Ohio Valley ReSource

A regional journalism collaborative reporting on economic and social change in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, seven public media outlets across the three states have partnered to form the ReSource in order to strengthen news coverage of the area’s most important issues.

Todd Lappin via Flicker

Note: Some readers may find this subject matter disturbing.

When Beth Jacobs was 16 years old, she needed a ride home. She had missed her bus after work again after promising her father she was responsible enough not to make it a habit. She asked a man she thought was a friend to give her a lift. He offered her a drink from his car’s cup holder. She took a sip and woke up in a parking lot hours later.

Lawmakers in both Kentucky and West Virginia are working to loosen mine safety regulations. From the Ohio Valley ReSource, Glynis Board has details.

Rebecca Kiger

As President Trump promises major investment in infrastructure, people across the country are hoping that includes spending on water pipes for drinking.

Flint, Mich., was a high-profile example of the many communities — like one in Eastern Kentucky — where people just can't trust their water.

Rebecca Kiger

The Road To Recovery

On a recent gray winter morning Tomas Green drove the rain slick streets of Ranson in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. No matter the weather, Green helps transport clients working through addiction at the Jefferson Day Report Center get to their treatment sessions and meetings.


 As Congress considers repealing the Affordable Care Act, health professionals in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia grapple with what that might mean for a region where many depend on the law for access to care. This occasional series from the ReSource explores what’s ahead for the Ohio Valley

after Obamacare. See more stories here >>

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.

Mountain Comprehensive Care Corportation

Mike Caudill runs Mountain Comprehensive Care Corporation in five eastern Kentucky counties. Many of his 30,000 patients gained insurance through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. No one knows if or when those folks might lose coverage. But, Caudill said, the impact could be considerable.   


Becca Schimmel/Ohio Valley ReSource

The Ohio Valley region once helped give rise to the labor movement. Now it’s shifting toward what’s known as right-to-work law. West Virginia and Kentucky have passed right-to-work laws and Ohio is considering a similar bill.

DuPont Offers $670M Settlement For 'Teflon' Chemical Contamination Of Water

Feb 13, 2017

The chemical giant DuPont made an offer Monday to pay more than half-a-billion dollars to settle water contamination lawsuits pending in federal court.

Mary Meehan/Ohio Valley ReSource

Dona Wells walked through what’s left of the EMW Women’s Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. Boxes fill what use to be offices. Sterilized medical supplies are in disarray. A light flickers on and off in the back hallway. She doesn’t see a point in fixing it. At 75, she still runs 25 miles a week, but Wells is tired.

“I was going to retire anyway, probably this year,” she said. But I wanted to do it on my terms, not Gov. Bevin’s terms.”

 

Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

She asked to not be identified. And it’s understandable given the stigma attached to addiction. For this story, we’ll call her “Mary.”

 

Mary lives in eastern Kentucky and has struggled with an addiction that began with painkillers and progressed to heroin.

“As soon as I opened my eyes, I had to get it,” Mary said. “And even when I did get it, then I had to think of the next way that I was going to get.”

Mary was using when she learned she was pregnant with her first child. She sought treatment but the disease had a tight grip on her.

Benny Becker | Ohio Valley ReSource

 On any given day in Martin County, Kentucky, the water system loses more water to leaks than it delivers to paying customers through their faucets. The water system is under a state investigation for the third time since 2002. Customers complain of frequent service interruptions and discolored water, and their bills come with a notice that drinking the water could increase the risk of cancer.

Stopping Superbug: A New Farm Rule Targets Antibiotic Resistance

Jan 23, 2017
Nicole Erwin/ Ohio Valley ReSource

Trump's EPA Pick Questioned In Confirmation Hearing

Jan 19, 2017
West Virginia Public Broadcasting/Associated Press

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt faced questions from Senators in his confirmation hearing Wednesday. 


West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mary Meehan/Ohio Valley ReSource

Sitting on top of the Bible on Pastor Brad Epperson’s desk at the Clay City First Church of God is a list of goals for his small congregation written in a looping cursive hand.


Picturing The Future: A Coal Community’s Comeback

Jan 3, 2017
Rebecca Kiger

  

 Can photography help a community grow? One photographer is shedding some light on ongoing efforts in a region looking for some new ways to sustain itself.

Rebecca Kiger is a documentary and portrait photographer born and raised in West Virginia. The images she captures are often exceptionally emotionally evocative. She says it takes a lot of patience, and a little faith in both her process and her subjects.

CASA: Caring For Kids Caught In Addiction Crisis

Dec 27, 2016
Aaron Payne/Ohio Valley ReSource

The Ohio Valley’s opioid epidemic has effects far beyond the individuals struggling through addiction, with families and children suffering as well. An organization that helps children in abuse cases now sees substance abuse as a leading contributor, and could be overwhelmed by the addiction crisis.

Benny Becker - Ohio Valley ReSource

At the age of 38, a coal miner named Mackie Branham Jr. was diagnosed with progressive massive fibrosis, a debilitating and terminal form of an illness that was supposed to be a disease of the past — black lung. But Branham is among many miners afflicted by a resurgence in the disease, and officials are just beginning to realize the scope of the problem. A review of health clinic records shows roughly a thousand such cases, many times more than federal officials had thought existed.

 

Howard Berkes - NPR

NPR is reporting this week on a sharp increase in the number of Appalachian coal miners with the worst form of black lung.

The Ohio Valley ReSource partnered with NPR to better understand what this means for miners and mining communities. Jeff Young spoke with NPR investigative reporter Howard Berkes about why this deadly but preventable disease is on the rise.  

Roger McGraw/WOUB

During the presidential campaign I visited two regional manufacturing executives who do business in the same county but hold views on trade that are worlds apart. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, I asked them and some regional economists how the new administration’s approach to trade might affect the Ohio Valley region.

Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

On Nelson Key Road in Murray, Kentucky, lies a 30-acre tobacco farm and there sits the road’s namesake, Nelson Key himself. He’s just at the end of this year’s harvest, which was brought in with the help of migrant workers.

 

“I used American workers up until 1991 then I went to the migrant workers and I’ve had them ever since,” he explained.

Sarah Jane Sanders

Candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Those are the four basic food groups according to Buddy the Elf. And this time of year, the gluttonous season, it seems like he is onto something.

 

But researchers say that mindful eating –choosing quality over quantity and savoring your meals instead of, say, plowing through another pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching “Westworld” — can make a difference.

Trumped: Coal’s Collapse, Economic Anxiety Motivated Ohio Valley Voters

Nov 21, 2016
Photo: Robert McGraw/WOUB

The electoral map of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia is a sea of red with a few islands of blue. Of the 263 counties in the three states only nine went for Hillary Clinton, most of them around the region’s cities.

The Ohio Valley ReSource looked to voters and voting data to learn more about what motivated Donald Trump’s supporters and what they hope he will do as president. 

“More than Obama did!” Judy Collier said from a grocery story parking lot in Whitesburg, Kentucky. “We need jobs.” 

Nicole Erwin/ Ohio Valley ReSource

A recent breakdown at an Ohio River dam served as a wake-up call about the aging infrastructure that keeps river commerce flowing. The Ohio is one of the country’s busiest working rivers and some navigation controls are approaching the century mark. I went to see these ailing structures and a new multi-billion dollar project in the works.  

Critical Stretch of River

Election Day 2016: 'Ad it Up'

Nov 8, 2016
Ohio Valley Resource

If it seems like your TV time has been carpet-bombed with campaign ads, some data shows that you’re right.

Jeff Young reports that parts of the Ohio Valley region stand out in analysis of big campaign spending and high volume TV spots.

Jeff Young/Ohio Valley ReSource

The opioid epidemic is on the agenda for political campaigns from the presidential race down to the local level in the Ohio Valley region. Election Day could shape the response to the crisis in states with some of the nation’s highest rates of addiction and overdoses.


One look at the recent arrivals shelf at Carmichael’s Books, in Louisville, and I knew something was up. 

 

Titles like “White Rage,” “White Trash,” and “The End of White Christian America” were piling up.

“And then this has been the surprise,” Carmichael’s co-owner Michael Boggs said, picking up another hardcover. “This actually hit the Timesbestseller list: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by J.D. Vance.”

Boggs has been in the book business nearly four decades, so he’s seen publishing trends come and go. This trend is built on something that hits close to home.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Radio

 

For more than half a century along the Ohio River, the chemical company DuPont provided jobs for thousands of people. One chemical they produced is PFOA, commonly known as C8. It was a remarkably useful compound, used in “Teflon” non-stick cookware, stain-resistant fabrics, and even in some food wrappers.

 

Nicole Erwin/Ohio Valley ReSource

 Mount St. Joseph in Daviess County, Kentucky, may appear calm with the Green River flowing past  homes that dot the farmland here. But there is trouble in the air and it comes along with the smell of a large hog farm.    

Sixty-three year old Jerry O’Bryan was born and raised on a farm in Daviess County. By the time he was 22 he had lost both parents and was left 150 acres to support his family.

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