Coopwood chairs Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi

The Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi announced that Scott Coopwood was elected chairman for 2017 by its Board of Directors. The Foundation receives tax-deductible contributions from hundreds of donors to assist dozens of charitable programs and causes, especially education and health for children and youth. The board has at least one director from each of the 11 counties in the Foundation’s service region. “It is an incredible honor to be chosen as this year’s chairman for Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi,” Coopwood said in a press release announcing his selection. “This unique organization helps better the lives of those who live in the coverage area which includes several counties in the Mississippi Delta and I’m proud to be on board to help move our region into a positive future.”

Cash-strapped UMMC closing two wellness centers

University of Mississippi Medical Center will close two of its Jackson wellness centers by the end of the month in its ongoing struggle to reconcile a $24.5 million budget shortfall. Last month, UMMC announced an unexpected $35 million reduction in Medicaid funding to the hospital. The cut came after the Division of Medicaid reworked the formula for disproportionate share payments, which reimburse hospitals across the state for the charity care they provide. After an appeal on the formula’s methodology, Medicaid reduced the $35 million cut by $10.5 million. But UMMC said in a release that departments and units across the state are working to reduce expenses by $24 million by June 30.

Hattiesburg American cutting back publication days

The Hattiesburg American will begin publishing just three days a week beginning April 5. The announcement was made Wednesday in a letter to readers by publisher Nathan Edwards posted on the newspaper’s website. Edwards called the shift from daily print publication a “strategic change that further builds upon our digital-first approach by strengthening the direction of its exceptional seven-days-a-week newsroom and combining the best of its seven-days-a-week print product into three great editions — Wednesday, Friday and Sunday — beginning April 5, 2017.” “Our research shows subscribers are increasingly choosing to access the American online via our website, mobile and tablet devices, with the Hattiesburg American having 8X more digital readers than print readers,” Edwards said. Edwards told readers that the “three-day-a-week print products will be as robust as ever, if not more so, and contain all of the great content you have come to rely on and enjoy.

Mental health pilot program added to Rivers McGraw DUI bill

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the Rivers McGraw legislation was amended to include mental health diversion programs.

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday which would establish mental health diversion pilot programs in four judicial districts across the state. The pilot programs, which will be in Rankin/Madison, Lafayette, Louisville, and Harrison Counties, will offer alternate sentencing for anyone with a diagnosed mental illness who commits certain drug or alcohol-related crimes. Rather than jail time, sentences could include screenings, counseling and rehabilitative care. “Hopefully this bill will allow us to save kids’ lives rather than churning them through the criminal justice process,” said Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, who presented the bill. The legislation, which passed with only one vote opposed, largely replaces earlier legislation inspired by the death last fall of Rivers McGraw.

Overby Center: What statues should represent Mississippi?

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics will address the issue Wednesday of whether Mississippi should be represented in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall by two 19th century figures prominent in the secessionist movement. The program, “Revisiting Jefferson Davis and J.Z. George: U.S. Capitol Relics?” begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The Overby Center is on the Ole Miss campus. Overby Center chairman Charles Overby will be joined in the discussion by William “Brother” Rogers, president of the Mississippi Historical Society, and Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi. “We expect a robust discussion about whether any 20th century Mississippians should be placed in the Statuary Hall,” Overby said in a press release.

Benjamin sentenced for bribery scheme

Irb Benjamin, who represented Alcorn County in the state Senate and House, has been sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for bribes he paid to former state Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps. His sentence could be reduced if information he provided results in prosecution of others in the scandal, according to U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate. Six people have pleaded guilty in the bribery scheme and four others have been charged. Wingate ordered Benjamin to pay a $100,000 fine and forfeit $261,000 within 90 days. Benjamin, 70, is scheduled to report to federal prison on May 16.

House honors Bobby Rush for Grammy

Legislators honored Mississippi Blues musician Bobby Rush in the Mississippi House Chamber with the presentation of House Concurrent Resolution 67 on Tuesday. Rush won the first golden gramophone of his career at the 59th Grammy Awards, held on Feb. 12, the House noted in a press release. The 83-year-old musician won the traditional Blues category for his album “Porcupine Meat.”

Rush spoke and sang to the House as he accepted a framed copy of the resolution. Rush has recorded more than 370 songs during his 66-year career, according to the release.

Tupelo residents tour new police headquarters

The new Tupelo Police Department headquarters got high marks from the public which was allowed to tour the building Monday afternoon, the Daily Journal reported. “This is a world-class facility, befitting the men and women of this department,” Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said. His praise was echoed by other former members of city government. Following a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, the police department’s administrative staff took small groups on tours of the new building, including areas that the public normally would not get to see, the newspaper said. The two-story building at the corner of Front and Franklin streets in downtown Tupelo cost $10 million and took more than two decades, two rounds of bond money, plus land and cash forfeited in a government sting operation to come to fruition, the Journal said.

Former Neshoba Democrat editor dies

Arthur Stanley Dearman, the retired editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat, died Saturday in Florida, the newspaper reported. He was 84. Dearman edited the Democrat from 1966 to 2000. Dearman was a legend in Mississippi journalism, known particularly for his career-long crusading work that led to a conviction in the 1964 abduction and slayings of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney in Neshoba County. Dearman’s insistence on pursing justice in the case was cited as a key factor in the 2005 conviction of Edgar Ray Killen for manslaughter.

DSU golfers lose course to budget cuts

Delta State University is closing the school’s golf course at a savings of $250,000 in an effort to offset continuing state budget reductions. The state has cut nearly $2 million from the school’s budget in the past 13 months, DSU representatives say. “We are working hard to identify areas for budget savings on campus to offset these cuts that avoid impacting personnel and academic programs,” said DSU President William LaForge.  “We realize that the golf course is a longstanding and traditional feature of the university, and we regret having to make this tough decision. However, this action is absolutely necessary.”

ICE: 55 arrested at Mississippi restaurants

Immigration arrests of at least 55 people this week at central Mississippi eating establishments resulted from an investigation launched more than a year ago, officials say. Fifty-five people were arrested this week after United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials executed federal criminal search warrants at eight different restaurants in Flowood, Meridian and Pearl, ICE officials said. ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd said Thursday that warrants served on Wednesday are related to an investigation that began more than one year ago. He would not specify the violations being investigated. At least three of the locations were Ichiban restaurants located in Flowood and Pearl.