A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Rural Blog: Appalachia hit twice by coal declines; fewer jobs, ‘crippling’ bills for more expensive power

“As coal mining has collapsed across Appalachia, residents in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia have been socked with a double whammy—crippling electric bills to go along with a declining economy,” James Bruggers reports for Inside Climate News. (KyForward file photo) American Electric Power subsidiaries Wheeling Power and Appalachian Power requested permission from the West Virginia...

UK researchers track genetic trail of ALS; one form found most common around Cumberland Gap

Two University of Kentucky researchers are on the genetic trail of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Their detective story has not reached its end, but it is told in fascinating fashion by Eric Boodman of Stat, the medicine-and-science publication of The Boston Globe. The story is based around the Cumberland Gap, where Kentucky meets Tennessee and Virginia....

Rural Blog: Nine Kentucky counties among 42 ‘bright spots’ identified by Appalachian health researchers

Appalachia’s major problems include poor health, but in the 420-county region there are counties that have better health than you might expect, given their socioeconomic status. The Appalachian Regional Commission issued a study Tuesday that points out 42 “bright spots,” 10 of them with case studies, that may suggest strategies for others in the region. This map spotlights the 10...

Rural Blog: New data indicates too little money set aside to clean up, reclaim abandoned mines

According to national data compiled and published for the first time yesterday, the coal industry may not have enough money set aside to clean up and reclaim abandoned mines, Mark Olalde reports for Climate Home News. “Mining companies and state governments hold just $9.2 billion nationwide to ensure mining land is reclaimed if operators go bust,” Olalde reports. “Experts told CHN...

New mapping tool shows county-level data on Appalachian opioid overdoses, socioeconomic data

A new data visualization tool offers in-depth, county-by-county information about the impact of the opioid epidemic in Appalachia and how it relates to factors such as unemployment, poverty, education and disability. A screen cap from the map showing opioid overdose rates withthe highest rates in dark blue (Click the image to enlarge) The Appalachian Overdose Mapping Tool, developed by research organization...

Rural Blog: Appalachia at high risk of HIV, hep C, but many factors hamper testing, monitoring, treatment

Bloodborne diseases like HIV and hepatitis C are an increasing threat to public health in Appalachia, but the stigma associated with such diseases may be hindering monitoring, testing and treatment, ultimately increasing the risk of outbreaks. A big part of the risk comes from sharing needles while shooting opioid drugs such as heroin. In 2016 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that...

Rural Blog: Study shows how coal’s fall has hurt Appalachian suppliers, may threaten rail network

A 45 percent drop in Appalachia’s coal production from 2005 to 2015 has put other industries in the region at risk, says a study commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Researchers from West Virginia University and the University of Tennessee and identified the “coal industry ecosystem” in the region, mainly the industry’s supply chain of goods and services. “As...

Keys to fighting opioids in Appalachia: reducing stigma, furthering education and publishing success

The stigma of opioid addiction in Appalachia “not only keeps some from seeking help, but follows those who did — putting them at risk for relapse,” the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Kristi L. Nelson reports, on a six-month study that interviewed residents and held discussions with them. “We interviewed people who had been in recovery for 20 years, and they said they were still viewed...

Kentucky by Heart: Deaths leave a void and legacy: Mountain Santa, Bob Wagoner each made mark

I was saddened by the recent passing of Mike Howard, aka “Mountain Santa.” He lived at Wallins Creek, in Harlan County, and since the mid-seventies, the wiry-built, talkative man became an icon to thousands in his community by playing Santa Claus, collecting and delivering Christmas gifts to the poor, largely transporting the gifts using pickup trucks. He did that with the support of a legion of...

Mary Meehan: Real lives are at stake in rural areas and real journalism can help affect change

Hey there Blue State folks! Those of us out here in the rest of the country are glad that over the last year you’ve shown an interest in making our acquaintance. Recently, several prominent media organizations took it a step further, announcing support for local journalists. The Nieman Foundation recently announced the Abrams Nieman Fellowship in Local Investigative Journalism. These fellows will...

HIV outbreak in Appalachian Ky. ‘just a matter of time;’ majority of counties have no syringe exchange

An outbreak of the human immunodeficiency virus, which leads to AIDS, is “just a matter of time” in Appalachian Kentucky because of conditions in the region and the lack of syringe exchanges for intravenous drug users in most vulnerable counties. That’s what Dr. Jennifer Havens, an epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky, told the Courier Journal’s Laura Ungar for a story updating...

Rural Blog: DEA targets opioid abuse in Appalachia with new Louisville office to handle Ky., Tenn., W.Va.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is targeting the opioid epidemic in Appalachia by establishing a new field office in Louisville on Jan. 1. Louisville already has a district office, one of 222 across the country, but it and the rest of Kentucky were part of the Detroit division, while West Virginia was part of the Washington, D.C., division and Tennessee was part of the Atlanta division. DEA...

Daily Yonder: House Democrats question halt to study of strip-mining impact on Appalachian health

By Heather Chapman Special to KyForward When a federal study on the public-health impacts of large-scale surface mining in Central Appalachia was cancelled in August, the Interior Department said it wasn’t because of the subject matter. All projects costing more than $100,000 were being reviewed because of budget cuts Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement said...

Roundtable says poor health a major obstacle to economic development in Appalachia

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News Appalachia faces many hurdles when it comes to economic development and creating a healthy workforce, including education barriers, addiction issues, stigma and overall poor health. Those were the conclusions of a 13-member panel convened to discuss the findings of two new Appalachian Regional Commission reports that found Appalachian health continues to fall...

Rural Blog: Role of African Americans in Appalachia coal industry largely unrecognized

When someone is asked to imagine a person living in Appalachia, they’ll likely imagine a white person. But the Appalachians have a significant African American population in certain places. The Washington Post’s Emma Ockerman writes a fascinating piece about what it means to be an African American living in Appalachia, feeling “like a racial minority within a cultural minority.”...

Appalachian region endures dramatic health challenges compared with nation, research shows

Health Disparities in Appalachia, a new report issued Thursday by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, documents dramatic disparities in health outcomes and other health-related factors in the Appalachian Region when compared with the nation as a whole, as well as substantial variations in health throughout...

Smoking largely responsible for shorter life spans, higher infant death rates in Appalachia

By Melissa Patrick Kentucky Health News People who live in Appalachia are dying sooner than two decades ago, and the region has a higher infant death rate compared to the rest of the nation. A new study blames both largely on the region’s high smoking rate, as well as its other bad health habits. “What this report shows is the extreme damage that tobacco is causing our people, and how we are...

Abandoned Mine Lands Pilot Grants totaling $5 million released for economic development projects

U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) announced three grants worth almost $5 million to spur economic development and job creation in Eastern Kentucky. Two of the grants were awarded by the EEC’s Division of Abandoned Mine Lands, as part of the 2016 Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot program to revitalize the coalfields in Kentucky’s...

Rural Blog: Shale-gas boom leads to plastic-pellet plants, but Appalachian infrastructure is lacking

Appalachian states are poised to capitalize on the world’s growing appetite for plastics, not only with shale gas and oil drilling, but with plants called “crackers” that turn natural gas byproducts into usable plastic pellets for manufacturers, Tom DiChristopher of CNBC reports. Northern Appalachian states such as Pennsylvania and New York have large shale-gas deposits and are already...

Chefs gather to rally for Appalachia – Family Style Dinner to Benefit Appalachian Food Summit

A number of guest chefs will join Lockbox executive chef Jonathan Searle for a four-course dinner and a cocktail hour Thursday, August 10 benefitting the Appalachian Food Summit. Each course of the family style dinner will be designed and prepared by a different regional chef, including Searle, Chef Annie Pettry of Decca (Louisville), Chef Ouita Michel of Holly Hill Inn and Honeywood (Midway and Lexington),...