- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

The Grand Island Independent. April 3, 2016

Text-to-911 service should be available.

Text-to-911 services are spreading across the country, but currently they’re only available in a few Nebraska counties.

Buffalo and Douglas counties have been able to communicate with 911 callers by text since January 2015 and Washington County added the service later in the year.

A few months ago, the Public Service Commission approved funding for Keith County to add the service. That will be a boost for the Sandhills as the Keith County dispatch center also serves Arthur, Garden, Grant, Hooker, Logan, McPherson and Perkins counties.

But that leaves most of Central Nebraska, other than Buffalo County, without this important service.

The value of texting availability was illustrated a week ago when a 13-year-old girl used Buffalo County’s text-to-911 service to call for help when she and her younger brother were in a car with their father, who was driving while drunk.

Police were able to find them, stop the car and arrest the man, whose blood alcohol level was about three times the legal driving limit.

Buffalo County officials have said this was the second time in the 15 months that the county has had the service that a text to 911 has resulted in an arrest.

Funding to help counties add text-to-911 service is available through the PSC.

There also is currently a bill in the Legislature, LB938, to expand emergency communication capabilities such as text to 911 throughout the state. It has been given first-round approval, but still has two more rounds of debate to go before a final vote.

The bill would lay the groundwork for the Internet-based service known as Next Generation 911, which would help emergency dispatchers receive such things as video footage of a crime in progress or a cellphone photo of a car crash from callers.

Sen. Jim Smith’s bill would put the PSC in charge of developing a plan and reporting back to the Legislature with its recommendations by December 2017.

We urge the Legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts to move forward with this bill, but we don’t want to see Hall County and the other counties in Nebraska that don’t currently offer text-to-911 service wait for this plan to be developed before they begin work to update their 911 service.

Buffalo County has shown that texting to 911 can be done in Central Nebraska by a county smaller than Hall County.

Texting availability can help deaf people, as well as domestic violence victims and people hiding from a home invader, notify the police.

Voice calls are obviously the preferable method of contacting emergency services, since they’re a quicker form of communication and dispatchers can determine the location of the caller instantly. But when someone needs to text, that option should be available.___

Lincoln Journal Star. Mar. 31, 2016

Reward their hard work.

It’s dismaying that Gov. Pete Ricketts has targeted a bill that would allow young immigrants in Nebraska to get professional and occupational licenses to work in Nebraska.

His position is anti-business, not to mention mean-spirited.

The governor has taken aim at the bill in a weekly column. His disapproval has been conveyed directly to state senators.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, would apply to young immigrants brought here as children and given lawful status in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals implemented by President Barack Obama.

In his column, Ricketts said the bill would “reward illegal immigration.”

Wrong.

In reality the bill would reward the hard work required to become nurses, electricians, engineers and so on.

It would reward exactly the sort of ambitious young people that Nebraska needs to grow its economy. It would reward precisely the kind of people that employers search for desperately a state that consistently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.

To be eligible for DACA, young immigrants must have been brought to the United States before turning 16. They must have lived in the United States since 2007. In short, they arrived here as kids just doing what their parents told them. In many cases Nebraska is their only real home.

With lawful status in America, DACA youth, sometimes called Dreamers, can study at Nebraska colleges. It’s a credit to private donors that endowments have been set up at Nebraska colleges and universities to provide scholarships to Dreamers. Some of them graduate from Nebraska high schools near the top of their class.

But under current Nebraska policy, they will have to leave Nebraska to work in their chosen professions.

“That’s the most insane thing I’ve heard of,” as Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings so aptly put it.

Earlier this month the bill, LB947, was given 27-7 first-round approval. Sen. Matt Hansen of Lincoln made it his priority bill.

The governor’s opposition means that it faces a more difficult path to become law. The governor’s intransigence on the issue signals a veto, which means 30 votes would be needed for an override. It would take 33 votes to break a filibuster.

The situation is much the same as last year, when senators had to override Rickett’s veto of a bill that finally made Nebraska the last state in the union to allow Dreamers to get driver’s licenses.

State senators apparently will have to do it again this year.

And they should. To do otherwise would be insane.___

Omaha World-Herald. Apirl 1, 2016

Wildfires spark generosity.

Back in the day, farmers used to hold barn raisings. An entire community would gather to help build a family’s barn and socialize in the process.

Barn raising might be passe, but generosity still thrives in rural communities. That was confirmed again this week, as Nebraska cattle producers began donating hay and fencing supplies to their counterparts in Kansas and Oklahoma.

The area has been devastated during the past week by wildfires roaring across hundreds of miles of land destroying nearly 368,000 acres - largely pasture - in what is being called the Anderson Creek fire.

In Oklahoma, about 600 head of cattle died, fences and buildings were destroyed and 1,000 round bales of hay were burned. In Kansas, ag officials said damages to livestock, fencing, water systems and stockpiled hay would reach into the millions in the state’s largest wildfire on record.

Nebraska ranchers know from bitter experience how destructive fires can be. In 2012, more than 520,500 acres of Nebraska land were scorched during a devastating fire season. And help poured in. Area ranchers and farmers donated hay, food and other provisions. Cash donations poured in from as far away as New York, Nevada and Texas.

Now ranchers in Kansas and Oklahoma are suffering, and Nebraskans are among those on the helping end, with the Nebraska Cattlemen sending hay and fencing supplies.

It’s the neighborly thing to do.______

McCook Daily Gazette. Mar. 29, 2016

Too many of us taking too many opioid painkillers.

Thanks to our location near Colorado, the subject of legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use is the most common topic of drug-related conversation in Southwest Nebraska.

But a much more potent class of chemicals, in the form of opium-derived legal and illegal drugs, is worthy of discussion.

Recent news reports have pointed out the rise in heroin addiction in all segments of society, and President Obama is throwing the spotlight on that issue as well as prescription painkillers during a visit to Atlanta today.

There is reason to be concerned. Drug overdoses have surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of preventable death for American adults, with prescription opioids contributing to more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

Doctors prescribe enough opioids to give every American a bottle of pills, according to the National Safety Council.

A record number of Americans died from drug overdoses in 2014, highest in West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.

The administration is announcing $11 million in grants for up to 11 states for medication-assisted treatment and another $11 million for states to buy and distribute an overdose drug. Regulators also want to make it possible for qualified physicians to prescribe the treatment drug to more people.

But there’s no shortage of problem painkillers nor doctors to prescribe them, according to a survey by the NSC, which wants to steer physicians and patients to safer alternatives.

The NSC found that 99 percent of doctors are prescribing opioid medicines for longer than the three-day period recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Twenty-three percent of doctors prescribe at least a month’s worth of opioids, and 74 percent incorrectly believe morphine and oxycodone, both opioids are the most effective ways to treat pain, according to the NSC. NSC research, however, shows that over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are the most effective relief for acute pain.

Virtually all doctors surveyed said they had seen a pill-seeking patient or evidence of opioid abuse, but only 38 percent refer those patients to treatment. Only 5 percent treat them for abuse themselves.

Despite new CDC guidelines calling for doctors to use the lowest possible effective dosage of opioids turn to non-opioid medications or non-pharmacologic therapies, opioids are being prescribed improperly.

The NSC found 71 percent of doctors prescribe opioids for chronic back pain and 55 percent for dental pain, neither of which is appropriate in most cases. Sixty-seven percent of doctors prescribe opioids because they think their patients want them, but 50 percent of patients said they were more likely to return to their doctor if he or she offered alternatives.

Eighty-four percent of doctors screen for prior opioid abuse, but only 32 percent screen for family history of addiction, a strong indicator of potential abuse.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would require strong warnings on short-acting opioid painkillers that Will bring information about addiction and abuse in line with long-acting pills. Short-acting opioids account for 90 percent of prescriptions, 87 branded and 141 generics from combination acetaminophen-opioid pills to intravenous formulations.

We should be grateful good medical care is readily available, and that includes effective pain relief. Patients and doctors, however, need to be careful they’re not trading the symptom of pain for the disease of addiction.___


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