Category Archives: News

Mental health services on the rise at SGV private universities

At 7:30 a.m. May 1, University of La Verne junior Rachel Drake wakes up, brushes her short blonde hair, puts in her earrings, does her winged eyeliner and takes a pill from the small orange bottle on her dresser. Before she walks out the door, like she does every morning, she must take her prescription — 20 mg of Prozac.

Today she has an extra stop. Before class, she stops by the stone building on the corner of 2nd and E Street, checks in at the front desk, and takes a seat. She waits for her monthly visit with her school-appointed therapist.

“Therapists at school are accessible and free under my student insurance,” Drake said. “I’m lucky that I don’t have to drive back to San Diego once a month and pay $55 to see a therapist who doesn’t know me or is aware of my university and is assigned to me by my insurance.”

At private universities in the San Gabriel Valley, an increasing number of students are taking advantage of their colleges’ mental health facilities. At University of La Verne, Azusa Pacific University and the five Claremont colleges, full-time undergraduate students have access to free mental health services under their school-issued student insurance.

Compared with other private colleges in the area, the University of La Verne’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has been busier than its counterparts. Eleven percent of ULV’s undergraduates use psychological services compared to 8 percent at APU and 5 percent at the Claremont colleges.

“We understand students on campus become stressed or anxious with college life, so it’s important they are accommodated with an on-campus mental health service,”CAPS Director Elleni Kuolos said.

University of La Verne students who use CAPS’ services attend appointments three times more than students at APU and the five Claremont colleges. However, ULV has the least students and mental health programs to offer compared to the other universities.

“We find that nothing beats face-to-face interaction,” CAPS director Elleni Kuolos said.

Therapists at the five Claremont colleges’ combined mental health program, known as Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services (MCAPS), can interact with students in ways not available at ULV.

“We have an emergency therapist who is available after business hours who can provide counseling over the phone and via Skype,” MCAPS director Gary DeGroot said.

Like MCAPS, APU’s mental health program, the University Counseling Center (UCC), also has 24-hour and emergency services.

Out of the three programs, CAPS is the only one that does not provide 24-hour mental health care through the school.

“If I could change one thing about CAPS is that I don’t have access to a therapist at night,” Drake said. “The night is when I’m alone with my thoughts. That’s when I might need them the most.”

If CAPS students have an after-hours emergency, they must contact local mental health hospitals provided to them through an introductory pamphlet.

“It’s impersonal,” Drake said. “If I have a psychiatric emergency I have to rely on people who don’t know me and don’t know my situation, triggers or issues.”

On May 15, CAPS formally requested funding for a 24-hour therapist to begin next school year, Kuolos said.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and anti-psychotics are prescribed by psychiatrists at all three of the programs, however more UCC students are prescribed medication than by any other service. Eighty-six percent of UCC students are prescribed antidepressants compared to 72 percent at MCAPS and 79 percent at CAPS.

“It’s not our intention to prescribe medication to everyone. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding if antidepressants are the right choice for each student,” UCC Director Bill Fiala said.

Child and adolescent psychologist Joanne Als said she believes college campuses prescribe medication to distance themselves from potential lawsuits.

“Many college mental health programs are quick to prescribe medication because it’s immediate proof that the University is meeting the needs of students,” Als said. “It removes liability if the student were ever to have a psychological break or complete suicide. The University could say in a lawsuit ‘We did everything we could, we even medicated them.’”

Overall, CAPS provides service to more of its student population and a longer-continuing treatment. CAPS students visit approximately 10 times a school year compared to one to two times a school year at MCAPS and UCC.

Kuolos credits this with the University’s therapeutic practices and involvement with multiple clubs on campus that advocate for mental health and sexual assault awareness.

“Depression isn’t just you take a pill or go to therapy once and you’re okay, it’s a process,” Kuolos said. “We try to make students understand this by being active on campus.”

Drake has adopted this motto from CAPS.

“I know that alleviating my symptoms of depression is a process,” Drake said. “I visit CAPS at least once a month, go to group and individual therapy, take my medication and use the coping techniques I’ve learned.”

CAPS, unlike UCC and MCAPS, contacts students throughout the school year and between appointments.

“We encourage our students to come back and send them texts and email reminders so that they know we care, we’re here and we’re ready for them,” Kuolos said.

Convincing students to continue their therapy is a challenge at UCC and MCAPS.

“Our biggest problem is getting students to come back,” DeGroot said. “As of now, they come about once a semester, if that.”

Because of the low return-rate, UCC psychiatrists tend to prescribe medication during the first visit. This contributes to the large percentage of UCC students on medication, Fiala said.

“Students tend not to understand that being healthy mentally is a process, they need to come back more,” Fiala said.

To increase participation, APU is implementing e-mail reminders to UCC students beginning next school year. MCAPS will not implement a contact list as students are from five different colleges, according to DeGroot.

At 8:30 a.m. Drake is called into the office by Kuolos. As the school year is coming to an end, Drake receives her end-of-the-year assessment and summer supply of her anti-depressants.

In Fall 2017, Drake will return and continue her treatment at CAPS. She will continue therapy at home in San Diego during the summer.

“The most important thing is making myself go, I can’t do this alone,” Drake said.

The story above was written as an assignment for my Journalism 300 class. Information and quotes should not all be taken as fact.

ELD System raises concerns

As 9:30 a.m. rolls around, 11-year-old Juan Aguillar anxiously stares outside the window from his plastic blue chair, bouncing his leg and tapping his pencil on his desk as he watches as the overcast sky dims the jungle gym outside. He watches the third and fourth grade students having recess. His teacher has reminded him to read his book, Mr. Frog and Mr. Toad, three times within the last 20 minutes.

He chose the book from his teacher’s library based of her two sticker system. The top sticker indicates the grade level of the book, the bottom sticker on the difficulty. Aguillar always chooses a book with a top sticker reading six and the bottom sticker reading one.

Despite his teacher’s sticker system, he still has difficulty reading the book written in English. At 12-years-old, Aguillar is not fluent in English, and has known the language half of his life. His parents, a migrant farm worker and a cleaning woman, brought him to the United States from Mexico at 6-years-old.

The Spanish-speaking student spends his Friday mornings in an English Language Development, or ELD, class with eight other students. At his third through sixth-grade school, sixth-grade ELD students spend Fridays with a bilingual teacher, trained to help students whose second language is English.

Since the early 2000s, California Elementary School has had an English as a Second Language, or ESL, program. Bilingual teaching aides were assigned a child to provide one-on-one help the whole school day.

In 2006, the school’s ESL program catered to a record 28 kids, a more than 50 percent increase from the previous school year.

“We had to hire more aides, and even then they had two students instead of one,” ELD teacher Amber Spina said.

As a result, at the start of the 2007-2008 school year, the school began its ELD program. ELD students in each grade have a specified day for an ELD class.

Although ELD students only make up 7.57 percent of the school’s students, the school spends 30 percent more on ELD students than non-ELD students.

“The technology we provide for them is more expensive than non-ELD students,” Spina said. “The school provides ELD students with laptops during the school day and an individualized Rosetta Stone program.”

Despite ELD teachers’ efforts at the elementary level, the district has noticed a downhill trend in students graduating from the ELD program. From the 2012-13 school year to the 2015-16 school year, 7.5 percent points less students were redesignated as English fluent, or students no longer in need of the ELD program. The decreasing amount of students graduating from the ELD program has become a trend in the last decade. Seventeen percent less students tested out of the program at sixth-grade in 2016 than in 2006.

“This decrease has inspired us to implement an individualized Rosetta Stone program than a general one, and we’re in the talks of reintroducing the one-on-one aides,” Principal Lori Wildes said. “But with that, comes the need for more funding, which means the gap in what we spend on ELD students and what we spend on non-ELD students is growing.”

At 9:45 a.m. the bell rings, notifying fifth- and sixth-graders that their 15-minute recess begins. Aguillar immediately perks up, drops his book, and runs to the door. Before he gets out the threshold, Spina reminds him to push in his chair and return the book to the library.

He turns around and does as he’s told with a sense of urgency and quickly runs out the door for recess, straight to the jungle gym.

California out of drought

With this winter’s heavy rains, Central and Southern California have quickly recovered from a three-year drought. However, Northern California is improving at a rate 40 percent slower than the rest of the state, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

The winter rains resulted in an 83 percent increase of precipitation levels across the state from 2012 to 2016, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. The rains filled California reservoirs to record-breaking levels.

Back in 2014, a drought state of emergency was declared by California Gov. Jerry Brown. As of March 2017, less than 25 percent of the state is experiencing what was called “the worst drought in California history” by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Southern California is predicted to return to normal conditions by May 2017 and Central California by the end of the year. Northern California, however, is not expected to fully recover until late 2018, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

For the entire state to be removed from the state of emergency, it is crucial that the Sierra snowpack reaches its capacity by April. Agriculture and flora in the Northern, Central, and Southern Sierra depend on run-off from the snowpack for the summer months.

In 2014, at the peak of the drought, the snowpack held only 33 percent of its capacity. As of March, the snowpack is holding 183 percent above its capacity. This is a 250 percent increase from levels in 2014, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

The Los Angeles area has imported over 80 percent of its water from the snowpack since 2012, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

In 2015, Northern California imported 1.9 trillion gallons of water from the San Joaquin River Delta. This is more than double what the region imported 40 years ago, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

In 2016, Kern County, an area just north of Hollywood, made over $183 million from exporting water to Northern California. This is an increase of over $40 million since 2011, according to the Kern County Water Agency.

“Exporting water to Northern California is the county’s main source of income. However, it can be expensive to build what is necessary to export,” said Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel.

Kern County exported over 100 billion gallons of water to the Northern California region’s 1,100 mile levee system last year. From 2012 to 2016, the region spent over $67 billion from to build two tunnels to divert water from the levee system. In the same span of time, over $4 billion was spent to earthquake-proof the levees.

Northern California’s expensive levee endeavor and slower recovery from the drought is due to the farming of crops that rely heavily on water, such as rice, according to Creel.

Creel said that compared to Central and Southern California, Northern California does not have more agriculture. However, Central and Southern California rely more on drought-resistant or less-water consuming plants, such as avocados and almonds.

“It’s not that Northern California has more land to be watered, it’s that the things they plant need more of it. To recover from the drought, they need to change their agriculture,” Creel said.

The story above was written as an assignment for my Journalism 300 class. Information and quotes should not all be taken as fact.

One killed, one injured in apartment fire

The following is a writing assignment for my Journalism 300 class at the University of La Verne. Information was provided by the Professor to write a story for a class assignment. Information may be false, outdated, or changed by the Professor for educational purposes.

A 10-year-old boy was killed and his 14-year-old brother was severely burned yesterday  morning when a fire swept through their apartment complex.

The blaze was brought under control at 7:05 a.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

At 6:39 a.m. yesterday, firefighters responded to a fire leaving 10-year-old Kenneth Fuson dead and 14-year-old Michael Fuson severely burned. Michael Fuson suffered third degree burns to his hands, arms, face, neck, back, buttocks and thighs. He is in critical condition at Emanuel Hopsital and Health Center’s burn unit.

A neighbor, 31-year-old Darren Nitz, is credited with saving Michael Fuson’s life.

An estimated $50,000 worth of damage was done to the apartment building, located at 15758 S.E. Division St. The burned contents of the apartment were valued at $90,000.

The $480,000 apartment was rented by Linda Lee Fuson who lived there with her two sons, Kenneth Fuson and Michael Fuson, according to fire department officials.

About 6:35 a.m. Nitz was woken by neighbors yelling and pounding at his door.

“I didn’t think much about it at first until someone said two children were trapped in the apartment,” Nitz said.

The 14-year-old was seven feet from his bedroom door, unable to pass the flames. Nitz tried to grab him by the arm, but couldn’t because of his severe burns. He put Michael Fuson over his shoulder and carried him outside, according to Nitz.

Michael Fuson told Nitz and neighbor Brad Lindsey, 24, that his brother was trapped upstairs. The two went back in with a fire extinguished, but by the time they reached the top of the stairs, the flames had reached the front door.

“It was fully going when we got up there,” Lindsey said. “Just after we got up to them, the fire just vaccumed and shot right across the stairway. There was no way either of us could do anything about it.”

Firefighters got the blaze under control around 7:05 a.m., 26 minutes after arriving.

About 6:40 a.m., Linda Fuson arrived home to see her apartment ablaze. Her whereabouts were unknown at the time.

Fires in an enclosed area, such as the 32-unit apartment complex, can push temperatures to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit near the ceiling and 1,000 degrees near the floor.

The fire burned through the floor and blistered the gypsum walls, melted the family’s television set, and killed three pet birds.

The fire also caused smoke damage to the apartment of Pat and Lisa Hampson, who live across the stairs from the Fuson family, officials said.

California retreating from drought

The following is a writing assignment for my Journalism 300 class at the University of La Verne. 

With this winter’s heavy rains, Central and Southern California have quickly recovered from a three-year drought. However, Northern California is improving at a rate 40 percent slower than the rest of the state, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

The winter rains resulted in an 83 percent increase of precipitation levels across the state from 2012 to 2016, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. The rains filled California reservoirs to record-breaking levels.

Back in 2014, a drought state of emergency was declared by California Gov. Jerry Brown. As of March 2017, less than 25 percent of the state is experiencing what was called “the worst drought in California history” by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Southern California is predicted to return to normal conditions by May 2017 and Central California by the end of the year. Northern California, however, is not expected to fully recover until late 2018, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

For the entire state to be removed from the state of emergency, it is crucial that the Sierra snowpack reaches its capacity by April. Agriculture and flora in the Northern, Central, and Southern Sierra depend on run-off from the snowpack for the summer months.

In 2014, at the peak of the drought, the snowpack held only 33 percent of its capacity. As of March, the snowpack is holding 183 percent above its capacity. This is a 250 percent increase from levels in 2014, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

The Los Angeles area has imported over 80 percent of its water from the snowpack since 2012, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

In 2015, Northern California imported 1.9 trillion gallons of water from the San Joaquin River Delta. This is more than double what the region imported 40 years ago, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

In 2016, Kern County, an area just north of Hollywood, made over $183 million from exporting water to Northern California. This is an increase of over $40 million since 2011, according to the Kern County Water Agency.

“Exporting water to Northern California is the county’s main source of income. However, it can be expensive to build what is necessary to export,” said Kern County Water Agency General Manager Curtis Creel.

Kern County exported over 100 billion gallons of water to the Northern California region’s 1,100 mile levee system last year. From 2012 to 2016, the region spent over $67 billion from to build two tunnels to divert water from the levee system. In the same span of time, over $4 billion was spent to earthquake-proof the levees.

Northern California’s expensive levee endeavor and slower recovery from the drought is due to the farming of crops that rely heavily on water, such as rice, according to Creel.

Creel said that compared to Central and Southern California, Northern California does not have more agriculture. However, Central and Southern California rely more on drought-resistant or less-water consuming plants, such as avocados and almonds.

“It’s not that Northern California has more land to be watered, it’s that the things they plant need more of it. To recover from the drought, they need to change their agriculture,” Creel said.

 

 

 

Five boys steal candy from truck

The following is a writing assignment for my Journalism 300 class at the University of La Verne. Information was provided by the Professor to write a story for a class assignment. Information may be false, outdated, or changed by the Professor for educational purposes.

Five boys were arrested yesterday on suspicion of stealing charged with burglary to a vehicle yesterday after $500 worth of assorted boxes of candy, cookies and snacks were stolen from an unattended Lance Inc. food truck, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The boys, ranging in ages from 11 to 15, admitted to the crime, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jon Powers said.

The crime took place late last night when two of the boys, 11 and 15-year-old brothers, saw the truck in a parking lot on Darlington Road. The older brother took a neighbor’s crowbar and pried the padlock off the truck’s rear door. Both brothers took a carton of candy, leaving a 50-pound box of Milky Way bars on a bench in front of a Winn Dixie supermarket, according to the police report.

The brothers later told the other boys what they had done. The materials stolen were a case of Milky Way bars, boxes of cheese crackers, popcorn and a carton of chocolate crème-filled cookies, according to Jon Powers.

Homelessness in Pomona peaks

In the city of Pomona, homeowners and the homeless are concerned with new city policies on homelessness. Public places, such as Ganesha Park, have been affected by encampments and fires.

In March of 2016, 15 homeless people sued the city after Pomona police officers confiscated and disposed of items such as identification, prescription medication and family photos. The suit was settled in August, resulting in $49,000 in damages for the 15 plaintiffs and a $100,000 project to create the Transitional Storage Center—a collection of 388 lockers in the courtyard of the Pomona Armory—which opened in November.

As part of the settlement, Pomona agreed to allow the homeless to have 60 gallons of attended property, leave individuals notices of where to retrieve their property if it was confiscated for being unattended and store the property free up to 90 days.

The city also agreed that as there is not enough space in shelters, police will not enforce anti-camping and unauthorized sleeping-area laws until there is sufficient housing and accommodations.

A census of the city found that 689 people were without permanent residence and 336 were in visible areas like Ganesha Park, according to the Jan. 26 report by Pomona Homeless Service Coordinator Jan Cicco.

“For a city of our size, 689 homeless people is a considerable amount,” Cicco said.

At the Jan. 9 city council meeting, homeowners urged the council to enforce the anti-encampment laws and unauthorized sleeping-area laws set in place before the settlement. Homeless people testified that the city is still enforcing the laws and withholding funds despite the agreement. The council decided to uphold the agreements made in the settlement.

Kristen Emmons, who has been homeless for the past eight months and is currently living in the park, said the police are still harassing and confiscating property. Emmons said her property, including her bike and tent, were confiscated by Pomona police in early February.

“They’ve been harassing all the homeless. The police are going against the law, but if I go against the law I’m going to jail,” Emmons said.

As per the agreement, Pomona police should not enforce encampment laws unless the area is known for drug activity.

“Ganesha Park is known by police to be an area for drugs and crime,” Cicco said. “They are within legal bounds to enforce encampment laws. As for Ms. Emmons’ property, it will be stored for free up to 90 days and she can pick it up any time.”

From 2008 to 2012, Pomona received a total of $3,318,017 in grants and funding to help solve the issue of homelessness, according to The State of Homelessness in Pomona report of 2013. In 2015, the city spent $294,309 on projects to benefit the homeless, according to the Emergency Solutions Grant budget worksheet.

“The city is now focusing on the Supportive Housing Program and the Pomona Homeless Outreach Program, funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” Cicco said.

The Pomona Housing Authority expects formal project proposals for 30 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development by Mar. 31. The city is also looking into expanding the Transitional Storage Center.

In 2016, Emmons made a formal request to the city to provide a porta potty in the park. According to Emmons, the city only installed one porta potty near City Hall, which is over two miles walking distance from the park.

“Ganesha Park’s bathrooms are closed at night, leaving the homeless without restrooms,” Cicco said. “This has turned into a public health hazard, which is why we are looking to reduce the amount of people living there.”

Emmons explained that many homeless people have flocked to Ganesha Park after laws in Los Angeles became stricter in 2016.

“We have found that many of the people in our city who are homeless came here after LA passed new laws last year,” Cicco said. “They are looking for a safe-haven.”

Mental health and drug issues are prevalent among the homeless community in Ganesha Park, Cicco and Emmons said.

“Some of us didn’t plan on being homeless, but we do need help. We do need to work with the community, I know sometimes it gets out of hand. There’s mental issues, there’s drug issues, but we’re human beings, we have issues,” she said.

At the Jan. 9 council meeting, home owners urged the council members to enforce laws already in place.

“We just laid over and made a deal that we’re not going to enforce the laws of the park regarding camping and more importantly, starting fires,” said Greg Irwin.

Irwin has lived in his home on Paige Drive across from the park for 16 years.

Around 11 a.m. Oct. 20 a homeless man using a small barbecue to keep himself warm started a fire on Paige Drive, burning the fence, palm trees, and singing the myrtle trees on Irwin’s property, he said.

“If those trees would’ve went up who knows how many houses would have gone up,” Irwin told the council. “I wonder if I’m allowed to sue the city for negligence when my house gets burned down because of the homeless they’re allowing to sleep there at night?”

Irwin said that within the first week of January, he had already told police of four large fires in the cabanas of the park. He suggested that the city bring back the Pomona park police that was disbanded shortly after he moved to the city in 2001.

Pomona resident Lisa Schneider said that to decrease fire hazards, the city should remove dead plant debris from the park and enforce fire codes.

“I understand there’s a zero-tolerance policy, but I have not seen that be enforced,” Schneider said.

Ron VanderMullen, who has lived in Pomona for over 20 years, agreed that enforcing the laws already put in place is the best course of action for combatting the issue of homelessness. He commended the city council for their eradication of the homeless on Commercial Street in late January.

“We need to do again what we did at Commercial Street. I have heart for our homeless, but I think it’s equally important that we enforce our laws in public places and the park. They’re for everybody. And having homeless in the park does not make them useful for everybody,” he said.

Emmons agreed that the fires are a hazard, but said they are a necessity, especially for those who do not have tents and sleeping bags or who have had them confiscated.

“We do have to stay warm, I’m sorry that we have to start fires. Tonight, I have no blankets, they were taken from me. I had a tent where I can lock myself safe. Am I going back tonight to a tent? No. I’m going back to nothing, nothing but this purse I have,” Emmons said.

Emmons said Pomona residents’ main problem with homelessness is not the fires, but the eye sore, the result of a vicious cycle that victimizes the homeless.

“You think you need to do something because your city would look better if the homeless weren’t walking around,” Emmons said.

However, the city looks to address homeowners’ concerns and the needs of the homeless.

“Such a substantial amount of homelessness is not favorable for the city, but we are spending federal funding on programs to relieve the issue, not police to enforce and instigate,” Cicco said.

The story above was written as an assignment for my Journalism 300 class. Information and quotes should not all be taken as fact.