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.



11:54 am
Tue August 12, 2014

Starting Jan. 1, Allegheny Health Network Will Ban Smoking On Its Grounds

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, no workers, visitors or patients will be allowed to smoke on any Allegheny Health Network grounds.

“Anybody whose walked into any facility, health care or otherwise, who has to walk through smoke or be exposed to smoke, it's not a pleasant thing if you're not a smoker," said Allegheny Health Network spokesman Dan Laurent, "particularly in a facility that’s dedicated to preserving health and promoting health.”

Smoking is already not allowed inside Allegheny Health Network facilities.

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Behavioral Health
3:30 am
Tue August 12, 2014

What Makes You Scratch That Itch? New Research Aims To Find Out

Junichi Hachisuka at the University of Pittsburgh prepares the spine of a genetically modified mouse for itch-related experiments.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

Poison ivy, bug bites, allergies — just hearing those words can make you want to scratch. But even though we all itch, and we all scratch, we don’t know very much about what is happening in our brains when we do so.

New work by researchers, including one in Pittsburgh, is attempting to figure it out.

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Arts & Culture
7:49 am
Thu July 24, 2014

For Two Cuban Dancers, a New Life in the U.S.

Nearly eight years after leaving Cuba, Damien Martinez Coro and Cynthia Castillo have settled into their lives in Pittsburgh. The couple is opening their own dance studio in Coraopolis.
Credit Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

It’s early on a sunny summer morning and Damien Martinez Coro is leading a group of young ballerinas through a rigorous dance routine at the Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh. 

As he moves through the studio, he keeps time by snapping his fingers while yelling commands and adjusting the girls’ forms.

The dance school in Bethel Park is a far reach from his hometown of Matanzas, Cuba.

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Life of Learning
3:33 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

At Summer Seminar, Students Learn to Think Critically About Global Issues

For a small group of local teenagers, part of their summer has been spent learning to think critically about global issues. For the past two weeks the students have been learning Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, hearing speakers who work in the international community and learning from one another in the 2014 Summer Seminar of Global Issues.

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7:53 am
Thu July 3, 2014

For Women With Asthma, Additional Complications Arise During Pregnancy

Kelly Liartis speaks with Hyagriv Simhan at Magee-Women's Hospital of UPMC.
Credit Erika Beras / 90.5 WESA

On a recent afternoon, Kelly Liartis is at Magee Women’s Hospital for a check-up. She’s talking to her doctor Hyagriv Simhan about her soon-to-be-born baby — and her frequent summer asthma flare-ups.

He's telling her that despite her fears, its actually OK to use her inhaler ... it's been used in pregnancy, as he says with a laugh, for a "bajillion years."

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4:02 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

New Round of Healthcare Navigator Funding Announced

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced last week $60 million dollars in funding for navigators to help people sign up for health insurance during the second round of open-enrollment period in the marketplace.

The health insurance marketplace is a key component of the Affordable Care Act.

This next open enrollment period begins November 15.

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Public Safety
3:54 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

District Attorney Says Pittsburgh Officer Justified In Wilkinsburg Shooting Death

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala says a Pittsburgh police officer who shot and killed a man in Wilkinsburg in April was justified in opening fire.

Officials say Adrian Williams, 29, who was killed in the shooting, had led police on an early-morning high-speed chase that started in Homewood and ended in Wilkinsburg, when he crashed the car he was driving and then ran through yards with a handgun.

Zappala said at least 12 other officers were at the scene and had been involved in the chase. Officer Christopher Kertis shot Williams six times.

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Environment & Energy
3:14 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

City Council And Some Citizens Say DEP's Proposed Regulations Are Too Lax

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection held public comment for their proposed new regulations at coal-fired power plants that is supposed to limit smog-causing pollution.

Those present at a rally at DEP’s offices in Pittsburgh before the public comment said the proposed regulations are lax toward coal-fired power plants and will worsen smog problems in a region already known for poor air quality.

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Government & Politics
12:32 am
Wed May 21, 2014

McClelland Trumps Hugya for Dem Nod in 12th District

Erin McClelland will be the Democrat running for the 12th Pennsylvania Congressional seat against Republican Keith Rothfus this fall.

In 2011, the 12th district was redrawn – McClelland, who is currently a health care administrator, says that made campaigning particularly hard early on.

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Government & Politics
3:37 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Sen. Casey Introduces New Bill Addressing Child Abuse

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey says the federal government can play a role in prosecuting child abusers.

Casey is introducing a bill, the Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act, that says all adults responsible for children should be required to report cases of child abuse and neglect.

“It would require all states to pass and enforce a law requiring adults with a professional responsibility to children to report instances of known or suspected child abuse,” Casey said.

The proposal comes in the wake of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal.

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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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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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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
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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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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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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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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