Andy and Amy Jo Hellenbrand live on a little farm in south-central Wisconsin where they raise corn, soybeans, wheat, heifers, chickens, goats, bunnies, and their four children, ages 5 to 12. For the entire fall semester, the quartet of grade school students learned virtually from home, as their district elected to keep school buildings closed. That has put a strain on the family, as well as the childrens’ grades and grammar. “I definitely feel like they’re falling behind,” said Amy Jo Hellenbrand. “You just notice certain things as far as their language and how they talk.
The state’s hospital and nursing leaders in Iowa pleaded Tuesday with Iowans to take safety steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 as the glut of cases continued to tax their ability to help people with the virus. “We have folks new in health care and those who have been around for decades who are astounded by the amount of death and serious morbidity they are dealing with on a daily basis,” Dr. Tammy Chance, medical director of quality initiatives at Boone County Hospital, said.
Suzanne Behnke, executive director of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism and its news outlet, IowaWatch, has been named to the Institute for Nonprofit News Emerging Leaders Council. INN announced Thursday, May 21, that Behnke is among 11 leaders selected for the third Emerging Leaders Council, which identifies and supports leaders who will advance the nonprofit news sector throughout the next decade.
“This is a terrific opportunity to network, to support nonprofit news and to find ways to strengthen IowaWatch,” Behnke said. “I am excited to join a terrific group of journalists.”
Behnke joined the Center in 2019 after spending two years at the Des Moines Business Record, where she was an editor and contributor. She also is a journalism and communications instructor at Simpson College in Indianola. Behnke, a native Iowan, has a long and rich news reporting and editing history in the state. She was a reporter, copy editor and page designer at The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier from 1997 to 2000 before joining The Des Moines Register staff.
ByClaire Hettinger and Pam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
With farmers facing increasing stress and depression, Midwestern states and national farm groups are making more efforts to better provide services to alleviate the high rate of suicide among the agriculture industry. Yet in rural areas, this care is more of a challenge. Rural hospitals — often the primary source of health care services in these areas — are closing or merging. Since 2010, 23 hospitals have closed across the Midwest — a loss of nearly 1,000 beds, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.
An Institute for Nonprofit News investigation by 12 news outlets across seven states found that rural Midwest hospitals have reduced services or merging with larger health systems in an effort to deal with financial and regulatory pressures. Only two of those Midwestern hospitals were in Illinois, but accessing mental health services in rural communities remains difficult. Some groups have decided to address the situation themselves.
A collaborative project including the Institute for Nonprofit News and INN members IowaWatch, KCUR, Bridge Magazine, Wisconsin Watch, Side Effects Public Media and The Conversation; as well as Iowa Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), Iowa Falls Times Citizen and N’west Iowa REVIEW. The project was made possible by support from INN, with additional support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. For more stories visit hospitals.iowawatch.org
For example, the organization GROW sets up meetings over Zoom, a video conferencing app, to help those in rural areas experiencing mental health issues.And more than a dozen farm bureau managers in Illinois have taken mental health first aid classes that help people recognize signs of distress. Harry Brockus — the chief executive officer of Carle Hoopeston and Carle Richland in Central Illinois, a collection of hospitals that serves 41 mostly rural counties — said there is a physician shortage across the country and recruitment to rural areas is an even bigger challenge.
“We do not offer the amenities that physicians are looking for,” he said, “such as shopping, schools and different entertainment venues.”
Other challenges in rural areas, such as transportation, housing and access to healthy food, can make rural healthcare costs inefficient and unaffordable, Brockus said.
This has left rural America in a bind when it comes to care for mental health.
A seven-state news investigation revealed plenty of problems facing rural patients but also a variety of creative attempts to solve them. The head of the National Rural Health Association puts it this way: “Everyone realizes we’re at a crisis point.”
ByChelsea Keenan, IowaWatch; Sara Konrad Baranowski, Iowa Falls Times Citizen; Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio; Mark Mahoney, N’west Iowa REVIEW and Michaela Ramm, The Gazette |
Hospital leaders say a policy fix is needed to ensure the future of rural hospitals in Iowa and across the country that are succumbing to financial pressures and closing their doors. Until that fix comes, though, Iowa’s network of rural community hospitals is making tough choices and smart partnerships to get by, a series of interviews by Iowa news organizations collaborating with IowaWatch revealed. Some have dropped OB-GYN services. Smaller hospitals have turned to larger ones to form partnerships, which can
result in the elimination of services to be more cost-efficient but forces
patients to drive out of town for health care. Other efforts to maintain local
hospital care include shifting to more outpatient care, the interviews show.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, or IowaWatch, has hired Suzanne Behnke to be its new executive director. Behnke, who starts in August, succeeds Lyle Muller, who will retire in September after leading IowaWatch since 2012. “Journalism and its future are my professional passions, and IowaWatch will allow me to work in both areas,” Behnke said. “There’s tremendous potential for IowaWatch to grow in depth and breadth so it can serve readers for years to come.”
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Behnke comes to IowaWatch from the Des Moines Business Record, where she has been an editor and contributor since May 2017. She also is a journalism and communications instructor at Simpson College in Indianola.
The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, or IowaWatch, is pleased to announce three new members to the Board of Directors. Rose Rennekamp, Alan Swanson and Linh Ta join a group of volunteers that guides the nonpartisan news nonprofit that works with students to develop investigative and explanatory news stories provided for free to Iowa news outlets. Linh Ta, who joined the board in March 2019, is a business reporter specializing in retail at the Des Moines Register. She was born and raised in West Des Moines and graduated from Valley High School in 2011. She moved north to attend school and study political science at the University of Northern Iowa and work as the executive editor of the student paper, the Northern Iowan.