Tucson, Pima County echo national decrease in homelessness

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Nels Bergeron.

 
 

A homeless man lies in front of a Wells Fargo ATM near the University of Arizona. (Photo by Nels Bergeron)

Improved assistance, access to permanent housing and a robust economy brought counteless homeless in out of the dark over the last decade.

However, over a half a million people still experience some level of homelessness across the nation.

New initiatives, programs and organizations played a pivotal role in getting people off the street and back on their feet in Tucson and Pima County.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) reported 36 states saw decreases in their homeless population since the Great Recession in 2008 — Arizona being one of them.

According to Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness (TPCH), Pima County is experiencing its lowest homeless population since 2012.

As of January, TPCH reported 363 people sleeping outside or in uninhabitable places, and 1,017  sleeping in shelters and transitional homes.

On any given night in the United States, more than 190,000 homeless people are unsheltered and 360,000 are sheltered, according to NAEH.

Poor mental health, economic hardship, domestic violence and drug addiction cause homelessness, according to NAEH.

TPCH reported that 55 percent of Tucson’s homeless population suffer from mental illness. A majority of homeless women are victims of domestic violence, as well.

“A large portion of homelessness is caused by mental illness,” said Art Gage, former chairman of TPCH. “Twice a year, we put on an event at a local church and you’ll see in at least 45 percent of homeless individuals that there is cognitively something missing. It makes it hard for them to focus and improve their life.”

TPCH’s goal is to discover the issues in the homeless community then find money to support programs and organizations to aid those issues, said Gage.

“Last year we received $8.5 million in grants from (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development),” Gage said. “We gather data and rank the different homeless organizations to see how efficient they are working and what services they offer, then we set them up with HUD.”

Gage said HUD typically emphasizes certain issues that are afflicting the homeless community. Currently, he said they have a specialized grant for domestic violence and youth homelessness.

A homeless peers into the camera in downtown Tucson. (Photo by Nels Bergeron)

“The most successful way to help the homeless are when there are low barriers to housing and immediate access to services in the community like mental health, detox and training to get a job,” Gage said.

In Tucson, a handful of programs and organizations assist the area’s 1,380 homeless, ranging from the City of Tucson to non-profits and churches.

A leading example is the CREATE program, operated through Sister Jose Women’s Center, 1050 S. Park Ave.

Of the 1,380 homeless people in Pima County, about 450 are women.

The 26-week program empowers homeless women, helping them regain personal identity and teaching them job and social skills.

“The women in my program are women who are for the most part in there 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s,” said Penny Buckley, the CREATE program director. “This is a special group of women who have been chronically homeless and have come to the point in their lives where they realize that it’s do or die.”

“Success [in the program] can be best described by women moving forward in their lives by accomplishing goals that were once inconceivable for that woman,” Buckley said.

Buckley said 80 percent of the women are victims of domestic violence and nearly 75 percent suffer mental illness. Surprisingly, she said the number of women dealing with drug abuse is low.

Each session of the program starts with eight to 10 women, but not everyone finishes.

“The women who start are not necessarily going to finish the 26-week program,” Buckley said. “That’s perhaps beyond their capability. … Even if they showed up for a month and went through that daily routine and learned some new things, that’s a forward step.”

The program consists of one-on-one coaching — and classes, from writing and art to anger management and communication skills. Women learn to write resumes, manage money and use computers. They partake in community service around the center and in Tucson.

Buckley said a few graduates of the program have found above minimum-wage work due to their acquired skillset.

Buckley said she’d like to expand the program. She sees a similar program for men, but it’d be slightly different. She said women are more tuned to work in a community environment, while men are more individualistic. She believes some of the same coursework for women would overlap and prove beneficial.

“Our ultimate goal is to make this a replicable model,” Buckley said.

Nels Bergeron is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at nelsbergeron@email.arizona.edu

Click here for a a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos. 

 
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Arizona companies scrutinized over border wall

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Cedar Gardner.

 

The KWR Construction all-metal prototype border wall stands tall at 30 feet, per requirements of the project. (Photo by Reuters)

In Sierra Vista, Ramon Rosario Jr. retrieves his mail from the offices of KWR Construction. Rosario no longer works for the company, but he still holds the management in high regard.

“I’ve been with them for seven years; they are good people,” Rosario said. “All of them are good people.”

Kind words like Rosario’s are few and far between lately, as Arizona-based construction companies deliberate on whether getting involved with the border is a smart business decision, despite the immense blowback from communities, businesses and local governments.

Border wall objectors criticize Hispanic-owned KWR Construction for building one of the eight border wall prototypes standing in the desert outside of San Diego. The prototypes – which were intended to be study models – came about after President Trump, in one of his first actions in office, signed an executive order requiring four prototypes be made out of concrete and another four created with other materials.

Clouds roll into the town of Sierra Vista above the sign for the offices of KWR Construction on Thursday, Sept. 20. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

KWR Construction built the most expensive model, with a contract of $486,411. One of the four non-concrete models, it features metal columns spaced to allow people to see through the slats and a huge, round metal top to make it difficult to climb over.

Al Anderson, general manager of KWR Construction, would not agree to an interview, but previously told The Washington Post that he tries to be politically neutral in his decision-making process.

“We want whatever jobs here along the border that we can get,” he told the Post. “And set aside our personal beliefs to support our employees.”

 

Looking down on the border town of Naco, Ariz., the border wall is just visible as the sun sets, lighting the brush on Sept, 20. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

KWR Construction worked with border upkeep for nearly 10 years before the prototype project, so their employees are used to the added security and pressure that comes with working on the border. Rosario insists that he never felt that he was in danger when he worked on the border — there were armed guards accompanying the workers to the job site each day — but he still kept a pistol under the passenger seat of his truck.

 

An American flag hangs above the door at the offices of West Point Contractors in Tucson on Monday, Sept. 24. West Point Contractors just began the company’s first border wall project in a politicized and contentious time for immigration reform. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

 

West Point Contractors, based in Tucson, was not one of the companies involved with the border wall prototypes, but the company did begin work on Sept. 22 along the border wall near El Paso, Texas. The $22-million project, is set to replace a 4-mile stretch of chain link fence with an 18-foot metal wall. The project is the first work the company has done on the border, according to West Point Contractors Vice President Joel Alley.

“Our project was on the books prior to Trump ever being elected,” Alley said. “At that point, there wasn’t a controversy as much as it is now and I don’t think any of my employees would have voiced concern on the fence at that point because it wasn’t politicized.”

Although West Point Contractors planned on working at the border before the heavy politicization of the issue, they still face the same kickback that other companies that worked on the wall received. On Sept. 24, El Paso County leaders voted 4-1 to officially oppose the border wall. At least 20 other cities have signed similar legislation, and Tucson’s Center for Biological Diversity submitted a letter signed by more than 40 groups, citing concerns for the wall’s effect on the environment, economy and community.

The border fence is reflected in the water as the moon shines over Naco, Ariz. on Thursday, Sept. 20. The fence was completed in May 2017. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

Views on working on the border wall differ from person to person. Unlike Anderson, Alley thinks that standing up for one’s personal beliefs is not mutually exclusive to being a business executive, and that reflecting personal values in one’s business is part of being a good manager.

 “My best friend growing up lived in Mexico, so it’s one of those things where I don’t see it as an us versus them mentality,” Alley said. “I have laborers who are immigrants and I have family and friends who are there (in Mexico) and we care about everybody, so it’s not really black or white. … We want to do right by everybody.”

A bird soars over the border wall that makes up the property line for this house in Naco, Ariz. on Thursday, Sept. 20.(Photo by Cedar Gardner).

The border wall is now a heavily politicized issue. Alley said the company hired 24/7 security at their job site, and tries to collaborate with nonprofits and organizations who work with border aid  to “bridge the gap” and have a peaceful presence at the border.

“Four years ago, I don’t think we would have had to think about security or had to prove our company’s values as much as we do now,” Alley said.

A Border Patrol truck sits lifeless behind “private property” signs as the sun sets over Naco, Ariz. On Thursday, Sept. 20. (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

 

 

Aleksander Ellis, research director at the Center for Leadership Ethics at the University of Arizona, said there are no easy answers in these kinds of decisions for business executives and managers.

According to Ellis, there are problems with taking a utilitarian (practical, profit-driven) approach  as well as a rule-based (ethical/moral) approach, and there is really no argument to prove that one or the other is “right” in a given situation.

“The utilitarian approach tends to only think about effects on a subset of stakeholders and rarely takes into consideration long-term effects,” said Ellis. “So for the business here, there could be longer term effects if people in the community respond negatively to them taking the border contract.”

The border fence protrudes out of the grass in Naco, Ariz. on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, gravely blocking the trees and shacks in Mexico (Photo by Cedar Gardner).

Joseph Galaskiewicz, a sociology professor at the University of Arizona, has written extensively on border issues and agrees there is no objective — right or wrong — when it comes to these business decisions. Things are not always so “clear cut” with so many factors in play.

“Those who oppose building a wall can – and should – try to persuade firms not to cooperate with the government,” Galaskiewicz said. “But they have to respect the rights of businesses who do decide to cooperate and, in my opinion, they should not resort to illegal coercive measures to stop them.”

Cedar Gardner is a reporter for Arizona Sonoran News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at cedargardner@email.arizona.edu

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Tucson tattoo culture: Oasis for art, expression in Southwest

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Harry Reed.

 

Nicholas Becker’s tattoo of an Arizona desert sunset. Becker is a tattooist at Fast Lane Tattoo in Tucson.

Tattooing in Tucson booms with the help of social media, thrusting the city’s history of great shops and even better artists into the limelight.

Tucson’s tradition of being a military and college town attributes to the tattoo industry’s success in the Sonoran Desert, but reality TV and social media apps such as Instagram are taking tattooing to new heights and new clients.

“Some of the best in the world have come from Tucson, at least some of my favorite artists, and I didn’t even know that they were from here,” said Nicholas Becker a tattoo artist who has been tattooing for the past decade at Fast Lane Tattoo.

Becker said media is the biggest factor in Tucson’s growing tattoo popularity — “it’s produced those shows and it’s given us a lot of attention for what Tucson already has.”

One of the most popular shows for tattooing in recent years is Ink Master, hosted by Spike. It’s a reality show where artists from around the world compete head-to-head on elimination challenges every week with a sole winner gaining the title, “Ink Master,” for having the best, most consistent tattoos throughout the series.

A Tucson local, Anthony Michaels, won Season 7 of the show in 2016. Michaels has worked at Metro Tattoo for the last nine years, and his fame helped grow his cliental from Tucsonans to people from all over the country.

“Social media is the biggest factor,” said Matt Minetta, co-owner of Metro Tattoo. “There’s no way that anyone would know anybody, and it gets bigger and bigger everyday.

“Now I have more people reaching out to me on Instagram than I did three years ago. … I’ve gotten to tattoo more people all through connecting over Instagram.”

Although tattooing has been a successful industry in Tucson for decades, it attracted an entirely different market in the beginning.

“It was mainly for military dudes and circus freaks,” some who were considered “outlaws” and “outcasts,” said Molly McKing, who has worked at Black Rose Tattooer as a tattoo artist for the last four years.

Some of the most prominent styles in Tucson and in Arizona were American traditional and black and gray. American Traditional features bold black line work, a limited color palette, and simplistic Western designs that resonate with sailors and servicemen in the 1950s. In contrast, black and gray tattooing  utilizes only black ink, but is diluted with water to create different shades that help accentuate and add detail to the design.

While tattooing still carries its “outlaw” label today, shows such as Ink Master have introduced an entirely new group of clients with a style that differs from Tucson’s tattoo history.

At Fast Lane Tattoo, Becker says that 90 percent of his clients are women aged 18 to 24 who normally come in for watercolor-themed artwork, which he attributes to the growing popularity of color tattoos on TV and social media.

“The biggest thing is the media — it’s produced those shows and it’s given us a lot of attention for what Tucson already has,” Becker said, “A lot of world-renowned artists have come from Tucson, so I would say the number of people who recognize Tucson as a good spot for all tattoos is growing.”

Some artists feel that popularity in tattooing has created an entirely new demographic of clients. Whereas the people of today no longer resemble the old-school biker types who once filled tattoo shops across the city, tattoo enthusiasts now come from all walks of life.

“Ten years ago, when I was tattooing, it was different,” Minetta said. “There were still a ton of people bailing through the … door, but it’s changed and now there’s different types of people bailing through the door. Most people, it would take some (guts) for someone to come in and say ‘Hey, I want to get a (expletive) sleeve,’ but nowadays you’ve got 18-year-olds who are totally sleeved up.”

Although the change in cliental is something that has been recognized throughout tattoo shops in Tucson, the fact of the matter remains that people are aware of the level of talent produced here in the desert.

That talent has produced tattoo patrons from across the country who choose Tucson as their tattoo destination.

Harrison Reed is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him @hdreed@email.arizona.edu 

 

More Information:

If you want to see more of Tucson’s tattoo culture you can find Matt, Molly, and Nicholas’ tattoos and artwork on Insagram:

Nicholas Becker:        @nicholas_ray_becker

Molly McKing:            @mollyymcking

Matt Minetta:             @fattymattytatties

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Tucson tattoo culture: Oasis for art, expression in Southwest

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Harry Reed.

 

Nicholas Becker’s tattoo of an Arizona desert sunset. Becker is a tattooist at Fast Lane Tattoo in Tucson.

Tattooing in Tucson booms with the help of social media, thrusting the city’s history of great shops and even better artists into the limelight.

Tucson’s tradition of being a military and college town attributes to the tattoo industry’s success in the Sonoran Desert, but reality TV and social media apps such as Instagram are taking tattooing to new heights and new clients.

“Some of the best in the world have come from Tucson, at least some of my favorite artists, and I didn’t even know that they were from here,” said Nicholas Becker a tattoo artist who has been tattooing for the past decade at Fast Lane Tattoo.

Becker said media is the biggest factor in Tucson’s growing tattoo popularity — “it’s produced those shows and it’s given us a lot of attention for what Tucson already has.”

One of the most popular shows for tattooing in recent years is Ink Master, hosted by Spike. It’s a reality show where artists from around the world compete head-to-head on elimination challenges every week with a sole winner gaining the title, “Ink Master,” for having the best, most consistent tattoos throughout the series.

A Tucson local, Anthony Michaels, won Season 7 of the show in 2016. Michaels has worked at Metro Tattoo for the last nine years, and his fame helped grow his cliental from Tucsonans to people from all over the country.

“Social media is the biggest factor,” said Matt Minetta, co-owner of Metro Tattoo. “There’s no way that anyone would know anybody, and it gets bigger and bigger everyday.

“Now I have more people reaching out to me on Instagram than I did three years ago. … I’ve gotten to tattoo more people all through connecting over Instagram.”

Although tattooing has been a successful industry in Tucson for decades, it attracted an entirely different market in the beginning.

“It was mainly for military dudes and circus freaks,” some who were considered “outlaws” and “outcasts,” said Molly McKing, who has worked at Black Rose Tattooer as a tattoo artist for the last four years.

Some of the most prominent styles in Tucson and in Arizona were American traditional and black and gray. American Traditional features bold black line work, a limited color palette, and simplistic Western designs that resonate with sailors and servicemen in the 1950s. In contrast, black and gray tattooing  utilizes only black ink, but is diluted with water to create different shades that help accentuate and add detail to the design.

While tattooing still carries its “outlaw” label today, shows such as Ink Master have introduced an entirely new group of clients with a style that differs from Tucson’s tattoo history.

At Fast Lane Tattoo, Becker says that 90 percent of his clients are women aged 18 to 24 who normally come in for watercolor-themed artwork, which he attributes to the growing popularity of color tattoos on TV and social media.

“The biggest thing is the media — it’s produced those shows and it’s given us a lot of attention for what Tucson already has,” Becker said, “A lot of world-renowned artists have come from Tucson, so I would say the number of people who recognize Tucson as a good spot for all tattoos is growing.”

Some artists feel that popularity in tattooing has created an entirely new demographic of clients. Whereas the people of today no longer resemble the old-school biker types who once filled tattoo shops across the city, tattoo enthusiasts now come from all walks of life.

“Ten years ago, when I was tattooing, it was different,” Minetta said. “There were still a ton of people bailing through the … door, but it’s changed and now there’s different types of people bailing through the door. Most people, it would take some (guts) for someone to come in and say ‘Hey, I want to get a (expletive) sleeve,’ but nowadays you’ve got 18-year-olds who are totally sleeved up.”

Although the change in cliental is something that has been recognized throughout tattoo shops in Tucson, the fact of the matter remains that people are aware of the level of talent produced here in the desert.

That talent has produced tattoo patrons from across the country who choose Tucson as their tattoo destination.

Harrison Reed is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him @hdreed@email.arizona.edu 

 

More Information:

If you want to see more of Tucson’s tattoo culture you can find Matt, Molly, and Nicholas’ tattoos and artwork on Insagram:

Nicholas Becker:        @nicholas_ray_becker

Molly McKing:            @mollyymcking

Matt Minetta:             @fattymattytatties

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Tucson tattoo culture: Oasis for art, expression in Southwest

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Harry Reed.

 

Nicholas Becker’s tattoo of an Arizona desert sunset. Becker is a tattooist at Fast Lane Tattoo in Tucson.

Tattooing in Tucson booms with the help of social media, thrusting the city’s history of great shops and even better artists into the limelight.

Tucson’s tradition of being a military and college town attributes to the tattoo industry’s success in the Sonoran Desert, but reality TV and social media apps such as Instagram are taking tattooing to new heights and new clients.

“Some of the best in the world have come from Tucson, at least some of my favorite artists, and I didn’t even know that they were from here,” said Nicholas Becker a tattoo artist who has been tattooing for the past decade at Fast Lane Tattoo.

Becker said media is the biggest factor in Tucson’s growing tattoo popularity — “it’s produced those shows and it’s given us a lot of attention for what Tucson already has.”

One of the most popular shows for tattooing in recent years is Ink Master, hosted by Spike. It’s a reality show where artists from around the world compete head-to-head on elimination challenges every week with a sole winner gaining the title, “Ink Master,” for having the best, most consistent tattoos throughout the series.

A Tucson local, Anthony Michaels, won Season 7 of the show in 2016. Michaels has worked at Metro Tattoo for the last nine years, and his fame helped grow his cliental from Tucsonans to people from all over the country.

“Social media is the biggest factor,” said Matt Minetta, co-owner of Metro Tattoo. “There’s no way that anyone would know anybody, and it gets bigger and bigger everyday.

“Now I have more people reaching out to me on Instagram than I did three years ago. … I’ve gotten to tattoo more people all through connecting over Instagram.”

Although tattooing has been a successful industry in Tucson for decades, it attracted an entirely different market in the beginning.

“It was mainly for military dudes and circus freaks,” some who were considered “outlaws” and “outcasts,” said Molly McKing, who has worked at Black Rose Tattooer as a tattoo artist for the last four years.

Some of the most prominent styles in Tucson and in Arizona were American traditional and black and gray. American Traditional features bold black line work, a limited color palette, and simplistic Western designs that resonate with sailors and servicemen in the 1950s. In contrast, black and gray tattooing  utilizes only black ink, but is diluted with water to create different shades that help accentuate and add detail to the design.

While tattooing still carries its “outlaw” label today, shows such as Ink Master have introduced an entirely new group of clients with a style that differs from Tucson’s tattoo history.

At Fast Lane Tattoo, Becker says that 90 percent of his clients are women aged 18 to 24 who normally come in for watercolor-themed artwork, which he attributes to the growing popularity of color tattoos on TV and social media.

“The biggest thing is the media — it’s produced those shows and it’s given us a lot of attention for what Tucson already has,” Becker said, “A lot of world-renowned artists have come from Tucson, so I would say the number of people who recognize Tucson as a good spot for all tattoos is growing.”

Some artists feel that popularity in tattooing has created an entirely new demographic of clients. Whereas the people of today no longer resemble the old-school biker types who once filled tattoo shops across the city, tattoo enthusiasts now come from all walks of life.

“Ten years ago, when I was tattooing, it was different,” Minetta said. “There were still a ton of people bailing through the … door, but it’s changed and now there’s different types of people bailing through the door. Most people, it would take some (guts) for someone to come in and say ‘Hey, I want to get a (expletive) sleeve,’ but nowadays you’ve got 18-year-olds who are totally sleeved up.”

Although the change in cliental is something that has been recognized throughout tattoo shops in Tucson, the fact of the matter remains that people are aware of the level of talent produced here in the desert.

That talent has produced tattoo patrons from across the country who choose Tucson as their tattoo destination.

Harrison Reed is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him @hdreed@email.arizona.edu 

 

More Information:

If you want to see more of Tucson’s tattoo culture you can find Matt, Molly, and Nicholas’ tattoos and artwork on Insagram:

Nicholas Becker:        @nicholas_ray_becker

Molly McKing:            @mollyymcking

Matt Minetta:             @fattymattytatties

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Climate change could shake up Arizona agriculture

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Ava Garcia/Arizona Sonora News Service.

Tyler Crosby of Crosby Mint Farm stands at the farm’s booth at a farmer’s market on the University of Arizona campus Wednesday, April 25. Crosby’s family has operated a mint farm in Tucson for 10 years. (Photo by Ava Garcia/Arizona Sonora News Service)

The agriculture industry has a tough job ahead of it. The United Nations estimates the world will need 70 percent more food to feed the global population by 2050.

But the real challenge lies in meeting this goal under the pressure of a changing climate. As climate change progresses, it brings an emerging set of challenges for farmers.

Arizona farmers are feeling the strain of the already changing environment.

There’s been a noticeable difference in the average temperatures, according to Michael Crimmins, associate specialist in climate science with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension and professor in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science. Phoenix and Yuma experienced their warmest years on record in 2017, according to the National Weather Service.

Local farmers such as Tyler Crosby of Crosby Mint Farm have been feeling the heat.  Crosby, whose family operates mint farms in both Tucson and Michigan, said the Tucson farm produces about 60 to 70 acres of plant material grown in an outdoor, covered and enclosed aquaponics system. Crosby said the extreme heat means the farm’s aquaponics system has to use more water than they may have used before.

“That stuff [the heat] is brutal,” Crosby said. “You can protect as much as you can on it, but there’s still going to be a lot of water evaporation out of the system.”

Smaller farms aren’t able to escape the effects of climate change.

Elena Ortiz, community engagement coordinator of Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Community Farm, said the 6-acre farm faces challenges planning for future crops when temperature and precipitation are unpredictable.

The farm, a program of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, has seen crops such as lettuce bolt earlier. Crops bolt when the plant notices warmer temperatures and starts to put its energy into reproducing and putting out flowers rather than growing, which Ortiz said can make the crops not taste as good.

As environmental conditions change, the areas suitable for certain crops may shift around the country, according to George Frisvold, UA professor of agricultural and resource economics. Frisvold said northern states may see an increase in crop yields because the temperature will rise there. That same temperature rise will have a different result where it’s already hot and dry, like Arizona. The areas’ capability to grow some crops may change.

Crops such as wheat may not do very well if the heat continues to grow, and crops such as cotton, alfalfa and corn also could have problems, Frisvold said.

In theory, warmer weather could mean more possibilities for agriculture in cooler Northern Arizona, but Frisvold points to another part of the equation: water. There is massive irrigation infrastructure that supports agriculture in certain locations, but not all over the state.

“Having weather like Yuma and water like Yuma might be good, but if you have weather like Yuma without the water, that’s not going to be so good,” Frisvold said.

If industries have to shift to new locations, Frisvold said this could create huge costs for the new locations.

Arizona agriculture hubs like Yuma have been preparing for the changes to come. Yuma County, with 1 in 4 jobs connected to agriculture, supplies nearly 90 percent of North America’s leafy green vegetables in the winter, according to Paul Brierley, executive director of UA Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture.

The center was created from a public-private partnership with agricultural producers nearly four years ago to find solutions to agricultural needs through scientific research. One such project is the center’s research on plant diseases, an agricultural threat that could challenge farmers as the changing climate shapes weather patterns.

Brierley said changes in temperature or moisture in the environment could lead to plant diseases and diseases happening at different times of the year that farmers haven’t seen before.

“Plant disease is one of the biggest hindrances to maximizing production, and if the climate changes, then the disease pressures change,” Brierley said.

That’s not the only challenge Yuma faces. A shortage in the region’s water supply is Brierley’s biggest concern.

Like much of Arizona’s agriculture, Yuma farmers are dependent on surface water from the Colorado River. This water comes from snowpack in the upper basin of the river in Colorado and Utah. The water is stored in reservoirs that can have enough water in them to even out climate variability over periods of five to 10 years, Crimmins said. That means local droughts don’t often affect farmers’ water supply.

“We can have here in Southern Arizona the driest winter on record and it not really impact farmers at all because they’re using water that accumulated over the past five to 10 years in the reservoir systems,” Crimmins said.

Crimmins said climate projections show the upper Colorado River basin to be an uncertain region of the country when it comes to precipitation; it may get drier or may even get wetter. However, Crimmins said projections do show increased temperatures across the intermountain West, which could lead to a decline in the snowpack that feeds the reservoirs.

These projections have spurred Yuma’s efforts in increasing water efficiency. Brierley said the region uses 18 percent less water than it did 40 years ago, with some crops now twice as productive. Farmers incorporate water-saving techniques like leveling their fields every year to ensure less water runoff and using sprinklers to water seeds during their germination instead of using more water-intensive flood irrigation, Brierley said.

Even with this success, Brierley cautions against all farms following exactly in Yuma’s footsteps.

“There’s lessons to be learned from Yuma, for sure,” Brierley said. “But it’s not, agriculture is not a one-size-fits-all. It’s very dependent on local conditions.”

It’s also dependent on the type of agriculture. Crimmins said agriculture like ranching, which is not irrigated, is dependent on precipitation patterns and could be affected by increasing temperatures.

Increasing temperatures could also affect Arizona’s vineyards and orchards.

Growers have found that their trees and vines are starting the growing season earlier in the year, which could be an issue depending on the last spring frost, according to Jeremy Weiss, a research scientist with Cooperative Extension in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment. Weiss is leading a study on climate variability and changes on orchards and vineyards in Arizona and New Mexico as part of a larger Climate Assessment for the Southwest study.

Weiss said existing orchards and vineyards can use adaptations to delay the bud break of the trees and vines to try to minimize the risk of a late spring freeze. For new orchards or vineyards, future climate changes can be important to keep in mind when deciding where to site the business.

“Understanding climate variability and climate change is really relevant to orchards and vineyards, and that’s because these are investments made by people where they’re expecting to have 20, 30, 40 years of productivity from their initial planting,” Weiss said. “These are long-term and relatively expensive decisions, and I think that some of the climate information that we could provide (from the study) will be a piece of the information that they can use then to hopefully make improved decisions and help them adapt to some of the changes in temperature in the region.”

Crimmins is confident in farmers’ ability to adapt to these changes. Already, farmers are working with genetic strains of crop types that are adapted to heat and are moving to using more water-efficient drip irrigation.

“Agriculture is really about engineering the environment, so it’s taking that engineering approach and thinking about what it will be able to handle in longer time periods,” Crimmins said.

Ava Garcia is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at agarcia9@email.arizona.edu.

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

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Exploring gender gap in Arizona’s college leadership

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Jamie Verwys.

An Arizona Sonora News analysis of salary data for leadership positions, such as deans and directors, at Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona found that the average salary of women in those leadership roles at ASU and UA were lower than men.

All three colleges have experienced an increase in the average salary of female leaders over time. However, the University of Arizona’s male averages for deans and directors continued to increase at a slightly higher rate. Female average salaries for deans and directors roles rose about 30 percent over the last five years, while men’s average salaries in those roles rose about 33 percent.

In an effort to address equal pay at the UA, college leaders hope to perform an independent study, according to Lynn Nadel, chair of the faculty senate. Though the study is in a developmental stage, Nadel said UA President Robert Robbins has begun to look at national firms for a pay equity evaluation.

“I don’t expect to hear anything other than there are gender inequities,” said Nadel. “But we need to know the extent of them, where they are situated, some areas more than others, at some levels of the system more than others, and we need to have good data.”

Nadel said gender pay gap issues have not been a major concern of faculty, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

“In my time as chair of faculty this has not been one of the things that the faculty care about … they care about the daca students or they care about the scandals in athletics. … Those are things I hear about on a regular basis,” he said. “I’ve almost never heard about pay equity in the same way, but that might be because of the nature of the problem more than anything else.”

Right on trend

Jacqueline Bichsel of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, a nonprofit human resources in higher education organization, said the university’s trend of lower salaries for women in leadership roles reflects the findings of one of their latest studies.

“There’s definitely a wage gap between men and women, and there’s also a representation gap in leadership positions,” she said. “Bias against women occurs on a daily basis and academia is no exception.”

Looking at data from 2001 to 2016, the study found that men occupied the majority of executive positions in higher education.

The UA’s demographics for 2016 to 2017 reveal disparities in particular positions of power. Out of 85 department heads, including directors, 63 were men and 22 were women. The number of male deans, 14, also far outweighs the number of female deans, four.

ASU’s most recent demographics show that male and female administrators are almost 50/50, and NAU has more women in administrative positions that fall under “Business and Financial Operations,” 340 to 121.

The UA is currently facing a lawsuit from former Honors college Dean Patricia MacCorquodale who alleged that she and other female deans at the UA are underpaid.

Citing the current lawsuit, the university refused to comment on this story.

The lawsuit is the type of situation the UA’s Commission on the Status for Women took notice of. The group of female and male faculty and staff works to advocate for equality on campus, and it wrote an open letter offering support to MacCorquodale and other women on campus in January.

“We know this is an issue that’s happening at industries across the nation,” said Cheree Meeks, chair of the commission. “So, we would be silly to pretend that this isn’t happening in higher education as well.”

Gender equality is one topic that the commission is interested in addressing on campus through advocacy on campus policy and through workshops aimed at empowering all faculty and staff.

“We recently went to a symposium and we were able to host a session and sort of listen to people about hiring and pay disparity and campus climate,” said co-chair Holly Brown. “Its something that’s on our radar as we listen to faculty and staff.”

Tenured professors

One of the positions with the largest difference in the number of male to females at all three state colleges are that of tenured professors. The most recent demographic data shows that at NAU, women make up 40 percent of tenured professors and men make up 60 percent. At ASU, about 37 percent are women and 63 percent are male, and at UA, it’s about 35 percent of tenured professors who are female and 65 percent are men.

Jennifer Jenkins, a full tenured professor of the UA’s English Department, has been a part of the university since 1997. While she said that the path to tenure status was clearly outlined and she has no complaints about the process, she knows she makes less than her male counterparts.

“I am paid fully 25 percent below the male full professor average in the English department,” she said. “Indeed, my salary falls below the salaries of three male associate professors in the department.”

 

Jenkins said that she has raised the issue with the college repeatedly, and has received little or no response.

“ I’ve been continually put off and told to wait for college-wide salary reviews,” she said. “While I did receive some money in an equity raise, it still leaves me below male associate professors and far behind other full professors in my unit.”

Jenkins has been told in the past that she is a victim of a “loyalty tax,” or unable to make as much money as faculty who move around because she has stayed at one institution, she said.

“As a first-generation college student and a graduate of an Arizona high school and the UA, I believe in giving back to Arizona students like me in terms of mentoring and creating a welcoming pathway to success,” Jenkins said. “That is work that is undervalued, particularly when done by women.”

Jessica Summers, an associate professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies, was voted in to replace Nadel as faculty senate chair starting June 1. She said tenure status is a challenge for women to achieve.

“If tenure is a barrier and promotion is a barrier, that makes leadership a difficult barrier,” Summers  said.

The way women think about salaries

Gender equity and diversity in hiring changes the climate of an industry.

“It’s not surprising that when you have diversity around any table you make better decisions you have better input, and that’s becoming evident everywhere,” said Gloria Feldt, an ASU professor and former CEO of Planned Parenthood.

Feldt teaches a class at ASU called Women, Power and Leadership, which is offered in partnership by the business school and has 25 percent male students. She recently completed research for her book, “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power,” exploring how women think about the gender gap and equal pay.

“What the research found is that the pay gap is very much related to the question of how much women ask for in the first place, what we expect for ourselves,” she said. “Now this is not to say there is anything wrong with women and how women think because in fact those barriers in our heads are partially caused by the implicit bias that remains socially learned in our lives.”

Feldt believes the biggest barriers to gender equity in any industry, including academia, is the way women value their own work and their negotiation skills. She sees better training as a solution.

She likes to use an analogy about a women she met in a conference who said her male counterparts in her department never invite her to coffee.

“You invite the group to coffee, invite them to your office, do something where you are setting the table and dont wait to be asked,” Feldt said. “I know thats hard and it’s annoying to be left out, but the only way you can get yourself into the circle is get yourself into the circle.”

The solution is to close those gaps

Salary and promotions in the university system are made of many moving parts, and evaluating gender equity and equal pay can be complex. There are many factors that go into a person’s pay, including their performance, length of time in their position, the size of the school or department they work in and their department’s budget.

When it comes to the reasons gender inequalities still exist, Bischell and her study place the blame on discrimination plain and simple.

“The evidence is there that the bias exists, that the wage gap exists, the representation gap exists and there is no reason to explore the factors underlying them,” she said. “What institutions need to do is start looking at the wage gap not just a moral issue that is something nice to have fixed but it needs to be looked at as risk management ..they need to work to close those gaps or they risk being sued.”

Bichsel said the gap overall hasn’t narrowed much over the last 15 years. If nothing is done, she said the gender wage gap will only increase.

At NAU, women in leadership roles actually average higher than male counterparts, making about 4 percent more than men in the last fiscal year. The college also has a female president, a position Bichsel said predominantly goes to men.

Institutionally, Feldt said that colleges should strive for gender-blind hiring practices, not ask new hires for previous salaries and perform independent studies to ensure gender equity and equal pay. She believes great strides forward are in store for the future.

“First, women are just better prepared and secondly, it’s now clear that having gender parity in leadership makes for better leadership overall,” she said. “The third factor is let us thank the Me Too and Times Up movements because now there is really a growing structure where women are really finding their voices more strongly.”

The UA’s Commission on the Status of Women is hopeful that President Robbins will work to address these issues.

“Robbins is very new, so we are sitting and watching and seeing what he’s working on,” Brown said. “We know there’s this career architecture project this has been ongoing and we are hoping that that will result in looking at how people are hired, and so we are eager to see results of this project too in regards to hiring and pay disparity.”

The commission hopes to bring in workshops to help women and minorities better prepare to ask for raises or face equity obstacles.

“This is not something that’s a one-off, every few years this happens,” Meeks said. “… I believe this is a systemic issue, so we need to be looking at what is it about our system that creates these disparities and what creates them and allows them to be maintained over such a long periods of time.

“As institutions of higher education where we prepare students for their first job, we need to preparing professionals for next step as well.”

According to Nadel, the UA does a good job of ensuring equal salaries coming in the door, but issues of gender equity take constant vigilance.

“We should be leaning over backward to change the diversity of the profile, but you can’t lean over backward at the cost of quality because then you sacrifice what you are trying to do,” he said. “We need to make sure equality and diversity are actually being maintained every day, day in and day out, decision by decision and it comes down to people and accountability.”

As Summers prepares to take over the faculty senate this summer, she is confident Robbins is aware of the disparities and on board to move forward with a task force.

“I think he will do the right thing, so we are counting on him to do that,” Summers said.

As for women in higher education, she said they should stick together and speak up.

“Maybe it’s time,” Summers said, “to change our tact and become better negotiators and better enablers of each other.

“We don’t have to fight these battles alone.”

Jamie Verwys is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at jverwys@email.arizona.edu.

Click here for a Word version of this story and high resolution photos.


Learn more about our investigation

With a gender discrimination lawsuit underway at the University of Arizona, the Arizona Sonora News decided to look at salaries and gender at all three state colleges. This project began by compiling salary information for the last five years at the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University.

The most recent salary databases are public record, and can found here:

University of Arizona

Northern Arizona University

Arizona State University

We encourage you to take a look at this information for yourself.

This project deals only with “leadership” roles. We looked at the combined average salaries of male and female deans and directors over the last five years and saw that all three state colleges are seeing a climb in those averages for women. Men’s averages in these positions are increasing as well.

We also took a look at demographic information on faculty and staff from each college, available in each college’s factbook online. This is when the disparity between male and female tenured professors at each college appeared.

Salary information and rates are complex, involving many factors, some of which could not be obtained by the time we published this story. When looking at salary data in higher education, it’s important to keep the following things in mind.

  • Though we found a pay gap in the salary data that echos other studies, we can not conclusively say this is caused by gender discrimination.
  • To make that conclusion would require looking at performance information, raises and promotions and the number of years in service.
  • Different departments and schools within a college have different budgets, based on their sizes. For deans in particular, this affects salary in a big way.
  • Jacqueline Bichsel’s study found that in roles where women are most underrepresented, like president, women tend to make more than their male counterparts.

To achieve true diversity and equity in higher education also takes looking at representation of minorities. This information can be seen in the college’s factbooks.

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Closer to closure: Solving homicide cold cases in Arizona

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Shaq Davis.

Caption: (From left) Fabian Cano, 19, was killed January 2012 in a drive-by shooting as the suspected gunman’s bullet went through a window striking him in the head. David Hayward, 19, was shot and killed July 2005, after being in an altercation with a male at a house party. Laurie Jean Wardein, 26, was found dead in her apartment by police June 1985. Police say she was stabbed multiple times by a man she went on a date with. (Bottom left) Elvina LeGarde, 69, was killed June 2008, on her way back from a church service when a gunman shot at her car in a road rage incident. Harold Boykin, 33, was killed at a bar called the Jaguar Club in Phoenix March 1985. He was shot after trying to wrestle a gun away from a gunman inside the bar. Nicole Glass and Melissa Mason, both 27, were found strangled in their Phoenix home in December 2010. Mason was also around eight weeks pregnant. The six cases remain unsolved as of 2018. (Phoenix Police Department)

 

When three armed suspects entered a Dollar Store around 5 p.m. June 16, 2001, the men assaulted a store clerk and murdered a 41-year-old customer. Phoenix Police Department detectives worked tirelessly to find those involved and what motivated the attack.

For 11 years, the detectives’ case into the homicide went unsolved. It wasn’t until homicide detectives reviewed the case in 2012, using advances in forensic technology, were they then able to uncover a new lead. By resubmitting evidence, police identified one of the suspects as 35-year-old Michael C. Moye and obtained a warrant for his arrest.

While Moye remains in custody since 2014, the two additional suspects in the murder of Jaime Olivera-Perez remain outstanding.

Within the United States in 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported 14,392 murders and nonnegligent manslaughter cases. Of those cases, 61.5 percent were cleared by an arrest.

But for the fewer than four out of 10 cases that go unsolved, families and friends of the deceased are left to carry on the memories of their loved ones without closure.

The Phoenix Police Department’s Homicide Cold Case Unit continues to keep the cases open and hunts for leads they hope will end in arrest.

Sgt. Jon Howard has seen the ins-and-outs of how cold cases are dealt with at the Phoenix Police Department. Five years ago, detectives were assigned to specifically look at cold cases. They brought back positive results.

“What they found was they were able to go through and identify pieces of evidence that we still had in our possession and submit them for analysis based on today’s standard of technology,” Howard said. “We had dozens of cold-case arrests within a couple of years.”

Howard said the use of technology is only one of the three main methods used by the department in its approach to the cases.

The department makes sure more than one detective looks at a case to potentially find new approaches. Detectives use their experiences to pick up on something the first detective didn’t see.

Howard said over the course of a cold case, the mindset of a witness may change.

“We may go back if we had a witness say 20 years ago that was unwilling to talk with us because of their situation or the type of lifestyle they were living and now we reach out 20 years later and they’re willing to share new details with us,” Howard said.

The department includes a unit for cold-case sex crimes, and together the units have about 2,500 unsolved homicides and sex crimes in the region dating back to the 1950s.

While police are looking for new leads in a case, an Arizona organization called Homicide Survivors Inc. is helping families spread the word about a loved one’s unsolved case.

Becky Porter, a victim advocate with the organization, said the group takes a delicate approach when it comes to homicide cold cases.

“It can be very difficult especially when you have an unsolved case and you see families who are just struggling to get answers,” she said. “That can really weigh heavily on anybody, law enforcement included.”

She said the cases bring uneasiness to the families who must adjust in their own lives with a feeling of injustice that weighs on them. The organization helps to create opportunities mainly through alerting media of a cold case and creating promotional materials.

“One of the things we did recently, was put up billboards and bus stop ads but everything like that takes money and that’s a challenge for a lot of families,” Porter said.

An emotional challenge also presents itself to those working with the non-profit.

“Practicing self-care is probably the most important thing that I have learned and for me personally that is exercise and art, those are requirements on a daily basis,” she said.

Porter’s routine allows her to be the most effective at her job when energy can be expended in other areas of her life, she said.

Howard said the satisfaction of solving a difficult case and being able to notify a family carries him further.

“I can go out and do the bad side of policing. I can go get yelled at and spit on,” he said. “And I can solve one case where a family shakes my hand and says thanks — and it carries me for a year.”

Shaq Davis is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News , a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at smd3@email.arizona.edu

Click here for a word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

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Local author returns home after controversial book tour

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Maritza Cruz/ Arizona Sonora News.

The writer Francisco Cantú, photographed March 23, 2017, New York, New York. Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan www.beowulfsheehan.com

Writer. Professor. Fulbright Fellow. Former Border Patrol agent.

Francisco Cantú is all of these things. Though, the title that gets him the most attention is the last one.

Cantú, 32, author of “The Line Becomes a River,” sits outside the Starbucks on University Boulevard. The wind rocks the umbrella blocking the tense Tucson sun. It’s good to be back home.

From his thesis project to nationwide phenomenon, Cantú’s book has reached audiences far and wide. He’s just returned from a book tour overseas in the United Kingdom. Though, the journey hasn’t been without bumps.  

Cantú, a third generation Mexican American, is from Prescott, Arizona, where his mother worked as a park ranger. After studying U.S. and Mexican relations, Cantú wanted to see the border up close, so he joined the U.S. Border Patrol. He spent four years with the agency picking up the dead and taking undocumented migrants to detention centers.

One of the most harrowing instances from the book is when Cantú first witnesses his colleagues intentionally destroying lifesaving supplies in the scorching desert. “I watched as several of my classmates ripped and tore at the clothing, scattering it among the tangled branches of mesquite and palo verde,” he writes. “… others laughed loudly and stepped on a heap of food. Nearby, Hart giggled and shouted to us as he pissed on a pile of ransacked belongings.”

This wasn’t the last time this would happen.

After returning home, Cantú was haunted by his experience, so he coped the only way he knew how. He wrote. As he pursued a master’s degree at the University of Arizona in creative writing, he found clarity in chronicling his experience through critical analysis and self-reflection.

Cantú anticipated pushback, but never imagined it would come from the left. “There’s a lot of people who are like, ‘No you’re a cop we don’t need to listen to you,’” he says. “I think part of it is that migrant voices are the ones that should be heard, and I agree with that so it was strange that I agreed with a lot where the protesters were coming from.”

Activists asked two local bookstores to cancel his readings in San Francisco, arguing he is a cop who doesn’t deserve sympathy in a time of increased law enforcement involvement in deportation. In Austin, Texas, protests erupted as demonstrators believed Cantú to be a “traitor.”

“After coming home and having a little bit of distance from it I feel pretty grateful for the way that responding to that has made me think more critically and speak more critically about my work, and where it’s being positioned in this political landscape,” Cantú says. “That’s been a gift.”

When Cantú was studying creative writing at Arizona, he says everyone saw him as a writer. “The weirdest part of having the book come out is now all of a sudden the world is being introduced to me as a former border patrol agent,” he says. “Well, I left the Border Patrol like (four) years ago, so it’s like I have this whole other identity.”

Since stepping into the spotlight, Cantú has been interviewed more times than he can count. He’s talked on panels about immigration. The coverage has been constant. When President Donald Trump deployed the national guard to the border, people wanted Cantú to give his opinion, something he still can’t get used to these days.

“This weird thing happens when you publish a book, where all of sudden kind of overnight people look at you as kind of an expert,” he says. Cantú believes it’s problematic because there are advocates out there who know more about immigration than he does, especially immigrants themselves. He says they are the most affected as they risk their lives and live in fear of deportation everyday.

The cover of “The Line Becomes a River” by Francisco Cantú. (Courtesy of Glory Plata)

Cantú isn’t invested in debating or public speaking. “I think the best work I can possibly do is as a writer,” he says. He explore subjects more critically when he can flesh his thoughts out into words. “Writing is sort of antithetical to our culture of social media of instant reactions, instant response.”

The recent push for border security is nothing new to Cantú. When he was an undergraduate in college, the George W. Bush administration passed the Secure Fences Act of 2006 which called for construction of more border fencing along the Southern border. “We’re doing the same exact thing that we’ve done before, and we’re expecting different results,” he says. “Almost as if we do it bigger and louder that it will somehow change things.”

Though, the rhetoric toward immigrants has shifted recently. “We are being encouraged more than ever before to lump migrants into a big indistinguishable group of people like they’re one in the same,” Cantú says. Although there was about a 44 percent drop in migrants arrested along the border under the Trump administration, there was an increase in migrant deaths. Cantú believes people need to take this humanitarian issue into mind when crafting new policies.

Cantú says he had the opportunity to talk to community groups which has helped him learn more about their work and become more aware.

“I’m here because of the generosity of other writers who’ve been mentors to me or have talked about my work or recommended my work to others or put me in touch with different opportunities,” he says.

Now, he’d like to pay it forward and lead people to other work that doesn’t get such widespread attention. As a Spanish to English translator, Cantú thinks that’s how people get exposed to new cultures and ways of thinking.

In the future, Cantú sees himself exploring immigration and social justice issues through reflecting, reading, researching and creating a piece in either a magazine article, op-ed or possibly another book.

For now, he says, it’s good to be home.

Maritza Cruz is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at maritzacruz@email.arizona.edu.

 

 

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Understanding joint health can prevent and even improve arthritis

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Jessica Blackburn.

Atrophic arthritis x-ray showing marked atrophy, some destruction of bone and telescoping in some joints. (Photo by: American quarterly of roentgenology.)

Younger adults without arthritis can do a whole lot to prevent it, those living with arthritis can make adjustments — and those considering joint replacement surgery should be more curious about their treatment.

That’s advice from Dr. Michael Dohm, an orthopedic surgeon at Banner University Medical Center.

“Arthro means joint and itis means inflammation,” Dohm said. “You can get arthritis in any joint, but as far as surgeries go, 70 percent of them are for knee and hip replacements.”

This is because the knees and hips are the most weight-bearing joints in the body, he explained.

“That’s why younger people should know what good joint health is,” Dohm said. “Good nutrition helps. Avoiding carbonated beverages, caffeine and nicotine, which leach calcium from the body.”

This is no coincidence, since it has been shown that out of the millions of Americans living with arthritis, 49 percent have heart disease, 47 percent have diabetes and 31 percent are obese, according to the Arthritis Foundation. 

In fact, being even slightly overweight can increase exponentially the joint forces going through the weight-bearing joints, according to Dr. Lukas Tvedt of Athlon Physical Therapy.

“Arthritis might also be familial or genetic,” he said. “Or it might just be micro-traumas that happen over time. For example, someone who had an ACL surgery in their teens probably has a higher risk of incidents of arthritis down the road no matter what they do.”

Tvedt added that extreme obesity will start to cause degeneration of the hip joints. This dysfunction can predispose you to arthritis.

Dohm said younger people are able to mitigate these micro-traumas by making all-around healthier decisions in the kitchen and taking the time to work out on a regular basis since it promotes muscle strength and protects the joints.

“Paying attention to early supplementation of Vitamin D is also a good idea,” Dohm said. “You begin to lose calcium at age 35.”

A diagram showing a healthy knee joint and a knee joint with rheumatoid arthritis. (Photo by: A Lot About Health.)

But those living with arthritis in other joints can make similar exercise, nutritional and medicinal changes to try to mitigate the pain their arthritis is causing them.

“There are a lot of times where making proper changes can improve and resolve arthritis over time,” Dohm said. “It’s just a matter of doing the research. Taking the right medication can also help.”

For those considering joint replacement, taking the time to decide what’s best for their form of arthritis is important because there are so many elements and factors that go into a replacement, according to Dohm.

“There are lots of different ways to look at the primary problem,” he said.

Physical therapy, metal allergy testing and researching different forms of joint replacement surgery are good ways to identify what treatments might help people suffering from arthritis.

For example, in many cases, it is possible to do a partial knee replacement rather than a complete replacement, which is a more invasive procedure.

“Say it’s a problem with the ball (of the joint),” Dohm said. “There are some (surgeons) who just completely resurface the ball, but a newer idea is to do a small resurfacing of the socket and to put a cap at the end of the ball.”

This’s why, according to Dohm, patients should act more like the consumers that they are.

“Countless times, educated people come in wanting joint replacement surgery,” he said. “I recommend something, and they go with it. No questions asked.”

An audience finds their seats at Dr. Michael Dohm’s talk titled “Facts, Fads and Fiction About Joint Replacement Surgery” on April 4 at the Banner University Medical Center. (Photo by: Jessica Blackburn)

Rather than blindly trusting a physician, Dohm recommends asking questions regarding a surgeon’s experience, surgery time, recovery time and what components will be involved with the replacement.

Tvedt also noted that physical therapy is equally as important after surgery as before surgery.

“After surgery, the pain you had before doesn’t just go away,” he said. “In fact, it’s typically magnified because of the trauma from the surgery, so getting back into physical therapy will allow for proper retraining of the muscles that have been traumatized.”

Not only should those with arthritis consider different forms of treatment, but also the cost of treatment as well.

According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Health of America Report, the same knee-replacement procedure “could cost as little as $11,327 in Birmingham, Alabama, and as much as $73,987 in Boston, Massachusetts.”

According to Dohm, by asking questions and doing research, those suffering from arthritis, or any other medical condition, for that matter, will find the ideal treatment at the right price for them.

Jessica Blackburn is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at blackburnj3@email.arizona.edu. 

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

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