▶️ Paramedics and EMTs wanted: Worker shortage impacts emergency services

A shortage of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics has reached crisis levels.

Emergency medical service workforce shortages are threatening public health and jeopardizing timely responses to health care emergencies.

According U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, 11% of EMTs, paramedics and health technicians will leave the emergency medical services industry this decade. That’s the highest rate of departure from all occupations in the national economy.

“All of health care is suffering from burnout and it’s not surprising,” said Dave Schappe, EMS Programs Director at Central Oregon Community College. “What I have seen is a lot of people who delayed retirement, have retired. We are all exhausted after two years of dealing with the pandemic and for those who have that option, they are taking it.”

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Central Oregon Community College offers a robust first responder training program that has graduated and placed hundreds of EMTs and paramedics.

Lately, most students have job offers before they graduate.

“The shortage has caused a number of students to rush through their internships, the final phase of paramedic education,” Schappe said. “We had a number of students that needed to be finished by August 1 or 15. It’s unusual for so for many of them to have paramedic jobs waiting for them when they got out.”

The Bend Fire Department recently hired 14 new EMTs, paramedics and firefighters.

Drew Norris, Bend Fire’s EMS chief, says the number of applicants has decreased by more than half the past three years, yet the demand for paramedics and other EMS providers is increasing.

“Every coin has two sides, and the other side of this coin is every one is getting a job. The students who are finishing up now, they’ve all been offered jobs in the valley at private agencies. Some have taken them, some haven’t. Some want to come back to Central Oregon and practice in this region but the jobs are out there for them. No question,” Schappe said.

Individual agencies are doing all that they can to bolster the pipeline, from creative partnerships with community colleges like the training COCC provides to offering sign-on bonuses and incentive pay.

The Oregon State Fire Chiefs and Oregon State Ambulance associations say they will partner with legislators on creative solutions during the 2023 legislative session.

▶️ $328,000 approved to help fund MCAT, Crisis Stabilization Center

More funds are going to help people in mental health crisis in Central Oregon.

The Bend City Council authorized an agreement with Deschutes County Wednesday to provide $328,000 in funding to the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team and the Crisis Stabilization Center.

The money will be used to hire more professionals to respond to mental health crisis calls without having a law enforcement officer on scene.

“They do a great job at it. But that’s not really what they were intended to do. So, it definitely is just providing the right resource to the people at the right time,” said Holly Harris, Deschutes County Crisis Program Manager.

Since the beginning of 2020. Bend Police responded to more than 5,100 crisis calls. While nearly all officers are trained to handle these kinds of calls, a trained mental health professional is often a better option.

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▶️ Destination Oregon: Washington Park

Right in the middle of Oregon’s largest metropolitan area is an island of natural beauty. It is home to animals, hikers and stunning panoramas of the City of Roses. 

In the west hills of Portland sits Washington Park, just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city below. Just off Highway 26 — known as Canyon Road to locals — Washington Park is 410 acres of natural beauty

It is home to the world famous Oregon Zoo. But that’s just the beginning of what you’ll find at Washington Park. It is also home to the World Forestry Center.

Washington Park offers miles and miles of hiking through a Pacific Northwest canopy.

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In addition to the zoo and the forestry center, there are tons of activities here. There’s an archery range, a kids playground, several public tennis courts.

And there are flowers — acres and acres of flowers. More specifically, roses.

The International Rose Test Garden at Washington Park is the oldest continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. You can enjoy more than 10,000 roses in this garden May through October.

And just a few steps away is the Portland Japanese Garden, another stunning haven of natural beauty. There are eight different garden styles here and you can immerse yourself in Japanese art and culture.

Or, simply find a bench and spend some quality quiet time with yourself.

Finding a parking place here can be a challenge and that anxiety can ruin your zen-like experience at the park. But the good folks at Explore Washington Park have been hard at work creating a bunch of transit options to get you here, while leaving the driving to someone else.

After a couple of years of fewer visitors due to the COVID pandemic, things have really picked up at Washington Park. On your next trip to Portland, budget some time to take in some or all of what Washington Park has to offer. You can capture your own nature experience in the heart of the city.

▶️ Welcome to the High Desert highway that is one-of-a-kind in Oregon

The Oregon Department Of Transportation owns and maintains about 8,000 miles of state highways

One small section of that 8,000 miles is unique. And it’s located in the High Desert.

Oregon Highway 27 starts as Main Street in Prineville.

On its entire 44.78-mile southbound route, there is only one sign telling you that you’re driving OR 27.

And that drive is spectacular — along the Crooked River through some of the wildest basalt cliffs in basalt cliff country. Up over the Bowman Dam that’s holding back the slim puddle that is the Prineville Reservoir these days.

 

Down to the south, through open range and the land of cows you’ll find an occasional mailbox and a dirt side road or two.

But this is where the story really starts.

And where the pavement ends.

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“We are out here on Highway 27, which is the only gravel state-maintained through highway in the entire state,” said Kacey Davey of the Department of Transportation.

“I did the math and it’s 0.002% of the roads we maintain are gravel.”

 

Highway data shows OR 27 averages 17 vehicles per day.

How quiet is this road? Just ask Pam and J.W. Hart. They’re at the Sage Hollow Ranch — the only property that has a driveway off the gravel section of OR 27.

They bought the place 35 years ago.

“You’d go weeks without seeing a vehicle up and down the road. You might see a neighbors truck go by that you know but as far as anybody from the outside world. You just didn’t see that much,” J.W. said.

 

So what’s rush hour like there?

“I guess is when you got a bunch of cows that’s been stampeded by a mountain lion,” J.W. said.

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They say you can probably go a half-day without ever seeing a car.

“And then there’s other days, holidays and stuff when the weather’s nice and you might have fifty cars in one day,” J.W. said.

 

In the three hours and 20 minutes we spent shooting this story, we saw three cars go by.

One of those was being driven by road warriors Steve and Lisa from Seattle. We met them where U.S. Highway 20 and OR 27 meet. They were considering what looked like a shortcut on the map.

“We found this road and it looked like something interesting. We have a vehicle that can handle it so we though, let’s give it a crack,” Steve said. 

But they didn’t know about the gravel thing.

After considering their options, Lisa makes the call.

“I was going to say no. I’ve been driving in the crosswinds all this way and I don’t think I want to do 25 miles of gravel,” Lisa said.

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It’s a little shorter than that. ODOT says it’s 18.5 miles. Our odometer says 17. And it’s really good gravel.

Wikipedia says it’s also known as the “Les Schwab Highway.” It’s not. That’s Millican Road a few miles west.

A technicality here. There is one short stretch of pavement over a little bridge. 

You’ll pass under a Bonneville power high voltage line that’s electricity to Burns. And you’ll hit five cattle guards.

 

At the south end, you’ll see just one sign heading north that tells you what road you’re on.

And it turns out this stretched out gravel patch is useful.

“We use it to train our new employees on how to use our graders,” said Davey.”

Once or twice a year, it’s the grader driving school for ODOT rookies.

“We also use graders for things like blade-patching which is a type of pavement repair that we do. We use graders on the gravel shoulders and also to move snow in the wintertime. So our crews spend a lot more time on graders than just maintaining this one highway,” said Davey.

The road is nicely graded in places and looks like it will stay that way for awhile. ODOT says it has no current plans to pave this stretch of OR 27.

Highway 27 pavement ends

▶️ Bus shortage, miscommunication cancels Madras HS soccer match

A bus shortage led to the cancellation Monday of the first Madras High School junior varsity soccer match of the year. But the match has been rescheduled.

“The district does apologize. The district is sorry,” Communications Coordinator Joey Prechtl said. 

Miscommunication and mechanical issues led to the bus shortage, 509J School District said.

“Buses were being used by our Warm Springs K-8 Academy on the reservation to transport their student athletes, as well as Jefferson County Middle School to transport their student athletes. And then another bus was being used by our FFA program,” Prechtl said. “So we had no more buses available for the students.”

The district also says a couple of buses needed to be worked on and could not be used. One bus was available, but due to miscommunication, the bus that came was too small to accommodate the entire team. 

The match has since been rescheduled for Friday at 4:00 p.m.

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One parent who wished to not be identified does not think rescheduling is enough to remedy the situation.

“I think the kids need an apology from the admin,” the parent said. They were pretty heartbroken.”

The parent also pointed out what she says are inequities between the soccer facilities and the venues for other sports.

“Our fields are lacking. The [football and track field] next to us are way nicer. We don’t have a dressing room. The kids have to dress on the field. It would be nice to be treated equal to other sports.” 

509J did pass a bond in November of 2021 of $28 million. $1.2 million of that is being allocated to the soccer facilities. 

Field lights, a new building including a restroom and changing facilities and concessions are all supposed to be constructed with the funds.

The district did apologize to the players that were affected, saying that it can and will be better and will make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again to the athletes. 

▶️ Crooked River drops to 10 cfs; fish concentrate in few remaining deep pools

The Crooked River below Bowman Dam is flowing at 10 cubic feet per second, stranding fish in a few remaining deep pools.

Imagine going to the grocery store and 90% of the shelves are bare. That’s a rough equivalent of what’s going on in the Crooked River where the flows have dropped to 10 cfs in the past six days.

“Obviously with less flow you are going to have less food. You are going to have the same number of fish but dramatically less food,” said Yancy Lind, a concerned angler who writes the Central Oregon Informed Angler blog.

“If you have dramatically less water moving at fundamentally slower speeds, same number of fish, they are going to run out of oxygen.”

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There is increased predation of fish that are easier to catch in the shallow water by birds and otters, as well as anglers who continue to fish when the ethics of doing so are in doubt.

Another factor working against Crooked River fish is the temperature of the water. As of Thursday, air temperature and water temperature were the same at 64 degrees.

“When the water is this thin or shallow, air temperature and water temperature will be similar,” Lind said. “If it gets up to 80 next week like its projected to be, then you are up in the lethal range for both native red band trout and mountain whitefish.”

Lind predicts a large decline in fish abundance in the Crooked River that could take years to recover. That’s assuming abundant precipitation for several consecutive years.

“What we have right now is a set of laws that are inflexible and allow this kind of things to happen without any consideration for recreation or fish and wildlife or any of the other things that drive our local economy,” Lind said.

The low flows will continue until November 1 when they are expected to rise to at least 50 cfs, which will be a minor improvement.

▶️ Crook County’s Sara Johnson named Oregon Superintendent of the Year

Crook County School District Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson was named Oregon’s Superintendent of the Year Wednesday.

Johnson was presented the honor at the Crook County High School library by representatives from the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA).

And they kept it a big secret from her. She walked into the building to thunderous applause, unaware of what was coming next.

 

“Super grateful and overwhelmed and surprised. Just thinking about how amazing our staff … our staff is incredible. It’s just remarkable to work with such an amazing district,” Johnson said.

The award highlights what is described as four essential areas:

  • Leadership for Learning
  • Communication
  • Professionalism
  • Community Involvement

“Dr. Johnson was recognized for many successes, including safely reopening schools during the pandemic before most other schools in Oregon, increasing the graduation rate at Crook County High School to 98%, successfully opening Steins Pillar Elementary School, creating a new hybrid learning program called Grizzly Mountain HomeLink, prioritizing improved school culture, and giving more voice to students and staff through yearly surveys and initiatives,” the district said in a statement announcing the award. “Those results have also led to consecutive years of enrollment growth when many districts face declines.”

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Johnson will now be in the running for national superintendent of the year.

Johnson’s award continues a string of achievements for the school district.

Crook County High School Principal Michelle Jonas was named Principal of the Year in 2021.

Rob Bonner, Crook County H.S. athletic director, was named 5A Athletic Director of the Year last year.

The district says Johnson was born and raised in Burns. Most of her career has been mostly in rural Oregon schools. She has made helping young students overcome the mental health challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic one of her priorities.

And her own education isn’t done. She’s pursuing a degree in child psychology at George Fox University.

▶️ Latino Community Association receives $95,000 for Workforce Program

Central Oregon’s Latino Community Association has been given three grants to be used towards its Workforce Program.

The grant money is from:

  • $75,000 from the Northwest Area Foundation
  • $10,000 from U.S. Bank through its Community Possible giving platform
  • $10,000 from Wells Fargo Foundation

According to a report from LCA, there are around 20,000 Latinos living in Central Oregon. 

“There’s about 25% of that 20,000, so 5,000 roughly, that are recent immigrants from Latin America,” said Brad Porterfield, executive director of LCA. 

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The Workforce Program offers many resources:

  • English classes
  • Tutoring
  • Computer training
  • Resume assistance
  • Business advice
  • Job placement
  • Job referrals

You do not have to look far to find someone who has benefitted from this program. Working in the office was Pilar, a woman who was assisted by LCA after moving to Central Oregon. She is from Peru and has a masters degree with a background in higher education. 

Pilar just moved to the area and was looking for a job,” said Carolina Afre, work force program navigator. “We created her resume and I helped her apply for a couple jobs.”

With the grant money recently given, this has opened up a new position at LCA.

“It also gives us some extra income to hire a new position that we’re looking to hire which is a workforce education coordinator,” said Porterfield.

After Pilar was helped by the program, she was hired on to help other Latinos looking to obtain employment or increase their income. 

▶️ 3rd Street construction in Bend: 1 project wrapping up, but another to begin

If you drive down 3rd Street in Bend, you’ve come across multiple construction projects.

One is on 3rd Street and Olney Avenue, where flaggers are in place to help direct traffic.

The other is on 3rd Street and Mervin Sampels Road where the department of motor vehicles office is located.

“We have more people in town more people on the road thats more wear and tear on the system, so we’re doing this project to help move things along and upgrade all of our aging devices and make a smooth nice road for everyone to drive on,” said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson Kacey Davey.

RELATED: Bend North Corridor: Businesses brace for change

Work is expected to wrap up on Olney Thursday afternoon, but theres still more to come.

ODOT plans to repave 3rd Street from Mervin Samples to Greenwood Avenue next year, so prepare for those delays.

▶️ 2022 election nears, but Central Oregon clerks still get requests about 2020

The 2022 midterm election is seven weeks away. And while local elections offices are trying to get ready for that, they are seeing a trend.

Not about 2022. But about interest — still — in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

“The records requests have really increased since November 2020,” Deschutes County Clerk Steve Dennison. “They started in December 2020. We’ve had requests for voter files, voter records as well as information from our voting system.”

Secretary of State Shemia Fagan says these record requests, which have increased all over Oregon, are about “the big lie” — the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Dennison says the concern is that these requests will take the focus away from the election this November: “All I want to do, all we would like to do, is move forward.”

RELATED: Flood of record requests hamper Oregon election officials

The clerk says he is happy to answer public records requests, but also wants to bring the attention to this next election. 

As for that election, Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day. A few minutes of your time is all it takes to make sure you can fill out a ballot in November. 

“Today is a great day for voters to go online and verified that they are, in fact, registered to vote,” said Dennison.  

You can check your voter status by visiting Oregonvotes.gov, and you can register by filling out a registration card. These cards can be found at the county clerk’s office. 

Everyone Central Oregon Daily spoke with in Downtown Bend said they were registered and up-to-date with their information. 

“We are registered to vote and all of our information is up to date,” said Martin Luber. 

“I actually went online yesterday to make sure I was registered to vote and to see if it was up to date, and it was so I am registered,” said Carrie Woolard. 

“I am registered to vote and all my information is current,” said Rick Burton. 

The last day to register is October 18.