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Illinois health officials report 1,639 new cases of COVID-19, 8 deaths

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Saturday that the state has 1,639 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, including eight additional confirmed deaths.

The deaths were reported in the following counties:

  • Cook County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
  • Kane County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
  • McHenry County: 1 female 70s
  • St. Clair County: 1 male 70s

Currently, the health department is reporting a total of 180,476 cases, including 7,503 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois.

As of Friday evening, 1,347 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 334 patients were in the ICU and 148 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

For more information visit the health department’s website

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Multnomah County health officer to hold COVID-19 news conference

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines will hold an 11:30 a.m. news conference to discuss the spread of COVID-19.

Multnomah County, Oregon’s most densely populated, is among the counties with the most rapid spread of COVID-19. Last week, Gov. Kate Brown added Multnomah, Marion and Hood River counties to Oregon’s COVID-19 County Watch List.

In a news conference last week, Dr. Vines said the coronavirus is widespread in Multnomah County, with 62% of the county’s cases not traceable to a known source.

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‘These very young students saw combat-level injuries’: health care students’ reflect on Walmart mass shooting a year later

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EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — El Paso medical professionals had just minutes to prepare for one of the most difficult days in their careers: August 3, 2019, the day of the Walmart mass shooting. In the chaos, some nursing and medical students suddenly found themselves on the front lines.

A year later, the sights and sounds of the hospital still linger with medical student Christian Castro. Castro is of the many health care students who raced in to volunteer at hospitals after the mass shooting, rushing into the trauma and feeling compelled to go where they could help.

“It hit me that whatever is going on, however many people are hurt, the hospital’s going to need help,” he said.

“We came in on the opposite side of the emergency room,” Castro said. “It was very quiet, very empty, kind of an eerie feeling. As we got closer, the quiet, eerie feeling kind of changed to this more urgent, louder, noise-filled environment of the emergency room.”

At the time, Castro was a third-year medical student at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

“Once I figured out that my immediate family and friends were all okay, my extended family of El Paso, I kind of had the sense that they were in danger,” Castro said. “I needed to be there. My community needed me.”

At University Medical Center, it quickly became clear: no job was too small.

“They were receiving these victims as they were coming in from pedestrian vehicles, from ambulances,” Castro said. “They were meeting them at the door, assessing them within a couple of seconds to minutes… Everyone had a little role to play in that time and kind of like this little symphony of chaos mended in its way into taking care of these patients.”

“No one looked out of  place,” he added. “Everyone knew that they had a job that needed to be done.”

Health care students became heroes, suddenly thrust into the middle of the crisis.

“Our students were in clinicals and they were in the ICU, the emergency department and also in OR,” said Dr. Stephanie Woods, the Dean of the Hunt School of Nursing at TTUHSC El Paso. “Very quickly we had to make a decision.

Nursing students at TTUHSC El Paso went on lockdown, but instead of sheltering in place, they jumped in to the fight.

“These very young students in their early twenties, mid-twenties, suddenly saw combat-level injuries,” Dr. Woods said. “They saw things they have never seen and would hope to never see again.”

It was a lesson they might not have learned in a classroom, and one they likely hoped they would never have to learn at all.

“When you commit to certain purposes in your life, you don’t get to ask yourself, ‘I’ll do that if that’s convenient,'” Dr. Woods said. “Nurses don’t have the option of saying, ‘I’m going to stand aside from this crisis.'”

For Castro, instinct took over.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Castro said. “It really wasn’t until I got home later that night that I had a chance to sit down and like take a deep breath and then think like, ‘wow, this really happened.’ The families we helped. The families we couldn’t help. The patients, the doctors and the nurses and the things we saw and the things we heard. It kind of rushed in all at once.”

A year later, Castro knows the impact will last a lifetime.

“If it wasn’t already clear to me, it became crystal clear that that’s where I was meant to be. I was right where I was supposed to be,” Castro said. “It did kind of serve as an example, or like a very clear magnifying glass, for me to see that I truly am on the right path and I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s no question about it.”

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St. Cloud police, mental health expert pair up on calls

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. — After years of working to create a new way to respond to mental health calls, a team of police and community partners is showing results just a few months after its inception.

The St. Cloud-area co-responder team, which began working at the end of March, pairs a mental health professional and a St. Cloud police officer to help with mental health calls.

“We’re dealing with those that are in crisis, like an acute crisis at the time, and trying to bring resources to them,” said St. Cloud officer Kelly Holden.

Her partner, Kenzie Janson-Wolle, is a mental health professional with Central Minnesota Mental Health Center.

When responding to a call, Holden ensures the situation is safe before Janson-Wolle provides mental health evaluations.

Responding to mental health calls in this way benefits the whole community, leaders say.

“It’s the right thing to do,” St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson told the St. Cloud Times.

Police picking people up to go the emergency room for an evaluation or to jail only kept them “on the merry-go-round,” Anderson said, and was not providing the services people needed.

“When we looked around and looked at the number of calls that were taken with people who were in the throes of a mental health crisis, we just realized we needed to do something differently than what we were doing,” Anderson said.

Janson-Wolle and Holden work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

How it works

Before the team formed, people in a crisis often were brought to St. Cloud Hospital.

“Overwhelmingly, those people don’t meet the criteria for psychiatric hospitalization, and thus were often released back into the community within hours, only in some cases to intersect with law enforcement again later” said Rick Lee, executive director of Central Minnesota Mental Health Center.

With the co-responder team, evaluations are done on-scene to connect people with proper resources, which can include primary care, social services, chemical and mental health treatment and housing services.

Holden said officers may frequently see behavioral health calls, but they are not mental health experts. With a mental health professional responding, clinical decisions can be made in the field.

Janson-Wolle graduated from University of Denver with a master’s degree in social work. She is a licensed independent clinical social worker and a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. She also has a certificate in animal-assisted social work.

That is part of what makes the team great, according to Janson-Wolle — providing help in areas that police do not have the same level of expertise.

“Officers aren’t getting that same amount of education …. but they’re still being asked to do similar things,” Janson-Wolle said.

According to Holden, that specialization is important in affecting change.

“Our goal is to actually do something to help that person have a better life, not just for a few hours,” Holden said, “but in the future too.”

The team works slowly and methodically to dig into the underlying issues of each call. One call can take three or four hours.

“I’ve been an officer for 15 years, but this a completely different shift — a completely different way of looking at police work, a different way of doing things,” Holden said. “And I love it. “

The co-responder team was a next step from the Community Action Team, a joint effort of service providers from the area, such as human services, CentraCare Health, law enforcement, and Central Minnesota Mental Health Center.

Funds for the team came from organizations such as CentraCare, Central Minnesota Mental Health Center, Stearns County Human Services and the police department.

The mental health part of the program costs about $125,000 per year, according to Lee, but that does not cover the costs with the police department.

The team began operating at the end of March, about when the state shut down to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, work to bring the model to St. Cloud dates back a few years.

Janson-Wolle worked as a co-responder in Denver, where a group from St. Cloud traveled to learn more about that model.

“It worked. That’s what I liked about it most,” Anderson said. “You could see the results they had. “

Janson-Wolle, whose hometown is St. Cloud, moved back to Minnesota as the team was being created here.

Melissa Huberty, administrator of Stearns County Human Services, said the funding the county has put in is seen as an investment.

Huberty, a licensed mental health professional, said the department allocated around $80,000 for one-time funding for the team.

“It not only saves dollars in the community, but it is also a very humane way to treat people with mental health issues,” Huberty said.

Between the co-responder model and the Community Action Team, Central Minnesota is focusing on prevention, or helping people before they go to the emergency room or jail.

“It reduces trauma to the individual and their families,” Huberty said. “It’s the right way to do things, but it also saves taxpayer dollars.”

It saves money by providing services to people before they get in “deep end crises,” Huberty said, such as going to the emergency room or being civilly committed, which are expensive.

Even though work to bring the team to St. Cloud began years ago, long before the current police reform movement, the co-responder team “is absolutely a kind of police reform that’s being talked about all over the country right now,” Lee said.

What does success look like?

For those involved with the team, success comes in different forms.

In terms of data, Janson-Wolle and Holden said success is a decrease in the number of people sent to the hospital.

According to Lee, there is already around a 30% reduction in the number of those cases that would have gone to the emergency room if the team was not available.

Success can also mean getting someone set up with housing so they have time to focus on mental health instead of where they sleep, Holden said.

For Huberty, success means serving people in the least traumatic way. And in the long run, success can come in the form of education.

“Everybody I feel like benefits from talking back and forth,” Janson-Wolle said. She said she shares her knowledge with other officers about symptoms and resources. She also supports the officers with what they experience and need, too.

“If we’re having these conversations with people, we’re touching all those areas and giving them the opportunity to do better,” Janson-Wolle said.

Looking forward, the plan is to expand the team in St. Cloud to provide 24/7 coverage, Anderson said.

“That’s the beauty of what we do in in St. Cloud and Central Minnesota,” Anderson said.

“We figure out creative ways to solve problems that are plaguing all of us.”

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