Jake Harper

Reporter, WFYI

Jake is a reporter with Side Effects and WFYI in Indianapolis. He decided to pursue radio journalism while volunteering at a community station in Madison, WI, and soon after began an internship with NPR's State of the Re:Union. Jake has received a first place award from the Milwaukee Press Club and he was a finalist in KCRW's 24-Hour Radio Race. In his spare time, he runs and tries to perfect his pizza crust recipe. 

Ways to Connect

Anna Frodesiak/Wikimedia Commons

Waiting for a kidney transplant can be a long, difficult process. But a study performed in Georgia suggests that for some patients—particularly those from low-income neighborhoods—even getting that process started can be a challenge. 

Seth Herald/Side Effects

This episode of Sick, a new podcast from Side Effects Public Media, tells the story of Kevin Polly, a man who has to leave his town behind in order to save his own life. 

In February, the Indiana State Department of Health announced an HIV outbreak in rural Scott County. Thirty people had tested positive just since December, and most of the cases were linked to injection drug abuse of a potent prescription opioid called Opana. Since then, the number of cases has grown to more than 170.

Ryan Delaney/WFYI

Where the Monon Trail hits 126th Street in Carmel, Ind., it’s crowded with bikers and joggers. There’s a shopping center with a yoga studio and some restaurants, and two different theaters are in view.

A few hundred yards away, a jazz band plays right off the trail. There are hundreds of people out for the show, and some of them dance. Further down, there’s a community center, complete with a skate park.

Seth Herald

If a town could be said to hit rock bottom, Austin, Indiana, did so this year. Drug abuse has been out of hand there for some time, but it took the worst possible outcome to make the Southern Indiana community of 4,200 wake up to the problem: more than 170 newly identified cases of HIV since December 2014, spread almost entirely by needle-sharing.

Seth Herald

Getting Right, Part 2

Read our entire Getting Right series.

Heading out into the field, public health nurse Brittany Combs is a little angry, and in a hurry. Driving the county’s mobile needle exchange through Austin, Indiana can be hectic. Today she’s on a mission to find Jessica, a young mother who wants to go to rehab. But Brittany keeps getting interrupted.

“I’m supposed to be going to get Jessica right now,” she says as she pulls out of the community center, where the needle exchange is based. ”I told her I’d be there at three. Well, that’s not gonna happen.”

Seth Herald

Getting Right, Part 3

Read the whole Getting Right series.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Police Chief Don Spicer is on patrol in Austin, Indiana. He drives through the northern part of town, where dilapidated houses are interspersed among tidy ones with manicured lawns.

Seth Herald

Getting Right, Part 4: A Person Struggling With Addiction Wakes Up

Read the entire Getting Right series.

It’s early in the morning, and Kevin Polly is getting ready to go. His daughter has called to wish him well, and when he gets off the phone, he excuses himself. Before he leaves, he has to get right.

One last shot—that’s the hope, anyway.

Seth Herald

Ravaged by one of the worst outbreaks of HIV in recent history and an underlying epidemic of injection drug addiction,  a small rural community is changing fast as it grapples with the fallout of the crisis. In this 4-part series, reporter Jake Harper and photojournalist Seth Herald tell the story of shifting attitudes, new thinking, and signs of recovery.


A new initiative known as Project Cultivate aims to connect counties with the resources they need to start a needle exchange program from scratch.

Seth Herald / Side Effects Public Media

On a recent afternoon, Brittany Combs drove a white SUV through a neighborhood at the northern end of Austin, Indiana. In the back of her vehicle, there were hundreds of sterile syringes, each in a plastic wrapper.