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EUGENE, Ore — The Eugene Mission is trying a different approach as homeless numbers continue to grow and, it seems to be working.

This Saturday, the Mission celebrates the first graduates of its Life Change program.  A year ago, the Eugene Mission implemented the 24/7 holistic program, transforming the Mission from a homeless shelter to a wellness shelter.

Eleven members will graduate,  seven men and four women.  Another 31 are currently enrolled in the year long program where they live apart from the general population at the Gideon House. Each member puts in 20 hours a week working at the Mission and learning job skills.  In addition, they put in another 30 hours with classes, studying finances, overcoming drug addiction, improving relationships all while focusing on the Bible.

“There is great demand in this city, in Lane County, to expand this program,” said Jack Tripp, Executive Director of Eugene Mission. “We truly believe there will be hundreds of individuals in this program.”

“My story is, I came to the mission two years ago struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction,” said Mike Grimes, a graduate of the Life Change program.  Grimes now lives in his own apartment and enjoys his morning cup of coffee.  It’s a time for reflection; he thinks about where he’s been and where he’s going. “How cool it feels to wake-up, not sick or hung-over.  That’s the best part of the morning for me.”

Part of the Life Change program is assimilation back into the community. Nonprofits including White Bird, Catholic Community Services,  Goodwill, Sheltercare, Veterans Affairs, Willamette Family, St. Vincent de Paul and many other organizations and churches have paved the way. They’ve helped the graduates with resume-building and job interview skills, but will companies take a chance?

Ask and you will receive. Jeff Sherman, president of Ridgeline Pipe and former University of Oregon football star, and NFL player signed up for the challenge.

“I like it. We love to participate, be a part of the community and give people second chances who have a real desire to change and we need good people,” said Sherman.

Grimes is currently employed at Ridgeline. Another four graduates have secured jobs at area businesses working for owners who believe in the change that Jack Tripp knew was possible.

“Jack is a business guy, like myself, I can relate to. He thinks not just with his heart.  He knows the numbers he needs. He knows the difference he can make and he’s got a plan,” said Sherman.

Four other Life Change graduates are in the job interview process. Another two secured disability and housing and one has a full scholarship to Lane Community College.

As for Grimes, he says his life has changed and he’s optimistic about the future, “It was just the next phase in my redemption. My restoration in life.”

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Meteorologist Melissa Frey’s Forecast Discussion:

Brrrr! It was a  chilly start to western Oregon Thursday morning! We dropped to 47°…the coldest we’ve been in 59 days! So is summer over? Not just yet…

We officially have one month until Fall begins on September 22nd. Our average last 90° day in Eugene is September 10th and the record last 90° day is October 5th. Our average high temperature for this time of year is 82° which is exactly where we were yesterday and close to where we’ll be again today.

The jet stream has moved south and has brought a very chilly air mass over Oregon. That’s part of the reason while it was so chilly this morning and why even with sunshine from start to finish, today we’ll stay in the low 80s.

A weak disturbance will roll through western Oregon Friday morning. This will likely increase the cloud cover and bring us chances for drizzle/light rain for the first part of the day. Highs will stay in the low 80s.

High pressure begins to nudge its way back over western Oregon starting Saturday. We’ll may see brief morning clouds, but otherwise mostly sunny and high temperatures will return to the mid 80s for the weekend and upper 80s, if not low 90s for the first half of next week.

Have a great Friday Eve!

~Meteorologist Melissa Frey

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Police-Lights 2

UPDATED at 11:15 A.M.

ALBANY, Ore. — US Highway 20, the Albany-Corvallis Highway, is now open near NW Scenic Drive in Albany, after a fatal crash Thursday morning.

Oregon State Police were called to the scene just before 7:00 a.m. Investigators say a male driver in a ford station wagon traveling westbound was struck head-on by an Acura heading the opposite direction.

The male driver died at the scene. Police say the driver of the Acura was transported to Good Samaritan Regional Hospital in Corvallis with non life-threatening injuries.

There were no other passengers in either car. Highway 20 was closed for about two hours. The investigation behind the cause of the crash is ongoing. Identification of the drivers will be released after the families of those involved have been notified.

 

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EUGENE, Ore. — As the Eugene Police Department investigates a Eugene man’s death his friends gathered in his honor Wednesday night.

Police say 23 year-old Dean Sweeden died after a possible assault in downtown Eugene Wednesday morning.

Friends say once they heard the news of Sweeden’s passing, they decided to meet to remember and honor their friend.

They met right by the the skate park to pay tribute to Sweeden.

They sat in a solemn circle playing cards and some took a moment, stood and hugged.

Sweeden was discovered Wednesday morning in 6th Alley — between Lincoln and Lawrence — a victim of an apparent assault.

He later died at the hospital.

The violent crimes unit and forensic evidence and patrol unit were on scene collecting evidence.

But information into what happens remains limited.

Those who gathered Wednesday night say they wish they would’ve been there to help their friend.

“I’m pretty sure he was on the same level thinking about me as his friend like she’ll be safe right? No. I was upset this morning because everybody says if I had been there — but if would’ve been there it would have been different,” said Heather McBride.

“When you call somebody a brother you should be there and I wasn’t there for him. And I should’ve. And when I heard about it not only was I angry it hit me really hard,” said Scott Saddler.

Friends who gathered Wednesday night say they don’t know what happened and if Sweeden was alone.

Friends we spoke with had differing opinions on if Sweeden had any problems with people.

Some say he got into fights, others say he didn’t.

They also say he was heavily involved in Occupy Eugene and Whoville.

Right now police are still trying to figure out what happened.

Anyone with information is asked to call Eugene Police Department.

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EUGENE, Ore. — A man is dead after an apparent assault in downtown Eugene. The Eugene Police Department says 23 year-old Dean Sweeden died Wednesday morning from injuries he sustained in an apparent attack.

EPD said just after 7:30 a.m. Wednesday it got a call about an injured man in 6th Alley between Lincoln and Lawrence.

Police said Sweden had injuries that appeared to be from an assault. He was rushed to the hospital but died shortly after.

Friends of Sweeden were collecting his belongings from the crime scene Wednesday afternoon and said they’re heartbroken.

One woman says she’s worked near the alley for twelve years and has never seen anything like this happen. But, others living nearby said there are a lot of transient people in the area, and fights aren’t uncommon. Those living in the area say they belive Sweeden was homeless.

“At this point in time it’s an open and active investigation. We’re just in the infancy of it, so we’re seeking info,” said Sgt. Kris Martes.

The violent crimes unit and forensic evidence patrol unit were both on scene Wednesday morning collecting evidence.

According to his facebook page, Sweeden did public relations for Occupy Eugene.

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LANE COUNTY, Ore. — One out of every three people will experience a mental health crisis at some point in their life, according to local behavioral health experts. The good news, Lane County recently received a big boost to help tackle mental illness to a degree previously unseen in the region.

PeaceHealth Behavioral Health recently received several large grants from the state to the tune of about a half a million dollars. The grant money will go towards programs aimed at first episode and at-risk adolescents.

Over the past couple of years the conversation surrounding the treatment of mental illness in our country has become under scrutiny.

That’s because often times it takes either a crime or hospitalization to send someone into the system.

“For too long that was the only way people could receive the treatment they so desperately needed.” said PeaceHealth Director of Behavioral Health Services Dale Smith.

“I think in the past it has really been heartbreaking for all of us in mental health.” said PeaceHealth Manager of Behavioral Health Outpatient Services Carla Gerber. “We would get calls from people who knew something wasn’t quite right and things weren’t going well and we’d have to turn them away.” added Gerber.

But now those working at PeaceHealth in Behavioral Health Services are a little more optimistic. “I feel passionate that finally I will say there is an awareness that we really need to focus on the whole wellness of the individual.” said Smith.

With new grants the Early Assessment and Support Alliance, or EASA, is set to expand from its current 30 clients to about 80. EASA is a state-wide program that offers treatment and support to young adults with early symptoms.

“We have seen people that have come to us in a time of crisis where they feel like their world is falling out from under them and then a year later they are back hanging out with their friends.” said Gerber.

One of those people is Michael Haines. Haines suffered a psychotic episode two years ago and entered EASA for treatment. “Over the two years it really changed my life around.” said Haines.

Haines says he was secluding himself but the team helped pull him through. Now with this expansion he says he hopes more teens will also be saved.

“I think one of the things that helped me the most was to realize that there were other people who were experiencing the same things I was up until that point I felt pretty alone.” said Haines.

Also supported, Geneva Millers daughter, Robin. Miller she says EASA has given her daughter back a life. “Once she got into the program and started learning about it and accepted medication and the program was so right on top of it.” said Miller.

Miller says Robin is doing very well and she is constantly working on her issues.

Another program set to take flight in about two and a half weeks, a brand new Youth Hub.

The Youth Hub offers the same resources as EASA but to a wider-range of young people. At the Youth Hub there is a place to relax and play video games and there’s even a clothes closet for those teens who can’t afford these items taking the stigma out of the doctors office.

“They don’t like to go to the doctor and coming here they already feel safe.” said PeaceHealth Family Nurse Practitioner Kathy Kernan.

Kernan has already started treating patients and says she sees a lot of teens who are suffering who don’t know what is happening and they turn to drugs, alcohol even violence to cope.

“We’re trying to capture them before that happens so that we can prevent that.” said Kernan. “We need to talk about mental health we need to get past the stigma of it.” added Miller.

Those working at PeaceHealth hope these new programs will be a first step in closing the gap and leaving our most vulnerable with futures instead of forgotten.

Also coming soon a new 35 bed new inpatient unit.

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Meteorologist Marisa Woloszyn’s Forecast Discussion:

Comfortable temperatures will stick around Thursday an Friday. Expect some clouds and fog along the coast Thursday morning, everyone else will have sunny skies. A weak front will move through early Friday bringing some sprinkles across the area. Sunshine will return by the afternoon.

Sunny skies will continue this weekend and temperatures will slowly climb near 90 degrees by Sunday. A weak front will cool things slightly Monday before temperatures move back near 90 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Temperatures will remain consistent along the coast and in the mid 60s through next week.

Have a great Thursday!
~ Meteorologist Marisa Woloszyn

RRR pictureEUGENE, Ore — Road construction comes with lots of dust and debris but city crews in Eugene are trying a new method to get the dirty work done without all the mess.

Crews tested out a wet cement mixed with sand on Shasta Loop in south Eugene.

Civil engineers say the product doesn’t create a dust that can be harmful if breathed and it’s also more cost and time efficient.

Project managers have been so impressed, they’re considering using the same material on other projects.

“This was our test project, going from the dry cement to the wet cement or a slurry treatment. Next year, we already have two projects tentatively scheduled for the same treatment,” said Kerry Werner, a civil engineer with the city and project manager.

The potential projects are on Division Avenue and Donald Street.

6-13 festival of eugeneEUGENE, Ore. — The Festival of Eugene is happening this weekend at Skinner Butte Park. Organizers moved it to the park after previous negotiations fell through to have it near the 5th Street Market.

Event organizers say they’re piecing together the final plans. They said they planned the festival because Eugene needs a special event like this.

“I think Eugene has a very unusual and eclectic culture. There’s a culture here and a subculture here and one of them in relation to the arts. I think it’s worth celebrating Eugene because Eugene has so much talent,” said Krysta Albert, Festival of Eugene producer.

Twenty four bands will perform at the festival on Friday and Saturday.

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EUGENE, Ore — Teen pregnancy rates have hit historic lows—that’s according to the CDC, and it’s having an impact on more than just the teens.

The study says the most recent peak in teen pregnancy was 1991 so, it looked at the rates from that year through 2010 where the numbers dropped by 44 percent.

Lane County health officials say there are a number of reasons for the downward trend and a big benefit that comes with it.

Technology and medicine have come a long way in the last decade, improving health care and saving lives.

A recent study done by the United States CDC says teenage pregnancy is at a historic low and health experts believe improving birth control has been a big part.

“In the last few years, we’ve had more methods of birth control that provide long term coverage such as IUD’s and other methods of birth control,” said Cindy Morgan, Lane County Public Health nurse supervisor.

In fact, the study shows it’s the lowest rate since 1946.

Morgan says not only has medical coverage gotten better but social changes have also helped.

“Programs have become more receptive to making certain that teenagers are welcomed in their clinics. We provide services to males in many states,” said Morgan.

According to the study, Oregon has one of the lowest rates of pregnancies for women between 15 through 19. It sits between 20 to 30 percent.

Morgan says teen pregnancy is expensive, and with the trend going down, it can help the economy.

“Many of our teens who become parents rely upon programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, WIC,” said Morgan.

Doctors say it also saves the system money because young pregnant teens have a higher health risk.

“When pregnancy occurs prematurely, it puts the body under a lot of stress and that has negative impacts in the future,” said Lisandra Perez Guzman, a physician with Lane County Public Health.

Morgan says parents these days are also different than in the past, which is making a big difference.

“We’re just so much more comfortable having conversations with our teenagers,” she says.

Researchers say the annual public costs due to teen pregnancy is close to $11 billion but with the trend heading down, it will save money.

As for the states with the highest teen pregnancy rates: Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.

See the study here.

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