- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Evansville Courier & Press. Aug. 12, 2014

Indiana needs more complete data on school bullying

Indiana had more than 9,000 cases of bullying reported in its schools last year, but even that may fall short of what actually occurred between schoolchildren last school year. In fact, officials expect even more. According to The Associated Press and The Indianapolis Star, student advocates say Indiana needs more data to fully assess the size of the problem in Indiana.

What is known from an Indiana Department of Education Website is that of 9,396 reports of bullying, 44 percent were verbal incidents. Another 21 percent were physical. The rest involved written or electronic threats and social shunning.

According to the wire story, Indiana Safe Schools coordinator David Woodward said the data from the first year of the program is insufficient to provide a full assessment of bullying, only a starting point.



He said the data may be most useful in helping individual school districts understand the scope of their problems.

Interestingly enough, of the state’s more than 1,000 schools, 240 reported no bullying incidents, a difficult-to-believe statistic.

This data comes to Hoosiers as the result of a 2013 law endorsed by parents of bullying victims. It requires Indiana public schools to begin collecting data on bullying incidents. Looking at those schools that reported no bullying, they either need to tell the other schools how they do it, or they need to sharpen their reporting skills.

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The Indianapolis Star. Aug. 8, 2014.

How do we break cycle of violence? Jobs

Cameron Anderson is fighting for his life.

Whether he, and thousands like him, makes it will in many ways determine the health of this city in the years ahead.

Anderson’s past is filled with heartbreaking mistakes. He has been arrested eight times and found guilty on three occasions. Soon after his initial arrest, while carrying a gun at age 15, he dropped out of Arlington High School. He has been shipped off to prison and sent back, a free man, to survive in some of Indy’s most crime-riddled neighborhoods. All by age 25.

Now Anderson - with the help of his employer, ReycleForce - is working hard to start over, to learn the job and life skills needed to thrive, and to model a better way to his own children.

He offers both a hope and warning to city leaders. “If you don’t have a job, then you have no legitimate way to earn $5,” he said this past week while sitting at a conference table with a group of co-workers, all former felons, from RecycleForce. “Hope starts with a job.”

The word “hope” is heard frequently at ReycleForce, which operates out of a gritty Eastside industrial complex only a few blocks from the trendy restaurants and shops of Mass Ave. Workers on the warehouse floor, all of them recently released from prison, take apart old computers, appliances and other electronics. The separated parts are sold and shipped off for recycling. What’s retained is even more valuable: attention to detail, a sense of teamwork, respect for authority, the self-discipline and self-respect that come with punching a time clock and earning a paycheck.

“Work is therapy,” said Charles “Preach” Neal, a supervisor at ReycleForce and a towering figure who commands respect from his employees with a quiet but firm presence.

It’s a therapy that appears to be working. According to a 2014 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 68 percent of people released from prison are arrested again within three years of returning to society. More than half are arrested within one year of release.

But for workers who go through RecycleForce’s program, according to the nonprofit’s president, Gregg Keesling, the recidivism rate is 17.6 percent.

ReycleForce’s approach to prisoner re-entry and job training is part of an ongoing federal study, the results of which should be watched closely by state and local leaders given the scale of the challenge in this city.

More than 125,000 ex-offenders call Marion County home. And about 8,000 men and women are released from state prison back into the community every year. Most face a tough transition in which they struggle to find housing, a job and a legitimate income. Keesling says there’s only a 72-hour window to reach ex-offenders upon their release before they turn back to committing crimes.

RecycleForce offers a way out of that trap - for the employees, but also for our community as it fights to gain control of an ongoing surge in violent crime.

The way out starts with one decision, one person, at a time.

“It took to this point in my life for me to take a better path for me and my children,” said Anderson, whose brother was killed in a drive-by shooting last year. “Now, I take the anger I have and put it into my work.”

Sadly, of course, not every ex-offender reaches that point before it’s too late. For those who do, our city and state need to make sure they have real opportunities for a second chance, for themselves and for our community.

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The Herald Bulletin, Anderson. Aug. 5, 2014.

Audit of Medicaid fraud unit important step for Indiana

Of late, there seem to have been more visible investigations of Medicaid abuse and fraud in Indiana.

Recently in Anderson, nine people were charged in April with fraud at a dental office. They had allegedly been scamming Medicaid since 2006. The Madison County Community Health Center is also reportedly under investigation for possible fraud by the Indiana Attorney General’s office.

Among chief concerns is Medicaid prescription fraud, essentially billing the government for services not provided or altering claim forms to receive federal money.

Forty-four states, including Indiana, have Medicaid fraud investigators. Indiana’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, with a team of 49, is operated through the Indiana Attorney General’s office. The U.S. Office of Inspector General oversees the operation and recently audited the state unit for the fiscal years 2010 through 2012.

It found that the unit reported civil and criminal recoveries exceeding $110 million with 105 convictions. However, there were discrepancies. Approval by supervisors to open cases was missing in 77 percent of the cases. The state did not maintain a training plan that included an annual minimum number of training hours.

The audit was also unable to reconcile $4,900 of the unit’s $13.2 million in costs. In 2013, the state unit spent $78,000 more than authorized; the OIG provided a supplement to help cover it. Auditors also could not find a $947 filing cabinet.

The state concurred with most of the findings and explained a few others. For example, the file cabinet was found; it had not been tagged properly. As far as the financial conflict, there had been a change in the financial controller.

Do the discrepancies seem petty? They shouldn’t. This is a trained unit of investigators who comb through records looking for such disparities. When they document an illegal act, someone may be headed to prison. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit must be held as accountable as those receiving federal health care funds.

Thankfully, there were no problems that couldn’t be resolved in some manner.

Indiana ranks in the top 10 for the number of prescriptions written by physicians, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That statistic alone might imply that potent drugs are sneaking into the hands of addicts.

As Indiana’s population ages, there might be a greater chance for prescription abuse.

Hoosiers expect taxpayer-funded investigative units to exemplify high standards and show perfectly balanced financial records. The state Medicaid fraud unit is no exception.

The investigators have proved their value in conviction rates and by recovering taxpayer funds. There is little in this audit that diminishes their good work.

In summary Hoosiers expect taxpayer-funded investigative units to exemplify high standards and show perfectly balanced financial records. The state Medicaid fraud unit is no exception.

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South Bend Tribune. Aug. 3, 2014.

Botched executions demand an Indiana moratorium

The recent prolonged death of a convicted killer in Arizona — which that state’s Republican senator, John McCain, described as tantamount to torture — led the state attorney general to call a halt to all executions, pending an investigation.

The incident should give Indiana, which recently announced it would use a new drug as part of its lethal injection protocol, plenty to think about. And Arizona to act upon.

Death row inmate Joseph Wood died nearly two hours after receiving a two-drug lethal injection combination. A properly administered lethal injection is supposed to last no more than 15 minutes.

The episode comes after botched executions in Oklahoma and Ohio. As drug-makers have begun refusing to sell their products for use in executions, states have scrambled to come up with new drug combinations.

Indiana’s switch to Brevital is because of a shortage of sodium thiopental. Indiana officials say that the powerful anesthetic, which is used in hospitals, is appropriate for executions. It would be part of a three-drug protocol, which also includes pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison says the decision was made after consultations with pharmacists, other states and other experts.

The company that makes Brevital strongly disagrees, arguing that the drug has never been used in lethal injections and isn’t approved for that purpose.

Indiana’s first execution since 2009 — which could come later this year — may proceed exactly as expected. The drug newly added to the protocol could act just as Indiana officials appear confident it will.

But there’s a chance that the state will find itself in the same situation that Arizona faced, struggling to explain a bungled execution that many would define as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

That’s not a chance that Indiana can afford to take. We’re not arguing the merits of the death penalty. We’ll leave that decades-long debate for later. But this much is clear: Gov. Mike Pence should order a moratorium on all executions until the state can be certain that its next execution won’t resemble an experiment in state-sanctioned torture.

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