State News: Suicide-Prevention Hotline Receives Boost in Funding

Suicide-Prevention Funds Finally Released

A suicide-prevention hotline will receive a boost in funding under a unanimous vote by the state Legislature’s budget committee following a bitter partisan fight. The budget panel approved the $110,000 annual grant in a vote that came a week after a suicide-prevention task force recommended releasing the money.

The funding had been approved as part of the state budget signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in July, but Republicans who control the budget committee refused to make it available for the Hopeline suicide-prevention hotline until the task force had released its recommendations. Democrats pushed unsuccessfully for the funding to be available sooner, arguing that lives were at stake.

The hotline is run by the nonprofit Center for Suicide Awareness based in Kaukauna. It provides immediate help to people in crisis by sending text messages.

Binational Commission Hears Concerns about Great Lakes

Climate change, algal blooms and pollution from a variety of sources were highlighted as chief concerns among roughly 200 community members who shared their views about issues affecting Great Lakes water quality at a public meeting held by the International Joint Commission (IJC) in Ashland, Wisconsin.

The meetings are part of an effort by the joint United States-Canadian agency to assess progress by the two nations to achieve goals set in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. 

Some community members questioned the way the commission evaluates progress on the lakes, including Washburn, Wisconsin, resident Lorraine Norrgard. She alluded to a progress report earlier this year that said the condition of the lakes was “fair and unchanging.”

“To me, they’re all not good, and they’re all extremely changing fast,” she said. “I really wonder about the assessments.”

Commissioners said the rating system is a standard used by the two governments, and they would share concerns about the way in which progress is measured.

Climate change has prompted more frequent, intense storms, which have caused millions of dollars in damage to northern Wisconsin communities and their infrastructure.

Matt Hudson, associate director of the Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland, noted in a session with commissioners that National Weather Service data show rainfall has increased by more than a third since the mid-20th century, when much of the road infrastructure was built.

The IJC will accept public comment until Oct. 31 as part of its efforts to assess progress on the lakes. 

Madison Professors Awarded Genius Grants

Where some may see obstacles and controversy when it comes to art education and climate change, two University of Wisconsin-Madison professors – and, now, 2019 MacArthur Genius Grant recipients – see opportunities. 

Cartoonist and author Lynda Barry and Andrea Dutton, a geologist who studies ancient sea levels and ice changes, are among the 26 fellows to receive a $625,000 grant over five years.

Barry arrived at UW-Madison in 2013 and is the Chazen Family Distinguished Chair in Art. Her 2009 graphic novel, What It Is, earned the Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Graphic Novel. 

Dutton joined UW-Madison’s faculty this semester and will spend the spring semester as a Fulbright Scholar studying historic sea levels and the Antarctic ice sheet in New Zealand.

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