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VA considering starting a shelter for homeless veterans in the Black Hills

The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps that could lead to a shelter for homeless veterans opening later this year in either Rapid City or Sturgis.

According to a “request for information” that was posted Tuesday on the website, the VA is seeking to identify potential contractors to operate the shelter.

The facility needs to have 10 to 12 beds, house clients for 60 to 90 days, and provide case-management services that would prepare homeless veterans to live independently, said Teresa Forbes, the public affairs officer for the VA Black Hills Health Care System. She added that the request for information is a “very initial step to see if there are interested parties.”

The listing on the website says the VA will likely solicit bids in July with plans to open the shelter by no later than Sept. 30.

Forbes said "point in time" homeless counts from 2016 to 2018 in Rapid City have shown the need for a shelter that will help transition veterans from the streets to permanent housing. In those three years, the number of homeless veterans was 51, 53 and 50 respectively.

The facility would be expected to provide, for example, mental-health services, alcohol treatment and life-skills training, Forbes said. Those who successfully complete the program could then seek housing vouchers from the VA or the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The contractor also "would need to provide the physical location" for the facility, Forbes said.

Matthew Dale, a contract specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said he will review the responses to the request for information, also referred to as “sources sought.”

“A big reason why we use a sources sought is to hear back from potential sources in the area to determine what capabilities exist in the community,” he said in an email. “It’s also an opportunity for interested parties to contact me with questions they may have about the procurement; sometimes those conversations also result in clarifications and/or changes to the solicitation.”

The deadline to respond to the VA's request for information is March 11, but Dale encourages those interested to respond by March 4.

"The reason for this difference is to allow for time to make revisions if needed to the sources sought should someone ask a question that leads to identifying something that needs to be changed," he said in the email.

Those interested in replying to the request for information or that have questions, should send an email to Matthew.Dale3@va.go.

Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Competitors warm up before the start of the second session of wrestling Friday during the first day of the 2019 South Dakota Class A and B State Wrestling Championships at Barnett Arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Riley Williams, left, of Lennox, wrestles Jace Bench-Bresher, of Pierre, in the 126-pound weight class.

Rapid City cardiologist saves the day for child in distress on airplane

A girl whose vacation took a turn for the worse was fortunate to be on a passenger jet with K. John Heilman III, a Rapid City cardiologist who came to her rescue.

The 10-year-old was returning home to Minnesota after a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 16. The girl suffers from severe congenital disabilities. Heilman, the governor of the South Dakota Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, had been in Orlando at an ACC Leadership Conference. He works at Regional Heart and Vascular Institute.

On Delta Flight 1761 back to Minneapolis, the child began struggling to breathe and was turning purplish, Heilman said. Because of the severity of her health problems, she has a home ventilator and a permanent tracheostomy tube to help her breathe. The child and her mother were traveling with a home health care nurse. When the girl showed signs of more severe distress, a flight attendant made an announcement asking whether any physicians were on board, Heilman said.

“I ran up to see what was going on,” said Heilman, adding that in his 32-year career as a cardiologist this was the first time he’d ever needed to assist a fellow traveler in medical distress.

The girl’s oxygen level and heart rate were very low, Heilman said.

“I think she probably had what we call a heart block; a very slow heart beat,” he said. “We took her to a place on the plane where we could lay her on the floor and give her oxygen.”

With the help of flight attendants and a pediatric-certified nurse anesthetist who happened to be on the plane, Heilman used an Ambu-bag to administer oxygen through the girl’s tracheostomy tube. To assist in monitoring the girl’s heart rate, Heilman asked if any of the passengers had Kardia Mobile, an app for iPhones and Androids that is an FDA-approved EKG monitor. No one did, so Heilman and his impromptu medical team monitored the child’s pulse and vital signs through the remainder of the flight.

Her condition seemed stable, Heilman said, so when the flight crew asked him whether the plane should continue to Minneapolis or land sooner so the girl could receive medical treatment, Heilman advised them to go to Minneapolis.

“She lives in Minnesota, and she gets her medical care there,” he said. “The crew took us in pretty quick and had paramedics meet her at the airport.

“The flight attendants were excellent. They were well-trained and a big help,” Heilman said.

Heilman doesn’t know how the girl fared after that, but he said his unexpectedly eventful flight is a reminder that emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere.

Anyone having health problems while traveling should ask for help or seek medical attention. If you’re traveling and you see someone else in distress, push the call button for the flight attendant and seek help immediately, Heilman said.

“Stay in your seat and follow the instructions of flight attendants. We don’t want people up in the aisles blocking the way,” said Heilman, noting that the passengers on Delta Flight 1761 were cooperative while the child was receiving medical help.

“I think for doctors, nurses, paramedics, we never know when we’re going to have to use our skills. It just goes to show you never know when you’ll put your training to use,” he said.

Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Wrestlers listen as the national anthem is performed before the competition begins.

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Man accused of murder, arson in apparent ax killing

Two years after a man was found dead from an apparent ax attack in a home destroyed by fire in Allen, a man has been accused of murdering him and setting the fire. 

Emery Arapahoe III was indicted this week at the federal courthouse in Rapid City on charges of second-degree murder, arson, first-degree burglary and larceny related to the Oct. 16, 2017, death of 24-year-old Ray Waters Jr.

Arapahoe is accused of entering the home of Nathaniel Waters  — who pleaded guilty last month to lying about covering up the killing of Ray, his nephew — in order to assault and kill Ray with a "sharp blunt object," according to the indictment. Arapahoe is also accused of setting Nathaniel's home on fire and stealing a pickup truck owned by One Spirit, a nonprofit that helps the Lakota people. 

In addition to the alleged murder case, Arapahoe was indicted on two separate cases, each involving assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in a serious injury. In one case, he's accused of attacking a man with a fence post and a heavy blunt object, and stomping on him April 22, 2017, near Pine Ridge. In the other case, he's accused of kicking another man on Nov. 1, 2017, near Kyle. 

Though the indictment is the only document filed in the murder case, more details are known about the alleged attack due to Nathaniel Waters' case. 

Law enforcement officers responded to a fire at Nathaniel's home around 6 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2017, and found Ray "charred" inside the living room, according to a factual basis document signed by Nathaniel. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that the blaze wasn't an accident and began where Ray was found. After conducting an autopsy, a forensic pathologist found that Ray was dead before the fire began.

The pathologist found that Ray had skull fractures and cuts to his neck that were likely caused by an ax, the document says. A day after the fire, Nathaniel called the owner of a truck that crashed near his home — likely the stolen truck mentioned in Arapahoe's indictment — and asked if he found and removed a green ax. The owner did find a bloody ax that his son had removed. A test later revealed that the blood belonged to Ray.

Nathaniel's indictment says a juvenile was accused of second-degree murder for killing Ray. Arapahoe's indictments do not list his age so it's unclear if he was the juvenile and charged as an adult, if there is another suspect who is a juvenile, or if the juvenile is no longer a suspect. 

Arapahoe is now being held at the Pennington County Jail. He is not yet scheduled for a court date, however.