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NEWS 1.17.23

National Weather Service/Sioux Falls

Heavy snow is in the forecast for Siouxland. All of the area will be under a Winter Storm Warning for Wednesday with snowfall at a rate of one to three inches an hour. The Sioux City metro area could see up to 11 inches.

Bond has been set a one million dollars for a Sioux City man charged with shooting and killing his girlfriend on Saturday night in the city’s first homicide of the year.

Twenty-three-year-old Austyn Self faces a charge of first-degree murder and three counts of child endangerment for the death of 31-year-old Sarah Zoelle at a home near 33rd and Nebraska Streets.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen has proposed a vast increase in K-12 public education funding using money from the state’s huge cash reserve. It is a plan that even those typically critical of Republican education reform efforts say holds promise. The plan proposes to increase education funding by $2.5 billion through 2030 while still cutting property taxes. It would provide $1,500 for each student in the state, without cutting the state's equalization funding to schools. Pillen says no district will receive less state aid than it currently has under the plan. The plan also proposes to lower property taxes by limiting year-over-year revenue increases and would pump millions more into special education funding.

Republicans in the Iowa House are advancing a rule that would exempt the governor’s proposal for state-funded private school scholarships from consideration by the budget committee.

All other bills that are related to spending state money or changing tax policies are required to go through the budgeting and taxation committees.

House Speaker Pat Grassley says the rule change means he can get Governor Kim Reynolds’ proposal to fund private school education to a vote of the full House of Representatives. Similar proposals failed to get through committees for the past two years.

“We feel that Iowans have an expectation, whether you support it or you don’t, that a committee procedure should not be the reason in which Iowans don’t get to see where the legislature stands.”

Public education advocates and Democrats say they’re concerned about a lack of transparency and that there could be less consideration of the bill’s price tag. Reynolds’ office estimates it’ll cost more than $900 million dollars in the first four years.

An education reform subcommittee is holding a public hearing this afternoonon school choice in Iowa. Listening for continuing coverage on Siouxland Public Media and during tomorrow’s edition of The Exchange with host Mary Hartnett tomorrow at noon.

A group of South Dakota Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill to outlaw gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. At least a dozen states are considering anti-transgender legislation this year. The South Dakota bill aims to keep children under 18 from accessing puberty-blocking drugs, hormone therapy or surgeries that enable them to present as a gender different from the sex on their birth certificate. It would also punish doctors who provide the care by revoking their medical license and exposing them to civil litigation. South Dakota Republicans have perennially considered bills aimed at limiting the health care, school facilities and sports teams that transgender youth can access.

As Siouxland faces another winter storm, weather officials aren’t forecasting an end to the drought in the Missouri River Basin anytime in the near future. Run-off levels for the basin are expected to be below average for the fourth year in a row.

John Remus is the chief of Missouri River Basin water management division. He says that 2022 run-off levels were the 30th lowest in record-keeping. And this year only looks to be a slight improvement.

“Basically, we are anticipating continuing our water conservation measures into 2023 and possibly longer. Conservation measures are reduced flow support to navigation and minimal winter releases.”

2020 through 2022 was the eight driest three-year period for the basin.

More than three fourths of Iowa is facing dry or drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor. With patches of northwest Iowa still in extreme drought.

Nebraska saw its fourth-driest year on record in 2022, while Wayne and Stanton counties saw their driest years ever.

The Omaha World Herald reports, 2022 may have been one of the worst years in history in terms of the number of major weather events and the economic damage done.

News Release from the State of Nebraska:

Stop Stigma: How to Talk to Someone Experiencing a Mental Health Challenge

Lincoln – Even though mental health is key to overall health, the general lack of awareness about what to say or how to help family, loved ones, and neighbors keeps people from seeking treatment. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) is encouraging individuals to speak out about breaking the stigma of mental health to create a strong and supportive community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adults experience mental health issues each year. Mental health is something that we need to talk about now more than ever. Approximately 80% of adults with depression reported some difficulty with work, home, or social activities because of their symptoms. With the support of a strong community, we can stop the stigma from driving people that are experiencing symptoms into silence; this silence oftentimes keeps those we love from seeking and receiving the help they need and deserve.

“Normalizing the conversation about healthcare, including mental health and substance use, is critical to a healthier Nebraska. No individual should have to suffer in silence,” says Tony Green, the Interim Director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “There is a freedom in being able to ask for help, opening up, and being validated. We talk with others about heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other physical illnesses. We need to do the same when it comes to behavioral health. By normalizing and supporting individuals who are struggling with a mental health or substance abuse issue, we can build a strong and supportive community and work together to break the silence and end the stigma.”

Here are some suggestions on how to approach someone experiencing a mental health challenge: 

  • Approach the conversation like you would if asking someone about a physical health issue.
  • Talk to them in a safe and comfortable space with minimal distractions.
  • Be respectful, compassionate, and empathetic to their feelings by engaging in reflective listening.
  • Instead of directing the conversation at them with “you” statements, try to use “I” statements.
  • It is OK to say, “I am not sure how I can help but I am here to listen”.
  • Be a good listener, be responsive, and make eye contact with a caring approach.
  • Allow them to open up and talk but don’t press on uncomfortable topics.
  • Genuinely express your concerns.
  • Offer your support and offer to connect them if you feel that they might need it. Ask, “How can I help?” or “Is there anyone you would like me to call for you?”.
  • Give the individual hope for recovery and offer encouragement.
  • Take a Mental Health First Aid course or Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR)course to increase your awareness of how to help others.

Here are some things to avoid: 

  • Avoid saying “everyone feels that way sometimes”.
  • Avoid saying “you just need to change your attitude”.
  • Avoid assuming things about them or their situation.
  • Avoid talking too much or too loudly; silence and pauses in conversation are beneficial.
  • Avoid showing any form of hostility towards them.

It takes bravery, strength, and persistence to reach out for help. By talking openly about mental health, educating yourself and others, showing compassion for those with mental illness, being cautious about the terms and verbiage used, and choosing empowerment, our community can work towards ending the silence and stopping the stigma. There is hope and there is help. Recovery means different things to different individuals, but it is always possible. Seek ways to raise awareness, this month and every month, to help build a strong and supportive community and stop the stigma of mental illness.
Need to talk or get immediate help in a crisis? Help is available. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to:

  • The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline; call, text, or chat 988
  • Your faith-based leader, your healthcare professional, or your student health center on campus.
  • Nebraska Family Helpline – Any question, any time. (888) 866-8660
  • Rural Response Hotline, (800) 464-0258
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (oprime dos para Español) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-445
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

News Release from the State of Iowa:

DES MOINES -- Today, Governor Kim Reynolds announced $40 million in funding to help complete Phase 2 of Iowa State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL).

The Governor has also proposed in her budget an additional $20M from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF)--$10M in FY24 and $10M in FY25—to total $60M in state support for the VDL project.

"The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab is absolutely critical to support and protect our state and country’s agriculture industry and food supply,” said Gov. Reynolds. “This investment will significantly expand the VDL’s capacity to support Iowa’s $32.5 billion animal agriculture industry and will keep this nationally-recognized lab on the forefront of cutting-edge technology. Iowa will remain a global leader in agriculture, combatting foreign animal diseases, and recruiting and retaining veterinary talent.”

“We are deeply grateful to Governor Reynolds for allocating these critical resources to construct Phase 2 of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory," said Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. "This funding will help ensure the VDL can continue to provide cutting-edge services and support to Iowa’s livestock and poultry producers."

“The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory is enormously important to Iowa’s nation-leading livestock industry and provides immeasurable expertise on worldwide animal health and food safety issues. I want to thank Gov. Reynolds for making this critical piece of infrastructure a high priority,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Our close partnership with the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab has been essential in implementing our response to the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak and we rely on their team’s recommendations as we enhance our preparedness for other foreign animal disease threats.”

Fully accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, the VDL provides quality diagnostic services for animal species, including necropsy, bacteriology, serology, histopathology, virology, parasitology, molecular diagnostics, and toxicology as well as offering analytical services. The full-service laboratories at the VDL process upwards of 100,000 cases each year and conducts more than a million tests annually.

Funding for this initial investment is being made available through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.