PublicSource

Back-To-School Preparations Often Exclude Vaccines In PA

8 hours ago
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Children going back to school in Pennsylvania could be walking into classrooms where as many as one out of every five classmates don’t have all the vaccines required by the state.

While many parents believe that disease outbreaks in school are rare because of vaccines, there were a record number of measles cases in the United States in 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Millennial Women Are Closing The Gender Wage Gap

Aug 17, 2015
Peter Tobia / PublicSource

Currently a freelancer, Philadelphia resident Jillian Ivey is faced with a dilemma about her future and identity as a young woman.

The 31-year-old communications strategist wants children with her husband of nearly three years, but she feels that being pregnant and caring for an infant would be a direct choice not to make money or build her career.

At Least 1.1 Million Pennsylvania Homes Lack Internet Access

Jul 20, 2015
Molly Duerig / PublicSource

President Barack Obama called the Internet “one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.” However, for many Americans, like Tracy Emerson of West Philadelphia, full connectivity remains out of reach.

Millennials Are Buying Homes Later, But Still Want A Place Of Their Own

Jul 6, 2015
Heather McCracken / PublicSource

Carlton J. Brown III is about to sign off on one of the biggest decisions of his life.

The 29-year-old is buying a three-bedroom house with a yard and a two-car garage in McKees Rocks, a borough northwest of Pittsburgh. Brown, a lab technician at an oil blending plant, has been renting with friends for the past two years.

Two Men. One Coal-Ash Dump. No Answers.

Jun 26, 2015
Reid R. Frazier

George “Sonny” Markish stood in his yard with a TV reporter in April 2013 and pointed to a towering hill next to his house in LaBelle, Fayette County.

The camera zoomed in on Markish, with slicked-back gray hair, swiping his hand across a window sill coated in a dusty substance.

Prison Release Rarely An Option For Dying State Inmates

Jun 14, 2015
Photo courtesy of Peggy Garrity / Via PublicSource

Leon Jesse James was supposed to die in prison.

As a convicted murderer, Pennsylvania gave him no possibility of parole, meaning he’d spend nearly his entire adult life incarcerated for a 1971 fatal shooting in Philadelphia.

Barely 18 at the time, he was angry and immature. Over four decades, his family watched him grow up and then grow old in prisons across Pennsylvania. The anger faded, but its consequences remained, leaving little hope that he’d ever return home.

PA Group Takes First Steps To Protect Seniors

Jun 8, 2015
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

Statewide reforms to improve protections and justice for older Pennsylvanians are in the works.

A state Supreme Court committee is examining the proposed expansion of a rule that allows the courts to preserve testimony of victims who might not be available to testify if a case languishes in the system.

DEP To Investigate Creek Near Mine Discharge For Radioactivity

Jun 5, 2015
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will investigate whether there are radioactive materials in Ten Mile Creek, a major tributary of the Monongahela River in Greene and Washington counties.

The Monongahela is a primary source of drinking water in the region, but John Poister, a DEP spokesman, said it is too early to tell whether there are any public health concerns.

Hepatitis C: Cost In The Way Of A Cure

May 28, 2015
Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

Dee’s liver is scarred, but just a bit too healthy for her insurance to foot the bill for the new medications that cure hepatitis C more than 90 percent of the time.

The Butler County resident, who suspects she got the virus getting a tattoo, was recently told by her doctor to come back in a year.

Millennials Wanted As Boomers Expected To Leave A Crater In The Job Market

May 20, 2015
Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

Max Inks attended Pennsylvania State University for three years before he dropped out, a decision prompted by his underwhelming performance in classes toward an electrical engineering degree.

PA Law Prohibits Needle Exchanges That Can Save Lives

May 10, 2015
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians crave daily injections of heroin. Beyond the threat of overdose is the threat of being exposed to HIV and hepatitis C, both deadly and expensive illnesses that are easily spread through contaminated needles.

But in Pennsylvania, distributing sterile syringes is a criminal act.

Eight Facts To Know About The Shale Gas Industry’s Air Pollution

May 4, 2015
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently released data on air emissions from the shale gas industry in 2013.

PublicSource looked into the data and built a series of interactive charts so you can more easily explore the information.

Tax Credits Help Offset the High Cost of Adoption

Apr 20, 2015
Courtesy of Pete Rooke, via PublicSource

In 2011, the year Christi and John Rooke adopted two of their five children, the Pittsburgh couple filed for an adoption tax credit — $13,000 for each daughter who joined their family.

The couple used the $26,000 combined credit to pay off their debt, and to buy a 12-seat passenger van and a pop-up camper to take their family on cross-country adventures.

Though it may sound like a windfall, Christi Rooke said the family is strapped much of the time.

Tax Calculator: How Gov. Wolf's Budget Would Affect You In Allegheny County

Apr 13, 2015
governortomwolf / flickr

Since Gov. Tom Wolf announced his ambitious budget proposal that would rework Pennsylvania’s tax structure, you may have simultaneously heard you will be better off and worse off under his proposal.

How Accurate Are State Heroin Overdose Statistics?

Apr 9, 2015
Ben Allen / WITF

Heroin abuse has reached crisis levels in the commonwealth and across the Northeast.

But determining the full scope of the problem is proving harder than one might think.

PublicSource

Whether you’re new to the Pittsburgh region or have lived here your whole life, you probably want to know what’s in the air you’re breathing and where it’s coming from.

This map from PublicSource identifies the facilities that federal standards say are the “major sources” of industrial air pollution in Allegheny County and the amount of pollutants they are allowed to release.

Eye On The Inside: Do Cameras In Nursing Homes Protect Or Intrude?

Mar 31, 2015
Debbie McGee / PublicSource

As suddenly as he lost his ability to speak last fall, Stuart Sanderson’s connection to the world outside his Philadelphia nursing-home room was severed because of anxiety over a simple webcam.

Drug Courts At Odds With Each Other And The Feds

Mar 23, 2015
Illustration by Michelle Garrett

In Allegheny County, Judge Lester Nauhaus sees his drug court as an alternative to the carnage of the drug war.

Drugs drive crime. But locking up addicts doesn’t stop crime. Nor does it stop drug addiction.

“Nail ‘em and jail ‘em wasn’t working,” Nauhaus told PublicSource in an interview. “All it was doing was costing everybody a fortune.”

Instead of locking up defendants, drug courts allow prosecutors, public defenders, judges and others to work together to get defendants to much-needed drug treatment.

Measuring the Power of the PA Millennial Boom

Mar 16, 2015
Ohad Cadji / PublicSource

This year, the Millennial generation will eclipse the Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, totaling 75.3 million, according to U.S. Census data.

For our purposes, the Millennials are that broad group born between 1981 and 1997, making them between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015, as defined by the Pew Research Center.

Allegheny County Police Still Keep Many Records On Paper

Mar 9, 2015
Halle Stockton / PublicSource

For the Allegheny County Police Department, searching for details on past crimes sometimes calls for cabinet duty.

That means a team of detectives literally thumbing through paper records in old-fashioned file cabinets.

1.5 Million at Risk in PA for Crude Oil Derailment

Mar 2, 2015
Photo by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

In Pennsylvania, nearly 1.5 million people are in potential danger if a train carrying crude oil derails and catches fire, according to a PublicSource analysis. That is about one in every nine Pennsylvanians.

Uncommon Compassion: Dying Offenders Seldom Released in Federal Prison System

Feb 17, 2015
Jeffrey Benzing / PublicSource

Linda Share fought for years to get her father home before he died.

Benjamin Share had been away for eight years. His kidneys were failing. He had congestive heart failure. His foot, an unnatural burgundy color, was swollen, and he had weeping sores that wouldn’t heal.

“The sores got worse and worse,” Linda said, describing her father’s deterioration in a nursing facility chosen by the prison. “I would drive to Manor Care and take home urine-stained and blood-stained clothing, his undergarments, and wash them for my daddy.”

Marcellus Life: A Native American Protest to Stop a PA Pipeline

Feb 9, 2015
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Chief Carlos Whitewolf beat a small hand drum and sang a Native American prayer for Mother Earth in the cold January air in Hershey, Pa.

Many of the 50 or so other protesters outside the Hershey Lodge, where national Republican leaders attended a retreat, demonstrated against issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and climate change.

But Whitewolf, chief of the Northern Arawak Tribal Nation of Pennsylvania, was objecting to something more local. In nearby Lancaster County, it’s the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project.

A Flood of Overtime for Nurses at County Nursing Homes

Feb 2, 2015
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

A veteran nursing assistant, whose job would include bathing, feeding and dressing nursing-home residents, worked an average of 80 hours a week for nearly the entire year at the Allegheny County-owned Kane Regional Centers.

For a licensed practical nurse, giving medications and tending to the wounds of 30 or more residents would be common. Does that get trickier near the end of a 12- to 16-hour shift, a norm for many of the LPNs employed by Kane?

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.

Agency Battling Drug Crisis Has a Big Job, But Little State Money

Jan 12, 2015

If officials are tuned in to the statewide heroin crisis that has killed thousands of Pennsylvanians, they apparently think it’s a cheap fix.

After six years of inaction, in 2010 the Pennsylvania General Assembly created the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, formerly a modest bureau tucked into the Department of Health.

Then they piled on a huge workload and gave it little money.

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

About a dozen St. Marys officials, outfitted with baggy blue jumpsuits, earplugs and white plastic hard hats, recently visited a Seneca Resources well pad on a wooded hilltop to see what fracking is all about.

This part of Pennsylvania, about 120 miles northeast of Pittsburgh in Elk County, has been relatively untouched by shale drilling. But people see it coming in two test wells Seneca has there now, with more wells in the future.

Holly: One Face of the National Heroin Crisis

Nov 24, 2014
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

For Holly Wright, heroin was bliss.

It was cheap, and it was everywhere. She craved the rush of energy that came with the high, but soon she needed the drug just to get out of bed and feed her children without feeling dopesick.

But last year, she was confronted with a choice. She could keep her addiction and lose Dani, then 2, and her older brother Brayden, then 6. Or she could get treatment and start clean with her family.

By then, heroin had already taken her job and her money. And she didn’t realize the damage it had done to her children.

Life Means Death For Thousands Of PA Prisoners

Oct 21, 2014
Illustration by Anita Dufalla / PublicSource

Death in prison is not rare.

In Pennsylvania, one in 10 inmates is sentenced to life in prison. Because state law gives them no possibility of parole, nearly all of more than 5,300 inmates serving life terms will eventually die inside prison walls.

“They have no choice but to age and die in place,” said Julia Hall, a criminal justice professor and gerontologist at Drexel University.

Molly Duerig / PublicSource

Emergency response officials are currently assessing the risks that trains carrying millions of gallons of highly combustible crude oil pose to residents in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Raymond DeMichiei, deputy director of Pittsburgh’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, is overseeing that appraisal.

“We don't want people to have a false sense of security,” he said. “Yes, there is a risk. [But] we're managing the risk.”

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