State officials, most commenters confident in Medicaid plan
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana health officials are hearing from people in public meetings this week about the state’s plan to expand Medicaid.
State Medicaid Director Mary Dalton said after a meeting in Helena Thursday she’s confident the state will be able to offer health insurance to tens of thousands more low-income Montanans in time for the new year.
Roughly 60 people attended Thursday’s meeting, and 70 went to a Billings meeting Tuesday. Sixty more participated online.
AARP Montana President Joy Bruck was among a few people who echoed concerns from President Barack Obama’s administration over cost-sharing aspects of the Republican-sponsored plan.
The state has asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to accept the state’s plan by Nov. 1 and provide benefits by Jan. 1.
Public comment will be accepted on the Medicaid plan through Sept. 7.
More fire evacuations ordered near Noxon
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — More homes are being evacuated north of Noxon as a fire burning in the Kootenai National Forest spreads.
Fire information officer John Head says evacuation orders were issued for between 30 and 40 homes on Thursday. Approximately 14 homes were evacuated Thursday farther north along Montana Highway 56.
Head says warnings also have gone out to homes south of the evacuation area to the junction with U.S. Highway 200, and west along the highway four nearly four miles.
Head says the wind and low humidity has made the fire more active, and there is concern that it could combine with other blazes burning nearby.
A shelter has been set up in Noxon.
Portion of US Highway 2, railroad closed for fire threat
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have closed a seven-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2 and a major rail corridor as a wildfire approaches.
Flathead County emergency information officer Jennifer Rankosky says the highway and railway were closed near Essex Thursday afternoon when embers began falling on the roadway.
She says traffic is being turned around at mile markers 178 and 185.
The nearest east-west roadway is Glacier park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. The nearest roadway that trucks are allowed to travel on is more than 100 miles south on U.S. Highway 200.
The fire was burning 2 ½ miles south of Essex, but authorities were expecting it to spread as temperatures rise and the wind picks up.
Residents in the area have been notified they have to leave quickly.
Australia, New Zealand sending firefighters to US
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Australia and New Zealand are sending firefighters to help battle wildfires burning in the western United States.
The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise announced Thursday that top fire managers representing various U.S. agencies requested about 70 fire managers and specialists from the two countries.
Details are still being worked out, but the firefighters are expected to arrive in Boise on Sunday. After a one-day orientation to learn about current fire behavior they will be assigned to large fires.
The last time the U.S. asked for help from Australia and New Zealand was in 2008.
Drought and heat have combined to make this one of the most active fire seasons in the United States in recent years. Nearly 29,000 firefighters are battling some 100 large blazes across the West.
Stillwater CEO: Mine still is a competitor despite layoffs
(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Production at the Stillwater Mine near Nye was put to a halt after the company announced it would be laying off more than 100 workers.
The Billings Gazette reports CEO Mick McMullen said Wednesday that management had discussed its plan with employees to lay off 119 workers from the mine and Columbus smelter. He said production at the mine would resume Thursday.
Stillwater is the nation’s only platinum and palladium mine and its primary competitors are based in South Africa and the Russian federation. The mine has struggled with a 30 percent drop in metal prices, a $27.5 million loss in the second quarter and $400 million in debt.
Despite recent challenges, McMullen says new business opportunities and a good team will keep Stillwater ready to compete.
Hospitals donate $80K to shaken baby prevention program
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Hospitals around the state have agreed to donate more than $80,000 to Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies so the organization can continue an education program aimed at preventing shaken baby injuries and deaths after a state board decided not to renew its funding.
Clementine Lindley of Billings is vice chair of the Montana Children’s Trust Fund. She said Thursday the board didn’t renew its contract with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and decided to evaluate whether the work can be improved under another program.
The goal of the program is to educate parents and caregivers about an infant’s crying, strategies to cope with the frustration and the dangers of shaking a baby.
The education program is required under state law. A spokesman with the Department of Public Health and Human Services says the agency would be meeting the law’s requirements.
Cessna crashes in Big Belt Mountains
(Information in the following story is from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Searchers have located a single-engine airplane that crashed in the Big Belt Mountains just northeast of Canyon Ferry Lake.
The condition of the plane’s occupants has not been released.
The Lewis and Clark County sheriff’s office received a call at about 11 p.m. Wednesday from a woman who reported her husband had left the Helena airport at about 10 p.m. and had not yet arrived in White Sulphur Springs.
Officials with the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division told the Independent Record that a search began at about 6:15 a.m. Thursday and the plane was located at about 8 a.m. in Avalanche Gulch, which is in Broadwater County. Ground crews hiked into the site.
The National Transportation Safety Board planned to begin investigating Friday morning.
MHP: Drugs found at scene of crash that killed 3
(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Highway Patrol says drugs were found at the scene of a central Montana rollover crash that killed three teens and injured a fourth.
Trooper Joe DeJong told the Great Falls Tribune that speed also was a factor in the crash early Wednesday on U.S. Highway 87 between Windham and Moccasin.
Judith Basin County Deputy Coroner Dick Brown said two 14-year-old girls from Roundup — Krissy Oset and Cora Meckel — died at the scene, while 16-year-old Brandon Jordon of Billings died in the hours after the crash. DeJong says Jordon was driving.
DeJong says a 15-year-old boy from Geyser remained hospitalized Thursday with a severe back injury. His name has not been released.
The patrol says the SUV went off the road, hit an approach and rolled several times. All four occupants were ejected.
Interstate 15 dedicated to fallen officer Joseph Dunn
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — New signs along Interstate 15 have been installed to honor a fallen Cascade County deputy.
A ceremony was held Wednesday at the sheriff’s office to unveil the signs and commemorate the death of Joseph J. Dunn, who was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 14, 2014.
The signs have been put up on the highway in both directions between the Ulm and Gore Hill interchanges. The green highway signs read: “Deputy Sheriff Joseph J. Dunn Memorial Highway” and include Dunn’s badge number.
Dunn died after being struck by a fleeing suspect involved in a chase with deputies and Montana Highway Patrol troopers.