Local News

Woman stabbed to death on Shiloh Court, Fayetteville police say

pexels Crime tape A woman was stabbed to death Monday night, Aug. 22, on Shiloh Court, according to the Fayetteville Police Department.

The report of a stabbing was reported about 8:30 p.m. Monday in the 1900 block of Shiloh Drive, a news release from the Police Department said.
The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, the release said. Her identity was withheld pending notification of her family.

Homicide detectives are investigating the stabbing. A suspect was seen leaving the scene.
Anyone with information about the stabbing is asked to contact Detective J. Olson at 910-709-1958 or Crimestoppers at 910-483-TIPS (8477). Crimestoppers information can also be submitted at http://fay-nccrimestoppers.org.

Methodist University announces new OTA program

17bAs new students (freshmen and transfers) arrived on campus earlier this month for the 2022-23 academic year, Methodist University also announced that it is becoming one of the first universities in North Carolina to offer an accredited, Bachelor of Science Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program. Starting in the fall of 2023, Methodist University’s four-year OTA program will welcome its first cohort of up to 24 students, eventually leading to the first graduating class in the spring of 2027.

“Expanding the University’s program offerings to include an OTA program will serve both our students and the local community,” said Dr. Meredith Gronski, the University’s Occupational Therapy Department chair and program director of the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program. “OTAs partner with occupational therapists to provide services that help people return to their meaningful daily activities. Our OTA program will prepare students to serve as leaders in the profession and take on roles with the highest earning potential.”

This isn’t the first time MU has blazed a path in the area of occupational therapy. Starting in 2015, Gronski led the charge to build up the University’s OTD program — which eventually became the first doctoral-level program in Occupational Therapy in North Carolina in 2018.

Now, it is considered one of the strongest programs in the state, graduating approximately five dozen students the past two years.

Coinciding with the OTA program’s launch, Gronski also announced Melissa Gibson will take the reigns as program director.

Gibson is a licensed OTA with a dozen years of clinical experience. Most recently, Gibson worked as an academic fieldwork coordinator for another developing, baccalaureate-level OTA program.

“Gibson reflects the integrity, leadership, and energy that the department seeks to fill this critical position in the program,” said Gronski. “She demonstrates a commitment to student-centered learning, evidence-based practice, and the authentic role of the OTA that will align well with the program’s curriculum design. Her knowledge and expertise of all programmatic aspects will support her to successfully navigate our accreditation process and bring in the first cohort of students.”

Gibson earned a bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Health and Rehab Sciences from California State University, an associate degree in OTA from Sacramento City College, and a Master of Science in Gero-Psychology. She is planning to earn a Doctor of Healthcare Administration later this month.

“As an OTA myself, I am excited to see the profession take this new step with a new degree level for OTA education,” Gibson added. “What makes having an OTA program at Methodist University unique is that students who would like to move on to become an occupational therapist afterwards will be able to do so through the University’s OTD program. This program will allow all of the health sciences programs to collaborate and learn together even more.”

Alisha Myers will serve as the OTA program’s academic fieldwork coordinator. Myers has been an occupational therapist for eight years and has worked in the local community since 2016. Myers recently served as a fieldwork educator for the OTD program and has mentored many OTD students at Cumberland County Schools.

Currently, there are nine fully accredited associate-level occupational therapy assistant programs across North Carolina; however, none of them offer an accredited baccalaureate-level program. By the time the program launches in the fall of 2023, Methodist University will be one of just three programs of its kind in the state.

The OTA program will provide a variety of career and educational opportunities once students graduate:

  • Graduates can take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification exam and if they pass, they can practice as a Certified & Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA/L). Similar to a physician assistant’s partnership with a doctor, OTAs can deliver services under the supervision of an occupational therapist.
  • Graduates may choose to pursue becoming an occupational therapist themselves by continuing their doctoral studies at Methodist University’s OTD program.
  • Graduates can seek a graduate degree in another area of study including speech therapy, physical therapy, healthcare administration, or business administration.

The timing couldn’t be better, either. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of OTAs is projected to grow by 34% by 2030. Also, approximately 8,800 openings for OTAs are projected for each year over the next decade.

In the Fayetteville area specifically, some of the top employers for OTAs include the Cape Fear Valley System, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Cumberland County Schools.
Students may apply immediately online or if you have questions, reach out to admissions@methodist.edu or mgronski@methodist.edu.

Alzheimer’s research revealed at international conference

15With more than 6 million Americans and 180,000 North Carolinians living with Alzheimer's disease today, researchers are working tirelessly to advance science that will lead to earlier detection, preventions and additional new treatments for Alzheimer’s and all dementia.

In early August, more than 10,000 researchers attended the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference® 2022 both in person and virtually to share the latest in Alzheimer’s and dementia science. Highlights included:

Another reason to move your body.  Results are in from the longest-ever clinical trial of exercise in older adults with mild memory problems. After 12 months of regular physical activity — aerobic exercise or stretching — study participants experienced no significant cognitive decline.

Junk food might be hurting our brains.  Researchers studied more than 10,000 people over eight years and found that high consumption of ultra-processed foods led to a 28% faster decline in cognitive function.

Racism’s impact on memory.  In a study of nearly 1,000 adults, exposure to interpersonal and institutional racism was associated with lower memory scores, especially among Black individuals.

More long-term impacts of COVID-19.  Researchers found that loss of smell due to COVID-19 infection may be a better predictor of long-term cognitive and functional impairment than severity of the illness.

Earning less money may increase dementia risk. Compared with workers earning higher wages, sustained low-wage earners experienced faster memory decline in older age.

“There is great progress in Alzheimer’s and dementia research,” said Lisa Roberts, executive director for the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, who attended the conference as virtual participant.

15b“This year at AAIC, we heard new ideas about what makes us at risk, as well as a diverse array of treatments and prevention methods for Alzheimer’s disease and all dementia. The work of the scientific community holds great promise for the future worldwide, and in our own back yard here in North Carolina.”

More than 80 scientific presentations from the conference were from N.C.-based researchers and investigators including: Duke University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, Wake Forest University and other research centers.

To learn more about the studies presented at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, go to alz.org/aaic.

The Alzheimer's Association is available with information and support for families as they navigate the disease and related research.

For more information on the Alzheimer’s Association – Eastern North Carolina Chapter, visit the alz.org/nc or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

Two promoted in Fayetteville City Manager's Office

11bCity Manager Doug Hewett has announced the promotion of two people onto his leadership team: Kelly Olivera has been named interim assistant city manager and Jodi Phelps has been appointed chief of staff.

Olivera had served as the city’s budget and evaluation director. Phelps was the city’s marketing and communications director. Both promotions took effect Monday, the city said in a release.
Olivera succeeds Jay Toland, who this summer was named associate superintendent of business operations for Cumberland County Schools. His last day with the city was Aug. 12, a spokeswoman for the city said.
Phelps succeeds Rebecca Jackson, who retired July 31, the spokeswoman said.

Olivera has been with the city for 11 years. She most recently worked with Hewett and the leadership team to present a balanced FY22-23 budget to the City Council that advanced city goals without a tax rate increase, the release said.

“Kelly is a proven asset to our organization and her sound decisions helped us accomplish financial goals set forth by the Council,” Hewett said in the release. “Over the next few months, she will lend her expertise to our team as we progress toward the bond referendums in November and continue moving the city forward.”

As interim assistant city manager, Olivera will oversee several departments, including budget and evaluation, the city clerk’s office, finance, human relations, human resource development and information technology, according to the city’s website.

11c“I am excited to step into the interim position and have the opportunity to use my experience with the city to better serve our residents, elected officials and staff,” Olivera said in the release. “Having a greater role in the continued success of our city is truly an honor.”

Olivera was hired as a financial analyst in the Finance Department in 2011 before founding the Budget and Evaluation Office in 2014 with former director Tracey Broyles and being promoted to lead the office last year, the release said. She earned her bachelor of science in accountancy from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Olivera will serve in the interim role while the search is conducted for a new assistant city manager, the release said. Her salary is $140,220, the spokeswoman said.

Phelps joined the city last year from UNC Pembroke, where she had served as the chief communications and marketing officer since 2016, the release said. Since joining the city, she has launched a new Strategic Communications Plan and rebranded the Marketing and Communications Department, both with the goal of elevating the city’s brand and more effectively telling the Fayetteville story, according to the release.

“Jodi quickly came up to speed on city business and used the city’s overall Strategic Plan to produce results,” Hewett said. “Her previous career experience, ability to build relationships and proven leadership make her well-suited to fill the role as our next chief of staff.”

Phelps has previously served as chief operating officer for Action Pathways in Fayetteville as well as agency advancement and communications director. She has a bachelor of arts degree in communication and history with a minor in art history from Mercer University and a master of business administration from Thomas University.

“At this time of unprecedented opportunity for Fayetteville’s continued growth, I am grateful to continue serving in this new role,” Phelps said in the release. “It is a privilege to be part of a talented team working daily to advance our strategic priorities that will positively impact the future of our city.”

A spokeswoman for the city said Phelps' salary will be $145,750.

Spellman: Proud to serve Spring Lake as Police Chief

11aThe town of Spring Lake announced Lt. Dysoaneik Spellman as the next police chief in Spring Lake after a two-month search. The decision was effective Monday, Aug. 15.

Spellman was appointed interim police chief when former chief Troy McDuffie retired for the second time in 2021.
Spellman, who has 23 years of law enforcement experience, has been with the Spring Lake Police Department since 2014, when he was hired by McDuffie as a patrol officer. He began his career in 1999 at the Beaufort County Sherriff’s Office.

“I have a passion for this community and spent my career preparing for this moment,’’ Spellman said Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 16, after the Police Department celebrated with a social media announcement and reception.

“When I got here and got to know the department, I knew this was a place I could make a difference. I am proud to serve the Spring Lake residents.”

Spellman has an advanced law enforcement certificate through the N.C. Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission.
He also holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration, an associate’s degree in applied science with a concentration in criminal justice technology and is a graduate of the N.C. Justice Academy Management Development Program.

“I hope to bring some policies and procedures to the department to move us forward to getting a national accreditation,” Spellman said.

He added that most agencies in North Carolina were accredited.

The Spring Lake Board of Aldermen received the announcement from interim Town Manager Joe Durham by email on Monday night after an hour-long special meeting citing the N.C. general statute for personnel.

“Chief Spellman is committed to professionalism and integrity. I have the utmost respect for his leadership and his ability to serve and protect the community,” Durham said in the announcement.
Durham could not be reached Tuesday for further comment.

Spellman on Tuesday said he would like the community to know he has an open-door policy and that the Police Department will be fully transparent with residents.

“We have nothing to hide,’’ Spellman said. “It is beneficial to be out in the community, for me to be out in the community, and I look forward to creating opportunities for residents to get to know our Police Department better. Our residents are our eyes and ears.”

Spellman said he had not yet signed a contract, and the salary offered could not be confirmed Tuesday through Durham or the Local Government Commission. The hiring range from the posted police chief job description was $70,000 to $85,000.

Currently, the Spring Lake Police Department has 27 employees, including 25 police officers. They have three open positions.
Board members, including Alderman Raul Palacios and Alderwoman Sona Cooper, said although the decision was left up to Durham, they look forward to working with Spellman and he has their support in his new role.

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