Hurricane Rina is spinning off Mexico’s Caribbean coast and is expected to impact the Yucatan Peninsula by Thursday.
After that, some forecast models have the system heading east. But, Michael Brennen with the National Hurricane Center said there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the forecast track.
“Folks in southern Florida should still be paying attention to Rina as we go through the work week – it’s still something that could impact the keys and south Florida as we get into the weekend but it’s too soon to tell if there’s going to be a direct threat,” he said.
Rina is currently a Category 2 hurricane but it’s expected to get stronger. This is the time of year when hurricanes typically form in the Caribbean – hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30.
It’s estimated nearly 9 million Americans 50 and older face the risk of hunger. That’s the impetus for a summit Wednesday at Florida Gulf Coast University sponsored by the Harry Chapin Food Bank (HCFB).
Florida, with its large retiree population, combined with the ailing economy, is perhaps ground zero for senior hunger. The forum is aimed at gauging the scope of the problem and brainstorming for ways to help. HCFB Director Al Brislain said hunger can sometimes arrive unexpectedly with loss of a spouse and that spouse’s pension.
“You can just picture the senior that’s got a condo payment and they need both those pensions and they don’t have a second one and given the state of the economy right now they can’t sell that condo,” he said.
Brislain says many seniors are also depleting their budgets by helping out children and grandchildren who’ve lost their jobs.
A small tent city remains today in Ft. Myers Centennial Park as Occupy Ft. Myers protestors hold their ground. Thursday night police issued more than a hundred citations to protestors for being in the park after closing time and for not having liability insurance Allan Combs left before he got a citation but was back Friday morning.
After 9 years of construction, the Fort Myers Housing Authority will dedicate its new administration building today in honor of the late circuit court judge Isaac Anderson Jr. It’s part of the largest affordable housing development project in the history of Southwest Florida. Isaac Anderson was Lee County’s first African American judge. He died in 2007 at age 61.
The Fort Myers native and Dunbar High School graduate was first appointed as a county judge in 1981 by former Florida Governor Bob Graham. Housing Authority Executive Director Marcus Goodson describes Judge Anderson as an advocate for affordable, quality housing and says he’s excited Anderson’s name will grace the new Administration building.
“To dedicate such a really nice building, a nice edition to this community to someone who was born and raised in this community, had a huge impact in the legal community throughout Lee County and also had a huge impact in the Dunbar community just by his presence and just by the things he brought to the table in terms of promoting affordable housing,” he said.
The ribbon will be cut for two other new buildings in the complex, where residents can find assistance with education, job training and life skills.The new 80 million dollar project, paid for with federal grants and state tax credit programs, will be complete this time next year. There’s already a waiting list for the new buildings.
One of Southwest Florida’s environmental icons passed away this morning. Ellen Peterson served on the Agency for Bay Management, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Save Our Creeks, the Responsible Growth Management Coalition, The Everglades Committee, the Environmental Peace and Education Center and the Sierra Club's Calusa Group.
She founded the Calusa group 30 years ago and remained the chairperson until her death.
The Agency for Bay Management was formed as a result of a lawsuit about where FGCU would be built; Peterson was the only member who refused to sign off on the settlement agreement. She was responsible for saving Fisheating Creek and fought and won the battle to stop a coal-fired power plant from going into Glades County.
Plans are being made for public services in Estero and at Fisheating Creek.
Ellen Peterson was 87 years old.
The Lee County Commission delayed a vote Tuesday to adopt new district lines for county commission seats. The decision came following a public hearing in which the NAACP said the proposed boundaries lines could dilute black representation.
The voting map reflects population changes shown in the 2010 census.
The map keeps the communities of Estero, Bonita Springs and Ft. Myers Beach together, but divides the predominantly black community of Dunbar in the city of Ft. Myers.
Past president of the Lee County Chapter of the NAACP, Carletha Griffin, disputed the potential impact of the new lines.
“If you’ve got a voice and you’re a registered voter and you want to do the right thing, you want them to treat like everybody else, then that’s what should be done,” she said. “Everybody but the predominantly African American people get what they want. I don’t understand that. We need to get over that.”
Commissioners defended the map, saying most of Dunbar is contained within Ft. Myers city limits and that the African American community has political representation on the city council.
NAACP President James Muwakil turned his back on the commissioners when they defended the map, causing a stir in the chamber.
Commissioner Tammy Hall moved to delay the vote because two commissioners, Brian Bigelow and Chairman Frank Mann, were not at the public hearing.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to make a decision on redistricting with only three commissioners here,” she said. “Commissioner Mann had asked us if there was any controversy on the maps that we delay, and I’d like to respect the chairman’s request that we do that.”
Commissioners Ray Judah and John Manning agreed and the vote was moved to Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Manatee County became the first in the state to make a commitment not to euthanize any healthy animals brought to its shelters this week. The county commission approved the resolution Tuesday.
Manatee County Animal Services has been preparing for the impact of the no-kill resolution for two years. It’s been recruiting volunteers to foster animals and veterinarians, groomers and others to provide services to help cash- strapped owners retain their pets.
Chief of Animal Services for the County, Kris Weiskopf explained the difference between no-kill shelters and no-kill communities.
“Our humane society here in Manatee county claims to be no kill – the difference in those is they can shut their doors and turn people away, whereas open admission shelters, county government, city government, cannot and do not,” he said.
The county has also stepped-up its trap, neuter, release program for feral cats.
People who want to surrender pets in Manatee County have to show proof of residency.
Weiskopf said the only way the county can keep the no-kill resolution is the help of the community. Animal Services will hold an Open House at 6:15 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the downtown Bradenton Library to let people know how they can help.
Community health centers in Florida are set to receive more than 1 million dollars through the 2010 health care reform law. The aim of the funding is to help improve quality and access to primary care for those who need it most.
The federal government awarded money to more than 900 community health centers nationwide – including thirty-seven in Florida. Each received $35,000.
The funding is part of a larger push from the Affordable Care Act to strengthen centers such as Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida.
Spokesperson Bob Johns says their funding will go towards creating an Internet portal for patients to see their medical records and to contact physicians.
“The main reason is that we think it will result in better care,” said Johns. “Secondly, we think it will make us more responsive as health care providers. It will help us listen better and it will help us have better information from our patients.”
The Sarasota County Health Department and Collier Health Services also received the federal grant money. The three community health centers collectively served more than 145 thousand Floridians in 2010.
Author and mental health advocate Pete Earley will speak in Fort Myers Friday. For his 2007 Pulitzer Prize-nominated book “Crazy,” he followed mentally ill inmates for a year through the Miami-Dade prison system.
Earley, a former Washington Post reporter, began advocating for mental health issues after struggling to get help for his then college-age son with bi-polar disorder. His son had been arrested and put in jail.
Earley realized that this was not unique to his son. He says people who are mentally ill are almost four times more likely to be in the prison system than in treatment.
“If you have a mental illness in Florida, you shouldn’t have to get arrested to get help,” said Earley.
“We’ve kind of turned the mental health system into a criminal justice one – and that is wrong.”
Earley will be speaking at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater on Friday, October 7th. It is a fundraiser to benefit Hope Clubhouse, a local center for people living with mental illness.
Florida is becoming a friendlier state for patients facing serious illness, according to a new report on palliative care.
The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) graded each state on access to palliative care in its hospitals. According to the new report, almost two-thirds of Florida hospitals with 50 or more beds have a program in place – an increase from less than half in 2008. The same goes for hospitals nationwide.
“The good news is that over the last ten years palliative care teams have more than doubled,” said Dr. Diane E. Meier, director of the Center and co-author of the study.
“The bad news is that despite its enormous benefits to patients and caregivers, millions of seriously ill Americans still do not have access.”
According to CAPC, approximately 90 million Americans are living with serious and chronic illnesses. These include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
The report finds Vermont and Washington DC to offer palliative care in all of its hospitals. Delaware and Mississippi were graded the lowest with only 1 in 5 hospitals having a program.
“I think there is a growing awareness of what palliative care is and how it can be integrated in acute care hospitals,” said Karen Washburn, Director of Lee Memorial Health System’s palliative care program.
She says more people are seeing it beyond the notion that it’s just “end-of-life care” and limited to hospice.
Palliative care teams focus on easing pain and symptoms. It emphasizes quality of life, rather than cure.
Studies show that palliative care improves patient satisfaction and saves the health care system money.
Still, a recent poll found that a majority of Americans don’t know what palliative care actually is.