The (Munster) Times. September 22, 2017

Our most valuable assets are at stake in Hoosier opioid crisis

Civilized societies can't watch and do little during an unfolding epidemic of babies who violently shake after birth, letting out high-pitched, nonstop squeals, all because they're addicted to heroin.

Such societies don't stand idle as hundreds of their people die every year from drug overdoses.

All strong, successful societies throughout human history have one thing in common: a realization that their people are the most important assets.

It's what makes immediate and strategic response by the Hoosier state to an epidemic of opioid dependence and death so critical.

About 100 Hoosiers are dying every month from drug overdoses, a lion's share related to opioids, heroin and prescription painkillers.

Indiana has the 17th-highest rate of overdose deaths in our nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but is one of the hardest places to find treatment.

It's hitting our most important assets, at their most vulnerable stages of life, particularly hard.

A recent article by Times health reporter Giles Bruce detailed the numbers and some of the faces behind the effects of the opioid crisis on Hoosier newborns.

Through the end of August, 15.7 percent of Indiana babies tested were addicted to opioids, compared to 10.7 percent nationwide, the Indiana State Department of Health reported.

It's an unacceptably high statistic in an all-too important category for our state's future.

We all should be encouraged our state leaders are treating this problem like the emergency it is.

In this year's legislative session, Indiana lawmakers passed more than a dozen new laws taking direct aim at the problem.

Those laws included expanding treatment for pregnant women and mothers addicted to opioids, creating housing and treatment for homeless addicts, forming mobile treatment teams to target high-problem areas of the state when they arise and developing plans to increase residential drug treatment in the state.

These plans need to be fully funded and bolstered in upcoming legislative sessions.

We're also encouraged Gov. Eric Holcomb has adopted a whatever-is-necessary approach.

It's the mindset all Hoosiers must have to protect our state's most important assets.

Dealing with a problem of this magnitude won't be cheap. It will require prioritized spending — obviously public revenue.

But failure to invest in this problem now would signal that the Hoosier state doesn't care about the well-being of some of its most important assets — particularly innocent babies who didn't ask to be born into an addiction.

Indiana, its people and its leaders are better than that. We all must invest in fighting this scourge and support responsible measures that deal with it head-on.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. September 21, 2017

A fat dose of reality

Even if you're used to seeing Indiana at or near the bottom of health-related state rankings, this week's report that Indiana youth are among the nation's most obese carries a particularly sharp sting. Only eight other states, the National Survey of Children's Health found, have more youths overweight or obese. Paired with last month's Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey that has the state 10th highest in adult obesity, the news inevitably reminds residents that Fort Wayne has repeatedly been named the nation's fattest city in other, perhaps less reliable surveys.

The real issue, though, is not pride, but health. As Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan told The Journal Gazette's Lisa Green, overweight and obese children may be more likely to develop chronic health issues later in life. Among other health woes, obesity has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis and some types of cancer. That not only makes for lots of individual suffering but helps raise health care costs across the board.

Many of the factors that have led more than a third of Hoosier children to become overweight or obese are easy to identify. Former Indiana Health Department Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams presented a list at a legislative hearing last winter as he named obesity one of Indiana's top five health challenges. Among the culprits are easy access to cheap and fast food, lack of access to affordable healthy options and less physical activity. Anyone who has or knows a child recognizes one of the big contributors to less physical activity - the vast amount of time children and teenagers spend in front of a computer or looking down at a smartphone. A young person who whiles away the afternoon in a chair plugging away at a digital device instead of playing in the fresh air could be tapping his or her way to health problems.

Some of the solutions are straightforward, as well. The city and regional trail system continues to grow, making biking, running and walking more fun for all ages. The YMCA has added two new facilities to an already-robust system in the past two years. Fort4Fitness is a highly successful set of events specifically organized to help the community break out of the bottom; its Fall Festival is just a week away.

Schools throughout the region already do a lot to encourage good eating habits and physical activity. Educators should be looking for more ways to encourage healthy lifestyles and pushing back if the time sucked up by endless preparation for tests has cut into time for recess and physical education.

The obesity problem starts, though, with individual families, and the solutions have to begin there, as well. Families who can't afford nutritious food or lack access to it need and should receive help from their communities. But plenty of middle-class adults long ago sacrificed family dinners to the fast pace of modern life, and encouraged their kids to scrimp on breakfast or rush through the fast-food lines at lunchtime. More than one in three kids are overweight or obese, but two out of three Hoosier adults are in that condition. What kind of an example is that?

It's tempting to focus on why the problem is worse in Indiana than in those 41 states that topped us in the Children's Health survey. They have McDonald's in those places, don't they? And cellphones and Xbox?

But there's no denying we have a problem, one that's ours to solve.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. September 20, 2017

Malone brought health care to low-income residents

Anthony Malone is one of those rare people who has an extraordinary vision for positive change — and the willpower to make it happen.

Along with George Satterwhite, Malone was the driving force behind the creation of the Madison County Community Health Center in 1999. He saw a profound need in Anderson and Madison County for health care for people with limited financial means. To address it, Malone developed a vision for a facility that would provide it at low cost.

Over the years, with Malone as the chief executive officer, the health center's clientele grew, and services were expanded to offer a range of health care, including optometry, dental and behavioral services. In addition to the main facility along Ohio Avenue in Anderson, services were also provided in Elwood, Alexandria and elsewhere across the community.

In 2010, the Ohio Avenue site was expanded to add more exam rooms in both pediatric and adult wings. The addition of X-ray and ultrasound machines enabled patients to get testing in-house instead of being sent to a local hospital.

Malone advocated tirelessly for the center and the services it provided, wielding his unique way of talking and his infectious smile and laugh.

In 2001, The Herald Bulletin chose Malone and Satterwhite as co-Persons of the Year in Madison County for their work with the health center. Nine years later, the newspaper again honored Malone, along with MCCHC board chair Rosetta Minnefield, as "People Who Made a Difference" in Madison County that year.

"I get personal satisfaction out of helping people," Malone said. "It is just the right thing to do if you believe in something, and I believe in it. What I have learned is the value of giving back. The first person that benefits is the giver of the gift. That is my motivation."

In the years since then, the health center has had more than its share of problems. The state of Indiana withdrew funding, and the medical director of the MCCHC was accused of pre-signing prescriptions without examining patients. In 2016, the health center also lost a federal grant it had received consistently for years.

Malone, who recently retired as the health center's CEO, must accept responsibility for those problems.

However, the health center's recent struggles shouldn't overshadow Malone's accomplishments. His outstanding service to the people of Madison County should never be forgotten.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. September 19, 2017

Convention center plan taking shape after years of discussion

The possibilities for expanding the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center to be able to accommodate much larger groups and attract many more dollars came into sharper focus Monday.

The plans studied by a convention center advisory commission helping shape the project show massive changes in the area around South College Avenue and Third Street.

If the plans proceed to completion, the convention and tourism industry would be able to pair with Bloomington's other attractions to compete with other venues in the state, except in Indianapolis. And some groups might choose Bloomington instead of the capital city.

Our support has been steady for a convention center expansion, and the plans brought forward today are attractive because a private developer is already interested in making about half the investment. Clearly, though, it's a big decision for the community's elected officials to make because of the size of the project footprint and price tag.

Bloomington is an attractive destination for all things Indiana University has to offer, as well as the connections and memories meeting planners from around the country made when they were students at IU; the beauty of the southern Indiana hills; Lake Monroe; the unique cultural and artistic amenities the community has to offer; and other assets. Those who for more than a decade have supported expanding the convention center are certain many larger groups would come here if space were available.

Mike McAfee, director of Visit Bloomington, put this bluntly in a column he wrote recently for the H-T: "Monroe County has outgrown the space we have, and this potential expansion is the next step in our emergence as an international destination. Every day, we miss opportunities to create more jobs and introduce Monroe County to not only business travelers but talented professionals and entrepreneurs who could invest in or relocate to our area."

He was advocating a 1 percent food and beverage tax the Monroe County Council would have to approve. We've supported that, too, for ongoing expenses connected to a convention center project. It would mean someone spending $10 on food or drinks would pay a dime in taxes toward attracting all this new business to the community. It would be a tax paid by visitors and students as well as residents.

The proposal favored by the advisory commission would have an estimated construction cost of $72,022,500. More than half that cost, however — $37,125,000 — would be borne by the hotel developer, Sun Development and Management Corp. of Indianapolis.

The favored plan would place the hotel on the east side of South College Avenue across from the current convention center and the Courtyard by Marriott. A large exposition hall would be south of the Courtyard, and a new building with banquet halls would be north of the new hotel on the corner of Third and College. A 450-car parking garage behind the Courtyard and a connection bridge and concourse over College Avenue also are included.

Convention center expansion is one of those issues that has been on the public agenda for many years. Discussions about how visitor dollars would benefit local businesses have been had many times before.

Seeing the project plans, along with financial estimates, define the scope of the undertaking. Some will see great potential in the plans; others will see too much change and too much risk. The same kinds of arguments have occurred about numerous other large-scale plans, such as the current too-small convention center, moving City Hall to the old Showers furniture factory, constructing Lake Monroe, and four-laning Ind. 37 — long before the debate over I-69.

Convention center expansion would be a big step that deserves careful scrutiny, as did the others. It looks like a step forward for the community.

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