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New nonprofit aims to improve support for reentry, addiction

Around 40 attendees gathered Friday night to learn about a new organization focused on reentry programs and peer support for people returning from incarceration and recovering from substance abuse.

Roundtable Revival, a nonprofit founded last October, aims to help individuals who have experience with the justice system and have dealt with addiction, trauma or homelessness. The areas of emphasis are individual peer mentoring, group support and opening a sober bar. Many logistical details still need to be ironed out, but the organization will work closely with the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services and plans to work with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections to develop its programs.

During the fundraising event Friday for the sober bar called The Foyer, Roundtable Revival leadership discussed plans for the organization’s future and challenges to meet those plans, including funding and finding locations for its programs.

The overarching goal involves lessening the likelihood of people returning to jail and relapsing by building a sustainable, enjoyable life through assistance with work, housing, treatment and entertainment.

“There are so many people that fall through the cracks,” co-founder Kelly Green said. “They just get lost, and they’re still human, and we still want to help them.”

None of the programs have officially begun, but Green said Roundtable Revival plans to offer resources and services later this year to people who don’t qualify for inpatient treatment or programs like Comprehensive Community Services, which she was fortunate to utilize.

Needed services

Tamra Oman gave a passionate keynote speech Friday about the importance of services Roundtable Revival plans to provide. Oman is a human services program coordinator at the Wisconsin Resource Center in Winnebago. For about the past decade, she has worked with clients in the criminal justice system with addiction and mental health challenges.

Oman is thankful these types of conversations are happening and said they were not occurring when she was released from prison in 2003. She said people reentering society deserve to have their voices heard so communities can better address their needs.

“What if when they came to the table they knew they belonged there?” Oman said. “What if they knew they always deserved to be there?”

Oman said everyone in attendance is directly impacted by the effects accompanying addiction and incarceration.

“This isn’t somebody else’s little secret dirty box anymore; it’s happening to everybody,” Oman said.

Roundtable Revival co-founder Sarah Ferber concurred.

“Addiction is not an individual thing; it’s a community problem,” Ferber said. “People do not become addicted in an isolated bubble.”

Mentoring program

To help address those challenges, Roundtable Revival President Don Mowry said a 13-week mentoring program will likely begin this fall at Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Eau Claire. Mentors will meet with clients weekly for at least three hours and help with job applications, finding housing and navigating programs like Child Protective Services and Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.

There will also be a First Stop program several mornings per week. Certified peer support specialists will lead the sessions at local churches for people recently released from jail.

Ferber first encountered peer support in 2016 and said it was incredibly valuable to have people believe and see value in her. That support encouraged Ferber to work toward a degree in social work and eventually become associate director of Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing.

Treasurer Tab Butler said it is important for people reintegrating into society to receive aid from people with similar experiences.

“The best people to help are the people that have been through it,” Butler said.

From an organizational standpoint, Butler said it was a challenge filling out all the necessary paperwork to become an official nonprofit, and there are still insurance and contract details that need to be finalized.

According to Butler, Roundtable Revival likely needs at least $50,000 to start The Foyer, which she hopes will open this spring. Most of the funding has come from donations so far. Leaders are searching for a new location for The Foyer because the original site was the State Theatre, which indefinitely closed its doors last month due to unpaid utilities by its CEO Joe Luginbill.

Hopeful outlook

Despite the challenges, leaders expressed optimism during a 30-minute panel discussion Friday night.

One question focused on how The Foyer will handle the idea that alcohol equates to fun. Ferber acknowledged it could be difficult to draw customers because of Wisconsin’s drinking culture, but she anticipates growth through word of mouth.

An attendee asked about a bar-type setting being a trigger for someone in recovery. Ferber and Cody Walker, who will run The Foyer when it opens, said they understood the concern but didn’t think it would be a problem, since many people they’ve spoken to expressed a desire for a sober communal gathering space on nights and weekends.

“There’s always somebody it might not work for, but I feel like it’s going to work for most people,” Ferber said.

An area of repeated emphasis Friday involved the importance of personal connection to help individuals and communities improve, something Roundtable Revival hopes to offer in the near future.

“What if we saw each other’s humanity as opposed to a title or a judgment or a conviction?” Oman said.


National
AP
Privacy law may make students harder to count for census

ORLANDO, Fla. — A student privacy law will complicate the U.S. Census Bureau’s ability to get complete information about students living in college-run housing for the nation’s once-a-decade head count, according to a warning the U.S. Department of Education memo has sent to universities.

Because of the decades-old federal privacy law, university administrators won’t be able to disclose students’ sex, race or Hispanic origin, if asked. Three questions on the 2020 Census form seek that information. The university officials also can’t disclose any information if students have opted out of releasing even basic details about themselves.

“In short, we are not able to provide all the info requested,” said Leon Hayner, an associate dean of students at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., which has 1,200 students living on campus. “They’re not going to get everybody. Some information we simply can’t disclose.”

Todd Graham, a demographer in St. Paul, said he’s surprised that the Census Bureau and the Education Department didn’t work out some remedy to the information-sharing in the decade since the last decennial census in 2010.

“I think they haven’t thought about it for 10 years, and what happens when people don’t think about things for 10 years is, it surprises them,” Graham said.

Warning memo

The Education Department memo, sent two weeks ago, warned university administrators that under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, students need to provide written consent before information from their records can be shared, but an exception is made for what is called “directory information.” Directory information includes facts that often are found in student handbooks or yearbooks, such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, activities and dates of attendance.

That type of information can be shared by a school representative, such as a college dean, if a student hasn’t filled out the census questionnaire. However, the privacy law forbids the school representative from sharing information about students’ sex, race or Hispanic origin without previous written consent, and the school can’t provide any information about students who have opted out of sharing directory information.

The 2010 count found more than 2.5 million students living in dorms or on-campus fraternity of sorority houses, the largest segment of what the Census Bureau refers to as “group quarters,” which also include prisons, jails and nursing homes.

Form options

The Census Bureau is giving campuses three ways to fill out the forms. A census taker can drop off paper forms to a university liaison who will distribute them to students, and then the students will return them in sealed envelopes so the liaison can give them back to the census taker. A census taker can knock on doors in the dorm or house and personally interview residents, the most costly method. Or, a university representative can fill out the form for everyone living there using administrative records — the most efficient method — but the information can’t include basic information about sex, race or Hispanic origin and it misses students who chose to be incognito when it comes to directory information.

In 2010, more than a third of students in college housing were counted through administrative records provided by the university.

“The data that comes from administrative records is never as accurate as information collected directly from individuals and households,” said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant and former top congressional aide who specializes in the census.

Students who live off-campus can fill out the forms as those in other households would.

In a statement, the Census Bureau said it expected to get most of its information about on-campus students from the “drop off/ pick up” method. Privacy laws won’t prevent the Census Bureau “from conducting its decennial census of residents living or staying at a campus facility as of Census Day, April 1, 2020,” the statement said.

What’s on the line

The 2020 count will help determine the allocation of $1.5 trillion in federal spending and how many congressional seats each state gets.

Counting college students is tricky since it can be hard to track down students in group housing. Students sometimes leave campus as the school semester winds down during the count and students often don’t know if they should answer the form or let their parents do it back home. The Census Bureau says students should be counted where they live, which in most cases is where the students go to school.

Officials with two of the nation’s largest campuses — the University of Central Florida in Orlando and the University of Florida in Gainesville — said they were still in the process of determining how students in college housing would be counted.

This is the first year the Census Bureau is encouraging a majority of respondents to answer the once-a-decade questionnaire online, although they still can answer by telephone or by mailing in a paper form.

But students living in college housing, perhaps the group most likely to answer questions online, will be given paper forms. Cutbacks in research and testing for group quarters led to that decision, Lowenthal said.

Because of the difficulty in counting students, the Census Bureau will start reaching out to college campuses next week to collect information about student housing. The 2020 count started last week in rural Alaska, but the rest of the nation won’t begin participating until mid-March.


International
AP
China: 361 dead from new virus

BEIJING (AP) — China today reported 361 have died on the mainland from the new virus, with an additional 2,829 new cases over the last 24 hours bringing the Chinese total to 17,205.

The latest figures today come a day after the first death from the illness was recorded outside China, in the Philippines, as countries around the world evacuated hundreds of their citizens from the infection zone.

Chinese authorities completed a new, rapidly constructed 1,000-bed hospital for victims of the outbreak and delayed the reopening of schools in the hardest-hit province. Restrictions were tightened still further in one city by allowing only one family member to venture out to buy supplies every other day.

The Philippine Health Department said a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan, the city at the center of the crisis, was hospitalized Jan. 25 with a fever, cough and sore throat and died after developing severe pneumonia. The man’s 38-year-old female companion, also from Wuhan, tested positive for the virus as well and remained hospitalized in isolation in Manila.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte approved a ban on the entry of all non-citizens from China. The U.S., Japan, Singapore and Australia have imposed similar restrictions despite criticism from China and an assessment from the World Health Organization that such measures were unnecessarily hurting trade and travel.

The vast majority of those infected are in China; about 150 cases have been reported in two dozen other countries.

The U.S. on Sunday reported its ninth case, this one involving a woman in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Santa Clara County who arrived in the U.S. to visit family after recently traveling to Wuhan.

A hospital specially built to handle coronavirus patients in Wuhan is expected to open today, just 10 days after construction began. A second hospital is set to open soon after.

Also, six officials in the city of Huanggang, next to Wuhan in Hubei province, were fired over “poor performance” in handling the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It cited the mayor as saying the city’s “capabilities to treat the patients remained inadequate and there is a severe shortage in medical supplies such as protective suits and medical masks.”

The trading and manufacturing center of Wenzhou, with nearly 10 million people in coastal Zhejiang province, confined people to their homes, allowing only one family member to venture out every other day to buy necessary supplies. Huanggang, home to 7 million people, imposed similar measures on Saturday.

With no end in sight to the outbreak, authorities in Hubei and elsewhere have extended the Lunar New Year holiday break, due to end this week, well into February to try to keep people at home and reduce the spread of the virus. All Hubei schools are postponing the start of the new semester until further notice.

The crisis is the latest to confront Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has been beset by months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, the re-election of Taiwan’s pro-independence president and criticism over human rights violations in the traditionally Muslim territory of Xinjiang. Meanwhile, the domestic economy continues to slow, weighed down by slowing demand and the trade war with Washington.

New Zealand announced Sunday it is temporarily barring travelers from China to protect the South Pacific region from the virus. The 14-day ban applies to foreigners leaving China but not to New Zealand residents. New Zealand also raised its travel advice for China to “Do not travel,” the highest level.

Qatar Airways joined the growing number of airlines suspending flights to mainland China. Indonesia and Oman also halted flights, as did Saudi Arabia’s flagship national carrier, Saudia.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run media reported that 10 Saudi students were evacuated from Wuhan on a special flight. It said the students would be screened on arrival and quarantined for 14 days.

Over the weekend, South Korea and India flew hundreds of their citizens out of Wuhan. A Turkish military transport plane carrying 42 people arrived in Ankara on Saturday night. A French-chartered plane made its way toward France on Sunday with 300 evacuees from a multitude of European and African countries. And Morocco flew home 167 of its people, mostly students.

Indonesia flew back 241 citizens from Wuhan on Sunday and quarantined them on the remote Natuna Islands for two weeks. Several hundred residents protested the move.

Europe so far has 25 people infected with the virus. The German Red Cross reported two more cases there on Sunday, both German citizens who were airlifted from Wuhan on Saturday on a military transport carrying 128 people. Eight earlier cases in Germany were all linked to an auto parts factory.

France has six cases; Russia, Italy and Britain have two each, and Finland, Sweden and Spain each have one.

Vietnam counted its seventh case, a Vietnamese-American man who had a two-hour layover in Wuhan on his way from the U.S. to Ho Chi Minh City. The country ordered schools to close for at least a week in 19 of its 54 provinces and cities, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which together account for over 4 million students.

The number of confirmed cases will keep growing because thousands of specimens from suspected cases have yet to be tested, said the WHO representative in Beijing, Gauden Galea.