Terre Haute Hospital Unveils New Mother-Baby Unit

Union Hospital, a not-for-profit healthcare center that services Terre Haute and the greater Wabash Valley, christened its brand new mother-baby unit today.

At a cost of $3 million, renovations transformed the third floor of the hospital’s west building over four months, creating the space and resources to provide neonatal care for 30 mother-baby couplets immediately after birth—double the hospital’s prior capacity.

Jennifer Harrah, nursing care manager of the newborn intensive care and pediatrics, says the founding of the unit comes in the wake of increasing rates of births in the area. 

“Our hospital over the last four years has consistently had an increase in our birth rate,” she says. “We were on a 15-bed post-partum unit. And with the opening of our new labor and delivery and newborn intensive care last July, we saw an even more increase in our birth rate. And 15 beds just were not enough for our patients.”

The revamped unit combines nursing care for mothers and babies that was, prior to its opening, separated between post-partum care for mothers and nursery care for their newborns. Mother-baby couplets now stay and sleep together in the same room and spend more time with one another than is often possible in traditional approaches to neonatal care.

Desiree Hensel, assistant professor of nursing at Indiana University-Bloomington, says this unified strategy yields several benefits.

“We know that when mothers and babies stay together, it promotes better breast feeding,” she says. “That’s simply the best reason.”

Centers like Union Hospital’s mother-baby unit are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, Hensel says, simply because of their success in advocating for breastfeeding, which the World Health Organization regards as an essential step to ensuring healthy infant development.   

But bonding time through cohabitation also provides a significant boon for both those mothers who choose to breastfeed and those who do not. The chance to take up more responsibility for the care of their newborns in the hospital after delivery also provides gives mothers a practice run of the care they’ll be giving after returning home.

“The more the mom provides the care for the baby instead of the nurse, the more that we are really improving their self efficacy,” Hensel says. “We acknowledge that the parent is the primary care giver, not the nurse. They’re going to be the ones who care for the baby when they leave the hospital. So the best we can do is promote that self efficacy in moms and reassure them that they’re doing a good job and help guide them when they need it.”

Hospital officials will soon begin applying for accreditation from World Health Organization, designating its mother-baby unit as an official Baby Friendly health center. The Baby Friendly campaign advocates for mother-newborn cohabitation after birth with the purpose of strengthening bonding between mother and child, facilitating breastfeeding and providing firsthand education for new mothers on strategies for proper infant care.

The renovations of the mother-baby unit was Union Hospital’s second construction project for maternal child services in recent years. It opened its new labor and delivery and newborn intensive care center last July.

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Secretary of State Pushes for Vote Center in Columbus

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Secretary of State Pushes for Vote Center in Columbus

Secretary of State Connie Lawson met with a couple dozen county-level officials from around the state in Columbus on Monday to discuss the ins and outs of a vote centers, which have been proposed in Bartholomew County and elsewhere.

Lawson is pushing a polling system based on vote centers she says would consolidate and centralize voting locations at sites capable of accommodating up to 10,000 voters apiece on Election Day. Current precincts, under state law, limit the number of voters in each one to between 1,200 and 1,400 people.

Voters are not assigned to particular polling locations in vote center counties – they can vote anywhere, Lawson’s proposal would also do away with paper ballots, in favor of computers that tally votes and transmit them by high-speed internet.

“This is a way to reduce locations, reduce the number of poll workers needed, reduce the expenses as it relates to poll workers like meals, to reduce the number of voting equipment, the amount of storage space that they need,” she says. “Lots of different efficiencies that the counties might find. And lets face it—counties are looking for every dollar that they can right now.”

Morgan County Clerk Stephanie Elliott, says vote centers would be convenient for busy voters on election days.

“I anticipate that they will be as excited as we are. I mean I kind of just think if there was a way where we could get one maybe by one of the Walmart’s or where there’s lots of shopping,” she says. “You know someone that’s out and about, rather than have to take off work or you know change their schedule for the day to vote. They could just vote where they’re at.”

A number of counties have rejected vote centers thus far because of political squabbling, worries about the security of electronic voting or a desire to implement them only after the 2012 presidential election was complete.

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National Weather Services Cuts Public Storm Training Classes

With the snowfall and chilly temperatures throughout much of central Indiana today, it may not seem like it, but spring is just around the corner. And with spring comes tornado season.

However, the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service has had to cancel roughly a third of its 39 Skywarn storm spotters training courses offered to residents of central Indiana.

Budget constraints have forced the office to allocate only one regional training course per two or more counties, says Dave Tucek, morning coordination meteorologist with the service’s Indianapolis office.

“The changes have been made just because we have some limitations on our travel budget,” Tucek says. “And as a result of that, what we’ve decided to do to accomplish something along those lines is to combine several counties together into a single talk as opposed to making the trip to each and every county each and every year,” he says.

“It’s a way in which we can save a little bit of government dollars while still getting the training information out there,” Tucek adds.

The National Weather Service’s annual Skywarn storm spotters training program has for years been a valuable training and educational resource for Hoosiers. They attend the courses for preparedness training and education on how to differentiate tornadoes from other storm clouds that frequent Indiana skies during the spring and summer months.

Roger Axe, the director of emergency management in Greene County, says the courses not only help participants prepare for threatening storms, but they also keep them from confusing distinct and less threatening storm clouds like scud clouds with actual tornadoes and calling the authorities.

“One of the main things that the spotters courses have done is they have taught people what the difference is between what a tornado is and what it is not, so that they don’t have to fly off the handle and be scared that they can precisely identify what a tornado is or a funnel cloud,” he says.

Axe hosted the Skywarn course for residents at the county fairgrounds before it was cancelled. He says he understands budget cuts may be inescapable, but he says it is also going to come at a serious cost.

“The impact is very simple. Not everybody has the ability to travel to the regional spotters courses, and not everybody is going to be able to get the free education that the spotters courses have provided,” says Axe.

The cancellation of half of the Skywarn training programs comes at a time when interest in storm preparedness is especially high. It was only a year ago that Henryville and Marysville were devastated by tornadoes on a day in which at least 80 twisters swept across the United States from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the cancellation of the course this year in Green County, Axe is hopeful that the National Weather Service’s budget is back on track next year.

“We just hope that things can work out that we can get the spotters courses back on a more local level, because it’s been beneficial for all of us,” Axe says. “I go every year, because I learn something new every year.”

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Tom Crean Reflects on Hoosiers’ Success and Challenges Ahead

The Indiana Hoosiers’ performance Sat. night was far from pretty. But the victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes earned IU at least a share of the 2013 Big Ten Championship, bringing the program one step closer to its first outright title victory since 1993.

IU Head Coach Tom Crean told reporters Monday morning that his team is excited yet reserved, acknowledging the challenges still ahead for the Hoosiers.

“They were excited, but within minutes they went right back to work inside of practice. And it’s kind of a microcosm of the way this whole year has gone,” Crean says. “They’ve really been locked into the moment, into what’s moment important, which is getting better. And like I said we’re excited to be where we’re at, but we know there’s a lot more things to accomplish,” he says.

Should IU prove victorious in this year’s Big Ten Tournament late this month, it will be the Hoosiers’ first title win in two decades. Crean says it’s taken the team a long time to get back to its current level of success. So, he says, the success should be enjoyed, but not be taken for granted.

“Because when you lose it, it’s so hard to get it back, and you’ve got to work that much harder to get it back,” he says. “And I think the same thing our fans need to really look at is that there’s a ton of excitement around it right now. Let’s remember where we were. Let’s not take any of it for granted. Let’s keep building on what’s been happening,” he says.

The Hoosiers are ranked number one in NCAA standings, and are currently 25-4 overall and 13-3 in Big Ten play. IU takes on Ohio State Tuesday at Assembly Hall and will finish up the regular season in Ann Arbor against Michigan on Sunday.

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INPA Announces 2012 College Photographer of the Year

IU journalism senior Chet Strange was named 2012 College Photographer of the Year at the Indiana News Photographers Association’s annual photography contest Feb. 22-23 at Ernie Pyle Hall.

Strange took home the top prize in the categories for news and sports, nearly making a clean sweep of the competition in the event Friday afternoon. But it was his winning entry for the contest’s portfolio division that earned him the title of College Photographer of the Year.

“It’s a really cool feeling. There were a lot of really good portfolios,” Strange said after winning. “It feels really cool to be first in that group.”

His portfolio covered a wide array of shots, from vibrant images of 5K runners covered in colored dye at a “color party” in Indianapolis, to austere gray scale shots of women in group homes.

Sharing the canvas of his portfolio were a range of characters, such as IndyCar driver Scott Dixon during Carb Day last May, Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in September, IU basketball’s Cody Zeller during a pep rally in October, and even an Abraham Lincoln impersonator showing off photos of his grandchild on his smartphone at a Danville Civil War heritage festival last summer.

Winning the No. 1 spot in the photography contest’s features division was IU journalism junior Mark Felix, who impressed the judges with his photo depicting first grade students receiving etiquette training last May at the historic Thomas Duncan Community Hall in Lafayette.

And a number of other students rounded out the runners-up positions in the contest. Overall CPoY runner-up Darryl Smith earned second place in portfolios; Taylor Irby and Steph Langan were runners-up in features; Ryan Dorgan, BAJ’12, was runner up in news; and Clayton Moore was runner up in sports.

In total, 88 photos and eight portfolios were submitted for review in the contest, but the judges wasted no time in weeding out submissions that did not meet their standards.

“The best photos had both content and good design,” said Pam Spaulding, a retired (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal photographer who served as a judge for the competition. What she was looking for were photos that not only told a good story with their content, but also effectively communicated that story to the audience via their overall composition.

Russell Yip, photo editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and Sally Ryan, a freelance photographer in Chicago, were the other two professional standing on the judging panel. Each was allowed one vote per photo projected on tandem drop-down screens in the auditorium in Ernie Pyle Hall. Using hand-held remotes, they clicked “for” or “against” a photo, while Indiana News Photographers Association president Matt Detrich read aloud the cumulative score of their votes to the quiet audience.

“In,” he said for photos that made the cut moving on to another round of review.

“Out,” he said for those that didn’t.

Organized by Detrich and AJ Mast, contest chair for the event, the INPA’s College Photographer of the Year contest is an annual competition in which college and university students from across Indiana submit their best photos each year.

After the competition, judges and other professionals gave one-on-one reviews with students, discussing what they could have improved and giving other pointers.

But the weekend event was not just for college students. It also was a chance for the pros to show off their work. Friday night the judges took to the stage, presenting some of their work and discussing the stories they captured over the past year.

And Saturday, the INPA hosted a competition for its Photographer of the Year, a contest to determine the best photos and portfolios contributed by those within the association’s professional ranks.

Dave Weatherwax, chief photographer at The Herald, a small family-owned newspaper in Jasper, took home first place, earning the title of Photographer of the Year, for his all-black-and-white portfolio of residents of Jasper and the surrounding area. Matt Detrich, INPA president and photographer for the Indianapolis Star, was runner up.

The INPA weekend event has been annual tradition for nearly 40 years, and this was the third year for the IU School of Journalism to host the event. Associate professor Jim Kelly organizes the event at the school.

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White House Specifies Sequestration Cuts in Indiana

The impact of the impending series of automatic federal spending cuts, popularly known as the sequester, on Indiana became the focus of a White House report released over the weekend by the Obama administration. The report detailed the economic and social fallout the cuts will likely cause in Indiana when it goes into effect Friday.

Everything from Indiana’s military readiness, to education, health programs and social services will be impacted by the $85 billion cuts slated to occur over the course of the next seven months.

Indiana’s military sector is scheduled to receive the deepest cuts. Around 11,000 civilian Hoosier employees of the Defense Department may be furloughed, amounting to what the White House describes a drop in gross income of more than $64 million in total. $1.7 million in funding for Army base operations and $7 million for Air Force operations will also disappear.

Indiana would also lose $3.3 million in funding for the environment and the state would lose more than $800,000 in meal assistance for seniors among many other cuts.

The spending cutbacks will likely have repercussions on the state’s education system as well. The Obama administration says $13.8 million in financing for primary and secondary education is slated to be axed. This would mean a cut in funding for around 50 schools, putting the jobs of approximately 190 teachers at risk and impacting nearly 12,000 Hoosier students.

Paul Woodling, an economics teacher at Northwest High School in Indianapolis, says services designed to aid children with learning disabilities would likely feel the brunt of the spending cut impact at his school.

“I think we’ll see a lot of inclusion teachers leave or possibly be lost, especially the classified—not so much as the certified licensed teachers—but our lay helpers,” Woodling says. “We could lose some of those. We have too few of them right now. I only have one class that is covered. I have students in other classes who need services, but we don’t have enough people. So that could become even tighter with this cut.”

Funding for Indiana’s tax-supported health services may also fall victim to the impending cuts. Penny Caudill, the administrator of the Monroe County Health Department, says while the health department does receive most of its funding via local taxes and fees, a drop in federal money it collects through the state would damage some department programs enjoyed by some 2,000 clients in the area.

“We do receive federal money that passes through the Indiana State Department of Health, and those are the funds that would most directly affect us,” she says. “So that would be in the area of preparedness, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and AIDS, and also our Title 10 family planning funding.”

Another potential victim of the government sequester would be anti-violence programs such as the ones at Middle Way House in Bloomington.

Executive Director Toby Strout says federal funding cuts would mean she would have to shut day care, youth programs, and legal services.

“When you get right down to it, it could be that the only thing that remains is emergency shelter,” she says. “Now even that funding is threatened. So are there plans in place? Yes. But heaven help us if we have to put them in effect.”

A litany of other programs and services, such as Head Start programs, child care for low-income families, nutrition assistance for seniors and more, are projected to be impacted throughout the state if Congress does not act to forestall the indiscriminate budget cuts.

Amy Brundage, the Obama Administration’s deputy press secretary for the economy, emphasized in a press conference that the sequester is not only avoidable, but was part of a plan set previously by Congress to encourage bipartisan negotiations to balance the nation’s budget.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the sequester was never intended to be policy,” she says. “It was passed with Republican support in congress to ensure that there was a trigger mechanism, a forcing event that would compel Congress on both sides to work together to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.”

Back in Washington, however, bipartisan negotiations on carving out a new federal budget have stalled, and Democrats and Republicans blame each other for the impasse.

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