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Monday
Feb182019

What we know about the Aurora, Ill., mass shooting victims

cmannphoto/iStock(AURORA, Ill.) -- The five men gunned down in Aurora, Ill., on Friday were all employees at the Henry Pratt manufacturing plant where the shooting broke out.

The alleged shooter, who was shot dead by law enforcement, was also an employee but was being terminated on Friday, according to Scott Hall, CEO of Mueller Water Products, the Henry Pratt parent company.

Six police officers were injured in the incident, as well as one employee, Hall said.

Here is what we know about the lives lost:

Russell Beyer

Russell Beyer, of Yorkville, Ill., was a mold operator at Henry Pratt, according to the Aurora Police Department.

Beyer had worked most of the jobs at Henry Platt in his more than 20 years there, according to CEO Scott Hall. He also served as union chairman, Hall said.

Russell Beyer, Ted Beyer's oldest child, followed in his father's footsteps -- the elder Beyer also was a union chairman and worked at Henry Pratt for four decades, The Chicago Sun Times reported.

Because of Russel Beyer's "big heart," he sat in on the alleged gunman's termination meeting on Friday, Ted Beyer, said, according to the Sun Times.

"He was a hard worker," Ted Beyer said, according to the Sun Times. "My son died trying to set it straight."

Vicente Juarez


Vicente Juarez of Oswego, Ill., was a stockroom attendant and forklift operator at Henry Pratt, according to police.

Hall said he joined Henry Pratt in 2006 and was a member of the shipping and warehouse team.

The 54-year-old Juarez, native of Mexico, was a husband, father of three and grandfather of eight, The Chicago Tribune reported.

"He’s the patriarch of the family," neighbor Julie Zigman told The Tribune. "Everyone looked to him."

"He was one the nicest guys you could ever meet," added neighbor William Zigman.

Clayton Parks


Clayton Parks, of Elgin, Ill., was the Henry Pratt human resources manager.

He joined Henry Pratt four months ago, in November 2018, to manage human resources in Aurora, Hammond, and Denver, said Hall.

Parks was a 2014 graduate of Northern Illinois University's College of Business, according to the university.

Parks was a "best friend" to his wife and an "incredible father" to their son, his wife, Abby Parks, wrote on Facebook, according to The Chicago Sun Times.

"Beneath all the fog and the shock, and the crushing pain, I believe the same God that brought us together and gave us our precious son will somehow carry us through," she wrote on Facebook, according to the newspaper. "I’ll love you always and miss you forever, Clay."

Josh Pinkard


Josh Pinkard, of Oswego, Ill., was the Henry Pratt plant manager.

He texted his wife, Terra Pinkard, to say, "I love you, I’ve been shot at work," Terra Pinkard wrote on Facebook.

"The police told us there were fatalities. He read my husband’s name. I immediately left and went to get my kids," Terra Pinkard wrote on Sunday. "With my pastors help, since family was still on planes to get to us, I told my children their dad did not make it and is in heaven with Jesus. I’ve never had to do something that hard."

"I want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing Josh was! He was brilliant! The smartest person I’ve ever met! My best friend!" she wrote. "The man who was dying and found the clarity of mind for just a second to send me one last text to let me know he would always love me. This unbelievable person was robbed from us."

"Please continue to pray for my mother in law. This is her second child she will bury," Terra Pinkard wrote. "Please pray for my sister in law. Josh was her twin brother. Please pray for my children. They are struggling because they miss a daddy who loved them so much. Please pray that somehow I can put that one foot in front of the other. And again thank you for all the kindness you have shown to us."

Trevor Wehner


Trevor Wehner, of Dekalb, Ill., was killed on his first day as a human resources intern at Henry Pratt, according to Northern Illinois University, where he was a student.

Wehner was expected to graduate NIU in May with a degree in Human Resources Management.

"That's what he wanted to do," his father, Tom Wehner, said of the internship, according to The Chicago Tribune. "He had hopes and dreams of doing what he was doing on his first day."

"Every Husker is a better person having known Trevor Wehner," his former high school coach wrote on Twitter. "Teammates, classmates, coaches, and faculty members can all remember a great story about Trevor and his fun-loving personality. He even made an impression on the younger kids in our community. We will miss you bud."

"Loss like this is devastating and senseless," university president Lisa Freeman said in a statement. "I ask our university community to please keep the Wehner and Parks families, friends and communities in your hearts and offer them caring thoughts."

"Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones, the first responders, the Aurora community and the entire Mueller family during this extremely difficult time," Hall said in a statement Saturday. "As we grieve together, we will provide information in the coming days on the counseling services and support we will be offering to the families of the victims and to all of our colleagues."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb182019

Powerful storm takes aim this week as major flooding threat grows

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The latest winter storm tracked from the Midwest to the Northeast overnight, delivering snow from the Plains into New England.

Des Moines, Iowa, saw 8 to 10 inches of snow on Sunday, as Wisconsin, northern Illinois and parts of Michigan each saw a few inches, creating low visibility and hazardous traveling conditions.

Mixed precipitation was reported early Monday morning north of New York City. South of there, major cities including Philadelphia and Washington saw mostly rain. Locally, some areas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts could see 4 inches of snow Monday morning as winter weather advisories remained in effect throughout much of the region.

Southern Colorado and northern Arizona saw about 6 inches of snow overnight, with colder air tracking in behind the system as it headed east. Parts of Interstate 5 in California saw delays because of snowfall.

A new major storm is expected to develop on Tuesday. Snow likely will be confined west of the Great Plains through the early morning, with evening snow forecast in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

More dangerous than these snowfalls, however, will be heavy and persistent rainfalls in the Mississippi River Valley.

From Wednesday afternoon into early Thursday, the new storm will push into the Northeast, which again should expect another round of snow and then a winter mix.

More than 6 inches of snow is possible for parts of Iowa as well as northern Virginia and West Virginia, with a swath of the Mississippi River Valley potentially seeing 4 inches of rain, causing a moderate risk of flash flooding.

This weather pattern should persist into the weekend and more storms will follow a similar track, meaning several rounds of heavy rain are expected in the Southeast. Some parts of the South may see 6 to 10 inches, raising the risk of flooding throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb182019

This grassroots program hopes to end starvation by redirecting waste

Courtesy LaRayia Gaston(LOS ANGELES) -- LaRayia Gaston is on a mission to help end starvation in the homeless community through her Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Lunch On Me, which she launched in 2017.

Still a grassroots effort, Gaston and her team of volunteers distribute meals six days a week by redistributing food from local grocery stores and businesses that would otherwise be wasted.

"Forty percent of food goes uneaten, so it doesn’t make sense that someone is hungry or lacking food when it's being wasted," Gaston, 31, told ABC News.

Instead, Gaston and her army of volunteer work to collect the nourishing food that would otherwise be tossed and redistribute it to those in need.

But Gaston’s mission it isn’t just about food -- because food, she said, is just the vessel to bring everyone together.

"Food is love. I am going back to something we all want. The homeless community is no different," Gaston explained.

Case in point: Lunch On Me’s "Love Without Reason" block party -- the most recent event happened this past weekend. At these monthly events, Lunch On Me offers wellness resources on site that include yoga, meditation, gardens and even barbers so guests can get their hair trimmed.

"There is so much trauma in experiencing homelessness and living in poverty, I want to give people access to their healing because I don’t think we are here to save people we are here to empower them to save themselves," Gaston told ABC News.

This mission seems to be working. Alexander Calderon, who has lived on Skid Row for five months, now volunteers with Lunch On Me.

"I put some gloves on and passed out food and the smile took over," Calderon told ABC News. "I knew I was doing something better."

It’s a labor of love for Gaston, who, as a self-described "ultimate volunteer," launched her own nonprofit after realizing there was something missing in the nonprofit world.

"I basically said, I don’t know anything about the nonprofit world but I know how to love people," Gaston explained. "I just knew I could do this."

"It’s a part of life... To live, you must give," she added.

Today, Lunch On Me distributes 10,000 meals every month, not just in the homeless community, but through outreach programs helping other communities in need.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb182019

Mountain lion rescued from 50 feet above home in Southern California

California Department of Fish and Wildlife(HESPERIA, Calif.) -- Firefighters helped rescue a large mountain lion from a tree outside a home in Southern California over the weekend, authorities said.

The homeowner spotted the wild cat on Saturday afternoon while doing yard work around the residence in Hesperia, a city in the Mojave Desert near the San Bernardino Mountains.

The person alerted authorities and San Bernardino County firefighters were dispatched to the property, where they found the cougar perched on a branch about 50 feet above ground, according to a press release from San Bernardino County Fire.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was called in to help devise a plan to safely extract the animal from the tree. Wildlife officials ultimately tranquilized the mountain lion, after which firefighters approached it using a tall ladder, securing it in a rescue harness before lowering it to the ground.

"It is common for young mountain lions to wander outside what some would consider normal habitat in an attempt to establish their territory," Kevin Brennan, a biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement Saturday.

Mountain lions are quiet, solitary, elusive predators that typically avoid people, and attacks on humans are rare. But they have been known to prey on pets and livestock.

"Leaving the lion in the tree would not have been safe for the community," Rick Fischer, a warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement Saturday.

Wildlife officials later released the mountain lion back into the wild.

"Once the lion regained consciousness," Fischer said, "we ensured he safely returned to his suitable habitat."

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Sunday
Feb172019

Tiger found caged in abandoned home gets second chance at wildlife sanctuary

The HSUS(HOUSTON) -- A young tiger found caged in an abandoned home in Houston has been transported to a wildlife sanctuary where he is free to explore the scenery as he pleases.

The large cat was found last week by a man who had ventured into the home to smoke marijuana, Houston Police spokeswoman Kese Smith told ABC News after the incident. The tiger was found in deplorable conditions, with his cage covered layers of his own feces and dirty metal bowls with food and water, Noelle Almrud, the director of the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, where the tiger has been relocated, told ABC News. He did not appear to be malnourished but is overweight -- most likely due to lack of exercise, Almrud said.

The estimated 350-pound tiger was transported to the facility, an affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States, on Wednesday afternoon, and is settling in well, Almrud said. There, he will have the chance to roam in enclosures of up to three acres.

While the journey to a new home was stressful for the tiger, Almrud, who estimates him to be about 2 years old, described the moment he first walked onto the grass at the sanctuary as remarkable.

"It was just amazing to see him walk out on grass and to see him explore and have that freedom of movement," she said. "It was just such a reward and fulfilling to us."

Now, he spends his days rolling around the grass in glee, Almrud said.

The tiger, who will be quarantined for 30 days, seems to be comfortable around humans, and "chucks it up regularly" to his caregivers, which is the sound tigers make to communicate, Almrud said.

"He comes right up to the fence every time a staff member is present," she said. "He seems very amenable to our presence."

The tiger is eating well -- a combination of chicken, humanely raised non-processed beef and whole prey compete with organs and bones. It appears that he was being fed chicken, which is what owners of exotic cats often feed them, but chicken alone does not provide the complete nutrition they need to thrive, Almrud said.

In addition, caregivers are tasked with keeping the tiger mentally stimulated by creating "pretend hunting" games and rotating him through different areas so he has access to new smells and environments to explore.

"He seems to happy and content," Almrud said. "Our staff is just falling in love with him."

The sanctuary, which currently has temporary legal custody of the tiger, is waiting until the Harris County District Attorney's Office grants it full ownership to name the tiger, Almrud said. Once full ownership is granted -- Almrud hopes within the next few weeks -- the tiger will be sedated, undergo a full exam and be castrated, because "any reputable facility is non-breeding," she added.

Since tigers are normally solitary in the wild, the sanctuary likely will not introduce him to its two other tigers living on the property: Charlie, who was rescued from a breeder in 2016, and Alex, a former pet who arrived in 2014, Almrud said.

Private citizens are not capable of adequately caring for tigers and other exotic cats due to lack of space or understanding of the animal's physical and emotional needs, Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told ABC News.

"These are dangerous wild animals," Block said. "These are not puppies or kittens."

In addition, the animals pose a great danger to the humans they are around, and it's often children who inadvertently become their victims, likely because they look like small prey, Block said, She recalled one child who became blinded by the swipe of a tiger's paw and another who died after a tiger bit its head.

"They don't see a playmate. They're doing what they are instinctively [told to do]," she said. "It's not something that you train out of them."

Currently, only 35 states have laws banning private ownership of big cats, and Texas, which is estimated to have the second-largest tiger population in the world, is not one of them, Block said. She is seeking a solution in the form of federal legislation and hopes to reintroduce the Big Cat Public Safety Act during this congressional session, she said.

"It’s a measure to address the plight of thousands of wild animals kept privately as pets or languishing in substandard and unaccredited zoos, and prevent future ownership of big cats by unqualified and unprepared individuals," Block wrote on her blog on the Humane Society's website. "Its provisions would establish proper exemptions for qualified parties, and is a levelheaded approach to an animal welfare and public safety threat that has, unfortunately, grown worse in recent years. We badly need a national framework to bring the trade in wild animals under firm regulatory control."

While it is illegal to own a tiger within Houston city limits, it is unclear if authorities have identified any suspects in this case.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Feb172019

Wave of teachers' strikes pressure states, school boards to change tune

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images(OAKLAND, Calif.) --  Having seen teachers score victories in Los Angeles, Denver and a string of states in their fights for higher wages and better working conditions, more than 3,000 educators in Oakland, California, have voted to go on strike this week.

"Oakland teachers cannot afford to live in Oakland," Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association, said during a news conference on Saturday. "One out of five leaves each year. Five-hundred classrooms are left with inexperienced teachers."

Teachers voted overwhelmingly to walk off their jobs on Thursday, Brown said.

To stem the tide of teachers exiting the Oakland Unified School District, which has more than 37,000 students, the union is asking for a 12 percent raise over three years, smaller class sizes and more support staff.

The school district is offering a 5 percent raise, retroactive to when the union's contract expired in July 2017.

The union and the school district began bargaining on a new contract in December 2016, but after 30 negotiating sessions encompassing 200 hours of bargaining, an impasse was declared on May 18, 2018. Both sides agreed to mediation, but that failed to break the stalemate.

School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said she is still hopeful that an agreement can be reached to avoid the first teachers' strike in Oakland in 23 years.

"Despite our challenges, we are prepared with a comprehensive proposal to reach an agreement," Johnson-Trammell said in a statement over the weekend. "If both sides are committed to settling the contract before a strike occurs -- and we are -- an agreement can certainly be reached without disrupting the educational experience for students, families and staff."

Wave of teachers' strikes

If Oakland teachers walk out of classrooms this week and hit the picket lines, the job action will become the latest in a string of public school teacher strikes that have swept the nation in the past 12 months.

The wave of teachers strikes started in West Virginia, where one year ago this week more than 20,000 teachers across the state walked off the job and formed picket lines for nearly two weeks before Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill granting educators and other state employees a 5 percent pay raise.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the West Virginia strike was a game changer that inspired teachers across the nation.

"I don't like when people say, 'Well if they can do it in West Virginia, we can do it' because that is really insulting to West Virginia. But it is a sense that they saw themselves with it. It inspired them and they saw that they could do it too," Weingarten told ABC News.

On the heels of the success of West Virginia teachers, educators in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona also went on strike for higher pay and better working conditions.

"What's happened in all these places is over the course of the last 10 to 15 years is that people have tried to make good schools and students front and center have gotten demeaned, disparaged, called names, schools have been divested," Weingarten said. "And so what has happened ... is a sense of possibility that when you join together you can indeed be stronger together, but you have to join together on a mission that the community really adopts."

$100 billion public schools bill

Earlier this month, Weingarten and other education leaders testified at hearings held by the House Education and Labor Committee on a bill that would pump $100 billion into the nation's public schools over the next decade.

According to briefing materials presented to the committee, teachers earn just 77 percent of what other college graduates make. With inflation factored in, public school teachers pay plummeted by $30 a week from 1996 to 2015, according to the briefing materials.

"The reason why this strike wave has occurred is because teacher pay and benefits and working conditions have gotten so bad. It's not that unions have gotten so strong," Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, a labor and employment law professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, told ABC News.

Dau-Schmidt noted that the wave of strikes started in states with the lowest paid teacher in the nation that have no comprehensive collective bargaining statutes, meaning their school budgets are set by state legislatures and not local school boards like in Los Angeles and Denver.

He said in states like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky, strikes by teachers are considered illegal and educators risked being fired for participating in them. But because teachers in those states showed solidarity in their job actions, state government leaders had little choice but to bargain.

"The problem is their compensation got so far behind the market that the teachers felt they had to do something and the school boards, even if they had wanted to discharge all those teachers couldn't have possibly replaced them all because they're offering substandard wages," Dau-Schmidt said.

"It wouldn't have been possible to replace all those teachers at once with quality replacements in a market that's tight because fewer people are going to be trained to be teachers now because the word is out that the compensation is not that good," he said.

Parent support

Since the string of strikes began, some states have moved to compensate teachers to head off strikes.

"We see that a little bit in Indiana here where our governor has offered to pay off some of the pension liability so that would free up money for the school boards to give teachers raises for the next two years," Dau-Schmidt said.

Both Weingarten and Dau-Schmidt said that in most of the job actions parents have been on the side of the teachers.

"I think you've seen a lot of parent support for the strikers so far because parents realize the teacher is the third most important person in the world to each child after the mom and the dad, and they want good people there," Dau-Schmidt said. "They want them to be able to do their job and they want them to be adequately compensated. The only way to have good people doing a professional job is to treat them like professionals and pay them like professionals and give them decent working conditions."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Feb172019

Suspect in shooting of Virginia police officer at large, considered 'armed and dangerous'

iStock/Thinkstock(BLUEFIELD, Virginia) -- A manhunt is underway for a 25-year-old man who is suspected of shooting a Virginia police officer during a traffic stop, authorities said.

Donquale Maurice Gray, who is believed to be armed and dangerous, allegedly shot the officer from the Bluefield Virginia Police Department just before midnight Saturday, according to Virginia State Police.

Gray was in the passenger seat of a 2008 Toyota Yaris when the vehicle was pulled over at 11:45 p.m. on Route 460, near Exit 3, near the town limits of Bluefield, police said.

The officer, who has not been identified, stopped the vehicle because of an equipment violation, police said.

That's when Gray allegedly opened fire on the officer, who was standing on the driver's side of the vehicle, police said.

The wounded officer and a colleague who responded to the initial traffic stop shot back at the vehicle, police said.

The driver of the Toyota, who has not been identified, got out of the vehicle and surrendered, police said.

But Gray allegedly hopped in the driver's seat and bolted, police said.

The vehicle, with the license plate 53U 974, has since been recovered, police said.

It is now "believed Gray is on foot," according to a post on the police department's Facebook page.

The wounded officer was rushed to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he was being treated for serious but not life-threatening injuries, police said.

The driver of the vehicle was cited for a traffic violation and released, police said. He was not injured.

The other officer was not hurt either, police said.

Gray is 6-feet-1-inch tall and weighs approximately 185 pounds, police said. It's unclear what clothing Gray is wearing.

His last known address was in Bluefield, police said.

Anyone with information about Gray or the shooting is urged to call 911 or the Bluefield Police Department at 276-326-2621.

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Sunday
Feb172019

The trauma of Puerto Rico's 'Maria Generation'

iStock/BackyardProduction(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- It has been over a year since Hurricane Maria first made landfall on Puerto Rico.

As the island slowly rebuilds, first responders, healthcare providers and scientists on the island have been left to deal with the emotional toll on their communities and their own families as members of the “Maria Generation.” Though 64 people died as a direct result of the storm, an estimated 2,975 died as a result of its aftermath, according to Puerto Rico’s most recent official counts based on a study published in August of 2018, conducted by George Washington University and the University of Puerto Rico.

There has been disagreement about the exact death toll. For example, President Donald Trump tweeted in September of last year that it was as low as six to 18 people. Regardless, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported that 100 percent of the Puerto Rican population was affected by the storm in some way.

As a result of the storm, children on the island were particularly hard-hit, missing an average of 78 days of school, some with no school to return to, and one in four have suffered anxiety, according to a recent report from Instituto Desarrollo Juventud, a group that seeks to advance public policies for the welfare of children.

Such “adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) [are] especially detrimental for children, with long-term negative effects on learning, behavior and health,” Victoria Brown, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation(RWJF), the largest public health philanthropy in the U.S., told ABC News.

Of the estimated 175 million children impacted by natural disasters every year in the last decade, those who survive ACEs, like parental separation, may be at an increased risk of chronic disease and premature death later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“For three weeks I thought my kid was dead,” Alexia Suarez, psychological program manager for Americares Puerto Rico Mental Health Services, told ABC News. “And that is devastating.” She added that healing is “an ongoing process because he developed a lot of mistrust.”

Children are not alone in coping with ongoing mental health effects.

Nerdys Nives, an employee of the Department of Human Resources at Ryder Hospital, told ABC news that 35 hospital employees lost their homes, and three lost family members to the storm. Her hospital is in the town of Humacao, near where the hurricane first hit the island. Nives’ home was destroyed.

“I had depression and would cry every time I thought of what I lost in the hurricane,” she said.

Aid beyond FEMA

Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth of the U.S., and Puerto Ricans have partial voting rights and pay U.S. federal employment taxes, but only pay federal income taxes in some cases.

Although the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helped respond to Hurricane Maria, the agency has acknowledged its own shortcomings in its response to this disaster.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s government-funded medical research agency, has since stepped in to support research around to rebuild and recover.

Because Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, the country is eligible to apply for NIH funding, according to Dr. Karen Martinez, associate professor and director of the Center for the Study and Treatment of Fear and Anxiety at the University of Puerto Rico. She said that after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, a division of the NIH, gave out small grants to study the health effects of the hurricanes. Martinez is part of a team that has grant funding from the NIH to study the biological effects that occur in the babies of pregnant women affected by the hurricane.

Since fiscal year of 2018, the NIH has allocated $33,106,284 to the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences, and additional money to other institutions.

Resilience

In Puerto Rico, 31 percent of families suffered a deterioration of their socioeconomic status after Hurricane Maria, according to a recent public policy report from the Instituto Desarrollo Juventud. The island is still covered in “an ocean of tarps on the roofs of many houses,” Suarez said.

But beyond physical needs, the need for social and psychological services continues to be a problem, according to Suarez.

The RWJF -- which promotes resilience building education, advocacy and private grant funding -- recently gave $800,000 to Americares to help provide such services.

“The [RWJ] Foundation’s response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria have been focused toward supporting behavioral health interventions, especially those aimed at vulnerable children and families. The intent is that these interventions, support and trauma-informed responses can mitigate the impact of this traumatic life event,” said Brown.

Suarez explained that Americares provides workshops for healthcare and first-responder organizations to teach “how to recognize trauma related symptoms in themselves as well as the people they serve.”

Nerdys Nives said that after working with Americares, she no longer suffers from depression.

Americares will also work with the Puerto Rico Pediatric Society to provide services for children.

“The literature is clear that the best way to address mental health in children and adolescents is in schools, and we lack a school mental health program,” said Martinez.

Evaluation and sustainability

Though programs like Americares have an important mission, some have voiced concerns over their staying power, and whether their approaches are evidence-based.

“What I am most worried about is the long-term sustainability of these programs,” Martinez warned.

Nives, however, said that the program aims for longevity.

“After [employees] receive the training, they can go out to loved ones and people they know that are also going through these difficult situations and spread that help to get better and learn how to cope,” explained Nives.

Americares evaluates all participants before and after involvement with the program to measure its benefits, with NIH funding to analyze and improve program outcomes, according to Suarez.

Despite the challenges of community-based programs like Americares, Nives says she wishes everyone had such an opportunity.

“Americares was the blessing that came to this hospital to help lift us up!”

Dr. Robin Ortiz is an internist and pediatrician and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Feb172019

Woman gives birth on JetBlue flight from Puerto Rico to Florida

@YQRamos/Twitter(MIAMI) -- "Baby on board" was given a whole new meaning on one JetBlue flight late Friday.

JetBlue flight 1954 was en route from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in South Florida when a passenger gave birth to a baby boy, airline spokeswoman Tamara Young told Miami ABC affiliate WPLG.

The crew and medical professionals on the plane helped to deliver the baby, Young said.

The plane left San Juan at 9:44 p.m. AST and landed in Florida two hours and 40 minutes later at 11:24 p.m. EST -- with one more passenger added to the itinerary.

"We'd like to thank the crew and medical professionals on board for their quick action under pressure, and wish the new mother and son all the best," Young said.

Both mom and baby are doing well, the airline said.

Yaqui Ramos, with JetBlue ground operations, shared photos on Twitter of Broward County paramedics attending to the new baby in the jetway bridge at the airport.

Coincidentally, the name of the airplane, which Ramos said was newly in service, was "Born to Be Blue."

And even with the new baby on board, the plane arrived 11 minutes early.

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Sunday
Feb172019

Florida inmates help rescue baby after dad locks keys in car

Shadow Lantry(TAMPA, Fla.) -- For once, police were thankful a group of criminals broke into a car.

A group of inmates on work duty in New Port Richey, Florida, came to the rescue of a forgetful father who accidentally locked his keys -- and, more importantly, his 1-year-old baby -- in his truck earlier this week.

Five prisoners, along with deputies from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, were working to repair medians outside the West Pasco Judicial Center on Thursday when they saw the father begin to panic and a crowd gather around the locked car.

An onlooker provided the inmates with a wire hanger and they went to work.

"[We were] surprised when somebody had a wire coat hanger, [and] we were able to get the door open enough to get it in there, unlock the door," Richard Stanger, from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, told Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS.

The inmates were described as "low-risk offenders."

"A lot of them, like these individuals, they know they made bad mistakes, bad choices, but they want to do the right thing in life," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

In a cellphone video shot by the truck's owner, deputies can be heard telling the dad to "pop his head in the window" every once in a while, so the baby doesn't get scared by all the "strange faces."

It took about two minutes for them to pop the lock -- and trigger the car alarm -- in order to get the baby out of the truck.

The victory triggered celebration by those who had crowded around the vehicle.

Luckily it was a fairly cool day in the Tampa area with a high of 72 degrees on Thursday.

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