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Beneath the Water 

Spokane gets a new Riverkeeper; plus, employment among the mentally ill

Passing the Torch

Experienced fish conservationist Jerry White takes over this week as the newly named SPOKANE RIVERKEEPER clean water advocate with the nonprofit Center for Justice. White, 51, says he appreciates the opportunity to apply his passion for the outdoors toward the protection and celebration of Spokane's waterways.

"There's economic connections," White says of the Spokane River. "There's social connections. ... People love to work in the river, play in the river."

click to enlarge Jerry White
  • Jerry White

Rick Eichstaedt, executive director of the Center for Justice and a former Riverkeeper, announced that White would carry on efforts to protect and enhance the Spokane River, praising White's strong leadership and conservation experience.

White grew up in the Cheney area. He studied archeology and worked many years as a teacher before joining the staff of Save Our Wild Salmon in 2008. He later volunteered with the Spokane Falls chapter of Trout Unlimited and contributed to other regional fish conservation efforts.

As previous Riverkeeper Bart Mihailovich moves to a new position with the International Waterkeeper Alliance, White says he plans to carry on many of Mihailovich's efforts targeting pollutants in the Latah Creek system. White also hopes to launch new youth and business outreach to promote community involvement in water quality programs.

"I'm really at once humbled and delighted," he says, "to get to work on behalf of a river that means so much to so many." (JACOB JONES)

87 Percent

Washington has the 14th highest UNEMPLOYMENT RATE among people with mental illness in the nation, according to a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Nearly 87 percent of people served by the state's public mental health system were out of a job in 2012, exceeding the national average by seven percentage points.

Although the employment rate for people with mental illness has historically been low, the problem has gotten worse in the past decade, the report states — declining from 23 percent in 2003 to roughly 18 percent in 2012. Studies show that approximately 60 percent of the 7.1 million people who receive public mental health services want and are able to work with help from supported employment programs. However, less than 2 percent receive such services from the states.

"There a lot of reasons some of them cannot work. The pressure is great for them. Others cannot find a job that is flexible enough for them because they may have times where they're symptomatic," says Sandi Ando, the public policy chair of NAMI Washington. "The fact is that many are capable of working and most I've spoken to want to work [but] finding the right job and right supports is especially difficult."

To reduce the jobless rate and remove barriers to employment, NAMI recommends that states invest more money into vocational programs that "place and train" people with mental illness into the workforce. (DEANNA PAN)

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