The (Munster) Times. March 15, 2018

Indiana leads firght against gun violence with 'Red Flag' law

The Hoosier state is leading in the attempt to prevent, rather than just react to, gun violence, and other states should be taking note.

It's also key that police departments and courts within our state make full use, when warranted, of a law that has been on the books since 2005 but hasn't been heralded nearly enough.

On Wednesday's front page, Times reporters Dan Carden and Lauren Cross detail the existence and use of the "Red Flag" law, both statewide and locally, since its creation.

Under the Red Flag law, police officers who believe dangerous individuals no longer should possess firearms can present sworn statements to judges detailing those concerns.

The law also gives police authority to take firearms — without a warrant — from anyone suspected of being dangerous if the officers obtain judicial consent at a later date.

Indiana is one of only five states to enact a Red Flag law, and we hope the practice spreads like wildfire throughout the country.

Court records show the law was used 46 times last year statewide, though an exact number is unknown because not all Indiana counties are online with the state's court-case management system.

Locally, the Lake County Sheriff's Department cited a case in which the law was used to take guns away from a Region man suffering a mental illness who wasn't taking his medications.

The Griffith and Hammond police departments also have noted using the law to keep guns out of potentially dangerous hands and have heralded its importance.

Throughout our country, we're feeling the deep effects of mass shooting deaths, often at the hands of mentally ill parties who had no business owning or possessing guns.

Indiana's Red Flag law holds much promise as a model for curtailing tragedies like last month's Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that killed 17 people.

It's encouraging to note President Donald Trump is considering a plan to offer federal grants or other incentives to encourage states to adopt measures similar to Indiana's Red Flag law.

The law remains an important tool that seeks balance between public safety and the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. March 14, 2018

Late-session legislative games begin

The Indiana General Assembly has reached the point in its session when ideas thought dead for the year rise from the ashes.

Such is the case of a couple of ideas that would ease regulations on gun owners.

A House bill that would have removed a fee to receive a lifetime permit to carry a weapon did not receive a vote in a Senate committee earlier in the session shortly after a shooting at a Parkland, Fla., school left 17 people dead.

A Senate bill that would have allowed Hoosiers to carry guns into churches with schools on their property also did not pass when House Speaker Brian Bosma did not call the bill to the House floor where amendments would have been debated on a bunch of changes to Indiana gun laws.

Now, both ideas are back.

In an insider maneuver that mere observers of our lawmakers have a difficult time stomaching, Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, proposed stripping language out of a bill originally intended to legalize the cannabis extract CBD oil and replacing it with the proposal to do away with the $125 fee for a lifetime carry permit and essentially let guns into churches and some schools.

We couldn't agree more with Indiana University law professor Jody Madeira, who said during a hearing at the Statehouse:

"Topics of this public merit, of this weight should be part of a comprehensive discussion, not the product of a backdoor process."

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, a member of the conference committee who will discuss the new gun bill, also had appropriately harsh words: "The process we're using, it's being done to help legislators hide from their constituents."

This maneuver may not be against the often confusing rules of the Legislature, where no bad idea is ever really dead and bills that couldn't make it through an open process show up attached to some other legislation. But it's against the spirit of open debate and public process.

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South Bend Tribune. March 13, 2018

More reasons for concern at Indiana's Department of Child Services

The consultant reviewing Indiana's Department of Child Services isn't set to deliver a final report for a few months yet.

But it's already crystal clear that there are serious issues and systemic troubles that urgently demand fixing for the sake of the state's youngest and most vulnerable residents.

In an update earlier this month, its second, the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group noted concerns that include a shortage of attorneys at DCS, inadequacy of education and training requirements for case managers and a lack of mental health and substance abuse services.

Last month, the consultant identified two challenges in Indiana's child welfare agency: an inadequate computer system used to track child welfare cases and a rate of removing children from their homes and placing them in state care that's more than twice the national average. The final report is due by June 21.

The preliminary findings were gleaned from more than 100 interviews with people who work in, or are involved with, the state's child welfare system. As of yet, former DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventure has not been interviewed, though the director of the consultant firm says his group plans to ask her if she'd be willing.

We certainly hope that happens. After all, it was Bonaventura, a former juvenile court judge, who set off this review with the clarion call delivered in her resignation letter in December. In that scathing missive, she criticized Gov. Eric Holcomb's administration for service cuts and management changes that she said would "all but ensure children will die."

Bonaventura's sense of urgency has only been confirmed by updates from the consultant so far. Which is why it's been disappointing to see the lack of action from lawmakers. The Republican leadership has said that this year's short session doesn't allow for time to address the issue and that the group conducting the assessment should be given time to complete its work. We believe they should have held public hearings, where they could gather information — either in conjunction with or separately from the governor's study.

Instead, as we pointed out in an earlier comment, any legislative action on the issue likely wouldn't come until the 2019 session — which basically ignores the plight of the children under DCS supervision. That's unconscionable — and yet another failure to do right by these young Hoosiers.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. March 15, 2018

Unhealthy debate

The future of health care in northeast Indiana is rightfully a topic of major concern.

Typically mediocre rankings in the latest Robert Wood Johnson county-by-county health survey are the most recent reminder of the challenges faced by this region and this state, including high rates of infant mortality, smoking, obesity and drug deaths.

Fort Wayne's two major hospital groups, Parkview Health and Lutheran Health Network, have provided access, choice and high-quality medical care for area residents for decades. But recently, the Lutheran system has been embroiled in controversy as its rankings lagged and the long-term commitment of its Tennessee-based ownership has been questioned by some of Lutheran's own health professionals. Lutheran's announced plans to build a new downtown facility remain vague.

There are additional questions about how IU Health, a fast-growing state network, will affect the other two hospital systems as it pursues development of medical facilities here.

And all of this potential change is set against a national backdrop of endlessly rising health care costs and uncertainty about the future of Medicaid and Medicare.

People here deserve as much information as possible about what's happening as Lutheran's parent, Community Health Systems, IU Health and other major players chart their courses.

But here are the kinds of unsettling distractions all those sometimes-forgotten stakeholders - doctors, staffers and most of all, patients - do not need:

. Anonymous online sniping.

. Vindictive lawsuits.

. Talk, even in private meetings, that could be interpreted as a threat against a former administrator.

. Overreaction to what appeared to be regrettable utterances.

Fort Wayne's health care systems are a vital component of the region's economy, workforce and, most of all, its quality of life. This is serious business - not background fodder for a local soap opera.

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