Our magazines and custom publications include ,a lifestyle magazine; Arkansas’s Mental Health Guide ; Arkansas Hospitals produced for the Arkansas Hospital Association; and Arkansas Money and Politics(AMP), the state’s premier exclusively digital business and political magazine.
Today I’d like to highlight the work of the Arkansas Army National Guard’s Aviation Team.
As governor, I have the responsibility of also being commander in chief of the Arkansas National Guard. When I approve a mission, I am expressing my confidence in the leadership of General Mark Berry, my Adjutant General, and his 10,000 soldiers and airmen. I know the Guard will do its utmost to make the mission a success. That was the case in late spring when the Aviation Team assisted in three rescue missions in a two-week period that put their training, skills, and stamina to the test.
The team members were among many National Guardsmen who participated in various missions during the Flood of 2019. The Aviation Team flew more than 100 hours of missions, which included hay drops, sandbag drops, and reconnaissance.
The first mission started about 10 a.m. on May 26 as the Arkansas River was rising rapidly. Lieutenant Colonel Eric Ladd received word that two members of the Army Corps of Engineers were stranded on a building at Lock 13 at Trimble Lock and Dam near Fort Smith.
The current was battering the building with logs and other debris. Officials weren’t certain the building could withstand the pounding.
The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management contacted me for authority to start the rescue. Lieutenant Colonel Ladd alerted Chief Warrant Officer 4 Cole Brewer, Sergeant Johnathan Watson, and Sergeant Anthony Sellew. They met at Camp Robinson and were at Lock 13 by 11:30 a.m.
The rescue went smoothly using the UH-72 Lakota helicopter equipped with a rescue hoist. Twice, Sergeant Watson, with the expertise of hoist operator Sergeant Sellew, rode the cable the 120 feet down to the roof and rode up with each of the Corps employees. The entire rescue took 12 minutes.
The second rescue, occurring in the early morning hours on June 3, was the most challenging. A sight-seeing helicopter had crashed on Mulberry Mountain in Franklin County. The crew consisted of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Spencer Robinson, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Converse, Sergeant Watson, Sergeant Smith, and Sergeant Sellew. The crew fought fog, wind, and dense foliage as the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter hovered over the site of the crash. Sergeant Smith attempted to go down the cable with the rescue basket, but the rotor wash created by the chopper’s blades spun him so wildly that hoist operator Sergeant Watson pulled him back up to the helicopter out of concern for Sergeant Watson’s safety. Sergeant Watson then dropped the rescue basket to the ground by cable.
One of the rescuers on the ground was National Guardsman Micah Piker, who had responded to the accident in his civilian job as a Franklin County EMT. But he transitioned into his National Guard role when it became apparent they would have to rescue one of the tourists with the helicopter’s hoist, and the crew needed his help on the ground.
He strapped the man into the basket and then lay atop the man so that he could pin his arms and prevent further injury from the trees he had to go through. The rescue saved the man’s life; the pilot and two other passengers perished in the crash.
The final mission was a search for a hiker from Texas who was lost for several days in the Ouachita Mountains near Mena. The man had texted his mother on June 1 that he was lost. The National Guard crew flew out on June 7. Within 30 minutes of starting the search over the mountains, the UH-72 crew consisting of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Rogers, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew McMullen, and Captain Winston Cox had picked up a flashing light. The crew shared its location with the ground crews. An hour later, the searchers on the ground had found the hiker, who was dehydrated and suffered minor injuries.
The helicopter crews’ training, skill, and courage ensured success with every mission. That’s how things usually go with the Arkansas National Guard. We are fortunate to have General Berry and the soldiers and airmen who work for him.
LITTLE ROCK (July 19, 2019) — Former Razorback Mitch Petrus, a starter at offensive guard on Houston Nutt’s final Arkansas team and Bobby Petrino’s first two, has died. The official cause of death is heat stroke, according to Pulaski County Coronor Gerone Hobbs.
Petrus was taken to Baptist Health Medical Center-North Little Rock on Thursday with heat-stroke symptoms after working outside all day at his family’s shop in Lonoke County, according to Hobbs. The heat index in central Arkansas on Thursday topped 100 degrees. The time of death was listed at 10:45 p.m. Petrus was 32.
A Carlisle native, Petrus played for the Giants, Patriots and Titans in the NFL. He started four games in his pro career and played in the Giants’ Super Bowl win over the Patriots following the 2011 season. In 2013, he retired from pro football and returned to Arkansas.
Before settling in on the offensive line, where he earned all-SEC honors in 2007, Petrus spent time at fullback and tight end. He redshirted in 2008, and as a senior in 2009 helped lead the Hogs to a Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina.
Fayetteville will once again serve as the setting for a major film project. Not long removed from hosting HBO mega-hit “True Detective,” a major feature film is being shot in the Northwest Arkansas community.
Fayetteville-based production company Rockhill Studios confirmed on Wednesday that it is providing production services for NYLA Media Group in its filming of “American Cherry.”
“Rockhill Studios is an In Association Producer and providing production services for the feature film, ‘American Cherry,’” said Blake Elder, president and CEOofRockhill Studios.“This film is a Production of NYLA Media Group from Los Angeles. We are providing 56 production crew jobs to local Arkansas residents and bringing in several million dollars of revenue into the local economy.
“Rockhill Studios has two additional films slated to shoot in Northwest Arkansas in 2019,” he added. “We are very excited and proud to have become a destination production company and are committed to continue the growth of this industry which will be beneficial to Arkansas and the local community. The local-based crew and talent pool are not only some of the best in the region but also in the country. We intend to continue developing the Digital Media industry here and anticipate significant growth.”
Blake and Kerri Elders are serving as executive producers for the film.
According to IMDB, Sarah May Sommers (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Hart Denton (Riverdale) and Leonor Varela (Cleopatra, Blade II) will star in the film.
The film is described as a psychological thriller-romance and is directed by Marcella Cytrynowicz, in what will be her feature film debut.
A synopsis in a Variety’s article reads:
Set in small town, low-income suburbia, “American Cherry” follows a teenage girl who must navigate her freedom and personal identity within a fractured, dysfunctional family. Varela plays her mother, suffering with mental illness and substance abuse, and Denton plays the boy next door who becomes the object of her fascination.
Until January of this year, DHS staff used to determine whether people were eligible. The criteria include their medical condition, for example, whether or not they have a disability or dementia. Also, their financial income is a factor.
One of the most important criteria is their “functionality,” which means how well they can get around, clean themselves, prepare meals and go to the bathroom by themselves.
People who are elderly and frail qualify, as do people 21 and over who have a physical disability.
In January, DHS began using a new assessment tool to determine eligibility. The assessments are also used to set levels of care. Under federal regulations, eligibility for home care and assisted living is determined by an independent agency, not by the beneficiary’s physician or health care provider.
Since January, DHS officials and legislators have been receiving complaints from people who have been denied services from Living Choices and ARChoices. Of the people who have been assessed this year, 44 percent of those in assisted living were denied and 31 percent who received some type of help from ARChoices have been denied.
DHS is working with Optum, and is reviewing 551 denials in the ARChoices program and 225 denials in the Living Choices program. A deputy director from DHS told lawmakers that the reviews should be complete by the end of July.
People who have been denied already and have filed an appeal have the option of continuing with their appeal or choosing a new assessment.
According to testimony at the legislative committee, people who have been in assisted living facilities for several years have been denied renewal. That is frightening to the ones who no longer have a home or resources to find a place to live. That’s why DHS is making it a priority to review their cases.
At a joint meeting of Senate and House Committees, several legislators expressed their frustration with the denials and with Optum, in strong terms. One frustration is that it takes too long to get an assessment, because of a lack of personnel.
According to the DHS official, Optum has replaced some of its staff since the complaints have become more numerous.
Other lawmakers reminded their colleagues on the committee that it was the legislature that directed DHS to find cost savings in Medicaid and health programs.
One legislator said that it would be good if the state “grandfathered in” everyone who already is in assisted living, but a DHS official said that federal law requires regular reassessments to determine eligibility.
When the state’s contract with Optum is due to be renewed, it’s expected that the controversy over assessments will come up again.
Living Choices serves about 1,000 people in 59 assisted living facilities across Arkansas, and ARChoices about 8,800 people.
Arkansas State University has named a new director for the Fowler Center.
Dr. Marika Kyriakoshas been appointed to lead the Fowler Center and has been promoted to interim assistant dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Communications, according to A-State Dean Carl Cates.
Kyriakos will be succeeding Les Christensen as Fowler Center director, who recently announced her retirement from A-State. Kryiakos will be responsible for coordinating the Fowler Center, and she will be taking over the Fowler Center Series, which is hosted in the center’s Riceland Hall.
Dr. Lauren Schack Clark has been appointed interim chair for the Department of Music to fill Kyriakos’ position.
In 2008, Kyriakos joined Arkansas State as a voice coordinator and the director of the A-State Opera Theatre. She was named a full professor of voice and became the department chair for music in 2014.
Samir Jenkins, Ph.D., nanomaterials and stem cell differentiation.
Astha Malhotra, Ph.D., 3-D printing and tissue regeneration.
Melody Penning, Ph.D., algorithms to predict adverse events in health care.
Aaron Storey, Ph.D., identification of bacteria in synovial fluid.
Partnering with the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, the UAMS program will be a 15-week graduate training program that will incorporate distance education courses from the Walton College. The UAMS graduate students will work with MBA students to develop commercialization plans for the products/technologies they have designed.
“The concept of translational research challenges us to more quickly move biomedical innovations and new technologies into everyday practice, and knowledge of the commercialization process is a critical factor to meet that challenge,” said Nancy Rusch, Ph.D., the program’s co-director, and professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UAMS College of Medicine.
Dating back to 2016, the Walton College MBA program has had a connection with UAMS and developing health-science entrepreneurs. Carol Reeves, Ph.D., UA associate vice chancellor for entrepreneurship and innovation, led the instruction for the 2016 Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for UAMS students, alongside Rusch and Nancy Gray, Ph.D., the president of BioVentures.
“What the Translational Research Institute is doing with this program is a great complement to our MBA program and our graduate certificate in entrepreneurship. The UAMS scholars, biomedical discoveries and innovations are an exciting addition that strengthens both institutions,” Reeves says.
The project is supported by the Translational Research Institute, grant TL1 TR003109 funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.
Planned Parenthood is preparing to open a new health center in Little Rock in August. According to organization officials, the move is designed to meet increased patient demand and “address a lack of access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care within the area.”
The new center will be located at 1501 Aldersgate Rd. in Little Rock. Currently, there is a Planned Parenthood location at 5921 W. 12th St.Operations at this location are expected to continue “until further notice,” according to a Planned Parenthood release.
More than 6,500 patients visit the two Planned Parenthood centers currently in Arkansas – one in Little Rock and one in Northwest Arkansas.
“Arkansas is no stranger to barriers to comprehensive health care and sex education, so this is a great opportunity for Planned Parenthood to continue serving the health care needs of this community by providing the care Arkansans truly cannot go without,” said Dr. Janet Cathey, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Director of Transgender Care and Little Rock physician.
However, the organization’s Northwest Arkansas location in Fayetteville is closing at the end of July in preparation for a relocation. The center’s final day is July 25.
“Planned Parenthood Great Plains will be reopening our Northwest Arkansas Health Center in a new location in the coming months,” Dr. Brandon J. Hill, Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO said in the release.
Find out what’s happening in Arkansas business and politics every day with the Arkansas Money & Politics Daily Digest. We collect each day’s important news and deliver it to you in one convenient article.
A Fayetteville church is among the growing number of religious organizations offering protection to undocumented immigrants during President Donald Trump’s directed ICE raids across the United States.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, on Old Missouri Road in northwest Fayetteville is among nearly 800 faith communities that have vowed to “protect and stand with immigrants facing deportation,” according to the website sanctuarynotdeportation.org.
Immigration authorities have reportedly begun conducting raids in select cities across the United States, focusing on first on Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. Regardless of where the raids are reportedly taking place, churches across America have opened their doors to undocumented immigrants.
ICE is not commenting on operational details of the raids and the priority will be apprehending violent criminals and aggravated felons. ICE agents are not “utilizing” allegations of crossing the border illegally, a misdemeanor, as cause for arrest in the raids.
According to the Rapid Response Toolkit provided to faith communities who have made the Sacred Resistance pledge, ICE is bound by its policy against conducting enforcement actions at or near “sensitive locations” and this specifically includes houses of worship. Houses of worship are encouraged to ask for a warrant and to determine whether or not the warrant is valid and includes the name of the person they are looking for.
“As the faith community, we must continue to stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees as increased attacks come down from the Administration,” the toolkit reads.
The goals of participating houses of worship are listed as follows:
Stand in solidarity and accompany families targeted by raids
Respond to the Trump Administration’s’ attack on immigrants through faithful witness to disrupt/raids and immigration enforcement through prayerful and prophetic presence
Put public pressure on ICE and the Trump Administration to stop all raids and deportations.
Counter this wave of terror through the immigrant community with a message of hope, faith and planned action in immigrant communities.
Support the families who are victims of raids through service provision and necessary organizing capacity building among the broader community
Increase the number of congregations involved in the Sanctuary movement and ways people of faith can take action in a concrete way.
Continue to build a network of houses of worship that are willing to resist the raids through creating safe spaces to accompany partner organizations in deportation defense
Accompany undocumented community members through public facing safe spaces that can provide shelter, food, clothing, legal service and assistance in family reunfiication when possible
Complement local organizing efforts around rapid response that also encompass concrete ways to engage the faith community
Fayetteville’s Good Shephard Lutheran Church is the only Arkansas church listed on the website.
In case you have not heard, Arkansas’s Senator Tom Cotton is up for re-election. Still serving in his first term, he has quickly become a household name by earning the admiration of Arkansans and conservatives across the country. His popularity did not manifest out of thin air, however. It is his rational presentation of facts and “tell it like it is” attitude that earns him the respect of his constituents and more importantly, their vote.
That presents a series of problems for any opponent who decides to run against him. Considering his high caliber status as a candidate, there was great disappointment among Arkansas politicos that a recycled candidate decided to jump in the race. By the way, this candidate could not accrue a third of the electorate in his last campaign for Congress in the only area of the state that the Democrat Party saw limited success in 2018.
It would only be appropriate to provide some insight for his opponent on how to best improve his odds headed into 2020. While this may be tongue-in-cheek, the lessons to be learned here are real for anyone looking to represent their community as an elected official.
One of the most important lessons to learn is that elections are not solely won on Twitter. Depending on social media to convert likes into votes is a bad strategy, especially if a campaign is paying for it. This is a problem seen time and again in all levels. Candidates often try to emulate the attention that President Trump can muster, but they are not Donald Trump and therefore will never be as effective as he is on that platform. It may feel good preaching to the choir, but in a race where the odds are not in one’s favor, it is best to find common ground with constituents they would otherwise not associate with.
When picking fights with your opponent over differences on issues, make sure you are well versed on your opponent’s stance. If they do find exception with their opponent’s policies, they better have a detailed alternative, not just spoken platitudes. On one occasion a candidate assumed Senator Cotton did no support mandated insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
However, it was Senator Cotton who sponsored the Protect Act which was specifically designed to protect people with pre-existing conditions from losing coverage. It also eliminated discriminatory policies by insurance companies that prevent access to healthcare for all Americans. Either this candidate did not know about the Senator’s work on the Protect Act, which is a sign of ignorance, or he blatantly set out to deceive voters.
Earning media is another important piece of campaigning as it acts as a free advertisement for a candidate. Like President Trump, Senator Tom Cotton is in the homes of most Arkansans on almost a daily basis by participating in interviews on NBC, CNN, Fox News, PBS, CBS, etc. Many of whom attempt to put him in uncomfortable situations because it is their job as the media to ask hard questions. The Senator’s tact and diligence have always benefitted him during those interviews and helped him become one of the most recognizable Conservatives in the country.
His opponent, on the other hand, is practically nonexistent on this front. Besides the occasional progressive tabloid trying to get him recognized to the point that it feels forced and unnatural. Still, most Arkansans could not identify him in a police line-up. That is a big obstacle to overcome because this candidate needs to attract the typical Arkansas right-leaning swing voter, which will never happen as long as he lets his friends at Indivisible & Co. define his candidacy for him.
At the end of the day many of us enjoy the thrill of a knockout drag-out election, but they will not find that satisfaction in this one. Cotton is too iconic. He resonates with the typical Arkansas voter. He embodies American values in both belief and action. It is unfortunate for the opposition party that a candidate of comparable caliber could not be produced, but it is also not surprising.
(Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics will feature exclusive op-eds provided by members of the Republican Party of Arkansas. The views in these op-eds are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or Vowell Media Inc.)