Monday, November 30, 2009

Next Door helps women in crisis

By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • November 30, 2009 Cynthia Stovall credits her daughter with saving her life after she was released from a federal prison three years ago and began doing drugs again. "She came in my room and made me watch Intervention," Stovall said. "And she told me she wasn't going to watch me die." Contina Stovall, now 23, told her mother she would call her probation officer and report the drug abuse if she refused to stop. A few days later, Cynthia Stovall, 47, said her daughter made that call. After a 28-day drug rehabilitation program and a 60-day stay at a federal halfway house, Cynthia Stovall came to The Next Door, a nonprofit agency dedicated to helping women in crisis. In the five years it has been open, The Next Door has helped 566 women like Cynthia Stovall recover from incarceration, drug addiction, homelessness and more, said CEO Linda Leathers. "It's a place where they can find out how to live," Leathers said. "When they come to us, they literally have nothing." More than 40 women live at The Next Door, which is downtown. An additional 20 women and their families are staying at an apartment facility off Charlotte Avenue, Leathers said. During the program, the women complete counseling and job training while living at the treatment centers. Most women stay for six months, but there are some exceptions. "It's very individualized," Leathers said. "Our goal is to get them into apartments of their own, but we become a family. Anyone who needs us can always call home and we'll be there for her." Cynthia Stovall has called the downtown center home since she completed the program in 2006. Today, the former inmate and addict is the resident coordinator at The Next Door, helping other women meet their goals. She often draws on her experiences, the 10 years she spent in federal prison for bank robbery and the eight years she spent addicted to crack cocaine, as a way to reach out to others. "I remember being so afraid when I got out of prison," she said. "It was like I had been kicked out into the world and I didn't know what to do. I felt like I didn't know my family and they didn't know me. "This program was a struggle. I didn't think I needed to be here, but I did. I can relate to everything these ladies go through, because I've been there."

Friday, November 27, 2009

New toilets meet ADA and environmental needs

Posted 11/27/2009 4:05 AM ET USA Today GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — Visitors to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will find better toilet facilities next year. The National Park Service will close the Clingman's Dome Road next Tuesday as part of the winter routine. But during the winter, the old restrooms -- built more than six decades ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps -- will be replaced. The agency said three sets of toilets that meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act will be installed. Park officials said the vault toilets also meet more stringent water quality standards; the old system was overwhelmed by increasing use. Vault toilets have holding tanks that are periodically pumped.

Children living in poverty increases in Middle TN

Ability to learn, lifetime health can be affected By Janell Ross • THE TENNESSEAN • November 27, 2009 While new U.S. Census Bureau figures show poverty has dropped in most of Middle Tennessee between 2007 and 2008, the area's children remain disproportionately affected. Poverty for the population overall increased in Davidson and Wilson counties during the period but declined in nearby Rutherford, Sumner and Williamson counties. But children living in almost every part of the region were more likely than other age groups — including senior citizens — to live in poverty. In Davidson County, poverty rose from 15.2 percent of residents in 2007 to 16.9 percent last year. The same rate for children grew from 24.2 to 25.7 percent. "When you see these kinds of gaps in poverty, this many children living in poverty compared to the rest of the population, it is directly related to public policy choices being made in this state," said Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of the Nashville-based Tennessee Justice Center. In the 1970s, the federal government assumed the responsibility of providing basic needs of disabled individuals and senior citizens through Social Security payments, Bonnyman said. The welfare of children has generally been left to the states, he said. The problem isn't necessarily parents' employment. A full 49 percent of the parents of children living in poverty or near it across the United States are employed part or full time. And in Tennessee, 56 percent of children living in poverty or near it have parents who are employed, but they don't earn enough to exceed federal poverty guidelines. Poverty can affect children's ability to learn and lifetime health, which can hamper their educational attainment level, limit their income and perpetuate the cycle of poverty, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University. Janice L. Cooper, the center's interim director, said the Census numbers show just how far the nation has to go to meet the needs of its youngest citizens. "This kind of widespread economic hardship impact child and adolescent development, health and ultimately has the potential to hinder our nation's competitiveness in the global economy," she said in a statement. Nationwide, poverty rose from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 percent in 2008, its highest level in more than a decade. Federal poverty measures the share of residents who earn less that the census bureau's poverty threshold . Those figures vary based on household size and composition. For example, a family of two adults under age 65 and two children is living in poverty if it collectively earns less than $21,834. Contact Janell Ross at 615-726-5982 or

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stolen BlueCross hard drives lead to credit watch

USA TODAY CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will provide free credit monitoring for any customers whose personal information could be at risk after 57 computer hard drives were stolen from an office at the state's largest health insurer. BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Thompson said work is continuing to determine how many of the Chattanooga-based insurer's 3.1 million customers are affected. She could not provide an estimate Tuesday. The hard drives were taken Oct. 2 from a closet at the BlueCross Eastgate Town Center training center, where employees are preparing to relocate to the insurer's new state headquarters in downtown Chattanooga. BlueCross earlier reported that 68 hard drives were taken. The insurer on Friday notified companies and group administrators that the stolen hard drives contain customers' personal information such as Social Security numbers and birth dates. Thompson says BlueCross is assisting in the continuing criminal investigation and has bolstered security at all facilities by adding video surveillance, reviewing card access readers and increasing security personnel. She said hundreds of employees and temporary staff are retrieving and reviewing backup files, combing through 300,000 screen images and reviewing 50,000 hours of audio to determine what data was stolen. Letters to affected customers will offer free Equifax credit monitoring for a year. BlueCross also will set up a telephone hotline for questions. Thompson said BlueCross has insurance to cover related costs. Police said the equipment is highly specialized and investigators are looking for any hint of it being offered for exchange or for sale. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee:

Nashville convention center groups take fight to the public

Calls, Twitter try to sway opinion By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • November 25, 2009 Bellevue resident Jim Pfeiffer was surprised and annoyed by a midafternoon phone call he received last week. The caller claimed to be working on a survey about Nashville's downtown convention center proposal but kept saying taxes would go up if the $585 million facility were built, said Pfeiffer, a businessman who supports the proposal. "I said, 'I don't know that,' " Pfeiffer said. "I said, 'This isn't much of an opinion poll, is it?' It was just a push poll. You could tell it was scripted. It reminded me of something we'd sit down in Shoney's and write up in three minutes." The convention center opposition group Nashville's Priorities acknowledges that it's behind the calls, but denies it is running a misleading poll and disputed Pfeiffer's account. This much is clear: The final battle over the convention center is fully engaged. With a financing plan due from Mayor Karl Dean next week and a final Metro Council vote tentatively scheduled for Jan. 19, both sides of the debate are trying to influence public opinion and, by extension, the council. Ron Samuels, chairman of the Music City Center Coalition, said his group will keep doing the traditional things it's been doing for some time: speaking to neighborhood and community groups and talking to council members about the importance of the project. But the coalition could use other communication techniques as well. "If it's necessary to do advertising, I'm sure we'll find some money and go about that," Samuels said. Nashville's Priorities has been using new media like Twitter and YouTube to draw attention to problems in the convention business, highlight previous council deliberations and point to various Dean administration statements on the topic. The group's president, Kevin Sharp, said it also has been advertising in print and online media and is planning a direct mail campaign. It also might go on the radio but won't try to pay for TV ads. "It just depends on what we need to do and can afford to do," he said. 'Not pushing anything' Sharp, an attorney, acknowledged paying for a survey about the convention center project but denied that it was a push poll designed to influence the results with leading questions. Sharp said he wants to see if the opposition that he is hearing from "everybody" he talks to is widespread. "We're not pushing anything," he said. "We'll see where the numbers are. But my sense is that I'm right." Nashville's Priorities, which has been raising questions about the convention center plan since September, hired an out-of-town contractor to make the calls. Sharp said the callers have been asking Davidson County voters who say they support the project if they would still favor it "if there was a pledge of taxes" and if it would put education funding at risk. Metro officials have said the city probably would have to pledge non-tax revenues from the general fund to make up any shortfalls in the visitor taxes and fees that are supposed to pay for the project. They've also said they don't expect any shortfalls, however. Critics have said that if non-tax revenues were tapped, the city would have to raise property taxes to keep funding city services at the same levels. The critics also have said they're worried about a provision in state law that would let Metro use revenue from any source to help its convention center authority pay debts or cover operating expenses. That could put sales tax dollars for schools at risk, they say. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling has said sales tax revenues wouldn't be used to pay for the convention center. Misrepresentation? Samuels, president of Avenue Bank, said Nashville's Priorities was misrepresenting the facts. "We are disappointed that Nashville's Priorities has resorted to a massive campaign to spread misinformation about the proposed new convention center," he said in a written statement. "What they are saying is simply not true. Taxes will not be increased to pay for this project. Tax revenue will not be diverted from our schools. What they are doing is deceitful and inappropriate." Nashville's Priorities received $8,500 earlier this year from Gaylord Entertainment Co., which owns Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Donelson. Sharp, a veteran of Democratic political campaigns, declined to say what the poll would cost or talk about the organization's finances or fundraising. "There's nothing sinister here," he said. "This is about as straight up as it gets."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Neighborhood clinics may not get state support

WKRN Channel 2 Posted: Nov 23, 2009 5:35 PM CST Budget cuts could close some neighborhood clinics NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Neighborhood clinics would see a cut in state funding, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says its forensics won't be free anymore. These are the latest scenarios played out in Governor Phil Bredesen's budget hearings if the TBI and Tennessee Department of Health must cut 9% from their budgets. The state money for neighborhood clinics came into being as a safety net after nearly 200,000 people off the Tennessee's Medicaid program TennCare. But $4 million from the health department to help dozens of neighborhood health clinics around state would go away under a plan presented to the governor late Monday. "It's likely these reductions will result in many Tennesseans going without basic care, and many of these faith-based and neighborhood clinics may close," Health Commissioner Susan Cooper told the governor. She called the choice "the hardest decision I have had to make" mainly because she says the state worked so hard to find clinics and primary care facilities to help create a "temporary" safety net for those who were cut from TennCare to help balance the state budget in the governor's first term. Monday, TBI director Mark Gwyn told the governor he, too, has made a tough decision. A primary part of his presentation was to say his agency would start charging local law enforcement for use of the TBI forensics lab. Gwyn says it could cost a small agency an extra $2,000 a year, while it could cost a medium-sized agency up to $6,000 extra each year. With that move, the TBI could raise about $2 million yearly and avoid laying off 58 agents. Gwyn said such layoffs, "would basically paralyze the criminal justice system and the entire state, so the only alternative that I see to that is to start charging a nominal fee for our forensic services." The TBI says lab use would stay free if not for the budget cuts. The TBI plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to allow it to charge for the forensic lab.

Volunteers give others a reason to give thanks

By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • November 24, 2009 For thousands of Nashvillians, the Thanksgiving holiday is a time for family, but it's also a time to volunteer. As of Friday, Don Worrell, president and CEO of the Nashville Rescue Mission, said more than 1,000 volunteers had signed up to work Thanksgiving Day serving food to about 1,000 people at the downtown shelter for the homeless. "This is a tradition for some families," Worrell said. "We literally have generations of families, grandparents, parents and grandchildren, that come out and spend their Thanksgiving with us." For more than 55 years, the mission has provided a Thanksgiving dinner for the needy. "We try to turn this into Grandma's house," he said. "We tell our volunteers that it's just not about serving food here. It's about the feeling of family and togetherness. "Our volunteers become these people's surrogate family." Check out these contacts to volunteer on Thanksgiving: • Assumption Catholic Church parishioner Gerry Searcy is organizing Thanksgiving dinner for about 2,000 people. Volunteers are needed to help prepare and deliver meals. To help, call Gerry Searcy at 615-733-1478 or 615-406-7446, or e-mail her at • The United Way of Nashville's Call United Way 2-1-1, Middle Tennessee's referral help line, is an option to connect volunteers with organizations. 2-1-1 is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day. Callers are connected with real people who can check the organization's database for volunteer opportunities. • The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee's offers detailed information about a wide range of nonprofits. • The Community Resource Center's Web site,, includes a weekly wish list and volunteer list.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Crime UpDate from Metro Nashville Police

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 19, 2009 Metro Police and the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the man believed responsible for robbing the Fifth Third Bank branch at 2326 Murfreesboro Pike late this afternoon. He approached the teller and demanded money at gunpoint at 5 p.m. He fled on foot. The suspect is described as a black man in his 20’s who is approximately 5’7” tall with a medium build. At the time of the robbery, he wore all black clothing and a ski mask. Anyone with information about the bank robber is urged to contact Detective Keith Sutherland with the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force at 232-7500 or Crime Stoppers at 74-CRIME. Citizens can also send an electronic tip to Crime Stoppers by texting the word “CASH” along with their message to 274637 (CRIMES) or online at Persons who contact Crime Stoppers by phone or text message can remain anonymous and qualify for a cash reward.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nonprofit Dispensary of Hope pharmacy serves needs of uninsured

By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • November 19, 2009 A local nonprofit drug assistance program will expand to give more uninsured Tennesseans access to critical medications at a time when many prescriptions are 9 percent more costly than they were a year ago. The Dispensary of Hope has partnered with three national pharmaceutical companies — Merck, Novartis and AstraZeneca — to make sure there is a consistent, plentiful supply of medications for people who cannot afford them. Other companies are expected to sign on. The pharmaceutical companies already have drug assistance programs, but patients have to apply directly to each company, which can take longer. Under the new Continued Access Program, the Dispensary will become a central order-and-fill pharmacy location for thousands of people in Tennessee and across the country. "This simplifies distribution," said Scott Cornwell, chief operating officer for the Dispensary. "It adds more resources but also gives us a consistent supply of medication that patients need." An estimated 800,000 Tennesseans were uninsured in 2008. With the recession, that number is expected to reach 1 million in the next year. "There is typically the belief that if you are uninsured, you are unemployed," Cornwell said. "We are seeing more uninsured working people." At the same time, the prescription drugs that people need are getting more expensive, an AARP study showed recently. Many popular brand-name prescription prices had increased by about 9 percent from October 2008 to September 2009. The average annual cost for one brand-name medication was about $2,045, according to the advocacy group for seniors. How program works More than 20,000 Tennesseans accessed the drug aid program in 2008, and with this initiative, the staff hopes the Dispensary will serve that many more. The Dispensary has 47 medications for chronic conditions that include diabetes, heart disease and neurological disorders. The Dispensary gets its supply from physicians' offices, distributors and manufacturers that send donated medications to the program's distribution center. Often the medications are brand names. Partner sites send prescription orders to the Dispensary and then distribute the medicine to patients. The Continued Access Program could benefit many people who don't know about each pharmaceutical company's aid efforts. "It's unfortunate that many people who would otherwise utilize these resources don't simply because they don't know they exist," said Jennifer McGovern, director of patient assistance programs for AstraZeneca. Since it was founded in 2003 in Nashville, the Dispensary has expanded from one site to more than 49 sites across the country. The program grew out of trips that health officials took to local clinics where they found the biggest need was prescription assistance. More than 200,000 people have been served since its inception. "It is truly a model of care for the nation," said state health commissioner Susan Cooper. "What we saw in one little clinic has morphed into a program that has helped tens of thousands of Tennesseans."

First-of-its-kind registry matches volunteers with medical studies boosts health research By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • November 20, 2009 In the age of the World Wide Web, people are a click away from finding old friends, meeting potential soul mates, and now, helping to discover cures or treatments for diseases. Some of the nation's leading research institutions, including Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College, have teamed up to create the first national research study recruitment registry. pairs volunteers who want to participate in research with the best studies that might be a good fit for them. The nonprofit site is designed to increase the chances that studies translate into cures, treatments and preventions for diseases. As things stand now, limited funding forces researchers to find participants by word-of-mouth, short radio spots, newspaper advertisements or supermarket bulletin boards. Some trials never get up and running due to few volunteers. ResearchMatch is free, and it connects volunteers and researchers nationally. People who sign up are not obligated. "Clinical research is often stymied by finding the right patient who wants to volunteer," said Dr. Gordon Bernard, associate vice chancellor for research at Vanderbilt. "We don't think it's because people don't want to volunteer." According to the National Institutes of Health, about 4 percent of the nation's population has participated in a research study. Because of low participation rates, about 85 percent of trials don't finish on time, and about 30 percent never enroll a single patient. Currently, the only comparable registry is, which is run by the National Institutes of Health. The site puts the burden on volunteers to choose which studies might work for them. Vanderbilt University spearheaded the development of the new match site with a $200,000 grant from the National Center for Research Resources.The site launched Nov. 10 after a year of planning. More than 52 institutions will participate in the first year. Kristin Woody Scott, Vanderbilt's liaison for the program, said the site is supposed to complement other recruitment tactics to boost recruits. "There is potentially a research opportunity for everyone," Scott said. "This is a disease-neutral site, meaning it doesn't matter your background. The only limitation is you must be in the U.S." To join, people give their name and contact information and answer several questions. If a trial match is found, they will receive an e-mail. They can choose to proceed or turn it down. No information is released without consent. Thousands of clinical studies are happening at any given time. Right now, there are more than 80,000 trials in 170 countries, including almost 5,000 in Tennessee. But some trials never get started because there are not enough volunteers. "At the most basic level, one of the difficulties with doing research with humans is to be able to enroll enough people in a study so the results will have meaning from a statistical standpoint at the end of the day," said Jared Elzey, research liaison at Meharry Medical College. Often, the same people may volunteer repeatedly, or researchers may overuse the same groups, Elzey said. Meharry, which does a lot of studies on health disparities among minorities, often comes across the same people willing to help science. "It's difficult to enroll enough people," he said. "People (we need for our studies) have a lot of other pressures on their time, lack understanding about the research, or perhaps there is an organizational distrust. This (site) will allow us to interact with a much broader community." Doctors routinely ask patients who may fit the prototype for a study if they are willing to sign up. That's how Mary and Phillip Hill joined a Vanderbilt study two years ago. Phillip Hill, who has age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder that can cause vision loss, was asked by his doctor to participate. His wife also joined as the control — a person without the disease who has lived a similar life. They have been married 50 years. Phillip Hill, who had a heart transplant, also has been in a study on heart disease for six years. He also signed up after his doctor asked. "We have enjoyed some benefits; we felt like it was important for us to give back," Phillip Hill said. "This could help our children or our grandchildren or even your grandchildren," Mary Hill said

TN budget cuts could close longtime institution for people with severe disabilities

Nashville's Clover Bottom Development Center shutdown would save the state $36 million a year, By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • November 20, 2009 The only state institution in Middle Tennessee for people with severe intellectual disabilities could be closed under a plan introduced Thursday to cut spending. The Clover Bottom Development Center, an 86-year-old Donelson institution that at its peak housed more than 1,500 residents, could be targeted for closure in the next fiscal year if Gov. Phil Bredesen were to go forward with plans to slash the state budget by as much as 9 percent. The closure would save the state $36 million a year, officials from the Division of Intellectual Disabilities Services said. But it would also mean moving the 108 people who still live at the facility on short notice into another state institution in East Tennessee or into private facilities. "There must be great care taken in how we transition a person," said Debra Payne, the division's director. "I think we've been looking to downsize Clover Bottom, but I don't think the planning process has fully developed a plan." The plan was revealed on the third day of public hearings in which government officials presented suggestions for how to close a state budget gap that could reach as much as $1.5 billion next year. Previous suggestions have included releasing as many as 4,000 nonviolent felons and curbing benefits for people enrolled in TennCare, the state insurance program for the poor, pregnant women and children. Bredesen has not yet said which of those proposals he intends to take up, but at Thursday's hearing, he appeared to show some interest in closing Clover Bottom. "Closing a very old state facility and putting them in another facility … would seem to be a good thing," he said. Mary Schaffner, an attorney for the Clover Bottom Parent-Guardian Association, said her group would not be opposed to closing Clover Bottom, if its residents were transitioned safely into another state-run facility. The residents of Clover Bottom have disabilities that are too severe to be placed in group homes, and the care they need is too intensive to be trusted to privately operated facilities, she said. "With state-run, you always have a system of providing good care," she said. "Private ones go up and down in terms of making money." The plan would cut about 3.8 percent from the division's budget. Officials offered no other spending cut proposals, so Bredesen asked that they consider renegotiating contracts for other services, pointing out that only three states spend more per patient than Tennessee to care for people with intellectual disabilities. "I need you to go back and at least tell me if I really have to go there, what do I have to do, he said. "I don't think I'm imposing an impossible challenge." Safety cuts discussed In another hearing, Bredesen also heard officials from the Department of Safety describe possible cuts to that agency. Officials said they would have to remove 25 troopers from the state's highways, leaving 13 small counties without a trooper assigned to them, if Bredesen were to ask them to cut their budget by the full 9 percent. Safety officials also said they would have to close six driver license offices and cut staffing at others, increasing the expected wait time for a driver license to as long as two hours from the current 45 minutes.

Nashville Metro Council may hear convention hall, hotel financing plans separately

Some expect one vote on financing By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • November 20, 2009 A new study says Nashville could afford a $585 million convention center, relying in part on an adjacent hotel that would help generate the expected revenue. But questions remain about whether the city will build a 750-room hotel — an assumption used by HVS Consulting in its feasibility study that was unveiled this week. Mayor Karl Dean's administration has struggled to find private financing for the hotel, and officials have started saying a hotel financing plan might not be ready at the same time as the plan for the center itself. That concerns some Metro Council members, who will have the ultimate say on whether the convention center gets built. After hearing for so long that the center and hotel would depend on each other to drive business, they've been expecting to consider the financing plans as a single deal. We need to review them together," said Councilman Sam Coleman of Antioch. "If we're going to have half a chance with the citizens we represent, we don't need to do it in a two-part package. We need to have all the facts on the table and be square with people." Dean declined to say Thursday if the plans would arrive simultaneously. He said he's looking at a variety of hotel options and would make an announcement in early December, around the same time his administration is expected to share the convention center proposal with the council. But Dean and Marty Dickens, chairman of Metro's convention center authority, said the question to ask about the hotel is when, not if. "There will certainly be a hotel," Dean said in an interview after his keynote address to a Nashville hospitality industry summit. "The issue is the size, how it's financed. "As I've said several times, we're not going to build anything we can't afford. I'm not going to force the issue. I'm going to go about this protecting the taxpayers." Better off with hotel At an authority meeting earlier in the day, Dickens said the hotel wouldn't take as long to build as the convention center. "It's not about yea or nay on the hotel," he said. "It's the timing of the financing package." Tom Hazinski, managing director of HVS, said the average event at the proposed convention center would be smaller if the sales staff couldn't promise a large hotel next door. The hotel's presence would have a "cascading effect" on the visitor taxes and fees that would pay off the convention center debt. "My guess is you're better off financially with a hotel than without," Hazinski told the authority. In his speech Thursday about the need for the convention center, Dean urged about 150 people at the hospitality summit to help push the project "over the goal line." His administration is hoping to present the financing package for the center to the council in an informational session on Dec. 3.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meds can interfere with blood thinner Plavix

Blood thinner used by millions By Matthew Perrone • ASSOCIATED PRESS • November 18, 2009 WASHINGTON — Federal health officials said Tuesday a popular variety of heartburn medications can interfere with the blood thinner Plavix, a drug taken by millions of Americans to reduce risks of heart attack and stroke. The Food and Drug Administration said the stomach-soothing drugs Prilosec and Nexium cut in half the blood-thinning effect of Plavix, known generically as clopidogrel. Regulators said the key ingredient in the heartburn medications blocks an enzyme the body needs to break down Plavix, muting the drug's full effect. Procter & Gamble's Prilosec OTC is available over-the-counter, while AstraZeneca's Nexium is only available with a prescription. "Patients at risk for heart attacks or strokes who use clopidogrel to prevent blood clots will not get the full effect of this medicine," the agency said in a statement. Plavix is marketed by Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb. With global sales of $8.6 billion last year, it's the world's second-best selling drug behind Pfizer's cholesterol drug Lipitor. Because Plavix can upset the stomach, it is often prescribed with stomach acid-blocking drugs. The FDA says patients who need to reduce their acid should take drugs from the H-2 blocker family, which include Johnson & Johnson's Mylanta and Boehringer Ingelheim's Zantac. FDA scientists say there is no evidence those drugs interfere with Plavix's anti-blood clotting action.

Seniors are likely to see Medicare insurance costs rise, benefits fall

Review options during enrollment, experts advise By Getahn Ward • THE TENNESSEAN • November 18, 2009 For next year, 67-year-old Anna Nickerson plans to stick with a HealthSpring private Medicare plan for medical and prescription drug coverage, preferring to ignore a heated marketing battle as rival health plans jockey to sign new members over the next six weeks of enrollment here. "I'm very pleased with everything I have," said the Nashville resident, who sat through pitches from two other plans last year and had a choice among 46 Medicare prescription drug plans available statewide when annual enrollment kicked off Sunday. Health insurance experts, however, say most seniors would do well to at least review their options. Careful study could be even more critical this year as consumers probably will see higher premiums and reduced benefits, including from many of the Medicare Advantage plans on the market. "This is probably going to be the wildest open enrollment period for Medicare since the launch of the drug benefit in 2006," said John Gorman, chief executive of Medicare consulting firm Gorman Health Group. Reimbursements fall Gorman estimates that Medicare Advantage plans, on average, had to reduce benefits or increase members' out-of-pocket costs by $40 to $80 a month to make up for a 4.5 percent reduction in federal reimbursements. The health plans are paid a set monthly fee by Medicare for each enrollee. HealthSpring didn't make any major changes for next year to its HealthyAdvantage plan in which Nickerson is enrolled, a spokeswoman said. But beneficiaries in the Franklin-based managed-care company's plans overall should see the value of added benefits drop about $60 a month or see their share of costs increase by that much, said Chief Executive Herb Fritch. "If they give us less, we can't provide the same level of benefits," Fritch said, adding that HealthSpring still offers some zero-premium options. Services that could face cuts include free transportation to doctors' offices, he said. Meanwhile, HealthSpring no longer offers separate "special needs" plans for people with high cholesterol levels and hypertension, after a mandate from Medicare's overseer seeking an overall reduction in the number of such plans. Beneficiaries in some plans from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, meanwhile, should see premiums rise and expect to pay more when they're hospitalized or undergo CAT scans and MRI tests. Rob Slattery, vice president and general manager for the insurer's senior care division, estimates a 10 percent to 15 percent adjustment on average through a combination of changes in benefits and pricing. He attributes the changes to the federal reimbursement cuts and patterns of usage by patients in the affected plans. On the other hand, BlueCross has expanded its lower-cost plan offerings, including rolling out a zero-premium plan in northeast Tennessee. And next year 45 more counties statewide — including several in Middle Tennessee — would have access to the insurer's Medicare Advantage PPO network. Slattery said that move would give beneficiaries a lower-premium option in anticipation of the end to such so-called private-fee-for-service products in 2011 for any county with two or more HMOs or PPOs. Extra benefits available During open enrollment through year-end, Medicare beneficiaries can switch to one of the private alternatives to traditional Medicare and/or enroll in a Medicare prescription drug benefit plan. Nationwide, 11 million people are in Medicare Advantage plans. Many seniors are drawn to the extra benefits offered by many such plans. But as with other HMOs, prior approval is needed for some services, and members are limited to certain doctors and hospitals for others. HealthSpring, for instance, added dental benefits to the HealthyAdvantage HMO plan in which Nickerson is enrolled. But there are restrictions on which dentists can be used. Helen Lee of Nashville is among seniors who have decided to stay on traditional Medicare, under which the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled reimburses providers a fee for services. "It's like everything: It sounds good, but if you get down to the bottom of it, it doesn't," Lee said, expressing her suspicion of extra-benefit plans. Lee has a supplemental policy that costs about $330 a month to pick up expenses Medicare doesn't cover. For seniors, the variety of choices can create confusion. One mistake many make is thinking only about premiums, paying too little attention to such important topics as making sure their drugs are covered and that their key providers accept the plan, said Paul Precht, a spokesman for the Medicare Rights Center in Washington, D.C. Seniors can call 1-800-Medicare to get help searching among various plans for those that may best meet their needs and budgets.

Metro picked for jail analysis

By Travis Loller • ASSOCIATED PRESS • November 18, 2009 For the next two years, national consultants will be looking closely at how Davidson County jail inmates fare when they leave confinement and how Nashville's sheriff's office prepares inmates to be released. Eventually, officials hope the pilot project can help them do a better job of providing inmates with services like drug treatment, anger management and job placement that can help keep them from re-offending and eventually make their communities safer. The U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Corrections and The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center are sponsoring the pilot project. They began their work in Nashville on Tuesday. Local agencies in California, Michigan and Wisconsin were also selected to participate. Agencies in Colorado and Kansas were selected for the pilot program last year. Davidson draws praise Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said his jail has about 3,200 people behind bars on any given day and releases about 100 a day. The sheer volume of people entering and exiting the system can make intervention difficult, but it also provides a lot of opportunities. Humphries said one goal is to get social service agencies and community nonprofits to do "in-reach" into the jails, something Davidson County has already begun to do. Those agencies can then continue to work with the offenders after they are released. Humphries praised David son County for the work it has already done, calling it "far advanced over most jurisdictions." Jail programs director Paul Mulloy said the sheriff's office looked at recidivism rates in 2007 and found that 64 percent of those who did not receive help had returned to jail within a year while only 36 percent of those who received help re-offended in that period. Since then, he said, the jail has improved its interventions and is redoing its statistical research to see if recidivism rates have also improved.

Metro picked for jail analysis

By Travis Loller • ASSOCIATED PRESS • November 18, 2009 For the next two years, national consultants will be looking closely at how Davidson County jail inmates fare when they leave confinement and how Nashville's sheriff's office prepares inmates to be released. Eventually, officials hope the pilot project can help them do a better job of providing inmates with services like drug treatment, anger management and job placement that can help keep them from re-offending and eventually make their communities safer. The U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Corrections and The Urban Institute Justice Policy Center are sponsoring the pilot project. They began their work in Nashville on Tuesday. Local agencies in California, Michigan and Wisconsin were also selected to participate. Agencies in Colorado and Kansas were selected for the pilot program last year. Davidson draws praise Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said his jail has about 3,200 people behind bars on any given day and releases about 100 a day. The sheer volume of people entering and exiting the system can make intervention difficult, but it also provides a lot of opportunities. Humphries said one goal is to get social service agencies and community nonprofits to do "in-reach" into the jails, something Davidson County has already begun to do. Those agencies can then continue to work with the offenders after they are released. Humphries praised David son County for the work it has already done, calling it "far advanced over most jurisdictions." Jail programs director Paul Mulloy said the sheriff's office looked at recidivism rates in 2007 and found that 64 percent of those who did not receive help had returned to jail within a year while only 36 percent of those who received help re-offended in that period. Since then, he said, the jail has improved its interventions and is redoing its statistical research to see if recidivism rates have also improved.

TN state fair's closing brings regret of Nashville leaders

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • November 18, 2009 Metro Council members expressed a mixture of regret and understanding Tuesday over Mayor Karl Dean's decision to shut down the century-old Tennessee State Fair and the equally historic racetrack at the city-owned fairgrounds. The council committee that keeps an eye on the fairgrounds heard a presentation from the facility's management a day after Dean gave other tenants, like the flea market and Christmas Village, an additional six months to find new locations. The mayor wants to redevelop the fairgrounds after concluding that the fair and racetrack are no longer financially viable, but he said the other long-standing events should have until the end of 2010 to relocate. Dean had originally said the city would take control of the fairgrounds on June 30. "It's a sad day for our city," Councilman Sam Coleman said, adding that the city shouldn't "be so coldblooded in our moves." Councilman Rip Ryman, the committee's chairman and a longtime fairgoer, said he was sorry to see the fair leave after 100 years

Guns In Parks Back On Metro Council Agenda

Channel News 5 Posted: Nov 17, 2009 10:20 PM CST By Chris Cannon NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Metro Council members will once again debate the controversial topic of guns in parks. Tuesday night, Councilman Sam Coleman introduced legislation that would allow guns in nine rural Metro parks. Last August, the full council voted 22 to 18 to opt out of a Tennessee state law and ban guns in parks. Coleman feels guns should be allowed in parks that are in rural parts of Metro Nashville/Davidson County. "They are isolated areas. They are away from the inner-city, around children and people that are recreating at concerts. It just makes sense to have that protection if you are a gun carrying permit holder," said Coleman. In October, Coleman asked the Metro Parks Department to compile a list of parks it deemed rural or isolated. Park administrators came back to council with the list of nine parks that included Alvin Beaman Park and Greenway on Little Marrowbone Road, Bells Bend Park and Greenway on Old Hickory Boulevard, Cane Ridge Park on Battle Road, Couch Tract on Old Hickory Boulevard, Cecil Rhea Crawford Park on Cane Ridge Road, Hamilton Creek Park on Bell Road, Morgan Road Property on Morgan Road, Peeler Park on Neelys Bend Road and Vulcano Tract on Culbertson Road. "If you are a gun carrying permit holder it makes sense to be able to carry your gun in those particular parks," said Coleman. The full council passed the new bill on first reading without debate. It comes up for a second reading at the next council meeting. Email:

One Dead, One Injured In Early Morning Crash

News channel 5 Posted: Nov 18, 2009 6:52 AM CST Updated: Nov 18, 2009 9:00 AM CST ANTIOCH, Tenn. – A deadly early morning crash closed Franklin Limestone Road Wednesday morning. A red vehicle ran off the road around 5:30 a.m. and flipped onto its top - pinning the passenger. An eye-witness told NewsChannel 5 that the vehicle was speeding and lost control. The passenger died on the scene, and emergency crews transported the driver to Vanderbilt Medical Center in critical condition. Officials said the driver should be ok and charges are pending against him. Both the driver and passenger are in the mid-20s, and police said alcohol was involved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Metro Parks Director Plans to Resign This Week

News Channel 5 11/17/2009 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Long-time Metro Parks director Roy Wilson announced Tuesday plans to resign effective at the end of the year. In an e-mail to 8 or 9 park employees, Wilson thanked his co-workers for their support during Monday night's Metro Council meeting. He asked for their forgiveness for any disappointment he might have caused. Wilson's come under intense scrutiny in the last couple weeks, in the wake of a $1.7 million budget shortfall. He was unable to be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

New advice: Skip mammograms in 40s, start at age 50

TN doctors may ignore task force's new guidelines By Stephanie Nano and Marilynn Marchione • ASSOCIATED PRESS • November 17, 2009 NEW YORK — Most women don't need a mammogram in their 40s and should get one every two years starting at 50, a government task force said Monday. It's a major reversal that conflicts with the American Cancer Society's long-standing position. For most of the past two decades, the cancer society has been recommending annual mammograms beginning at 40, but the panel of doctors and scientists concluded that getting screened for breast cancer so early and so often leads to too many unneeded biopsies without substantially improving women's odds of survival. The new guidelines were issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, whose stance influences coverage of screening tests by Medicare and many insurance companies. Some Middle Tennessee doctors said they will ignore the new guidelines for now. "We've seen women in their 20s, 30s and 40s, and there is no simple recommendation that going to apply to all of them," said Dr. Denise Yardley, program director at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville. "We recognize limits of the mammogram, which is an imperfect test, but it has a long track record." The guidelines also said women shouldn't be taught to do monthly breast self-examinations, a suggestion a breast cancer oncologist at Baptist Hospital in Nashville said baffled her. Dr. Laura Lawson said many of her patients have been the first to find something wrong. "Would their survival be any different than if they waited another nine months? We don't know," Lawson said. "But I am sure that women don't want to find out." No changes planned Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group, said insurance coverage isn't likely to change because of the new guidelines. No changes are planned in Medicare coverage, either, said Dori Salcido, spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department. Experts expect the task force revisions to be hotly debated and to cause confusion for women and their doctors. "Our concern is that as a result of that confusion, women may elect not to get screened at all. And that, to me, would be a serious problem," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the cancer society's deputy chief medical officer. The guidelines are for the general population, not those at high risk of breast cancer because of family history or gene mutations that would justify having mammograms sooner or more often. The new advice says: • Most women in their 40s should not routinely get mammograms. • Women 50 to 74 should get a mammogram every other year until they turn 75, after which the risks and benefits are unknown. (The task force's previous guidelines had no upper limit and called for exams every year or two.) • The value of breast exams by doctors is unknown, and breast self-exams are of no value. Medical groups such as the cancer society have been backing off promoting breast self-exams in recent years because of scant evidence of their effectiveness. Decades ago, the practice was so heavily promoted that organizations distributed cards that could be hung in the shower demonstrating the circular motion women should use to feel for lumps in their breasts. The guidelines and research supporting them were released Monday and are being published in today's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Advice is challenged The new advice was sharply challenged by the cancer society. "This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over," the society's chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley, said in a statement. The task force advice is based on its conclusion that screening 1,300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but that screening 1,900 women in their 40s to save a life is not, Brawley wrote. That stance "is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives, just not enough of them," he said. The cancer society feels the benefits outweigh the harms for women in both groups. International guidelines also call for screening to start at age 50; the World Health Organization recommends the test every two years, Britain says every three years. Breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. More than 192,000 new cases and 40,000 deaths from the disease are expected in the U.S. this year. Breast cancer is Tennessee's third-deadliest form of cancer, claiming nearly 4,500 Tennesseans from 2001-05, the latest cancer death reporting period. Benefits debated Mammograms can find cancer early, and two-thirds of women over 40 report having had the test in the previous two years. But how much they cut the risk of dying of the disease, and at what cost in terms of unneeded biopsies, expense and worry, have been debated. In most women, tumors are slow-growing, and that likelihood increases with age. So there is little risk by extending the time between mammograms, some researchers say. Even for the minority of women with aggressive, fast-growing tumors, annual screening will make little difference in survival odds. The new guidelines balance these risks and benefits, scientists say. "It's an average of five lives saved per thousand women screened," said Georgetown University researcher Dr. Jeanne Mandelblatt. Starting at age 40 would prevent one additional death but also lead to 470 false alarms for every 1,000 women screened. Continuing mammograms through age 79 prevents three additional deaths but raises the number of women treated for breast cancers that would not threaten their lives. Breast cancer is Tennessee's third-deadliest form of cancer, claiming nearly 4,500 Tennesseans from 2001-05, the latest cancer death reporting period.

TN State Fairground events may get reprieve through 2010

Tennessean November 17, 2009 Christmas Village, the flea market and other events at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds — except for the state fair and auto racing — should be allowed to continue through 2010, Mayor Karl Dean said in a letter to the fair board chairman. Dean had previously said his administration would take control of the fairgrounds, which are part of Metro government, on June 30. In his letter to James Weaver, the mayor wrote that event organizers "have said that an additional six months is an appropriate window of time" to transition to new locations. But Dean said he continues to believe the century-old Tennessee State Fair and racetrack at the fairgrounds should be shut down now, based on a consultant's "comprehensive report." "My administration will continue to move forward with developing a framework for redevelopment of the site," he wrote.

Nashville Parks director finds council support despite budget overruns

Several council members say Roy Wilson runs well-liked department as budget has shrunk By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • November 17, 2009 Metro Parks Director Roy Wilson took responsibility for his department's budget overruns at a special joint meeting of the budget, finance and parks committees Monday. The parks board shared its plan to balance an anticipated $1.7 million overrun in this year's budget. Balancing the budget could mean laying off at least five parks employees and dipping into Metro's rainy-day fund to the tune of $850,000. Despite the fiscal woes, several Metro Council members offered their support for Wilson, saying he ran a well-liked parks system even though his department's budget was cut back year after year. The department's $28 million budget is $1 million smaller than it was seven years ago. "I think it's time for some move forward," said Councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite. While Wilson accepted responsibility for a $704,000 overrun in last fiscal year's budget, he pointed out that he had stayed under budget in the five previous years. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling promised his department would do a better job communicating with the parks department in the future. A resolution approving the special rainy day fund appropriation should go before the council by early next year.

Nashville apartment fire injures firefighter

Associated Press • November 17, 2009 1:30 P.M. Nashville man has been charged with setting a fire at his apartment building that injured a firefighter and displaced several families. WTVF-TV in Nashville reported that Robert Sibert was booked into jail Tuesday morning on a $150,000 bond for aggravated arson. Emergency officials were called to the apartment building south of Interstate 40 around 9 p.m. Monday night. Flames were shooting out of several sides of the building when firefighters arrived. Related Apartment fire in Hermitage One firefighter was transported to the hospital with minor burns to his face and Sibert was treated for smoke inhalation. At least 10 units had major damage, and another 10 had smoke and water damage. REPORTED EARLIER HERMITAGE, Tenn. -- Several families were left homeless and a firefighter was injured after an apartment caught fire in Nashville. Emergency officials were called to the apartment building south of Interstate 40 around 9 p.m. Monday night. Flames were shooting out of several sides of the building when firefighters arrived. WTVF-TV in Nashville reported that one firefighter was transported to the hospital with minor burns to his face and a resident of the apartments was treated for smoke inhalation. At least 10 units had major damage, and another 10 had smoke and water damage.

TN could release 4,000 prisoners to cut costs

Correction Dept. outlines plan for meeting budget By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • November 17, 2009 Tennessee might release as many as 4,000 nonviolent felons, such as people convicted of drug dealing and robbery, under a plan outlined Monday by the Department of Correction to deal with the state's budget crisis. Correction Commissioner George Little said the department would have no choice but to recommend early release of inmates if it were to implement the budget cuts called for by Gov. Phil Bredesen. The department has already squeezed out savings by scaling back on roadside litter-removal crews and leaving about 400 positions unfilled, and it is relying heavily on federal stimulus funding in its current budget, he said. "This isn't scare tactics," he said. "We've got to make ends meet. … We would not propose these sorts of very serious and weighty options if we were not in such dire circumstances." The early-release plan, which Little laid out on the first day of state budget hearings, is meant to show how the Department of Correction would proceed if Bredesen were to go ahead with a cut of up to 9 percent from all state department budgets. The governor said the state may need to reduce spending by as much as $1.5 billion during the next fiscal year because of declining tax revenues and the end of the federal stimulus program. Bredesen, who will not finalize his budget proposal until early next year, said after the hearing that he would try to avoid so drastic a cut to the prison budget. "I obviously am not interested in returning hardened criminals back to the streets," he said. "But I've told each of them (departments) to come in and tell me, if I say you've got to have 9 percent, tell me how you can get it. … The best thing to do is to get all the possibilities on the table and sort through it." The governor also said equally tough cuts are contemplated for the Department of Children's Services. Victims group speaks out Verna Wyatt, executive director for You Have the Power, a Nashville-based victims rights group, said Children's Services and Correction are among the last departments the government should consider cutting. "I would rather drive my car over a pothole than have my son or daughter become a victim of a crime," she said. "Public safety — that should be first and foremost." To cut 9 percent, or $53 million, the Department of Correction would need to release about 3,300 prisoners held in local jails, Little said. That would save the department the $35 to $42 per prisoner per day that it pays local jails to cover the expense of housing inmates. Alternatively, the department could close one or two of the state's 14 prisons, a move that would result in the release of about 4,000 felons, Little said. Such a move probably would result in the release of more dangerous criminals, but it would prevent local sheriffs, judges and district attorneys from replacing inmates who were released with other criminals. Little said the department had not determined how long an inmate would have to serve before qualifying for early release. In either scenario, the department would aim to release inmates who had committed no worse than a Class C property crime, such as some forms of drug dealing or simple robbery. Class C felonies generally carry a sentence of three to 15 years. Prisoners who had committed less-serious Class D or Class E felonies might also be eligible. The state currently has about 19,700 people in its prisons, but the department already had plans to reduce that population to 18,500 inmates with the closure of the state prison in Whiteville when federal stimulus funding runs out next year. The program is also separate from an ongoing Department of Correction effort to reduce the inmate population by 3,000 prisoners over the next two years by fighting recidivism. "We've, frankly, exhausted all of our options other than, frankly, prison population management," Little said.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Julian Casey Wanted for Market Robbery & Gunfire

November 16, 2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE An armed robber who fired a number of shots at a citizen chasing him has been identified, but remains at large. Julian Casey, 19, walked into Antioch Shell, 2813 Smith Springs Road, at 10:55 a.m. Sunday, pointed his pistol at the female clerk, and demanded that she empty the cash drawer into a plastic bag. He also took the victim’s purse. As Casey fled, he was followed by the clerk’s husband. Casey fired three shots as he ran to the rear of the market and his getaway car. He started to get in, saw that he was still being followed, abandoned the car and fled on foot. Casey again fired three shots as he ran from the scene. No one was hit by the gunfire. A police canine team tracked Casey across Smith Springs Road and onto Butler Road before losing trail. Items of clothing that Casey shed while running were recovered. Detectives identified Casey through the getaway car he left at the market. It is registered to his mother, who confirmed that Casey had left in the car. She also confirmed that the clothing depicted in surveillance images was his. An arrest warrant has been issued charging Casey with aggravated robbery. Additional charges are forthcoming. Casey is considered to be armed and dangerous. Anyone seeing him or knowing his whereabouts is urged to contact Hermitage Precinct Investigations at 862-6993 or Crime Stoppers at 74-CRIME. Persons can also send an electronic tip to Crime Stoppers by texting the word “CASH” along with their message to 274637 (CRIMES), or by going online to Those who contact Crime Stoppers qualify for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

Recession helps fuel runaway-kid problem

More children on streets say finances are factor By Janell Ross • THE TENNESSEAN • November 16, 2009 The number of young people calling the National Runaway Switchboard at least in part over financial problems at home has tripled in the past three years. In the same period, Metro police saw declining calls about runaways, but one police captain said some parents aren't reporting their runaway children. Nashville agencies that aid runaways say more are reporting financial problems as a factor in leaving home. The switchboard is a Chicago-based nonprofit agency widely respected because it gleans data from actual calls from young people who chose or were forced to run away. Its annual study suggests the recession is increasing tension in homes and driving up the number of so-called "throwaway children" — kids pushed out of their homes. The economy also makes it harder for children to survive safely and legally on the streets. Parents' job problems take toll In Nashville, agencies that work with runaways say they're finding parents' job situations exacerbating children's behavior, said Michael McSurdy, vice president of programs at the Oasis Center. When a parent loses a day job that pays the mortgage and takes a night shift that doesn't, troubled children may start missing curfew more frequently and failing in school and be asked to leave. "Younger kids, ages 13 to 17, are feeling the brunt of the economy because of the chaos that it creates in their families," McSurdy said. "In some cases … fuses get shortened, and what was tolerable last year for parent or child just is not right now." He said parents might get tougher on their children because they're losing control in other areas of their lives. In 2006, there were 2,367 children reported to Nashville police as missing or having run away. That number dropped to 1,838 last year and is trending lower this year to date. Most missing- children reports involve runaways, and most runaways return home within five working days. "There are kids out there that have left home and are living from house to house, friend to friend, and their parents don't ever report them as a runaway," said Metro Police Capt. Marlene Pardue with the Youth Services Division. "We don't ever hear from them, but an agency like Oasis might. But we do believe we've put some programs in place that are making a difference." In January 2007, officers from the Youth Services Division began contacting the families of any child returned home after having been reported missing, asking them to come in and see a counselor. The counselor connects them with social services they may need. Addressing the issues Officers visit the homes of families that don't come in, ask questions to better understand the family's issues, and suggest agencies that may be able to help. "One of the things we realized is that we had a lot of repeat offenders that were constantly running away from home, maybe 13 times in a single year," Pardue said. "So, we tried to think and look at some of the things to help that, to help these families and these kids address what's going on." The Oasis Center maintains a number of programs and services for runaway and homeless teens, including a drop-in center where 10 to 15 teens come on a typical day to connect with social services or counselors and wash their clothes. Teens contemplating running away can get some breathing room at a youth shelter that matches them with services that may help them return to and stay with their families. The agency also operates a transitional living program for young people ages 17 to 22 who have no place to live but are enrolled in an educational or vocational program. Survival is a challenge The question of how many kids leave or are pushed out of their homes each year and where they go when either happens is an important one because of what can happen once a child leaves home, said Katie Walsh, a spokeswoman with the National Runaway Switchboard. About 74 percent of callers to the hot line reported surviving with the help of family or friends. One percent said they stole, 3 percent turned to panhandling and about 2 percent worked in the sex industry. .

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Man sentenced in fatal O'Charley's stabbing

WKRN Channel 2 News Posted: Nov 13, 2009 3:42 PM CST NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The man convicted of stabbing an off-duty employee at an O'Charley's restaurant in August 2008 will spend the next five and a half years behind bars. David Kimball was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced Friday. Police said he stabbed Eris Bruno inside the restaurant on Bell Road in Antioch after going to the restaurant to collect $10 in drug money a waiter owed him. When Kimball walked into the restaurant, he was confronted by Bruno, an off-duty kitchen supervisor, who just so happened to be inside. The confrontation immediately became heated and resulted in the stabbing. Bruno was stabbed in the neck and chest, and died on the scene

Mortgage aid requests soar

But plan to modify 4 million loans still hasn't worked out the kinks By Alan Zibel • ASSOCIATED PRESS • November 14, 2009 Texas — Shontaye Edwards spends her day in a gray cubicle at a Bank of America call center in this Dallas suburb. On the other end of the phone line are homeowners — tense, exasperated and looking for help. They often call with questions about the Obama administration's plan to help borrowers modify their mortgages, but many simply don't qualify. They make too much money, or too little. They have too much debt. They don't actually live in the home. "I do get attached at times," Edwards said during a momentary break in the office where she and about 350 colleagues sit under flat-screen displays showing how long callers have been kept on hold. "But at the same time ... we have to go by the procedures." Since February, when President Barack Obama announced a lofty goal of limiting foreclosures by modifying up to 4 million loans over three years, the administration's program has been riddled with problems. Banks couldn't hire and train employees fast enough to keep up with the crush of people who wanted to take advantage of the help. Documents were lost. The government kept changing the rules. For the industry, the transformation has been tremendous. Before the housing crisis, mortgage servicing companies had collections departments that mainly tried to wring payments from tardy borrowers. Now the same departments, augmented with thousands of new employees, are engaged in the far more complex task of figuring out whether millions of borrowers qualify for help. Bank of America, which collects payments on more loans than any other mortgage company, has lagged its competitors in the percentage of troubled borrowers it has signed up. The steady rise in unemployment has made the problem even worse. Bank of America is now getting about 100,000 calls a day from troubled homeowners, up from about 60,000 at the start of the year. Government officials insist the program is on track. "We're reaching borrowers at a scale that has not been done by any other modification program," said Michael Barr, an assistant treasury secretary. There has been progress lately. More people have been helped in recent months after the government started publishing a monthly report card detailing how many homeowners each bank had helped. But experts still doubt the administration will come anywhere near its goals. The program allows homeowners to have their mortgage interest rate reduced to as low as 2 percent for five years. After that, the rate can rise again, but the increases are capped at levels that were prevailing when the modification was made. Qualifying is a challenge. For example, if you already spend less than 31 percent of your pretax income on your mortgage, you're out. Second homes don't qualify. Neither do vacant homes. As of last month, about 20 percent of eligible borrowers, or more than 650,000 people, had signed up. However, most of those enrolled so far have been signed up only on a preliminary basis for trials lasting up to five months. To make the change permanent, they have to complete a pile of paperwork and show they can make payments on time. As of the start of September, only 1,700 homeowners had completed the process. The government plans to publish an update in the coming weeks. "We're just getting the early data in," Barr said. "But we can tell it's not good enough." Influx of calls for help At the Bank of America call center in Texas, workers in the bank's "Home Retention" division get as many as 15 calls an hour. They're from people being laid off, getting divorced, dealing with a pileup of medical bills or trying to get out of a risky loan made during the housing boom. On the other line are workers like Edwards, 23, who is also finishing her bachelor's degree at night. They make $28,000 to $35,000 per year, plus overtime and bonuses. They get four weeks of classroom training, starting with mortgage industry basics. The training includes detailed scripts for how to respond to specific situations, such as when a borrower can't qualify because his income has been cut dramatically, and "soft skills," such as how to express empathy. Edwards is polite and professional, even when emotions run high. "I have family that ... are in the process of losing their home and needing assistance," she said. "So, I definitely understand." The size of Bank of America's problem is huge. It is the nation's largest mortgage servicer, with about 14 million loans. Nearly two-thirds of those come from the troubled portfolio of Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America bought last year. Since the Obama plan's launch, the bank has spent millions of dollars to upgrade its computer systems, including fax servers that couldn't handle the deluge of documents. It has hired and trained about 3,500 workers who take calls, process loans and work on computer systems since the start of the year, raising the total to about 13,000. The bank has 11 domestic call centers and one in Costa Rica that handles Spanish-speaking callers. Many new hires have no previous mortgage industry experience. Edwards, for example, worked in a Westin hotel before starting at Bank of America last year. One of her co-workers used to be a marketing manager for an Oklahoma casino. Bank of America has signed up nearly 137,000 homeowners. That's nearly five times as many as in July, and the biggest raw number of any lender in the program. But, as a percentage of the bank's nearly 1 million eligible borrowers, it works out to 14 percent — far lower than competitors like Citigroup or JPMorgan Chase, which have signed up about 40 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Bank of America executives insist these numbers are misleading. They point out that they have extended aid to more than 223,000 additional borrowers this year — assistance that's not counted by the Treasury Department. They also note that around a third of the bank's customers whom the government deems eligible for help actually don't qualify off the bat. Homeowners are upset Frustrated homeowners, however, say that getting the bank to respond is a confusing, prolonged ordeal. George Hicks, a retired and disabled veteran from Clovis, Calif., has been trying since spring to get help with his mortgage after moving back into a home that he had used as a rental property. He owes nearly $340,000 on a Countrywide Financial option-adjustable rate mortgage — a particularly toxic breed of loan that allowed borrowers to defer a portion of their interest payments and add them to the principal. Hicks says he faxed documents several times and spoke with numerous Bank of America representatives but received conflicting responses. He finally was offered help after The Associated Press inquired about his case. The modification, if it is made final, will lower his monthly payment by about $100. The process has been trying, he says, but "you kind of have to dance to their music." Bank of America got $45 billion in federal bailout money, and its executives are sensitive to charges that they aren't doing enough to help ordinary Americans. Still, they also say that the enormous publicity around the program has created a belief — among homeowners whose financial pain isn't necessarily severe — that their lender is obligated to help. "It's not an entitlement," said Jerry Durham, Bank of America's Texas-based vice president of homeownership preservation. "It's something that we use as a tool to help keep them in the home when they're facing hardship." At the call center near Dallas, Ken Scheller, a senior vice president, says the industry and government made it all sound too simple. "When you apply it in the real world," he said, "it's got some additional complexities that I don't know that any of us thought of."

Nashville parks approves budget plan avoiding mass layoffs

$850,000 sought from city reserves By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • November 14, 2009 The Nashville Parks & Recreation Board on Friday approved a plan presented by Mayor Karl Dean's administration that balances the department's budget while avoiding the extensive layoffs being considered. The board approved a plan that will lay off five parks workers, while also asking Metro Council for an emergency appropriation of $850,000 from the city's rainy-day fund. More workers could face layoffs in the near future, as the board will decide in the coming weeks how to cut $200,000 from its recreational and cultural wellness programs. The $850,000 would come from Metro's $15 million reserve fund, and a resolution appropriating the money probably will go to the Metro Council for approval in January. Most of the cuts approved by the board are administrative and do not result in layoffs or service reductions to the public. In fact the plan, presented by Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, one of Dean's top aides, will lead to no service reductions at parks facilities. "This doesn't end the issues — we need to continue to work on ways to address that," Riebeling said, referring to cost overruns at the parks department. He added that the administration's goal was to make a recommendation to the board that avoided closing facilities. "This certainly looks better than what we were considering on Tuesday," board member George Anderson said. About 55 faced job loss The board was looking at laying off about 55 workers in addition to closing five community centers and trimming operating hours at other facilities to help balance an anticipated $1.7 million overage for the current fiscal year. The board passed the move with a 4-1 vote. Dissention came from board member James Lawson, who said he wanted to see how the recreational and cultural wellness programs would be cut before he approved a plan. Councilman Jerry Maynard called the board move a "win-win" because it called for fewer layoffs and avoided closing facilities. The Metro Council will hold a special meeting on Monday to hear a presentation from the board and Parks Director Roy Wilson regarding the plan to balance the budget. Wilson had no comment regarding the board action.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Robber Smashes SUV Into Covenience Store

News Channel 5 NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Police continued to search Friday morning for a suspected robber, following a smash-and-grab at a convenience store late Thursday night. Police said around 11:30 p.m. a man rammed his Ford Explorer into the AM PM Express on Nolensville Pike at Bradford Hills Drive. Then the robber ran into the store and stole some items before fleeing the scene.

Pre-existing conditions put insurance coverage out of reach

Those who qualify still face steep insurance premiums By Getahn Ward • THE TENNESSEAN • November 13, 2009 No longer covered by his mother's health insurance after turning 25 two months ago, John Mathews has learned firsthand how difficult and expensive it can be to find coverage when insurers flag a past injury or illness as a pre-existing condition. In fact, the majority of 10 insurance companies from which the Mathews family tried to buy a policy denied him coverage because they said two crushed vertebrae in his back caused by a 2008 car accident were a "pre-existing" condition that made him ineligible at any price. One company was willing to sell Mathews a policy that included coverage of his back ailments for $1,200 a month; while another wanted to charge him $6,000 a year in premiums but exclude any problems linked to his old injury. That's far more expensive than the average $5,000 annual cost typically paid by a single person with employer-based coverage. "We've been a healthy family and never had to deal with anything like this," said Jan Mathews, the young man's mother and a Brentwood resident who works for the state. "We've always been responsible and (he) can't get insurance?" Mathews' plight and similar difficulties faced by many other consumers with medical conditions ranging from kidney disease to diabetes to high blood pressure come as the Obama administration pushes for a massive overhaul of the nation's health insurance system in Congress. A landmark bill to extend health insurance to millions of additional Americans narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week and is pending in the Senate, where it faces more hurdles linked to costs, abortion rights and other issues. But it does include a ban on insurers using pre-existing conditions to deny coverage to anyone. Some 36 percent of people who try to buy health insurance on their own outside of group plans get turned down, face exclusions or are charged higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions, according to a 2007 survey by The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group. That represents about 12.6 million people ages 19 to 64, the group said. Consumer advocate Tony Garr, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, says ending insurance denials related to pre-existing conditions remains a critical part of bringing affordable health insurance to the masses. "That's inhumane and not fair because everybody is going to get sick at one point or another and that practice … needs to be outlawed," Garr said. Bill would dilute risk Pre-existing conditions for which BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's largest health insurer, can deny coverage include cancer, diabetes, AIDS, cirrhosis of the liver, congestive heart failure, polycystic kidney disease and bipolar disorder. Asthma is among conditions that could be excluded but the coverage still can be written. Under legislation being considered in Congress, insurers won't be allowed to use health status or specific health problems as a basis for setting premiums. That should result in cheaper premiums for people such as Mathews, whose back condition resulted from a car accident that involved an insured motorist in Maryville, Tenn. He was a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville at the time, his mother said. Under one provision in the House version of health-care reform, a total of $5 billion would be set aside between 2010 and 2013 to help people who've been uninsured for at least six months, or denied a policy for pre-existing conditions, obtain coverage. National insurers agreed to an end to their right to invoke pre-existing conditions as a way to block an individual's coverage in return for assurances that health-care reform would require all Americans to get health insurance by a set date. That expands the pool of risk and is a key to driving down insurance costs, proponents say. Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the America's Health Insurance Plans trade group, considers the trade-off a fair one. "If you do market reforms, but don't require everybody to purchase insurance, there's a powerful incentive for people to wait until they're sick to purchase insurance," he said. "We would love to do away with pre-existing conditions as long as everyone is in the pool," said Scott Wilson, a BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee spokesman. Agent is grateful As an insurance agent in Columbia, Tenn., Cindi M. Nickle says she's grateful for her self-insured group policy even though she has to pay $700 a month in premiums and the first $2,500 of care before high-deductible coverage kicks in. Nickle, whose mild case of Crohn's disease (an inflammation of the intestines) is a pre-existing condition, estimates that if she had to seek individual coverage outside of her group plan, no one else would cover her. Last month, the insurers through which Nickle writes policies for others turned down two applicants seeking individual policies who had degenerative disc disease, a cause of lower back pain. At times, a past surgery or some other medical situation that may have happened years ago can still count against an applicant as insurers comb through lab reports and other medical records. Patsy Smiley, an Ashland City resident, said she's looking forward to turning 65 and getting on Medicare in February. She's paid a hefty price for health care and had trouble getting insurance coverage because she's taken the anti-depressant medication Prozac since 1990. She pays $500 a month for a limited major medical policy today, and figures Medicare will provide better coverage at a lower price. Or consider 31-year-old Kris Galbraith, who hasn't had insurance since his coverage under COBRA ran out three months ago. Insurers cited episodes of what they call "post-traumatic epilepsy" related to a pair of seizures he experienced two years ago in turning him down. His current job through a temporary employment agency doesn't provide insurance. And then there's Debbie Heibert, a Brentwood resident once denied insurance because a set of lab tests suggested she could have had lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease, although later screening ruled it out. Heibert and her husband, who owns a small business, have insurance but they pay more than $1,200 a month in premiums, with a $5,000 deductible. "Health insurance is a huge mess for those who do not work for a large company," Heibert said. "It's sad it has gotten this way." Previous PageGetahn Ward covers the business of health care. Reach him at 615-726-5968 or

ABC to hold casting call for new weight-loss reality show

Tennessean November 13, 2009 A casting call for a new ABC television reality program with a working title Extreme Weight Loss Show is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Buffalo Billiards, 154 Second Ave. N. in Nashville. The program is seeking men with at least 200-plus pounds or women with at least 150 pounds to lose. They must be at least 18 years old. The show concept is to send an expert trainer to the home of participants selected in order to take weight off and follow that process for a year, said casting director Brandon Nickens. Show contestants should bring a non-returnable photo to the casting call. Contestants are asked not to line up before 8 a.m.

Health-care reform 'still on life support,' Rep. Cooper says

By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • November 13, 2009 Democrat-sponsored legislation to reform the nation's health-care system stands a good chance of defeat in the Senate, even after surviving a close vote in the House of Representatives last week, Rep. Jim Cooper said Thursday. "If you peel back the layers further, you realize it may be difficult for the Senate to vote on anything," Cooper told The Tennessean's editorial board. "I'd say health reform, despite the House vote, is still on life support." The Nashville congressman voted Saturday night in favor of the Affordable Health Care for America Act, helping Democrats secure the slim, five-vote majority they needed to clear the House. The tight vote and the compromises needed to get the bill passed show how hard it will be to get it through the Senate, Cooper said. In that chamber, Democrats may hold the supermajority of 60 seats needed to cut off debate and pass a bill. But Cooper cited West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, whose health has been poor, and Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, who represents a conservative state, as two Democratic votes that the party may not be able to count on. To get the needed votes, senators will have to agree among themselves on the shape of reform, rendering meaningless much of the language contained in the House version, Cooper said. "There are a number of senators saying they're not going to send it to conference. They're going to say to the House, take it or leave it," he said. "They know what they have to do to get the 60 votes. … A 60-vote majority is very fragile." Nonetheless, Cooper has said it was important for the House not to kill reform. On Thursday, he again defended his vote for an amendment sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that bars health insurance plans listed on a new, federally subsidized health-care exchange from including coverage for abortion services. Abortion rights groups have vowed to fight for the amendment's removal from the final health bill. "We are disappointed," said Keri Adams, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee. "Politics is all about compromise. We just wish that compromise was not at the expense of women's reproductive health care." But Cooper said the Stupak amendment was essential to getting the House votes for a health-care bill. Stupak also may prove to simply be a codification of the 1977 Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion, he said. Regardless, Cooper said he did not cut any deals in exchange for his vote. After showing himself as a public skeptic of the House reform bill, Cooper said he came under no pressure from the White House or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "It's really not like she's ever done anything for me," he said. "If I've gotten anything, it's the back of her hand." He also dismissed arguments that voting for health-care reform was fiscally irresponsible and statements by Gov. Phil Bredesen that the House had passed along part of the cost of reform to the states by expanding Medicaid rolls. Related Q&A: How would abortion restrictions work in health bill? Transcript of Jim Cooper's discussion with 'Tennessean' editorial board Cooper said failure to cut health spending would adversely affect the nation's bond rating, and he said the federal government would pick up 91 percent of the cost of new enrollees. "I think we're actually being dangerously generous," he said. "We had to start somewhere." But Cooper said the Stupak amendment was essential to getting the House votes for a health-care bill. Stupak also may prove to simply be a codification of the 1977 Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion, he said. Regardless, Cooper said he did not cut any deals in exchange for his vote. After showing himself as a public skeptic of the House reform bill, Cooper said he came under no pressure from the White House or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "It's really not like she's ever done anything for me," he said. "If I've gotten anything, it's the back of her hand." He also dismissed arguments that voting for health-care reform was fiscally irresponsible and statements by Gov. Phil Bredesen that the House had passed along part of the cost of reform to the states by expanding Medicaid rolls. Related

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Middle Tennessee locations for H1N1 vaccine

Tennessean November 12 MIDDLE TENNESSEE Where to get the H1N1 flu vaccine Call for times, clinic locations and who is eligible. Availability is subject to change Health departments Metro Nashville H1N1 FluMist only — 615-340-7775 or Walgreens, participating locations — find times and addresses at 1-866-825-3227 or Cost is $18.

Downtown Nashville parkers to lose free Saturdays

By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • November 12, 2009 Saturday visitors to downtown Nashville soon will have to feed the parking meters just like on the weekdays or face a ticket. The affected area runs from Broadway north to James Robertson Parkway and from Rosa Parks Boulevard east to Second Avenue. The Metro Traffic and Parking Commission voted earlier this week to enforce parking meters downtown from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Meters are currently enforced 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with free parking nightly and on weekends. It costs $1.50 to park at a downtown meter with a two-hour limit. Expired meter tickets start at $11. Officials say the new parking guidelines, which go into effect in January, were handed down to create turnover in the downtown spaces. Metro Public Works Department spokeswoman Gwen Hopkins-Glascock said the industry standard is to have an 85 percent occupancy rate of parking spaces in an area. Change could bring in extra revenue "Metro has almost 100 percent occupancy," she said. "People are staying in spots all day and not allowing others to use them." Hopkins-Glascock said a feasibility study was conducted in the summer on all parking meters, lots and garages owned and managed by the city. According to the study, seven other cities comparable to Nashville had Saturday enforcement. Hopkins-Glascock said the change would bring in extra revenue for the city, but officials are not certain how much money could be generated from weekend parking. Hopkins-Glascock said the public works department would not incur any additional costs. "Our existing personnel will adjust their regular 40-hour workweeks to cover Saturdays," she said. Kathy Jernigan, a Nashville resident for more than 20 years, says she's skeptical that no extra costs will come out of the personnel shift. "I tend to believe it when I see it," she said. "Everything seems to increase costs, and when that happens, it comes back to me as a person who lives here." Jernigan said she doesn't go downtown very often. "When I do go, I have my chosen places to park, and I pay for it," she said. The extra revenue will help offset a slight deficit within the parking program, officials said. Each year, Nashville sees about $1 million in revenue from parking meters, but the city pays more than that to operate and manage them. "The operating costs have steadily increased but the revenue hasn't," Hopkins-Glascock said. "We don't foresee those operating costs going down, so we looked at ways to bring the revenue in line to help cover the expenses." Contact Nicole Young at 615-259-8091 or

Convention center would cost $585 million to build

The Tennesean By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • November 12, 2009 Metro would have a $585 million budget to build the proposed downtown convention center, including $415 million for construction itself and $170 million for related costs, officials said today. The project, which was expected to cost $635 million until recently, would create 1,000 to 1,200 construction jobs at its peak and about 3,000 over the life of construction, project leaders told the city's convention center authority. Mayor Karl Dean is expected to present a financing plan for the convention center to the Metro Council in the coming weeks. The price could come down further if an ongoing review of revenue projections shows the tourist-targeting revenues wouldn't be as strong as city officials have been planning for.

State approves convention center tourism zone

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • November 12, 2009 A special sales-tax collection area that's critical to financing a proposed Nashville convention center was approved by a state panel today. The State Building Commission unanimously approved the tourism development zone after Mayor Karl Dean's administration adjusted the boundaries in response to state officials' concerns. The project would get the annual growth in sales tax dollars generated within the zone as long as it outpaced the county's overall sales tax growth rate. Sales tax rates on items purchased within the zone would not change. Dean's administration brought some of the zone's boundaries closer to the convention center site south of Broadway after State Comptroller Justin Wilson, in particular, questioned whether some businesses would truly benefit from the center's development. But the administration also moved the western boundary further out West End Avenue to Interstate 440 so it could collect more money from hotels that would house conventioneers. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said the adjusted zone should generate more annual revenue than the earlier boundaries would have produced. Revenue projections for the initial proposal topped out at $7.85 million a year, though officials said that was a conservative estimate. "This is a very important piece of the puzzle," Riebeling said after the meeting. Contact Michael Cass at 259-8838 or

Tenn. caps enrollment in subsidized health program

WKRN CHANNEL 2 News Associated Press - November 12, 2009 1:35 PM ET NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee's subsidized health care plan will stop accepting new enrollment at the end of next month because of budget constraints. The CoverTN program targets the uninsured who aren't eligible for Medicaid. Under the plan, the state kicks in one-third of the monthly premium, while employers have the option of paying for another third. Each third averages about $60 per month. Program director Gerald Reed said CoverTN's recent enrollment period resulted in more than 2,500 new members. But he says the state "must continue to manage the program within our budget capacity." As of last month, CoverTN had about 21,000 enrollees. Last month, the state announced it was ending enrollment at the end of this month for CoverKids, Tennessee's health insurance program for children.

Nashville airport to offer free WiFi this holiday season

WKRN Channel 2 Posted: Nov 12, 2009 12:27 PM CST Nashville International Airport is one of 47 airports nationwide partnering with Google to offer complimentary WiFi service to travelers this holiday season. The wireless service is free of charge however Google is encouraging users to make a contribution to their favorite charity. The WiFi service will be available at the airports from November 10 through January 15. To access, users simply select the option for the complimentary WiFi and accept the terms of service. No login or e-mail is required. Click here for additional details and frequently asked questions.