by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond

NC Senate votes to ban electronic sweepstakes

By a margin of 47-1, the NC senate passed a bill on Monday that would ban the use of video sweepstakes games. The bill makes it illegal for anyone to own, lease or operate an electronic machine for the purposes of conducting a sweepstakes operation. Violations of the law would bring stiff penalties. A first offense would be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor; a second offense would be considered a Class H felony and a third offense would be considered a Class G felony [ck]. Those who violate the ban could have their machines confiscated by authorities.

Sen. Julia Boseman, a Democrat from Wilmington, represented the lone vote against the bill. Boseman has proposed that the video sweepstakes games be legalized and placed under the regulation and authority of the NC state lottery Commission.

The bill now goes to the NC House. Gov. Beverly Perdue’s office said the governor is monitoring the situation closely. “The electronic and video sweepstakes games give the governor cause for concern,” said Christine Mackey, a spokeswoman for Perdue. “she is interested in learning more about the regulatory approaches suggested by the General Assembly.”

If the House ratifies the senate bill and Perdue signs it into law, it would go into effect on Dec. 1.

The introduction of the bill gave an overview of the General Assembly’s historical position on gambling, quoting the 1791 General Assembly as stating, “all public gaming tables are destructive to the morality of the inhabitants of this state.” The General Assembly banned the use of video poker machines in 2000 and again in 2006. — KTB’­

Guilford County drug treatment center sanctioned by state

The state Division of Health service Regulation ordered the Guilford County substance Abuse Center on West Wendover Avenue to stop admitting new patients on June 14. The regulatory division, under the auspices of the NC Department of Health and Human services, also found the treatment center to be in violation of state law related to medication requirements and nursing competence, a press release from Guilford County’s mental health agency states.

The state investigation of the treatment center came in response to the Jan. 14 death of a resident undergoing detox treatment. state investigators ruled the complaint unsubstantiated, concluding that the patient’s death was not caused by any action or lack of action on the part of the treatment provider, according to the press release.

Nonetheless, Billie M. Pierce, director of the county’s mental health agency, said Bridgeway Behavioral Health had agreed to step aside and the county is looking for another private provider to run the treatment center.

Pierce said the county mental health agency will submit a plan of correction to the state by Wednesday. — JG

Guilford law enforcement officers receive crisis intervention training

Guilford county law enforcement officers are participating in a crisis intervention team training this week at the Jamestown campus of GTCC with an eye towards improving outcomes when officers interact with people who find themselves in crisis. A press release issued by Guilford County’s mental health agency states that 40-hour course taught by mental health professionals includes opportunities for officers to interact with people in “simulated crisis scenarios” and covers topics such as mental health disorders, suicide prevention, substance abuse, homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism.

A goal of the training is help officers avoid the use of force and reduce injuries to themselves and the public.

The issue of mental health crisis training was raised this spring during the primary election for Guilford County sheriff. Deputies have shot and killed two people in the past two years who appear to have been undergoing mental health crises.

Harlon Costner, a Democratic candidate for sheriff, pledged in early April to provide the crisis intervention training for all first responders if elected to the office. At the time, sheriff BJ Barnes said his agency’s training level was adequate. Costner was eliminated from the race in the May 4 Democratic primary.

Maj. Tom Sheppard, commander of the Guilford County sheriff’s Office’s operations bureau, said 12 deputies are receiving the training. eight of those are school resource officers, including all assigned to high schools.

“This should prove valuable for our deputies, as they respond to calls and regularly come into contact with people of all mental states,” Barnes said in a prepared statement. “Although the training is no guarantee of a perfect outcome in every case, we welcome any training that promotes the safety of our citizens as well as our law enforcement professionals, and reduces the need for the use of force to save the life of a deputy or officer.”

Jack Glenn, president of National Alliance for Mental Illness-Guilford, indicated in a prepared statement that he is heartened by the fact that more law enforcement officers are receiving the training.

“CIT-trained first responders are better equipped to understand the emotional vulnerability of individuals experiencing mental health crises and to verbally de-escalate volatile confrontations,” he said. — JG

Greensboro bus ridership sees marked increase

Greensboro Transit Authority ridership has increased from 2.2 million passengers in 2003 to 3.6 million passengers in 2008, a recent memo drafted by Transportation Director Adam Fischer states. During that time period, the city increased frequency at stops by running buses every 30 minutes instead of every hour.

The increase in ridership was unexpected, as a June 14 internal report generated by the transit authority explained: A formula used by transit agencies predicts that “for every 10 percent increase in service, ridership will increase by 6 percent. Thus, we would expect productivity to decline in a situation where the percentage increase in ridership is lower than the percentage increase in revenue hours.”

The memo notes: “GTA is an exception to this rule: Productivity has increased by 21 percent on weekdays since 2003. It almost never happens that a service increase results not only in higher ridership but in higher productivity. Continued strong demand for transit in Greensboro, improvements such as the opening of the Depot… and a positive response to the greater convenience resulting from more frequent service have combined to produce this surprising result.” — JG

Farmers market manager no longer allowed to double as vendor

Greensboro Parks and Recreation Director Greg Jackson told staff on June 18 that department employees will no longer be allowed to act as vendors at city facilities. A previous manager of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, Larry Smith, supplemented his modest city salary with a vendor concession before putting in his last day on March 31.

“This policy is in place to ensure that there is not a perceived conflict of interest with regard to your employment in this department and the ability to influence decisions on event management or facility operations,” Jackson told employees in June 18 memo.

On the same day, Jackson notified farmers market vendors that the new manager, Pam Cooper, will report directly to Dan Maxon, administrative services manager for the parks and recreation department. — JG

Greensboro residents asked to weigh in on search for department director

Following the merging of its planning and community development departments, the city of Greensboro is seeking a director of the new agency. The city will hold a public input meeting on Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum special events Center to get input from citizens on evaluation to screen potential candidates.

“The merged departments will not only help streamline the process for new development and planning activities, but will allow for additional focus on neighborhood enforcement issues,” City Manager Rashad Young said in a prepared statement. “We’re looking for residents’ input to help us find the right candidate to fit the needs of our community.” — JG

HIV awareness event to be held in Greensboro on June 27

A network of local HIV organizations is sponsoring a daylong event at Festival Park in Greensboro from 1 to 5 p.m. in observance of National HIV Testing Day. The event features free and confidential HIV testing, food, entertainment and an appearance by Miss North Carolina International Kristie Tobias.

The Guilford County Public Health Department argues that early detection of HIV can lead to critical treatment, citing a 2008 Lancet article that found that a 20-yearold person beginning HIV treatment therapy today can expect to live to the age of 69. Those who test negative for the virus can learn ways to stay HIV-free. knowing that you test positive for the virus is also important, the public health agency contends, because it arms people with the knowledge to protect others. — JG |