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

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.

RCAP

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.


Melissa Johnson/Flickr

Legislation that would allow needle exchanges in some Indiana counties cleared the House Public Health Committee on Monday. 

Last week, Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in Scott County, which has seen about 80 new HIV cases in just the last few months. Though Pence has allowed a needle exchange to operate in the county for 30 days, he has maintained his opposition to allowing needle exchanges statewide.

Shane Avery practices family medicine in Scott County, Ind. In December, a patient came to his office who was pregnant, and an injection drug user.

After running some routine tests, Avery found out that she was positive for HIV. She was the second case he had seen in just a few weeks.

"Right then, I kind of realized, 'Wow, are we on the tip of something?' " Avery says. "But you just put it away. ... It's statistically an oddity when you're just one little doctor, you know?"

Bordecla34

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an executive order today declaring a public health emergency in Scott County in response to a growing outbreak of HIV. His order includes authorization for a "targeted" clean needle exchange.

Clean needle exchanges are illegal in Indiana and the governor has said he opposes them as an addiction-fighting strategy, but is making an exception in the case of Scott County. The number of cases has now grown to 79 since the outbreak was first identified in January.

Opossums may hold the key to saving thousands of lives a year
Liam Wolff/Wikimedia Commons

To some, an opossum is just a giant rat that scared you from ever going into your garage again. But North America's only marsupial may also hold the key to cheaply saving thousands of lives a year.

Bottle of donor stool
Jake Harper

Three weeks ago, James Kidwell, 57, lay in a bed at IU Health University Hospital, waiting to receive a procedure he hoped would beat back an invasion of harmful bacteria called Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, in his colon.

Audio Pending...

needle exchange
Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

Public health officials in Southeastern Indiana have been scrambling to contain an outbreak of HIV linked to intravenous drug use. Now, one Indiana lawmaker plans to introduce an amendment on Wednesday that would permit the distribution of clean needles to IV drug users.

HIV public health brochure
Jake Harper/WFYI

A couple of weeks ago, Scott County public health nurse Brittany Combs started getting a lot more calls asking about STD testing.


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