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State Gives $10 Million For New Hospital In Riverton

in AARP/News/Health care
27480

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming’s top elected officials on Wednesday approved a $10 million grant for a new hospital in Riverton.  

The State Loan and Investment Board, which consists of Wyoming’s governor, auditor, treasurer, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction, met in Cheyenne to review applications for $85 million in available American Rescue Plan Act money marked for health care infrastructure in the state.  

The Riverton Medical District, a nonprofit group, spearheads the effort to build a new hospital just north of Riverton. The group has acquired land, local grants, a partnership with Billings Clinic and large community support, including from the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, a neighboring sovereign tribal government.  

Rivalry 

The new hospital will compete with the area’s existing hospital, SageWest Health Care. 

New-hospital proponents have said for more than four years that SageWest of Riverton provides subpar services to Fremont County and the Wind River Indian Reservation.  

“It became clear that the hospital services that Riverton, the Wind River (Indian) Reservation and surrounding communities depended on would not be returning,” said Corte McGuffey, Riverton Medical District board chairman, during the Wednesday meeting. “Tolerating 1,000 life flights a year and charges that were over 500% more than the state average – and most importantly, living in constant fear of medical insecurity – was not an option any longer.”  

SageWest’s Riverton facility closed its obstetrics ward in 2016, ending decades of in-hospital baby delivery in the town of about 11,000 people.

SageWest responded to McGuffey’s concerns in a Thursday email to Cowboy State Daily, saying sometimes flight transport to other facilities is necessary when more specialized care found only in larger medical systems is needed and when ground transport is not available.  

“Our intention is always to provide the most-appropriate interventions to ensure that patients from our remote area have access to the care they require,” said John Whiteside, CEO of SageWest Health Care. 

Whiteside said SageWest’s first priority is “high quality medical care and support services for our entire community,” and that the organization is proud of its team’s work and “honored to serve this area.”  

“We are here for you and your family when you need us,” he added.  

COVID Needs 

The SLIB members present approved the $10 million grant unanimously after McGuffey’s presentation.  

Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder was not present.  

Advocates for the new hospital told Cowboy State Daily in April that the $10 million was the last of the needed funding for the build.  

McGuffey told the SLIB that the group has put together $6 million in equity, has raised $1.5 million from the community, has received more than $1 million in economic development tax grants and has received $2.4 million worth of land and infrastructure from the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this spring awarded the group a $37 million loan, the largest USDA community facilities loan in Wyoming  history, McGuffey said.  

Originally, the hospital was designed at 47,000 square feet. McGuffey said that Mitch Goplen, vice president of facilities for the Billings Clinic facility services, told the group that was not enough space for designing a hospital in a post-COVID world.  

Isolation rooms, negative pressure areas and other COVID-based needs were incorporated into the plan, expanding the hospital to about 70,000 square feet. 

The associated costs also grew, said McGuffey.  

“And that’s why we’re making this application for a grant – to cover the costs COVID-19 has added to our project,” said McGuffey, adding he’s proud of all that the group already has accomplished.  

Legislative Side 

State Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, has been advocating for the project within the Wyoming Legislature.    

She said the Riverton Medical District’s efforts have been “extraordinary.”  

“The many hours of hard work are coming to fruition, and in a way that will have tangible results for the people of Riverton for many, many years to come,” Oakley told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “Improving the quality of health care may be the single most important effort that our town could undertake to increase our overall quality of life.”  

Other Projects Approved 

The Riverton hospital project received the largest grant approved Wednesday.  

There were $33,631,256 in total grants given a green light. Numerous requests for ARPA money were tabled until the December SLIB meeting.  

Other projects approved include: 

• $178,200 for the University of Wyoming to put telehealth computers and access points in three public libraries and the juvenile detention center in Sweetwater County

• $1,422,761 for the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home to upgrade its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) 

• $7,402,325 for renovation and expansion at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center for behavioral health services

• $647,978 for upgrades to Southwest Counseling Service’s mental health and substance abuse residential treatment center for women, the Duran location

• $615,538 for upgrades to Southwest Counseling Service’s Washakie facility, also providing mental health and substance abuse treatment for women

• $516,701 for Southwest Counseling Service’s Ankeny facility providing residential treatment and crisis stabilization for women

• $2,775,548 for renovations to West Park Hospital District’s Cody Regional Health, for a sterilization department and new air-handling units

• $873,883 for the Newcastle Rural Health Clinic upgrade 

• $373,066 for the Upton Rural Health Clinic upgrade

• $5,902,556 for the Sheridan Memorial Hospital behavioral health crisis stabilization unit

• $2,922,700 toward the Volunteers of America Northern Rockies division’s Southeast Wyoming regional crisis stabilization project

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AARP Scam Alert: Smishing

in AARP/News
13291

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By Tom Lacock

As more of us catch on to scam calls to our smartphones and block them or don’t answer them, scammers have taken to texting. “Smishing” is the term of art: SMS + phishing.

Just as scammers phish by casting a wide net with email, so they do with smishing.

The same things that we suggest in order to avoid phishing attacks apply to smishing.  But texts live in this space of immediacy – scammers know we are likely to respond much faster to a text than an email.

To thwart their efforts, take a pause and consider the message. Is this really my bank, or Amazon, or PayPal, or the IRS texting me?

Don’t click links – access the company or agency in a way you know to be safe and see if there’s an issue. Otherwise, don’t engage.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.”

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AARP Scam Alert: Work-From-Home Scams

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12889

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By Tom Lacock

The COVID pandemic brought countless things into our lives that we were just fine without. However, a few things – like working from home – actually made life a little easier for many.

However, with more businesses returning to in-person activities, some workers are looking for new jobs with work-from-home options. That’s something scammers are looking to take advantage of with fake job offers. 

Work-from-home scams can promise jobs with medical billing, data entry or starting an online business, but they all require paying something up front. 

Once you start paying, the requests for more money for training or supplies never stop and in return you get a lot of useless information or requests to recruit more people into the scheme.

There are genuine work-from-home jobs out there. The trick is knowing how to spot the real opportunities in a sea of empty — and costly — promises.

Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted.

Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.

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AARP Scam Alert: Car Warranty Scams

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12681

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Raise your hand if robocalls have finally stopped ringing your phone day and night. None of you? No surprise there. Despite industry and regulatory efforts to rid our phone lines of unwanted calls, they nevertheless persist – and many are outright scams. One of the more common scam calls involves car warranties.  

These scam calls typically start as a pre-recorded robocall (just like this one we pulled from the Federal Communications Commission’s website), and the message directs you to press a key to speak to a specialist or stay on the line.  Thanks to social media and data breaches, scammers may even have information on you car’s make and model to make it seem legitimate.

While extended warranties might be a sensible investment for some, it’s a product that you should research rather than react to, and only with verified and trustworthy sources.

Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted. Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.”

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Report: Wyoming Has Highest Rate Of COVID Nursing Home Deaths

in AARP/News/Coronavirus
12624

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming has the country’s highest rate of coronavirus-related nursing home deaths, according to a recent report released by AARP Wyoming.

Wyoming’s COVID nursing home death rate is currently 0.2 per 100 residents, ahead of Kansas (0.19) and Arkansas (0.18). All three are above the national average of 0.03 deaths per 100 residents.

Wyoming’s high ranking is the result of a spate of deaths that occurred during a four-week period ending on July 18 and its low population of nursing home residents relative to the rest of the country, according to AARP.

Nationally, COVID-19 cases continue to rise among nursing home residents and staff, increasing 50% among residents and 60% among staff over the week of July 12.

“The increases are concerning given the rise of new variants, the gaps in vaccinations among those in nursing homes, and the disproportionate numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 and high risk in these facilities throughout the pandemic,” AARP Wyoming State Director Sam Shumway said.

“More than 186,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19 – representing around 30% of deaths, even though less than 1% of the population lives in these facilities,” he said.

Wyoming’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among nursing home staff actually declined in the four-week period ending July 18, falling from 1.3 per 100 residents to 1 confirmed case per 100 residents. However, that also remains well above the national average of 0.3%.

Wyoming is also above the national average for nursing homes reporting staffing shortages. Just over 37% of Wyoming nursing homes reported staffing shortages of direct care workers in Wyoming over the four-week period ending July 18, while nationally, 23.7% of nursing homes reported shortages.

Wyoming’s percentage of COVID-19 vaccination rates among nursing home staff also remains below the national average at 51%, compared to the national average of 60%, ranging from a low of 44% in Louisiana to a high of 87% in Hawaii.

However, the number of COVID cases among nursing home residents actually declined over the four-week period ending July 18, falling from 1.1 resident cases per 100 residents to just 0.3 per 100 residents (or six total cases inside the state’s nursing homes).

That ratio has Wyoming ranked 10th in the nation for the lowest percentage of confirmed COVID-19 cases per nursing home resident over the last four weeks.

Wyoming’s nursing homes also reported no urgent need for personal protective equipment, making Wyoming one of only six states to report no facilities with an urgent need for PPE.

More than 88% of Wyoming’s nursing home residents are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, placing Wyoming inside the top 15 in the nation. Vermont’s nursing homes boast a 95% vaccination rate among residents, while Arizona has the nation’s lowest rate at 64%.

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AARP Scam Alert: Travel Scams

in AARP/News
12540

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If you’re trying to squeeze in a summer trip before Labor Day, it’s buyer beware when hunting for that last-minute deal. Great travel deals can be found online but you can also find scammers looking to put your travel dollars into their pockets.

Crooks set up look-alike travel websites in hopes you will book with them rather than your intended company. And just because the link showed up when you searched “travel deals” doesn’t mean it can automatically be trusted. Scammers often buy paid promotions for their bogus travel sites so they appear high up in search rankings.

Before hitting ‘confirm’ on that deal, make sure you really know who you are doing business with. Be skeptical of any cut-rate hotel or airline offer that seems too good to be true. And, always pay with a credit card, which offers more protection than other forms of payment.

Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is a free resource for all. Learn how to proactively spot scams or get guidance if you’ve been targeted. Visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or call our dedicated helpline to speak to a fraud specialist at 1-877-908-3360.

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AARP: Rental Car Scams

in AARP/News
12005

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America is open for business again and millions of people are traveling, or planning to.

One thing you may run into is sticker shock – especially with rental cars. The lack of travel in 2020 led rental companies to sell a lot of their inventory of cars. Now that demand has spiked, supply is tight and prices are high.

Unfortunately, criminals are paying attention and posting fake rental car deals at rock bottom prices online. While everyone loves a good deal, doing business with an entity you aren’t familiar with could be risky.

Whatever your travel needs, stick to reputable websites with proven track records. If you do find a deal with an unfamiliar provider, do your research: look up the company name with “scam” or “complaint” and see what appears, and check out reviews.

Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork  or call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 1-877-908-3360.

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AARP: Fraud Watch Network — Protect Your Device, Protect Yourself

in AARP/News
11884

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By AARP and Cowboy State Daily

Many scams originate right at your fingertips through your computer or smartphone. The good news is the way to block them is also within your grasp. Here are three tips to keep your devices safe from criminals.

Make sure your devices’ operating systems are up to date; you should be able to set an auto-update feature that downloads the latest software when available.

Next, make sure to change the password on your Wi-Fi router so it’s different from the password it came with. If you have a lot of devices connected to it, they could be vulnerable if the router is compromised.

Lastly, a password manager is a great way to create unique and hard-to-guess passwords for all of your online accounts and apps.

Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.  

Report scams to local law enforcement. For help from AARP, call 1-877-908-3360 or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork. 

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AARP FraudWatch Network Scam Alerts: Door to Door Scams

in AARP
11707

By AARP, Cowboy State Daily

Warm weather is here which means door-to-door sales crews are here, too. But what they’re selling isn’t always legit.

Be cautious anytime a stranger comes knocking, especially if the visitor is trying to sell you goods or services. Be wary of contractors who say they stopped by because they just happened to be in the neighborhood.

The good ones are usually too busy to roam around in search of work. Also be on guard for high pressure tactics to make a quick decision for a steep discount, and requests for payment upfront.

Your best bet is to proactively seek out services if you need them, versus reacting to an unexpected sales pitch. It’s always okay to explain you don’t do business at your front door (or to not answer when strangers knock).

Be a fraud fighter!  If you can spot a scam, you can stop a scam.

Visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork  or call the AARP Fraud Watch Helpline at 1-877-908-3360.

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