Becca Schimmel

Multimedia Journalist

Becca Schimmel is a multimedia journalist with the Ohio Valley ReSource a collaborative of public radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.  She's based out of the WKU Public Radio newsroom in Bowling Green. 

Becca was born in Charleston, SC but grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. You can often find her behind a book or near a cup of coffee. In her time away from the newsroom she enjoys running and lifting weights. She’s a sucker for unintentional puns, a good cup of coffee, a nice craft beer and a story.

Becca earned her Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University with a minor in psychology. She interned with The Paducah Sun in Paducah as a general assignment reporter. From there she went on to become Morning Edition producer and general assignment reporter for WKMS in Murray.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

A new study showed eight counties in Kentucky have seen the largest decline of life expectancy in the nation over a 34-year period.

Those counties are concentrated in southeastern Kentucky. Owsley County saw the largest drop in life expectancy in the nation, with people living 2.3 less years in 2014 than they did in 1980. The study attributed the decline to poverty, obesity, smoking and a lack of access to health care.

 

Owsley County Judge-Executive, Cale Turner, wasn’t surprised by the findings. He pointed to drug abuse and a historic lack of access to health care to explain the study’s results. The other Kentucky counties that saw huge declines in life expectancy are Lee, Leslie, Breathitt, Clay, Powell, Estill, and Perry.

Wikimedia Commons

A new study gave Kentucky poor marks for the safety of its drinking water.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the commonwealth has the tenth-highest number of offenses per capita

Violations ranged from high levels of arsenic and nitrates to failure to test or properly report contamination levels. The Courier Journal reported no other state in the nation had a larger percent of its population getting its water from utilities with at least one violation. The study was based on safe drinking water act violations, and the number of customers served by those utilities.

Indiana was twenty-second in total water quality offenses per capita, while Tennessee ranked twenty-third.

Becca Schimmel

United Mine Workers retirees are celebrating a permanent fix for health benefits secured in the federal spending agreement Congress reached over the weekend. However, the deal left them with more work ahead to shore up faltering pension funds.

Coal retirees have been fighting to secure benefits for nearly five years. With benefits set to expire at the end of April, the omnibus spending bill agreed upon by Congressional negotiators secured healthcare funding for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

UMWA communications director Phil Smith called it a huge relief.

flickr creative commons

Pulaski County is getting a residential drug treatment center for women.

 

The 100 bed facility is one of the larger treatment centers in Kentucky and will only serve female patients. An opening date has not yet been set.

 

Kim Worley is the operations director at Adanta, a behavioral health service investing in the center. He said there’s a major need for drug treatment programs in the Somerset area.

“Our region of the state is one of the ones that's worst represented in terms of some of the statistics for these people dealing with these problems. And there was nothing down here for them,” Worley said.

He said the treatment that will be offered at the center has a solid track record of success.

Office of Sen. Manchin

Congressional leaders are cautiously optimistic that a budget deal could protect health benefits for retired miners.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said the Senate will back permanently extending health benefits for more than 22,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

Manchin said he spoke Wednesday with President Trump who said he supports the miners. Without Congressional action, miners benefits will expire at the end of the month.

At a press event in Washington, West Virginia’s Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito also called for a permanent fix, but she’s not declaring victory yet.

Alexandra Kanik

McKenzie Cantrell is an employment lawyer affiliated with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, in Lexington, Kentucky, where she works with low-income refugees and immigrants to uncover instances of wage theft and income disparities. Cantrell, who is also a state representative for part of Jefferson County, Kentucky, travels and gives presentations about employment law, wage theft and what workers' options are if they have problems with compensation.

“Sometimes you can just see on someone’s face, the fact that they have lost money over the course of their career, and it really affects you as someone who doesn’t want to see working people lose money and struggle in a low-income job,” Cantrell said.

Many of Cantrell’s clients work in the service and construction sectors, and many are women and minorities.

Craig Williams

The chemical weapons used in last week’s attack in Syria are the same type stored and scheduled for destruction in Madison County, Kentucky.

The sarin that’s stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot near Richmond will be destroyed starting in 2020. The job will be completed in three years, barring any delays. Craig Williams, with The Kentucky Environmental Foundation Chemical Weapons Working Group, said while the chemical weapons used in Syria didn’t come from the Bluegrass Army Depot, they’re the same as those scheduled to be destroyed.

“Somewhat depressing to know that Syrian people have been affected by these materials. Particularly since Syria recently signed onto the treaty banning such use,” Williams said.

Howard Berkes/NPR

A bipartisan group of legislators has asked President Donald Trump to make more money available for black lung health clinics as they face an increase in cases of the disease among coal miners.  

More than 20 clinics would benefit from the $3.3 million increase lawmakers are requesting. The clinics provide miners with health screenings, medical care, and assistance in securing black lung benefits.

The lawmakers wrote in a letter to the president and the White House budget director that the level of funding for clinics has been frozen for the past five years.  

The removal of a dam along the Green River in Edmonson County began Tuesday, and will continue over the next few weeks.

Once the dam is removed, the affected part of the Green River will become a recreational area, with parking and access ramps for canoes and kayaks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funding the project, but will transfer ownership of 18 nearby acres of land to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Lee Andrews, with The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the Green River contains some of the top biodiversity within the Ohio River system.

 

“So being able to restore this much river in a national park is unique,” Andrews said.  

US Army Corps of Engineers

Kentucky is receiving mixed reviews in a new report card looking at the nation’s aging infrastructure. The report was issued Thursday by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

One of the major challenges cited in the report is the $6.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs in Kentucky over the next 20 years. The state also needs a more than $6 billion investment to meet its wastewater infrastructure needs in the next two decades.

Kentucky motorists on average pay $331 a year due to driving on roads in need of repair. That’s actually a slight improvement since the last infrastructure report card, issued in 2013.

Becca Schimmel

Retired coal miners face a one-two punch to their health benefits that could leave many of them in the lurch. A repeal of Obamacare and the expiration of miner’s health protections could make it hard for any coal retiree to get health care.

Ohio Valley retirees have been meeting one-on-one with congressional leaders to talk about the risks to their benefits. Some provisions of the Affordable Care Act are especially important to miners. The so-called Byrd Amendment deals with benefits for miners suffering from black lung, and miners hope it will be restored if the Act is repealed. Miners are also concerned about the Act’s pre-existing condition provision.

United Mine Workers communications director Phil Smith said the nature of the work makes every retired miner a “walking basket of pre-existing conditions.”


Kentucky Hospital Assoc.

Since the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act the health care sector has grown by more than 19,000 jobs in the Ohio Valley region. And some economists who focus on health care policy are warning that many of those jobs could well hang in the balance as Congress considers changes to the Act.

One of the ACA’s effects in the Ohio Valley region has been to sharply reduce costs for what’s called uncompensated care — that’s the cost of caring for the uninsured.

Dustin Pugel is an economist at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, a nonpartisan research center. He said in Kentucky’s rural hospitals there’s been about a $150 million decrease in uncompensated care costs just in the first quarter after Medicaid expansion. He worries that if the ACA is repealed more people will lose their health insurance, and hospitals will have to cover that cost again.

  

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is announcing a video contest aimed at raising awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. He was at Western Kentucky University Wednesday to promote the effort.  

College and university students can submit a 30-second video encouraging the reporting of sexual assault. One winner will be determined by a panel of sexual assault survivors and advocates, while another winner will be based on which video gets the most online views. Both winners will receive a $500 prize.

 

Beshear said the goal is to make campuses safer.

 

“Because of a lack of transparency in reporting, I don’t think that college students understand or know the prevalence of sexual assault on campuses,” Beshear said.

Becca Schimmel

  Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who  is pushing a plan to replace the federal Affordable Care Act,  Paul met with medical professionals at a Bowling Green hospital Monday to discuss his health care ideas.

Medical professionals gathered at TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital for an invitation only, town hall style meeting to hear details about Sen. Paul’s replacement plan. The Bowling Green Republican is proposing a tax credit of up to $5,000 per person to use as part of a Health Savings Account. His plan would also remove the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that every American get coverage.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

The Ohio Valley region once helped give rise to the labor movement. Now it’s shifting toward what’s known as right to work. West Virginia and Kentucky have passed right to work laws, and Ohio is considering a similar bill. One of the big selling points for right to work proponents is that the law can attract new businesses. Opponents argue that potential comes at too high a cost to workers.  

Mike Mullis is a site selection consultant who has spent 25 years helping global corporations, such as Toyota, pick the places where they will build major projects. He said some companies – particularly in manufacturing – will perk up when they hear the words “right to work.” However, that doesn’t mean businesses will come flocking to a state.


Pages