Michigan National Guard Assists with Voluntary COVID-19 Testing for Berrien County Jail and Long-Term Care Facilities

Posted on: May 29th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

In support of the statewide efforts to increase testing for COVID-19 across Michigan, especially amongst vulnerable populations, Berrien County officials are pleased to report a recent partnership with the Michigan National Guard and Michigan State Police in testing Berrien County Jail inmates and staff as well as residents and staff at long-term care facilities. The COVID-19 testing taking place in partnership with the Michigan National Guard augments many weeks of prior testing efforts that has already been conducted in a variety of settings in Berrien County, including those at highest risk for the virus.

The Michigan National Guard team conducted voluntary testing for inmates and staff at the Berrien County jail on Friday, May 22nd, which resulted in 95 (or 64%) of the jail population and 22 Sheriff’s Office staff members choosing to be tested. All 117 tests gathered at the time of mass voluntary testing were shown to be negative for COVID-19. For many weeks, Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) has been focused on protecting residents of long-term care facilities from potential outbreaks of COVID-19 by partnering with facilities to test residents and staff to understand risk of COVID-19 in the facility, educate staff on best practices for infection prevention, and provide resources including personal protective equipment where needed. 

Health Care Association Of Michigan (HCAM) President/Ceo Statement On Number Of Fatalities In Skilled Nursing Facilities

Posted on: May 28th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Yesterday Health Care Association of Michigan (HCAM) President/CEO Melissa Samuel released the following statement about the number of fatalities in skilled nursing facilities attributed to COVID-19 by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Behind every statistic is a personal tragedy and a story of loss.  This is true for both the family who lost a loved one and for the staff who were dedicated to caring for that individual, in many cases for years.

“Because of who we care for, the battle against COVID-19 is taking place in our facilities. The average resident in a Michigan nursing facility is 82 years old, and our residents are often compromised with multiple medical complications.

“In the early stages of COVID-19 in Michigan, this virus invaded every aspect of our lives with little knowledge of how it spread or what the symptoms were.  We now know that if it is present in local communities, it is highly likely it will be present in the nursing facilities that serve those communities.

“We also now know about the prevalence of the asymptomatic individual who can infect multiple people without ever showing signs of the virus themselves. This is one of the main reasons we are supporting universal testing of residents and staff. The more data and information we have, the better facilities will be able to respond.

“At the onset of the pandemic, nursing facilities remained a low priority at both the state and federal level for availability of personal protective equipment and testing. We now know that a robust response ensuring universal testing of nursing facility residents and staff, along with prioritizing these facilities in the allocation of PPE, are essential to protecting this vulnerable population.

“It is also important to note that HCAM member facilities have rehabilitated hundreds of people with COVID-19.  These stories have allowed people to return home and have given hope for the future.

“While the numbers presented by the state today show Michigan is well below the national average for COVID-19 deaths in nursing facilities, too many of Michigan’s seniors have paid the ultimate price. Our deepest condolences are with these residents and their families. We are fighting every day to address this crisis.”

Lasata Bill To Help Villages Deal With Delinquent Taxes Headed To Governor

Posted on: May 28th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

A bill that would simplify the way villages collect delinquent property taxes has been finalized by the Legislature and is on its way to the governor for signature.

Sen. Kim LaSata, the bill sponsor, said,  “Many small villages prefer to collect delinquent property taxes, rather than have the county collect them. Unfortunately, to do so, each village currently has to adopt a resolution each year, which is a tedious process that puts further strain on already small, overworked village staff.”

Currently, delinquent property taxes that are owed to general law villages are collected on their behalf by the county in which they reside. Should a village wish to collect the delinquent taxes itself, the village must adopt a resolution each year declaring its intent and informing the county.

Senate Bill 350 would eliminate that annual requirement, allowing affected villages to simply adopt one resolution that would be in effect indefinitely or until another resolution is adopted revoking it. Any village that intends to collect its own delinquent taxes must also specify on the village tax bill or separate enclosure where the taxes are to be paid.

LaSata also stated, “It doesn’t make sense that a village would have to annually adopt such a resolution if they are going to be doing the same work of collecting these taxes every year,” she explained. “This bill eliminates the red tape by simplifying the process of collecting delinquent property taxes. I urge the governor to offer her support by signing the bill into law.”

AG Nessel Charges Two with Multiple Felonies for Falsifying Service Records of Alcohol Breath Testing Equipment

Posted on: May 26th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday filed charges against two technicians contracted to service all the DataMaster DMT (DataMaster Transportable) breath alcohol testing instruments for the Lower Peninsula. The DataMaster DMT (often referred to as a breathalyzer) is the evidentiary instrument used by law enforcement across Michigan to measure the alcohol level of motor vehicle drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol.  

The Michigan State Police (MSP) entered into a contract with Intoximeters Inc. that began Sept. 1, 2018 to provide ongoing maintenance and repairs, as well as 120-day on-site inspections on each of the 203 DataMaster DMTs in the state. Each technician was required to physically visit each site to conduct various diagnostic verifications, calibrations and repairs.  

Discrepancies in some submitted diagnostic reports came to light during a routine technical review by MSP’s Breath Alcohol Program on Jan. 2, 2020. Specifically, it is alleged that two of Intoximeters Inc.’s three technicians — Andrew Clark and David John — created fictitious documents to show they completed certain diagnostic tests and repairs on two DataMaster instruments for which they had responsibility for calibration and performance—one incident involved the DataMaster DMT instrument located at the Beverly Hills Police Department and the other incident involved the DataMaster DMT instrument located at the Alpena County Sheriff’s Office. 

Upon discovery of this issue, the MSP temporarily removed all instruments from service and launched an investigation, notifying both its criminal justice partners and the public of its discovery. The MSP promptly began working with the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit, continuing to demonstrate a steadfast belief that public trust and accountability are essential in government. The combined efforts of the MSP Breath Alcohol Program, MSP Fraud Investigation Section and the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit have culminated in the charges announced late last week.

Following a four-month investigation led by the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit and the MSP, a total of nine felony charges were filed against David John, age 59, of Kalamazoo, and a total of six felony charges were filed against Andrew Clark, 53, of Oxford. Specific charges are as follows:

Andrew Clark, charged in Eaton County:

Two counts, forgery of a public record, a 14-year felony charge;

Two counts, uttering and publishing, a 14-year felony charge; and

Two counts, use of a computer to commit a crime, a 10-year felony charge.

David John,  charged in Kalamazoo County:

Three counts, forgery of a public record, a 14-year felony charge;

Three counts, uttering and publishing, a 14-year felony charge; and

Three counts, use of a computer to commit a crime, a 10-year felony charge.

Certified MSP staff have been performing the ongoing maintenance, repairs and 120-day inspections for all DataMaster instruments since Jan. 10, 2020, and will continue to do so.  The State of Michigan’s contract with Intoximeter’s Inc. was officially terminated effective April 9.

Clark has been arraigned in the Eaton County District Court and was given a personal recognizance bond.  He is scheduled for a probable cause conference at 4 p.m. June 1.

John will be arraigned at a later date due to reduced court operations related to COVID-19.

Covert Township Fatal Accident

Posted on: May 26th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Covert Township PD along with additional emergency personnel were called to the 41000 Block of M-140 for a single motor vehicle personal injury crash on Sunday afternoon. Officers arrived on scene and found the driver in the vehicle and the vehicle pinned up against a tree. The driver, 59 year old Ronald Edward Gilliland, was pronounced dead at the scene. The vehicle was traveling south Bound on M-140 when it drove across the north bound lane, ran off the road and collided in to a tree. Witnesses heard a loud noise and went out to investigate. Witnesses discovered the motor vehicle had struck a tree and the driver was unresponsive. There were no other passengers in the vehicle. The crash is still under investigation. Investigators will wait until the toxicology report comes back to see if any alcohol or controlled substance might have contributed to the crash.

Michigan Announces Change in Reporting of COVID-19 Testing Data

Posted on: May 26th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) changed the way it reports data on COVID-19 testing. The change makes the data more accurate and relevant as the state continues to expand diagnostic testing to help slow and contain the spread of COVID-19. The update to the website separates out the results of two different types of tests – serology and diagnostic. Michigan – along with some other states – has not separated data for diagnostic and serology tests. Data on serology testing – also known as antibody testing – is separated from the other testing numbers. Currently, serology testing can be used to help determine whether someone has ever had COVID-19, while traditional viral diagnostic tests determine if someone has active disease. MDHHS emphasizes that the change in reporting does not affect the number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan. It does lower the percentage of positive tests over the last nine days – when serology testing became more common. Michigan’s overall percentage of positive tests since the beginning of the outbreak remains virtually the same – changing from 14.2 percent positive tests to 14.3 percent. Michigan’s COVID-19 website now shows results for 512,891 total tests reported to the state – with 450,918 diagnostic test results and 61,973 serology results. Diagnostic tests are most helpful in tracking the spread of COVID-19 since they can show the number of people who currently have the COVID-19 virus. Serology tests are still being studied regarding their utility. They are currently most helpful in understanding how much a community may have been exposed to the disease. However, it is unknown if the presence of an antibody truly means someone is immune to COVID-19, and if so, for how long. Results of antibody tests should not change decisions on whether an individual should return to work, or if they should quarantine based on exposure to someone with the disease. Approximately 12 percent of Michigan’s tests overall have been serology tests; about 60 percent of those have been from the past nine days.

Michigan National Guard Assists with Voluntary COVID-19 Testing for Long Term Care Facility Staff and Residents

Posted on: May 24th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Michigan National Guard has joined a collaborative effort with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and State Emergency Operations Center to assist with voluntary COVID-19 testing for staff and residents at the request of long term care facilities across Michigan.

To date:

From May 7th-4th, the Michigan National Guard Michigan National Guard assisted the Upper Peninsula Health Department, DHHS, and SEOC by completing testing at seven long term care facilities in the Upper Peninsula.

From May 15th-22nd, Michigan National Guard testing teams assisted in Oakland, Genesee, Kent, Muskegon, Washtenaw, Wayne, Ingham, Saginaw, and Macomb counties.  

Support to DHHS testing is expected to continue, based on DHHS priority, through the end of May with Kalamazoo, Calhoun, St. Clair, Ottawa, Berrien, Gratiot, Bay, Eaton, Grand Traverse and Livingston counties.   

The Michigan National Guard has more than 60 trained testing teams ready to assist, 15 of which are currently assigned to support this long term care facility testing mission. Separate teams have recently supported Michigan Department of Corrections facilities throughout the state. These three-member teams include a certified medic to conduct the testing and two members to assist with paperwork, logistics, and non-medical tasks. Teams are equipped to perform testing, or to train staff members to perform testing at the discretion of the long term care facility.  All team members have tested negative for COVID-19 and have been self-isolating in accordance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance to ensure health and safety and to protect Michigan communities. The teams wear personal protective equipment, including Tyvek suits, face shields, nitrile gloves, and face mask (N-95 or surgical, as appropriate

St. Joseph Public Schools 1:1 Computer Initiative Will Be Expanded To Include All Grade Levels In The District

Posted on: May 24th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

St. Joseph Public Schools is excited to announce that beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, the 1:1 computer initiative will be expanded to include all grade levels in the district. 

Access to technology and thoughtful integration for student learning has been a priority in St. Joseph Public Schools for more than a decade and is a result of strong partnerships among all stakeholders.  With the generous support of the community and SJPS Foundation, St. Joseph Public Schools have sustained the 1:1 program at Upton Middle School since 2012 and started 1:1 access at the elementary level in fourth and fifth grades this past year. The district has been committed to providing ongoing professional development for teachers and setting high expectations for respectful digital citizenship with students.  The COVID-19 school closure has only reinforced the advantageous position St. Joseph Public Schools has when it comes to delivering instruction to students remotely.  These plans will further enhance the district’s ability to connect with all students and provide innovative instruction in the classroom and virtually.

Expanding this program to the entire district is made possible by the generosity of the community through the series bond that was passed by the community in 2016, as well as the continued support of the SJPS Foundation. 

The districtwide 1:1 initiative will ensure equity for ALL students and provide consistency for teachers when delivering instruction and added security for assessments. 

Information on Michigan-regulated Dams Available Through New Interactive Map

Posted on: May 23rd, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

A new GIS mapping tool listing every dam regulated by the State of Michigan, and information about their conditions, is available from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

The tool provides the location of each of the 1059 state-regulated dams structures, ownership information, the body of water it regulates, date of its last reported inspection, hazard potential, and an assessment of its condition. It does not list the 99 Michigan dams regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, nor smaller, unregulated dam structures.

The map is on EGLE’s incident page for the Midland-area dam failure, and directly at this link.

State data shows that of the 1,059 dams, 85 have “high downstream hazard” designation due to their potential for affecting population centers and property. Of those 85, five are rated poor and none are rated unsatisfactory. Some 730 of the dams are privately owned.

MDOC Completes Testing of Every Prisoner in System Assistance from the Michigan National Guard ‘Invaluable’

Posted on: May 23rd, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Following the completion Friday of testing prisoners at Michigan Reformatory in Ionia for COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Corrections has completed its goal of testing every prisoner in its system.

The department had been testing symptomatic prisoners since late March and had done well more than a thousand tests. In mid-April, the MDOC started the mass testing of several facilities on its own as a continuation of its proactive measures to slow the spread of the virus in its facilities. In order to accomplish this feat of testing every prisoner, the MDOC reached out to the Michigan National Guard for their assistance and they stepped up to the challenge. 

In less than 15 days, the department was able to test every prisoner in the state. The collaboration with the Guard, in conjunction with the department’s emergency management section, frontline healthcare and facility staff enabled the detailed action plans to run flawlessly at facilities that stretched from near the Keweenaw Peninsula to near the Ohio border.

While the final results will likely not be known until next week as the labs process all of the results, so far, out of 38,130 prisoners who were tested at its 29 prisons, there are 3,263 prisoners who have tested positive, 18,316 who have tested negative, with 16,551 pending test results.

While every prisoner has now been tested at least once, many prisoners have been tested multiple times in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in order to be returned to their prison’s general population.

The assistance of the Guard has also allowed the department to offer voluntary testing of its employees across the state. So far, more than 1,000 MDOC employees have volunteered to be tested.

Homeowners, Businesses Urged to Call MISS DIG 811 in Advance as Construction and Backyard Projects Resume

Posted on: May 22nd, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Michigan Public Service Commission asked Michiganders — from homeowners doing backyard projects to businesses engaging in major construction — to not wait until the last minute to have underground utilities marked by MISS DIG 811. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order allowing construction projects to resume May 7 after being put on hold as part of her Stay Home, Stay Safe efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Construction can resume provided that employers adopt best practices to protect their workers from infection. With spring weather arriving and homeowners turning to backyard projects, and with companies resuming construction, there’s pent-up demand for location marking for buried utilities including natural gas, telecommunications, electricity, water and sewer lines. MISS DIG 811, Michigan’s nonprofit statewide underground utility safety notification system, is asking anyone doing big or small projects that involve digging to place calls to 811 or fill out a request online at www.call811.com up to two weeks in advance to make use of the 14-day window allotted under state law. For more information go to www.call811.com

South Shore Memorial Day Update

Posted on: May 21st, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Passengers are advised that the South Shore Line will continue to operate its modified weekday train schedule on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2020. Please click here for the modified schedule, which consists of a weekend/holiday schedule and two additional eastbound and two additional westbound trains. 

South Shore ticket offices will also observe holiday hours on May 25, with the Millennium Station ticket office open from 9:35 a.m. to 5 p.m. All other ticket offices will be closed.

As a reminder, Bikes on Trains remains temporarily suspended until further notice. Bikes continue to be prohibited from all weekend and weekday trains during this time. 

NICTD’s administrative offices in Chesterton and Michigan City will be closed on Monday in observance of the holiday.

State Treasurer Announces Grants for Distressed Municipalities

Posted on: May 21st, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks announced yesterday that  a total of $2.7 million is being awarded to 14 municipalities through the Financially Distressed Cities, Villages and Townships (FDCVT) Grant Program.

Municipalities can participate in the FDCVT Grant Program if they are experiencing one or more conditions indicative of “probable financial stress” as defined in state law. The grants fund specific projects, services or strategies, including infrastructure and public safety enhancements, that move a city, village or township toward financial stability.

For fiscal year 2020, the Michigan Legislature appropriated $2.5 million for the program, with a $200,000 carryover from the previous fiscal year. The FDCVT Grant Program has a $2 million cap per municipality and grants are awarded based on applications submitted by the municipality.

Locally, the City of Benton Harbor will recieve $263,973 for public safety enhancement through replacement of self-contained breathing apparatus for public safety officers.

Michigan Man charged with 125 wildlife crimes following DNR investigation

Posted on: May 21st, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

A 56-year-old Pickford man was arraigned Wednesday morning ­in Chippewa County’s 91st District Court on 125 wildlife misdemeanor charges, following a months-long investigation by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division.

Kurt Johnston Duncan faces charges that include illegally harvesting 18 wolves over the past 18 months and killing and disposing of three bald eagles. Wolves are protected in Michigan and are on the federal endangered species list. Bald eagles are protected under state law, as well as the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Duncan, who pleaded not guilty to all charges yesterday, faces:

Up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each wolf.

Up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each eagle.

Restitution of $1,500 per eagle and $500 per wolf.

Up to 90 days in jail and $500 fine each for the other wildlife crimes.

Duncan was served four search warrants in March. Other species involved in the charges include deer, turkey, bear and bobcat. DNR law enforcement detectives said that Duncan was using the animals for a variety of reasons, including crafts, selling, or disposing of them, and stated that he was catching the animals because he could and “likes to do it.”

Conservation officers collected evidence to support the charges and identified additional suspects who are expected to be charged in the near future.

Web page Established for Michigan EGLE Updates, Information Related to Midland Dam Failures

Posted on: May 21st, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has created a web page to post updates, documents and information from EGLE related to the Midland area dam failures.

Of the four affected dams near the Midland emergency, the Secord Dam, Smallwood Dam and Sanford Dam, are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The fourth, the 96-year-old Edenville Dam, was under FERC regulation until late 2018 after its license to generate hydropower was revoked by FERC. At that point, it was transferred to EGLE’s regulatory authority. 

EGLE was in the process of reviewing federal records and had conducted an initial inspection in October of 2018 finding that it was in fair structural condition. However, EGLE did have strong concerns that the dam did not have enough spillway capacity, which allows water to flow out of the Wixom Lake impoundment. to meet state requirements. 

EGLE had expressed those concerns to the owners’ consultants, were continuing conversations about that deficiency and had taken enforcement action against the dam’s owner for drawing down water levels without permission, and for damage to natural resources as a result of those drawdowns. EGLE was pursuing additional enforcement action at the time of the breach.

Lack of investment in dam infrastructure is not uncommon in Michigan dams, which have suffered from deferred maintenance over the course of decades. That, combined with the historic rainfall and the flooding, were factors in the Edenville failure.

Main Street Resurfacing in Benton Harbor

Posted on: May 19th, 2020 by webdesign 1 Comment

There will be single-lane closures on the I-94 Business Route (BR) (East Main Street starting Monday May 25th. MDOT will be resurfacing almost 2 miles of I-94 BR from the St. Joseph River to Fair Avenue in Benton Harbor.The estimated end date is Friday, June 26th

MDOT Announces Temporary Layoff Plan

Posted on: May 19th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Permanent MDOT employees (over 2000 people) will be participating in a temporary layoff plan, most of whom will be required to serve one day of temporary layoff per week for the next ten weeks. Exceptions are noted below.  While there will be a few people on a variety of staggered schedules to ensure continuity of key business operations (transport permits, bid lettings, ProjectWise support, etc.), the vast majority of MDOT employees, including Local Agency Program staff, will serve these temporary layoff days according to the following schedule:

Employees will be directed to not work on their temporary layoff days, which includes not answering emails or phone calls, so as to not jeopardize their benefits under the CARES Act workshare program.  Consequently, if you or your members have business to conduct with MDOT on those days that does not involve MDOT construction oversight or transportation first responder staff, please plan to address it before or after the dates noted above. MDOT’s business will continue throughout this period, more or less as usual, but with a few long weekends in between.  Construction projects and bid lettings will move forward as planned.

MDOT employees exempt from the dates above generally fall in three categories:

Construction Contract Oversight,Transportation First Responders, Major Infrastructure Operations.

These employees will continue to report for duty as usual, and will not serve temporary layoff days.  These functions of the department should have no significant disruption.

AG Nessel Issues Statement on Workplace Safety During COVID-19

Posted on: May 19th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Yesterday Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-91, “Safeguards to protect Michigan’s workers from COVID-19.” This order creates an enforceable set of workplace standards that apply to all businesses across the state. Various agencies that help oversee compliance with health-and-safety rules – like the Department of Attorney General – will play a role ensuring that businesses are doing their part to protect their employees, patrons and communities as they reopen their doors for business. 

“I know many businesses and workers are eager to get back to work. This executive order provides a roadmap of how to do that in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of Michiganders first,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “COVID-19 has changed how we must think about workplace safety. Because every worker in every industry across this state is impacted by the threat of this virus, we must work with our businesses to educate them on their responsibilities and then we must be diligent in ensuring that they abide by them.”

“No one should feel unsafe at work. The Department of Attorney General takes its role in helping to protect worker safety very seriously.”

Michigan Receives Additional $35.1 Million to Help Struggling Households Pay Energy Costs

Posted on: May 19th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The State of Michigan has been awarded more than $35 million in additional federal funding to help vulnerable households struggling to afford utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, as radio broadcasters across the state air public service announcements alerting Michiganders to the assistance available to those in need. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced it was releasing $900 million in supplemental funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for federal Fiscal Year 2020 from the CARES Act. Michigan’s share of the funding was $35,130,421. 

The funding is in addition to the more than $162 million in regular LIHEAP funding provided to Michigan for this fiscal year. The additional funding will be used for crisis assistance to help struggling households pay part of their energy costs. 

The LIHEAP funding increase comes as 84 radio stations across Michigan have agreed to air a public service announcement throughout May. Created by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy in consultation with the Michigan Public Service Commission, the ad lets Michiganders know that if they’re struggling, they can contact their energy providers for flexible payment plans and other assistance, and call 211 or go to www.mi211.org for help with energy bills and other needs.

St. Joseph Township Police Department Reschedule National Night Out

Posted on: May 19th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Saint Joseph Charter Township Police has announced that the annual National Night Out, originally taking place this August, has been rescheduled to Tuesday, October 6th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. SJTP said additional information will be announced at a later date.

Michigan’s COVID-19 Hotline Now Offers Free, Confidential Emotional Support Counseling

Posted on: May 17th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Confidential emotional support counseling is now available 24/7 at no cost to Michiganders who call the state’s COVID-19 hotline. The service is part of a federally funded grant program implemented by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration (BHDDA) in partnership with the Michigan State Police. 

Callers to the COVID-19 hotline will hear a recording that begins by saying to press “8” if they would like to speak with a Michigan Stay Well counselor. The counselors, though not licensed professionals, have received specialized training from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Technical Assistance Center on how to provide emotional support to residents of federally declared disaster areas. A major disaster was declared in Michigan on March 27. 

BHDDA hopes that adding Stay Well counseling services to the hotline will provide callers with relief from the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Emerging or lingering anxiety, distress, irritability and loss of hope are important feelings to recognize in ourselves and others, and it can help to talk to someone,” said Dr. Debra Pinals, psychiatrist and MDHHS medical director for behavioral health. “If it’s helpful, the counselors can also provide callers with referrals to local mental health agencies and substance use disorder support services.”

“Because of COVID-19, many of us are grappling with strong emotions, including anxiety, depression and fear,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “We want Michiganders to know it is okay to have these feelings – and okay to ask for help. You don’t have to carry this burden alone.”

Michigan Stay Well counselors are available any time, day or night, by dialing the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 and pressing 8 when prompted. Language translation is available for non-English speakers. 

State employee volunteers also continue to answer general COVID-19 questions on the hotline. The current hours for general questions are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To access a variety of emotional support resources in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, visit Michigan.gov/StayWell.

St. Joseph: New E. P. Clarke Elementary Principal Announced

Posted on: May 17th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

St. Joseph Public Schools is pleased to announce Mrs. Jesseca LaFayette as the new Principal of E. P. Clarke Elementary beginning in the fall.  Jesseca has been a teacher and leader in St. Joseph Public Schools for the past six years. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and Master of Arts degree in Education Leadership from Eastern Michigan University.

Current Principal Principal Michelle Allen is retiring at the end of this school year.

Budget Projections Significantly Affected By Covid-19; Nesbitt Acknowledges Tough Decisions Ahead

Posted on: May 17th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The annual May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference gave lawmakers and the administration a clearer idea of what state revenues are looking like as the coronavirus rocks the state’s economy and places a strain on current and future budgets.

At the beginning of every year, and several times in the subsequent months, lawmakers, along with financial experts and economists, look at the state’s revenue and determine what the financial outlook for the near future may look like.

Revenues have seen an unfortunate but expected downturn from estimates given earlier this year.

Lawmakers are facing a more than $3 billion loss in revenue from the January estimates. When compared to early 2020 estimates, the state’s general fund is down by $1.98 billion and the School Aid Fund is down by $1.25 billion for the current fiscal year.

ORV Riders Asked To Take Extra Precautions This Spring Due To Limited Trail Maintenance

Posted on: May 13th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

Although motorized trails are open to the public, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources urges off-road enthusiasts to use even greater care when riding trails this spring. Due to the updated “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order (now extended through May 28) and the State of Michigan’s discretionary spending freeze, ORV trail maintenance has been temporarily suspended. Typically, ORV grant sponsors handle needed maintenance work before the riding season starts. Under the order, normal preseason activities like clearing dead or fallen trees, trimming brush, grading and replacing signage haven’t yet been completed. That means it’s more likely that riders may come across downed limbs and trees, uneven trail surfaces, missing signage and other related hazards.

Berrien County Departments Collaborate on Reopening Guidance for Workplaces

Posted on: May 13th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Berrien County Health Department, Department of Economic Development, and Berrien County Emergency Operations Center contributed to the recent launch of a new website and resource providing guidance for businesses to consider as they plan for reopening their companies as Executive Orders allow. The entire plan, links, and resources can be viewed at www.BerrienReopens.org.The group consisted of additional leaders from Kinexus Group, Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Cornerstone Alliance. Together, they have developed a framework of best practices and guidance to help companies not only get started but build confidence in employees and customers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan Financial Institutions Step Up to Support Small Businesses Amid COVID-19 Crisis through the Paycheck Protection Program

Posted on: May 13th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

More than 120 of Michigan’s state-chartered banks and credit unions have stepped up to provide Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to support small businesses facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ninety percent of Michigan’s 68 state-chartered banks and nearly half of Michigan’s 137 state-chartered credit unions have participated in the PPP to support Michigan small businesses. The PPP, established by the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), provides forgivable loans to small businesses so they can maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for in accordance with the program requirements payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. To date, more than $16 billion in forgivable loans were provided to more than 110,000 of Michigan’s small businesses, with an average loan amount of $146,999, according to SBA data.

State Supports $1.5 Million Fund to Help Small Businesses Recover, Pivot in Response to COVID-19

Posted on: May 13th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) partnered with Michigan Women Forward in announcing the creation of the $1.5 million Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund to help entrepreneurs and small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 recover from the outbreak, as well as assist them in meeting increased demands in support of COVID-19 response efforts. The Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund will provide recovery grants of $1,000-$5,000 and microloans of $5,000-$10,000 to small businesses who are in need and have been adversely affected by COVID-19 closures, with at least 150 businesses statewide expected to benefit. Small businesses interested in applying for support through the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund can do so now by visiting miwf.org/mwf-entrepreneur-resilience-fund. Funds awarded through the program can be used to support small businesses in managing expenses through the recovery phase, including rent, payroll, and inventory, due to the significant economic impacts of COVID-19. The fund can also advance business growth by providing working capital to assist with increased product or service demand in response to COVID-19, to allow a company to revamp their business virtually through a strengthened online presence, or to start up a company to meet a new demand as a result of COVID-19. 

State issues contracts for managing contact tracing volunteers and technology integration in support of COVID-19 response

Posted on: May 11th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The State of Michigan has approved contracts to rapidly expand Michigan’s contact tracing efforts, a critical next step in its COVID-19 response. The state is partnering with Rock Connections, LLC for volunteer management and Deloitte for technology integration in support of the COVID-19 contact tracing. More than 3,500 volunteers have completed contact tracing training and are ready to begin aiding local health departments. This workforce will help speed up the process and provide support to local health departments already conducting contact tracing statewide. To sign up to volunteer for public health efforts, visit Michigan.gov/fightcovid19

Berrien County Sheriff’s Office respond to accident near Sawyer Road

Posted on: May 11th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office responded to S. Pardee Rd. near Sawyer Rd. in Weesaw Township for a single vehicle serious injury traffic crash. First Responders arrived on scene and located a 2012 Nissan Maxima which lost control on the gravel roadway causing the vehicle to leave the roadway to the left and collide with a tree. The single occupant was a 20 year old female from Three Oaks, Michigan. he occupant was entrapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated using the “Jaws of Life” by the Weesaw and Lake Township Fire Department personnel. The driver was transported to Lakeland Spectrum Hospital in Saint Joseph by Medic 1 Ambulance. The driver was later air lifted by Air Care to a Kalamazoo Hospital area hospital. Speed was a factor and seat belts were not used. The crash remains under investigation by the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Accident Investigation Unit.

State Department Of Agriculture: Reminder: All Wild-foraged Mushrooms Offered for Sale Must be Inspected

Posted on: May 9th, 2020 by webdesign No Comments

As the spring wild-foraged mushroom season gets underway, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) reminds foragers that all mushroom species picked in the wild to be sold must be inspected and found safe by a certified mushroom expert. In addition, all certifications set to expire in 2020 have been extended for one year, due to a temporary suspension of mushroom certification courses.Michigan’s Food Code requires those who sell mushroom species picked in the wild to either be certified as an approved mushroom identification expert, or to have each mushroom individually inspected and found safe by a certified mushroom expert.“Wild mushrooms, like morels and chanterelles, help define the forests of Michigan and provide potential income streams for foragers, farmers, restaurateurs and food entrepreneurs,” said Tim Slawinski, MDARD Food and Dairy Division director. “However, if improperly identified, mushrooms can pose serious health risks. If you are purchasing wild mushrooms, you should only purchase them from a certified mushroom identification expert, as required by Michigan’s Food Code, to assure they are safe and edible.”