This week, Arizona 360 looked into how the Border Patrol Tucson Sector is helping its agents cope with the stress of the job.
The agency claims nearly 800 agents were assaulted last year, which is an increase of more than 70 percent from 2016. That's despite data showing that apprehensions in 2017 dropped to their lowest levels since the early 1970s. Homeland Security blames the uptick in violence against agents on cartel activity and smuggling.
Anthony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, represents U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. He warned Congress at a hearing in January that the deadly combination of chronic overtime hours and low morale has become a crisis.
"There has been a dramatic increase in suicides among CBP officers,” said Reardon. “There have been, I've heard from the agency, there has been a dramatic increase in substance-abuse cases. A dramatic increase in the number of domestic violence cases."
Nancy Montoya spoke with police psychologist Kevin Gilmartin, a 20-year veteran of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department who now travels the country helping law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and DEA, deal with stress and mental health issues. Gilmartin explained how Border Patrol agents are impacted by all the stresses other law enforcement officers face.
Border Patrol Tucson Sector ChiefRodolfo Karisch said he is determined to change the culture surrounding mental health issues. This change begins with an increase in peer support and chaplain programs.
“We also had to remove the stigma of reaching out or help. We always in law enforcement view that as maybe a sign of weakness. But that’s not a sign of weakness, it is actually a sign of strength — reaching out for help,” said Karisch. “So, what we need to do is start communicating that to our employees, let them know that there is someone they can reach out to for help and there is no stigma behind that.”.
This week, Arizona 360 looked at potential plans for the former Benedictine Monastery in Tucson. The midtown site is just one of several developments proposed in the city that are creating concern over potential impact on surrounding neighborhoods.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik joined host Vanessa Barchfield to discuss the council’s approach in deciding which projects it supports, and how it works with developers and the community to reach a consensus.
Developer Ross Rulney unveiled his plan for the monastery property during a public meeting last week. This prompted concerns from Councilman Kozachik, echoed by the Tucson community.
“We’re going to move forward with this project, but … when we saw the proposal at the public meeting that we held last week, it was jarring. It is seven stories that dwarfs the existing chapel,” said Kozachik.
Rulney joined Arizona 360 to further explain his vision for the property and how he is handling feedback from the neighborhood.
“If I am going to develop that property, the monastery will be preserved through a landmark designation, in perpetuity,” said Rulney.
Rulney said his decision to hire Poster Frost Mirto, a preservation architecture firm in Tucson, demonstrates his intention to preserve the monastery while still developing the surrounding land.
This week marks the start of National Donate Life Month, which aims to encourage more people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.
Arizona 360 looked at how the issue affects Southern Arizonans, specifically those in need of a kidney transplant.
Dan Vandivort originally received a kidney donation from his mother 14 years ago. Due to complications, his kidney health declined and Vandivort was given the option to either go back on dialysis, or return to the transplant list. That’s when his wife Jennifer Vandivort decided to explore if she could become a living donor. The couple learned they were a perfect match.
“I swear I never asked for her blood-type when we were dating,” said Dan Vandivort said. “It just happened to match up.”
Last August, the couple went through transplant surgery at Banner University Medical Center. They joined Vanessa Barchfield to discuss the process, along with transplant surgeon Dr. Tun Jie.
Around 100 people are on the kidney transplant list in Southern Arizona, according to Jie. He explained what resources are available for both recipients and living donors in the region.