Research finds W.Va.’s veterans at risk for suicide

MORGANTOWN – A new survey has found one in five West Virginia veterans is at risk for suicide.

The research by West Virginia University psychology professor Joseph Scotti was commissioned by the Legislature. It found half of veterans surveyed showing signs of post-traumatic-stress disorder, depression or both.

Scotti and other researchers analyzed responses from more than 1,200 veterans.

Other warning signs include a higher rate of obesity and high blood pressure when compared to other state residents.

One in 10 veterans reported being homeless within the past year. Scotti said female veterans with children were disproportionately represented.

Recommendations include a comprehensive plan to reach out to suicidal veterans, and increase mental health services.

U.S. Census Bureau estimates show close to 170,000 West Virginians are veterans. That’s more than one in 10 adults in the Mountain State.


Food stamp scam:

The onetime owner of the All-In-One convenience store will spend six months in prison for food stamp fraud.

In September, Abe Eliorzazi had pleaded guilty to defrauding the food stamp program. He was sentenced last week in federal court in Huntington.

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers also ordered Eliorzazi to pay $127,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Federal prosecutors say Eliorzazi’s store was the center of an illegal scheme to cash federal food stamps. Two former employees received probation for their roles in the scheme.

As a condition of his plea, Eliorzazi turned over the store to the city. It has since been demolished.


Call for safety review:

Members of the state Board of Education say it’s time for a full review of school safety across West Virginia.

The board said Friday that it has asked West Virginia Department of Education staff to reach out to national experts on school safety issues.

Board president Wade Linger says that while the state has conducted school safety reviews in the past, he believes further input will ensure the state doesn’t “have a blind spot.’’

In recent years, West Virginia has allocated $30 million to school districts for school safety upgrades. As a part of the grants, districts also had to develop school access safety plans and appoint a school safety director.


Tougher gun laws sought:

Count three West Virginia college leaders in among those calling for stricter gun laws.

Bethany College President Scott Miller, who said that an alum’s 6-year-old daughter was among those killed last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, has called for stricter laws, along with Davis & Elkins Chancellor Michael Mihaylo and University of Charleston President Ed Welch.

The three are among more than 300 college leaders nationwide who have signed an open letter calling for new gun restrictions – an effort spearheaded by the presidents of Oglethorpe University and Agnes Scott College in Georgia.

Welch said a reasonable balance is needed between citizens’ right to own guns and the misuse of weapons such as assault rifles.


Parents decry “bad kid fort”:

The parents of a Parkersburg High student say a teacher put their son, who has Asperger’s syndrome, in a box labeled “bad kid fort’’ because of his behavior in the classroom.

Beth Dean and Jeff Richards say the social studies teacher humiliated their 15-year-old. “Instead of sending him out of the room or any other myriad of options, she fashioned a large cardboard box and placed the box around his seat, completely enclosing him, in front of 30 of his peers,’’ Dean said.

The boy was left in the box for about 15 minutes, she said.

Her son’s individual education plan outlines steps to take when his behavior is disruptive or unmanageable, she said. “[Being] placed in cardboard box was not one of those steps,’’ she said.

Principal Pam Goots said she does not believe the teacher intended to embarrass the student. “She was attempting to deal with a difficult situation in class,’’ Goots said.

She said teachers need more training to work with autistic students, which she plans to ask the Wood County Board of Education to provide.


Scholarship honors WVU student:

The family of a West Virginia University student who died shortly after enrolling in the school’s MBA program has started a $100,000 scholarship fund in his honor.

Romney native Brian Brick was 22 when he drowned in the Tygart River in Barbour County in July, just months after earning his accounting degree.

Now his family has created an endowed scholarship through the Allinder-Anestis Family Charitable Fund.

The Brian Douglas Brick Memorial Scholarship will provide yearly awards to graduate school students in the College of Business and Economics.

Brick’s family says he loved WVU and the MBA program, and they want to support young people who approach education and life with integrity and hard work.


Massey hearing delayed:

A plea hearing for a former president of Massey Energy’s White Buck Coal Co. has been delayed until late next month.

A federal judge in Beckley granted David Hughart’s request to postpone this week’s hearing until Feb. 28. The judge agreed to give defense attorney Michael Whitt more time to review the case after allowing former attorney Tim Carrico to withdraw over an unidentified conflict of interest.

Hughart is set to enter a plea to two federal conspiracy charges. He’s accused of working with unnamed co-conspirators to ensure miners at White Buck and other Massey-owned operations got advance warning about surprise federal inspections between 2000 and March 2010.

The charges resulted from prosecutors’ investigation into the 2010 explosion at another Massey operation that killed 29.


Expanded smoking ban:

Lewis County health officials are considering expanding the county’s smoking ban to bars and gaming facilities.

The county’s existing Clean Indoor Air Regulation exempts bars and gaming facilities from the ban on smoking in restaurants and other business establishments.

A proposed amendment would prohibit smoking in any business and in all public and private places of employment.

Outdoor smoking also would be banned in public places, including parks and playgrounds.

County health department administrator Ginny Ruble says 11 letters supporting the amendment and three letters opposing it were received during a public comment period.

Museum closes to grow:

The Mountaineer Military Museum has temporarily closed its doors, with plans to open an expanded site this spring.

The museum, located at 345 Center Ave. in Weston, will grow by 2,300 square feet and will get more displays.

Owners Ron and Barb McVaney said the museum traditionally experiences lower turnout during the cold winter months.

V olunteers are constructing the displays, and Barb McVaney said the majority of the volunteers are themselves veterans.

Ron McVaney, drafted into service with a childhood friend who didn’t make it home, promised that he wouldn’t let any of his fallen friends be forgotten.

He collected hundreds of pieces of memorabilia throughout the past 35 years, and when he retired, he decided to share it all with the public.


New life for motel:

Thanks to community support, See’s Motel that has served Hardy County for eight decades has reopened.

Christopher and Orpha See opened the four-bedroom motel in 1933. Their daughter, Marlene See, operated the motel for many years, but it closed after her death.

Community members suggested the Wardensville Town Council step in and council members created a new, 12-member Wardensville Development Authority to purchase and operate the motel.

Said Wardensville Mayor Tracey “Scotty” Miller: “We thought that here was an opportunity for us to keep a local landmark and run it like it had been run for years.”

In October, Miller bought the motel on behalf of the town at an auction with financing through Capon Valley Bank of Wardensville.


Rising hospital costs:

Many West Virginians will be paying more for health care this year under rate increases the state Health Care Cost Review Authority has approved for 15 hospitals, including an 8.7 percent increase at Fairmont General Hospital.

The increases affect people with private insurance and those who pay out of their own pocket. HCCRA did OK one lower rate: Charleston Surgical Hospital’s rate will fall by less than half of 1 percent.

Hospital administrators call the increases routine. “It basically allows hospitals to keep up with rising costs on the other end,’’ said Dale Witte, spokesman for Charleston Area Medical Center, where a 4.3 percent rate hike was approved. “We think it’s reasonable.’’

Other rate hikes approved include 1.24 percent at Bluefield Regional Medical Center; 3.6 percent at CAMC Teays Valley in Hurricane; 6 percent at West Virginia University Hospitals; 4.25 percent at United Hospital Center in Bridgeport; 4.75 percent at Raleigh General Hospital in Beckley; 6.5 percent at Summersville Regional Hospital; 4.58 percent at City Hospital in Martinsburg; 5.09 percent at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling; 5.25 percent at Williamson Memorial Hospital; 4.24 percent at Logan Regional Hospital; 4.74 percent at Camden Clark Memorial Hospital in Parkersburg; 6.97 percent at Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in Ronceverte; and 4.75 percent at Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins.

– Compiled by Christine Miller Ford, with information from The Associated Press

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