TWIN FALLS — Opioid overdose patients in Twin Falls may have a greater chance of survival now, thanks to a new tool carried by the city’s police officers.
As opioid use explodes across the country, a growing number of police departments — Twin Falls now among them — are equipping their officers with naloxone, a medication delivered by injection or nasal spray that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose.
Typically, when an officer arrives at the scene of a potential overdose, they must wait for medics to get there to give the patient medical attention. Now, first responders in Twin Falls and elsewhere can administer an antidote themselves while waiting for additional help to arrive.
Naloxone — often referred to as Narcan, the brand name of a nasal spray form of naloxone used by the Twin Falls police and many other departments — isn’t an end-all medical treatment for potential overdoses. But proponents of equipping first responders with Narcan say it’s a simple, low-risk tool that can mean the difference between life and death.
“It’s no secret this is a national healthcare phenomenon that is truly affecting all of our country,” said Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury. “This is a easily administered medication that, if used in a timely manner on people who have overdosed on opioid substances, can reverse the effects and in essence help them breathe again and save lives.”
In Twin Falls, there have already been two instances of officers successfully using Narcan on overdose patients since October, when the department began training and equipping its officers, Kingsbury said. The department started looking into using Narcan late last year.
Overdoses from opioids, particularly heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, have skyrocketed within the past few years. More than 64,000 people in the US died from drug overdoses in 2016, with opioids leading the death count, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The number of deaths involving heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have especially increased since 2010.
There hasn’t been a rise in overdose deaths in Twin Falls over the past couple of years, but police data suggests that heroin is becoming more prevalent as illegal prescription drugs become more difficult to obtain.
Up until roughly a year ago, heroin overdoses were rare in the area, said Matt Larsen, an emergency room doctor at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center. Now they’re more common.
Since October, Larsen has led training sessions for the Twin Falls Police Department to explain to officers how the drug works, the correct way to administer it, and under what circumstances it should be used.
When he was first approached by the city to assist with trainings, Larsen said, he was somewhat reluctant.
“Police should not normally be tasked with medical provision,” he said. However, he continued, “having them have a very simple treatment that has no significant side effects ... seems like a reasonable way of trying to save lives.”
The Twin Falls Police Department is not the only law enforcement agency in the Magic Valley to consider using Narcan. The Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office plans to consult the police department’s model for equipment and training, Sheriff Tom Carter said, with the goal of eventually outfitting its deputies with the antidote as well.
Blaine County deputies will also soon carry Narcan, supplied by a local pharmacy, according to Sheriff Steve Harkins. The department is in the early stages of training, he said.
Deputies in Minidoka and Cassia counties already carry the medication, but only to use on themselves in case of emergency.
Other local sheriffs said they did not have plans to equip deputies with naloxone to use on potential overdose patients, though Gooding County Sheriff Shaun Gough and Jerome County Sheriff Doug McFall indicated that they may be open to rethinking the possibility in the future if needed. Calls to the Lincoln County and Camas County Sheriff’s Offices were not immediately returned.
So far, said Jerome Police Chief Dan Hall, his department doesn’t have any plans to follow in Twin Falls’s footsteps, as Jerome hasn’t seen a significant rise in opioid use.
“I can’t guarantee that won’t happen in the future,” he said. “Given what’s going on all around us, it would almost be reasonable to expect that that will rise at some point in time.”
TWIN FALLS — By the time she graduates, Twin Falls High School student Tayler Stout will have two healthcare certifications and some hands-on experience.
Through a sports medicine class, the certified nursing assistant treated her classmates’ sports injuries on the sidelines. Now, she’s working toward becoming an emergency medical technician.
The focus of this year’s tour was preparing students for a career.
While students decades ago might have taken home economics, students now are focused on career-based classes, Twin Falls School District Superintendent Brady Dickinson told about 30 tour attendees.
The tour was a chance for lawmakers to get an inside look into the local education system. They’re preparing to head back to Boise in January for a new legislative session.
Public education is a huge chunk of Idaho’s budget. Plus, decisions on other education-related topics will affect thousands of students and school employees across the Gem State.
State legislators in attendance included Democrats Sen. Michelle Stennett of Ketchum and Rep. Sally Toone from Gooding, and Republicans Clark Kauffman of Filer, Stephen Hartgen of Twin Falls and Sen. Lee Heider of Twin Falls.
They ate breakfast prepared by culinary students at Twin Falls High, and they visited welding and EMT classes.
Dickinson told visitors they’ve probably heard a lot about Idaho’s go-on rate — how many high school graduates pursue some form of higher education, such as college or workforce training.
“I want to take that a step further,” he said, by helping students define which career they’re interested in earlier and helping them find a path to get there.
Especially here in south-central Idaho, with the unemployment rate at 2.6 percent, there’s a real shortage of labor, Dickinson said.
Here are a few topics that came up during the tour:
Twin Falls High’s culinary students are studying to take an exam soon to earn a ServSafe certificate, which is an industry standard.
Restaurants must have at least one person on staff for each shift who’s ServSafe certified, said teacher Erin Lundy. Employees who are certified can get bumped to a higher level of employment, she added.
Welding technology teacher Joe Woodland talked said students love to get their hands dirty in his class.
As students progress in the program, they ultimately have the opportunity to take an industry-recognized certification test.
On Wednesday, six high school seniors in the EMT program, a semester-long dual-credit class through the College of Southern Idaho, were presenting to an introductory health occupations class.
The seniors are getting ready to take a licensing exam and start an internship as an EMT.
They completed a round robin assessment lab as state legislators and business leaders watched. Two of the students played the role of EMTs, two were patients and two walked around to answer visitors’ questions.
“Usually, they’re these quick practices,” EMT student Sebastian Powell said, lasting six to 10 minutes. The name of the game in the medical world, he said, is to provide the highest-quality care as quickly as possible.
Students in the EMT program have already taken prerequisite classes such as health occupations and medical terminology.
During the presentation, Dickinson covered topics such as new schools, renovation and expansion projects, finances and carryover funding, the teacher shortage, class sizes and student accomplishments.
Dickinson displayed a graph showing a steep climb in student numbers over the years. “Obviously, enrollment continues to grow in the Twin Falls School District,” he said.
Now, there are more than 9,400 students, and numbers keep increasing throughout the school year. Within a couple of years, the district will likely hit the 10,000-student mark, Dickinson said.
In terms of demographics, refugees make up less than 1 percent of the school district’s enrollment. And 64 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.
Older school campuses in Twin Falls are an average of 53 years old, Dickinson said. “We’ve really worked hard to maintain our buildings.”
He said he wants to focus on ensuring parity, meaning equal opportunities for students regardless of the age of the school they attend. “We don’t want a situation of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’”
Another big topic was school security, such as new high-definition security cameras and working to improve access control at older school buildings.
“It’s a balancing act,” Dickinson said. “We want schools to be warm and welcoming, but we don’t want to have a prison mentality.”
One new change this year is using a Raptor system in school front offices. Visitors must provide identification and their information is run through a nationwide sex offender database.
There’s also a school district-wide radio system administrators use to communicate in case of an emergency such as a school lock down.
WASHINGTON — Stoking the same anti-Islamic sentiments he fanned on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump on Wednesday retweeted a string of inflammatory videos from a fringe British political group purporting to show violence being committed by Muslims.
The tweets drew a sharp condemnation from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office, which said it was “wrong for the president to have done this.” May spokesman James Slack said the far-right Britain First group seeks to divide through its use of “hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions.”
Brushing off the criticism in an evening tweet, Trump said May instead of focusing on him should “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.”
Trump turned away from taxes, North Korea and other issues facing his administration to share the three videos tweeted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the British group. It was not clear what drew him to the videos, though one had been shared by conservative commentator Ann Coulter the day before.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was simply promoting border security and suggested that verifying the content was not a top concern.
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about,” she said.
The tweets read: “VIDEO: Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” and “VIDEO: Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”
Trump made anti-Muslim comments one hallmark of his presidential campaign and has previously retweeted inflammatory posts from controversial Twitter accounts including some with apparent ties to white nationalist groups. As president, he has sought to ban travel to the U.S. from a number of majority-Muslim countries.
His promotion of the videos came two days after he mocked Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” during an Oval Office event with Native American veterans, drawing criticism from of Native American war veterans and politicians of both major parties.
Britain First opposes what it calls the “Islamization” of Britain. It has run candidates in local and national elections, with little success, and has campaigned against the construction and expansion of mosques.
Trump’s retweets gave a wide platform to the previously obscure group. The videos were each shared more than 10,000 times, and Fransen picked up nearly 10,000 Twitter followers in the hours following Trump’s retweets. She thanked him on Twitter, saying “GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP!”
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke also welcomed the videos, tweeting that Trump was being “condemned for showing us what the fake news media WON’T. Thank God for Trump! That’s why we love him!”
Condemnation from civil rights organizations was swift.
The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, said in a statement that Trump is “clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, in a tweet, said, “Trump’s prejudice against Muslims reveals itself at every turn — with today’s tweets meant to gin up fear and bias.”
There are about 3.45 million Muslims in the United States, according to an August report from the Pew Research Center.
One of the retweeted videos from 2013 showed a radical Islamist in Egypt throwing a 9-year-old boy off a roof. The video was filmed in Egypt days after the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi by Egypt’s military. The perpetrators of the roof violence were later sentenced to death for killing the boy and another man.
Another video shows a man — said to be a supporter of Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate then known as the Nusra Front — smashing a blue and white statue of the Virgin Mary. The video appeared on the internet in October 2013, in the midst of the Syrian civil war, and was reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI.
The third video shows one young man attacking another young man on crutches. It was originally posted to a Dutch video site in May 2017 and picked up by Dutch media the following day. Two 16-year-old boys were arrested, according to De Telegraaf, and police removed the video. The boys’ religion was not included in any of the reports.
Fransen said in her tweet that a “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” But a statement from a spokesman for the Dutch prosecution service Wednesday said the boy was not a migrant and was born and raised in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands Embassy in the United States also weighed in with a tweet, writing: “Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law.”
Fransen has been charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment through leaflets and videos that were distributed during a criminal trial earlier this year. She has separately been charged with using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior” in a speech she made in Northern Ireland in August. She is currently free on bail.
She was convicted last year of religiously aggravated harassment and fined after hurling abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
The British government rejected calls from opposition lawmakers to revoke Trump’s invitation to visit. May announced in January that he had accepted an invitation for a state visit, one of the biggest honors the country can bestow on foreign leaders.
TWIN FALLS — When Erin Rigel learned two days ago of a plan to renovate the building she’s leasing, it came as a shock.
In August, Rigel, the owner of Fashion 15 Below, signed a three-year lease for the spot, and the last she’d heard, the building owner’s plans for renovation were going to happen a couple years from now. But on Wednesday, the Urban Renewal Agency approved a deal that would push that renovation up to January.
Rigel uses the space for her online order pickups. Up to 200 people pick up their orders there every day.
“It’s not just a warehouse space,” she said, noting that she has more than $100,000 of merchandise inside.
The URA voted 6-1 to deed a portion of the old Rogerson Hotel wall to the owner of 147 Main Ave. E., allowing her to construct an entrance facing the downtown plaza during a major renovation of the building. Board members were, however, conflicted about the potential impact this would have on Fashion 15 Below.
“As important as it is to refurbish businesses, we also need to keep businesses,” URA chairman Dan Brizee said. “Retention is as important as redevelopment.”
After the URA’s decision, Rigel spoke with her landlord, Debra Gates. Gates said she plans to accommodate Rigel’s business and continue with her lease — although long-term plans show the building housing a potential restaurant.
In the short-term, Rigel will need to decide how she will cope with the front of her building being under construction come Jan. 2.
“I’m going to have to figure out in the next couple of weeks on what we’re going to do,” Rigel said. She approves of the building’s proposed look.
The agreement signed by the URA deeds the portion of the Rogerson Hotel wall that is a supporting structure for the building. The space had been planned for a public mural, but the URA’s decision will move the mural down the wall next to five “art windows” that will be used to display public art in the downtown plaza at Main Avenue East and Hansen Street.
The URA owned the wall when it purchased the Rogerson, but couldn’t tear it down because of its structural importance to Gates’ building. The URA plans to refinish the wall as a public art space starting in January. As a condition with the memorandum of understanding, Gates’ exterior renovations must be completed in conjunction with work on the plaza wall.
“That wall is one of the first items that needs to happen,” Brizee said. “It’s go time on the plaza.”
For a large portion of the meeting, the URA was hung up on whether they should allow business access directly into the plaza. URA Executive Director Nathan Murray said that it would help to create an active plaza.
The architect for the building, Colby Ricks, showed up late to the meeting after saying he hadn’t known about it. He assured that Gates did not intend to have outdoor seating for a possible future restaurant. The door was needed, however, for fire access because Gates intends to build a mezzanine on the second story.
Suzanne Cawthra cast the dissenting vote, saying she was concerned about effects to Fashion 15 Below, a successful business. She also opposed tables and chairs for the restaurant going out in the plaza.
Gates plans a renovation valued more than $300,000. The project aims to open up the building to a variety of uses, such as a restaurant, coffee shop or office space.
The tax revenue estimated to be generated by those improvements is a couple thousand dollars a year, Murray said.
The downtown plaza is slated to be completed next spring with a restroom facility and splash pad.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Seconds after a U.N. judge confirmed his 20-year war crimes sentence on Wednesday, former Bosnian Croat military commander Slobodan Praljak shouted, “I am not a war criminal!” threw back his head, drank liquid from a small bottle and told the court he had taken poison. A flustered judge halted the hearing and Praljak was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died.
Shocking images of the 72-year-old former philosophy professor and theater director who became a wartime general shouting and drinking what he said was poison were streamed live on the court’s website and around the Balkans.
The death cast a pall over the last case at the groundbreaking International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Judges upheld sentences ranging from 10-25 years against Praljak and five other Bosnian Croat wartime political and military leaders for their part in a plan linked to Croatia’s late former President Franjo Tudjman to violently carve out a Croat-dominated mini-state in Bosnia during the Balkan wars by killing, mistreating and deporting Muslims.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic offered his condolences to Praljak’s family and said the former general’s actions reflected the “deep moral injustice” done to him and the five others whose sentences were also upheld by the appeals judges Wednesday.
In their ruling, the judges confirmed that Praljak was guilty of crimes including murder, persecution and inhumane treatment as part of the plot to establish a Croat entity in Bosnia in the early 1990s, as well as the 20-year sentence initially handed to Praljak in May 2013 at the end of the six men’s trial.
Ironically, Praljak, who surrendered to the tribunal in April 2004 and had already been jailed for 13 years, could have soon walked free because those who are convicted are generally released after serving two-thirds of their sentences.
After Praljak’s outburst, Dutch police immediately were called in to launch an independent investigation. Questions the detectives will attempt to answer include: What was the liquid Praljak drank and how did he manage to get it into the tightly guarded courtroom?
The courtroom where the dramatic scene unfolded was sealed off. Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said it was now a “crime scene.”
A Serbian lawyer who has frequently defended suspects at the U.N. war crimes court in the Netherlands told The Associated Press it would be easy to slip poison into the court.
Attorney Toma Fila said that security for lawyers and other court staff “is just like at an airport,” with security staff inspecting metal objects and confiscating cell phones, but “pills and small quantities of liquids” would not be registered.
Nick Kaufman, an Israeli defense lawyer who used to work as a prosecutor at the tribunal, also said a defendant could find a way to bring in a banned substance.
“When deprived of authority over the masses and the attention which formerly fueled their ego and charisma, such defendants can often be extremely resourceful with the little power they retain,” he said.
In the past, two Serbs have taken their lives while in the tribunal’s custody.
In July 1998, Slavko Dokmanovic, a Croatian Serb charged in the deaths of over 200 Croat prisoners of war, was found dead in his prison cell in The Hague. Milan Babic, a wartime Serbian leader who was closely cooperating with prosecutors, took his life in a prison tribunal cell in March 2006.
Wednesday’s hearing was the final case at the groundbreaking tribunal before it closes its doors next month. The tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993, while fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia. It indicted 161 suspects and convicted 90 of them.
The original trial began in April 2006 and provided a reminder of the complex web of ethnic tensions that fueled fighting in Bosnia and still underlies frictions in the country today.
Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic said that his country’s leadership during the Bosnian war could “in no way be connected with the facts and interpretations” of Wednesday’s judgment.