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Rural News

How a Texas community saved its hospital — and vice versa

Athena Insight | Posted on December 7, 2016

In the early 2000s, no one in Jacksboro, Texas thought much of Faith Community Hospital, the fifty-year-old hospital in the center of town. The building was substandard. Staff morale was low. Patients preferred to drive thirty miles or more to Fort Worth or Wichita Falls for care. And when the hospital flunked a Medicare inspection due to mold and asbestos, voters rejected a bond issue to build a new hospital by a 3-to-1 margin.Then, in 2010, Frank Beaman came to town, taking on the role of Faith’s CEO with a keen understanding of what was at stake. Rural hospitals are closing across the country — 71 in the last five years, 10 in Texas alone — devastating the health and the economies of small towns.Beaman, an experienced hospital administrator, was determined to keep this hospital open. In central Texas — a region of ranching, oilrigs, and hunting — people need high-quality healthcare close at hand. But to survive, the hospital would need the one thing it didn’t have: the confidence and support of the people of Jacksboro. Beaman knew that his first job would be to raise standards within the hospital. Along with sprucing up the place with fresh paint and new flooring, Beaman took a good look at his staff.Comparing the operation to a boat, he recalls, “There were people hanging off the side of the boat who needed to get in the boat. There were people in the boat holding oars, but rowing in the wrong direction. They just needed training. But the ones sitting there with a drill, who would just as soon see the boat sink — and we had several — needed to go.”Beaman let employees and staff know that “if we’re going to survive, it’s going to be because of you.” He launched a policy of zero tolerance for negative attitudes or interactions.

Fighting Opioid Abuse in Indian Country

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on December 7, 2016

When Misty Jones looks back on her drug-using years, she sees a pattern. Since she was 18, she’s been having babies, using drugs, losing custody of her babies, and trying to quit drugs so she can get them back. Now 36 and in recovery from heroin addiction for 15 months, Jones, a member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe, said she realizes she needs to beat her drug habit before she can take care of her children. “This time it’s going to be all about Misty and getting clean and not about Misty and getting her kids back,” she said. Jones attributes much of her ability to stay sober to the treatment and special housing she receives here on the Muckleshoot reservation, about 30 miles south of Seattle, and to buprenorphine, the addiction medication she takes every day. Plus, she said, “I’ve looked death in the eye too many times to think I could keep doing it.”

Texas Lowe's hires retired vet and his service dog, now an internet 'celebrity'

My San Antonio | Posted on December 7, 2016

After suffering a leg injury while enlisted in the Air Force, finding work became a challenge for a Texas man and his service dog until he walked into a Lowe's Home Improvement store.  Clay Luthy was working as a handyman, doing his best to support his three children, when he was shopping the Abilene store and decided to submit a job application, Lowe's spokeswoman Karen Cobb told, adding Luthy's injuries prevented him from bending his knee.  Human Resources Manager Jay Fellers said he was unaware the 35-year-old veteran had a service dog until he showed up for an interview, but that wasn't an issue "at all." Luthy was a top candidate during the interview process, eventually landed the job and has been a "great asset" to the store for the past three months, Fellers added."(Luthy and Charlotte) provide a big sense of pride and are a morale booster for our employees," Fellers said. 

Help Wanted: More Jobs for America

The New York Times | Posted on December 6, 2016

Why are there so few constructive responses to America’s unemployment and underemployment problems? Many individuals who were once members of the middle class or who grew up in solidly middle-class families are justifiably dissatisfied with current political and economic realities. This dissatisfaction partly accounts for Donald Trump’s election. Although corporations are creating jobs for robots, computers and offshore employees, little is being done to create well-paying jobs for Americans. The private sector either is no longer able or no longer willing to do so. Isn’t it time to demand that political and business leaders effectively address unemployment and underemployment?  Our infrastructure is in a deplorable state. President-elect Trump, to his credit, has proposed that public-private partnerships address this issue. Shouldn’t the federal government do more? Shouldn’t it create something like a public-private version of a Works Progress Administration? Such an agency could coordinate public-private efforts to create well-paying jobs and facilitate job training.  And let’s consider public-private undertakings that employ young adults in community service projects such as teaching, aiding the handicapped and homebound, mentoring disadvantaged youth and aiding disabled veterans. Should we even consider “drafting” all able-bodied young adults into some form of national service? So many young adults, even those with advanced degrees, are currently unemployed or underemployed. Isn’t this a huge waste of human capital?

Rural meatpacking town a model for diversity, study finds

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on December 5, 2016

A recent University of Kansas (KU) study concludes that Garden City, Kan., home to a Tyson Foods beef packing plant, sets a positive example for how a community can help new immigrants and refugees assimilate.  Tyson’s Finney County complex, as it is called, employs 3,200 workers

After 118 years in business, rural Nebraska retailer is closing up shop for good

The Grand Island Independent | Posted on December 4, 2016

When it comes to small-town businesses, Lukasiewicz Furniture, Flooring and Appliances has always been the exception.  As the bank, the grocery store and even the gas station closed up shop in this Polish farm town of 122 people, the furniture store thrived and even expanded over the decades.At its peak, the business employed a dozen people and occupied 12 storefronts on both sides of the main street in town. “The Farwell mall,” it was called. Five generations of the Lukasiewicz family drew in customers with the promise of quality merchandise, competitive prices and good service. They came from as far away as Burwell, 60 miles to the north; Broken Bow, 50 miles to the west; and Grand Island, 30 miles to the south.But soon, a business that has called Farwell home for 118 years will lock its doors.Those who work with rural communities and main street businesses have heard this sad story before.As farms became bigger and fewer, as rural areas lost population and saw young people move away, as it became easier to commute and shop in bigger cities, small town retail stores have died off. Now, sales over the internet, which often go untaxed, are adding to the woes of main street and mall businesses.“The Amazons of the world are huge,” said Jim Otto, Nebraska Retail Federation president.“I call it ‘bricks versus clicks,’” Otto said, referring to brick storefronts and clicks of a computer mouse.

New lawmaker hopes to improve technology infrastructure in rural Idaho

Capital Press | Posted on December 4, 2016

New Idaho lawmaker Megan Blanksma hopes to shine a spotlight on the lack of technology infrastructure in rural Idaho, which she says places farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage.  “I want to try to see what we can do to push out this technological infrastructure into rural areas and improve it,” said Blanksma, a Hammett farmer. “We have to have good, solid internet for us to compete.”Blanksma is one of four new farmers or ranchers that will serve in the Idaho Legislature when it convenes in January.She said improving internet access and other technology infrastructure in rural parts of the state will be her top priority.Farmers and ranchers rely on reliable internet access to do things like run irrigation pivots and soil moisture sensors and file reports required by USDA and industry, she said.

Ohio leads nation in overdose deaths

The Columbus Dispatch | Posted on December 1, 2016

n a grim statistic that surprises no one close to the problem, Ohio leads the nation in opioid overdose deaths, a new report shows. Along with the overall category, Ohio also had the country's most deaths related to heroin: One in 9 heroin deaths across the U.S. happened in Ohio. The Buckeye State also recorded the most deaths from synthetic opioids: About 1 in 14 U.S. deaths. In all the categories, Ohio easily surpassed states with larger populations.

Bass connection team finds untold stories of rural development | Posted on December 1, 2016

From shuttered textile mills and furniture factories to dormant tobacco fields, the traditional industries of North Carolina’s Appalachian region have drastically declined.  But new areas have emerged, says Lukas Brun of Duke’s Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness, who set out to show that the Appalachian economy is more than a tale of decline: “There are great stories that are not being told.” In 2015-16, a new Bass Connections team focused on using the value chain framework in one part of the state. “The framework hadn’t been applied to a region before,” Brun noted, “and we wanted to understand what industries were taking root in a disadvantaged rural area. We picked Appalachia because the traditional industries of North Carolina—furniture, tobacco, textiles—all had a historic presence in the region, but had largely gone away. And we had connections with people at the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina who were interested in better understanding the economy of that region.”

General Mills joins effort to support bee and butterfly habitats

Minneapolis Star Tribune | Posted on December 1, 2016

General Mills has made its largest contribution to help save pollinators, announcing a $2 million commitment that will add more than 100,000 acres of bee and butterfly habitat on or near existing crop lands.  The five-year agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Xerces Society, the world's oldest and largest pollinator conservation group, will focus its efforts in Minnesota, North Dakota, California, Nebraska, Iowa and Maine. The USDA and Xerces will match this donation with another $2 million toward the project.