Friday, January 24, 2020

New documentary by Institute for Rural Journalism recounts 20-year fight to honor WWII soldier with Medal of Honor

Garlin Murl Conner
Seventy-five years ago today, a Kentucky soldier who had been in combat for more than two years, suffering many wounds and earning four Silver Stars, offered the ultimate sacrifice – calling in artillery on his forward position in order to save his battalion.

That soldier’s heroism, and the 20-year campaign to recognize it with the Medal of Honor, are recounted in “From Honor to Medal: The Story of Garlin M. Conner,” an hour-long documentary coming soon from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky (which publishes The Rural Blog).

A trailer and a “teaser” for the documentary are online at, along with information about Conner and some of the major players who worked hard to get him the nation’s highest military honor. It was a long time coming.

Conner—“Murl” to friends and family—survived that horrible day in a ditch in the French province of Alsace, and came home to a farm with no electricity or running water near Albany, Ky. He had a family, gave them a good life, and was a leader of his fellow farmers and veterans. He suffered in body and mind from his Army service, but rarely talked about it.

Only after Conner died in 1998 was his story told – first by a complete stranger who became his greatest advocate and inspired others to join the campaign to get the Medal of Honor for him. Led by a neighbor who wouldn’t take no for an answer, they struggled for 20 years to break through Army bureaucracy, losing at every turn – but remaining inspired by Conner’s battlefield examples of determination.

In the end, in an amazing turn of events, they won. And now their story is being told, along with the story of Lt. Conner, who, it turns out, may have been the most decorated American soldier of World War II.

The documentary, which highlights the rurality of Conner's life, is sponsored by private donors and the Veterans Trust Fund of the Kentucky Department for Veterans Affairs, which assisted the Conner team’s legal efforts at the direction of then-Commissioner Heather French Henry, who has championed veterans since her tenure as Miss America 20 years ago.

The film is written and directed by Jeff Hoagland of Lexington, who has helped produce, write and edit documentaries that have appeared on KET, the American Heroes Channel (formerly the Military Channel) and the National Geographic Channel. The associate producer is Janet Whitaker, formerly of KET and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. The institute’s director, UK School of Journalism and Media Professor Al Cross, is executive producer.

Counties and states increasingly trying to help detained and incarcerated people retain full Medicaid benefits

Federal law prohibits Medicaid recipients from accessing their full federal health benefits while they're in prison or jail, but an increasing number of local and state officials are trying to change that.

"Officials from both parties have pushed for two key changes to ensure little or no disruption of health benefits for pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of a crime and make up most of the 612,000 people held in America’s county jails," Max Blau reports for Stateline.

Shifting inmates' medical costs back to the federal government would financially benefit cash-strapped rural jails and private prisons, which hold an increasing share of the nation's incarcerated population. But it's also a question of fairness, many say: those who have the money to post bond retain their medical coverage, while poorer defendants don't. Some officials also say that lapses in medical coverage can increase someone's changes of going back to jail, Blau reports.

"In recent years, officials have increasingly implemented a stopgap measure to help inmates more seamlessly reactivate their Medicaid coverage upon release from jail or prison," Blau reports. "And a bipartisan coalition of county sheriffs, commissioners and judges are now lobbying federal lawmakers to change a long-standing policy and let pretrial detainees retain coverage while in custody. The National Association of Counties and the National Sheriffs’ Association, which are supporting the effort, estimate that it would cost the federal government in excess of $3 billion a year."

Quick hits: Census kicks off in tiny Alaska town; how to reduce food waste in rural United States . . .

Here's a roundup of stories with rural resonance; if you do or see similar work that should be shared on The Rural Blog, email us at

The 2020 decennial census just kicked off in a tiny town in Alaska. Read more here.

A new University of Vermont study offers tips to small-town governments for how to promote the practice of composting food scraps to reduce the need for (and expense of) municipal garbage pick-up services. Read more here.

Minnesota farmers struggling with tariffs and low crop prices weigh their support for President Trump. Read more here.

New research says legalizing marijuana could help fight the opioid epidemic. Read more here.

EPA officially rolls back protections on intermittent streams and wetlands in new 'waters of the United States' rule

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday a replacement of the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule which had placed intermittent or seasonal waterways—many around farms—under federal pollution laws, redefining them as "navigable waters".

The new rule "removes millions of miles of streams and roughly half the country’s wetlands from protection under the Clean Water Act, which requires industries to obtain permits to discharge pollution or fill in wetlands and imposes fines for oil spills. It’s the largest rollback since the modern law was passed in 1972, going much farther than simply stripping out what the Obama administration attempted," Catherine Boudreau reports for Politico's Morning Agriculture. "The agency finalized the rule despite its scientific advisory board raising concerns in late December that it was 'in conflict with established science … and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.' The criticism was notable because the majority of the board members were handpicked by the Trump administration."

Agricultural interest groups, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Association, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, hailed the new rule, saying that it corrected a regulatory overreach and made it simpler for farmers to understand water regulations, Boudreau reports.

"One of the agriculture industry’s top concerns about the Obama-era WOTUS rule in 2015 was that it was too vague, potentially allowing greater scrutiny of ditches used to drain stormwater off fields or carry irrigation water, and connect to other water bodies," Boudreau reports. "EPA officials at the time noted that the rule maintained long-held exemptions for normal agricultural practices, including runoff."

Some law enforcement argue that rural homeless services worsen the problem; advocate incarceration instead

Though homelessness is largely seen as an urban problem, it's an increasing phenomenon in rural areas. Some rural law enforcement officials say that local efforts to help the homeless are often insufficient and believe incarceration can better help homeless people, April Ehrlich reports for NPR.

The NPR story uses rural Shasta County in Northern California as an example. County officials recently got a $1.6 million grant to build a homeless shelter. But the police chief of Anderson, Michael Johnson, told county supervisors to reconsider in February 2019, Ehrlich reports. "It is just another enabling mechanism for the homeless, the transients and the displaced people here," Johnson told the board. "When you create something and enable people, you're going to attract more."

"Johnson proposed an alternative: a detention facility to house people who have committed low-level crimes such as public drinking, urinating in public or sleeping in public spaces, which are sometimes unavoidable for people without homes," Ehrlich reports. Johnson said incarceration can serve as a wake-up call for homeless people who are struggling with drug addiction and mental health issues, and that jails can help them get into programs that will help them. However, federal law prohibits incarcerated people from accessing full Medicaid benefits, which would hamper jails' ability to provide addiction and mental health services to the homeless.

Tristia Bauman of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty disagrees with the notion of incarcerating homeless people to help them. "That is not only an ineffective approach — it's also the single most expensive approach," she told Ehrlich. Bauman said that focusing on providing housing to homeless people with no strings attached produces better outcomes for health and education, and it's far cheaper than any other approach.

NPR notes that a low-barrier homeless shelter in rural Oregon, near Shasta County, shows benefits of a housing-first approach. A former firefighter who has struggled with addiction told Ehrlich he had a room at the shelter for four months, and is now sober and saving money to rent an apartment.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Staffing issues put one-third of rural ambulance services in jeopardy, National Rural Health Association says

A Tri-State ambulance (Image from WEAU-TV)
One-third of rural emergency medical services are so short-staffed that they are in "immediate operational jeopardy," posing risks to rural residents who rely on them as a health-care safety net, says a policy brief from the National Rural Health Association.

"Dwindling population, losses in the volunteer workforce, and decreased reimbursement threaten continued access to these services," says the the brief by Nikki King, Marcus Pigman, Sarah Huling and Brian Hanson.

"One of the largest contributing factors to the disparity in mortality rate from traumas, such as overdose, for rural residents (discussed above) is travel time and distance to trauma centers," they write. "Rural residents are significantly more likely than non-rural residents to die following traumatic injury."

Hayley Spitler of WEAU-TV in Eau Claire, Wis., cited the brief in a story that featured Kent Stein, operations manger of Tri-State Ambulance. "We're experiencing the same thing that companies are experiencing nationwide, both volunteer and professional companies. We sometimes can run into a challenge finding EMTs and medics out of school."

Database shows how your local hospital is doing financially

Want to check the financial history of your local hospital? There's a quick and easy way to get the fundamental figures, thanks to a reporting project last year on rural hospitals by GateHouse Media, which has absorbed Gannett Co. and taken its name. The database built for the project now resides on the USA Today Network site.

At right is a screen grab of the financials of Breckinridge Memorial Hospital in Hardinsburg, Ky., which Kentucky Health News reported last year typically had a week's worth of cash flow on hand after it failed to persuade county officials to impose a property tax to subsidize it. The top part shows the hospital's gross revenues by year; the bottom part shows its net income, revealing years of increasing losses. Another chart, not seen here, shows each year's net profits.

William Heisel of the Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California wrote about using the database, and wants to hear results from other users.

N.C. papers collaborate on watchdog function, fill gaps in rural areas that have lost papers or attention of metro media

Newspapers small and large in North Carolina, many of which have long competed against each other, are collaborating to increase the efficiency of watchdog reporting in the state.

Kristen Hare reports for the Poynter Institute that 22 papers are in the North Carolina News Collaborative, "or NCNC ('nick-nick') for short. Most of those papers have published for more than 100 years. But this is a first for all of them."

“Our egos were the biggest thing getting in the way of us doing this in the past,” Robyn Tomlin, the executive editor of the Raleigh News & Observer and the Durham Herald-Sun and the McClatchy Co.’s Southeast regional editor. “Now we’re at a point when we recognize that in order for us to be as strong as we need to be for our communities. We have to work together.”

"Egos might seem like a luxury nowadays," Hare writes. "Newspaper employment shrunk 48 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to a study by Pew. In North Carolina, weekly and daily newspaper circulation dropped by 38% between 2004 and 2019, according to the University of North Carolina’s research on news deserts, and the state lost four dailies and 40 weeklies."

In addition to sharing content and resources, the papers agreed to "look for additional resources to increase coverage of the rural area between newsrooms that have become and are becoming news deserts," Hare reports. "In December, NCNC papers published a seven-part series about the growing rural/urban divide in the state. "

Former editor Melanie Sill, a professor in the communications school at Davidson College and the former editor of the NC Local newsletter, did its last edition mainly about NCNC, Hare reports.

Small daily in western Massachusetts hopes newsroom changes will 'help dispel the rumors of the death of print'

Northampton is near Springfield, Amherst
and Greenfield; map shows the cities' New
England County and Town Areas, the New
England adaptation of metropolitan areas.
A daily newspaper serving small towns in western Massachusetts has "decisively executed a unique new staffing plan to better bridge its reporters into local communities the newspaper serves," John Voket reports for the New England Newspaper and Press Association.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette is part of the Newspapers of New England chain that includes the Greenfield Recorder and the Amherst Bulletin. Its Massachusetts publisher, Michael Moses, told Voket that he hopes the Gazette’s changes will “help dispel the rumors of the death of print. We have been staffing up in our newsroom; we've reorganized our beats,” including the re-establishment of one for “cops and courts.” That followed several "coffee with the publisher" events to gather suggestions from readers.

Like many larger dailies have done, the Gazette now has fewer editors and four more reporters “out on the street reporting the news,” Moses said, adding that the changes have generated “a 20 percent boost in reporters’ story production – that’s in just about two months. And the reader response has been tremendous.”

The story doesn't give any audience data. Voket is an associate editor at The Newtown Bee in Connecticut, public-affairs director for that state's Connoisseur Media radio stations, and was the 2018-19 president of NENPA.

Another addition is a new nameplate, reflecting the paper's location amid small towns in the Connecticut River Valley. Moses said he had local artist Bob Marstall design it, and “magically he came back with exactly what we had in our heads – on first try he was very close to what we were looking for and after [a few] more passes, we had it.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Weekly editors' editorial-writing contest closes Monday, Feb. 3; readers can nominate editorials by paying $20 fee

Entries in the Golden Quill editorial-writing contest of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors must be postmarked by Monday, Feb. 3.

Entries should reflect ISWNE's founding purpose: Encouraging the writing of editorials or staff-written opinion pieces that identify local issues that are or should be of concern to the community, offer an opinion, and support a course of action.

All newspapers published fewer than five days per week are eligible. Entries must have been published in 2019. Each newspaper may submit four editorials or signed opinion pieces; entrant may submit two entries, paying a fee of $20 per entry for ISWNE members and $25 for non-members. Make checks payable to ISWNE and use the PDF entry form at (under Contests). Using a pen or marker, clearly indicate the Golden Quill entry on each tearsheet. Print two copies and mail with two complete page tearsheets of each entry.

Seen an opinion piece that is worthy but that the writer won't enter? You can nominate it by sending the required Information with a copy of the article in the format indicated, a letter telling ISWNE that it is a nomination, and a check for $20. Questions may be addressed to ISWNE Executive Director Chad Stebbins at

The 12 best editorials (the Golden Dozen) will be published in ISWNE's quarterly, Grassroots Editor, in Summer 2020. The winner of the Golden Quill for best editorial will received a conference scholarship and $500 in travel expenses to attend ISWNE's annual conference in Reno June 24-28, where the awards will be presented.

Documentary on missing and murdered indigenous women premieres in Las Vegas; nationwide tour planned

"Somebody's Daughter," a documentary about the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women, premiered last week in Las Vegas at the Four Directions and Nevada Tribal Nations Native American Presidential Forum.

"The all-indigenous production presented by Alter-Native Media addresses racism, colonialism and genocide, while focusing on missing and murdered indigenous women victims from the Blackfeet Nation and confederated Salish Kootenai tribes in Montana," Nora Mabie reports for the Great Falls Tribune in Montana.

Click here for more information about the film, or click here to watch the trailer. The film will be screened on March 21 at the Indigenous Film Festival in Missoula. After that, the film's creators are planning a nationwide tour.

Industrial farms draining Arizona aquifers; state lawmakers try to figure out a way to help family farmers

As winter planting continues in Arizona, state officials are once again grappling with how to deal with farms' increasing demand for water in the face of drier weather and how to get that water to where it's needed, Howard Fischer reports for Capitol Media Services in Tucson.

In Arizona and other southwestern states, many farms draw water from the Colorado River, but other areas use groundwater. In many rural areas of Arizona, there is no limit to how much groundwater farmers can take. Many large industrial farms have set up shop in such areas, and they're draining aquifers at an unsustainable rate. "As the groundwater is depleted, Arizona is suffering permanent losses that may not be recouped for thousands of years," Ian James and Rob O'Dell report for the Arizona Republic. "These underground reserves that were laid down over millennia represent the only water that many rural communities can count on as the desert Southwest becomes hotter and drier with climate change."

Large farming outfits are drying up water for nearby family farmers, Fischer reports. House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, said the state needs to see how much groundwater is being taken each year, but also said some residents didn't like the notion of metering wells, Fischer reports.

"Complicating any solution politically is the fact that one of the larger operations uses Arizona groundwater to grow hay to ship to Saudi Arabia to feed cattle there," Fischer reports. Fernandez, who has been a key player in shaping state water legislation, said there needs to be a way to distinguish between family farmers and corporate farmers whom, she believes, don't have a "vested interest" in preserving Arizona's long-term water viability.

Economists doubt Chinese will uphold ag trade deal, citing bumper soybean crop in Brazil, swine fever in China

"There’s mounting skepticism that China will fulfill its pledge to buy huge sums of U.S. farm goods under the new 'phase one' trade deal with Washington. Trade analysts see the proposed export numbers as unrealistic, and any flare-up in hostility could throw a wrench into the limited agreement," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Morning Agriculture.

The trade deal, signed last week, preserved tariffs on both sides and stipulated that China will buy $80 billion in U.S. farm products over the next two years. But the agreement comes with a big loophole: China said "higher imports from the U.S. must be based on market demands, comply with World Trade Organization limitations and not affect imports from other nations," McCrimmon reports. "It’s hard to square those conditions with an outright promise to buy a set level of farm goods, along with other products and services. Unless there’s a surge in Chinese demand, which is unlikely, the uptick in purchases from U.S. producers would have to come at the expense of those in other countries."

American soybean growers could be especially hurt, since they have to compete with cheaper soybeans from Brazil's record harvest that will hit the market in February. One analyst said China has already bought half the soybeans it normally needs this year from the upcoming Brazilian harvest. And China may not buy as much soy as it normally does because African swine fever has killed millions of Chinese pigs, lowering the demand for soybeans used for animal feed, McCrimmon reports.

A new report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Peterson Institute for Economics said China's agricultural commitments appear to be "even more unrealistic than first believed. … Even worse, hostilities might renew, leading to a re-escalation of trade tensions currently on hold."

Jason Grant, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who specializes in agricultural trade, told McCrimmon that, in order to uphold its promises, "China will have to purchase U.S. agricultural products earlier and more often in 2020 and 2021 than we are typically accustomed to seeing." But, he said, if the agreement holds up, it could set records for ag exports and increase crop prices that have depressed for years by overproduction and the trade war.

Medicaid rejects Wyoming's request to have Medicaid cover air-ambulance service for all in the sparsely populated state

Government Accountability Office photo
"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this month rejected a proposal that Wyoming health department officials hoped would allow the state to rein in the high cost of air ambulance service" by having Medicaid cover it for anyone in the state, Andrea Noble reports for Route Fifty.

Rural residents rely disproportionately on air ambulances, especially in Wyoming, the nation's least populous state and, except Alaska, the one with the lowest population density. But many patients are faced with high surprise bills, even those who have private insurance. So, Wyoming health officials asked the CMS for a waiver to treat the industry like a public utility and expand Medicaid coverage to all Wyoming residents for the specific benefit of access to air ambulances, Noble reports.

"In its waiver request, Wyoming estimates that about 4,000 people were taken to the hospital by air ambulance in 2018. Approximately 90 percent of those patients do not have to pay for the cost of transport because of insurance coverage. For the remaining 10% of patients, the average out-of-pocket cost per flight is $2,250. But out-of-pocket costs have reached upwards of $40,000 in a handful of cases, the state said," Noble reports. "The state said that its proposal would have allowed Medicaid to determine statewide requirements for air ambulance coverage, issue competitive bids for providers and establish a centralized call center that would direct air ambulance traffic. The price for transport would likely have been lowered through the competitive bidding process, the state said."

CMS rejected the idea in a Jan. 3 letter, calling it an inappropriate attempt to circumvent federal aviation law, which would be a misuse of Medicaid, and that it would cost too much, Noble reports.

Network created to prevent farmer suicides; offshoots pop up elsewhere in Wisconsin; USDA funds other efforts

Logan, Wisconsin (Wikipedia map)
Farmers all over the country are hurting because of financial stress caused by the trade war, bad weather, and more. That has led to a rash of suicides among farmers, who have been the hardest hit. One of them was third-generation dairy farmer Leon Statz, who died by suicide in 2018, Dan Simmons reports for The Washington Post. It was his third attempt in a year.

His death shook his Wisconsin community of Logan, pop. 300. His close friend, Dale Meyer, said the community knew Statz was "stressed out" but didn't know how to help him. After Statz's death, Meyer and others created the Farmer Angel Network to facilitate informal group therapy with farmers. Its efforts, Simmons reports, are "aimed at helping individuals who typically work alone, worry alone and tend to be stoic until the end."

The network seems needed in Wisconsin; its 48 farm bankruptcies led the nation in 2019. But farming communities all over the nation have the same stressors. "So the Farmer Angel Network and similar offshoots are spreading into other communities in the state and bringing in outside resources, including social workers, agricultural educators, economic development consultants, pastors and more. At the same time, money is starting to flow from the federal and state governments," Simmons reports. "The U.S. Agriculture Department allocated more than $2.3 million for special initiatives that will, in part, expand emergency hotlines and support groups. Wisconsin legislators approved $200,000 in September to boost programs addressing farmers’ mental health and financial issues."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

USDA proposes looser standards for school meals, pleasing food processors; a related proposal could help rural schools

On Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced two proposals that would roll back some Obama-era nutrition reforms for school meals and summer meals for food-insecure children.

The first proposal would allow schools increased flexibility in school menus, promising that children would continue to receive "wholesome, tasty meals." However, the American Heart Association strongly opposes the changes, noting that schools would not have to serve as many healthy foods, could serve more fried foods, and that students would be able to choose unhealthy a la carte items such as pizza without having to put fruit or vegetables on their tray.

The proposal is the latest in a series of moves by USDA to weaken or change nutrition mandates for school meals, partly at the behest of food-industry lobbyists. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has criticized the Obama-era reforms, saying they have increased waste because many students don't like the food, but his own agency has reported that the changes produced "remarkably positive" results, that kids were eating the healthier food, and that waste was "relatively unchanged."

The second proposal would give schools more flexibility over the Summer Food Service Program, including allowing them more control over the menu (as with school meals), meal-service times, and allowing children to take some nonperishable foods home. The proposal would also reduce paperwork, shorten the application process for experienced schools, and would increase program monitoring. That could help rural areas, where administrative headaches have made it difficult for some schools to participate in the program.

Trump tells farmers more trade aid coming soon; Perdue says they hope and expect that will be the end of it

On Sunday President Trump spoke at the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual convention, promising farmers that they will soon get a final round of $3.6 billion in trade-war compensation, though trade deals have been signed meant to spur agricultural export sales. He noted that farm income increased in 2019, greatly aided by the federal Market Facilitation Program payments, and predicted, "The big stuff is yet to come," Chuck Abbott reports for Successful Farming.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Monday that the payments "didn’t have a timeline on when the third MFP payment would be coming, other than to say it is assured and imminent," Successful Farming reports. Perdue said the Trump administration is “hoping and expecting” that recent and upcoming trade deals will make further payments unnecessary.

"So far, producers have received $10.8 billion to offset the impact of the Sino-U.S. trade war on 2019 crops and livestock, on top of $8.6 billion in cash for 2018 production," Abbott reports. "A decision whether to release the final tranche of $3.6 billion, depending on market conditions and the state of trade negotiation, was due this month."

The Agriculture Department's recent Farm Income Forecast said direct government payments, mostly MFP funds, accounted for almost a quarter of all farm income, the largest share in over a decade, and a high-interest alternative lender was the single largest beneficiary of those payments.

Farmers are an important demographic for Trump, and one he wants to keep happy. "Farmers, who are often social and fiscal conservatives, voted for Trump in landslide numbers in 2016. Trump remains highly popular in farm country, partly because of tax cuts, regulatory relief, and support for corn ethanol," Abbott reports. "In a 2019 study by the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, farmers in three Midwestern states said the trade war hit them in pocketbook but they agreed with Trump that it was important to end predatory trade practices by China – seeing it as short-term pain for long-term gain. Most of them said the trade-war payments were helpful."

Though the Trump said that the Phase I deal with China and the soon-to-be-signed USCMA deal with Canada and Mexico will "massively boost exports," some trade analysts are skeptical that U.S. exports can be rebuilt quickly enough to hit the $40 to $50 billion a year level required by the China deal. "The National Farmers Union, the second-largest farm group, said the trade war 'bruised our (U.S.) reputation, making other trading partners reluctant to work with us,'" Abbott reports. "The U.S. International Trade Commission has estimated that trade with Canada and Mexico will grow by 1% under USMCA."

Mail-based syringe exchanges could help rural drug users

Mail-order syringe exchanges may help intravenous drug users in rural and other underserved areas access clean needles, Emma Coleman reports for Route Fifty.

Syringe exchanges have been proven a safe and effective way to reduce the spread of contagious diseases from intravenous drug users without increasing drug use, but some people, especially in rural areas, have a hard time accessing such services, Coleman reports. Sometimes it's because there are no local syringe exchanges—15 states ban them, and in some other states the can't get required local approval—and sometimes it's because of transportation problems or fear of stigma or lack of confidentiality.

New York-based nonprofit NEXT Distro is trying to help such people by shipping them safe injection supplies like syringes, alcohol pads, tourniquets, gauze, sharps disposal containers, fentanyl test strips, antibiotic ointment, and syringe clippers, Coleman reports. The organization's FAQ page says it also sends clients materials on drug-user health, wound identification and care, family planning, and overdose prevention. It isn't a needle exchange; users don't mail back their sharps. 

"If you live in a rural area, or you’re poor, you should have the same access to support and harm reduction. You can order syringes from online marketplaces like Amazon and people do that—people who have money," NEXT Distro founder Jamie Favaro told Coleman. Favaro got the idea of mailing harm reduction supplies from activist Tracey Helton, who mails the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone to people who ask her for it on a Reddit forum. NEXT Distro also mails naloxone.

The organization was initially supplied by the New York Department of Health, but now relies partly on a GoFundMe page and support from other nonprofit organizations, according to the website.

Paper's investigation nails rural S.C. sheriff on corruption

A South Carolina grand jury recently indicted a rural sheriff on a series of charges related to corruption, some of which mirror the findings from an investigative report last year by The Post and Courier in Charleston.

The Post and Courier's investigation is an increasingly rare example of the kind of watchdog reporting by metropolitan papers in surrounding rural areas. The paper also produced an outstanding multimedia piece in December about a deadly prison riot in rural South Carolina.