HR loses prevention specialist

State cuts anti-drug money, forcing Maija Yasui out of a position

The Oregon Legislature took action to overcome budget deficits late last week that gutted Hood River County’s tobacco prevention program — and stripped away the services of its premiere grant writer.

On Friday afternoon Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention Coordinator Maija Yasui learned that the Joint Ways and Means Committee had followed Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s lead by reallocating $4 million from prevention programs into the general fund. That move has eliminated funding for Yasui’s position with the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families. Her efforts have helped lower the local tobacco use rate among eighth grade students from almost 30 percent in 1996 to less than five percent currently — and saved $1 million in overall tobacco-related health care costs within the county during that same time period.

Ironically, the lost $4 million of prevention dollars is slightly less than the amount of grant funding that Yasui netted for the county last year by tackling reams of paperwork to benefit the library and other human service agencies.

Lynae Hansen, head of Cascade Locks Interested in Kids, said Yasui’s tireless dedication was evidenced in the summer of 2001 when she was laid up with a back injury but still managed to draw up the forms that helped the community capture a $400,000 federal grant to battle against drug use.

“Maija is just a prize, she has had a hand in writing almost every grant that Hood River County has received,” said Hansen.

The actual date that Yasui will join her peers across the state in the unemployment line has not yet been confirmed, but will either be April 1 or May 1. Although the legislature has stated its intent to try to restore the prevention program in the next biennium budget, beginning on July 1, Yasui said it is unlikely that will happen because of continuing shortfalls.

“In Hood River County we’ve done some tremendous things but every indication is that if this program is cut now it won’t be coming back,” Yasui said.

The statewide Tobacco Prevention and Education Program is credited for saving 1,800 lives within the last six years, as well as reducing the number of eighth grade smokers by 41 percent and 11th graders by 21 percent, and helping 75,000 adults quit smoking. That encouragement and assistance will no longer be just a dial away since the Oregon Tobacco Quitline will also be shut down.

The Oregon Chapter American Heart Association tabulates that the state prevention and education programs save $450 million each year in state health care and business costs. That information is being incorporated into the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Oregon’s (TOFCO) campaign to restore the lost funding. The partnership of 400 businesses, organizations and individual advocates, has mounted a grassroots effort to demand that state officials honor the will of voters who approved funding for prevention activities in cigarette tax hikes on Measure 44 in 1996 and Measure 20 in 2002. TOFCO contends the recent action by the legislature violates that directive from citizens and is ethically wrong. Dr. Don Austin, TOFCO chair, recently issued a blistering statement about having these programs placed on the chopping block.

“When Oregonians voted to raise the tobacco tax, they were promised that part of the tax would be earmarked for tobacco prevention. For legislators to reallocate these funds now — going against the wishes of Oregon voters — is an outrage and a betrayal,” he said.

TOFCO is urging citizens to contact the governor’s office at (503) 377-3111 or to email representative.citizen@ state.or.us and demand that prevention programs be reinstated. They said a citizen outcry could keep a literally “life-sustaining” program in action.

“If you have a law in place and there is no one willing to protect it then it becomes moot,” said Yasui, who doesn’t have time these days to worry much about her uncertain future since she is finalizing seven separate grant forms that could restore some of the $35,000 funding lost by HRCCCF through this year, with the possibility of more budget losses on the horizon.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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