Ben Allen

Ben Allen was the Morning Edition host at KOSU, from March 2012 to October 2013.

While at KOSU, he garnered a number of awards for his reporting, including 4 first place Society of Professional Journalists, Oklahoma chapter awards in 2012, tied for the most of any journalist – print or broadcast – in the state. His reporting exposed a plan by a Native American tribe to commercially harvest castor beans, which contain the poison ricin. That plan was eventually shelved. He also illuminated the impact the U.S. farm bill has on both farmers and the poor.

Ben grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts and is a

 2011 graduate of Fordham University. He was previously employed at the school’s NPR member station WFUV.

As of April 2014, Ben is a full-time general assignment reporter for WITF in central Pennsylvania.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

 

Planned Parenthood says it added more than 800 volunteers in Pennsylvania since Donald Trump won the presidential election three weeks ago.

The organization says it usually gets about 20 to 25 new volunteers in a month.

"The outpouring of support that we've seen over the last two weeks is like nothing I have seen in my 12-and-a-half years with Planned Parenthood. It is unprecedented," said Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Executive Director Sari Stevens.

istock

 

A state agency says it mistakenly cleared 28 people to work with children without noting their past.

The state Department of Human Services says it should have included incidents of abuse or neglect to the reports for the 28 people who pursued clearances through the state's Childline.

DHS blames its IT system for mistakes in eight of the cases, but says employees failed to note incidents in the other 20 cases.

The agency says it's made changes, is providing re-training for employees, and has hired a consultant to provide an independent review.

Penn State Hershey Medical Center

 

The National Institutes of Health is awarding a $20 million grant to Penn State Health's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine.

The funds essentially aim to use scientific discoveries to make healthier communities.

The money will go towards training programs for faculty, staff and students, groundbreaking research, as well as a data system that will be able to analyze information to predict and prevent disease.

It will connect research done at 10 different schools and institutes at Penn State.

WITF

In a decision that is expected to reshape the health care world in the midstate, a federal court has blocked a merger between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals caps a saga that stretched more than two years, when two of the largest health systems in the region first announced their plans to unite.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

Last June, nearly 200 members of the state House of Representatives and Gov. Tom Wolf pushed for a special legislative session to address the opioid crisis that has killed more than 5,000 Pennsylvanians in the past two years.

House Speaker Mike Turzai stood inside the Capitol rotunda just a few months ago.

"We will be asking the Governor to give this heightened attention by calling the General Assembly into special session," he said.

Pennsylvania Internet News Service

 

Pennsylvania has officially joined nearly every other state in the U.S. by setting up a program to track prescriptions of powerful drugs like oxycodone and methadone.

It's considered a big step forward to address the addiction crisis.

Doctors, physician assistants and other prescribers can now check the database to see when a patient last received the drugs.

Ben Allen / WITF

Authorities say a 20-year-old man was holding a knife to his mother's throat before a police officer shot him once and killed him inside the bedroom of the family's Harrisburg home.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said at a news conference Monday that police responding to a child's 911 call found Earl Pinckney holding a knife with a 4-inch blade against the throat of his mother, Kim Thomas.

Thomas is disputing that account, insisting her son didn't have a knife. She said Pinckney, the father of a newborn, was not dangerous.

Pennsylvania Department of Health

 

Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program has a new director.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration introduced John Collins on Thursday as head of the state Office of Medical Marijuana.

Collins, who joined the state's health department in April as assistant administrator in the Division of HIV Disease, will oversee the state's newly minted program, including cultivation and distribution regulations. He starts on Monday.

  Health Secretary Karen Murphy has said the regulations should be fully in place by early 2018, but that's subject to change.

Brett Levin / Flickr

 

Medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, but a lot of regulations have to be implemented before the system is completely set up. Parents who want to help their children with serious illnesses are the first priority for the state Health Department.

Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy says temporary rules for out-of-state purchases will be ready by next month.

Parents will be allowed to bring medical marijuana back to Pennsylvania if their child has one of 17 serious medical conditions.

Surprise Balance Billing Probed By State

Oct 5, 2015
Upupa4me / flickr

A problem that has cost thousands of Pennsylvanians hundreds, if not thousands, of dollar has the state investigating.

Insurance holders think they have found an in-network provider for a specific procedure, but a physician, specialist or contractor who is out-of-network is actually helping to provide the care. The result is a bill that the patient thought would be $50 dollars, turns into a bill for much more.

It’s called surprise balance billing.

In Pennsylvania, it's estimated opioids like heroin killed at least 1,300 people last year. In Massachusetts, more than 1,000 have died, and in Connecticut, heroin deaths jumped more than 85 percent in two years.

But figuring out the size and scope of the problem is harder than many people think.

Pennsylvania, like many states, doesn't require reporting of specific details on drug overdoses, and whatever other information is available is at least two years old.