten microliter samples to 100 percent accuracy during a live demo of 50 drinks, some spiked. At the time, the team was working on expanding the technology to detect other date rape drugs.

The non-toxic medium works with an optical sensor, not active reagents. The device would be reusable and light up or beep, but there is no company website or further information on when and if the device will ever be produced. In 2012, the team indicated their Smart Straw invention needed funding.

#5 Personal Drink Gadget

Called the pd.id, the personal drink gadget is about the size of USB flash drive. The team in Toronto developed it to be reusable, simple and cost about $75, according to a closed crowdsourcing campaign. Red and green LED lights tell the user if a drink is safe or not. It could also send smartphone alerts if a drink is drugged.

The device uses light to determine if date rape drugs are present. It can be rinsed with water.

While the website is limited to a splash page and the company’s social media properties have been relatively inactive since 2014, a post to its Facebook page in December said, “we just received two grants worth $45,000 from the Canadian Federal and Ontario Provincial Government towards further scientific research to make this project happen!!”

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Airbnb’s Latest Short Term Rental Tax Agreements

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:56

More states, cities and counties are working with Airbnb on short term rental tax agreements to generate revenues, but there are myriad concerns:

  • How Airbnb reports data
  • How short term rentals affect rental markets and neighborhood quality of life
  • How to impose rental caps to both streamline burdens on less frequent hosts, as well as help preserve rental supplies in neighborhoods where owners might essentially convert rentals into short term rentals

Counties Level the Playing Field

In 2016, more than 2.1 million stays in New York state were booked through Airbnb, according to Community Newspapers Holding Inc. The report also indicated that so far, 12 New York counties have signed contracts with Airbnb to collect taxes on rooms and homes rented out over the online platform.

In Otsego County, home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, operators of local inns and bed and breakfast businesses are pleased the county now has a mechanism for getting its bed tax money from Airbnb customers, said Otsego Treasurer Dan Crowell.

Cities Grapple with Community & Market Concerns

Smaller cities are also working with Airbnb on their own short term rental tax agreements. Union City, N.Y., is working on a deal for Airbnb to collect the city’s 12.45 percent hotel room tax rate to Airbnb users whenever they book a room, home or apartment, according to the East Bay Times.

Beginning in June, under a recent agreement with the city of Hot Springs, Ark., Airbnb will collect a 3 percent lodging tax on bookings in the city.

In the town of Woodstock, N.Y., opponents of short-stay rentals have voiced concerns that short-term rental hosts are violating town codes by not being on the premises when they rent their homes, or are not adequately maintaining properties. However, Union City is considering requiring Airbnb hosts to take out business licenses that would subject short term rentals to code enforcement checks that could address some opponent concerns there.

In large cities, Airbnb is often opposed by both hotel or neighborhood groups.

The New York Hotel Trades Council is fighting hard to disrupt any chance at a short term rental tax agreement in New York City. Earlier this year, hotel associations issued a report that criticized Airbnb’s tax agreements with 12 cities for “unusual and legally questionable latitude to determine how much they will pay in taxes.”

Union City City Attorney Ben Reyes said Airbnb will only provide the city with aggregated, anonymous data about rentals under that city’s impending deal. But, Airbnb audits are possible.

It is currently illegal in the Big Apple to rent a space for fewer than 30 days without being properly licensed as a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast. The state of New York also passed a law fining Airbnb hosts that advertise illegal New York City listings. In March, a landowner in Trump Tower was fined $1,000 for an Airbnb advertisement. In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio added 16 new positions to the Office of Special Enforcement devoted to inspecting and fining landlords and leaseholders that rent out for fewer than 30 day, according to Crain’s New York.

In Los Angeles, organizations like Keep Neighborhoods First are proposing a 60-day cap they believe would limit incentives for landlords to enter the short term rental market and preserve affordable housing. The city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee is considering a Home Sharing Ordinance that governs a 14 percent Transient Occupancy Tax that is currently projecting $27.5 million in revenues for the next fiscal year, according to City Watch LA. City officials are reportedly considering caps and how they would reduce the projected revenue.

Housing Impact Fees

Airbnb began collecting and remitting city sales and lodging taxes for all hosts in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and the city council is considering additional impact fees on short-term rentals to help fund community housing.

But a move to generate revenue and thereby address affordable housing concerns with seed funding would require an independent impact study. The city would need to answer questions like how impact fees would affect the market, according to Steamboat Today.

The squeeze might not be worth the juice,” said Councilman Scott Ford, after elected officials received a legal briefing.

States Seeking Revenue Opportunities

While states like New York appear far from making statewide short term rental tax agreements, in February, Airbnb began collecting state, county and city taxes from Arkansas hosts under a state deal.

The Massachusetts Senate is currently looking at a state budget proposal that would accrue an estimated $18 million from new state tax collections on nightly Airbnb stays. But, Governor Charlie Baker has proposed applying the short term rental tax only on hosts that rent at least 150 days per year. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh believes any state short term rental revenue should also come back to the city.


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Transforming Big Box Stores into Culinary Destinations

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 14:07

According to the Daily Bulletin, Ranch Cucamonga, Calif., is working on turning a closed J.C. Penney into a culinary destination called Haven City Market.

The space is 85,000 square-feet. The store closed in 2014, so the city wants to turn it into an engine of economic development that magnetizes millennials while it attracts all ages. Not far from City Hall, the converted space will include a food hall, a gourmet food market and retail space for food and beverage boutiques and retailers.

The idea came from the popular Anaheim Packing District, a historic 42,000-square-foot former Sunkist citrus packing house that city of Anaheim developers renovated and opened in 2014.

Dominick Perez, the Ranch Cucamonga’s associate planner, has approved all interior improvements, with exterior building permits still in review and pending approval.

“There is going to be outdoor garden eating area and that’s going to be 20,000 square feet,” Perez said. “It will be connected to the south end of the building.”

There is also talk of an entertainment permit for the space.

It’s exciting because it’s probably the first one in this general area, probably in San Bernardino County besides more of the traditional mall and food court settings,” said Rancho Cucamonga Planning Director Candyce Burnett.

The city of Redlands also plans to reinvent another historic packinghouse, the Redlands Packing Plant, and offer space for restaurants and specialty food retailers. That property will include history displays, public art and common areas.

Read the original story on the Daily Bulletin.

Converting Vacant Properties Like Downtown Department Stores

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NEA Creative Placemaking Grants Up to $200K

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 13:33

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is accepting Our Town grant applications for creative placemaking projects that transform communities and achieve livability goals through art, culture and design strategies. This funding supports local efforts to enhance the quality of life for residents and create or preserve a distinct sense of place.

Creative placemaking is when artists, arts organizations and community developers integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work. The purpose is to bring art into consideration with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure and public safety projects and strategies.

NEA awards range from $25,000 to $200,000 for projects beginning in or after August 1, 2018. A 50 percent non-federal match at a rate of at least one-to-one is required.

Our Town creative placemaking grants also require partnerships between arts organizations and government, other nonprofit organizations and private entities. NEA is looking for project applications in two areas:

  • Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning and Design Projects. These projects represent the distinct character and quality of their communities. These projects require a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity, with one of the partners being a cultural organization.
  • Projects that Build Knowledge about Creative Placemaking. These projects are available to arts and design service organizations, and industry, policy or university organizations that provide technical assistance for place-based projects. Matching grants range up to $100,000.

Learn more about the opportunity on the NEA website.

Review application requirements and instructions.

Additional Resources:

Placemaking, What is It?

Placemaking Grants Reimagine Long Beach

Driving Resilience With Placemaking




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Uber Brings Electric to Portland Drivers, Underserved Communities

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 11:41

According to Tech Crunch, Uber is taking to Portland, Ore., to set benchmarks for electrifying its fleet. There are currently 100 active drivers with electric vehicles (EVs) operating in the city.

“The City of Portland has also adopted some of the nation’s most aggressive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Uber released in a prepared statement.

According to CityLab, Portland was named the 2016 most EV-friendly out of 36 U.S. cities by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, based in large part on its vast network of charging stations.

Uber is teaming up with the non-profit Forth (formerly Drive Oregon) to facilitate the process and attract more of its 6,000 Portland drivers. The company’s goal is to make 10 percent of its statewide fleet electric by 2019 through a combination of incentives and educational initiatives

Uber will work with Portland’s Black Parent Initiative in partnership with Forth’s efforts to serve underserved communities, Cynergy E-Bikes to connect UberEATS couriers with electric bikes and Arcimoto, an Oregon-based EV company.

Uber’s auto-lease subsidiary Xchange Leasing plans to offer in-house deals to drivers that make the switch to EVs.

Read the original story on TechCrunch.

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Cook County First Municipality Hit by WannaCry Ransomware

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 06:03


By Jason Shueh & Chris Bing

A fast-spreading global ransomware campaign has found its first local government target in Illinois, StateScoop has learned. Cook County’s incident is the first known government infection of the WannaCry virus in the U.S.

The county, which includes the city of Chicago, confirmed to StateScoop that its Bureau of Technology found the ransomware on “a small number of systems” on Friday.

“We initiated our standard security procedures to address the issue. No major Cook County operations are impacted at this time,” said spokesperson Frank Shuftan.

Continue reading the story on State Scoop’s website.

Get details on the state of cybersecurity and a checklist of actions for local governments.

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HUD Grants for Cooperative Research Agreements Available

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 17:37

The U.S. Office of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has unsolicited funding through the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R). There is funding still available for cooperative research agreements before the next budget is approved, according to a PD&R grant specialist that spoke with EfficientGov.

PD&R accepts unsolicited research proposals that address research priorities.

Research projects require a 50 percent match by philanthropic entities or Federal, state, or local government agencies. Cooperative research agreements must advance one of the following areas:

  1. Strengthening Housing Markets: Homeownership and Housing Finance
  2. Affordable Quality Rental Housing
  3. Housing as a Platform for Improving Quality of Life
  4. Resilient and Inclusive Communities
  5. HUD Research Assets

An example cooperative research agreement project is called Coming Home, which tests the current tenant selection criteria in New York City public housing by allowing 150 formerly incarcerated individuals to return to New York City Housing Authority housing and move in with their families. The PD&R-funded research evaluation examines the program’s design and implementation, and assesses feasibility for scaling-up and replicating in other jurisdictions. Partners also include the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the New York City Department of Homeless Services and nonprofit reentry service providers. The Vera Institute of Justice is evaluating the pilot under this HUD opportunity.

Formerly the Office of University Partnerships, this HUD agency was established to encourage and expand university research efforts that focus on solving urban and rural challenges.

Learn more and explore other funded projects.

Review priority research questions in PD&R’s Research Roadmap.

Submit research partnership proposals to ResearchPartnerships@hud.gov.

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2017 Rural Community Facilities & Housing Grants Funded

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 17:08

Earlier in the month Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a democrat that serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced he had secured funding for key programs for his state, as well as the nation. According to KTVZ.com, Merkley said:

Trump’s proposed budget was an assault on rural communities’ most basic needs,” adding that the spending bill “was a rejection of Donald Trump’s vision for the direction of America.”

Funding for Rural Housing Service Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency actually increased by $32.8 million in order to address the affordable housing crisis.

According to the recent spending bill, rural housing assistance grants for very low-income housing repair and rural housing preservation are funded at $33.7 million.

Rural community facilities programs are also funded at $43.78 million, with $2.6 billion secured for direct loans and $148.3 billion for guaranteed loans. According to the agency, priority is given to healthcare, education and public safety projects. Typical projects are hospitals, health clinics, schools, fire houses, community centers, first responder vehicles and equipment and many other community-based initiatives. Applications are accepted year-round, according to the USDA Rural Development website.

The Rural Community Development Initiative also received $4 million to develop the capacity and ability of private, nonprofit community-based housing and community development organizations, low-income rural communities and Federally Recognized Native American Tribes. Grants are to focus on projects that improve housing and community facilities or community and economic development projects.

Additionally, $5.78 million in grants will be made available for facilities in rural communities “with extreme unemployment and severe economic depression.”

Last year, USDA awarded $4.5 million in RCDI grants in May and another $7.6 million in October through RCDI and Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grants. These opportunities are currently closed, but when available, announcements will be posted on Grants.gov.

Merkley also led a request for homeless assistance, under the U.S. Office of Housing & Urban Development, which will be funded at $2.4 billion.

$401M for Rural Community Project Loans

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County Health Departments Can Address Opioids with Rural Extension Grants

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 13:25

The U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Health and Safety Education (RHSE) Competitive Grants Program now includes land-grant university extension programs for prevention or reduction of opioid misuse and abuse. County health departments through county extension agents can partner with land-grant universities on opioid prevention and reduction outreach.

There is $2.8 million in funding for awards ranging between $250,000 to $350,000 for RHSE program proposals. Proposals must be community-based, outreach education programs that provide individuals and families with:

  • Information as to the value of good health at any age
  • Information to increase individual or family’s motivation to take more responsibility for their own health
  • Information regarding rural environmental health issues that directly impact on human health
  • Information about and access to health promotion and educational activities
  • Training for volunteers and health services providers concerning health promotion and health care services for individuals and families in cooperation with state, local and county health partners

While the grant opportunity is open to 1862 Land-Grant Institutions, 1890 Land-Grant Institutions and 1994 Land-Grant Institutions, counties are extension partners. County agents became land-grant university cooperative extension partners in about 1914, soon after the Smith-Lever Act created the land-grant universities’ extension function, according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The purpose of extension was to disseminate an institution’s knowledge beyond the campus to farms and consumers, and it’s now a cooperative activity between the federal government (via USDA), the states (via land-grant colleges) and county partners.

Applications are due June 30, 2017.

Learn more about RHSE grants on the USDA website.

Apply on Grants.gov.

Resources for County Health Partners:

Access a list of land-grant universities in chapter 2, Table 1-1 of the NAS History and Overview of the Land Grant College System.

Get general information about RHSE grant applications from a 2016 webinar.

Try the EfficientGov interactive map of the hardest hit counties in the opioid crisis:

Comprehensive U.S. Map of Drug Deaths by County

Bookmark the EfficientGov Opioid Resource Guide:

Opioid Epidemic Resource Guide

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Report: Roundabouts, Road Barriers & Signals Saves Lives

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 16:25


By Joel Stocksdale

With traffic fatalities on the rise, AAA has produced a list of highway infrastructure changes that could save 63,700 lives and avoid 353,560 injuries over 20 years. In the organization’s list, six key areas account for 95 percent of the safety gains AAA predicts. Chief among them is the implementation of roundabouts.

According to AAA, converting traditional intersections to roundabouts covers 30 percent of the fatality and injury reductions. They do this by drastically reducing the number of ways and locations cars can collide with other cars or pedestrians. What points of collision remain for cars are also less severe, since T-bone or head-on collisions are unlikely.

The other areas of improvement AAA lists are fairly commonsense. Adding roadside barriers and removing roadside objects comprise another 20 percent of safety gains, as do adding sidewalks and pedestrian crosswalks with signals. The remaining safety improvements would come from additional median barriers on highways, shoulder and centerline rumble strips, and wider highway shoulders.

Continue reading the story on the Auto Blog.

Read how Carmel, Ind., — the city with the most traffic circles or roundabouts — is saving money and reducing greenhouse gas reductions:

Cities Overlook This Money Saving, Climate Friendly Traffic Tool


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County Wellness Program Decreases Sick Leave Costs

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 15:58

In 2014, Gaston County, N.C., signed a contract with local CaroMont Health for $172,509 per year, and hundreds of municipal employees have since made wellness a way of life. They are losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing hypertension and more as part of a county wellness program going into its third year, according to the Gaston Gazette.

The partnership has led to a measurable decrease in sick leave and reductions in sick time hours.

We have a great working relationship and we’re very excited about the results we’re seeing in the workplace, not only from employee participation and excitement, but based on the fact that we’re actually seeing some real results,” said Pam Overcash, Gaston County human resources director.

CaroMont provided Gaston County biometric and personal wellness profile screenings for all staff participating in the county wellness program. The contract includes a full-time wellness coordinator that develops group programs that engage municipal staff on wellness and motivate them.

The wellness coach also helps program participants find opportunities to exercise. Group programs have included team weight loss challenges and post-work organized group activities from weekly hikes at Crowders Mountain State Park to yoga classes. There are also incentives, such as drawings for trips, for participating county employees. A recent “Lose to Gain” program attracted 239 county employees to a six-week weight loss challenge that resulted in a combined total of 1,400 pounds lost.

Since the start of the county wellness program, 850 of the county’s roughly 1,600 employees have participated in one way or another, Overcash said. Sick hours by calendar year were 96,519 in 2014, dropping to 86,820 in 2015 and to 83,619 for 2016.

Employee Dedication to Wellness

County officials believe the county employee wellness program has not only reduced the costs and loss of productivity of sick time helped to create a more confident pool of staff who feel better overall. And CaroMont also cites employee dedication for the success of the county wellness program.

The company’s Health Wellness Director, Debbie Bellenger, said “basically, Gaston County government is leading by example.”

“I know within the building I work in, I always see a lot of staff members walking, making sure they get their steps in for the day. I really feel there’s a culture of wellness going on that wasn’t happening when we all started this journey,” Joseph Colomb, Gaston County’s wellness coach, added.

Read the original story on the Gaston Gazette website.

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CTO Download: Adaptability & Customization Further Innovation

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 15:03

Las Vegas is one of America’s most well-known cities with close to 43 million people visiting annually and a population of more than 613,000. Over the last few years, it has made great strides in utilizing technology to enhance services for its citizens, customers and millions of visitors.

Michael Sherwood leads the mega-sized resort city’s IT Department with an eye always on the future and a hand on daily data needs.

From your perspective, what is the IT Department’s role in government and how do you feel it has evolved over the years?

Sherwood: Our role revolves around helping internal departments deliver their specific services more efficiently and effectively. This includes access to information and tools which help them in making well defined decisions. The role of technology has been evolving and will continue to evolve.

Several years ago, technology centered around supporting hardware and systems. Today systems and technology are easier to use, so technology workers now need to be knowledge workers and futurists, in order to provide value to their organizations and the community.

As a technology leader working within the public sector what specific technologies interest you?

Sherwood: Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, Internet of Things and cloud-based technologies.

Is there a specific technology initiative that your department was involved in that you are most proud of?

Sherwood: We are proud of many of the technology initiatives we are currently undertaking, of most importance is our innovation district which is changing the way the city handles traffic and decision making through the use of technology and the use of real time data collection with sensors.

We have also started development of new services, such as our open data portal, geo commons (open mapping portal) and our use of new technologies such as the skills the city built on the Amazon Echo platform.

When attempting to adopt or implement new technologies in your government, what specific challenges has your department faced? 

Sherwood: Funding is always a challenge, one must develop business use cases to ensure success and to ensure goals and objectives are met. The ability to adapt and change quickly and look for other solutions is always a good practice.

Gaining buy-in from major stakeholders to invest in technology is also difficult when funding and resources are limited.

Have you established any best practices for when your government adopts or implements new technologies that you can share with us?

Sherwood: Do not be afraid to fail. Many organizations never undertake a project for fear of failure.

Undertake a small pilot project rather than going with a larger broader implementation. This limits exposure and allows you to learn and make modifications throughout the process. Once you have a successful framework, you can then replicate the process without fear and with assurance of success and cost.

Any final thoughts on technology’s purpose when it comes to a government’s citizens and employees? 

Sherwood: The future is wide open, citizen engagement, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence will really change the way government interfaces with citizens and visitors in ways we are only beginning to understand.

The ability to customize and develop unique user experiences will improve efficiency and create new interactions that will drastically change an individual’s satisfaction within the communities they reside in. Cities who do not embrace these technologies and methodologies will be left behind.


EfficientGov’s CTO Download column highlights the work of civic IT leaders that achieve notable, forward-thinking technical solutions that change the game for their local governments. Who they are, what they believe and their approaches advance cities governing under limited resources.

Civic technology leaders who would like to participate in CTO Download should email editor@efficientgov.com.

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Using the USGS Nationwide Water Quality Map

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 13:48

A new U.S. Geological Survey interactive map provides a searchable way to review water quality data collected by the USGS and 73 other organizations at almost 1,400 sites. The data captures nutrient, pesticide, salinity, sediment, fish populations, algae blooms and more. It maps quality trends of the nation’s rivers and streams over the last four decades.

Since the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act, federal, state and local agencies have invested billions of dollars to reduce the amount of pollution entering rivers and streams, according to USGS. The agency’s position is tracking changes in water quality over multiple decades is crucial for evaluating the effectiveness of pollution control efforts and protecting the nation’s water resources in the future. USGS performs both regional and national scientific assessments and partners with numerous organizations monitoring water quality.

Specifically the map can be used to search if 51 water-quality constituents and 38 aquatic-life metrics — like the types and numbers of fish, macroinvertebrates and algae — have increased, decreased or remained the same.

For example, USGS noted that the map shows how the phaseout of the pesticide diazinon for residential and some agricultural uses initiated in 2000 and led to widespread reductions in concentrations in U.S. streams in the trend period from 2002 to 2012:

On a more granular level, a trend can be viewed in terms of concentration — the mass of a pollutant in a defined volume of water — such as the concentration of diazinon in a section of New Jersey’s Delaware River called South Bound Brook. Or it can be viewed by load, which is the mass of a pollutant discharged into a water body during a period of time. An example of a load would be tons of sediment per year entering a stream.

The second phase of the project will factor where investments in pollution control have been effective, identify major causes of data trends and detail which chemicals are increasing or decreasing. The agency will also indicate any drinking water sources or aquatic ecosystems that are at increased risk.

Access the map on the USGS website.

Read the report, Water-quality trends in the Nation’s rivers and streams, 1972–2012—Data preparation, statistical methods, and trend results: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5006, on the USGS publications portal.

Learn more about the project on the National Water-Quality Assessment Project website.

Review a brief slidedeck about the difference between concentration and load on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

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10 Destinations for Honoring Military Veterans

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 17:59

May is Military Appreciation month and a good time to be thinking about how to incorporate educational and historical destinations into an upcoming family vacation or summer getaway. These 10 must-see historical places honoring military veterans make for great road trips.

#1 Fort Sumter National Monument

See with your own eyes the place where the U.S. Civil War began.

Tips for visiting:

  • Purchase tickets a day or two in advance to guarantee admittance
  • The monument is only accessible by boat, so be prepared to wear life jackets during your visit.
  • Seniors and military receive a $2.50 discount off the regular $21 fair, while children are $13, and children 3 years old and under are free.

#2 Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial

The monument stands as a symbol for the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, as well as signifies lasting peace between Britain, Canada and the U.S.

Tips for visiting:

  • You can access the memorial by plane or ferry boat.
  • Check out the site for dates and times for firing demonstrations of reproduction flintlock muskets and a reproduction 32-pounder carronade.
  • The Perry Victory Visitor Center has dozens of artifacts from the War of 1812, and also features a daily film on the history of the war.

#3 Liberty Memorial

Originally known as Liberty Memorial when it opened in 1926, it became the official National World War I Museum and Memorial in 2004.

Tips for visiting:

  • Step back in time with an interactive timeline of the first World War.
  • View original letters, documents, uniforms, weapon and other artifacts from World War I.
  • Check out the site to plan a trip for the 2017 Battlefield Tour.

#4 Red Hill Patrick Henry Memorial

Visit the final home of one of the Founding Fathers and great orator of the U.S. Constitution.

Tips for visiting:

  • See the gravesite of Patrick Henry during a tour of Red Hill.
  • Plan a trip during Independence Weekend to see Revolutionary War-era reenactors, followed by an evening fireworks show.

#5 Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The memorial in Washington D.C. is one of the most viewed sites in the country, and is a must-see, sobering sight.

Tips for visiting:

  • Locate your relative, war buddy or friends on the memorial site beforehand so you know exactly where to find their name on the wall when you visit.
  • Be sure to visit all three areas of the memorial, which include the wall of names, the bronze statue of “The Three Servicemen” gazing at the wall and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

#6 September 11 National Memorial and Museum

A recent addition to our nation’s history, the national memorial honoring the lives lost during the attack on 9/11 is another must-see site for Americans.

Tips for visiting:

  • There are multiple options for guided and self-guided tours, as well as behind-the-scenes tours available to those who reserve tickets in advance.
  • Admission is free for active and retired military, and also on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to close.

#7 San Antonio’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial

While not as famous as the one at the nation’s capital, the San Antonio Vietnam Veterans Memorial is just as powerful, with a statue depicting a soldier aiding a wounded fellow soldier, while scanning the skies for a medevac helicopter.

Tips for visiting:

  • The statue is located in the Veterans Memorial Plaza Historic District in San Antonio, Texas.
  • You can schedule a group tour with a knowledgeable tour guide for your visit.

#8 Military Working Dogs Team National Monument

This special memorial site honors the bravery and sacrifice of military K-9s, who serve in the same capacity as their handlers.

Tips for visiting:

  • Visitors will need to receive a base pass from the Lackland Visitor’s Center before gaining access to the military installation to view the monument.
  • Passes are limited to only four hours, and can only be used to view the monument.

#9 National Infantry Museum

The museum celebrates the country’s 240+ years of military service and is located just outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.

Tips for visiting:

  • Plan time to view one of the 3-D documentaries at the museum, such as D-Day: Normandy, 1944.
  • Admission is free, though donations of $5 a person are accepted to help pay for the upkeep of the grounds and artifacts.

#10 Shiloh National Military Park

The site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War is open to the public year-round, and offers a glimpse at the incredible history of the largest war fought on American soil.

Tips for visiting:

  • Plan a visit over Memorial Day weekend to see a special Memorial Day service at Shiloh National Cemetery.

Originally posted on Military1.com.

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The 7 Critical Steps of Planning Music Festivals

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 17:16

After reading about the Fyre Festival debacle that took place last month on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma, I couldn’t help but surmise hubris and poor planning were the main culprits in the multimillion-dollar failure that fell on the shoulders of musician/producer Ja Rule and his business partner, 26-year-old entrepreneur Billy McFarland. There are critical planning steps vital to executing a multi-day music festival that organizers take to avoid incidents.

Cities can be proactive and partner with organizers to make sure music festivals are organized.

Read the Warning Signs

Promotional materials touted the Fyre Festival – expected to take place over two weekends, April 28-30 and May 5-7 — as “the cultural experience of the decade,” featuring performances from Blink-182, Migos, Major Lazer, Disclosure and others.

With tickets starting at $1,200, the designer event was to include luxury transportation and accommodations, and gourmet food prepared by celebrity chefs. A tent city, cheese sandwiches and long lines at airports were the reality as a bands and vendors backed away from the festival.

Even basic due diligence would have revealed that the Fyre Festival could not possibly live up to the hype, as basic infrastructure was not even in place,” reads a complaint in a $5 million lawsuit recently filed in the Southern District of Florida by Emily and Kenneth Reel, two festival guests.

The warning signs that the event would be a disaster were there months ago, according to one former staffer who blamed the failure on “incompetence on an almost inconceivable scale,” citing a lack of infrastructure, an overly optimistic timeline and rampant disorganization.

Image: Flickr

Citizens Desire Festivals

There are many benefits in cities partnering with organizers of music festivals. Festivals foster economic and cultural development and pay communities many other dividends.

According to a 2015 study by Nielsen, 32 million people attend at least one of the 800 music festivals held in the U.S. each year, say nothing of additional festivals that focus on film, theater, dance, food, international culture and beer and wine.

With 90 percent of festivals taking place in public, plazas, parks, outdoor theaters and on streets, according to a National Endowment for the Arts study, overburdened municipalities are faced with the daunting task of approving events, from applicants with years of professional experience as well as green, well-meaning community organizers.

The following checklist of seven critical steps can help cities ensure music festivals are being properly planned.

#1 Understand the Timeline

Inquire about an event organizer’s approach to the festival production timeline. Successful music festivals take at least eight months to a year to plan, as I learned early on as former executive director and board president of Salem Jazz and Soul Festival.

If an applicant expects to pull off a music festival in August but applies in March, that’s too tight. Advise they go back to the drawing board and wait until next year.

#2 Get to Know the Team

Who are the members of the organizing team that intend to put on a festival in the community you are responsible for? What are their names and occupations? Do they live in the city or town in which the festival is proposed?

Ask for short biographies of the main players.

#3 Ensure Corporate Structure

For music festivals to be insured — which they must be if being held on city property — organizers should have already registered as corporations or nonprofits, or be under the umbrella of one.

Request organizations’ Employment Identification Numbers (EINs).

#4 Question Funding Sources

Putting on music festivals is expensive, and if a corporation is requesting use of city property, it’s the city’s responsibility to inquire if that corporation is sound.

Ask how music festivals are to be funded — through ticket sales, corporate sponsorship or other means?

Image: Flickr

#5 Insist on Proper Planning

Did an organization team come to the table with a business plan or, in the case of a nonprofit music festival, a strategic plan?

If not, question further if they have a mission statement and a projected timeline of events. If the team approaches with a plan to hold a multi-day event, and they seem a little underprepared, suggest they start small. The team can provide proof of concept by organizing a one-day music festival, initially.

#6 Analyze Risk

Each community will have its own risk factors, but be sure to ask for the following baseline details:

  • Do applicants have proof of insurance?
  • Are they working with a bonded, insured sound and production company?
  • What security measures have they researched in advance of the event?
  • Do they intend to serve alcohol, and do they have the proper insurance to do so?

#7 Work Together

I found that the city of Salem, Mass., was happy to field organizers requests’ for services and equipment for the Salem Jazz and Soul Festival, which produces numerous free concerts annually and donates funding for local music education.

If event planners have their planning and logistics in order, and are ready to put on a festival, be an active partner in making the event as successful and safe as possible.

Additional Resources:

Access advice on planning EMS at mass gatherings.

Get a detailed medical supply list for special events.

Find out what benefits festivals offer cities:

Why Cities Should Invest in Festivals

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$10M in COPS Grants for Anti-Heroin Task Force Program

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 16:02

The government spending bill approved in early May included funding for heroin and opioid addiction treatment and prevention at $160.5 million for FY 2017, adding $35.5 million over fiscal year 2016, according to the Los Alamos Post. The funding includes $10 million for states to develop an anti-heroin task force under the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.

The competitive grant program assists state law enforcement agencies in states with high per capita levels of primary treatment admissions for both heroin and other opioids. Grants are to be used for investigative purposes to locate or investigate illicit activities related to heroin distribution or unlawful prescription opioid distribution.

Only state-level law enforcement agencies are eligible to apply for anti-heroin task force funding. However, local law enforcement agencies are encouraged to partner with them on AHTF-funded projects.

While the official grant announcement has not been made, the U.S. Department of Justice is encouraging all applicants to prepare at this time.

Access detailed guidance is available on the COPS website.

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Comprehensive U.S. Map of Drug Deaths by County

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 15:09

Drug overdose deaths and opioid-involved deaths continue to increase in the United States. States like Maryland have passed bills to address the statewide crisis and increase access to naloxone, while Connecticut has coordinated efforts across municipalities and jurisdictions to address a dramatic rise in opioid abuse through training, referral and medication-assisted treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of ten) involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) has quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses.

The counties with the highest mortality rate and the highest number of overdose deaths from 2016. We have also created an interactive map that allows you to see how your state has been affected by the opioid epidemic.



  • Data for this article was found at County Health Rankings as an aggregate of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
  • Age-adjusted death rates were calculated as deaths per 100,000 population, using the direct method and the 2000 standard population.
  • To find 2017 data, the CDC calculated a summary of changes in the 2017 measures from those used in 2016 and a summary of all changes since the first release in 2010.

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Hepatitis C Disease Jumps for Ages 20 – 29 Sharing Heroin Needles

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 14:33


By Mike Stobbe

NEW YORK — The heroin epidemic is driving up hepatitis C infections, with the biggest increase in people in their 20s, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

The number of new infections nearly tripled in five years, to about 2,400 in 2015. The virus is spread by sharing needles to inject drugs, and the increase coincided with a surge in heroin use.

But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think the reported infections are only a fraction of the actual number. Most people don’t get sick for many years, so they aren’t tested and don’t know they are infected. The CDC estimates that the number of infections in 2015 was 34,000, or twice as many as the estimate for 2010.

The biggest jump in new infections is in people ages 20 to 29, the CDC said.

The hepatitis C virus spreads through the blood but does most of its damage by infecting the liver. It can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. In recent years, new hepatitis C drugs hit the market that can cure the infection in only a few months. But they are expensive — a course of treatment can costs tens of thousands of dollars.

The CDC also released national hepatitis C death figures: nearly 20,000 deaths in 2015. The number hasn’t changed much recently but that figure reflects a different group of infected people — baby boomers. The apparent leveling off may be due to a push to test all baby boomers for the virus and the treatment improvements, said the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin.

Of the 3.5 million Americans living with hepatitis, most were born between 1945 and 1965 and were infected decades ago, according to the CDC.

Before widespread screening of blood donations began in 1992, the virus was also spread through blood transfusions. New cases fell to under 900 nearly 15 years ago and stayed at that level until they rose sharply in 2011. That was around the time heroin use began increasing, as drug abusers caught up in the opioid crisis shifted from prescription painkillers to heroin.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Pigeons spotted making a nest out of #needles in a #DTES SRO room. Sad reality of the #opioidcrisis #fentanyl #frontline #notstaged pic.twitter.com/M0DDVLkL28

— Supt. Michelle Davey (@VPDSuperDavey) May 3, 2017

Additional Resources

A Quiet Public Bathrooms Crisis Unfolds As U.S. Opioid Epidemic Rages

Louisville Needle Swap Aims To Stop Repeat of Nearby HIV, Hepatitis C Outbreaks

7 City Tour of Safe Injection Site Model with Addiction Resources

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