Elderly folks are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. So are jail and prison inmates living in close quarters that allow the virus to easily spread.
That means elderly inmates face a double whammy of risk. So why was Illinois offering so few reprieves to elderly inmates at a time when the state was letting out hundreds of other prisoners to alleviate crowding? And why does Illinois incarcerate so many older folks to begin with?
Emily Hoerner is answering such life-and-death questions for Injustice Watch, a Chicago-based nonprofit news outlet that exposes institutional failures that obstruct justice and equality, where she has reported since 2015.
Hoerner was among IowaWatch’s first interns in 2011 and 2012 as a University of Iowa student, and she is among a long list of IowaWatch alums who are now watchdogging government officials, shining a light on injustices and offering critical information to communities during a pandemic that has upended life across the United States. “IowaWatch was the place where I really first learned about the importance of understanding the nuance in stories.
ByClaire Hettinger and Pam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
With farmers facing increasing stress and depression, Midwestern states and national farm groups are making more efforts to better provide services to alleviate the high rate of suicide among the agriculture industry. Yet in rural areas, this care is more of a challenge. Rural hospitals — often the primary source of health care services in these areas — are closing or merging. Since 2010, 23 hospitals have closed across the Midwest — a loss of nearly 1,000 beds, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.
An Institute for Nonprofit News investigation by 12 news outlets across seven states found that rural Midwest hospitals have reduced services or merging with larger health systems in an effort to deal with financial and regulatory pressures. Only two of those Midwestern hospitals were in Illinois, but accessing mental health services in rural communities remains difficult. Some groups have decided to address the situation themselves.
A collaborative project including the Institute for Nonprofit News and INN members IowaWatch, KCUR, Bridge Magazine, Wisconsin Watch, Side Effects Public Media and The Conversation; as well as Iowa Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), Iowa Falls Times Citizen and N’west Iowa REVIEW. The project was made possible by support from INN, with additional support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. For more stories visit hospitals.iowawatch.org
For example, the organization GROW sets up meetings over Zoom, a video conferencing app, to help those in rural areas experiencing mental health issues.And more than a dozen farm bureau managers in Illinois have taken mental health first aid classes that help people recognize signs of distress. Harry Brockus — the chief executive officer of Carle Hoopeston and Carle Richland in Central Illinois, a collection of hospitals that serves 41 mostly rural counties — said there is a physician shortage across the country and recruitment to rural areas is an even bigger challenge.
“We do not offer the amenities that physicians are looking for,” he said, “such as shopping, schools and different entertainment venues.”
Other challenges in rural areas, such as transportation, housing and access to healthy food, can make rural healthcare costs inefficient and unaffordable, Brockus said.
This has left rural America in a bind when it comes to care for mental health.
A seven-state news investigation revealed plenty of problems facing rural patients but also a variety of creative attempts to solve them. The head of the National Rural Health Association puts it this way: “Everyone realizes we’re at a crisis point.”
ByChelsea Keenan, IowaWatch; Sara Konrad Baranowski, Iowa Falls Times Citizen; Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio; Mark Mahoney, N’west Iowa REVIEW and Michaela Ramm, The Gazette |
Hospital leaders say a policy fix is needed to ensure the future of rural hospitals in Iowa and across the country that are succumbing to financial pressures and closing their doors. Until that fix comes, though, Iowa’s network of rural community hospitals is making tough choices and smart partnerships to get by, a series of interviews by Iowa news organizations collaborating with IowaWatch revealed. Some have dropped OB-GYN services. Smaller hospitals have turned to larger ones to form partnerships, which can
result in the elimination of services to be more cost-efficient but forces
patients to drive out of town for health care. Other efforts to maintain local
hospital care include shifting to more outpatient care, the interviews show.
BySarah Whites-Koditschek/Wisconsin Public Radio |
As solar energy has become more popular and cost-effective, this once fringe renewable source is now at the center of an energy turf war in Wisconsin. At issue is a project in which an Iowa-based renewables company wants to partner with the city of Milwaukee to power seven municipal buildings with solar. Eagle Point Solar would help to finance the city’s project, taking advantage of federal tax breaks that local governments do not qualify for. Eagle Point, based in Dubuque, Iowa, is suing the public utility, We Energies, for refusing to connect a series of solar arrays to each other. We Energies says it is simply following the law.
ByDee Hall and Riley Vetterkind/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism |
Immigration as a top line issue for dairy farmers would have been unthinkable just a generation ago when Wisconsin’s agricultural landscape was dominated by small and medium-sized dairy farms run by the families that owned them. Now, the nation’s No. 2 milk producing state is home to a growing number of large concentrated animal feeding operations.
ByRachael Lallensack/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism |
When it comes to pesticides — including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides — in Wisconsin’s drinking water, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism found several health concerns in this investigation.