Notepad

Alive and well

The care and support of terminally ill patients and their families is a delicate and trying business: Besides high stress and limited funding, overworked caregivers must also struggle with their own emotions. Still, the nonprofit, Asheville-based Mountain Area Hospice (now celebrating its 20th year of serving the people of Buncombe County) has helped a quarter of the area’s terminally ill patients receive quality care — a much higher percentage than the national average.

The program began in 1980, when the United Way affiliate began training professionals and volunteers in how to care for terminally ill patients. Thirty volunteers completed the initial training. Today, the team of caregivers includes a staff of 80 (physicians, nurses, social workers, certified nursing assistants, a chaplain, a bereavement team and clerical support), plus some 400 volunteers. Last year, nearly 700 patients and their families were served.

“We believe that there is great value in lending dignity to a terminally ill person, at a time of life when so much has been lost,” said Judy Noth, chief executive officer of the Mountain Area Hospice Foundation, in a recent media release. “We learn the value of life, how fragile and magnificent it is. We learn how important sharing our time, talent and treasure is to our good and the good of our community. We learn what touches the deepest parts of our being when we connect with those who are in the midst of transition from this life to the next.”

Mountain Area Hospice will celebrate its 20-year anniversary at a reception and reunion on Monday, April 3, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, on Merrimon Ave. All friends of Hospice are invited, including past and present staff, volunteers and families.

To learn more about Mountain Area Hospice, or to R.S.V.P. for the event, call 255-2870, ext. 4641.

An ounce of prevention

North Carolina has something new to brag about: The state is among the first in the nation to offer preventive mental-health coverage to the children of working parents, teachers and state employees. Offered through the NC Health Choice program, the coverage is available to more than 60,000 Health Choice children, and about 400,000 state employees and teachers. Children can receive checkups for behavioral health or substance abuse, with no diagnosis or label attached to their records. The benefits even include up to six preventive/early-intervention visits to a behavioral health professional.

“We heard it over and over again from school counselors, physicians, mental-health professionals, school principals — we need a mechanism so that we can get a child in trouble into care as early as possible,” said Dick Perruzzi, director of the state Division of Medical Assistance. “We don’t need to stigmatize children — we need to get them in and find out whether or not they have a problem, and get them help quickly.”

The plan was presented to the board of the Teachers and State Employees Health Plan at its February meeting; the board voted to offer the benefit. Now, at the first sign of trouble, members can check in with a behavioral health professional to see if the problem warrants concern or even full-fledged treatment.

“We believe we’re the first state in the nation to offer a preventative or early-intervention mental-health benefit,” Perruzzi said. “This new benefit can help children to get help early with mental-health and behavioral problems. This will allow concerned parents, schoolteachers, principals and ministers to get preventative mental-health help for a child.”

Perruzzi has also directed the state’s Medicaid program to offer the same benefit to Medicaid-eligible children, saying, “With Medicaid on board, too, we should be able to catch problems early in nearly a half-million children across the state.”

To learn more about NC Health Choice, call (919) 733-9190.

Stand and be counted

While you were busy worrying about paying your income tax, the government just slipped you another form to fill out. And though some feel it violates their right to privacy, officials insist that the U.S. Census 2000 is really just a way to account for every living, breathing American taxpayer. (There are, of course, legitimate uses for the information — such as allocating money to the states and municipalities, based on the census numbers.) Census administrators say they’ve tried to make the process as simple as possible. But one in every five individuals will be getting a longer, more in-depth form that includes a household head count, as well as other demographic questions — whether you own your own home, how many miles you drive to work, and so on.

“The long forms are not complex — they’re just long,” said one Census 2000 representative, who asked that his name not be used. To make things easier, however, census officials have set up special “question assistance centers,” or QACs, to help anyone in need (through April 14).

That includes folks who don’t speak English. “We don’t have anybody there who can speak Russian, for instance, but we have forms in 32 languages,” the rep explained. “Everyone should have received a letter that they’re going to be delivered a [longer] form, and on the back of that advance letter, there’s a block they can check if they want one in their own language.”

Of course, if you can’t read English, you probably won’t be able to check the proper box to receive a form in your native tongue, either. But the representative said that even newer immigrants to the U.S. usually have friends and/or relatives who can bring them to the nearest QAC.

“There are also Census 2000 assistants for individuals who can’t read, for instance,” the representative added. “The person can verbally answer, and the assistant will write down the answers. We just can’t answer their forms for them.”

And don’t try to wriggle out of doing your part by saying you never received a census form, either. “A form was left at every habitable housing unit,” said the rep. “If it has a roof, four walls and a window, we left one there.” As for worries that the information will be used for some nefarious purpose, he observed:

“It’s required by law that, every 10 years, a census be taken of the individuals of the U.S. [by] household. And it is required by law that you answer the forms. And that census information is held confidential for 74 years.”

In Buncombe County, there are QACs at: Nazareth Church, 146 Pine St.; Montford Center, 34 Pearson Drive; Shiloh Community Center, 121 Shiloh St.; Leicester Volunteer Fire Department, 2852 Leicester Highway; Enka Library, 1401 Sand Hill Road; Woodfin Community Center, 14 Penley Ave.; Hominy Fire Department substation, McFee Road. To learn more, call 258-8079.

Art on-screen

If you’ve ever wondered where Hollywood gets those cool works of art that hang in some protagonist’s suspiciously high-rent apartment, the answer is this: They get them from artists like Asheville’s own Harry McDaniel. The producers of the popular television show The X-Files recently bought three of McDaniel’s mobiles, for use in an episode in which one of the characters is an artist (it will air on Sunday, April 9).

The X-Files production crew found McDaniel through his Web site, and evidently liked what they saw. The artist creates mobiles, sculptures and wall hangings using such materials as wood, cement, aluminum, steel and found objects; the X-Files pieces are abstract wooden designs. The artist characterizes his work as ranging from “abstract, decorative sculptures to symbolic pieces dealing with psychological and anthropological themes.”

McDaniel, who has exhibited his work across the nation, has won numerous awards; his largest creation, to date, is a 55-foot painted-aluminum mobile that he installed in January at the Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, N.C.

For more information, contact McDaniel at 258-2742, or visit his Web site: HarryMcDaniel.com

— couthly compiled by Paul Schattel

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