Ohio Valley ReSource

WKU Public Radio is part of a new regional journalism collaborative known as the Ohio Valley ReSource.  It's made up of public media stations across Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.  The collaborative will focus on the changing economy in the region and its effect on jobs, healthcare and infrastructure. 

Each station taking part in the Ohio Valley ReSource is hiring a reporter to contribute to the effort.  WKU Public Radio's reporter is Becca Schimmel, who will be based in the Bowling Green newsroom. 

The Ohio Valley ReSource is made possible by member stations and through a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting. 

Ways to Connect

Becca Schimmel

Bottles of bourbon make their way through the assembly line at Maker’s Mark, one of ten distilleries on the Kentucky bourbon trail. They’re cleaned, filled, capped and then dipped in the company’s signature red wax, a tradition that started with the wife of the distillery’s founder, Bill Samuels.

"She took red sealing wax, she put it in her family's deep fryer right there in the kitchen, dipped the first bottle of Maker’s Mark right there in her kitchen,” a tour guide explained. “She brought it out to Bill Samuels Sr. as he was sitting there in the kitchen and he hated it. Well, you see who won."


Tre’ Sexton, courtesy Bluegrass Solar

Arlie Boggs Elementary sits between Kentucky’s two tallest mountains in a remote area that once had a booming coal economy. Ten years ago there were over a thousand coal miners employed here in Letcher county. Today, there are just 28.

“We were left with many unemployed miners,” eighth-grader Nicholas Sturgill said, as he and two classmates gave a presentation to a small crowd of students and teachers at an education summit in Pikeville, Kentucky.

“Paying bills had become a hardship for many. We wondered what we could do to reduce costs in our homes and our schools,” he said.


Nicole Erwin

Jeff McGrew stood in line with about 30 other west Kentucky farmers awaiting certification that they’ve been trained to apply the herbicide Dicamba. The two hour session explained the Environmental Protection Agency’s new restrictions on use of the controversial herbicide. The session left Mcgrew uncertain about whether to use the spray.

“I'm undecided right now but I'm leaning towards not spraying it,” he said. “I don't think in our area we're going to have much of any place that there will be enough area that we won't have buffer zones or other sensitive crops and I'm not sure that it's going to work out for us.”


Alexandra Kanik

Health officials in the Ohio Valley are investigating outbreaks of disease associated with needle drug use in what is emerging as a new public health threat from the region’s profound opioid addiction crisis.

In northern Kentucky the health department is tracking a cluster of 43 recent HIV cases, about half of which are related to needle drug use. In West Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a report on 40 new HIV cases diagnosed in 2017 in 15 mostly rural counties.


Becca Schimmel

The Ohio Valley was once synonymous with steel. Even after the industry’s sharp decline the region is still home to many industries that produce or use steel and aluminum. Those industries are closely watching what the Trump administration will do on steel and aluminum imports.

The Department of Commerce has suggested a massive 24 percent global tariff on those imports. As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to apply tariffs. Now, it’s unclear if President Trump will follow through.

Nicole Erwin

In the wake of school shootings in Kentucky and Florida, a rash of copycat school threats throughout the Ohio Valley left law enforcement and school officials grappling with how to improve security. A school counseling expert says it’s useful to look at the potential school shootings that did not happen. His research focuses on how schools have successfully averted shooting incidents.

Culture of Dignity

Dr. Jeff Daniels, Chair of West Virginia University’s counseling department, interviewed school personnel and law enforcement officers who were able to prevent imminent school shootings.


Ashton Marra, WVPB

The Ohio Valley’s numbers on the opioid crisis are grim, especially so in West Virginia, which has the nation’s highest rate of overdose deaths.

But those numbers could give health workers the ability to identify people at risk of drug overdose and then reach them before they die.

That’s what researchers from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources were hoping for when they built a data profile from statistics on the 830 residents who fatally overdosed in 2016.


Fracking Waste Disposal: Still A Hot Mess

Feb 16, 2018
Bill Hughes

The slogan for Estill County is “where the bluegrass kisses the mountains.” But since 2015 the county, population 15,000, is widely known as the place where radioactive material generated by the oil and gas industry in a process known as fracking was dumped near some schools.

As the Ohio Valley ReSource reported in 2016, tons of waste from the drilling practice known as fracking was hauled from state to state before being improperly disposed of in a county landfill not designed to hold radioactive material.


Adelina Lancianese, photos; Alexandra Kanik, illustration.

The central Appalachian coalfields are in the middle of an unprecedented epidemic of severe black lung disease. In a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association federal researchers released the results of a study conducted at just three black lung clinics. The study confirmed 416 cases of the most severe form of black lung disease, Progressive Massive Fibrosis.

According to the authors, it’s the largest number of severe black lung cases ever documented, and one of the worst industrial epidemics in American history.


ICE

With Congress in a heated immigration debate, the Ohio Valley region is adding to its immigration courts. Sources within the Justice Department say Kentucky will have a new immigration court operating in Louisville as soon as April, and Ohio is adding additional judges to handle deportations and other immigration cases.

Recent immigration changes and heated rhetoric have left many people in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia with an uncertain future and lawyers and courts with a backlog of cases.


Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

At a recent conference in Lexington, Kentucky, economists and community leaders gathered to talk about the state’s current budget crunch and possible economic future. Peter Hille, president of Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, said Kentucky and other Appalachian states need to do more to build a new economy and move from dependence on a single source.

“Because coal played such a dominant role, it took the oxygen out of the room for the development of other sectors of the economy,” he said.


USDA/Bob Nichols

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied a petition by the National Chicken Council to remove the speed limit on work at some slaughterhouses, a move that food safety advocates are calling a victory for workers and consumers.

As the Ohio Valley ReSource reported in October, the National Chicken Council proposal could have increased the line speed for some workers in processing plants where accidents and injuries are already a concern.

Since then the USDA received more than 100,000 public comments and this week the department’s Food Safety Inspection Service turned the petition down. 


Trump Takes Enforcement Approach To Opioid Crisis

Jan 31, 2018
c-span video

President Donald Trump addressed the opioid crisis affecting the Ohio Valley region in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge,” he said. “My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”

But with few specifics and little money so far to carry out  the president’s plans, the public can only go off of what those in his administration have said. And that indicates an approach emphasizing law enforcement rather than funding for treatment.


White House video

When President Trump spoke to the American Farm Bureau annual convention this month he focused on the regulatory rollbacks and tax cuts that motivated many farmers to help vote him into office.

“We are doing a job for you,” Trump told an auditorium filled with farmers. “You’re seeing it like nobody else: regulation, death tax, so much.”

Dale Moore said farmers look to Trump for a better deal. Moore directs public policy for the Farm Bureau. He said net income for farmers hasn’t been this low since the Great Depression.


Mary Meehan

Remember the American Health Care Act, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or the Obamacare Repeal and Reconciliation Act? They were among the many Congressional proposals to end the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

If 2017 was the year of endless Obamacare debates, 2018 could be the year when we see the effects on people who need health care the most. Some health experts in the Ohio Valley are concerned that the “forgotten” folks in rural America could lose access to basic health care as efforts continue to weaken the Affordable Care Act.


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