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July 8, 1999


STAR test results released

Relay breaking records

Home sales up -- for now

Hospital layoffs farther south

Eat up the scenery

Relief for high drug prices?

For the record

A monumental task

STAR test results released

At first glance, Humboldt County students appeared to have done better this year in math and language, as limited results from the second annual Stanford 9 and STAR test reports came out last week.

Scores from individual schools in the county have not been released yet.

But in comparison to 1998 scores, second- to 11th-grade students countywide had the best percentage increases in these subjects, with math comprehension going up in nine of the 10 grades. Language scores increased in every grade.

Spelling improved in five grades, but it decreased at one level and remained the same in one grade. Students' reading scores took the largest dip this year. Five grades dropped over the previous year, one remained the same, and only four grades improved over national percentage rates.

Exact results may be skewed as the California Department of Education reported inaccuracies. The Standardized Testing and Reporting results were posted briefly June 30 but were removed because of errors in the scoring process. Many of the scores for limited-English students (LEP) are wrong, a letter from state Superintendent of Schools Delaine Eastin stated.

The following is a preliminary report of the 1999 STAR score summaries for all students in Humboldt County and California (Humboldt County score/California score).

The standards and statewide STAR test, given this spring to about 4.5 million children are part of an effort to overcome years of poor test scores. Scores in the last two years will be used to determine which 430 schools are eligible for Gov. Gray Davis' $96 million intervention program for low-performing schools.

1999 STAR Score Summary

(Humboldt County/All California Schools)
GRADES 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Reading 1999 52/43 53/40 58/42 55/41 60/45 55/43 60/46 47/34 43/32 46/36
Reading 1998 47/39 51/36 55/40 54/40 58/43 57/41 58/44 48/34 43/32 49/37
Math 1999 49/50 51/49 48/44 49/45 60/52 57/47 60/48 61/51 53/46 55/48
Math 1998 43/43 43/42 41/39 45/41 57/48 54/45 56/45 60/50 51/43 54/46
Language 1999 48/45 49/44 52/46 53/46 57/49 62/51 60/49 57/48 46/38 51/45
Language 1998 45/40 46/39 51/44 50/44 55/47 61/49 56/47 55/47 43/36 50/43
Spelling 1999 42/44 42/43 47/39 44/46 50/49 50/51 44/49
Spelling 1998 37/38 40/38 41/36 42/38 47/40 50/42 43/36
Science 1999 54/44 54/45 56/45
Science 1998 52/43 53/44 57/44
Social Science 1999 57/43 49/38 63/55
Social Science 1998 57/42 50/38 63/54

Relay breaking records

This month's American Cancer Society Relay for Life "has taken a life of its own," relay Chair Larry Olson said.

Olson, 61, estimates the Humboldt County ACS chapter in Eureka will raise nearly $500,000 this year for the fundraiser held at College of the Redwoods south of Eureka July 16-17. That's almost double last year's $227,000.

Also, last year's record of 105 teams that participated on the campus track will be surpassed by this year's 195 teams. Each team consists of eight to 12 fundraisers who share the overnight slumber party and mission of walking 24 hours to symbolize their survival and fight against this disease.

"The important thing is, you not only know you're not alone. You know a lot of other people are walking in your shoes," Olson said. The Eureka resident, a ACS volunteer for years, has experienced the fellowship personally.

To him, the American Cancer Society, community and his family pulled together during last year's event, when they honored his wife, Jean, who died of brain cancer after dedicating much of her life to the cause. It was the first time in the couple's 12 years of activism that he walked without the regional relay's founding mother.

Living without her was hard, he said. Tears in his eyes, Olson recalled taking weeks "to roll to the other side of the bed" without his wife of 39 years.

But "good support" helps, he said, especially having his children on his Humboldt Fire Protection District team. Olson has served on the board for years.

This year, his son will join the group again, flying home from Venezuela to support his father.

According to the ACS, cancer cases in 1997 topped 1.3 million nationwide. To raise funds to aid in the research and support of those surviving the disease, 2,500 relays for life have been established across the United States 87 in California, said Olson, who serves on a national advisory committee. The national nonprofit organization estimates the benefit events will raise at least $125 million this year.

Those wanting to participate may watch or walk the ceremonial first lap for "survivors" 6:15 p.m. Friday. The team relay starts at 7 p.m.

Home sales up for now

Although mortgage interest rates edged up in June, home sales in Humboldt County grew in May, according to a recently released report of economic activity.

The Humboldt County Board of Realtors reported 110 residential home sales during May, up 24 percent over April. However the real estate market is "unsettled and there is concern that rising interest rates will lead to a slump in home sales," reported Humboldt State University Professor Steve Hackett, who compiles the Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County.

Hackett reported that homes sales in the western region of the U.S. and nationwide declined in May and there is concern that this county may soon follow suit.

The county's median home price in May was $118,500 compared to Santa Rosa' $145,000.

The U.S. unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.3 in June, up from 4.2 percent the month before. Humboldt County's May unemployment came in at 6.1 percent.

The hospitality sector of the local economy, as measured by hotel/motel occupancy rates, increase slightly over the previous month but continued to decline each year since 1996, according to the Index.

Hospital layoffs farther south

Despite reported layoffs in its sister health system, St. Joseph Health System of Humboldt County has "no plans" of job cuts beyond the 15 proposed in its home health division.

Humboldt County spokeswoman Laurie Watson Stone said the local health system may have openings for some of the 66 employees who lost their jobs two weeks ago with the St. Joseph Health System of Greater Sonoma County.

Half the layoffs consists of positions at Petaluma Valley Hospital, North Coast Health Centers and the St. Joseph Health Foundation, St. Joseph-Sonoma public affairs officer Linda Trowbridge.

Trowbridge said the workforce reduction, which represents about 2 percent of its 2,700 employees in Sonoma County, is "not in any way related to Humboldt County facilities."

The cutbacks represent "a consolidation of resources and services" and were made in response to "financial challenges" due to Medicare reimbursement cuts, an issued statement read.

A restructuring planned for October at Humboldt Home Health System, a St. Joseph Health System of Humboldt County facility, was featured in the June 24 North Coast Journal.

Eat up the scenery

If you'd like to feast your eyes on tall redwoods and experience fine food, too, the North Coast Redwood Interpretive Association is staging an event for you this month.

On July 17 the non-profit association will host a gourmet hike in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park from Fern Canyon to Elk Prairie. The 4-1/2-mile guided walk will include gourmet snacks and a fully catered lunch at the end of the one-way hike near the visitor's center off Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. A shuttle is provided.

During the tour hikers will learn the cultural and natural history of the area, physically and orally. Walkers may examine fossils that reveal the history of the redwood forest and hear stories about the role of the unique ecosystems to Native Americans from a Yurok elder.

All participants will receive a local natural history book from the park service's visitor's center store.

Preregistration is required. Those interested in the $60 tour may sign up by calling 464-6101, ext. 5300 or 822-7611, ext. 5300. Space is limited.

The North Coast Redwood Interpretive Association works in cooperation with the California State Parks to offer interpretive and educational programs.

With the summer season in full swing, Redwood National and State Parks has scheduled a variety of activities from forest walks to tidepooling. The popular junior ranger program for children ages 7 to 12 will be held daily at the Prairie Creek Visitor Center at 10 a.m.

Also a note of caution from the northern Humboldt County state park, the park service reports sightings of adult bears and cubs off the trails of the coastal redwood region.

Relief for high drug prices?

Relief for seniors struggling with high drug costs is long overdue but may be on the way.

This was part of the message U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, took to the streets of Eureka during an open forum at the Area 1 Agency on Aging this week. The meeting comes on the heels of President Clinton's earlier announcement that he wants the federal government to help pay the costs of prescription drugs for seniors. If the plan becomes law, it will represent the biggest expansion of Medicare in its 34-year history.

The federal government's insurance plan for the elderly does not currently pay for prescription drugs and that's a problem for many older Americans, senior advocates say.

Some Humboldt County seniors will even elect to give up food to pay for pharmaceuticals, Humboldt Senior Resource Center Executive Director Mary Beth Wolford reported.

"I can't believe how much prescription drugs are costing. It's ludicrous," Wolford said after the forum.

Wolford suggested the possibility of government regulation to control the high costs because the "buck's gotta stop some place."

The intention of the Clinton proposal is twofold to ensure the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by 2027 while covering half the beneficiary's drug costs for $24 a month, the Associated Press reported. The president is banking on a $794 billion budget surplus over the next 15 years, the report adds.

Critics in the GOP leadership contend the proposal is contradictory in that it costs too much and promises benefits to too many when some seniors can afford to pay for their own drugs.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, was quoted as saying the majority of seniors already have prescription coverage from former employers, private insurers or from HMOs that participate in Medicare.

But that group of covered seniors seems to be shrinking. Last week it was announced that more than 200,000 Medicare managed-care recipients will have to shop for new coverage. Three of the nation's largest Medicare health maintenance organizations PacifiCare Health Systems, Humana and Foundation Health Systems will stop covering these members. Other HMOs are expected to follow suit next year.

"We need to ensure whatever Congress passes addresses the needs of the people of our district," Thompson said, adding his constituents' needs seem in line with seniors across the nation.

In related health news last week, the American Medical Association voted to back the formation of a national labor union a few weeks ago to give doctors more power in the decision-making process, a move aimed at counterbalancing the growing influence of HMOs.

The HMO reform debate will take center stage July 21 on KHSU at 7 p.m. when the local National Public Radio station will air Health Dialogues, the second in eight health-related shows, News Director Craig Klein announced.

Callers may access the one-hour statewide version of the interactive programs at 7 p.m. by calling 800-811-6830. At 8 p.m., KHSU will air a one-hour, local follow-up show on the topic in which callers may join the discussion by dialing 800-640-5911.

Upcoming shows include Access to Health Care Outside Cities Aug. 18, Environmental & Respiratory Illness on Sept. 22, Teen Health Oct. 20, Mental Health Nov. 17, Training of Doctors & Health Care Workers March 22, 2000, and Health Care for Older Americans April 19.

The first show, California's Uninsured & Underinsured aired last month.

For the record

Reports of a Mercy Air twin-engine Cessna that landed on its belly at the Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville last weekend are incorrect, Redding-based Mercy Medical Center announced Tuesday.

The fixed-wing aircraft is owned by another air ambulance service, according to airport officials, and was flying in to transport a patient from Mad River Hospital to Redding Medical Center.

A monumental task

Imagine building a 165-foot tower that serves as a living monument to the undaunted spirit of children.

This marks a creative therapy program called Project 9865, a statewide program chaired by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer with Honorary Chairs former Gov. Pete Wilson and current Gov. Gray Davis.

Thousands of volunteers and youngsters many suffering from illness are building the landmark to be installed on Olympic Boulevard, one of the busiest thoroughfares in Los Angeles. Volunteers have encouraged patients in pediatric units from San Diego to Eureka to come on board the project.

Pediatric patients from St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals, Humboldt Home Health Services and other facilities within the health system will paint individual patterns as contributions to the monument.

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