Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin.
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Mental health and addiction were front and center Monday at UW-River Falls. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joined state Sen. Patty Schachtner on campus March 18, where panelists shared their struggles and students poised to enter the mental health profession voiced concerns about what lies ahead. Without more resources, "we will not win this fight," Schachtner said during a news conference with fellow Democrat Barnes. They learned from Alice Reilly-Myklebust, director of Counseling and Health Services on campus, that mental health concerns are increasing among UWRF students.
Newly released records describe a climate of disturbing encounters, leering looks and provocative political commentary that surrounded Eric Lundell while he served as presiding judge of St. Croix County Circuit Court. The now-retired judge left a wake of vexed employees in the county courts system during the months leading up to his retirement, which coincided with revelations about alleged harassment, according to previously unreleased St. Croix County documents compiled during an investigation into a complaint against Lundell.
Hudson Hospital officials touted a new program aimed at resolving mental health crises that Gov. Tony Evers said should be funded through a Medicaid expansion when he visited the facility last week. The pilot program, which debuted in September 2018, allows people in crisis to come to Hudson Hospital, where they can be connected with a licensed clinician through videoconferencing. They receive a clinical intervention and a crisis assessment as part of the consultation.
A young man's deadly, documented battle with addiction is coming to a screen near you. "Written Off," a documentary film chronicling Wisconsin resident Matt Edwards' fatal encounter with drug addiction, will be screened Monday, March 18, at UW-River Falls. The screening, which is free and open to the public, is part of an effort by state and local officials to soften the struggle in discussing addiction and to prevent further damage caused by the ripple opioid abuse leaves in its wake.
UW-River Falls would receive planning dollars needed for a new science building under Gov. Tony Evers’ capital budget, which supporters called an encouraging first step. The university sought $4.25 million in planning funds in the 2019-21 biennium for the for the $111 million building, which would house the biology, chemistry, physics and psychology departments on the grounds where Hagestad Hall currently stands.
Wisconsinites are already using medical marijuana — just without the government's blessing. Sen. Patty Schachtner said it's not uncommon for end-of-life patients in her western Wisconsin district to have medical marijuana in their system. She said she witnesses it through her job as St. Croix County's medical examiner. "We know that we have medical marijuana here already because of access to Minnesota," the District 10 Democrat said.
Carley Buetow worries about the future of farming. The UW-River Falls student comes from a medium-sized family dairy farm — the same kind that's facing struggles all over the Upper Midwest, thanks to a decline in milk prices. The problem has forced many farms into bankruptcy and foreclosure. "That hit really close to home for me," the Cologne, Minn., resident said. But Buetow fears the message isn't reaching much of the general public.
Outrage over a River Falls prep sports controversy took on bipartisan backing last week. Lawmakers from both parties authored a letter to to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), which raised the ire of River Falls High School football supporters in proposing to move the Wildcats to a football-only conference comprised largely of La Crosse-area schools.
An issue that municipal officials in St. Croix County say is putting the squeeze on local coffers is being targeted by the Tony Evers administration. The Democratic governor earlier this month said he would include a measure to close the so-called "dark-store loophole" in Wisconsin. A 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling allows retailers to have open stores assessed at the rate of a vacant store, allowing them to pay lower property taxes.
Dr. Robert Bailey III blazed a trail in the 1950s when he became the first black professor at UW-River Falls. Even now, more than 25 years since his death, the former sociology professor will break new ground. He will become the first African American person to have his name grace an office at UWRF. What houses the university's international study programs will in 2020 be renamed the Dr. Robert B. Bailey III Office of International Education.