Sayonara newsblog! Check out the new mtpr.org!

Hey there, all you loyal newsblog followers!

For about the last year and a half, we in the MTPR newsroom have used this blog as a way to give our listeners and other interested parties a place to find our original content online–the full audio, plus text and pictures relevant to the stories.

We did this because we understand the increasing importance the web has on our daily habits as news consumers. Posting our stories to a free WordPress blog gave us the opportunity to provide that content using our available resources.

But, this also has been part of a broader effort to prepare us for the eventual redesign of our website, mtpr.org– a modern upgrade allowing us to post our news content in an even cleaner and more comprehensive way than we have for the blog.

That time has come, and we are so excited for you all to see what this new site can do. From the homepage at mtpr.org, you can see all of our local news content on the left-hand side. In the middle of the page you’ll notice sidebars for our editorial comments as well as for other MTPR programs such as “The Write Question.” On the far right of the page you’ll notice links to podcasts and a calendar of what’s playing on air at that time. Finally, at the top of the screen you’ll see a ‘listen live’ streaming button.

Thank you so much to all of you for sticking with us through this experiment! Here’s to what’s next!!

P.S.

Uh, one more time, the new website…mtpr.org, just click that blue part and you’ll go there.

Disability service providers protest change in Medicaid rate increases


DPHHS Director Richard Opper

Providers of general care for the developmentally disabled are asking the public to speak out against a plan from the state Department of Public Health and Human Services to alter an increase in Medicaid dollars for raises.

DPHHS is proposing to take two-percent of a total four-percent increase in rates for these providers and distribute that money in other ways than just an equal raise to all providers. DPHHS Director Richard Opper says this could include putting in place ‘performance measures’ to give higher raises to facilities operating more successfully.

“We are always looking for ways to deliver services more efficiently and effectively,” Opper said. “So, if a provider were to come to us with a more creative way to distribute services…I think that kind of innovation needs to be rewarded.”

Opper said he does not have specifics as to what those performance measures may be, and says that’s important, because it’s something he thinks the Department should negotiate with some of the providers of services for the developmentally disabled.

“There has not been any outreach,” said Missoula Developmental Service Corporation CEO Fran Sadowski, who points out these new increased rates go into effect on July first. “So, if that’s his (Opper’s) intent, when is it gonna happen?”

The 2013 Legislature approved two-percent rate increases across the board for providers of Medicaid Services. However, lawmakers singled out providers of services for the developmentally disabled for the larger, four-percent, increases. Sadowski said it’s not unusual for one type of provider to receive a larger increase. She says providers of services for the developmentally disabled have not seen an increase in their rates since 2009.

“We’re not getting rich on this type of increase,” Sadowski said. “Some folks are just trying to stay afloat.”

Sadowski said the disabled patients of facilities like her’s are often under 24-hour care, and if those places shut down the patients may end up on the streets, in a nursing home, or at the state’s institution in Boulder, the Montana Developmental Center. She said MDC costs taxpayers more per patient than community-based centers.

Sen. Mary Caferro (D-Helena)

Sen. Mary Caferro (D-Helena)

Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, led the legislative effort to have higher rate increases for providers of services to the developmentally disabled. She does not at all approve of the idea to make any of the rate increases performance-based.

“There was nothing in the (bill’s) language about distribution options, there are no options,” she said. “It would be wonderful if the executive would respect the legislature and follow legislative intent.”

Opper said the Department wants to negotiate on the plan proposal, adding a straight four-percent increase is not off the table. The public comment period for the proposal ends May 30th

The genetic mutations behind breast cancer

Hulvat

    The actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy as a way to prevent getting breast cancer, and her choice to make that decision public, have shed light on the rare genetic mutation she has that can cause breast and ovarian cancer. It has also prompted a flood of inquiries from women about the mutation – who’s at risk, and what their choices are if they have it. To learn more, News Director Sally Mauk recently spoke with breast cancer surgeon Dr. Melissa Hulvat, who is Director of the Bass Breast Center at Kalispell Regional Healthcare.  Dr. Hulvat says there are two genes we know cause breast cancer:

Virginia City celebrating 150 years since Alder Gulch strike this weekend

Virginia City has retained much of its historic architecture from the late 19th century

Virginia City has retained much of its historic architecture from the late 19th century

This Sunday marks 150 years since a small group of gold miners struck it rich up Southwest Montana’s Alder Gulch.

The swarms of people following that strike quickly established Virginia City, Montana’s first territorial capital.

Virginia City remains remarkably well-preserved today and survives off an annual boom of Summer tourists looking to take in the frontier town’s history.

The community is hosting a variety of events all through the weekend to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Alder Gulch Strike.

Click here for Virginia City’s weekend schedule.

Capitol Reporter Dan Boyce explores how residents keep that history alive in modern times.

 

Bon Voyage, Bear

The carcass of an adult male grizzly bear hit and killed by a car last spring near St. Ignatius is now being used to help teach the public about bears. Dale Manning is the professional taxidermist who transformed the animal’s remains into a tool that will now be used to teach the public about bear avoidance techniques and the characteristics that differentiate grizzlies from black bears.

(Left to Right) Jamie Jonkel, big Griz, Dale Manning

(Left to Right) Jamie Jonkel, big Griz, Dale Manning

The bear will be part of a bear avoidance educational trailer that will be used around Northern Idaho, Central Washington and Western Montana. That trailer and accompanying educational material were created by the “Be Bear Aware Campaign”, a national program designed to educate the public about being safe in bear country.
In tonight’s feature story, Chuck Bartlebaugh of the “Be Bear Aware Campaign.” and Fish Wildlife and Parks bear manager, Jamie Jonkel share their thoughts about bear safety.
First, Edward O’Brien speaks with the artistic force behind the grizzly mount – taxidermist Dale Manning.

Gun Control: Knee Jerk or Necessary?

News Director Sally Mauk and panelists Dana Gale, Doug Webber, Ed Monnig, Sheriff Chris Hoffman

News Director Sally Mauk and panelists Dana Gale, Doug Webber, Ed Monnig, Sheriff Chris Hoffman

Gun control continues to be nationally debated in the wake of the most recent mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. As part of the Montana Public Media “Guns in the Big Sky” series, Montana Public Radio recently aired a live, one-hour discussion of whether new gun control legislation is necessary, or simply a knee jerk reaction to tragedy. News Director Sally Mauk hosted the discussion, featuring four panelists: hunters Doug Webber and Ed Monnig, Dana Gale of “Moms Demand Action”, and Ravalli County Sheriff Chis Hoffman. Listeners also submitted questions online. The discussion covered everything from universal background checks to banning semi-automatic weapons.

Missoula looks at the need for superfast Internet service

Caitlin CoppleDoes Missoula need faster and more affordable Internet service? That’s the question a new study will seek to answer. With a 26-thousand dollar matching grant from the state,the city and county of Missoula are chipping in 13-thousand dollars each to fund a feasibility study of affordable extreme broadband service. City councilwoman Caitlin Copple chairs the council’s economic development subcommittee. She believes superfast – and affordable – high speed Internet is an attractive recruitment tool for new business.

Pakistani energy officials visit PSC


Hassan Mehmood, Director of Pakistan's Ministry of Petroleum & NR questions Public Service Commissioners Tuesday

Hassan Mehmood, Director of Pakistan’s Ministry of Petroleum & NR questions Public Service Commissioners Tuesday

Montana Public Service Commissioners Bill Gallagher and Kirk Bushman hosted a discussion Tuesday with high-ranking officials from Pakistan’s energy sector.

The eight Pakistanis are visiting the U.S. through the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The group is examining U.S. energy policies to gather ideas for improving Pakistan’s infrastructure. The country of 180 million people is wracked by power outages impacting entire cities and more on a regular basis. It also commonly suffers from shortages of commodities like natural gas.

The Pakistanis compared how the two countries organize utilities with the PSC. During the hour-long discussion,Pakistan’s Ministry of Petroleum Director Hassan Mehmood asked chairman Gallagher why the state doesn’t require Public Service Commissioners to have special education in a field related to utilities.

Gallagher said that is a challenge of the Montana system—but he says the PSC has that relevant experience on staff and, in the end, the elected commissioners are there to take the votes on subjects like rate changes.

“There’s a steep learning curve,” Gallagher said, “but we’re elected to be the ears and the eyes of the common people.”

The group is also learning about U.S. efforts to address the impacts of climate change and the Pakistanis are paying close attention to the American natural gas boom—in the Bakken and other shale formations.

Pakistan has a natural gas shortage right now, and Petroleum Ministry Director Hassan Mehmood said whether America decides to export its natural gas or not—it could bring prices down for his country.

“We are of the firm view that at least U.S. will not be importing gas, and that gas will become surplus and the suppliers will have to dispose of that gas for the other buyers and Pakistan can be one of the buyers,” Mehmood said.

 

 

Chronic Wasting Disease Part II

Photo Credit: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Photo Credit: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

As we reported yesterday, Chronic Wasting Disease continues its push towards western Wyoming’s winter elk feedgrounds and Yellowstone National Park.
In part one of Edward O’Brien’s feature interview, Dr. Bruce  Smith explained the science behind CWD.
In short, it’s a terrible, infectious disease that slowly saps the life from Whitetail and Mule deer, Elk and even Moose. There is no known vaccine or treatment, animals do not develop immunities to it and it’s 100-percent fatal.
Montana had a close call with C-W-D when it was discovered in a Granite County game farm in the late 90’s, but no cases have been discovered in wild herds.
Smith, a retired U.S Fish and Wildlife Service biologist says C-W-D is something the public and policy-makers simply must pay close attention to.
Tonight, Smith continues his discussion with O’Brien with an explanation of why C-W-D is so prevalent in states like Wyoming, while Montana – at least so far – remains unscathed.

Chronic Wasting Disease in Wyoming continues its march north and west

elk1_bwilliams

photo courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Chronic Wasting Disease is on the move towards western Wyoming’s winter elk feedgrounds and Yellowstone National Park.
A retired U.S Fish and Wildlife Service biologist says this is something the public and policy-makers need to pay close attention to.
Dr. Bruce Smith is a former senior biologist at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming and author of “Where Elk Roam: Conservation and Biopolitics of Our National Elk Herd.”
In the first of our two-part interview, Smith, a resident of Sheridan, Montana,  explains to Edward O’Brien the basic science behind C-W-D.
In short, it’s an insidious, highly transmissible disease that sticks around in its environment: