Public Health News For Indiana

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An opioid epidemic. High smoking rates. Health care provider shortages. Indiana faces serious public health challenges. Side Effects Public Media provides in-depth coverage of these issues and more.

Please write us with story ideas or questions at health@wfyi.org  

Ways to Connect

Courtesy of Chelsea Reed

On their last phone call, Chelsea Reed says her “proud” mother broke down, distraught about fears of dying alone in her long-term care facility, Rosewalk Village on Indianapolis’ east side.

“She had been calling me in tears, not wanting to die there,” Chelsea says about her 61-year-old mom, Vanessa.

Justin Hicks / IPBS

The Miami Correctional Facility is getting more dangerous.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The continued stress from COVID-19 has heightened mental health problems nationwide. And some experts say that has led to an increase in drug overdoses.

For Thanksgiving this year, Kurt Beard was planning to travel from Indianapolis to Ohio and meet family for an outdoor hike, but as he watched COVID-19 rates spike he decided even that was too risky. Instead, his family is ordering pizza, video chatting with relatives and playing games.

However, when weighing spending time with elderly family members versus the coronavirus threat, Beard is conflicted.

Some Indiana universities are turning to COVID-19 exit-testing ahead of students leaving campus before Thanksgiving. But while some campuses are offering testing as an option, others are requiring it. 

Aime'e Elliott

Earlier this year, Aime’e Elliott couldn’t keep any solid foods down while pregnant with son Jacion. So the 28-year-old Indianapolis woman called a community group before even considering her doctor.

IU Health

As a pediatric chief resident at Indiana University’s medical school, Dr. Chaniece Wallace had a list of blessings. This fall, the 30-year-old was interviewing for jobs around the country — and preparing for the birth of her first child. 

Hilary Powell

At a time when they need her the most, Teshezia George says she’s forced to shutter her shelter doors. That leaves women who have fled domestic violence to sleep in unsafe spaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention // CCO

Pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine and receive FDA approval. In the meantime, states are finalizing plans to distribute the vaccine — and overcome potential challenges. 

WFYI

Three of Central Indiana’s largest health systems want people to understand that racism is a public health crisis. And it's preventable.

In a joint statement, the leaders of Community Health Network, Eskenazi Health and Indiana University Health say they want to go on record in pledging to do more to end health disparities and inequity. 

Courtesy of Maria Duenas Lopez

Last of a four-part series. As we conclude our series on young activists, we meet Maria Duenas Lopez, a first generation Mexican-American who advocates for immigrants. Side Effects Public Media’s Darian Benson interviewed her about the importance of an inclusive democracy.  

Photo courtesy of AstraZeneca.

State health leaders are beginning to release their plans for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine — whenever one becomes available. 

Courtesy of Tyshara Loynes

Part 3 in a series. As we continue our series on young activists, we meet Tyshara Loynes, a college student working to protect a street with historic significance for Indianapolis' Black community. Side Effects Public Media’s Darian Benson interviewed her as part of an audio diary project for America Amplified. 

Photo by Coburn Dukehart /Wisconsin Watch.

One by one, COVID-19 outbreaks popped up in April and May at meatpacking plants across the country, fanning fears that the infectious coronavirus could spread rapidly into rural states. Plants closed temporarily in small metro areas such as Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Waterloo, Iowa, and in smaller towns like Iowa’s Columbus Junction and Perry

Courtesy of Dyna Martinez

Part 2 in a series. Our series on young people driving community change continues with Dyna Martinez, an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis student who was deeply influenced by her childhood in Honduras. Side Effects Public Media’s Darian Benson interviewed her as part of an audio diary project for America Amplified reporting initiative. 

Courtesy of Taylor Hall

Part 1 in a series. Voting is a big issue as we get closer to Election Day. But that isn’t the only way people are making their voices heard this year. Over the past few months, Side Effects Public Media’s Darian Benson has followed four young activists as part of an audio diary project for America Amplified reporting initiative. One of them is Taylor Hall, a 20-year-old who helped organize one of the summer’s largest protests in Indianapolis. 

Photo by SJ Obijo / CCO Unsplash / https://unsplash.com/photos/K2Eb0BV4Jgk

Now that summer is over and temperatures are dipping across the Midwest, people are headed indoors, some experts fear the already striking rise in cases is the beginning of another wave of COVID-19.

“I think that as fall moves forward ... what we're seeing right now is kind of a preview of what we can expect, as we even see colder temperatures come,” says Brian Dixon, director of public health informatics at the Indianapolis-based Regenstrief Institute. 

PHOTO BY ENGIN AKYURT ON UNSPLASH

Dani Hoover is a 26-year-old social worker in Indianapolis. She has battled depression and anxiety since high school, and the pandemic hasn’t made it any easier.

After several weeks over the summer without a reported case, new coronavirus infections are turning up at the Indiana Women’s Prison, and some employees want more testing to protect those inside. 

Photo by: Bram Sable-Smith

There is just one hospital in western Indiana’s Vermillion County. The slender, 37-mile long county is dotted with corn and soybean fields, and driving from one end to the other would take nearly an hour. 

Union Hospital Clinton is small, only 25 beds, but it also serves parts of two neighboring counties. The area suffers from some of Indiana’s highest rates of heart attack and stroke. 

Jake Harper | Side Effects

The Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis is on lockdown after women incarcerated there tested positive for COVID-19, according to emails sent to prison staff. 

“FACILITY ON LOCKDOWN” read one email sent Tuesday afternoon; another said positive cases have been identified in three units of the facility.

Jake Harper | Side Effects

Update 10/02/2020: On Thursday, Indiana Department of Correction Commissioner Rob Carter announced a pay increase for agency staff. Correctional officers will receive $19 per hour, with an increase to $20 within a year. The previous starting pay rate was $16 per hour. 

The announcement said other agency staff would receive raises, as well. 

“I’m writing to thank all of you for your service during this unprecedented time,” said Carter in an email to staff. “I am proud of each and every one of you.” 

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Amanda Kohlhepp had plans for a career in corrections. She worked a few years as an officer at the men’s prison in Plainfield, Indiana, before she made sergeant in 2018, and hoped to keep moving up. She wanted to write policies — sensible ones that made life easier for staff and for people who are incarcerated. 

Evictions Damage Public Health. The CDC Aims To Curb Them ― For Now

Sep 29, 2020

In August, Robert Pettigrew was working a series of odd jobs. While washing the windows of a cellphone store he saw a sign, one that he believes the "good Lord" placed there for him.

"Facing eviction?" the sign read. "You could be eligible for up to $3,000 in rent assistance. Apply today."

PickPic

New mom Briante Melton of Indianapolis met her best friend at her lowest moment.

“I just felt kind of like hopeless,” she said. “Like I was going to feel like that forever.”

After her one-year-old son Isaiah was born, she says she suffered post-partum depression. When she didn’t always feel like getting outdoors, help came to her inside her own home through the Nurse Family Partnership at Goodwill Industries.

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