STATEWIDE

Maine gets final approval for medical records project

The federal government has approved Maine’s $6.6 million plan to expand and coordinate health information technology, Gov. John Baldacci says.

The U.S. government had announced in March that Maine qualified for nearly $6.6 million over four years in Recovery Act funds. A small portion of the money was available immediately, and the rest was contingent on approval of the plan by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Maine is the sixth state to have its implementation plan approved by the department’s Office of the National Coordinator.

“This approval reflects Maine’s leadership in developing strategies to advance electronic medical records and, through the nonprofit Health InfoNet, assure that such information can be readily available all across the state whenever and wherever a patient and her provider needs access to it,” Baldacci said in a written statement. “Electronic exchange of information speeds access to care, avoids unnecessary, costly repeat tests and helps prevent medical mistakes.” 

Only one in five Mainers in poll expect better year

Four out of 10 Mainers say they are worse off than a year ago, and only one in five expect to be better off in the next year, according to the latest consumer confidence survey from Market Decisions in Portland.

Only 35 percent of residents said now is a good time to make a major purchase, down from 39 percent in April. That compares with the historic low of 21 percent in October 2008, and the record high of 85 percent in July 2000.

These responses indicate continued consumer pessimism about the economy, the company said, with no basic improvement over the past 15 months of surveys.

“Consumer perceptions of the economy are frozen in place with no signs of a thaw,” said Curtis Mildner, Market Decisions president.

In the survey, 401 Mainers 18 and older were contacted by phone July 14 to Aug. 3. The poll has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

For more information: www.marketdecisions.com.

SCARBOROUGH

Family of dancer sets up Bolshoi scholarship fund

The family of Arianna Lawson, the 16-year-old Scarborough dancer admitted to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and profiled Wednesday in The Portland Press Herald, has set up a scholarship fund to help raise the $18,000 cost.

Donations may be made to Arianna’s Ballet Fund at any TD Bank location or by mail at 10 Berry Road, Scarborough, ME 04074.

Lawson attended the Bolshoi summer program in New York City and learned two weeks ago that she had been offered a spot at the prestigious academy, which opens for the year in October.

PERU

Pot plants worth $28,500 discovered and discarded

The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency says it has gotten rid of more than three dozen marijuana plants with an estimated value of $28,500 in the western Maine town of Peru.

Supervisor Gerry Baril said a Maine Warden Service pilot spotted a plot of pot plants while flying over on an unrelated assignment.

When drug agents searched the remote wooded area Tuesday afternoon, they found three plots with a total of 38 plants that were 6 to 7 feet tall. Baril said there is no way of knowing who planted them.

Baril told the Sun Journal of Lewiston that the next six weeks are crucial for pot growers with the arrival of harvest season.

CARIBOU

State fights raccoon rabies with 125,000 vaccine baits

Officials say 125,000 oral rabies vaccination baits targeting raccoons are being distributed from the air and on the ground in northern Maine.

State Epidemiologist Stephen Sears told the Bangor Daily News that it’s only a preventive measure and is not the result of increased cases of rabies in the region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rabies vaccine effort covers more than 900 square miles.

Three cases of rabies have been documented in Aroostook County this year. Since January, 46 cases of rabies have been documented statewide. They include a case in Brunswick last week in which a man said he was attacked by a raccoon that climbed the stairs to get at him, then bit his leg and hand. The animal tested positive for rabies.

BELFAST

In court, man denies that he strangled his girlfriend

A Maine man has pleaded not guilty to a charge that he strangled his girlfriend to death last month at their Morrill home.

The Bangor Daily News said 39-year-old Dennis Edgecomb entered the plea Tuesday in court in Belfast.

Police said Edgecomb called them on July 20 to say he had killed 42-year-old Pamela Green. And Green’s daughter told investigators that her mother sent a computer message about an hour before Edgecomb called police in which she said he was threatening to kill her.

At the time, Edgecomb told investigators that Green attacked him because he was planning to move out. Edgecomb allegedly told police he pushed Green down onto a couch and choked her until she stopped moving.

FALMOUTH

Lumber spilled on I-295 leads to crash, traffic jam

A collision between two cars in the northbound lane of Interstate 295 in Falmouth caused a traffic backup that stretched for several miles into Portland late Wednesday afternoon.

Maine State Police say a rear-end collision occurred around 4:20 p.m. when several cars swerved to avoid lumber that was strewn across the two-lane section of highway.

Police are not certain how the lumber got there. No injuries were reported.

WESTBROOK

Woman found safe after leaving her group home

A Westbrook woman missing since early Tuesday has been found safe, police said.

Police had issued a public appeal for help finding Diane Sanders, 61, who left her group home on Chesley Street at 11 a.m. Tuesday. She was found just before 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, but police did not say where.