Health

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.


For years, doctors have used an expensive brain scan to detect symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. 

But researchers at Washington University have found that a simple blood test could be similarly effective, according to a study published this month in the journal Neurology. A blood test to diagnose early symptoms could help make finding a cure easy or cheaper and even guide treatment for the disease in the future, the study’s authors say. 

Destini Hutson spent much of her childhood picturing what life would be like when her dad came home.

Over time, her plans turned to the practical: teach him how to use an iPhone, help him find a job, go to Chick-fil-A together.

“‘It’s a lot that you’re going to have to learn,’” Hutson told her dad, Donald, who went to prison in 1997 when she was still a baby.

Those plans came to a halt last September, when Donald Hutson died of a drug overdose at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific. He’s one of more than 430 inmates who have overdosed in state prisons since May 2017, according to internal data from the Missouri Department of Corrections. While there are many ways drugs are smuggled into prisons, DOC employees say internal corruption is a key part of the problem.

Ribbon Cutting for SIU Family Medicine Center

Aug 16, 2019
A man in a white coat stands next to a synthetic body showing anatomy.
Steph Whiteside/WSIU

Local leaders gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new SIU Center for Family Medicine in Carbondale on Thursday.

The new facility is a collaboration between Southern Illinois University and Southern Illinois Healthcare. It houses a medical clinic and will be home to the SIU family medicine residency program and the SIU physician assistant program.  Students will learn and practice together, something Chief Resident Sohaib Sajjad says is important for all of them. 

Illinois’ medical marijuana program is getting a second wind. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a pair of bills on Monday expanding who can get a medical card, and when they can use it.


Centerstone Unveils New Marion Facility

Aug 9, 2019
Steph Whiteside/WSIU

Centerstone unveiled their new medication assisted treatment facility in Marion today. Congressmen Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) and John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) and State Representative Dave Severin (R-Benton) were on hand to tour the center.

The MAT facility will be the first of its kind in southern Illinois. It will offer access to three FDA-approved medications used for treating opioid addiction, as well as counseling, case management, peer support, and medical services.

Bouncing on a purple exercise ball, Alyssa talks to her new teacher about what classes she needs to graduate. 
 
"There’s a Psychology 1 as an elective, I would take that, but I already took psychology and sociology... And I feel like Heartland in general is a psychology class," she says, laughing.

Federal agencies are scrambling to establish regulations for hemp and hemp products as farmers in the Midwest and around the country start growing the crop. 

In the meantime, the government is warning companies not to make health claims about CBD they can’t back up. 

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has approved a new nursing program for SIU's Carbondale campus.

Rural areas in America have high death rates from car crashes, hunting accidents and other trauma. But many rural hospitals are only equipped to handle basic emergencies. In one Iowa town trauma experts are helping a small ER prepare for big emergencies.

At least three young people in Illinois have been sent to the hospital in recent months after having used e-cigarettes, also known as “vapes.” That’s according to an investigation by the state’s Department of Public Health.


In late March, a child welfare worker visited the family home of 9-year-old Byron Casanova in Johnston City, Illinois. The social worker expressed concerns about the environment but Byron and his three siblings weren’t removed from the home. Four days later, Byron Casanova committed suicide.  

“The Intact worker was there the Tuesday before, noted some things in the house and said he was concerned about the current cleanliness of the house,” said Johnston City Police Chief William Stark.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that will allow some Supplement Nutrion Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - recipients to use benefits at restaurants.

The program will be offered to people who are elderly, homeless or have a disability. 

The Caretaking Of Life

Jul 22, 2019
Amelia Blakely

Caretaking of passing loved ones can be a stressful journey with a dim light at the end of the tunnel. 

Kris Juul, a  World War II veteran and Southern Illinois University Professor at Carbondale, helps his family take care of his final moments with the story of his past and present life. 

Visual adapation: Part 1

The federal government plans to cut funding to clinics that provide abortion referrals. But in Illinois, any clinics that lose that funding can get grants from the state. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the plan Thursday, saying it amounts to about $2.4 million for 28 clinics throughout the state. Those clinics normally receive federal Title X grants, which cover services like family-planning and HIV screening for low-income, under-insured and uninsured women.

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Over 160 people turned out Thursday in Marion for a discussion of how communities can play a role in helping solve the opioid and substance abuse crisis.

Centerstone's vice president of addiction services Scott Hesseltine was the keynote speaker. He says treatment is just one component of the process.

Illinois — and the rest of the country — could soon start seeing more days of extreme heat. That’s according to a report released Tuesday, “Killer Heat in the United States: Climate Choices and the Future of Dangerously Hot Days”— authored by the Union of Concerned Scientists. 

People have been leaving rural midwestern areas for decades. And it’s not just population loss. Often fresh food sellers move away too. There might be hope, though.

The age to buy tobacco products in Illinois will officially be raised from 18 to 21 next week. Supporters say the move is aimed at stopping young people from starting a bad habit.


Earlier this year, police dispatchers in Evansville, Indiana, received a chilling call. A man said he was holding his wife at knifepoint, and he warned police that he was heavily armed.

Losing a loved one to gun violence can cause anxiety, stress and other mental health symptoms. So can simply living in an environment where violence is common.

But experts say early intervention and support can help prevent some of those negative, long-term consequences.


Opioid use is on the rise in Illinois. In response, the General Assembly adopted a plan to create a statewide needle exchange.

The measure calls for a  new community-based needle exchange programs, which the Illinois Department of Public Health would have to sanction.

Dispelling Dairy Myths

Jun 21, 2019
A pitcher of milk next to a galss of milk with a background of sunflowers.
Couleur/Pixabay / Pixabay

June is Dairy month and the St. Louis District Dairy Council is taking the opportunity to dispel some myths about dairy.

Registered dietician Erin McGraw talked with WSIU about some of the persistent misunderstandings people have about milk and other dairy products.

Family Counseling Center Celebrates 45 Years of Service

Jun 20, 2019
Family Counseling Center

The Family Counseling Center of Southern Illinois celebrated 45 years of serving the community with a carnival for clients.

The organization provides mental health, developmental and senior services to the region. Chief Information Officer Rollie Hawk said that while the agency's focus has shifted over time, they are proud of what they can bring to the community. He noted that many of their clients would have been placed in nursing homes or institutions in previous decades, but can now recieve services and be a part of the larger community. 

The Listening Project: Cathy Ann Garavalia, of Benton.

Jun 19, 2019

WSIU Radio's The Listening Project is a regular, recurring,  series that chronicles the stories, experiences and history of the people who call this region home.

Dennis Pond doesn’t tell his psychiatrist about his thoughts of suicide.  But he has them. He often feels useless, in large part because his diabetes has caused terrible pain and numbness in his feet, and that affects his ability to drive, to help out around the house, to even go out in the yard.

Douglas rattles around a collection of glass jars in the storage closet of his Denver apartment. They’re filled with a small grain, like barley, and covered in a soft white fungus — a mushroom spawn. Soon, he’ll transplant it in large plastic bins filled nutrients like dried manure and coconut fiber.

Over the course of two weeks, mushrooms that naturally contain psilocybin, a psychoactive ingredient, will sprout.

Farmers have been using the weed killer glyphosate – a key ingredient of the product Roundup – at soaring levels even as glyphosate has become increasingly less effective and as health concerns and lawsuits mount.

Nationwide, the use of glyphosate on crops increased from 13.9 million pounds in 1992 to 287 million pounds in 2016, according to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey.

By The Numbers: Glyphosate Use In The Midwest For Corn, Soybeans

Jun 12, 2019

Glyphosate is the most-used pesticide on U.S. crops, an estimated 287 million pounds in 2016, according to an analysis by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

The Midwest saw 65 percent of the nation’s total agriculture glyphosate use on crops, a 12-state territory that includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Abortion rights advocates are concerned the legal dispute over the last existing abortion clinic in Missouri may have already hindered access to abortion.

The license for Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region has been in jeopardy for months as state officials delayed action on its application. To compel the state to act, Planned Parenthood took state officials to court.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer has kept the license in effect while the arguments play out in court. But abortion rights advocates say the legal process as well as Missouri’s increasingly stringent abortion regulations could discourage doctors from providing the procedure in the future.

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