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Pastor on church shootings: 'We gotta start fighting back'

BOX ELDER | Sixty vehicles sitting in the parking lot of a Box Elder church early afternoon Friday was the first indication something interesting was going on inside. Another was that people paid between $99 and $159 to be there.

Inside the worship hall of Outreach Community Church, Barry Young was speaking to an audience of about 80 people.

“Police enforce laws, put bad guys in jail. Church security does something completely opposite,” he said. “What do we do? Secure a building, and put bad guys where? In heaven.”

Young, a Missouri pastor and vice president at Strategos security training/consulting firm, was conducting a seminar on how churches can respond to threats in the face of church shootings around the country.

His talk included advice on organizing a “church security ministry,” congregants who will come up with the church’s security policy, making decisions like whether there should be armed members to engage active shooters. Members need to exhibit certain qualities, such as a “servant heart but a warrior mindset,” as well as pass background checks and undergo a formal interview.

A fellow trainer passed out a list of a dozen suggested interview questions, such as: What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you think you could take the life of another person if the situation justified it? Although not likely, you understand you could lose your life taking this responsibility. Have you discussed this with your wife and family?

The seminar attendees came not just from West and East River, but from Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming, said Box Elder Police Department Lt. Chris Misselt, who helped organize the event.

Misselt said the two-day seminar, which continues today, is the first church security training to be conducted in the Black Hills. “No one else was doing it, so we did,” he said in an interview on the seminar’s sidelines.

The participants included Beth Strain, administrator at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City. She came in a group of about 20 people to find out how the parish could put together its own security team, Strain said.

Andrew Novak and Josh Mueller, who traveled from Yankton, hoped to learn the same things on behalf of their Restore Church.

The day’s audience was bigger than the seminar’s usual 20 to 50 attendees, Young told the Journal. The church shooting in Texas last month, in which 25 people were killed, increased the demand for the Strategos training program, he said.

Young said attackers typically stay away from churches that can put up a defense because they’re looking for victims, not people who can fight back.

Since 1999, he said, church attacks in the United States have been on the rise, but the majority of churches are in “denial” that they could become targets.

At the recent Texas church shooting, he told seminar attendees, the gunman fired 400 rounds and none came from a church member.

“Be ready for a gun battle,” Young said. “We gotta start fighting back. It is not a sin to protect ourselves. It is a sin to kill innocent people.”

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Panel calls for reducing opioid usage in SD

PIERRE | Medicaid patients in South Dakota should receive fewer prescriptions for opioids, an advisory panel of medical doctors and pharmacists recommended Friday.

Twenty-four people died from opioid overdoses during 2015 in South Dakota. Opioids are painkillers such as fentanyl and oxycodone that can be addictive.

Two state agencies in South Dakota are using federal grants to develop anti-addiction strategies. A national commission on opioid abuse recently issued some four dozen recommendations to President Trump.

Members of the South Dakota committee on Friday unanimously supported a longer period between refills for Medicaid patients. They also called for the state Department of Social Services to begin "peer to peer" counseling for physicians who prescribed unusual amounts of opioids.

“That’s something we can start next week,” responded Mike Jockheck, a pharmacy analyst for the department.

Another step the committee wants is capping "opioid-naive" patients at a seven-day supply within the Medicaid system. The limit would cover people who hadn’t received opioids for at least 60 days.

The members also want pre-authorization for most Medicaid prescriptions of opioids beyond one long term and one short term. And they called for an initial daily maximum of 300 morphine-milligram equivalents for Medicaid recipients.

The MME level would gradually decrease, by increments of 50, until it reached 100. “I say we do all of these,” Jockheck said.

“Me too,” replied Richard Holm, a medical doctor from Brookings.

The current refill standard says a patient must have used at least 75 percent of the opioid prescription before going to the pharmacy. The new minimum would be 85 percent.

On average the change would mean adding about three days between refills. “Three days doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up in the course of a year,” Jockheck said.

The Medicaid committee received a presentation from Tiffany Wolfgang, director for the state Division of Behavioral Health Services.

Wolfgang said South Dakota doesn’t seem to have opioid "pills mills" that other states do. Prevention and education, such as telling people through media blitzes what services are available, will be emphasized.

The committee reviewed a list of 10 South Dakota Medicaid patients whose opioids usages were uncommonly high. Several members said they thought it was like looking at a potential-suicides list.

“We don’t how many addicts we have out there,” Wolfgang said.

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Cowboys' journey across SD on horseback a tribute to vets

Tony Jones reckons he and Steven Garrigan could put up with sleeping under a bridge for one biting cold night on the South Dakota prairie.

That’s nothing, Jones said, compared with the continuing plight of America’s 300,000 homeless veterans.

“They’re sleeping under a bridge, and they don’t have any choice. We had a choice,” Jones said.

A numbing western Dakota wind and the comparably chilling howls of threatening critters is what Jones, 55, and Garrigan, 13, and their sturdy horses endured after the first 24 miles of their 140-mile Cowboys Ride for Veteran’s Awareness this week from Hayes, west of Pierre, to Fort Meade, near Sturgis.

That Thanksgiving night most other West River South Dakotans slept off the tryptophan effects from platefuls of roast turkey, watched football games or plotted Black Friday shopping strategies.

Garrigan, meanwhile, slept with one eye open, he said, all but convinced he and Jones were the ones being shopped by packs of prairie predators.

“Oh gosh, our horses were spooked,” Garrigan said. “The wind was hitting us pretty hard, and the coyotes sounded like they were right underneath our feet.”

Not that Garrigan didn’t know what he was in for, choosing — with parental permission — to accompany Jones for most of this week’s ride, an extension of a 1,400-mile horseback pilgrimage Jones made last year from Fort Pierre to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of the plight of America’s military veterans.

Jones arrived in the nation’s capitol in October after saddling up in Fort Pierre in June, visiting with the state’s congressional delegation about the issues of veterans, 22 of whom commit suicide daily, he said, while others remain mired in homelessness, or dying while on waiting lists to receive health care.

“I told them exactly what the veterans told me, what they needed to survive and to stop the things that are going on. I told them, but they haven’t done a lot about it,” Jones said.

This week’s much shorter ride, Jones said, is a result of what he calls continued inaction on the part of Congress to address the needs of heroes he considers “more of a national treasure than Mount Rushmore. This time I’ll go raise a stink about it and see what we can do."

Garrigan rode the first two days with longtime family friend Jones, then returned home to keep up with his eighth-grade studies in Philip. He’ll rejoin Jones for today's final ride from a ranch near Rapid City to Sturgis.

Jones has been staying with rancher friends along the way, but he endured yet another frigid, "terrible windy" Monday night, sheltering in a culvert.

Recuperated now and ready for today’s last leg, Jones plans to pay his respects at Black Hills National Cemetery and also hopes to visit with veterans at Fort Meade VA Hospital east of Sturgis.

Garrigan, son of Keith and Amy Garrigan of Midland, hasn’t been on the entire ride, but he hasn’t been immune to his share of challenges.

He had to change horses on the second day because of the animal’s extreme fatigue.

He’ll finish the ride on that first horse Saturday, and he’ll remember support from people the two cowboys have met along the way.

“People talked to us and said they appreciate what we did. They shouldn’t be thanking us. They should be thanking the veterans. They fought for us,” Garrigan said.

Speaking with a typical western tendency for understatement, Jones voiced his nevertheless sincere appreciation for his young companion's sacrifice.

“I’m pretty proud of that kid, really, to forego his Thanksgiving and come out with me. I thought that was pretty good,” Jones said.