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Electronic Cigarettes Are Popular With Indiana Youth

A survey out of the Indiana University School of Public Health found youth in Indiana are increasingly using electronic cigarettes. The Indiana Youth Survey studied youth in grades 7 through 12. It found e-cigarettes are more popular than traditional tobacco products among that population. About a quarter of 12th graders reported using e-cigarettes, considerably higher than the national average of 17 percent. This is the first year the survey has asked about e-cigarette usage. The higher than average use of electronic cigarettes comes as alcohol and marijuana use among Indiana youth remains lower than the national average.

Local Biologist Explores The Battle Between Microorganisms For Better Health


In a recent study Indiana University biologist Farrah Bashey-Visser has been researching an apparent microscopic war between microorganisms.

The study focuses on the various interactions between certain microorganisms and their implications to human health. Health experts have long been concerned about bacteria evolving to resist drugs and antibiotics but Bashey-Visser’s research exposes a different, related concern. Certain bacteria are not just evolving to resist human medicine, they are also evolving to compete with each other. This means that medical science may need to catch up to offending bacteria as it evolves.

“We have one microbe who can attack another microbe but then resistance can evolve to that attack,” Bashey-Visser said. “In another context maybe not attacking is a better strategy. So I’m trying to understand how these internal dynamics can maintain diversity and this would apply to all sorts of organisms.”

The study also explores the possibility of using certain bacteria commonly known as probiotics to advance medical science. One example of this is the fecal transplant where stool samples are placed from one patient into another to restore healthy microorganisms. A practice that reportedly has a 90 percent success rate at curing patients.

Bashey-Visser believes there are also similar practices to be explored. She says that they have seen where microbes can be used to compete with one another and therefore inhibit the development of diseases.

“Sometimes when you have two microbes fighting with each other the disease progresses (more slowly),” she said. “And so this is a way in which it could be beneficial. The microbes, in competing with each other, are less effective at exploiting the host.”

“There’s been some thoughts about using these microbial interactions as a way to treat diseases. That’s at a beginning stage.”

Doctor Farrah Bashey-Visser is an Assistant Scientist in Biology and lecturer in human Biology at Indiana University. Her research is supported in part by a grant from the Division of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation.

Monroe County’s Homelessness Numbers Appear to Rise


A single-day study has found an increased number of people experiencing homeless in Monroe County.

The 2015 Point-In-Time Homeless count found a total of 329 Monroe County residents living without permanent housing. That’s up from 302 people last year and 304 the year before.

The increase comes as numbers continue to fall slightly across Indiana. The Point-in-Time count is performed by local social service agencies in cooperation with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

The Director of Community Services at the Development Authority, Lori Dimick, says the count is performed each year on a single day in January.

“They take paper forms and try to do the best count they can with what resources they have available,” Dimick said. “People sometimes don’t want to be found.”

In Monroe, Morgan and Greene counties, the largest increase was in the number of people categorized as “unsheltered,” meaning they were living outside of any established homeless shelter. The count found 26 unsheltered individuals this year compared with eight people last year.

Dimick said that change may have more to do with the strategy for finding unsheltered people than with increased numbers, stating that there was an increase in the effort to locate people in need.

“I think it’s due to the fact that there was more effort in getting that count compared to last year,” Dimick said. “It is difficult because there are a lot of people who are sleeping in campgrounds, abandoned buildings, abandoned barns in the rural areas. And they don’t want to be found because they have fear of being arrested, fear of being found out and their place being taken from them.”

WFHB asked for comment today from local agencies that were in charge of the count but we didn’t get calls back before our deadline.

At the Shalom Community Center, Director Forrest Gilmore says the number of clients has actually been down this year. The Shalom Center provides a daytime shelter, meals and other services for people in poverty.

Gilmore says the point-in-time count is useful but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

“It’s probably the best single number that we have to monitor things but it’s also a really imperfect number,” he said. “It’s so hard to count and it’s so transient, there’s so much change. We haven’t seen that kind of increase (at Shalom Center).

“I’m thinking that may just be an uptick in that particular count this year. It may have been more cold and people were coming indoors and so we were able to count them more easily. Or it may be that we did have a slight increase in homelessness in our community and that’s being reflected by the numbers.”

Gilmore says local numbers of people experiencing homelessness peaked in 2011 and have been falling since then. This would be the first year the trend has reversed.

Emptied Water Storage Tank Causes Pipe Breaks

The City of Bloomington issued a boil order this afternoon following several water main breaks today. The Utilities Department said in a press release that the breaks appear to be related to a change in conditions brought about by emptying a large water storage tank. The tank is being emptied so it can be painted. Other issues such as fluctuating water pressure and the age of the piping could have also contributed to the issue. The boil order affects residents in the following areas: North Lane Condominiums, West Dogwood Lane, Amaryllis Condominiums, West Clover Terrace, West Hoosier Court Avenue, North Cascade Drive, West Parrish Road, North Maxine Road, West Skyline Drive, North Skyline Drive, and North Kinser Pike between West Brookdale Drive and West Briar Cliff Drive. Customers of City of Bloomington Utilities with discolored water have been advised to flush their water lines until the water flows clear. The city expects the mains should be repaired by the end of the day. Anyone needing information or assistance can call City of Bloomington Utilities at 812-339-1444.

Lane Closures on 2nd Street for I-69 Development


Crews were scheduled today to begin closing single lanes on 2nd Street in Bloomington between Liberty Drive and Oakdale Drive. Contractors working on Interstate 69 announced the closures would continue through Saturday.

Crews are verifying the locations of utilities along the future path of the Interstate. Additional lane closures are scheduled to begin on Wednesday night along State Road 37. The closures there will extend from Vernal Pike to Chambers Pike, according to the I-69 Development Partners.

Work will only take place at night, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and at least one lane will remain open in each direction.

Indiana Specialty Surgery Center Requests More Time to Respond to Overbilling Lawsuit


A Bloomington surgery center joined ten other Indiana-based medical facilities today to ask a judge for more time to respond to an overbilling lawsuit. Indiana Specialty Surgery Center is one of eleven centers accused of overbilling an insurance company by a total of $6 million.

The Bloomington center itself is charged with overbilling $590,000. Cigna Health and Life Insurance filed the lawsuit July 6th. Cigna claims the surgery centers promised patients low rates for out-of-network services, but then charged Cigna much higher rates anyway.

In the filing today, the surgery facilities say they plan to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Today they asked for an extension on the filing deadline, saying they were each served the lawsuit at separate times but would like to respond as a group by a uniform deadline. Cigna joined the surgery centers in requesting the simpler timeline. If the judge grants the request, the centers would be required to file the motion to dismiss by September 14th.

Financial Consulting Is Proposed For Ellettsville Town Hall

The Town of Ellettsville continues to deal with the fallout from a 2013 flood that forced its offices to move out of the Town Hall and into rental units at Eagle’s Landing Mall. While the Town has worked toward rehabilitating the flood-damaged Town Hall, officials say they don’t intend to use it for government offices again. Instead, a new Town Hall will be built. The Ellettsville Town Council took another step toward this goal on Monday when it approved an agreement with financial consulting and management firm H.J. Umbaugh  and Associates. Town Attorney Darla Brown says the agreement is similar to a previous agreement the Town entered into when the fire station was built.  As part of the agreement H. J. Umbaugh and Associates will provide financial planning services for every aspect of the project, including attending all public meetings and sales.


The total cost of the contract is $34,000. An ordinance was also introduced that would allow the Town to charge rent to departments occupying the new Town Hall. Brown says the Town intends to charge the Utilities Department rent. It will then ask the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission to approve a rate increase that would pass the cost on to consumers.  Brown says the Town needs to pass an ordinance to move forward with the plan. Town Councilor David Drake asked if part of the reason for the ordinance was the cost of construction of the new Town Hall and Brown replied that this was so that utilities would not be included in the cost of rent.


The ordinance was on first reading, so no action was taken by the Council.

New and Improved Monroe County Website Is On the Way

The Monroe County website is getting an upgrade. That’s according to Eric Evans, the County’s Chief Technology Officer. Evans made the announcement at  a work session of the Monroe County Council yesterday. Evans says the current website is about two years past due for an update and should have been replaced a long time ago as it is now very behind in its capabilities


The age of the website causes various issues and certain browsers are not able to read it. Evans says the website upgrades will enable the County to add new features to the website, such ad online tax payments and a better display for mobile devices.  He says that the new website will be much more dynamic in that it will be capable  of eventually handling all e-commerce transactions that the current site cannot.


The County is finalizing the hire of eGov Strategies, an Indianapolis-based contractor that specializes in state and local government websites to take on the web development work. The website upgrade is scheduled to launch by the end of the year.

Bloomington to host National Softball Tournament


This weekend Bloomington is scheduled to host the National Softball Tournament. The event will be for the sixteen and under girls division for the Midwest region 10. It is scheduled to run from Thursday through Sunday. Bloomington Parks and Recreation Sports Division Director, John Turnbull, described the event last week to the Bloomington Board of Park Commissioners.

“We’re going to have about thirty-three or thirty-four teams, we’re still rather negotiating with a couple of the teams to get their paperwork in and their money in. And they’re generally a Midwest scheme of things because this is what’s called a “Northern Territory Tournament”. Minnesota is represented… Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, we’ve got a couple from Michigan.”

The games will be played at Winslow Sports Complex, at 2800 South Highland Avenue, and Twin Lakes Sports Park, at 2350 West Bloomfield Road. Turnbull says the tournament will have a major impact on the local business community.

“If I had to guess economically, we’re in the $800,000 to a million with hotel nights, and food, and gas, and so-on and so-forth.”

Bloomington has hosted this tournament for several years in a row. Turnbull says that for next year’s tournament, Bloomington can expect to host over one hundred teams.

Considerations for a Needle Exchange Program in Monroe County


Monroe County health officials are exploring whether to begin operating a needle exchange program. The news follows the implementation of needle exchange programs in Scott and Madison counties earlier this year. Indiana State Department of Health data shows the number of reported Hepatitis C cases in Monroe County increased by 55% from 2009 to 2014. Health officials are also concerned by an increase in heroin overdoses. Indiana began allowing needle exchanges for the first time this year in response to the HIV outbreak in Scott County. Monroe County Health Department Administrator Penny Caudill explains what  Monroe County must do before they can implement a needle exchange program.

“What happened with, of course, Southern Indiana, there was Governor’s Quarter, and then there was state legislation that was changed that allows local health departments to request a syringe access or needle exchange program. And the law outlines what has to happen. So you’ve got to show that you have- they refer to it as an epidemic- but you have to have an increase, a significant rise in cases that are related to injection drug use. And then, that declaration has to be made by your health officer, the county commissioners have to have a public hearing and vote to approve that and move it forward. Then, if that happens, it goes to the state health commissioner with additional information. So you’ve got to say, this is essentially how we think we could address this issue. And then the state health commissioner can approve it, they can deny it, or they can ask for additional information. And then, if they approve it, then it comes back to the county and they can move forward with initiating those plans and building that out more.”

Studies have shown needle exchange programs help reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. If Monroe County’s program is approved, there will still be obstacles. Current laws bar the use of  state or federal money to fund needle exchange programs.

“You know, in terms of thinking about what other counties are doing and what kind of best practices are out there, certainly there may be foundation money, so private monies that might be available to help. There may be in-kind services that could be provided, but that is certainly a big piece of the puzzle that each county will have to figure out. Can we put some local dollars to this? And where might those come from? What about partnerships? So we all have to work together to come up with solutions and look at the possibilities.”

Caudill says health officials are still compiling data to determine whether the pursue a needle exchange program.



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