Erika Beras

General Assignment Reporter

Erika Beras was 90.5 WESA’s Behavioral Health reporter and now does General Assignment and Feature reporting. Her work has aired on NPR, the BBC and other networks. She has won local and national awards for her reporting; among them a fellowship from The International Center for Journalists to travel to Poland and report on shale and energy in 2012. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh Erika was a reporter at The Miami Herald. She is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


Ways to Connect

Operation Better Block

Residents of Homewood heard the results of Operation Better Block’s resident-driven land use plan last week.

Demi Kolke, the group's community development manager, said watching the redevelopment boom in nearby neighborhoods like East Liberty made them realize that Homewood could be next. And they wanted to ensure that the community remained involved through the process, as it brings changes to the neighborhood. 

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The newly-dubbed UPMC Rooney Sports Complex will house the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility for 15 more years as it undergoes an additional $10 million expansion this summer, UPMC and Steelers officials announced Tuesday.

“And of course the major piece of the puzzle will be the expansion of the training facility on the first floor, which will include an expanded weight room and conditioning room,” said current franchise President Art Rooney II.

A+ Schools

A+ Schools' annual analysis of Pittsburgh Public Schools noted again a troubling academic disparity between the district's black and white students.

“The gap is in the 30s,” said Carey Harris, the Pittsburgh-based advocacy group's executive director. “That’s got to be a focus, and I think probably the No. 1 concern leading up to that (will) be attendance and suspensions.”

born1945 / Flickr

Homeless teenagers and young adults in Pittsburgh will soon have a drop-in center that will address a wide array of their needs.

The center will be called “412 Youth Zone” and will be targeted at youths between 16 and 24 years old, who are aging out of the foster care system. It will be located downtown in the Wood Street Commons building.

Local family agency Auberle will run the center and partner with other local agencies. They expect to serve about 1,500 young adults a year – that’s how many age out of the system.

Pittsburgh's location as a drug-trafficking corridor warranted the city's inclusion into a federal initiative aiming to stymie the nation's opiate epidemic.

“360 Strategy” coordinates federal agents, local officers and community groups into a three-fold approach, said Gary Tuggle, Special Agent in Charge for the Philadelphia Division for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA


The state auditor general said Tuesday that he wants to disband a financial oversight group that's no longer needed in order to funnel funds into city pensions. 

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

  County Controller Chelsa Wagner might appeal a decision Friday that prohibits her from auditing the performance of most county authorities.

Wagner may conduct performance audits of entities subject to county jurisdiction, including the jail and county police and health departments, but can’t assess its Airport Authority, Sanitary Authority, Port Authority and the city-county Sports Exhibition Authority, Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James said Friday.

David Amsler / Flickr


One of the many victims of Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is domestic violence organizations that rely on government funding.

With the impasse well into its fourth month, organizations that rely on state or federal funding aren’t getting either, and there are fears that some may have to temporarily shutter their doors. That means victims of domestic violence may not get the help they need.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP File Photo

Leaders and community members released a local “playbook” on Friday reflecting how Pittsburghers can best harness their collective efforts to meet President Barack Obama’s challenge to become a My Brother’s Keeper Community.

Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are printing 3-D hair.

The three-dimensional printers, which translate objects from a digital file into hard, typically plastic objects, have been harnessed to make whistles, shoes, automotive parts and medical devices. But hair is a new, softer, more pliable frontier.

CMU's development team says producing 3-D hair is similar to and inspired by the way stringy strands come out in small bits when a glue gun is used.

New Hulton Bridge Opens

Oct 20, 2015
Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

  A new Hulton Bridge, which connects Harmar and Oakmont, opened  Tuesday afternoon after a celebratory ribbon cutting.

Construction on the 4-lane bridge began in September 2013.  It cost $65 million and replaces a 2-lane 109 year-old- bridge over the Allegheny River. /

Moody’s Investors Service last week maintained Pennsylvania’s bond rating at Aa3 but revised its outlook to "negative" from stable  on the state's general obligation debt.

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in September, down a tenth of a percentage point from August, according to numbers released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor and Industry.

The state tracked two-tenths of a percentage point above the U.S. rate of 5.1 percent, unchanged since August.

Two Pennsylvania senators convened a field hearing on opiate abuse Thursday at Allegheny General Hospital in an effort to jumpstart support for a bill filed in July.

Natalie Maynor / Flickr

This week, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced nearly $35 million dollars in funding for grant programs that will support local and regional food systems, including in Pittsburgh. The funds come from the Farm Bill, which allocates $30 million dollars a year for these initiatives.

Pennsylvania is receiving ten of these grants; one, of nearly 100,000 is coming to Pittsburgh. It will go toward Three Rivers Grown LLC, which is an aggregator. They purchase food and connect wholesale buyers and producers so suppliers are ensured a safe supply of regionally produced food.


The newly launched Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RTA) is hoping it will be able to improve connectivity – and with that also improve the quality of life in the region.

The public-private partnership that will look at transportation issues in the 10-county region through a community lens was launched Wednesday.

The RTA will be led by a 22-person, mostly-male, steering committee.  It's members represent both the private and public sector throughout the region.

Falconhurst Development broke ground on an $11.5 million multi-site restoration and new construction project in Wilkinsburg on Monday.

Scheduled to open in 2016, the development will include four long-vacant buildings erected at the turn of the century and a set of new townhouses in and around the Hamnett Place neighborhood, which is listed on the National Historic Registry. The development is led by Landmarks Development Corporation, a real estate arm of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA News

Chris Williams, 34, tilts a delicately etched wooden cube from side to side. His body shifts as it sends out electronic tones. It’s poplar. It’s organic. It’s electronic. It’s… a game.

The box, dubbed Coral, is Williams’ first foray into audio memory entertainment for the visually impaired. With wires and electronics hidden in a laser-engraved, wooden enclosure, the toy produces tonal sequences its players identify and match by rotating in four directions, similar to the children’s game Simon. Players can also use the custom carvings as tactile cues, he said.

The state's highest auditor launched an investigation Tuesday into the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, Pittsburgh’s state-appointed financial overseer.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto requested the audit in August, asserting the ICA has illegally withheld $12.8 million in state gambling funds the city earns by hosting Rivers Casino. The ICA was established in 2004 to help Pittsburgh avoid bankruptcy. It controls millions the state gives Pittsburgh every year and can disapprove city budgets.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Braddock Mayor John Fetterman announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate during a mid-day house party Monday.

“I would never pander to you by saying that I alone can fundamentally change Washington D.C. anymore than I could bring back the 14 furniture stores that Braddock once had,” he said,” But what I can promise you is that I will fight in a principled, collaborative way that my 14 years of service here in Braddock demonstrates.”

Kevin Hagen / AP Photo

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office received a $254,437 grant to process previously untested sexual assault kits.

That money will go towards testing 160 kits the medical examiner’s office has backlogged and about 400 additional kits at police stations, hospitals and other facilities in the county.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has received a renewable $900,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will go toward battling the state's prescription drug overdose epidemic.

Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania. More people die from overdose than do from car accidents -- 2,400 in 2013 alone.

Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, called the overdoses “a critical public health crisis.”

Lindsay Fox / flickr

Young people who vape are more likely to progress to smoking cigarettes even if they don’t initially intend to, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics, a edition of the Journal of American Medical Association.

Officials with the Pennsylvania’s eHealth Partnership Authority plan to grant about $10 million to hospitals and ambulatory providers in an effort to digitize and streamline medical services. They will be able to connect to the Pennsylvania Patient Provider Network.

This is a continuation of the grant program and effort they started last year.

Next time a weird rash, mole or freckle appears, you may be able to snap a picture of it, upload it and get a dermatologist to tell you what it is and if you should be worried.

Dermatologists at UPMC have developed a platform that lets people submit their symptoms and photos. Within 72 hours, they’ll receive a diagnosis and treatment and medication plan – or orders to come in and see a doctor.

The service will cost up to $49.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Razi, age 6, has idiopathic epilepsy, a neurological disease that causes intermittent seizures. He was diagnosed two years ago and was having about two seizures a year. This summer, though, they started happening monthly.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

An estimated 1,500 people marched through the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday from United Steelworkers headquarters to the offices of Allegheny Technology and U.S. Steel headquarters.

Union workers are demanding contract settlements with U.S. Steel, Allegheny Technologies and ArcelorMittal. Negotiations started in June.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The beleaguered August Wilson Center announced new funding, programming and board members in the latest effort to bring the African-American arts institution into financial viability and to fulfill its mission as a cultural institution.

Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Twelve people gathered Downtown on Wednesday to deliver a letter to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s local office to support the Iranian nuclear deal because they "don’t want another war."

“If the only alternative to the current peace plan is war, then yes, the right answer is approving the plan,” said Joy Sabl of Point Breeze. “But the overwhelming message is that we have a lot of pressure to go to war and we are standing firm against that pressure. We’ve seen a lot of it, we recognize it for what it is and we don’t like it.”

An event on Wednesday night at Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard will have assistors on hand to help veterans sign up for health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act.

The event is co-hosted by Get Covered America.

If veterans earn less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level — which is $16,243 for a single person or $33,465 for a family of four — they may be eligible to enroll in Health Choices, Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program, as well as keep their VA benefits.