Heather McClain

Assistant Producer, Essential Pittsburgh

Heather McClain is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, originally from the Main Line Philadelphia area. Her interests in the environment and sustainability have been reflected throughout her career, most recently as a news anchor and features reporter/producer at WBZH Community Radio in Pottstown, PA. At WBZH, Heather was host and producer of the weekly program Our Environment, and worked part-time as production assistant for the PBS TV program Growing a Greener World. Heather started her career at the CBS Early Show and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. She developed her public radio skills at WRTI public radio at Temple University.

Ways To Connect

Punchy Judy / Flickr

In 2014, heroin addiction and overdose deaths became an epidemic across the country, across the state of Pennsylvania and especially in Allegheny County.

Dr. Neil Capretto, Medical Director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center says the high rate of overdoses in southwest PA can be tied to use of prescription medicines, along with a blue collar and aging demographic.

"There was a need for pain medicines and doctor's started prescribing it and pharmaceutical companies started marketing to doctors heavily. And they were giving the message, 'This is safe, not addicting. Less than one percent of people who ever use Oxicodon ever have a problem.' That was the message from the companies. So there was a lot of prescription medicines, very heavy in our community. Then thousands of people in every town from Kittanning, to Downtown Pittsburgh, to Clarion, to Washington PA got hooked onto prescription medicines, and that led to the heroine problem."

Capretto explains that as an addiction to legal prescription opiates develops, heroin emerges as a cheaper alternative, once refills run out. But addiction is not simply about the relief of physical pain.

Capretto says he considers addiction to be a biological, psychological, social, and even spiritual disease. 

"Opioids are very good at stopping and blocking pain; physical pain, emotional pain, psychic pain... I've talked with thousands of people with addiction over the years and I never met one who started using any drug because they wanted to intentionally add more problems to their life on purpose. They're trying to solve some problem, block some pain." 

A Coordinated Effort to Cover the Complexities of Heroin Addiction

As news of the increasing number of heroin overdoses has made headlines throughout Pennsylvania, newsrooms are making a coordinated effort to cover the most important angles of this public health crisis.

Sharon Walsh, editor of the investigative journalism organization PublicSource, has been compiling the work of PA media outlets that have been reporting on the heroin problem.

Tom Jefferson / performanceheartist.wordpress.com


"Today I promise, in order to form a more loving union, I will fight for justice, I will work toward peace, I will mobilize in defense of the commons, I will promote the general welfare of all life, and weave the braids of liberation to my movement for the future generations " - etta cetera

When 90.5 WESA Weekend Host Liz Reid found out she'd be filling in as host of Essential Pittsburgh, she took to her Facebook page and asked followers who they'd like to hear interviewed on the show.

Overwhelmingly, people wanted to hear a conversation with etta cetera, a prison justice activist and performance "heartist" who married the city of Pittsburgh earlier this summer. Etta joins us to talk about why she married the city and how it ties in with her advocacy and prison justice work.

Florian Christoph / Flickr

The Penn State University football team plays its season opener this Saturday against the University of Central Florida, with a unique spin. The big game is scheduled to be played at the Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Croke Park officials expect the game to bring $30 million into the Irish economy, thanks to an expected 16,000 visitors from the US.

John Affleck, Knight Chair in Sports Journalism at Penn State is in Dublin with a group of student reporters. He says the success of previous American college football games held in Dublin caused Irish officials to take notice.

Rebecca S. Antal / Prime Stage

The Devil’s Arithmetic is an award-winning historical novel about time travel and the Holocaust by author Jane Yolen.

The book has been adapted for the theater by Lancaster, PA resident Barry Kornhauser. This weekend Prime Stage Theater gives the first performance of the adapted play, at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

The story centers on Hannah, a modern day teenager who is mysteriously transported back to the time of the Holocaust. 

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

What started eight years ago as a gathering of store owners and employees celebrating the culture of independent record stores has evolved to include major music industry events, limited edition album releases and people camped out in front of record stores.

Saturday is National Record Store Day, and it’s one of the biggest days of the year for record stores and collectors alike.

“I like that it was started to bring back the whole record store experience,” said James “Selecta” Scoglietti, part owner of 720 Records in Lawrenceville. “People used to go every weekend to their local record store, and it was a social event. It was like a barbershop, where guys and gals would come in and discuss the latest hot tracks of the week. So I love that it’s bringing that back to the mainstream.”

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited the Community College of Allegheny County's West Hills Center campus in Oakdale Wednesday to announce system-wide reforms of federal job training programs.

Making Sense of Pittsburgh's Nonsensical Roads

Mar 11, 2014
Phil Quinn / wikipedia

Pittsburgh’s topography is pretty unique as far as cities go. It's essentially a peninsula surrounded by mountains. And with the city's numerous bridges and triangular shape, facilitating efficient traffic patterns has long been a challenge for the region.

Pittsburgher Phil Anderson runs the popular blog The Nonsensical Roads of Pittsburgh, where he records his observations about bizarre traffic and road layouts. He's driven in cities throughout the world and seems to find Pittsburgh infrastructure both amusing and frustrating.

“You have stages of driving on Pittsburgh roads," he said. "There’s anger, grief, and eventually you have acceptance.”

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Thousands of birds, commonly called seagulls, have made a rare migration south to roost at Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist at the National Aviary said the gulls ("seagull" is actually a colloquial term, he explained), normally roost at the Great Lakes this time of year, but the extreme cold from the polar vortex has frozen the surfaces.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Curling is growing to be one of the most watched sports at the Winter Olympics. Although it may be a little while before Team USA wins a medal, Pittsburgh has a growing curling culture.

Stream It! Music to Make You Move in 2014

Jan 21, 2014
yuki55 / flickr

The first month of 2014 is almost over, how's your fitness resolution going?

The New Years' season craziness at the gym should be thinning out, now's the time to really stick with that routine.

Cindy Howes, host of the Morning Mix at 91.3 WYEP and program director Kyle Smith have helped compile a playlist with some of their favorite songs from 2013 to keep you moving as the year progresses. Follow it and stream it anywhere.

Lauren Zawilenski / Chicago Dibs Tumblr

It's that time of year again, snow inevitably falls, you spend time shoveling out a parking spot on the street, spread salt, then have to worry about someone pulling into that space while you're away. 

So what do you do? Mark it with a chair? Maybe another piece of patio furniture? How about a tiki torch or your discarded Christmas tree?

The Tumblr blog, Chicago Dibs has been collecting photos of parking spot markers with photos that range from straight forward...

To straight up odd.

The Pawpaw Book/Andy Moore / Flickr

Andy Moore is a writer who lives on the North Side of Pittsburgh. In 2013, The Allegheny Front interviewed him about his proclivity for the pawpaw, a fruit that's native to Pennsylvania and many other regions of the United States. The Allegheny Front recently listed the story as one of their favorites of 2013, and it's one of mine too.

AF Reporter Hal B. Klein says:

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

These topics air Tuesday January 7, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

saxifrage / twitter

These topics air Monday January 6, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

Tammy Terwelp / 90.5 WESA

This program is a previously broadcast show, listen to it here.

“Where’s the moral outrage over the lack of equity in education,” asked Duquesne University Dean of Education Olga Welch who attended a recent community forum on the achievement gap held by 90.5 WESA.

“Where is it,” replied forum panel member Jeremy Resnick, a founder of Propel Charter Schools, “it’s missing.”

Dozens of parents, teachers and administrators crowded the Community Broadcast Center recently for a public forum as part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

In the nearly two years that we've been on the air, we've interviewed a variety of authors. We revisit conversations with three of those authors. 

The story of Maya Angelou's extraordinary life has been told in her bestselling biographies. Last May she shared with us the story of her relationship with her Mother, which is chronicled in the book Mom and Me and Mom.

creepyed / flickr

Resolution season was never a big deal in my house growing up. When someone in my family attempted a resolution, it was always health related. And the endeavor was usually abandoned by Valentine's Day, only to be rekindled at Lent, then ditched again.

The goals that actually stuck were the ones inspired by lessons learned randomly throughout the year, usually with an emphasis on social good. For example, after returning from environmental summer camp one year, I convinced my family to always snip the plastic rings that hold 6-packs of soda. The uncut rings are extremely harmful to aquatic life.

In the process of exploring 2014 resolution ideas, I came across an inspiring list for teens and parents from The Road Less Traveled - ideas I could have used in the 1990s and great ones for today.

Heath Alseike / Flickr

Since the debut of our show in 2012, some of England's best rock singer/songwriters have performed in Pittsburgh. We invited a few of them to join us for conversations on the show.

On today's program you'll hear our interview with two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Graham Nash, as well as Billy Bragg. 

Drew Allen / flickr

We bring you excerpts of conversations with Pittsburgh Steelers, past and present.

Author Gary Pomerantz's book about the Steelers, Their Life's Work addresses what it means to be teammates in the truest sense.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

If you listen to 90.5 WESA on a regular basis, you know that we carry a number of your favorite NPR programs.

For today's show we've assembled interviews with a few of the hosts/contributors featured on those programs.

UPMC

From robotic arms to treating high blood pressure, in 2013 we delved into many stories dealing with health innovation.

We'll revisit our conversation with Dr. Michael Boninger and a quadriplegic woman named Jan Scheuermann. A robotic arm surgically attached to her brain allows her to perform basic tasks with focused thought.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Here at 90.5 WESA there are three people who work specifically on Essential Pittsburgh. In addition to host Paul Guggenheimer, there's producer Marcus Charleston and assistant producer Heather McClain.

For this special edition of the program, we offer excerpts from just a few of our choice interviews out of the hundreds we aired in 2013. 

There's a compelling conversation on the death penalty with Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking," a discussion of what it's like aging out of the foster care system and a tale of two classic movie theaters.

Listen to some of our favorites, and let us know about some of your favorites from 2013 at esspgh@wesa.fm.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Looking back at some of Pittsburgh’s top news stories of 2013, 90.5 WESA Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar focuses on features produced in the WESA newsroom.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh region was impacted by many major news stories during 2013. From a breakthrough in the stalemate over funding for transportation infrastructure, to a police scandal and the election of a new mayor.

WESA’s Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar gives some perspective on the year’s top stories.

At the state level, privatization of government functions were a theme for the Corbett Administration.

Flickr user Jason Pratt

Apparently living a Pittsburgh lifestyle is good for your health.

Well, not if you think that simply means eating pierogies and Primanti's everyday. 

The Huffington Post focused on nine lessons Pittsburgh offers on living well, as part of their Living Well, On Location series.

Kelsey Diercks / Flickr

These topics air Friday December 20, 2013 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA, with special guest host Kevin Gavin.

To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

260 years ago this month, a 21-year old major in the Virginia militia named George Washington had two brushes with death in the Pittsburgh area, which could have dramatically altered the course of American history. Decades before he became the father of our county, Washington was on a dangerous diplomatic mission in the Western Pennsylvania wilderness.

We explored this little known chapter of Washington's life with historical re-enactor Daniel Nehrer, and retired Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Martin J. O'Brien at the Harmony Museum, not far from where Washington was on December 27, 1753, at the boundary of French and English territory.

Joseph A / Flickr

These topics air Thursday December 19, 2013 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

Dyanna Hyde / Flickr

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has introduced a bill to create a "Made in PA" program, complete with a logo and website to encourage consumers to purchase products made close to home.

State Rep. Eli Evankovich and David Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, say consumers already look for labels such as "Made in the USA," while shopping.

Kevin Sousa, award-winning chef and owner of Salt of the Earth restaurant in East Liberty, has an ambitious plan to bring a community-driven restaurant to Braddock, PA.

And he’s appealing to the Pittsburgh community for help.

Sousa is working with community groups such as the Braddock Youth Project and Grow Pittsburgh to create a community-based, world class restaurant, which would include housing.

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