01-05-2017 Lakeland celebrates first baby; Proos reminds residents that home heating help may be ava

Lakeland celebrates first baby of the New Year

 The BirthPlace at Lakeland Hospital, Niles welcomed Southwest Michigan’s first baby of 2017 at 4:12 a.m. on Sunday, January 1. April Jacobs of Dowagiac is the proud new mother of daughter, Addison Jacobs. Baby Jacobs weighed in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces, and measured 19 inches long. In keeping with their annual tradition of celebrating the first baby of the year, the Lakeland Auxiliary provided the family with a gift basket full of baby items valued at $100.

The Lakeland Health system has delivered generations of Southwest Michigan residents, with 1,540 babies born in the St. Joseph and Niles hospitals within the last fiscal year. Lakeland is served by a team of 25 obstetrics and gynecology providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives.

In December of 2015, Lakeland Health became the first health system in the Midwest and one of eight in the nation to be awarded Perinatal Care Certification by The Joint Commission in recognition of the organization’s efforts to achieve integrated, coordinated, and patient-centered care for mothers and their newborns. For more information about the BirthPlace, visit www.lakelandhealth.org/birthplace.

Proos reminds residents that home heating help may be available

 Sen. John Proos encourages Southwest Michigan residents struggling with winter heating bills to take advantage of several assistance programs offered through the state, utility companies or charitable organizations.

“Although we have already seen that Michigan winters can be harsh and even deadly, it is never too late to remind area families that help with heating bills may be available,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “First, if you are unable to pay your bills, please contact the utility company ASAP and explain the situation. Being proactive could help keep the heat on and save your life.”

The Winter Protection Plan safeguards seniors and low-income gas and electric customers from service shutoffs and high utility bills from Nov. 1 to March 31. It allows eligible customers to avoid shutoffs while paying nothing or just a small percentage of their annual bill during the protection period. To apply, residents should contact their natural gas or utility company.

“This is a deferment plan; not a financial assistance program,” Proos said. “It is meant to ease the burden of high winter utility bills. However, immediate help may be available if you are facing an extreme hardship or emergency.”

The State Emergency Relief Program offers financial assistance for low-income residents who are normally able to make ends meet but may need help due to an unexpected emergency. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance.

“The site also includes information on the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Home Heating Credit,” Proos said. “In addition, many charity and community organizations have programs to help ensure that Southwest Michigan residents will not have to worry about how they are going to keep their families warm this winter.”

The Diocesan Heating Assistance Program will be available for aid beginning on January 4. The program provides heating assistance to residents in need who live within the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo region. Residents should contact their local parish to apply.

The Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency also offers emergency aid. Residents may learn more about the agency’s programs by visiting www.smcaa.com.

The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) is a leading provider of utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. For more information, visit www.thawfund.org.

Quit smoking with tobacco cessation support from Berrien County Health Department

 Many people may be making New Year’s resolutions to make 2017 the year they finally quit smoking. The Berrien County Health Department wants to help residents who are ready to quit smoking through the “Freedom From Smoking” program developed by the American Lung Association.

The Berrien County Health Department will host the “Freedom From Smoking” program on Tuesdays from 4:00-5:30 p.m. starting on Tuesday, January 3 through Tuesday, February 14, 2017. This seven-week program, held at the Berrien County Health Department office at 2149 E. Napier Ave. in Benton Harbor, only costs $10 to attend.

“Quitting smoking is one of the best things anyone can do for their health, and although those first steps can be hard, finding your path to a smoke-free life is easier with the right help,” said Kerri Teachout, Substance Abuse Prevention Supervisor at the Berrien County Health Department. “The only thing you need to bring with you to this class is a desire to quit smoking and improve your quality of life.”

Led by a certified facilitator, the program features a step-by-step plan for quitting smoking and transitioning to a smoke-free lifestyle. Each session is designed to help smokers gain control over their behavior, and because no single quit smoking plan is effective for all smokers, the program has a variety of evidence-based techniques for individuals to combine into their own plan to quit smoking. The clinic format also encourages participants to work on the process and problems of quitting, individually and as part of a group.

Those wishing to enroll in the program can contact Kerri Teachout at (269) 927-5668.

Winter reminder: Do not plow snow into the road

 Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is reminding residents to be careful as they plow snow. The two typical concerns are when residents and businesses plow their driveways or parking lots and push snow across the road, leaving snow or slush on the road surface, and when snow is piled up at the ends of driveways or along the road shoulder.

The Michigan Vehicle Code prohibits “the obstruction of safety vision by removal or deposit of snow, ice, or slush.”  This includes the end of driveways, where banked snow can reduce visibility for vehicles trying to enter the roadway.

“If road users can’t see because of snow banks piled up, this may cause an unsafe situation,” said Road Commission Managing Director Joanna Johnson.

Leaving a trail of snow on the pavement while plowing across the road also can cause problems; the snow can become packed and create ridges on the road, or, as temperatures change, the area can become icy.

“Careless plowing creates an added hazard to unsuspecting motorists and to road maintenance personnel,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle.

It also is important to remember that local ordinances may require residents and businesses to keep sidewalks clear of snow, which is important for pedestrians.