WUFT News

Flagler County Artist Developing Documentary On Community

By on August 4th, 2015 | Last updated: August 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm
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Jenica Frederickson paints an original work called “Dream Land.” The artist is also  teacher at Matanza High School and volunteers at the local theater. Photo courtesy of Jenica Frederickson.

Jenica Frederickson says nothing is more important than community and family. And she’s finding people who share that same passion.

The Flagler County-based artist and teacher is developing a documentary on how students and teachers define community.

Frederickson, 36, teaches theater at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast, Florida, and owns an art company called House of Hen. Because most of her students will be graduating in the coming year, she said, she felt the time was right to start working on her film.

Her subjects come from an array of backgrounds including English teachers, artists and a social psychologist.

The theme of community rose around the time of the 2015 riots in Baltimore. She said her father is from Baltimore so she has a deep connection to the city.

“People need to feel love, safety and understanding, she said. “If you feel disconnected from your community, you’re not concerned about what happens to it.” 

So far, she has conducted eight interviews for her film. Most of the social and identity problems her subjects faced stemmed from a lack of those feelings.

Because she is surrounded by the point of views of artists, teachers and healers, she said she wants to gather their experiences into one cohesive film.

For the film, she is also accepting video submissions with subjects answering her questions. She said these interviews include questions about community and how to create a sense of ownership.

Some of the questions focus on definitions of community, how to reinforce the sense of togetherness, and how to create and nurture lasting relationships with people.

Although she is focused on positivity, some of Frederickson’s subjects and film assistants come from troubled families and hardships.

And those problems were not easily remedied.

Troubles At Home

Leslie Rouser, a 26-year-old Chicago resident and Frederickson’s cousin, has experienced homelessness twice.

But it wasn’t because she couldn’t make rent. Because she is a transgender woman, Rouser said, she was discriminated against and evicted from two homes.

She met two other transgender women and stayed with them until she was able to find a job as an executive assistant at TransTech Social Enterprises, a creative design firm.

Now she has her own place.

As she became more involved in the transgender community, Rouser realized that she was not alone.

“I had this community that cared about me selflessly,” she said.

This came through in her interview for the film. Rouser said her favorite contribution she made to the project was answering questions about community because of the positive effects people who helped her cope with her problems had on her life.

She hopes the project will teach people to be more compassionate.

Rouser wasn’t the only interviewee who endured difficulties. One young man dealt with death.

Justin Punsalan, a 19-year-old Palm Coast resident, has worked for Frederickson’s company for about two years. His mother died from cancer when he was an infant. Life got harder when his father died in January. 

He said the best part of working on the documentary is the family aspect. Frederickson builds a safe and open environment that makes people feel comfortable enough with each other to share their own opinions.  

The film will focus on the connection between people and their communities and how they cope in trying circumstances. For Punsalan, these themes are reflected in how the group meetings on the film also serve as activities that bring participants closer together, he said. 

The story’s impact will help people to become more in tune with their community.

Obstacles And The Project’s Future

Despite the project’s development, there are still some obstacles in the way of reaching the finish line.

Issues include subjects who are long distance and have busy schedules. Often, Frederickson will facilitate Skype interviews with them. She has reached out to members of the community through her school work and networking through artistic friends.

Eventually, she wants to get the documentary on Public Broadcasting Service.

As of now, she doesn’t have a title for the project. Her short-term goals involve finishing the film and launching it locally.  She wants to have it shown at film screenings and raise more funds. 

But as far as money goes, Frederickson said assembling the project doesn’t cost anything but time. She has been using her own equipment, including cameras and computers.

Because the idea for the film is new and different, she said people tend to have less faith.

In light of some these doubts, she remains optimistic.

“When people haven’t seen something, they think it doesn’t exist,” she said. “But that’s not the case with creative minds.”

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Thousands Sign Initiative To Get Florida Marijuana On 2016 Ballot

By on August 4th, 2015 | Last updated: August 4, 2015 at 1:17 pm

The Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions initiative is making progress toward the 2016 November ballot.

United for Care, a campaign run by People United for Medical Marijuana, is working to turn the 15-01 ballot initiative into a Florida constitutional amendment.

The group turned in 100,000 signatures last week from Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Duval counties, according to Ben Pollara, United for Care campaign manager.

The campaign needs 683,149 validated signatures by Jan. 1, 2016 to get on the ballot.

The vote to pass a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana last November fell short by about 3 percent.

State law requires a 60 percent majority or higher for a ballot initiative, Pollara said.

He said United Care believes the chances of achieving the required 60 percent approval is greater this year than last. They anticipate higher voter participation because the upcoming vote is during a presidential election.

The campaign also has 13,000 volunteers, which is 1,000 more than last year, Pollara said.

Calvin Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, said he is not surprised by the campaign’s early boost in numbers. The campaign turned in all the validated signatures on time last year.

Fay said the Foundation is not fighting the ballot because they want to prevent people from using marijuana privately for limited medical conditions. She said people should be more worried about the marijuana drug industry the amendment would bring.

“Even if the amendment passed, it does not change the fact that marijuana is an addictive and harmful drug,” she said.

Signatures are usually sent to the Supervisor of Elections office in large quantities.

Duval County received 7,100 petitions in the first batch on July 27, said Beth Fleet, director of candidates and records at the Duval County Supervisor of Elections office.

Marion, Levy and Alachua counties have not yet received any signatures, according to the supervisor of elections offices for those counties.

But a large number of petitions could still be sent to those counties within the following weeks, according to Pollara.

“The Gainesville area is mostly populated by students,” Pollara said. “We expect the signage rate to spike this fall.”

All signatures must be validated by the County Supervisor of Elections by Feb. 1, 2016.

The validated signatures will then be handed to the Florida Divisions of Elections in Tallahassee.

Once the divisions of elections receives 683,149 validated signatures, a Supreme Court Review will make the final decision on whether the amendment will be on the 2016 ballot.

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Woman Launches Facebook Page For Those Facing Medical Difficulties

By on August 4th, 2015 | Last updated: August 4, 2015 at 9:22 am

The long scar running up Carly Strange’s stomach is a daily reminder that an abdominal birth defect nearly took her life.

Strange, a 27-year-old mother of three, was born with gastroschisis. Her intestines formed outside her body.

In May, she created a Facebook page called “The Many Faces of a Survivor.” She said she wanted families facing medical difficulties to have an outlet, so they don’t feel so alone.

Strange takes portraits for free of people dealing with disabilities, disorders, diseases or other struggles and shares their story on the page.

Her goal is to make everyone feel beautiful despite the scaring and wounds from medical treatments. She said she never wants anyone to feel self-conscious like she did growing up.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about,” she said.

Finding Comfort

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Carly Strange’s portrait of Primrose Galloway, 11, who suffers from pulmonary atresia, a form of congenital heart disease. Photo courtesy of Carly Strange.

One of the first portraits Strange took was of 11-month-old Primrose Galloway. Primrose was diagnosed with pulmonary atresia, a form of congenital heart disease. The right side of her heart muscle did not form correctly and is unable to pump blood to her lungs.

She had open-heart surgery when she was two weeks old, and she will likely need two more heart surgeries before she’s 16, said her mother, Kayla Galloway.

“When I was pregnant with Primrose I didn’t have anyone,” she said. “When you’re all alone you fall in this deep depression.”

Galloway said she found comfort in Strange’s social media page. Primrose’s story received positive reactions from posters.

“Its really important to know that there are people out there like you that go through the same struggles,” she said.

Fighting to Survive

Strange’s most recent portrait is Shane Owens, 30, who suffers from lymphedema, a life-threatening disorder brought on by a blockage in the lymphatic system that causes swelling in his legs.

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Carly Strange took pictures of Shane Owens to help him raise $1,200 for leg treatment kits. Owens suffers from lymphedema. Photo courtesy of Carly Strange.

Owens finds some relief by wrapping both legs with bandages. But he said that is only a temporary solution.

“It’s not easy being like this,” he said.

Owens has less than five years to live if he is not treated. His insurance won’t cover the leg treatment kits that could save his life.

The leg kits cost about $2,300. He has enough money for one leg kit, but doctors must treat both legs at the same time. The other leg kit costs $1,200. He’s raised $125 so far.

Strange is helping Owens share his story on Facebook and set up a GoFundMe page to raise the funds for his medical treatment.

Owens said he enjoyed having his picture taken and tries to stay positive. He’s said he’s taking it day-by-day.

“Just keep your head up,” he said. “Tell yourself it’s going to be okay.”

The Journey Continues

Strange said she will continue to spread awareness of survivors and give families an outlet through her photography company, FamilyTrees.

“Everyone is so different and has something to share,” she said.

Her only regret: Wishing she started sooner.

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Wild Waters Phase-Out Plan Upsets Visitors

By on August 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: August 3, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Carl Goldman remembers going to Wild Waters in Ocala, Fla., for the first time when he was 6 years old.

The Ocala native went to the water park with his parents and siblings almost once a week during the summertime. Goldman said he remembers screaming as he zipped down the swirly water slides, running around until there were blisters on the bottoms of his feet and getting sunburned so badly he would refuse to wear a shirt for days.

But after the summer of 2016, there’s a chance that all Goldman will have left of Wild Waters are the Polaroid pictures his mom took and the scars on the bottom of his foot from the blisters.

Wild Waters, which opened in April of 1978, is now owned by the state of Florida. The Silver Springs advisory group suggested the water park be phased out over time, said Jason Mahon, spokesman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 

The department has a few concerns. Wild Waters pumps out more than 2 million gallons of water per month from the City of Ocala’s supply before circulating it in the water park and disposing of it through the sewer system, Mahon said.

“This is seen (as) counterproductive to the overall goal of protecting and restoring the Silver Springs,” Mahon said. “Removing the water park will allow a wide range of aesthetic enhancements, as well as promote future recreational and economic opportunity.”

However, Jim DeBerry, the water park’s general manager, remains optimistic about the future of the park.

Wild Waters is in agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to revisit the phase-out plan come summer 2016 if DeBerry and the rest of the water park’s management follow the department’s suggestions. The goal is to minimize the amount of water being used and to make the park an ecotourism spot.

DeBerry said he believes as long as the community and visitors who want Wild Waters to stick around come out and support the park, it will be around for years to come.

Recently, the water park developed a “save, sanitize, filtrate and recirculate” program, which DeBerry said will save water. The park also implemented a new recycling program while adding new attractions and educational programs.

“We are growing with the times,” DeBerry said. “We believe we have become a smarter park to the environment…”

Anthony and Karen Edwards are fighting the phasing out of Wild Waters in the form of a petition.

The two have been taking their 11-year-old son to the water park for nine years.

Around March of last year, Anthony and Karen Edwards were trying to figure out when Wild Waters would be opening for summer. It was then that they read the news: The Silver Springs advisory group suggested their favorite water park be phased out.

Palace Entertainment, which formerly owned and operated Wild Waters, got out of their contract and left the water park under state ownership in October 2013, Mahon said.

Anthony and Karen Edwards started a Facebook page and a website to express their frustration. They also started a petition to keep Wild Waters open, and it now more than 3,000 signatures.

“This is our state. This is our water park,” Anthony Edwards said. “We’re supposed to have democracy. People are supposed to be listening.”

But the advisory group has plans to turn the land where the water park currently sits into an ecotourism spot equipped with trails and a swimming hole.

“This is what the state wants,” Anthony Edwards said. “They don’t give a damn about the people.”

Anthony Edwards and other park-goers now have to pay a $4 state park fee in addition to the water park’s admission fees.

Meanwhile, members of the advisory group agreed the focus would be on the protection and restoration of Silver Springs while providing nature-based recreation, Mahon said.

The advisory group and the department came to an agreement that a swimming area can be recreated at the head of the spring in a manner that does not interfere with the glass-bottom boat tours, he said.

When the park is able to provide swimming, it is recommended that Wild Waters be phased out.

During the phase-out period, Allstate Construction Inc. was hired to make repairs and improvements to Wild Waters. This is so the park can be open to the public during the summer seasons on a short-term basis until the swimming area in Silver Springs is opened, Mahon said. Then the plan will be revisited.

Sad to see a treasured childhood memory be considered for closure, Goldman said he plans on going to Wild Waters as much as possible this summer.

“It’ll be a bummer if it really does close,” he said. “There are a lot of good memories there.”

But if it does close, Goldman said, he’ll still have the memories, the Polaroid pictures and the scar on the bottom of his foot.

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Weekend Flooding Affects An Estimated 200 Homes

By and on August 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: August 4, 2015 at 11:57 am

Mark Teeple is worried about returning to his trailer in Cross City after the flooding from this weekend’s storms, which brought three feet of water into his home.

His trailer’s electrical box is sitting in the baseboard and is completely covered in water. He knows that just a spark of static electricity could cause problems.

“I’m not worried about the water, it’s the electric I’m worried about,” Teeple said.

Maj. Scott Harden of the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office said about 200 homes and 50 streets and roads have flooded from rain over the weekend.

“Over 48 hours throughout the weekend, we had a little over 15 inches of rain,” Harden said. “The ground was already saturated from the rain through the days leading up to that and it just didn’t have anywhere to go.”

He said Emergency Management Services has assisted residents who live along the Steinhatchee River basin out of their homes.

So far, Teeple has been the only flood refugee at the American Red Cross temporary shelter in Cross City at the Trail Rider’s Club.

He said he arrived at Cross City from Clearwater in January and doesn’t know anyone in town, but his neighbor told about the shelter.

Sandra Klecka, sheltering lead for the American Red Cross of North Central Florida, said residents have called and said they planned on coming to the shelter to escape their flooded homes, but Teeple is the only one who showed up.

“In rural counties, they just find someone they know with a room to put them up in,” she said.

Teeple said the Red Cross was going to check on his trailer later today and let him know when it might be safe for him to return.

Sonja Reed, owner of Reedville Rentals off Southeast Highway 19, is also waiting as the Dixie County Fire Department assesses damages to her properties.

Reed said 14 of her homes are flooded, including her two-story log cabin built in 1912. She said when the water came down the turnoff it looked like a rapid.

She believes the flooding is due to the higher elevation of the highway and the Dixie County Emergency Operation Center, which were constructed years after her properties.

“My issue with this is…we would not have been turned into a water retention pond had the state not designed their road and their turnoff to run their water over on us,” she said.

WRUF Meteorologist Jeff Huffman said the flooding was caused by a persistent area of low pressure sitting just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Thankfully, satellite and radar data has confirmed that it is finally moving to the northeast and should pull away from the state by Tuesday,” Huffman said.

Harden said residents have been handling the situation well, with friends and family helping one another out. Over 5,000 sandbags have been picked up from the county yard.

“I just hope that for everybody who’s been affected that they come out of it with very little damage,” Reed said.

 

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‘The Hunt’ Suspect Megan Everett Captured In Florida

By on August 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: August 3, 2015 at 4:53 pm

By Catherine E. Shoichet

Megan Elizabeth Everett, 23, was arrested by law enforcement officials in Palatka for kidnapping her 3-year-old daughter, Lilly Abigail Baumann. Courtesy of CNN

(CNN) — Megan Everett, a Florida mom who’s accused of kidnapping her daughter, is behind bars, a day after CNN’s “The Hunt with John Walsh” told her story.

A landlady who saw the show Sunday night called in a tip when she recognized the mother and daughter were tenants in a rental property she owns south of Palatka, Florida, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said.

That led deputies to the home, where they spotted the mother and daughter inside.

Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies and special agents from the FBI arrested the 23-year-old mother. She’s been booked into the Putnam County Jail on charges of kidnapping, interference with custody and concealing a minor contrary to court order. She’ll be extradited to Broward County, Florida, where there’s a warrant for her arrest, the FBI said.

Everett’s daughter, 3-year-old Lilly Abigail Baumann, was recovered unharmed and is in protective custody, authorities said.

Everett’s arrest comes more than a year after she left behind a note at the home of her boyfriend, telling him she’d fled with her daughter: “Dear C, If I let them take her and vaccinate her and brainwash her, I wouldn’t be doing what’s right. I cannot let a judge tell me how my daughter should be raised. We will miss you, but I had to leave. I know she will be safer and happier with my family and I. Love, Meg and Lilly.”

The girl’s father, Robert Baumann, told CNN he’d been searching for his daughter ever since, and was worried about what would happen if his daughter needed medical assistance.

“I think if something was to happen to my daughter, I don’t think Megan’s going to go and seek medical attention,” he said. “I don’t think she’s going to do anything to help the child.”

“I want my daughter to be found,” he said. “I want my daughter to be safe.”

CNN’s Sean Redlitz, Rebecca Kutler and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.

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August 3, 2015: News In 90

By on August 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: August 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm


Ryan Roberts produced this update.

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Physics Bus Rolls Into Gainesville To Spark Creativity and Science

By on August 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: August 3, 2015 at 2:18 pm
Physics Bus Gainesville has hosted events around the area to connect people with science. “It supports our mission to make science accessible to everyone and to bridge the gap,” said Medina.

Physics Bus Gainesville hosts events around the area to connect people with science. “It supports our mission to make science accessible to everyone and to bridge the gap,” said Amber Medina, co-director of education for Physics Bus Gainesville.  Jessica Pereda / WUFT

The big blue bus rolling through the backroads of North Central Florida isn’t just transporting students.

It’s changing lives with science.

On one side of the bus’ interior, energy races up the length of two contacting wires making a Jacob’s Ladder.  On the other, a tube made of plastic contains a tornado. And if the sun is just right, a plastic TV screen can heat the sidewalk enough to bake cookies on it.

Physics Bus Gainesville rolled into town this spring to pique interest in physics. The non-profit organization targets children of all ages, but adults are also encouraged to partake in experiments. Hair dryers, microwaves and old projector TVs became instruments to teach onlookers about the basic theories of physics.

Co-director of the Physics Bus, 23-year-old Amber Medina, said the main job of the bus is to engage and spark creativity in whomever steps onto the bright blue bus.

“Our mission is to support sustainability, creativity, community and science,” Medina said. “Science is not just like, five dudes in a room with a lab coat, you know, staring at a beaker.”

Alachua County had a 49 percent passing rate last year in science for students in the 8th grade, according to the Florida Department of Education.

Jamie Aulton, a teacher at W. A. Metcalfe Elementary School, invited the Physics Bus to the school to perform science demonstrations to the students in June.

“I get really excited because with science in public schools. There’s not enough hands-on resources,” she said.

Medina said Physic Bus’ first attempt to branch out was in the Hawthorne area, but hopefully the bus will soon be able to go around smaller towns in North Central Florida, like High Springs and Waldo.

“There’s not a lot of money for museums in these small towns, so that what we’re here for,” Medina said, “It supports our mission to make science accessible to everyone and to bridge the gap.”

During the Physics Bus pop-up event in downtown Gainesville earlier this summer, co-director Chris Discenza, a Ph.D.  student at the University of Florida, used a plastic tube and a stereo to show how sound waves can make plastic beads dance.

The homemade materials are designed to be relatable and easy to understand so that a professor, student or even a child can teach others, Discenza said.

“I feel like a kid learning stuff from another kid is gonna be a bit better than me explaining and using big words, which I try not to do,” he said.

“Physics is this really scary word that people associate with equations and letters they’ve never seen,” Medina said, “They don’t really know the technical words they need to use to describe things.”

Erik Herman, Chris Discenza and Kip Perkins founded the organization in 2003 after helping with science demonstrations while they attended the University of Arizona.

Herman said the group recognized how science could be intimidating and tried to find a way to remedy that.

“We kind of needed a play area to kind of express ourselves using physics in a fun and creative way,” he said.

An Indiegogo campaign allowed Herman to raise more than $6,000 to buy two buses. One stayed in Ithaca, New York, and one was brought to Gainesville when he heard his co-founder, Discenza, was attending UF.

Medina joined shortly afterward as co-director of the Gainesville initiative.

Discenza recognized how Gainesville and surrounding areas would benefit from another science resource in the area.

One of Physics Bus’ missions is to inspire curiosity in the community. But it’s struggling to fuel the bus when its only source of income is what the two directors put into the project out of their own pockets.

The non-profit is waiting on a grant from the American Physical Society  for $9,000. But the grant won’t take them a long way, Medina said.

The directors hope to continue with their mission regardless of the financial outlook.

“We just want to get kids to build things and spark some creativity when they walk on the bus,” Medina said.

 

They have plans to connect with robotics clubs in public schools and tour surrounding rural areas where science is less readily available, according to Medina. The first step toward this is building awareness.

Chase Floyd, 12, played with the blender bike and the old tv screen that works as a lens at the pop-up event in downtown Gainesville. The first-time visitor to the Physics Bus said he was excited to try out the exhibits and see how they worked.

“I don’t know, I think it’s really cool,” he said.

Floyd runs his finger over the plasma globe to control the forks of crackling energy inside the glass sphere. He calls his brother, Joseph Floyd, 10, to try out the device.

“The value is in the everyday. It’s seeing something greater than what’s in front of you,” Medina said. “(The children) just instantly know there is more to the world than what is right in front of your face.”

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HIV Bill Establishes New Patient Screening Routine

By on August 3rd, 2015 | Last updated: August 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Florida House Bill 321 is bringing HIV testing out of the shadows. 

Signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on June 10 and put into effect on July 1, HB 321 streamlines the process of HIV testing in medical settings and establishes it as routine by requiring patients to explicitly opt out of screening, rather than opting in.

“Before this bill, people sometimes were asked (by their doctors), ‘Do you want to be tested for HIV?’ and interpreted it as an indictment that they had been involved in risky behavior,” said Florida Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D), who co-sponsored HB 321.

Consultations thereafter look like this: Weight/height? Check. Blood pressure? Check. Blood work for heart disease, cholesterol — and HIV?

Check.

According to Michael Ruppal, executive director of the AIDS Institute, HIV’s taboo past has faded but not disappeared.

The stigma that surrounds the disease contributes to its spread, he said, because of the hypersensitivity of broaching the subject of HIV screening. HB 321 eliminates the metaphorical eggshells.

David W. Poole, director of legislative affairs of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Southern Bureau, argues that the stigma presently attached to HIV is a result of the criminal penalties of transmitting the disease.

Despite the fact that contracting HIV is no longer a sure death sentence, as it was 20 years ago when it first broke out, “criminal laws in the state have not been updated to reflect that,” Poole said.

According to ProPublica, at least 35 states have criminal laws that punish HIV-positive people for exposing others to the virus. In Florida, it can be a felony crime to transmit HIV to others without consent of contact. 

“All it does is increase stigma,” Poole said. “It will drive people underground and they will be less reticent to get tested.”

Thompson said the bill’s bipartisan origins — it was also sponsored by Republican House Representative Bryan Avila — indicates a consensus that HIV is a problem in Florida.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2013 with 5,377 HIV-positive results statewide. 

Trailing behind Florida in new HIV diagnoses are California (5,334) and Texas (4,854).

Florida has the smallest population of the three states. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Florida had a population of about 19.6 million people in 2013, while California had 38.4 million and Texas had 26.5 million.

Florida, however, leads the nation in HIV-testing efforts, according to Mara Burger, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health.

Indeed, CDC reports show that Florida conducted the largest number of HIV tests in CDC-funded facilities in 2011, the last year for which it has a comprehensive national report. Florida conducted more than 417,000 HIV tests in 2011, with the runner-up, Texas, conducting 266,929.

Getting tested is one of the most important steps in preventing HIV, Burger said. It informs patients of their status and helps them modify their lifestyle accordingly.

HB 321, however, does not require providers to test for HIV.

“It’s not a bill that says, ‘All providers are going to test for HIV every year.’ That would be a dream,” Ruppal said. “But from a privacy standpoint, patients should always have the option to opt out of anything.”

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Flooding Forces Dixie County Residents From Homes

By on August 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: August 4, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Steinhatchee and Cross City are two communities known for their appeal to water enthusiasts all over the state, but on Saturday it was too much of a good thing.

In less than 24 hours, seven inches of rain accumulated in Cross City and 10 to 12 inches were reported to have fallen in far western sections of Dixie County. As of Sunday afternoon, Dixie County emergency crews have already rescued seven people from the flood waters near Cross City, including an entire family from their home.

A shelter has been set up at Trail Rider’s Club in Cross City for people forced to leave their homes.

Emergency Management Division Chief Scott Garner says 45 homes have been flooded and 30 to 35 roads are impassable.

“Our roads and grounds have been saturated for the past month of constant rain, and this was just a large amount of water that we couldn’t handle,” Garner added.

Three different types of flooding have occurred or are ongoing in Dixie and Taylor Counties. The most serious is flash flooding, where rapid rises in water from nearby creeks and streams can flood roads and homes with little warning.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee warned residents Saturday evening that intense rainfall rates could submerge cars and homes, and that’s just what many woke up to by Sunday morning.

“An inland flooding event such as this is really a ‘no notice’ event. We’re responding to it like a tropical storm,” Garner said. “We haven’t had this issue in the past with non-tropical systems.”

The runoff from all of this water is also likely to cause significant flooding along the Steinhatchee River, with the National Weather Service predicting a crest more than three feet above flood stage on Monday.

At this level, numerous homes in the Ancient Oaks and Cooey Island neighborhoods will be flooded and many roads impassable.  Minor flooding could also occur along the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers in the coming days, especially if additional heavy rain falls.

The third type of flooding that has been advised to watch out for is coastal flooding. A strong wind over the shallow waters of the northeast Gulf of Mexico has resulted in a sea level rise of up to two feet above normal, which could cause minor flooding at times of high tide along the Nature Coast until this weather disturbance dissipates or moves away.

Meteorologist Jeff Huffman says a stalled front and weak area of low pressure is to blame for the flooding, and that something like this can happen anywhere in the state.

“It doesn’t have to be a tropical storm or hurricane to cause this type of flooding. Residents of Pasco County got it last weekend, and until this front moves away, the risk of flooding could continue across parts of the state.”

Katie Moore, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, says there may be some good news in the forecast over the coming days.

“We’re expecting the current rain to subside this evening, and it should be drier for a couple of days after that. However, going into next weekend, another frontal system coming in from the northwest could stall out, resulting in a similar situation to what we’re dealing with today.”

The UF Weather Team and WUFT News will continue monitoring the situation along Florida’s Nature Coast and provide updates on WUFT-FM and WRUF-TV. If you see flooding and can safely report it, please use #WeatherTogether on social media or email it to news@wuft.org.

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