Erika Beras

Behavioral Health Reporter

Erika Beras is 90.5 WESA’s Behavioral Health reporter. Her work has also 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.

 

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Behavioral Health
7:39 am
Wed May 7, 2014

For Those With Traumatic Brain Injuries, Yoga Might Provide Some Benefit

Students participate in a class at Bend Yoga in downtown Pittsburgh.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

On a recent Thursday night, a group of barefoot people are moving through a yoga practice at Bend Yoga’s studio in downtown Pittsburgh.

It’s a yoga class for people with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder — or both. Among them is Chris Ohleger, who said yoga has benefited him in ways no other treatments or therapies have.

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Behavioral Health
3:45 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Those With Autism, Alzheimer's Could Be Found If They Wander With New Bracelet

Allegheny County’s District Attorney Stephen Zappala and police officers from the area announced countywide efforts to help families with members with cognitive brain issues such as Autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ten police departments in Allegheny County — Aspinwall, Bethel Park, McKeesport, Millvale, Moon, Monroeville, Northern Regional, Munhall, Elizabeth and the city of Pittsburgh — will be training police officers to use a radio transmitter reader that, when activated, can track bracelets issued to those with special needs.

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Behavioral Health
3:30 am
Wed April 23, 2014

For Latino Children With Autism, Additional Barriers Exist

Astrid Arroyo with her 13-year-old son Kai.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

The only thing Kai Arroyo eats is butterscotch pudding. He only drinks milk from a bottle. When he speaks, you get the sort of language that you expect from a kindergartener – not a seventh grader. And he can’t go to the bathroom on his own. 

"He’s still wearing pull-ups at 13," said his mother Astrid Arroyo. "I know! He’s actually a little more vocal about letting us know when he needs to go to the bathroom, but he’s still not fully there, so he’s still dependent on us to remind him and take him to the restroom."

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Education
2:09 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Advocates For Public Schools Want A Funding Formula

Leaders of statewide groups that represent school boards, school business officials and educational coalitions released a survey they commissioned among selected voters in Pennsylvania.

The majority of the voters surveyed said public schools affect the economy and that school funding should be increased.

When asked, 84 percent of voters in Pennsylvania said they believe public schools have a very strong effect on economic development. Advocates say this is evidence the state needs a fairer funding formula.

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Government & Politics
6:24 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Expected to Pass This Week, Bill Will Broaden Scope of Mandated Reporters

A plethora of legislation was proposed in the aftermath of the Sandusky Penn State sex abuse case. One of the most comprehensive bills is expected to pass this week.

Senate Bill 21 will broaden the scope of mandated reporters when it comes to child abuse – and hold them more accountable.

Mandated reporters are those who have contact with children, anyone from a public library employee to clergy to a medical examiner. These reporters would be required to alert law enforcement when they suspect a child is being abused.

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Health
7:28 am
Tue April 8, 2014

First-Of-Its-Kind Medical Trial To Place Patients Between Life and Death

Last week, the trauma center at UPMC Presbyterian began a medical trial using critically injured gunshot and knife wound patients. It’s similar to suspended animation, but surgeons are calling it Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation.

The patients will not quite be alive, but they also won't quite be dead.

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Behavioral Health
3:30 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Faced With Daunting Medical Expenses, Some Turn To Crowdfunding

Montana Delciello and her mother Melissa Jones are raising money for a psychiatric dog for Montana on Gofundme.com
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Medical care is costly, and for many people that cost is prohibitive. More and more often, people like Melissa Jones find themselves turning to crowdfunding to pay for those extras health insurance won't cover.

Walking down Fifth Avenue in Oakland, Jones' 10-year-old daughter Montana Delciello describes it as a full-on sensory experience. The sidewalks swell with people as bikes, cars, buses and ambulances weave in and out of lanes on the massive street.

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Behavioral Health
3:30 am
Fri March 14, 2014

How Treating Trauma in Refugees Has Evolved

Dr. Richard Mollica, the director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma at Massachusetts General Hospital, has spent the last three decades working with refugees. This week, he was in Pittsburgh for a conference and sat down to speak about refugees and trauma with 90.5 WESA’s Erika Beras. This is part of the interview.

On how the work he has done has changed since the early '80s:

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Life of Learning
10:10 am
Wed March 12, 2014

For These Refugee Students, Learning Life Skills Is Part of the Curriculum

On Monday afternoon, a chartered bus wound its way through the steep, narrow roads of the South Hills on its way to Baldwin High School.

On board were employees of HIAS, an agency that works with the State Department in bringing refugees to the United States. HIAS works with Jewish Family and Children’s Services, one of four resettlement agencies in the Pittsburgh area.

Pittsburgh has become a hub for refugees. This week HIAS is holding its national conference here, and among the activities are visits to where refugees live, work — and go to school.

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Behavioral Health
2:03 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Federal Report Criticizes How Pennsylvania Treats Mentally Ill Prisoners

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections says a U.S. Department of Justice report criticizing the system for numerous reasons, including the prison’s excessive use of solitary confinement for inmates with mental illness or intellectual disabilities, is no longer valid.

“The report was accurate for the time frame but not reflective of our department today,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel.

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Environment & Energy
5:19 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

Casey: Coal Chemicals In Pennsylvania a Matter of Homeland Security

Three thousand gallons of the chemical that spilled into the Elk River and contaminated tap water for 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties has been moved to Armstrong County.

The January West Virginia contamination continues to have lingering effects on the water supply.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) says ensuring a leak like the one that occurred in West Virginia doesn’t happen here is a matter of holding private industry accountable and government regulation, starting from the top with Homeland Security.

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Behavioral Health
10:31 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Translating Trauma: The Challenge of Treating Refugees With PTSD

Aweys Mwaliya's childhood in war-torn Somalia was marred by unspeakable trauma. He and his family eventually fled, spending a decade living in refugee camps. Nine years ago, he was resettled in Utah and later moved to Pittsburgh.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

As a child in war-torn Somalia, Aweys Mwaliya saw friends and family killed in massacres. Fleeing the country,  his family spent weeks walking to Kenya. The trip was so grueling, that along the way, his youngest sister died. The family couldn’t give her a proper burial.

"The feeling I have about those terrible things are very, very bad, and I’m still wondering why things like that happen, why people do things to other people," Mwaliya, now 30 and living in Pittsburgh said. 

In Kenya, his family spent a decade living in refugee camps.

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Behavioral Health
3:00 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Bhutanese Refugees Face a High Suicide Rate

At a conference held in Pittsburgh last fall, several dozen men from around the United States discussed a disturbing trend in their community: the high suicide rate and prevalence of depression among Bhutanese-Nepali refugees.

"People are looking for resources where they can go to curb this mental health issue," said Buddha Mani Dhakal, editor of the Bhutan News Service.

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Behavioral Health
7:34 am
Mon January 27, 2014

In Seeking Health Care, Many Refugees Have Only A Small Window of Opportunity

Birkha Tamang, a Bhutanese refugee, hopes to find an affordable health care plan. Assisting him is health navigator Leslie Bachurski of the Consumer Health Coalition.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

On a blustery January morning, Leslie Bachurski is at Northern Area Multi Service’s offices in Sharpsburg. Bachurski, a health care navigator, is at the resettlement agency to help non-English speaking refugees enroll in health insurance plans.

Her first client of the day is Birkha Tamang, a 42-year-old Bhutanese refugee who has been in the United States for 16 months with his wife and kids. He’s the only one in his family with a job — and the only one without health care coverage.

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Behavioral Health
3:30 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Navigating Health Care Can Often Leave Refugees Lost in Translation

Therapist Julanne Bibro-Ruch works with Adu Sit, a Burmese refugee, at the Squirrel Hill Health Center. On the speaker phone is an interpreter.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

By the time the federally funded Squirrel Hill Health Center’s Mobile Unit opens its doors in the South Hills community of Prospect Park, people are already lined up, looking for help.

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Health
8:27 am
Mon January 13, 2014

When a New Home Means a New Diet, Health Problems Can Arise for Refugees

Tek Nepal (right) washes spinach at his Mount Oliver home with his wife Radhika Nepal. After a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2012, his diet has changed substantially.
Ryan Loew 90.5 WESA

On a typical weekday morning, 47-year-old Tek Nepal is moving about the Mount Oliver duplex he shares with his wife, sons, daughter-in-law and grandchild.

He works nights, so he gets his family time in the mornings. And often, that time centers around eating.

Those meals used to consist of lots of starches. But since a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2012, they have changed.

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Behavioral Health
3:30 am
Mon January 6, 2014

For Refugees From War-Torn Nations, Mental Health Care Is Often Missing

When Claudine Mukankindi arrived in Pittsburgh in 2001, it was after surviving the Rwandan genocide, enduring countless acts of violence and loss of family. In her time in the U.S., she was diagnosed and treated for a slew of mental illnesses, among them post-traumatic stress disorder. Her last years were marked by hospital stays and court visits. She died of a heart attack in 2012.
Credit Courtesy photo

On a Sunday morning last December, nearly a hundred people gathered in a West End church to dedicate their prayers to Claudine Mukankindi, a young woman who came to the United States as a Congolese refugee.

In December 2012, a year earlier, she died of a heart attack at age 36.

In a pew near the front was Adeline Kihonia. Dancing and chanting in worship, she had tears in her eyes.

"She was like a part of my family," Kihonia said. "When she passed away, it was like I lost a sister, a good sister."

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Health
8:03 am
Fri November 15, 2013

'Stars' Film Makes Stars, And Friends, Out of Young Cancer Patients

"The Fault in Our Stars," a movie adaptation of a critically and commercially popular young adult novel, has just finished filming in Pittsburgh and in the Netherlands.

The book and movie center around two teenagers who meet and fall in love at a cancer support group. Many of the extras in the movie are young people with cancer.

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the movie adaptation of the beloved novel. Book author John Green says the story goes against the typical trope popular media brings us about the ailing.

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Community
4:03 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Plans Underway for Light Up Night in Downtown Pittsburgh

Thousands of people came downtown to see the Knit the Bridge project and the Rubber Duck earlier this year. Civic and corporate leaders hope thousands will also come to Light Up Night and will visit Holiday Market.

Light Up Night consists of big trees getting decorated throughout downtown, live music, other festive activities such as ice skating at PPG Place and, you guessed it, fireworks.

Jeremy Waldrup, who runs the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said he expects more people than ever before to be a part of this years festivities.

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Behavioral Health
4:05 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Too Many Psych Patients, Not Enough Beds

Emergency Departments across Pennsylvania are seeing increasing numbers of psychiatric patients and many want to establish a real-time statewide bed-tracking system to find available psychiatric beds.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society, along with the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society is asking to work with the Department of Health and Hospital Association of Pennsylvania to establish the database.

Michael Turturro, Chief of Emergency Services at UPMC Mercy in Uptown says there is a great need for this.

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Health
6:24 am
Sat October 26, 2013

Massive Cancer Study Needs Help

In its last big recruitment push for its latest major research study, The American Cancer Society is seeking participants in rural southwestern Pennsylvania counties such as Fayette, Cambria and Westmoreland.

Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS-3) is the third massive American Cancer Society study. CPS-1, which started in the 50’s, found links between smoking and lung cancer. CPS-2, which started in the 1980’s and is ongoing has found links between unhealthy behaviors and cancers. CPS-3 hopes to find major factors that can affect cancer risk.

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Behavioral Health
7:34 am
Wed October 16, 2013

For Victims of Sexual Violence, the Judicial System Can Often Add to Trauma

For years, Britney Dukes was sexually abused by her stepfather. While she's recently found some resolution in her case, like many others, the trauma of her situation was compounded by the legal system.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

With sexual violence can come a host of mental health issues — depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few. But dealing with the judicial system can also bring a slew of problems for victims.

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Behavioral Health
3:30 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Prisoners Have High Incidents of Trauma, Researchers Find

A new policy brief out of Rutgers University in New Jersey looked at male Pennsylvania state prison inmates and found that almost all of them had experienced traumatic events in their lives. 

Nearly 600 men participated in the screening that looked at the prevalence of trauma in male inmates. Researcher Nancy Wolff, who runs the Center for Behavioral Health Services and Criminal Justice Research at Rutgers, found that the men had experienced a wide range of trauma in their lives.

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Health
4:55 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

The Exchange is Open ... Now What?

On Thursday afternoon, Carla Bailey was unsuccessfully trying to get customers’ attention at the Rite Aid on Smithfield Street downtown.

Bailey, a supplemental insurance agent, was working for Green Cross Insurance, a new brokerage firm setting up in Rite Aid stores to disperse information about the health exchanges. Bailey is working in stores throughout the region, and on Wednesday she had been in McKees Rocks, where one person signed up to learn more about the Affordable Care Act.

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Health
3:30 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Pennsylvania Loses Money in Tobacco Dispute, Cuts Funding to Programs

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office plans to fight an arbitration related to tobacco settlement money, but in the meantime, the Department of Health has started cutting millions of dollars.

That's expected to shutter tobacco programs such as Tobacco-Free Allegheny which will now be operating on a week-to-week basis.

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Health
4:12 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Options Aplenty, Lower-Than-Expected Premiums for Pittsburghers in Health Insurance Marketplace

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that people will have more options in the health insurance marketplace and premiums will not be as high as originally thought. 

Premiums nationwide will be about 16 percent lower than originally expected.

“In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable,” Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. 

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The Sequester & You
3:30 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Schools Begin Feeling the Pinch of Sequestration

The calls didn’t come on the first or second days of school. Or even the third. But they came soon thereafter and each day more of them are coming in.

"What parents are finding is that the manpower that there to support their kids one on one isn't there," said Cindy Duch, director of parent advising at the Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership Center, or PEAL, an advocacy group that helps out parents of children with disabilities.

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Health
7:21 am
Fri September 20, 2013

As Obamacare Takes Effect, Getting Health Care to the Amish

On Oct. 1, the health insurance exchanges that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act open. The landmark federal legislation is making health insurance mandatory for Americans — most of them anyway. The Amish will be exempt from buying insurance on the health exchanges.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

In Clarion County’s Licking Township there are vibrant green hills, windy narrow roads and traffic signs posted just as much for the trucks and tractors as for the horses and buggies.

It's a small, rural farming community north of Pittsburgh.

When you pull up to Emmanuel Schmidt’s home, you see acres of land, his woodworking shop and carriages. The 49-year-old Amish farmer knows Obamacare is coming, but he doesn’t quite know what that means.

"I’ve wondered, I’ve really wondered what’s going to happen with the health care, I don’t know," he said. 

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Health
4:07 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Union Members to Help Enroll People in Health Care Exchanges

On Tuesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke at Allegheny General Hospital announcing a partnership with Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The goal? To go into areas with high numbers of uninsured people and ensure they sign up for the health insurance exchanges, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges are a health care market where people can compare different insurance plans based on coverage and prices.

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Behavioral Health
2:18 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Using Brain Scans, Researchers Say They Can Diagnose Disorders More Precisely

A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry used brain scans to measure blood flow to parts of the brain associated with emotion regulation to gauge if the subjects had unipolar depression or bipolar disorder.

The study hoped to identify brain function markers that identified the two types of depression.

The study used 44 Pittsburgh-area women and was conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Kings College London, the University of South Florida and the University of Texas Southwestern.

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