Evans: We should not just accept deaths like these

Twenty years ago, when the death of 2-year-old Shelby Duis outraged Iowans, I was confident the Spirit Lake tragedy would soon bring change to our state. I probably was naive. 

In 2016, when Natalie Finn, 16, was found near death in a middle-class neighborhoodin West Des Moines, I was confident that tragedy would bring change to our state. I probably was naive. Again. 

In 2017, when Sabrina Ray, 16, was found dead in her home in Perry, I was convinced the time for change was imminent. 

I probably was naive. Once again.

Evans: Iowa should look at another Vision Iowa

There was a milestone of note recently, and it is a shame there was not a big public celebration. Twenty years ago, Gov. Tom Vilsack and the Iowa Legislature had the foresight to create a program that has brought important changes to communities large and small across Iowa. The program was called Vision Iowa – and it certainly provided that. The initiative enabled communities to bring projects to life that probably never would have gotten off the ground without the unusual financial arrangement that was the beauty of Vision Iowa. State government provided part of the investment for these projects.

Facts related to Iowa’s meatpacking industry, schools

Demographics: Iowa’s immigrant children: In 1990 only 2.4 percent of Iowa kids (17,000) were from immigrant families – by 2018 that number jumped to 12 percent (84,000). Multigenerational households: 2011 U.S. Census Survey: 2.6 percent of Iowa’s 750,000 households are multigenerational households and of those include three generations (parent, child, grandchild, ie.) and the majority identify as Hispanic (map broken down by county is on page 4 in the linked census survey). Iowa school districts: According to the Iowa Department of Education there are 330 school districts throughout the state with over 480,000 students and over 37,000 teachers. Districts with meatpacking plants have higher enrollment of Hispanic, Black and mixed race children. These populations are at higher risk of getting coronavirus.

Hidden Epidemics: About the project

The Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations collaborated on this project with newsrooms around the country: IowaWatch, California Health Report, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, City Limits, InvestigateWest, The Island Packet, The Lens, The Mendocino Voice, Side Effects and The State. We created our survey for disaster survivors and mental-health professionals with guidance and vetting from Sarah Lowe, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health; Elana Newman, professor of psychology at the University of Tulsa and research director for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University; Gilbert Reyes, clinical psychologist and chair of the American Psychological Association’s trauma psychology division disaster relief committee; and Jonathan Sury, project director for communications and field operations for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. HIDDEN EPIDEMICS: Weather disasters drive a mental health crisis RELATED: Iowa’s Parkersburg tornado survivors offer support, hope after derecho turmoil RELATED: How to heal emotional wounds after disaster 

No government agency in the United States regularly tracks the psychological outcomes of disasters. And while academic studies may shed light on specific events, the questionnaire was meant to understand experiences from multiple disasters across the country, furthering on-the-ground reporting. It is not a formal, randomized survey.

Iowa officials stymie public information requests during pandemic

COVID-19 has Iowans wanting more information from federal, state and local governments to guide life-or-death decisions raised by the unprecedented pandemic. Is it safe to go to the store? Do masks prevent spread of the virus? Should my kids go to school in the fall? At a time when Iowans need accurate and complete information, some state agencies, including the Governor’s Office, are ignoring questions from reporters, refusing to do interviews and stalling on public records requests – sometimes for months, Iowa journalists said.