July 28, 2014

Woman released from life prison term to hospice dies

An Iowa woman who was recently released from prison has died. Kristina Fetters was 15 years old at the time she was convicted in the beating and stabbing death of her great aunt, 73-year-old Arlene Klehm, in Des Moines. She was just 14 at the time of the murder. Fetters was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1995, but a Polk County judge altered the sentence and the Iowa Board of Parole granted her release to a hospice facility last year.

Fetters was diagnosed with Stage 4 inoperable breast cancer last September. Fetters’ aunt, Darcy Olson of Des Moines, was the only person to speak on Fetters’ behalf at the parole board hearing back in December. “No one can alter the past. It is what it is, this happened to our family and it’s now time for my family to have closure,” Olson said. “Kristina’s impending death cannot be denied and while there have been negative comments, we believe, as the victims, our family has suffered enough and we ask the parole board to grant our request.”

Following the parole board’s decision to grant Fetters’ release, Olson told reporters there was little cause for celebration. “It’s just so bitter sweet,” Olson said. “This has been a 19 year old tragedy for my family. This will bring closure for my whole family and help us all cope just a little bit better with the situation.”

Fetters died on Sunday in a Des Moines hospice facility. She was 34. Fetters’ case was the first in Iowa to be reconsidered after a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision banned sentences of life without parole for those convicted of crimes as juveniles.


U-I working on dust mite allergy vaccine

A vaccine that fights dust mite allergies by naturally switching the body’s immune response is being developed at the University of Iowa. Dust mites are microscopic relatives of spiders that eat skin cells and live in the upholstery of furniture, rugs and curtains.

U-I researcher Aliasger Salem says people with dust mite allergies develop skin rashes and have trouble breathing, including asthma attacks. “It can have a fairly dramatic impact on the quality of life of people when they suffer from this,” Salem says. “Having a long term solution that can help to mitigate those affects patients suffer would be a really impactful thing.”

Salem says it will be a while before the vaccine is commercially available. He anticipates the research will be used to create vaccines for other types of allergies in the future. Salem was a guest on the Iowa Public Radio program “River to River.”

Roundtable discusses impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Michele Meadors

Michele Meadors

Tomorrow marks the 24th anniversary of the signing of what some consider one of the most important civil rights laws of the 20th century. The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was authored by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.

Michele Meadors, who serves as Miss Wheelchair Iowa, is joining Harkin, Governor Branstad and others for a roundtable talk about the ADA this afternoon at Drake University. Meadors says Harkin is a “true hero” for his years of work on the legislation.

“As much as it’s benefitted me being able to live independently in a community I love being in Des Moines and the state of Iowa, none of this would have happened had it not started out with Senator Harkin that many years ago.”

Earlier this week, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act into law, legislation Harkin also co-authored. It aims to insure all workers, including those with disabilities, have access to 21st century job training and employment opportunities.

Meadors says she’ll be in Washington, D.C. next week and hopes to speak to several members of Congress about just that type of legislation. Meadors says, “That’s going to be one of the things that I want to push really hard for because we’re going to have a lot of disabled veterans that are going to need employment through a lot of different struggles and a lot of different technologies.”

During a conference call with reporters earlier this week, Harkin talked about the ADA, what he called “landmark” legislation. “In addition to being an Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities, the ADA has the very down-to-earth purpose of ensuring people with disabilities can go places and do things that all other Americans take for granted.”

In a statement, Harkin says, “Over the past 24 years, the ADA has provided opportunity and access for more than 56 million Americans with disabilities. Prior to passage of this landmark civil rights legislation, these Americans routinely faced prejudice, discrimination and exclusion and insurmountable physical barriers in their everyday lives.”

Meadors, of Des Moines, was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Iowa earlier this year in Iowa City. She was left paralyzed from the neck down following a car accident in 2011. The 46-year-old was appointed by Governor Branstad to serve on the State Independent Living Council. Meadors will represent Iowa at the Ms. Wheelchair America event in Long Beach, California, next month.


Blood banks still need summer donors

Hospitals in Iowa and two neighboring states use 38,000 pints of blood every day, yet only about one-in-ten residents who are eligible to give blood do so once a year. The LifeServe Blood Center is appealing for blood donors this summer. While the region has a “stable” blood supply at the moment, spokeswoman Nicole Hanger says volunteers are still very much needed.

Hanger says, “During the summer months, our blood donations tend to decrease simply because people are busy with summer plans, traveling, various activities.” The process of donating blood takes about an hour and that one pint could help to save as many as three lives. Hanger says the lack of donors is a reason to worry about the summer’s blood supply. “The need for blood remains the same,” Hanger says. “We still need donors on a regular basis to maintain that stable blood supply for the community.”

Lifeserve provides blood and blood products to more than 100 hospitals in South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton

Medical condition leads to Code Red search in Jasper County

The Jasper County Sheriff says a woman’s medical condition prompted a Code Red alert that sent state and local officials on a search northwest of Sully Wednesday. The Code Red alert was issued around 12:15 after three calls came into Jasper County dispatchers from within a 3-mile area.

One caller said a vehicle had driven through their yard into a bean field where the driver dumped items out of the car before leaving in a reckless manner. The third caller said a suspicious vehicle had parked between two outbuildings on their property. Sheriff John Halferty says deputies could not locate the driver, so other law officers were called in along with a tracking dog.

The dog found the woman who had run her car into a pond and had to be rescued. The sheriff says the woman’s name is being withheld due to her medical condition.

(Reporting by Randy Van, KCOB, Newton)


Survey finds Latino children most likely to be uninsured

Information from the annual Kids Count survey released Tuesday shows Latino children in Iowa are more than three-times as likely to be uninsured than their white and black counterparts. Five years ago the number of uninsured black and Latino children in Iowa was about equal at a little more than 10 percent.

Joe Enriquez Henry, the director of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, says the state of Iowa has failed to promote healthcare within the Latino community. “I think the difference is that within the African-American community is that you have several generations of families that understand how access health care and other programs. Whereas within the Latino community you have a lot of young families, some are just first generation. They may not understand how the system works,” Henry says.

Henry recommends the state approach parents through their children’s school or by mailings, instead of using the internet, since fewer Latinos have access.


State wins grant to continue substance abuse recovery program

The Iowa Department of Public Health has won a three-year grant of nearly $8 million for a program to help people overcome substance abuse. Kevin Gabbert is the project director for what’s called Access to Recovery or ATR. “Because every person in the recovery is different, a key component to our program is choice,” Gabbert explains. “And so with ATR, the individual receiving the service chooses what services they want to be involved in from a variety of our providers.”

Gabbert says providing support services to those in recovery can be key to helping them succeed. “Basic things like transportation — so gas cards and bus passes. Child care so an individual can go to treatment services in the evening or go to a 12-step meeting. Some of those basic things that might have been barriers otherwise if they had not had access to ATR,” Gabbert says.

The program has been running since 2010, but its grant money was running out. “There was a new grant application process that was initiated in 2014. We applied and were one of six grantees out of 30 applicants,” Gabbert says. Gabbert says they’ve seen success with the percentage of individuals not using alcohol or drugs six months after admission increasing from over 73.3 percent to 82.3 percent from 2010 to this year.

He says they expect to serve 7,000 people with the new grant. “Individuals can come to us from a variety of different referral sources. It could be from the Department of Corrections, it could be from a primary care provider, it could be from the Department of Human Services, the list just goes on and on,” Gabbert says. “Individuals can just walk into one of our care coordination providers which we have across the state.”

For more information about Access to Recovery, visit the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website.