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Bill Macfadyen: Readers Spit Out Dose of Reality Over Inmate’s Drug Cost

Best of Noozhawk 03.23.12 dares to Dream, chases a fugitive motorcyclist, follows a pair of robots and talks student career preparedness at SBCC

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Santa Barbara County On Hook for $510,000 in Annual Drug Costs for One New Jail Inmate

In a Noozhawk exclusive, staff writer Lara Cooper reported March 19 that one newly incarcerated Santa Barbara County Jail inmate may cost county taxpayers more than a half-million dollars — a year — for the prescription medications he needs to deal with a life-threatening condition. The man reportedly requires more than $8,000 worth of the drugs each week — a dose of reality that far outstrips the jail’s entire annual budget for prescription drugs for all inmates.

Prior to the suspect’s February arrest, he received his medication for free through a state program. That funding source, known as the Genetically Handicapped Persons Program and administered by the state Department of Health Care Services, helps provide medical care for genetic conditions like hemophilia and cystic fibrosis. Now that he’s jailed, he no longer qualifies.

Because of the seriousness of the charges, which include attempted murder, Sheriff Bill Brown says jail is the only option for the man, whose name is protected by patient privacy laws. On March 20, the Board Supervisors approved the extra expenditure — a decision that drew overwhelming scorn from Noozhawk readers.

“InTheMiddle” sees a troubling trend: “As we accommodate the rights of criminals and terrorists, the rights and privileges of good, caring, hardworking, law abiding citizens are getting trampled more and more. Mom was wrong. Crime does pay.”

“Looks like one way or another, we end up paying for it,” said “sbdude.”

“Whether it’s through the state or the county, this degenerate is getting a free ride. Why, exactly, do I show up to work every day?”

Speaking for many, “Rambler” had some questions: “You’d think somebody who was so dependent on the largesse of society would be better behaved. Let’s see: he’s genetically handicapped AND a threat to society? Why not let nature run its course?”

2. Making Dreams Come True All In a Day’s Work for Santa Barbara’s Dream Foundation

At times tearfully but always cheerfully, the dedicated staff and volunteers at Santa Barbara’s homegrown Dream Foundation have been bringing joy to those with terminal illnesses — and their loved ones — for nearly 20 years.

In a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation, Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker has begun to profile the organization and its challenging but highly rewarding work. The aim of the series is to raise the awareness of the Dream Foundation and especially two of its primary programs: dream granting for adults with less than a year to live and Flower Empower, a volunteer-driven initiative delivering bouquets of donated flowers to locals who are ill or isolated. Look for Walker’s next installment on April 1.

Click here for more information on the Dream Foundation, or call 805.564.2131. Click here to make an online donation to the Dream Foundation.

3. Motorcyclist Leads CHP Officers on High-Speed Chase Through Goleta

A Solvang man was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers after a high-speed motorcycle chase through usually tranquil Goleta neighborhoods on the afternoon of March 21.

According to authorities, a CHP motorcycle officer caught the suspect speeding on Highway 101 and pulled him over at Fairview Avenue and Calle Real. As the officer was walking up to the man, he re-started his own motorcycle and hit the gas, and the high-speed chase was on.

After the suspect ditched his motorcycle near Cathedral Oaks Road and Cambridge Drive, CHP Officer Jeremy Wayland said fellow CHP officers and Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies caught him hiding under solar panels in the 1100 block of Camino Manadero, north of North Patterson Avenue in the Goleta foothills.

Even if not the wisest choice, it turns out that the suspect, 22-year-old Antonio Romero, had reason to run: $100,000 in outstanding warrants, according to Wayland. Now he’s facing a few more charges.

4. Dos Pueblos High Wins Los Angeles Regional FIRST Robotics Competition

Dos Pueblos High School’s Team 1717, better known as the D’Penguineers, won the 2012 Los Angeles Regional FIRST Robotics Competition on March 17 in Long Beach. The team’s robot, dubbed the Lindsay Rose in honor of a fallen classmate, helped the budding engineers leave 66 competitors in the dust, mechanically speaking.

The D’Penguineers compete next in Madera on April 5-7 before moving on to the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis on April 25-27.

A few miles east of the Dos Pueblos High campus, meanwhile, four Foothill School students learned last week that they had earned a spot in the FIRST National Championship Robotics Tournament in May at Legoland. What clinched their victory in the Food Factor Challenge? The cleverly designed — and named — Self-Cleaning, Bacteria-Identifying, Infrared Robot Harvester.

5. Business Leaders Brainstorm Strategies for Ensuring Well-Educated Workforce

SBCC Acting President Jack Friedlander hosted a March 16 breakfast meeting to hear directly from local business leaders how SBCC is doing in preparing students to enter the workforce. I was honored to be one of the 50 or so executives who attended.

Overall, the feedback was nearly unanimous: SBCC is doing a terrific job educating its students. The general consensus, however, was that today’s students appear to be lacking in basic communication, writing and math skills, as well as business etiquette, While such shortcomings may be more societal than institutional, Friedlander and the nearly dozen SBCC deans and officials on hand wanted to know what the school could do to improve. Among the takeaways were the need to restructure general education classes and expand the focused certificate program to better incorporate practical concepts.

This was an excellent first step to what all of us hope will be a much closer collaboration between SBCC and the South Coast’s business community.

                                                                  •        •        •

Noozhawk was launched in 2007 to provide Santa Barbara County with a fresh, trusted source for local news. Every day, our experienced staff of professional journalists provides unmatched breaking news and in-depth reporting on the issues that matter to our community. You can come to us on the Web or we’ll go to you and your inbox, at 4:15 a.m. daily.

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