lgbtMEDFORD, Ore. — Bullying is something Rogue Community College will not tolerate on campus and will not condone in the community. The college hosted an event tonight to discuss the best ways to handle bullying and harassment of LGBT individuals.

Many students, staff, and community members filled the seats to participate in the discussion and support members of the gay community. The organizations and staff hosting the event, hopes to shed light on a problem that students in southern Oregon face everyday.

“These events are so important because they teach everybody how to be tolerant and how to accept differences and the more you talk about it the more comfortable it becomes,” said Colleen Taylor, who attended the event.

The main goal of the workshop was to help people deal with this type of harassment, and give them the proper tools to handle it or to intervene.

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WHITE CITY, Ore. — White City residents now have a better grasp on the gang problem in their area after a presentation Thursday night.

Two years worth of information put together by the Jackson County Gang Task force was shared. This revealed that people have seen increases in vandalism, drug crimes, and violent crimes in white city in the last decade.

However, things are looking promising with a decreasing trend in the last year, with help from some community members getting involved with at-risk kids.

“I just want to give these kids a better way in life instead of ending up in jail or shot or anything that could do damage to their family or themselves,” said Troy Wohosky, who has opened Spartan Boxing Gym as a non-profit gym for kids dealing with these issues.

Wohosky said he was involved in gang activities when he was younger and wants to offer an outlet for kids facing gang issues as well.

The agencies and organizations involved in that gang task force say they will continue to identify gang activity in the area and develop ways to address it.

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CENTRAL POINT, Ore. - Fallon Myers won all-around cowgirl honors in district competition in April. She earned that honor by finishing in the top five in six different events, barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, team roping and ribbon roping.

“It’s pretty important because we work so hard throughout the year,” said Myers. “It just kind of means a lot to be able to win it.”

Fallon’s love for the sport began at an early age. Her mother has been a part of it her entire life and that’s something she passed on to Fallon. Since she could pretty much walk, Fallon took care of the horses. That’s led to a special bond with the horses, and she’s views them not so much as an animal.

“Like with your friends, you trust them by being with them all the time,” said Myers. “That’s like with our horses. We’re with them all the time so you just kind of learn to trust them.”

Six events, six top-five finishes and a life-long friendship, that’s what makes Myers an all-around cowgirl.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Cover Oregon has just announced they are scrapping the website and moving to the federal exchange.

Late Thursday morning, a technology committee made that final recommendation for the future of Cover Oregon’s troubled health insurance exchange.

Lawmakers on both sides say the site’s rollout hasn’t been up to par. As a solution, state officials will change the current Cover Oregon site to allow users to sign up through the federal marketplace.

“The companies that we’re looking at to do it for us, have done it already before so we know they can do it this time they’re not going to be paid on time and materials. They’re going to be paid for actually producing the web site,” said Senator Alan Bates (D). That was a lesson learned from the site’s current creator Oracle. “None of us trust Oracle anymore. We’re not going to put any more money down that sink hole.”

If the state would have fixed the problems with the site, $30 to $50 million would have gone down that sink hole. By just getting rid of the state exchange and switching to the federal marketplace, it costs between $4 million and $5 million.

That doesn’t sit well with Representative Greg Walden (R). “It’s outrageous. There were warning signs that were ignored, there were alarms that got shut off. How did it get so out of hand?”

He supports an audit to find out exactly how it got so out of hand. “We need to get to the facts first and then a trail will lead to who is ultimately responsible,” said Walden.

The new site will be ready for the next enrollment period beginning November 1st.

Click here to watch Friday’s Cover Oregon board meeting.

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Get started on planning your weekend by checking out these fun events happening in Southern Oregon.

CropsMEDFORD, Ore. — Governor Kitzhaber is signing a bill on Thursday aiming at bringing fresh food to hungry families.  Last month, state legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 1541, better known as the crop donation tax credit.  This will give farmers tax credit if they donate raw natural food to food banks.

Farmers here in the Rogue Valley said this will give them the initiative to give back.

“By enlarged, most of the food at the food banks is processed and prepackaged… so when they are able to get fresh local food they just love it, and we love sharing the abundance of our valley with Oregonians of all incomes,” Luna Michelle, Happy Dirt Veggie Patch owner.

Michelle said the tax credit will help benefit her farm.  She said it will help cover the cost of picking, handling, and transporting the crops to food banks.

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The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows that drought conditions have worsened over our region, even climbing to ‘Extreme’ in some areas. While 3 to 5 inches of rain was reported along the coast only an inch or two of precipitation was widespread over western Oregon, and the week ended up drier than average. Precipitation amounts for most of the West were half an inch or less and in fact, much of the Southwest received no precipitation. Mountain snowpack was below normal, except for the Washington ranges and northern and central Rockies, with continued warmer-than-normal temperatures accelerating the melting of the meager snowpack in the California Sierras.

Severe drought expanded to the southern and central Oregon coast and northern California coast, while Extreme drought conditions have spread into Sisikiyou county and south Lake county where precipitation deficits and low streamflows were most significant.

In California, the city of San Diego was proposing a water supply “level 1” status, and a small reservoir/water district in Riverside County was on the 30-90 day “watch” list for depleted supplies. The City of Montague risks running out of drinking water by the end of summer and has requested that all outside watering be curtailed until further notice; this is the first time in over 80 years of water deliveries from the Montague Water Conservation District (MWCD) that this situation has occurred. Growers in Shasta Valley with the primary irrigation district (MWCD) were expected to have only enough irrigation water to irrigate what would equate to a single irrigation on about half of their acreage.

Many growers in the Big Springs area have already started pumping water to irrigate field. Within 24 hours of when one grower started irrigating, two nearby domestic wells went dry. The frustration caused by the drought can be seen in a report by an observer in Siskiyou County: “Our snow pack is pathetic, rainfall is way below normal, (low) stream flows are running at 2-3 months ahead of normal depending on the area, well levels have dropped severely and many wells are dry in spring or have levels typical of late fall, surface water irrigation supplies are non-existent to extremely limited in many areas, and the situation is only getting worse daily (especially after 3 consecutive years of drought).” With the expansion of Moderate drought conditions across southeast California and southwest Arizona, this week marks the first time in the 15-year history of the US Drought Monitor that 100% of California was in Moderate to Exceptional drought.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — STUFZ is a product distributed by Idea Village and claims to make the perfect stuffed burger. The burger experts at Jasper’s in Medford helped us test out STUFZ.

In the video above, NewsWatch12′s Erin Maxson shows us if STUFZ really works.

If you have a product suggestion or want to test a product, click on one of the links here:

Desktop: http://on.fb.me/QCQmTB
Mobile: http://bit.ly/1nt0SdO

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MEDFORD, Ore – It’s inspection time for a popular Medford restaurant. Over the next half hour the inspector walks unannounced and unimpeded, clipboard in hand, through every nook and cranny of the kitchen. Every date will be checked, every cook greeted, and every food item examined.

The restaurant inspection is one small part of what Jackson County’s Environmental Public Health service does. The organization has its inspectors in nearly every public facility in the county.

It’s a system of checks and balances that health experts say allows thousands of people use the same facilities without having to constantly worry about a disease outbreak.

“We’re used to it, we’ve taken it for granted, but it’s absolutely key,” said Dr. Jim Shames, the Medical Director with Jackson County Health and Human Services.

The organization’s three-and-a-half full time inspectors are responsible for nearly all of the county’s restaurants, pools, day cares, schools, food trucks, hotels, and much more. That’s roughly 1,200 facilities and 2,400 inspections each year.

The hope is to prevent an outbreak from ever occurring, but those facilities get at most two inspections a year. And each inspection is just one snapshot in time.

“We make the assumption that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said Shames.

Outbreaks of foodborne illness are generally rare in the United States Oregon due in part to the prevalence of public health organizations, and Oregon is no exception. Jackson County alone saw four confirmed outbreaks in foodborne illnesses in 2012, the most recent reporting year.

When that happens inspectors have access to a full array of lab testing equipment at a partnering agency in Portland. By understanding the infectious agent, how it spreads, and where it came from, they’re able to prevent it from getting worse.

“It takes a lot of detective work to figure out,” said Shames. “Is it because somebody who was preparing the food is sick? Is it because that shipment of broccoli that came in might have been contaminated?”

That detective work, which includes everything from stool sampling to genetic testing of infectious agents, was applied to 138 complaints of illness in Jackson County in 2012. The vast majority of those complaints turned out to be false alarms.

But public health officials say the goal is to never have to see a true outbreak, and to ensure that takes more than just checking off items on a checklist.

“Our challenge as inspectors is not necessarily enforcing the code, but getting the buy-in from these facilities and operators,” said Chad Peterson, Manager of Jackson County Environmental Public Health.

Inspectors say that buy-in is all they can guarantee, but simple practices like washing hands, using the right mix of chemicals in a pool, or cooking food to the proper temperature can usually prevent an outbreak from ever occurring. And they say the more the public reports illness, the better they can follow up and the better they can get that message of safety to stick.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — A young girl’s life is in jeopardy, and now a community is coming together to raise funds for a life-saving transplant.  Starting in May, Yogurt Hut will be giving a percent of its proceeds to celebrate “Helen Month”.

Just a few months ago, two-year-old Helen Lynn was a healthy, spunky toddler, but somehow Helen came in contact with a dangerous strain of e-coli, and what started out as what her parents thought was just the stomach flu, turned out to be end-end stage renal failure that destroyed her kidney.

Now, months later, Helen undergoes dialysis treatments for nine hours a day.  She takes eight anti-biotic and goes to the doctor twice a week. She’s on the list for a kidney transplant, but so far no donors have been named. Right now it’s just a waiting game, but the dialysis keeps her alive and functioning. She is still more susceptible than other kids to flu bugs and germs.

“Helen got sick but it was just a little bug but it affects her exponentially, compared to what it would a normal healthy child, and that is hard as a parent to see…it’s hard to see your child kind of battling with it,” said Lauren Lynn, Helen’s mom.

Treatment is expensive and costs nearly $20,000 a month. The Lynn family does have insurance, and they are covered under Medicare as well, but there are still unforeseen expenses.

“The larger garbage can, the drive up to Portland, the fact that I can’t work, the added Medicare premium. They all kind of compound and add up,” said Lynn.

According to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, typical insurance plans pay for 80%, but this leaves the patient still paying nearly 20% out of pocket. A close family friend is helping the Lynn family with the additional costs by holding a fundraiser.

The fundraiser called “Celebrate Helen Month” will be held at all four Yogurt Hut locations around the Rogue Valley, from May 3rd to May 31st. A percentage of the sales will go to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association to help Helen. All you have to do is say Helen’s name at the register.

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