Indiana

State and local health officials have begun a needle-exchange program in a southern Indiana county where an HIV outbreak among intravenous drug users has grown to nearly 90 cases.

Scott County’s needle-exchange program started Saturday morning under an emergency executive order signed last week by Gov. Mike Pence.

That 30-day order temporarily suspended Indiana’s ban on such programs, but only for the southern Indiana county about 30 miles north of Louisville.

The program is open only to Scott County residents through the Community Outreach Center in the city of Austin that’s at the epicenter of the epidemic. That region now has  84 confirmed HIV cases and five preliminary positive cases.

Each participant will initially receive enough needles for one week to help combat needle-sharing that’s caused the epidemic.

Indiana is launching a needle exchange program in Scott County to combat an outbreak of HIV related to intravenous drug use.

Disease intervention specialists from nearby counties and states, including Kentucky, have been called upon to assist.

Louisville is about 40 miles south of Scott County, and Kentucky officials are battling this state’s own issues with intravenous drug use—specifically, with a spike in heroin use.

But Kentucky health officials have not seen a surge in new HIV cases despite the Indiana outbreak, said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, director of the division of epidemiology and health planning for Kentucky.

He said he expects Louisville physicians to see an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for HIV from Southern Indiana.

He said it’s too early to tell whether the Indiana HIV outbreak will also lead to an increase in Kentucky.

In 2013, there were 392 newly diagnosed HIV cases in Kentucky, according to the 2014 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report.

Updated at 6:21 p.m. ET

Lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas have approved changes to their respective "religious freedom" measures designed to answer critics who charged the laws were meant to discriminate against gays and lesbians by allowing businesses to refuse them service.

The amendments were passed by Legislatures in Indianapolis and Little Rock after a day of wrestling over the details of amendments to the measures.

Dr. William Cooke knew he wanted to practice medicine in a rural town. He’s been a physician in Austin, Indiana, for 10 years—and he’s the only physician in town.

“I went there specifically to bring access to care,” he said.

Austin is in  Scott County, which is at the center of national focus because of an HIV outbreak attributed to intravenous drug use.

To meet the crisis, Cooke is providing a much-needed free HIV clinic for the small city of about 4,300 people. So far, more than 80 people Scott County have tested positive for HIV since the end of the year.

On Tuesday, Cooke and his team at Foundations Family Medicine opened an HIV clinic in their existing office in Austin, about 40 miles north of Louisville.  They were joined by representatives from the Indiana State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indiana Family and Social Service Administration and local health departments.

On its first day, about 30 people stopped by the HIV clinic either for testing or to initiate HIV treatment, he said. All of the services and care were provided free of charge.

“The people of Austin deserve to have their own clinic to get treatment from and not require them to travel to Louisville or Indianapolis,” he said.

The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics — until something or someone pushes them to the surface.

Indiana Governor: New Law 'Not About' Exclusion

Mar 30, 2015

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended the new state law that's garnered widespread criticism over concerns it could foster discrimination against gays and lesbians and said Sunday it wasn't a mistake to have enacted it.

Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" to discuss the measure he signed last week prohibiting state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Since the Republican governor signed the bill into law Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana. Already, consumer review service Angie's List has said it will suspend a planned expansion in Indianapolis because of the new law.

Pence did not answer directly when asked at least six times whether under the law it would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers. "This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach," he said. Asked again, he said, "Look, the issue here is still is tolerance a two-way street or not."

Sexual orientation is not covered under Indiana's civil rights law. Pence has said he "won't be pursuing that."

Senate Republican Dan Coats of Indiana announced Tuesday — probably surprising no one — that he would not seek another term in 2016. Although he has been a stalwart Republican through a turbulent generation in Washington, Coats seems less at home in the hyper-partisan world of Congress today.

While Coats, 71, said his decision was strictly personal and age-related, he did refer to the "terribly dysfunctional Senate" in an interview with the Howey Politics Indiana newsletter.

Ditching The Common Core Brings A Big Test For Indiana

Mar 12, 2015

Every eldest child knows all too well: Going first can be tough.

There's no one to help you pick the good teachers at school or give you advice on how to tell Mom and Dad about that fender bender.

Right now, Indiana is the firstborn, feeling its way through some thorny — and consequential — education decisions with little precedent to lean on.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is ditching a plan to create a state-run news site.

Pence told state agencies Thursday he was backing off plans to launch a website that was to be called Just IN.

The Indianapolis Star obtained planning documents this week about the proposed website.

The plan was to have Indiana’s governmental press secretaries write so-called “stories” and have the state-run “news service” compete with independent news agencies across the region.

The plan came under fire, with critics saying it amounted to passing off pro-government propaganda as news.

Indiana journalists objected to the idea of taxpayer dollars being used to support pro-Pence stories.

In a memo to staff Thursday, Pence said he had made the decision to pull the plug on the Just IN website idea.

Indiana has gained approval from the federal government to use an updated version of the state’s Health Indiana Plan, or HIP, instead of Medicaid.

The updated version will be called HIP 2.0, and it will provide health care to 350,000 uninsured Indiana residents.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the expansion Tuesday.

The pool of high-profile Indiana Democrats running for Governor in 2016 has shrunk by one. Former Governor and Senator Evan Bayh says he won’t seek a return to the office he held from 1989 to 1997.

Bayh is a moderate Democrat who strongly considered a presidential run in 2008, before deciding not to run and endorsing Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He served two terms in the U.S. Senate but didn’t seek re-election in 2010.

Indiana Asks Supreme Court To Settle Gay Marriage

Sep 9, 2014

Indiana is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether gay marriage should be legal in all 50 states.

The state attorney general's office on Tuesday asked the high court to reverse a ruling last week by the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which declared Indiana and Wisconsin's bans against same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Indiana says its case offers a perfect opportunity to settle the national debate once and for all.

Attorneys for gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana say they will file separate responses within 24 hours.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals last Thursday upheld a federal district judge's decision that found Indiana's same-sex marriage ban violated the constitution.

A U.S. appeals court in Chicago has ruled that gay marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana are unconstitutional.

Thursday's decision by a three-judge panel at the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals bumps the number of states where gay marriage will be legal from 19 to 21. The decision was unanimous.

The Wisconsin and Indiana cases shifted to Chicago after their attorneys general appealed separate lower court rulings in June tossing the bans. The 7th Circuit stayed those rulings pending its own decision.

Hundreds of volunteers are assisting in the effort to find a missing Warrick County, Indiana, woman.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kristy Kelley of Boonville was last seen at the local VFW post on the morning of Friday, Aug. 15. She was later reported missing after she didn’t show up for work.

Volunteers have searched the area where Kelley was last scene, looking for any clues related to her disappearance.

Kelley is white, with a petite build, blue eyes and long, brown hair.

Investigators have also not been able to locate Kelley’s car, a silver 2003 Nissan Xterra.

Anyone with information on Kelly's whereabouts is encouraged to call the Warrick County Sheriff's Department at 812-897-6180.

Warrick County Sheriff Brett Bruse told the Evansville Courier and Press that investigators have no evidence that foul play was involved. Kruse is asking area businesses that use video surveillance cameras to check their footage from early Friday morning to see if they captured any images of Kelley or her vehicle.

A candlelight vigil for Kelley is being held tonight on the Boonville square.

ACT

ACT test scores for high school graduates in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana all saw improvement this year.

The company that administers the test is calling the gains in Kentucky and Tennessee particularly promising.

Every high school graduate in Kentucky and Tennessee and nine other states takes the ACT as part of statewide assessment.  This year, both Tennessee and Kentucky saw a 0.3 percent gain in composite score as compared to 2013.

The composite score in Kentucky was 19.9, while Tennessee students scored a 19.8. 

Meantime, Indiana’s average composite score was 21.7, but only 40 percent of Indiana students took the test.

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