Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Report criticizes API discharge policies

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ANCHORAGE - A report by an organization that provides legal advocacy services for people with disabilities has concluded that the Alaska Psychiatric Institute lacks a way of dealing with patients who resist being discharged.

The Disability Law Center of Alaska investigated API after an incident last winter in which a man did not want to leave, was discharged anyway, and ended up taking his clothes off outside the facility in freezing temperatures.

"Is this the best we have to offer? If so, I think we need to take a hard look at our system," said David Fleurant, executive director of the Disability Law Center.

The hospital violated state laws and its own policies in handling the man's care and lacks a way to deal with patients who resist being discharged, the report concluded.

API officials say that overall, staff members provided good care while the patient was in the hospital. They disagreed with some of the report's conclusions.

However, Ron Adler, API chief executive officer, said the man's case was not handled correctly after he was forced to leave.

"In the best of all worlds, we would have immediately brought that individual back into the hospital and discontinued the discharge," Adler said. Instead, there was a "breakdown in communications."

Capital murder case strains Yakima funds

YAKIMA, Wash. - Defense costs in a potential capital murder case have topped $1.1 million during the past year and a half, and the case is still months away from trial.

Yakima County Prosecutor Ron Zirkle has yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against two men charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the 2005 shooting deaths of 21-year-old Ricky Causor and his 3-year-old daughter, Mya.

To avoid being overturned on appeal, trial-level courts tend to give defense attorneys free rein during pre-trial proceedings. Some say it amounts to a blank check.

"The way case law works is not cost-efficient and I wish something would be done to make it more cost-efficient," Zirkle said, "but I'm not even allowed to know what (defense attorneys) are spending the money on."

Logjams restored as river salmon shelters

EATONVILLE, Wash. - Crews are dropping trees and boulders in a section of the Mashel River as work continues on a series of logjams to provide shelter and spawning grounds for salmon.

Excavators are erecting 13 large logjams as part of a $440,000 project to restore the river, a major tributary to the Nisqually River that supports chinook salmon.

During the past 100 years, the Mashel has endured heavy logging close to the riverbanks, and fallen trees have been removed from the water.

The activity took a toll on both the river and salmon, said Jeanette Dorner, salmon recovery manager for the Nisqually Indian Tribe, which is collaborating on the project with South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group.

"We're now trying to put natural wood, spawning areas and natural processes back into the system and create good habitat for fish," Dorner said.

Logjams offer shelter for salmon and help rivers carve out shallow gravel bars to provide pools for spawning grounds, where fish can also rest.

Four engineered logjams at Smallwood Park in Eatonville will replace a rock berm and transform the riverbank.

Some airlines return to jet fuel hedging

SEATTLE - Carriers such as Alaska Airlines that pay for jet fuel when they fill up planes have been forking over more than $2 a gallon lately - nearly four times the average price they were paying just four years ago.

High fuel prices have dealt a much milder blow to carriers that have used a practice known as fuel hedging, which often involves purchasing futures contracts that allow airlines to fix or cap the price they'll pay several months or years in advance.

Southwest Airlines Co. has led the pack, followed by Seattle-based Alaska Air Group Inc., the parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air.

Both companies are bracing to pay market rate for more of their fuel in the coming years after ramping down their hedging programs as persistently high oil prices sent the cost of those futures contracts soaring.

But now, with some experts predicting crude oil could creep up another $10, $20, even $30 a barrel, some airlines are taking cautious steps toward hedging.

"The idea is to spend some money now to avoid the harm that would happen to our business if fuel went up by a significant amount," said Brad Tilden, Alaska Air's chief financial officer.

Though hedging is speculative by nature, companies view it more like an insurance policy than a risky gamble.



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