Editorial Roundup: Indiana

 
 
Updated 5/24/2022 2:59 PM

Anderson Herald Bulletin. May 23, 2022.

Editorial: Outbreak of Legionnaires' may be costly to state

 

Outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in prisons are occasionally downplayed by the officials in charge of penal institutions.

Earlier this year, it was discovered that Illinois officials made misleading statements during an outbreak in six prisons.

When disease outbreaks happen in prisons, officials may not want a panic to erupt, particularly among family members of those incarcerated. And certainly state officials don't want to incur lawsuits about medical treatment for preventable diseases.

On Dec. 1, 2021, media outlets in Indiana reported that three inmates at Pendleton Correctional Facility had confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease, a lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria. The bacteria spreads through aerosolized water droplets, which can be inhaled, causing illness. An inmate died from the disease.

In early May, five inmates, claiming to have contracted the disease, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the state violated their rights to adequate conditions while in confinement and to medical care.

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The lead plaintiff claimed he suffered chills, fever, diarrhea and possible kidney problems after bathing and drinking the contaminated water. The five prisoners are seeking $1 million each in damages and the replacement of lead piping. They also want outside medical care from a licensed provider.

Two offenders claim they did not know about the contamination until Dec. 3. One claimed he had not received clean drinking water, as in bottled water, by Dec. 12.

While these men committed heinous crimes, including two murderers and a rapist, that does not mean their complaints are meritless. Illness should not be disregarded.

After all, staff members and guards drink the same water as the inmates. Additional lawsuits have also been filed citing environmental hazards and unsafe drinking water,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On April 22, the Indiana Department of Correction supplied an update about the outbreak, saying it properly responded to the outbreak:

'IDOC also took immediate steps to limit further exposure to the bacteria for both staff and incarcerated individuals by installing point of use filters on shower heads within the facility, which provide a barrier against waterborne contaminants, including Legionella bacteria, allowing the incarcerated population to shower safely.

'In addition, staff began working on a long-term, facility-wide plan to further treat the water in the facility with a mixed oxidant solution system to eliminate Legionella from the water supply.'

But as of April 22, the source of the bacteria had not been found.

One good note, however, is that a mixed oxidant solution, which can be prepared onsite, can be a cost-saving replacement for chloride and bromine. So, a proper mix can reduce claims resulting in lawsuits.

That element should only be a secondary consideration in regard to the health of staff and inmates. Both groups should feel secure and safe, even inside the walls of an Indiana prison - security from physical attack and safety from preventable diseases.

Inmates might not have a right to receive information about unsanitary conditions. But inmates have a right to adequate medical care and basic concepts of dignity.

Indiana prison staff and inmates are entitled to safe drinking water.

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Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. May 22, 2022.

Editorial: Gas-tax relief small sacrifice to state budget

Ronald Julian stopped for fuel and a drink at the Lassus station at 5545 Stellhorn Road Friday morning, where the price of a regular gallon of gasoline was $4.59.

'What I think about is people making the minimum wage,' Julian said. 'The paycheck, (it's) gone on the gas.'

Indiana's average price for regular gas hit $4.62 a gallon Thursday, up from $3.93 just one month earlier, according to the American Automobile Association. The inflation rate in April slowed to 8.3% from a 41-year high of 8.5% in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, though it's unlikely to fall to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.

Within the past week, Democrats have called for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to issue an emergency order suspending the state gas tax, or for the Republican-led General Assembly to cut gas taxes when legislators hold a one-day meeting this week. Lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday to override the governor's veto of a ban on transgender high school athletes.

Julian sides with the Democrats. 'It's too much. I mean, everything is up,' he said. 'Look at the price. Some people (are) not making enough money to pay for them guys' back-and-forth. It's not fair.'

A temporary suspension of the sales tax on gasoline certainly would benefit all Hoosiers '" Democrat and Republican, rich and poor.

Hoosier motorists pay three taxes on a gallon of gas: an excise tax of 32 cents per gallon that pays for road projects, an annual 1 cent per gallon inflation adjustment, and a separate gas sales tax. Drivers in Indiana currently are paying about 56 cents per gallon in state gas taxes '" the highest-ever level in history, the Associated Press reports.

That tax will barely change in June. An Indiana Department of Revenue calculation announced Thursday revealed the state's sales tax will be 24 cents per gallon. The rate currently charged is 24.1 cents a gallon.

Combined with federal gas taxes, motorists in Indiana will be paying about 74 cents per gallon in taxes every time they stop for a fill-up next month.

'Anytime that there is an automatic increase of a tax that's going on, it certainly (should be) voted on every year,' state Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, told Indiana Public Media Tuesday. 'I don't think that we should have tax increases that happen just because.'

Holcomb said he doesn't have the authority to temporarily waive the state's gas tax.

Despite the pandemic, state tax collections have surged in recent months, reaching $1.8 billion, or nearly 12% more than a year ago. That could deepen state cash reserves from the record $3.9 billion of last year, the AP reported, to about $6 billion when the budget year ends June 30.

'A windfall of excess funding has left Indiana in a position to provide real relief without sacrificing funding to important roads and construction projects,' state Rep. Tonya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute, told the AP. 'The time to act is now.'

The current situation concerning gas taxes, however, suggests a looming problem, the Tax Foundation warns. These taxes face a narrowing base, with higher demand for better fuel economy and the sales of electric-powered vehicles. Indiana will need a new, fairer way to pay for road improvements, and a suspension of the 32-cent excise tax on gas doesn't get us closer to solving the approaching headache.

But temporarily waiving the 24-cent sales tax on gasoline wouldn't break the bank. State Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, told the AP Indiana has more than enough money available for gas-tax relief.

The General Assembly doesn't need a record $6 billion budget surplus while Hoosiers struggle to pay increasing costs for food, clothing, shelter and gasoline.

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Terre Haute Tribune-Star. May 20, 2022.

Editorial: Changing approach to child poverty is essential

It is hard to imagine Vigo County having a vibrant economy and a desirable quality of life while also having Indiana's highest child-poverty rate.

The problem stands out here. Twenty-eight percent of children under 18 live in poverty. Vigo's rate is 3 percentage points higher than the second-worst county, Lake near Chicago.

Child poverty may seem like a cause-and-effect situation - once the local economy improves, the problem will subside. Yet, Vigo County has long been among the Indiana counties with the highest child-poverty rates. The latest figures from the 2022 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps released last month by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute show the problem remains and has even worsened since 2018.

Among Hispanic and Black kids in Vigo County, nearly 40% live in poverty.

Of course, the primary consequence of child poverty is the hardships endured by the kids themselves. Systemic poverty also becomes an entrenched barrier for a community trying to grow.

That was not Vigo County's only worrisome health and well-being shortcoming revealed in the annual County Health Rankings.

The county also has the state's fourth-highest childcare expense burden. Childcare costs for a household with two children consume 24% of the typical Vigo family's household income. With a quarter of their paychecks going to childcare, necessities like safe housing, medications and healthy foods become less affordable, Christine Mugunda of the Population Health Institute told the Tribune-Star last month.

The rankings included several other red flags for the community. The county ranked among the state's top-six-worst in food security, preventable hospital stays, sexually transmitted infections, prevalence of HIV cases and median household income. Vigo ranks among the bottom third in premature deaths, smoking and obesity. School-funding adequacy falls below state and national levels. And, when it comes to health factors (our behaviors; clinical care; and social, economic and physical environments), Vigo was among the worst at 85th out of 92 counties.

The county had some pluses, with high access to outlets for physical activity and a low rate of solo drivers on long commutes. (To view the rankings, go online to https://bit.ly/3MxLYBK.)

Remedies are possible for the county's negatives. The community can intensify support for agencies that deal with poverty-stricken kids and families, for groups promoting nutrition and fitness, and for public education efforts on sexually transmitted and communicable diseases. Local schools now have to handle many of these issues, as well as children's mental health problems, and need increased public support.

The County Health Rankings can be a roadmap for communities to reverse problems and bolster positives, Michael Stevenson - the project's policy analysis team leader - told the Tribune-Star.

'Each county has strengths and weaknesses, and we encourage communities to dig into the underlying data and to identify areas where they want to improve,' Stevenson said. 'We all have a role to play in creating conditions where everyone can be healthy. Start conversations about health at your church, school or community center. Talk to your elected officials and advocate for the economic security and health of your community. Explore evidence-informed solutions that can help solve some of our most pressing problems.'

Many people are working diligently to break the cycle of those problems in the Terre Haute area. The changes they are trying to make are important to the community's improvement. Doing the same things the same ways is not the answer.

END

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