- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The (Munster) Times. April 1, 2016

Don’t limit environmental protection of Hoosiers.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was right to veto the legislation that would have hamstrung state regulators who want to deal with an environmental issue that requires quick attention.

House Enrolled Act 1082, sponsored by state Rep. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, would have prohibited any state environmental regulation more stringent than federal requirements from going into force before the next legislative session had concluded.

In other words, the Legislature would have veto power over all new environmental regulations more stringent than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.

There has been a strong push for this legislation by the Indiana Manufacturers Association for several years. This year, however, the reason for not approving it should have been more clear than ever: Flint, Michigan.

Pence cited the Flint water situation in saying the Indiana Department of Environmental Management needs the flexibility to protect Hoosiers if a similar situation occurs here.

He’s right. The Flint crisis should have shown legislators the folly of restricting state regulators’ ability to protect Hoosiers in the face of environmental harm. Legislators donated case after case of bottled water for use by Flint residents. How could they forget that lesson?

For that matter, remember the trash-to-ethanol debacle in Lake County. Fortunately, the plug was pulled on that plan before it went forward. But if that had come to pass, it would have required a new set of state environmental regulations. We shouldn’t hamper the state’s ability to protect Hoosiers if another unique situation arises.

HEA1082 passed by wide margins - 48-2 in the Senate and 65-30 in the House. While the Legislature could override Pence’s veto by a simple majority vote in both chambers, lawmakers should resist that temptation.


South Bend Tribune. April 1, 2016

More openness, for kids’ sake.

It would be remiss of us not to praise the passage of a measure that redefines a child’s near death in deciding what records should be released to the public.

In previous comments, we’ve pushed for more openness at the Department of Child Services. Such transparency is desperately needed, not as a finger-pointing exercise but to help make sure that all of us do a better job of keeping kids safe.

The calls for more transparency and a focus on the near deaths of children are taking place on a national level. According to the chairman of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, new research suggests that studying near-fatal events of child abuse may be important because “near fatalities are similar to fatalities in almost every way we can measure them.”

Senate Bill 131, introduced by state Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, is a step toward more openness when Indiana children are seriously injured.

While Indiana law has long stipulated that DCS records should be made public in the death or near death of a children, it didn’t describe exactly what a “near fatality” is - meaning that those records were in practice never released to the public. Broden, a former DCS attorney, submitted a bill (for the second year in a row) that attempted to offer a definition.

The bill that passed unanimously in both chambers was signed by Gov. Mike Pence last month. It goes into effect July 1.

This is good news. But all that is tempered by the wording in the bill that includes the possibility of a summer study committee to continue the conversation about confidentiality of a child’s medical records in the case of a near fatality. Legislators should not allow this measure to be watered down or compromised. Transparency is critical and confidentiality meant to protect children actually does harm when it undermines public confidence that Indiana is doing everything it can for the most vulnerable Hoosiers.


The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. March 31, 2016

Pharmacies join police to cut down on thefts.

Pharmacy robberies have been both a symptom of Indiana’s drug crisis and a cause of it. But there are some glimmers of hope this year.

As Indiana struggles with an outsized opioid and heroin addiction problem, the number of pharmacy robberies in the state has become an epidemic of its own. In 2014, Indiana had 78 armed pharmacy robberies - almost a tenth of all such robberies nationwide. In the first quarter of 2015, Indiana led the nation with 34 armed pharmacy robberies - about a sixth of 203 nationwide.

“Indiana had more than double the number of the next state, California, which had 16,” said Russell Baer, a public affairs staff coordinator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Clerks, pharmacists and customers are at risk every time someone tries to take drugs from a pharmacy counter at gunpoint. But these robbers present another kind of threat to their communities after they leave.

Statistics presented by Ken Fagerman, author of a book about the problem called “Staring Down the Barrel,” suggest that drugs stolen in these robberies play a big role in the state’s overall drug problem.

According to Fagerman, a former Indiana pharmacist who now practices in Michigan, “The relative ease of these thefts … and the astonishingly large amounts of dangerous narcotics lost to the criminal community is staggering.” Figures Fagerman said he’s compiled through open-records requests show pharmacies in the state lost more than 200,000 restricted-drug dosage units last year, including almost 94,000 oxycodone pills. “I have estimated the ‘street value’ of the five most stolen narcotics for 2015 to be over $2,500,000,” Fagerman wrote in a letter to The Journal Gazette.

But authorities and pharmacies have been fighting back, and this year there are indications that those efforts are paying off, especially in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, whose pharmacies have been particularly hard hit in recent years.

DEA statistics aren’t yet available, but the state’s Professional Licensing Agency shows 25 pharmacy robberies statewide so far this year. Fort Wayne Police have recorded two pharmacy robberies in 2016, neither of which was for narcotics, according to Officer Richard Wurm. During all of 2015, the city had nine robberies in which the perpetrators stole narcotics.

“Robberies have gone down, thank God,” said Randy Hitchens, executive vice president of the Indiana Pharmacists Alliance. Hitchens credits installation of time-delay safes in many pharmacies, along with armed guards in stores that have been targeted most often.

He also believes a November summit meeting on the robberies that was organized by the Board of Pharmacy and included law enforcement and pharmacy representatives from around the state helped focus attention on solving the problem.

Phil Caruso, a spokesman for Walgreen’s, said his company has installed time-delay safes in all 196 of its Indiana pharmacies. CVS has also installed the safes in its Indianapolis-area stores, according to Erin Shields Britt, director of corporate communications. “We are continuing to evaluate the performance of time delay safes in Indianapolis before making any decision to expand them into other markets,” Britt wrote in an email Wednesday.

“As a company, nationally and in Indiana, we’re concerned about pharmacy robberies,” Caruso said. “I don’t know what’s causing them, but I think it gets at a larger issue. Drug abuse is one of the biggest problems in the country.”

Solving the problems of drug abuse is a hydra-headed challenge. Indiana appears to be showing some progress on one strand of the solution - making pharmacies less vulnerable.


(Logansport) Pharos-Tribune. March 31, 2016

America’s problems no laughing matter.

It used to be that media outlets would use this day - April 1 - to play some sort of outlandish April Fools’ Day prank on unsuspecting news consumers.

Reporters and news editors would make up a crazy story and sell it as honest-to-God truth, leaving the public astonished that such events could ever play out. But in time, that fell to the wayside. Given the fact that people look to news outlets for the unbridled truth, that change in policy is a good thing.

But it seems that the headlines these days are just as outlandish as if we had made the news up. In some cases, we couldn’t even make this stuff up if we tried.

Let’s take, for example, the current antics of our nation’s presidential hopefuls. We thought politics were getting pretty silly when the debates became more entertaining than most scripted prime-time comedies. But now that it’s devolved into speculations over the size of a candidate’s manhood and insinuations regarding would-be first ladies, that’s when it became a joke on the American people.

Those who wish to take a seat in our highest office and lead our nation are unabashedly mouthing off on Twitter for the whole world to see.

“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

That’s a direct quote . from someone who could be our next president.

We wish we were kidding.

Headlines about child molestation and subsequent arrests no longer shock us. They’ve become too commonplace for that. Given the world we now live in, knowing the true number of children who have been the prey of a sexually deviant citizen probably wouldn’t shock us either. According to studies by Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in five girls and one in 20 boys are a victim of child sexual abuse.

We wish that were a bad joke.

The national deficit is $19,240,197,920,570.60 - and counting. That number is so large it’s almost hard to comprehend. So let’s put it this way: If you’re reading this and you’re a citizen, your share of that is $59,628.33 - and counting.

The nation’s debt climbs by a couple billion dollars every day.

Sadly, we aren’t joking.

In America, one of the richest countries in the world, 15.3 million children live in food-insecure households. In other words, they don’t know when and where their next meal will come from. About 21 percent of children in the U.S. live in poverty.

Still not a joke. Still not funny.

Despite the absurdity proclaimed in headlines we see every day, it seems many don’t take hold with the masses. Maybe it’s because we’re immune to the chaos and futility of it all. Maybe the national problems seem too big for us to take on, so we shyly brush them under the rug and look the other way.

Regardless of the reason, there’s no denying that America has become apathetic. If you don’t agree, check out the voting turnout in most elections. There are longer lines at the Apple Store on launch day than there are on Election Day.

At what point does the shamefulness of it all spark America and its people into action? We don’t have the answer to that, but we do know that America needs to wake up. The problems facing this country are no laughing matter.

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