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

White House

Donald Trump told supporters on the campaign trail his plan to combat the opioid crisis. It included stopping the flow of drugs into the country, increase the penalties for drug trafficking, and make treatment more accessible.

“We will give people struggling with addiction access to the help they need,” then-candidate Trump said.

In the first year of his presidency, that plan has developed partially due to the influence of people working on solutions to the epidemic in the Ohio Valley region. But as the one-year mark for the Trump administration approaches, public health officials in the region offer a mixed view of the president’s action.

Still from White House video

Donald Trump loves coal.

He campaigned on a promise to put miners back to work and his first year in office included numerous Ohio Valley visits to highlight coal’s importance.

“I love our coal miners and they’re coming back strong!” Trump said to a roaring crowd at an August rally in Huntington, West Virginia.

At a March rally in Louisville the message was the same. “We are going to put our coal miners back to work! They have not been treated well but they are.”


Mary Meehan

A small gaggle of reporters points their microphones at reproductive rights activist Marcie Crim as she bluntly decries  the shrinking access to abortion in the region. Crim stands just a few feet from the open door of the office of Governor Matt Bevin near the Capitol rotunda.

Crim and Bevin may be physically close in this situation, but they could not be further apart on the issue. They personify the opposing poles of the decades-old debate surrounding abortion.

Mary Meehan

Imagine living and working somewhere designed to fit a couple hundred people. Now picture that same space crammed with twice that number. Madison County, Kentucky, Jailer Doug Thomas doesn’t have to imagine it. He lives it.

“I’m doing all that I can with what I have to work with, which is not a lot,” he said. “Because we’re a 184 bed facility with almost 400 people.”

According to the Madison County jail task force, roughly 80 percent of the people incarcerated there are jailed on charges that somehow relate to addiction. County Judge Executive Reagan Taylor wants to try a different approach.


Analysis Shows Toxic Sites In Flood Zone

Jan 2, 2018
Wikimedia Commons User Markzvo

The Ohio Valley has long been home to some of the dirtiest industries in the nation. Coal, plastics, and chemical plants and their waste sites dot our river valleys. Even those no longer operational leave their legacy in the soil and water.

Distler Farm sits on the outskirts of Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Its pastoral name is misleading. During the 1970s it served as a landfill for liquid waste, including medical and agricultural refuse.


Mimi Pickering, WMMT

One evening this past November, angry customers and public officials filled a high school auditorium in Hazard, Kentucky, and took turns pleading with three members of the state’s public service commission.

Angie Hatton, a state legislator representing Letcher and Pike counties, presented the situation in historical terms. “This community that for two centuries has been powering our nation, we’re now struggling to keep our own lights on.”


Vivian Stockman and Southwings

The prestigious National Academy of Sciences is pursuing private funding to complete a study of the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining after the Trump administration ordered a halt to the scientific work.

The panel of scientists assembled by the National Academies was months into a study of the health effects of surface mining when the Trump administration’s Interior Department told them to stop work.  


c-span

The Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget has announced a review of an Obama-era rule that protects coal miners from exposure to the dust that causes black lung disease.

That has some health and safety advocates concerned. The review comes amid a tide of regulatory rollbacks by the Trump administration and at a time that black lung disease is on the rise in Appalachian coal country.


Larry Dowling, WVPB

Throughout coal mining country of the Eastern U.S. you will find streams that run a peculiar rusty orange. It’s the result of pollution called acid mine drainage, or AMD. It’s estimated that about 10,000 miles of streams are polluted by AMD in Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone. In fact, researchers have calculated that every second, coal mines throughout the region are pumping out about 3,000 cubic feet of AMD. That’s roughly equal to an average May day’s flow of water in the Monongahela River as it winds through the region.


Survey Finds Teen Use Of Opioids Declining

Dec 17, 2017
Mary Meehan

A survey produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found a rare bit of good news about the opioid crisis: fewer teenagers reported using opioids outside of medical purposes.

The Monitoring the Future Survey 2017 results show a continued trend in decreased misuse of opioids by teens that dates to the early 2000s.

Office of Sen. Brown

Retired union coal miners are joining teamsters, iron workers and other union retirees in an effort to shore up their ailing pension plans, and they hope the ticking clock on a government spending bill will help.

Some Democrats want to see protections for retirement benefits included in the omnibus spending bill, which Congress must pass in order to prevent a government shutdown. That could set up a year-end showdown over the spending bill, with major implications for retirees in the Ohio Valley region.


Benny Becker

The sound of power tools blends with teenage chatter as students clamber around, under, and over a trailer bed that they’re busy turning into a home. They’re part of a project called “Building It Forward,” which has vocational classes building tiny houses as a way of gaining practical skills and new confidence.

Just a few feet from the garage door at the back of the room, there’s a vertical rock face. It’s all coal from the ground up at least ten feet. Coal here can be a reminder of the past — of the time when this land that the school sits on was blasted flat by miners; of times when coal jobs were plentiful here in eastern Kentucky.


LBJ Library/public domain

Law professor Philip Alston is a United Nations expert on extreme poverty. In his position as a U.N. Special Rapporteur  he reports on places where pervasive poverty and human rights issues intersect, places such as Haiti, south Asia and central Africa. His latest work, however, is taking him to parts of the U.S., including the Ohio Valley.

“The United States has been very keen for me and others to investigate human rights issues in other countries, which I have done,” Alston said. “Now, it's the turn to look at what's going on in the U.S. There are pretty extreme levels of poverty in the United States given the wealth of the country. And that does have significant human rights implications.”

Kenn W. Kiser, morgueFile.com

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey stood in front of the state’s capitol to rally the roughly 120 coal miners and industry boosters gathered there.

“The fight against the unlawful Clean Power Plan started in Charleston, West Virginia,” Morrisey said, noting the state’s role in a legal challenge to the Obama-era rule.


DEA Beefs Up Ohio Valley Opioid Enforcement

Nov 29, 2017
CSpan

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday enhanced federal enforcement targeting opioids in the Ohio Valley region, including a new Drug Enforcement Administration field division in Louisville.  

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Sessions said the Louisville field division will be the first new DEA division established in 20 years. He said it will have about 90 special agents and 130 task force officers focusing on drug trafficking in the Appalachian region

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