A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Pew Trusts: Rural areas hope to get more from national service programs like Americorps

April Simpson Pew Charitable Trusts The Hindman Settlement School was founded in 1902 to educate children living in the Central Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The school now focuses on helping children with dyslexia, and its leaders propose deploying 40 mentors from AmeriCorps, the national service program, to nearby elementary schools to give students the one-on-one attention they need. Brent...

Daily Yonder: Donors erase $10 million in medical debt for residents of Central Appalachia

By Tim Marema Special to KyForward More than 10,000 residents of primarily rural counties in Central Appalachia will receive letters in the next month telling them they no longer owe a combined $10 million in medical debt. The debt forgiveness means the individuals will receive no more bills, dunning letters, or telephone calls seeking payment for the medical services they received months or years...

Rural Blog: Rural residents are having a harder time affording rent; analysis has data for every county

Change in percentage of county residents with severe cost burden for housing in 2010-17(Stateline map; click on the image to enlarge it or click here for the interactive version) It’s getting harder to find affordable housing in rural America. “Nearly one-fourth of the nation’s most rural counties have seen a sizeable increase this decade in the number of households spending at least...

Lawmakers question reasons for cancellation of health study on affects of surface coal mining

Nadia Ramlagan Public News Service Democratic lawmakers are probing the reasons why a National Academy of Sciences study on the health effects of surface coal mining in Central Appalachia was canceled. The U.S. Interior Department halted the study in 2017, calling it a cost-saving measure. Airborne micro-particles from surface mining are believed to be linked to a variety of health problems (Photo...

Rural Blog: Getting black-lung benefits a daunting task for Central Appalachian coal miners

Black-lung disease is common among coal miners, with one in 10 nationwide suffering some form of it. The disease hit a 25-year high in Central Appalachia last year, where one in five suffer from it. But accessing federal benefits for the sometimes debilitating and deadly disease can be difficult, often taking years of fighting through bureaucracy, Sydney Boles reports for Ohio Valley Resource. “The...

Rural Blog: Appalachian surface mining requiring more land for less coal, new study shows

Surface mining in Central Appalachia needs more land to produce less coal than in years past, as illustrated a study from Duke University featuring a new interactive mapping tool by SkyTruth. The apparent reason is that available coal seams are getting thinner as thicker ones are mined out; mines can move as much as 20 tons of rock and dirt to get a ton of coal. Satellite images from 1985 to 2015 show...

Rural Blog: Appalshop arts-and-culture co-op spotlighted in PBS NewsHour series on U.S. artists

PBS NewsHour began its new “American Creators” series, “taking us to all corners of the country to see artists at work,” February 9 with a long profile of Appalshop, the arts-and-culture cooperative based in Whitesburg, Ky., near the Virginia border, in the depressed Central Appalachian coalfield. Ada Smith of Appalshop (Photo from PBS) Jeffrey Brown’s eight-and-a-half...

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...

Rural Blog: Breathitt County hiking club is changing local attitudes about health and the community

Central Appalachia is the unhealthiest place in the country by most metrics, but 45-year-old librarian Stephen Bowling is trying to help Breathitt County buck the trend with a hiking club. An avid hiker, Bowling has been hosting monthly hiking trips one Sunday a month since the beginning of the year, Lyndsey Gilpin reports for Outside Online. His employer, the Breathitt County Public Library, sponsors...

EKU receives NSF Research Grant to study natural ecology disturbances in central Appalachia

Eastern Kentucky University faculty recently received a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant in support of undergraduate student internships to study the ecological effects of anthropogenic and natural disturbances in central Appalachia. Students will be paired with faculty mentors and work full time through the summer as part of research teams alongside faculty,...

Health, including mental issues, post major challenges to coal communities as industry declines

As the coal industry declines, rapidly in Central Appalachia, there are “clues suggesting that health and mental-health issues will pose enormous challenges to the affected coal communities, and will linger for decades,” Georgia State University biology professor Roberta Attanasio writes for The Conversation US. Appalachia’s death rates are higher than in the nation as a whole, Attanasio...

Rural Blog: Central Appalachian coal miners learning how to write computer code to cope with job loss

In Central Appalachia, where communities have been hit hard by the loss of coal jobs, the move to teach former coal miners computer coding could be the start of a trend that could help revitalize the region, Tim Loh reports for Bloomberg News. Rusty Justice, who co-founded a coding business in Pikeville, Ky., told Loh, “We’ve got a lot of high-skilled hillbillies here. We want to prove we can...