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Dawn Bennett at left, Madison Hovis at right. (Provided)

Dawn Bennett at left, Madison Hovis at right. (Provided)

(Mountain Home) – On March 20th and 21st, eleven Arkansas State University – Mountain Home (ASUMH) Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) students traveled to Hope, AR, to participate in the ALPNA (Arkansas Licensed Practical Nurse Association) Competition and Conference. This was the first time that ASUMH sent a team to compete. The team entered in five categories and won two first place trophies. Dawn Bennett won the Medical Terminology contest and Madison Hovis won for the Interviewing category. About the competition, “It was a great experience for our LPN students and I am thrilled that we took first place in two categories, especially since it was our first time entering. We are very proud!” said ASUMH Nursing Instructor, Denise Malloy, RN.

The purpose of ALPNA is to unite all licensed practical nurses in the State of Arkansas and promote contacts on national, state and local levels with groups interested in the improvement and extension of nursing service.

For information on the ASUMH Nursing Program, contact ASUMH Health Science Coordinator Sarah Smith at 870-508-6266 or email sarahs@asumh.edu.

(MSU-WP Photo)

(MSU-WP Photo)

(West Plains) – These ladies, both of West Plains, were the winners of items given away during the Friends of the Garnett Library “Walk on the Wild Side” fashion show and luncheon fundraiser Friday, April 4, at the West Plains Country Club.

The semi-annual event, hosted by The Kloz Klozet and Cottage Flowers and Interiors, raises funds for the purchase of books and other materials for the Garnett Library on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus. Funds from this event will be used toward furnishings for a collaborative learning space in the library.

Sue Hall, left, received a decorative wreath donated by Cottage Flowers and Interiors, and Carol Sederburg, received a Brighton tote bag donated by The Kloz Klozet and a plant, placed inside the bag, provided by Cottage Flowers and Interiors.

A third winner, Pat Hilton, West Plains, received a Brighton note pad and pen donated by The Kloz Klozet.

(Columbia) – USDA Deputy under Secretary Doug O’Brien announced last week that the Department is accepting applications for grants to improve health care services in the Delta Region.

O’Brien shared that this funding will help provide enhanced health care to Delta residents and provide care for people who don’t have access to quality services and there is more than $5.7 million that will be competitively awarded.

The grants will be provided through the Delta Health Care Services Grant Program, which helps communities of up to 50,000 people address unmet health needs. Eligible applicants include higher education institutions, health and research institutes, economic development entities, health care cooperatives or consortia of at least three such entities in the Delta Region. This area includes 252 counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

USDA is partnering with the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) to deliver the program this year, and DRA is contributing $300,000 to the grant pool. Grants of $50,000 to $1 million are available from USDA. The maximum for DRA grants is $100,000.

Funds may be used to develop health care services, educational programs and job training programs. For more information about how to apply, visit www.gpo.gov, page 20857 of the April 14, 2014 Federal Register. Applications are due June 13, 2014.

(Springfield) – Whether it’s constructing new buildings to meet ENERGY STAR standards or removing unnecessary lighting, Mercy’s Green Team members across four states are saving money while reducing the impact our facilities have on the environment.

“This is good for our communities, patients and for our planet,” explained Doug Neidigh, Mercy executive director of energy and sustainability. “Our co-workers are implementing strategies that reduce our energy consumption, waste generation and water consumption. It’s all about stewardship and making smarter use of our resources.”

Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in Rogers, Ark., has achieved the ENERGY STAR recognition by using 35 percent less energy compared to similar buildings across the nation. New construction across Mercy is being designed to significantly reduce energy consumption as well. At Mercy Hospital Fort Scott in Kansas and Mercy Hospital Ardmore in Oklahoma, lighting has been reduced in patient hallways. That has not only reduced cost, it has created a quieter atmosphere that patients have appreciated.

In some cases, Mercy has taken its green efforts into local communities including:

An initiative to dramatically increase the volume and number of materials recycled at Mercy Hospital Lebanon in Missouri which led to a partnership with Laclede Industries – a company that employs people with disabilities.

A Mercy grant to support a school gardening program so students can learn about plant science and healthy eating in Springfield, Mo.

A local vegetable buying program for Mercy St. Louis co-workers through a partnership with a local farm, which brings fresh vegetables to the main hospital once a week through a community supported agriculture program.

Land set aside so co-workers can sign up to plant a garden at Mercy McCune Brooks Hospital in Carthage, Mo.. Each year the plots provide so much produce that other co-workers get to share the harvest.

When it comes to green initiatives, reusing can be just as effective as recycling, especially when it benefits other co-workers. In St. Louis, Mercy developed the ReStore, where co-workers can donate or pick up household items and clothing. In Oklahoma City, the thrift store has gone virtual on a site called “Catherine’s Attic.” Mercy departments post things like office furniture or filing cabinets they no longer use so other departments can claim them rather than buying new.

“Care of the earth is one of the critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy,” explained Sister Cabrini Koelsch. “Therefore it is part of our responsibility in stewardship.”

(Jefferson City)(AP) – Missouri lawmakers have only a few weeks to decide whether to expand a college scholarship for top students in an effort to employ them in the state after graduation.

The Senate budget-writing panel is scheduled this week to consider funding for a new forgivable loan component in the Bright Flight program. The House included $7 million in loan funding in its budget plan earlier this year, and passed a measure to authorize the loan-forgiveness program last week.

Lawmakers have until May 9 to pass the budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. In order to enact the loan forgiveness program, the money would need to be included in the budget and lawmakers also would have to pass a separate bill authorizing the program before their session ends May 16.

Bright Flight scholarships are awarded to students who attend participating Missouri schools based on ACT or SAT scores; those who score in the top 3 percent now receive $2,500 per year. About 1,600 freshmen were given Bright Flight scholarships in 2013.

Under the pending legislation, those students also could receive a forgivable loan that could be worth about $5,000 if they attend one of Missouri’s public four-year universities. Each year a student works in Missouri after school would count toward one year of loan forgiveness, and leaving Missouri before the loan is repaid would require it to be paid back with interest. The loan amount could not exceed the cost of tuition and other fees, but the academic scholarship would not count in that calculation.

Gov. Jay Nixon called for money to fund the forgivable loan component in his budget recommendation. He and other supporters say it will help entice top students to get jobs in Missouri after graduating college.

“We’re losing our highest assets. A lot of very sharp kids are leaving the state,” said Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, who’s sponsoring the House legislation.

The plan has run into opposition on the Senate floor because of its projected cost. Legislative staff estimates it could reach $22 million annually once the loan forgiveness program is fully implemented.

It will take four years to realize the total cost because students currently receiving the scholarship would only eligible for the loan forgiveness after graduating. The cost analysis is based on the assumption that half of the students qualifying for a Bright Flight scholarship will take advantage of the loan at the maximum amount offered.

Opponents of expanding the program said it is possible more students would take advantage and that the state could face larger costs if schools raise tuition and fees.

But new attendance standards laid out in the legislation could also reduce the number of recipients eligible for the loan. Under the bill, students would need to complete 24 credit hours during their first year and 30 credit hours each following year to remain eligible for the scholarship.

State education officials project that 10 percent of Bright Flight scholars take five years to graduate, which could reduce loan forgiveness eligibility if those students don’t meet the annual credit hour requirements.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Industry and special interest groups spent more than $200,000 in the last three years on trips for Missouri lawmakers, according to a newspaper analysis.

Records reviewed by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch show the travel-related spending in many cases included airline tickets, hotel rooms, meals and convention fees. While lobbyist spending is legal in Missouri, critics say the practice can create conflicts of interest when legislators vote on important issues.

The trips are “vacations that are masquerading as something else,” said John Messner, founder of Missourians for Government Reform.

“I absolutely understand the need (for legislators) to speak to lobbyists,” Messner said. “My difficulty is when they wrap that `education’ up with some kind of goody, something of value.”

Defenders of lobbyist spending say paying for trips that provide lawmakers with valuable information is not the same as plying legislators with perks.

Republican state Rep. T.J. Berry of Kearney was among four Missouri lawmakers whom Microsoft hosted at its Seattle-area headquarters in October 2013 for its “Midwest Legislative Roundtable” program.

“I got a tremendous amount out of the trip. It exposed us to how technology is changing and can work to make government more efficient,” Berry said.

The “learning experience at some of these events is extremely valuable, and some way, somehow you need to pay for it. Do you want your tax dollars to pay for it?” Berry asked.

The Missouri Biotechnology Association, which promotes the growth of the state’s biotechnology and biomedical industries, was among the most prolific providers of travel and related expenses. The association spent more than $40,000 from 2011 to 2013 on statewide tours of Missouri biotech facilities and other events.

The association pushed for the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, or MOSIRA, which called for state income taxes collected on new wages in science and high-tech industries to be earmarked to help those industries grow. The measure passed and was signed in 2011, but the Missouri Supreme Court struck it down on a technical issue.

Missouri Roundtable for Life, an anti-abortion group that opposed MOSIRA, said the fight over the act was uneven because the association gave travel perks to legislators.

“We absolutely believe that those kinds of trips were factors” in the passage of the legislation, Molly McCann, Missouri Roundtable’s executive director, said in an emailed statement.

Kelly Gillespie, the Missouri Biotechnology Association’s executive director, disputed that characterization but said he agrees constraints should be imposed on some lobbyist gifts.

He said his organization has sponsored educational outings for legislators.

But “I’ve never bought a meal inside the Missouri state Capitol, because I don’t like the image it projects,” he said.

“There’s no golf outings, there’s no casino trips,” Gillespie said. “We do rent a motor coach; it’s an economical way to travel … (But) I think it’s in a vastly different category than running someone to the Super Bowl.”

(Alton) – The Oregon County Sheriff’s Office states that they are currently searching for a man who reportedly stole a patrol vehicle and drove it into a creek.

Authorities are searching for 26-year-old Jeffrey Wegener of Platte Center, Nebraska, after he reportedly took a patrol truck on Sunday around 9:30 PM and drove down to the Stubblefield Access in Myrtle, where he drove the truck into the water. Information from the Oregon County Sheriff’s Office states that Wegener was not around the vehicle when the vehicle was located.

Wegener is considered armed and dangerous, and authorities say that everyone in the area should keep their vehicles locked and keys out of their vehicle if they are not using it.

If you see him, contact the Oregon County Sheriff’s Office 417-778-6611 or dial 911.

(West Plains) – A Caulfield resident suffered minor injuries Monday morning after a two-vehicle accident on Highway 63 in West Plains.

A report from the West Plains Police Department states the accident happened at 5:02 AM, when the southbound vehicle driven by 68-year-old Marvin Haynes of Winona had a tire blow out, which caused the vehicle to cross the median and strike a northbound vehicle driven by 49-year-old Theodore Ledbetter of Caulfield. The accident report states that Haynes admitted to police that he was traveling approximately 65 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone.

Ledbetter suffered minor injuries and was taken to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains by ambulance.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri’s unemployment rate increased in March, though the size of payrolls also grew.

The Department of Economic Development reported earlier this month that the jobless rate grew to 6.7 percent from 6.4 percent in February. Employers added a net of 3,500 jobs in March.

Top gainers were the construction and education and health services. Construction jobs grew by 2,000 and education and health services grew by 1,600. On the other hand, the leisure and hospitality sector declined by 1,900 jobs.

Missouri’s civilian labor force of about 3 million people grew by 8,450 during March. The labor force counts people with jobs and those who are on unemployment but looking for work.

(Little Rock) (AP) – State officials say Arkansas’ unemployment rate has dropped below 7 percent for the first time in more than five years.

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services says the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in March, down from 7.1 percent in February. Agency spokeswoman Becky Heflin says it’s the first time Arkansas’ jobless rate has been below 7 percent since January 2009.

All major industry sectors posted gains in March. Jobs in leisure and hospitality rose by 3,200, while employment in trade, transportation and utilities increased by 3,000. Construction added 1,900 jobs and government employment increased by 1,200.

The national unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in March.