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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Courts
3:18 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Attorneys Make Opening Arguments in Suit Challenging Act 80

A panel of Commonwealth Court judges in Pittsburgh heard opening arguments Wednesday from attorneys challenging the way Act 80, a law that affected various human service programs statewide, was enacted by the Pennsylvania General Assembly last year.

The lawsuit Billie Washington vs. The Department of Public Welfare was filed last fall. Washington is a Philadelphia woman and one of more than 60,000 Pennsylvanians whose $200-a-month general cash assistance was eliminated as part of Act 80.

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Trauma
2:04 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

How to Talk to Kids About Traumatic Events

For children who have seen the images of death and destruction and have heard the heartbreaking stories surrounding Monday’s terrorist attacks in Boston, there may be a lot of confusion and fear. They may wonder if they are safe, if their caregivers are safe and how this will affect their daily lives.

Jeff Magill, Project Coordinator for Emergency Management at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at UPMC, said children’s responses will vary according to their age and the perspective in which they have been exposed.

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Health
12:03 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

Corbett Meets With Sebelius: No Decision Made on Medicaid Expansion

Gov. Tom Corbett met with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday night to discuss, among other things, potential Medicaid expansion in the state. 

Expanding Medicaid, the federal-state medical assistance program, would cover thousands more people in Pennsylvania. Part of the Affordable Care Act, governors have the option to decide if they will expand coverage in their states.

Corbett has said he won't because he doesn't think the state can sustain the costs of the program over time. 

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Sequestration
2:59 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

As Sequester Cuts Kick In, Hospitals to See Less Revenue from Medicare Payments

Starting April 1, Medicare payments to hospitals, doctors and other health care providers will be reduced by 2 percent as sequestration cuts kick in.

These cuts come after a slew of other cuts and subsidy reductions for under- and un-compensated care in preparation for the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will implement the cut, reimbursing Medicare claims at 98 cents on the dollar. Medicare already reimburses less than most private health insurance plans.

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Health
6:24 am
Thu March 28, 2013

In Pittsburgh, an Effort to Bring Down the Black Community's Infant Mortality Rate

Dorretta Lemon, a registered nurse, visits at-risk, pregnant first-time mothers every month at their homes. She maintains her relationship with the mother and her infant until the child is 2 years old.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

When Sarah Murphy found out she was pregnant, she was initially shocked.

"I didn’t think I would have kids, and then I ended up having him when I was 39," she said. 

Her advanced age led to a medically complicated pregnancy. Her income wasn’t as high as she thought it should be to cover the associated costs.

And as the child of a black woman living in Allegheny County, Murphy’s baby was three times more likely than a white woman’s child to die before reaching his first birthday.

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Health
3:07 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Pennsylvanians Eligible for Health Insurance Tax Credits

A new report from Families USA, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of health care consumers, says that 896,000 Pennsylvanians will be eligible for new health insurance premium tax credits in 2014.

These tax credits will pay for health coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Families will no longer have to pay for more than a set percentage of their income for health coverage.

“The lower your income, the higher your tax credit subsidy,” said Ron Pollack, Director of Families USA, “so it's tailored to help the people who need it the most.”

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Agriculture
2:32 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Group Pushes for Sustainable Agriculture in Southwest Pennsylvania

The PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center recently released a report on the economical and environmental benefits of sustainably produced, local agriculture. The organization also offered a blueprint of policies they hope state legislators will adopt and introduce in Pennsylvania.

The report, "Healthy Farms, Healthy Environment: State and Local Policies to Improve Pennsylvania’s Food System and Protect our Land and Water," highlighted programs, such as Vermont’s Farm to Plate Initiative, which pushed for developing sustainable agriculture methods.

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STEM
6:17 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

In Pittsburgh Visit, NOW President Encourages Women to Pursue STEM Fields

Terry O’ Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to tour STEM education facilities at Community College of Allegheny County, deliver a speech and participate in a panel discussion with women who work in STEM-related fields.

O’Neill said STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education is important not just for women but also for the competitiveness of the country.

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Health
3:36 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Report: Pennsylvania Fails When It Comes to Hospital Transparency

A new report out this week says Pennsylvania fails when it comes to making hospital fees transparent, resulting in patients not knowing what their hospital fees are until they are billed.

Pennsylvania, along with 28 other states, got an "F." Seven states got a "D." Only 2 states got an "A."

The report was compiled and released by The Catalyst for Payment Reform, a consortium of health care providers and the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, a nonprofit that works to improve the affordability and quality of health care.

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Behavioral Health
12:47 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of PA Prisoners with Serious Mental Illness

The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Corrections on behalf of prisoners with serious mental illness alleging prisoners were not given adequate treatment in solitary confinement.

The lawsuit alleges the Department of Corrections violates the Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by isolating them in solitary confinement and not offering them sufficient or proper treatment.

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State Health Centers
7:54 pm
Sun March 10, 2013

Corbett Proposal: Close State Health Centers, Save Millions

As part of Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed 2013-2014 budget, about half of the state’s sixty health centers will be shuttering, consolidating or morphing. Lay-offs of personnel are also part of the proposal; which state officials say is an effort to modernize Pennsylvania’s public health services and save money.

Michael Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health says this move would be a way to deliver services to people who can’t get to the health centers.

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AdultBasic
4:31 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

A "Victory for the Working Poor"

A day after a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that the Corbett administration has to spend tobacco settlement proceeds on health care programs such as adultBasic, plantiffs celebrated what they call a victory for the working poor.

AdultBasic, a health insurance plan, launched in 2002 for low-income people earning too much to qualify for Medicaid.  Two years ago, when the Corbett administration cancelled the program, 41,000 people lost their health insurance coverage.

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Mayview
12:24 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

No Coal Mining on Former Mayview Site

South Fayette Township’s Zoning Board denied a proposal Wednesday night to allow developers to mine for coal at the former Mayview State Hospital site. Many residents were opposed to the traffic and environmental hazards that would have come with the mineral extraction process.

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Health
12:20 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

Corbett Proposal: Close State Health Centers, Save Millions

As part of Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed 2013-2014 budget, about half of the state’s sixty health centers will be shuttering, consolidating or morphing. Lay-offs of personnel are also part of the proposal; which state officials say is an effort to modernize Pennsylvania’s public health services and save money.

Michael Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health says this move would be a way to deliver services to people who can’t get to the health centers.

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Public Safety
3:00 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

State Releases Recidivism Report, Finds $44.7 Million in Potential Savings

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections released a comprehensive state recidivism report this week.

This is the first such recidivism report in six years – the department used to do a much more pared down report.

This report details how often re-offenders commit crimes, what crimes are most likely to end in re-incarceration and how much taxpayers can save - $44.7 million a year - with some changes to the system.

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Health
10:15 am
Mon February 25, 2013

Pennsylvania Fair Care to Stop Taking New Enrollees, Insurance Commissioner "Shocked"

Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine says he was surprised by the announcement last week from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare that PCIP – Pre-existing condition insurance plans- a transition insurance program that is part of the Affordable Care Act - would cease to take new enrollees.

Pennsylvania’s plan called 'Pennsylvania Fair Care,' was set up in 2010, has 6,500 enrollees and averages about 200 new enrollees a month.

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Public Safety
10:32 am
Thu February 21, 2013

Harper Out as Pittsburgh Police Chief

Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper resigned from his post late Wednesday afternoon after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl learned some confidential information from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding their investigation into Harper.  Ravensthal asked Harper to leave – and he did.

“It’s a sad day and one that has been tough for a lot of people but we’ll pick up the pieces and we’ll move on,” said Ravensthal on Wednesday evening speaking to a roomful of reporters.

Ravenstahl wouldn’t say what information he learned but he said it was enough.

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Environment & Energy
2:39 pm
Sun September 30, 2012

Poland Hopes to Frack Shale Deposits

A map showing major shale gas basins around the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ask Poles how they feel about fracking for natural gas and responses are mixed. They hope for big money and free flowing gas. They recognize legal, environmental and societal concerns, but ask them why fracking for homegrown gas is important and the answer is the same: energy independence.

Poles from all walks of life say if they can get to the natural gas that geologists and energy companies say is trapped deep underground, Poland would be free from reliance on its neighbors to the east — Russians.

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Environment & Energy
2:25 pm
Sun September 30, 2012

A Test Drill in Lesniowice

A test drill for shale gas was done by Chevron in Lesniowice earlier this year.
Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poland has the same kinds of natural gas shale formations we have here in Pennsylvania. Many Poles hope hydraulic fracturing technology and the resulting release of natural gas will bring the country energy independence and a financial boom, but also like here in Pennsylvania, a number of Poles have a not-in-my-backyard attitude toward the developments. 

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Environment & Energy
2:18 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Looking Forward For Poland

A field near where a gas well was drilled earlier this year.
Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Poland has seen many changes in the last 30 years – democracy has come to the country, Poles have embraced capitalism the nation has forged relationships with multi-national corporations and it has entered the European Union.

At the same time, there has been a growing focus on finding for cleaner forms of energy.

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Environment & Energy
2:22 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

A Trip To The Northern Province

A test drill in the Northern Province of Poland.
Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Poland has the same kind of shale gas deposits found throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. Poland’s government hopes to tap into their deposits to fulfill the country’s future energy needs but, like in the United States, it comes with a great deal of controversy. 

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Environment & Energy
2:23 pm
Fri August 31, 2012

Zurawlow and Chevron

Andrezj Bak and his wife Barbara, residents of Zurawlow, read a letter Chevron sent the residents of the community.
Erika Beras/90.5 WESA

Friday, August 31, 2012

You might miss Zurawlow as you drive the narrow roads that weave through the gentle rolling hills of Southeastern Poland.  A small sign is all that indicates a small town is just up ahead, along a dirt and gravel road.  

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Behavioral Health
3:59 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

VA To Hire More Mental Health Workers

Monday, June 18, 2012

In the next few months, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare system will be hiring approximately 42 new mental healthcare workers.

The VA will be bringing on clinicians and support staff to assist the ever-growing number of veterans who seek and require mental health help.

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Health
3:57 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

New VA Facility to Streamline Services

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In a space that was until recently a parking lot now stands the newest addition to the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

It took more than a decade for it to come together, but the new facility in Oakland is being touted as the future of veteran-centered health care.

New features include 78 private beds for psychiatric care in the same building as an outpatient primary-care center that providers hope will streamline services.

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Health
3:51 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

For Veterans Coming Home Isn't Always Easy

Monday, April 16, 2012

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