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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

May 15, 2018

The (Munster) Times. May 11, 2018

LaPorte County creates template for battling opioid abuse

Indiana’s growing opioid abuse crisis has been at the center of public health and policy debates for good reason.

Fortunately, there are sensible steps being taken to address it, with a particularly innovative approach in LaPorte County.

The state of Indiana is working quickly to make treatment available within an hour’s drive of every Hoosier, although opening facilities and finding trained staff takes time.

The Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte is doing even better than that. It is paying for treatment for LaPorte County residents who don’t have insurance, and it’s even paying for transportation to a detox center.

The foundation included this project in its first round of grants last fall. Since November, more than two dozen LaPorte County residents have successfully completed inpatient treatment through the Detox Now program at Recovery Works in Merrillville.

Follow-up outpatient treatment, of course, is essential. The Michigan City-based Swanson Center, through which the grant is channeled, offers that care, but so do others.

One of the benefits of the Detox Now program is rapid response. Beds are reserved and on hand for LaPorte County residents.

When a substance abuser agrees it’s time to seek treatment, an immediate solution is necessary. A waiting list gives an addict the opportunity to change his or her mind. It also means the user is still in peril of overdosing.

Coroners throughout Northwest Indiana are now focused on preventing drug overdoses, which have become epidemic in the Region. The numbers are terrifying.

Lake County had 196 drug overdose deaths in 2017, while Porter County had 50 and LaPorte County had 26 (compared to 120, 34 and 32, respectively, the year before).

That’s why the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte’s grant program should be recognized for offering an excellent response to the opioid abuse problem.

The foundation also recently presented the findings of a major study on opioid abuse, funded by the foundation, and its board is working on a response that will involve a countywide effort.

The foundation is devoted to improving LaPorte County’s health ranking, which is rising after languishing near the bottom among Hoosier counties.

The efforts in LaPorte County should be watched closely elsewhere. This could be the template for a solution to the problem that has proved devastating throughout Indiana.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. May 9, 2018

Some pursue truth; others subvert truth

The Indiana University commencement address offered Saturday by Paul Tash championed the reasons members of the traditional news media should not be discounted, demonized, ignored or targeted by inflamed rhetoric.

Tash is the chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times, which means he has a reason to praise the work of bona fide journalists. And it should be no surprise The Herald-Times editorial board would endorse his words.

We do so today, not simply for ourselves, but for the sake of democracy as a whole.

Grandiose? Yes. But the pursuit of truth, without fear or favor, is vital to a civil society.

Tash noted his “turn at the podium” honored the proud tradition of journalism at IU and recognized “journalism as an essential foundation of a healthy democracy.” He contrasted two recent examples of “news” stories to make a point.

Our in-state colleagues at the Indianapolis Star doggedly reported on the sexual abuse scandal that rocked USA Gymnastics. The Star’s journalists interviewed people, secured and read documents, checked, double checked and triple checked its information, then published its story.

“Their story was an opening salvo in what would become the #MeToo movement,” Tash said, without overstatement. “Except for those reporters, who knows how much longer that doctor might have escaped punishment, or how many more young women might have become his victims ... ?”

About the same time, unverified and reckless claims suggested a pizza parlor in Washington housed a child sex trafficking ring. The claim picked up steam on social media and went so far as to name Hillary Clinton as one of the people involved. That report, Tash said in his speech, prompted a man to shoot up the restaurant where he thought such despicable things were going on. That man was sent to prison, and the whole story has been debunked.

“It’s tempting to dismiss the man who shot up the pizza parlor as a flake and the story that provoked him as outlandish . except that there is such a thing as fake news, and we discount its influence at our peril,” Tash said. “Another name for fake news is propaganda, and those who crave power will use it to move hearts and minds.”

The propaganda is spread through information dressed up as “news” every day, but also in the political campaigns that shade the truth to discredit those with whom they have policy disagreements.

It’s true, though, that even the best journalists make mistakes.

“Journalism is a human endeavor, so their work will be imperfect,” Tash said. “But the purpose is noble. And tomorrow provides another chance to get even closer to the truth. Other stories come from those who use lies to play upon prejudice and exploit fear. Their agenda is to subvert truth and advance their own influence.”

It’s important to understand the difference.

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Kokomo Tribune. May 11, 2018

Police deaths hard to bear

Sunday, the names of 360 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty will be added to the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will lead a candle lighting and read the names of 129 officers killed in 2017, as well as those of 231 officers who died years earlier but whose deaths had not been documented.

After Sunday, there will be 21,541 law enforcement officers’ names engraved on the memorial. Howard County Sheriff’s Deputy Carl Koontz is one of those names. He was killed in the line of duty March 20, 2016.

Koontz, a three-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, and Sheriff’s Sgt. Jordan Buckley were shot while serving a warrant in Russiaville. Buckley was wounded in the upper thigh; Koontz was shot in the pelvis.

Hours later, Koontz was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He left behind his wife, Kassandra, and a young son, Noah.

Koontz was a resource officer at Northwestern High School. Staff, students and their parents were brokenhearted.

“He was always smiling, he’d be in the office cracking jokes. He was just a really, really good guy,” said Tammy Powell, whose son, Griffey Nolder, once shared lunch with Koontz after the officer noticed the Northwestern student eating alone. “He had a close relationship with all the kids here at Northwestern. Every time you walked into the school to pick up a kid, he would smile and talk to you. He would treat you so, so good.”

It’s difficult to deal with death. But a senseless death, a violent death involving a police officer, is particularly hard for families, friends, fellow officers and communities to bear. More often than not, policemen are active in the communities they protect.

Tipton County still mourns the loss of Sheriff’s Capt. Matt Thompson, killed in a motorcycle accident 12 years ago this coming July. He was a fixture at Tri-Central High School football and basketball games. He helped coach Trojan softball teams. He was loved and respected and is missed.

Today we extend our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of Carl Koontz and Matt Thompson. We thank them for sharing their loved ones with the north central Indiana community and wish them peace.

And we remind readers to fly flags at half-staff on Tuesday, Peace Officers Memorial Day.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. May 9, 2018

Control chaos

School takeover bill bears close scrutiny

An observer at Monday’s Legislative Council hearing would have had trouble tracking the debate regarding a state takeover of Gary and Muncie community schools. Proponents and detractors didn’t fall neatly among educators, school board members, parents and community members. Where support and opposition for House Bill 1315 break down depends on whether you believe it addresses only Gary and Muncie schools or the legislation sets a troubling precedent for public schools statewide.

Ten Republican members of the 16-member Legislative Council accepted the former view; four Democrats - including the only council member who represents Muncie or Gary voters - believed the latter. Two members were absent.

Now on a fast track to approval at Monday’s special session, the bill undoubtedly includes language that should trouble anyone who supports government transparency, local rule and the right to elect our own representatives.

In short, it authorizes the state to remove or strip elected school board members of their authority. It would make the elected Gary board advisory only and restrict it to quarterly public meetings. The bill would turn control of Muncie schools over to Ball State University, where an appointed seven-member board would operate the schools, with only four of the members required to reside within the district.

HB 1315 excuses Ball State from hndreds of regulations placed on other public schools. Billed as an “emergency” measure, the takeover plan is open-ended, with no time limit on Ball State’s turnaround effort. In Gary, only an appointed emergency manager is authorized to petition the state to return control of schools to the community.

The Rev. Dwight A. Gardner, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, testified powerfully to what the bill represents for his economically depressed community.

“The right to vote - to select your own representation - is an essential value of what we call ‘freedom,’ ” he told the council. “Government of the people, for the people and by the people - free people get to participate in their own governance, and if that governance is not for the people there is a structure that’s available to the people to change that leadership. That’s the greatness of America. ... The legislation you are considering in House Bill 1315 is an attack on that freedom.”

Gardner asked lawmakers to consider Gary residents. “Ask yourself what if your community lost half its population - if 12 pied pipers called ‘charter schools’ showed up in your city promising to solve your academic challenges and fooled your parents into a buy-in but then succeeded in only leading half your student population away to the land of broken promises and continued poor performance. What would your community be like if your largest corporate taxpayer was allowed to reduce its contribution by 66 percent and to self-assess its assets?”

Directors of the Indiana Broadcasters Association and Hoosier State Press Association addressed language in the bill allowing the state’s Distressed Unit Appeals Board and the schools’ emergency managers to meet behind closed doors.

HSPA’s Steve Key noted the language refers not just to school districts currently in financial distress, but any district with indicators suggesting it might fall into distress.

“By keeping this whole process confidential, it robs the community of the ability to push their school board to accept the help from the (distressed unit) board,” he said. “It robs the public of the ability to speak up on what may be painful options they would prefer over other options, like closing schools or slashing staff or eliminating an entire program.”

On Monday, members of the full General Assembly must decide whether they are rescuing two financially strapped school districts or if they are adopting legislation that thwarts local control, disenfranchises some residents and erodes government transparency. Hoosiers, who will return to the polls on Nov. 6, should weigh the same question.____

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