Mount Sterling, a small town located in western Illinois, is the home of a medium security prison run by the Illinois Department of Corrections. The prison has 1,800 inmates. Due to the budget stalemate in Springfield, the State of Illinois has not paid the city of Mount Sterling $370,000 for water it has provided to the prison.

Some of the residents felt the town should shut off the water. That move could have had a devastating effect. If the inmates were moved to another prison and the facility closed, four hundred people in Mount Sterling would lose their jobs. The town, with a population of only 1,900, relies on the prison as its major employer. Families who come to visit their relatives in prison often stay at the nearby motel and eat at the local restaurants. Visitors fill up their gas tanks at the local gas stations. There is even a shopping mall near the Interstate exchange. All of that revenue would be lost.

Mount Sterling Mayor Dane Flesner opposed shutting off the water. “It would just destroy our economy if that place were to shut down,” he said.

The Mount Sterling City Council met June 19, 2016 to discuss the issue. During the meeting, a local bank president spoke to the aldermen and audience about entering the Vendor Payment Participation Program that allows investors to pay the water bill and then charge the state, including interest. “That liability then transfers to the bank and to the state,” Alderman Jim Jennings said. “It’s between them. We get our money, we walk away, and we hope this doesn’t come up again.”

“If we’re able to make sure that the taxpayers’ money is safeguarded and somebody else takes the liability, it’s a no-brainer,” Jennings said.

The State of Illinois paid Mount Sterling $55,000, but it still owes over $300,000 to Mount Sterling. The city council members plan to meet with the bank to learn more about the vendor program and do what needs to be done to sign up for it.

—By Karen Centowski


Nursing Talk

Dear Cassandra,

Last Tuesday I was driving fast because I was trying to get to work on time. A cop stopped me and gave me a ticket for speeding. He said I was driving twenty miles an hour over the speed limit. When I got to the client’s house, I couldn’t find a place to park so I parked in a restricted area. I came out of the house at the end of the day, and I discovered a $50 parking ticket on my windshield. How can I get reimbursed for these work related expenses?

—Having a Bad Day in Chicago
Dear Having a Bad Day,

Driving fast is nothing new. The Romans had chariot races over two thousand years ago in the Circus Maximus in Rome. Teams of drivers, dressed in colored tunics covered by corsets of leather bands, drove their chariots around the track.

Americans have always had this fascination with vehicles and speed. Thomas Nelson, Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was thirty-six when in 1774 he took delivery of a sporty, two-seater, horse drawn carriage called a phaeton. The term “phaeton” is derived from Phaethon, son of the sun god Helios in Greek mythology. Phaethon drove the sun chariot so recklessly across the sky that Zeus brought him down with a thunderbolt. Nelson’s phaeton was quite a contrast with the ox carts, sturdy wagons, and stately carriages of the day. It gave the appearance of being fast and dangerous.

Henry Ford’s invention of the assembly line produced Model T brought gasoline powered cars to the masses. These cars replaced horses and ushered in a series of vehicles which captivated the public. Speed and power were the common themes of the muscle cars, race cars, drag racing, Indianapolis 500, and NASCAR.

Sometimes the appearance of the vehicle is more important than its speed. The current trend of “pimping the ride” is an example. Young men buy old cars, do extensive body work on them, give them new paint jobs, add expensive low-profile tires, chrome rims, and ear-shattering sound systems.

What excuse did you give the police officer when he stopped you? Maybe you said, “I was going downhill, and my car picked up speed.” I hope you didn’t say, “No way I was going any faster than 80.” Maybe you blamed your vehicle by saying, “My speedometer wasn’t working.” Maybe you blamed the highway by saying, “I wasn’t familiar with the road.” Maybe you actually told the truth and admitted you were speeding because you were going to be late for work.

The police officer who stopped you for speeding was obviously not impressed by your excuse. He gave you a ticket.

The company is not responsible for your having a lead foot. The company will not pay for your speeding ticket. Likewise, the company will not pay for your parking ticket. It is your responsibility to find a legal parking space.

Try leaving the house twenty minutes early to allow for unexpected delays. You will arrive on time feeling fresh, not frazzled. Leave the speed to the professional race car drivers.


Note: First published on American Home Health's news, February2012


Ice Cream Melting in the Heat

Do you think it is hot outside when the temperature reaches 95 degrees? That is nothing compared to the record high temperature in Illinois recorded on July 14, 1954. On that day, the temperature reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit in East St. Louis. The National Weather Service in Chicago recorded a record high of 111 degrees Fahrenheit in July of that year.

The summer of 1954 was a string of 100 degree days starting in June. The crops were scorched, and the wells began to run dry. Working in the intense heat, farmers brought water from distant wells to provide water for their milk cows to drink. Some bought water for the animals and had it delivered in tanker trucks.
People who lived in cities suffered, too. In the 1950’s, almost no public buildings were air conditioned. Few individuals had expensive window unit air conditioners. Most people relied on fans to cool their homes or apartments. In this heat, the fans mostly moved around the hot air. Some residents of apartment buildings abandoned their units and slept in basements or cellars.

July 14, 1954 had started as just another in the string of 100 degree days. The forecast for St. Louis was 105. By noon, the temperature exceeded 105. Businesses closed, pavement buckled, and rail lines warped. By mid-afternoon, the temperature had reached 115. By late afternoon, the temperature had reached 117 in East St. Louis. That was the hottest day ever recorded in Illinois.

The 100 degree days continued for two more months. The last week of 100 degree days was in September of 1954.

What if you lived in India now? On May 19, 2016 India recorded its highest ever temperature of 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit in Phalodi, a town in the western state of Rajasthan. The heat wave with severe drought has killed people and livestock, decimated crops, and left at least 300 million in India without sufficient water for their daily needs. Roads are melting from the intense heat.

To see a video about this topic, go to Gujarat’s Valsad YouTube at

By Karen Centowski


Nursing Talk

Dear Cassandra,

Why is American Home Health so hung up on little things like clinical notes? Almost every week someone from the office contacts me about my clinical notes. I go to work and take care of my client. Sometimes I don’t have time to write the nursing notes. Sometimes the supervisor says she can’t read them. Once I spilled coffee on the clinical notes. Once the client’s dog ate them. What am I supposed to do?

Perplexed in Palos Hills

Dear Perplexed:

What are you supposed to do? What kind of question is that? You know that you are supposed to write clear, legible nursing notes every two hours. You know the times and dates on the nursing notes have to match the times and dates you Clock In/Clock Out. You know that the nurse working the last shift of the week is to mail the nursing notes to the office. You know one week’s worth of notes is to remain in the home for reference.

Frankly, I’m surprised you haven’t been fired by now. Your excuses sound like the excuses of a high school student. The dog ate the nursing notes. Please! Every teacher has heard that excuse. So you spilled coffee on the notes. Well, rewrite them. So you have poor handwriting. Well, print.

Maybe you think good handwriting is not important. A man recently tried to rob a bank. His handwriting was so poor that the teller could not read the note. She asked him to write the note over again. Instead, he fled. The teller, of course, had activated the silent alarm. The robber was arrested by police waiting outside the bank.

Why is it critical to send the notes to the office in a timely manner? In some cases, American Home Health cannot bill for services without a copy of the clinical notes to accompany the invoice. In addition, in the event of an audit by the Department of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) or the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the auditors review the clinical notes to determine the quality of care. The auditors also compare the times recorded on the notes to time billed. Discrepancies can mean paybacks to the funding body. If nursing care is not documented, it is as if it did not happen. That brings questions of possible fraud. Do you want to be accused of fraud? If, God forbid, a child should die under unusual circumstances, the nursing notes would be reviewed by the authorities.

Always proofread your clinical notes. If you work for multiple clients, check to be sure you wrote the correct client’s name on the clinical notes. Did you sign and date the notes? Did you sign the notes using the name which appears on your license even if you have a different legal name?

Do your clinical notes contain medical bloopers? Below are actual statements found in clinical notes of other medical providers:

“Patient was unresponsive and in no distress.”

“Patient is non-verbal, non-communicative, and offers no complaints.”

“Patient was apprehended and guarded.”

Do your notes contain a malapropism? That is an unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase especially the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended. Did you write, “We had to use the fire distinguisher.” Did you say, “The client had an expensive pendulum around his neck, and it got caught in the Hoyer lift.”

What else can you do to correct the situation? Get a Palmer method handwriting manual and start practicing to improve your handwriting. Talk with your supervisor about time management skills. Keep liquids away from the clinical notes. Keep the notes in a safe place so dogs and children can’t get them. If you are responsible for sending in the notes, be sure you send the whole weeks worth of notes and that no pages are missing. Don’t wait until the end of your shift to document the events of the entire shift. Above all, change your attitude about the importance of clinical notes. Your job depends on it.


Note: First published on American Home Health's news, January 2012.


Got Meat

Loss prevention is a constant concern in grocery stores and convenience stores. Every year millions of pounds of beef, pork, and veal are stolen from American grocery stores and convenience marts. Now a new method of stealing meat has become common. What is it? Men putting meat down their pants.

In their pants? Yes, in their pants. The thief does not need to use a gun to rob a store. He simply needs to wear a pair of baggy warm-up pants or sweat pants with a sports jersey and high top tennis shoes. A baseball cap completes the outfit. Then he casually saunters through the meat department of the grocery store or convenience store and stuffs his pants with steaks, ribs, and roasts. One thief stole $400 worth of meat from a pair of Walmarts in Corpus Christi, Texas. Another stole $170 worth from a Kroger store in West Virginia.

Why would someone do this? Is he trying to feed his family? Probably not. In the United States there are numerous food pantries which serve their communities. Individuals can also apply for SNAP, the federal food program. The thief is probably trading the meat for money to buy drugs and alcohol. He may be able to sell $200 worth of meat to someone for $100. Then he has $100 cash to buy drugs or alcohol.

The penalty for getting caught varies from state to state. In Illinois, assuming the person has no prior offenses, if the value of the stolen merchandise is $300 or less and it was not stolen directly from another person, then the theft conviction is a Class A Misdemeanor which carries a possible sentence of up to one year in jail, up to two years of probation, and a fine of up to $2,500. Many shoplifting charges fall into this category.

If the accused has previously been found guilty of any type of theft, including robbery, armed robbery, burglary, residential burglary, possession of burglarly tools, home invasion, forgery, or any vehicle code offenses relating to the possession of a stolen motor vehicle, or unlawful use of a credit or debit card, then a first offense of theft is enhanced to a Class 4 felony. This felony has a sentencing range of 1 to 3 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. The defendant can also receive probation.

To see the video about this topic, go to “Got Meat” on

By Karen Centowski

Janelle’s Favorite Spicy Chicken – Recipe

Spicy Chicken Recipe


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup jalapeño cream cheese


  • Put chicken in crockpot, sprinkle with taco seasoning, mix soup and salsa together then pour over chicken. Cook on high 4 hours, remove chicken, add cream cheese and stir into sauce in pot. Shred chicken put back in pot and mix well.
  • Serve how you would like.
  • We put on tortillas with some rice.
Recipe submitted by Janelle Fulfs.