Health & Science

Stirring the Waters: Investigating Why Many in Appalachia Lack Reliable, Clean Water

Dec 6, 2018
F. Brian Ferguson / Charleston Gazette-Mail

For many families in Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia, the absence of clean, reliable drinking water has become part of daily life.

They buy bottled water rather than drink what comes out of their taps. They collect rainwater in buckets, fearing there won’t be any running water at all the next day. They drive to natural springs on the sides of highways and backroads to fill up jugs for cooking and making coffee.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Molly Born and Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Caity Coyne have been working on a series of stories about water infrastructure issues in the southern coalfields. They’re both fellows with Report for America, an initiative that aims to strengthen local journalism.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Molly Born, Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter Caity Coyne and Lexington Herald-Leader reporter Will Wright have been working on a series of stories about water infrastructure issues in the southern West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky coalfields.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we begin an occasional series we’re calling ​Recovery Stories –– conversations from the heart of the nation’s opioid crisis. Today, we meet Dayton, Ohio-native Andre Lewis and his friend and recovery sponsor, William Roberts. William works in social services in Dayton and is a church pastor with nearly three decades in recovery himself. As Andre explains in this story, he first met William at a treatment program for struggling addicts.

Justice Sends Recommendations to PEIA Task Force

Dec 4, 2018
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday sent his recommendations to the group that is exploring a long-term fix for the state’s public employee health insurance program.

People who are insured by PEIA and living in border counties would pay less out of pocket for health care they seek in a neighboring county out of state, if the governor’s recommendations are adopted.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, one of the biggest battles in drug treatment and recovery is overcoming stigma. For our final segment in a series on the failed Charleston needle exchange, we take a look at how its closure has affected the community's perception of harm reduction policy. Kara Lofton reports that things like harm reduction, safety and crime have become as much about politics as public health.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, current best practices for harm reduction programs include a couple provisions: no retractable needles should be distributed, patients should get as many needles as possible regardless of how many they bring back, and barriers to accessing needles should be as low as possible. But what happens when those recommendations are at odds with community acceptance for the practices? Kara Lofton reports.

Adobe Stock

Less than two years after it began, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department shut down it’s harm reduction program. Among other things, the program provided thousands of clean needles to drug users with the goal of reducing needle borne diseases, but faced significant pushback from some in the community.  

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we continue our new series exploring the impact of Charleston’s now-closed harm reduction program. We hear from two programs in the state that discuss what that closure has done for their own reputation.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we continue a series exploring best practices for harm reduction programs in the state.

Adobe Stock

In December  2015, with support from the city of Charleston, the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department launched a harm-reduction program that included a needle exchange. The primary goal was to reduce the risk of diseases commonly spread by sharing needles.

CDC

Health officials are tracking record-breaking rates of sexually transmitted disease, including a resurgence of some infections which had been considered rare, such as gonorrhea and syphilis. These STDs are on the rise amid cuts to public health budgets dedicated to testing, prevention, and public outreach.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, one of the byproducts of the opioid crisis is an abundance of needle litter. In a new series, we explore why the state's largest harm reduction program shut down and how perception, stigma and politics around that closure is impacting other programs around the state.

Ohio Valley Lawmakers Helped Shape Bipartisan Bill On Opioid Crisis

Oct 31, 2018
Courtesy White House video

A year after President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, he signed a bipartisan bill Wednesday to bolster law enforcement efforts and expand addiction treatment and resources.

Proponents hope the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act helps the Ohio Valley, which suffers some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdose deaths.

And Ohio Valley lawmakers had a strong influence on the package.

On a 90-degree afternoon in July, under the shade of a tree in Philadelphia's McPherson Square Park, I watched a couple sit down, prepare syringes and inject drugs.

The man injected in his arm, the woman in her neck.

I observed them from about a hundred feet away, where I was getting ready to film an interview with someone else.

After they had finished, the woman rested against the man. She was splayed out on top of the man with her neck tilted back, her mouth open.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, amid a surge in cases of black lung disease, concerns are rising about the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides federal benefits to some coal miners with the disease.

A tax that funds those benefits is scheduled to fall by over 50 percent at the end of the year unless Congress acts. Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there’s a plan to keep the trust fund from sliding further into debt. The Ohio Valley ReSource's Sydney Boles has more.

Kyle Mandler

West Virginia's youth obesity rates have soared over the years, and a new report found that more than 35 percent of teens here are overweight or obese. A new statewide youth development organization is trying to address the problem, and teach resilience, by encouraging kids to enjoy their native hills -- on a mountain bike.

McConnell Hints At Action To Preserve Tax Supporting Black Lung Fund

Oct 24, 2018
An X-ray image of an Appalachian coal miner with black lung lesions.
Adelina Lancianese / NPR

Amid a surge in cases of black lung disease, concerns are rising about the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides federal benefits to some coal miners with the disease. A tax that supports the fund would be cut by half at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, more than 35 percent of children ages 10-17 in West Virginia are overweight or obese, according to an annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report released today. The report outlines policy ideas for how to blunt the upward trend of obesity -- one of them is helping kids to be more physically active. Kara Lofton reports on a new grassroots program that helps kids get more active through mountain biking.

On this West Virginia Morning, we hear another story from our ongoing project focused on confronting the addiction crisis in our region. Assistant News Director Glynis Board spoke with Bill Hogan who shares his recovery story.

The Doctor And The Epidemic: Three Years At Ground Zero Of The Opioid Crisis

Oct 15, 2018
Ashton Marra / WVPB

When Dr. Rahul Gupta started work as West Virginia’s chief health officer his state was already ground zero for the opioid epidemic, with some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdose fatalities.

That was 2015, and 735 state residents died from overdoses that year. 

Preliminary data for 2017 show there were 1,011 overdose deaths last year, a record high for the state.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Monring, the nation’s opioid crisis hit first and hardest in the Ohio Valley. West Virginia, in particular, has suffered some of the highest rates of addiction and overdose deaths in the country. As the state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Rahul Gupta has been the point person in the state’s fight against the epidemic. After three years in that position, Gupta is leaving next month.  
The Ohio Valley ReSource's Aaron Payne spoke with Gupta about his time at the center of the opioid crisis.

Rebecca Kiger / Ohio Valley ReSource

After decades of addiction to heroin and prescription opioids, Wendy Crites finally made a clean break.

“For the first time in my life I just wanted to be off of it,” she said from her home in Ranson, West Virginia. “I hit rock bottom.”

Miners Urge Congressional Action On Pensions, Black Lung Fund

Sep 26, 2018
Office of Sen. Brown

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the infectious liver disease hepatitis A has hit Appalachia hard during the past several months. Kara Lofton looks into what is causing the outbreak and how public officials are working to slow the spread.

Also on today's show, when it comes to making voting more secure, cybersecurity experts say the U.S. should move away from electronic voting machines and back towards paper ballots. West Virginia is heading the other direction.

Jesse Wright / WVPB

As President Trump attempts to revive the struggling coal industry, the administration’s top regulator for mine safety used a recent lecture at West Virginia University to lay out his priorities for the agency charged with keeping miners safe.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health David Zatezalo outlined the Trump administration's priorities for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.

Free Medical Clinic Planned for October in West Virginia

Sep 24, 2018
Adobe Stock

A free medical clinic for West Virginians in need is set for next month. The clinic will be held Oct. 20 and 21 at the Bible Center School in Charleston.

The Paloma Crisis Stabilization & Detox Center is located on Wilson Street in Martinsburg, W.Va. It's the first of its kind in Berkeley County since the 1990s.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s been more than 20 years since Martinsburg had an in-patient detox facility. That changed Friday.

The open house for the Paloma Crisis Stabilization & Detox Center attracted dozens from the community. The project took two years and was funded through a state grant of more than $1 million. The center will offer 16 beds to people with substance use disorders. It will be open 24/7.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, new data on drug use among teenagers show a rare bright spot amid the opioid crisis. Use of opioids appears to have dropped last year among high schoolers in the region. 
School officials in the Ohio Valley want to continue that trend with more school-based programs designed to help prevent substance use disorders. But as Aaron Payne reports, those programs use a new approach as officials learn from past mistakes.

Senate Opioids Bill Takes Aim At Fentanyl Imports

Sep 19, 2018
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

The U.S. Senate has approved a bipartisan package to address the nation’s opioid crisis with more resources for addiction treatment and recovery and an emphasis on stopping the flow of the the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

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