chokecherries for teaser
Lynn Donaldson

Teal- and huckleberry-colored ribbons to Missoula City Council members for agreeing to add funding for suicide prevention. Currently Missoula’s sole paid suicide prevention specialist, Heidi Kendall, carries a full-time workload despite being paid for only part-time hours, offering suicide prevention classes and coordinating local resources with larger efforts.

Suicide prevention is an especially tall task in Missoula County, which has seen 25 suicides so far this year and which has held one of the top five highest suicide rates in the nation for more than four decades. That’s why, several weeks ago, a city council member requested $50,000 to bring Kendall's hours up to full time and to pay for some additional materials. The approval of that request was noted during National Suicide Prevention Week.

Regurgitated chokecherries to the sickening statements made by defense attorney Lisa Kauffman regarding a 13-year-old rape victim during a sentencing hearing on Monday. The man she was defending, Justin Griffith, 26, was initially charged with sexual intercourse without consent after prosecutors found evidence he had victimized patients at the teenage addiction recovery center where he worked. He pleaded guilty to a single count of felony sexual assault under a plea deal worked out with prosecutors.

While it is a defense attorney’s duty to represent her client to the best of her ability, Kauffman’s statements portraying the victim as a temptress were an embarrassment to her profession. Besides declaring that the 13-year-old victim “looks and acts like she's 18 years old” and telling the judge, “You should see the pictures of her and the hair and the makeup,” Kauffman also alleged that the treatment center was a place where teen girls “acted out sexually” in a wild atmosphere, and said that Griffith had not received training on how to cope with that.

The good news is that Missoula County District Court Judge Robert "Dusty" Deschamps was not persuaded by these deeply offensive and unwarranted attacks, and ultimately handed down a sentence of 20 years with the Department of Corrections, 16 suspended, plus sexual offender treatment and sex offender registration.

Rivers of free-flowing huckleberries to the city of Missoula’s plan to remove an old dam from Rattlesnake Creek and add more open space to the local stock of recreation opportunities. The dam was built more than 100 years ago to store additional water as needed, but ended up blocking fish from making their normal spawning rounds. It was transferred to the city along with Mountain Water Co.’s other local assets, including 45 acres of land along the Rattlesnake Creek corridor that may be used to expand a popular trail through the area. Trout Unlimited and Fish, Wildlife and Parks have both offered to help lead the dam removal project, which will cost an estimated $1 million and could begin as soon as 2019.

Chokecherries to the Child and Family Services division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services for failing to provide important details regarding the deaths of eight children to an interim legislative committee earlier this week. An ombudsman is required by law to investigate the deaths of any children involved with the division, and a new law allows legislators to review specific cases. Yet Shannon McDonald, who oversees the division, was unable to provide the committee with anything but the most general outline of the tragic deaths of eight children who died this year, six of whom had been brought to the attention of the state before their deaths. Committee members rightly pushed for further information that would help the committee understand what was needed to prevent such tragedies from happening again, only to be told that this important information was not yet available and would be provided at a later date.

Heart-warmed huckleberries to the Griz football players who took time during their stay in Seattle last weekend to visit a young fan in the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Troy Ross, 3, was airlifted to the hospital from Great Falls after he began having trouble breathing due to as-yet undiagnosed medical issues. Once informed of the situation, Coach Bob Stitt, football operations director Colin Bonnickson, quarterback Reese Phillips, center Cooper Sprunk, wide receiver Makena Simis and wide receiver Josh Horner, who also hails from Great Falls, spent about 45 minutes with Ross while their teammates took a tour of Husky Stadium. The Griz may have lost their game against Washington last Saturday but these kind-hearted players still managed to score an important victory.

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