Jake Harper

Reporter, WFYI

Jake Harper started his job at Side Effects shortly before the 2015 announcement of an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana, and since then has focused his reporting on addiction, Medicaid and access to health care. His investigations have covered medical industry influence in state and national government, a clinical trial that skirted federal regulations and various barriers to evidence-based addiction treatment. His stories have been broadcast at stations across the midwest and nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Latino USA and Here & Now.

Harper also co-hosts the podcast, Sick, with Lauren Bavis. Visit sickpodcast.org for more information. 

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Seth Herald / Side Effects Public Media

On a recent afternoon, Brittany Combs drove a white SUV through a neighborhood at the northern end of Austin, Indiana. In the back of her vehicle, there were hundreds of sterile syringes, each in a plastic wrapper.


Melissa Johnson/Flickr

Legislation that would allow needle exchanges in some Indiana counties cleared the House Public Health Committee on Monday. 

Last week, Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in Scott County, which has seen about 80 new HIV cases in just the last few months. Though Pence has allowed a needle exchange to operate in the county for 30 days, he has maintained his opposition to allowing needle exchanges statewide.

Shane Avery practices family medicine in Scott County, Ind. In December, a patient came to his office who was pregnant, and an injection drug user.

After running some routine tests, Avery found out that she was positive for HIV. She was the second case he had seen in just a few weeks.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an executive order today declaring a public health emergency in Scott County in response to a growing outbreak of HIV. His order includes authorization for a "targeted" clean needle exchange.

Clean needle exchanges are illegal in Indiana and the governor has said he opposes them as an addiction-fighting strategy, but is making an exception in the case of Scott County. The number of cases has now grown to 79 since the outbreak was first identified in January.

Opossums may hold the key to saving thousands of lives a year
Liam Wolff/Wikimedia Commons

To some, an opossum is just a giant rat that scared you from ever going into your garage again. But North America's only marsupial may also hold the key to cheaply saving thousands of lives a year.

Bottle of donor stool
Jake Harper

Three weeks ago, James Kidwell, 57, lay in a bed at IU Health University Hospital, waiting to receive a procedure he hoped would beat back an invasion of harmful bacteria called Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, in his colon.

needle exchange
Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

Public health officials in Southeastern Indiana have been scrambling to contain an outbreak of HIV linked to intravenous drug use. Now, one Indiana lawmaker plans to introduce an amendment on Wednesday that would permit the distribution of clean needles to IV drug users.

HIV public health brochure
Jake Harper/WFYI

A couple of weeks ago, Scott County public health nurse Brittany Combs started getting a lot more calls asking about STD testing.


CDC/ Debora Cartagena

Every month, Cynthia Edwards breathes through a machine that can tell if she’s been smoking. If the machine registers a low enough number, she takes home a $25 voucher to help her pay for diapers for her five-month old son, Justus.


Jake Harper/WFYI

 

A single X-ray or CT scan exposes a person to just a tiny bit of radiation, but over time, that exposure can add up to increased rates of cancer -- especially for kids. Now, patients at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis have a new option.

It looks sort of like a futuristic shower, but it's not. It's an X-ray system known as EOS. The machine can take two X-rays at once and construct a 3-D image, but the best part is that it uses much less radiation than traditional scans.

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