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Original and in-depth coverage about topics important to Pennsylvania

Is certification for community health workers a good idea?

One day about five years ago, Sharine Eliza was working as a medical assistant in Camden, N.J., when she was warned about the next patient.

He was difficult, and always exasperated with the doctor. He wouldn’t take his medications and he frequently ended up in the emergency room because of it. The 72-year-old man was receiving hospice care, but he continued to smoke cigarettes and drink a 12-pack of beer every day.

Tax credits help offset the high cost of adoption

In 2011, the year Christi and John Rooke adopted two of their five children, the Pittsburgh couple filed for an adoption tax credit — $13,000 for each daughter who joined their family.

The couple used the $26,000 combined credit to pay off their debt, and to buy a 12-seat passenger van and a pop-up camper to take their family on cross-country adventures.

Though it may sound like a windfall, Christi Rooke said the family is strapped much of the time. She and her husband work flexible jobs so someone is always home with the children, who have an array of needs resulting from foster care and the circumstances that got them there, she said. All five of the children, ages 3 to 14, were adopted through Pennsylvania’s child welfare system.

Tax calculator: How Gov. Wolf's budget would affect you in Allegheny County

Since Gov. Tom Wolf announced his ambitious budget proposal that would rework Pennsylvania’s tax structure, you may have simultaneously heard you will be better off and worse off under his proposal.

The administration said the average family of four will save 13 percent on its total tax bill, while the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative-leaning think tank in Harrisburg, said an average family of four will pay about $1,400 more under Wolf’s proposal.

How accurate are state heroin overdose statistics?

Heroin abuse has reached crisis levels in the commonwealth and across the Northeast.

But determining the full scope of the problem is proving harder than one might think.

Without a single standard in Pennsylvania, the state's 67 county coroners and medical examiners operate under their own individual set of rules to determine if a drug overdose was caused by heroin.

Check out the major sources of industrial air pollution in Allegheny County

Whether you’re new to the Pittsburgh region or have lived here your whole life, you probably want to know what’s in the air you’re breathing and where it’s coming from.

Eye on the inside: Do cameras in nursing homes protect or intrude?

As suddenly as he lost his ability to speak last fall, Stuart Sanderson’s connection to the world outside his Philadelphia nursing-home room was severed because of anxiety over a simple webcam.

A compact video camera on his computer monitor allowed him to speak to family even without a voice. Stu, as he prefers to be called, has cerebral palsy, but video calls put him in touch with his ailing father and his brother, who would take the time to read his lips.

Heroin: Riding the Rush

Drug courts at odds with each other and the feds

In Allegheny County, Judge Lester Nauhaus sees his drug court as an alternative to the carnage of the drug war.

Drugs drive crime. But locking up addicts doesn’t stop crime. Nor does it stop drug addiction.

“Nail ‘em and jail ‘em wasn’t working,” Nauhaus told PublicSource in an interview. “All it was doing was costing everybody a fortune.”

The power of the PA Millennial boom

This year, the Millennial generation will eclipse the Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, totaling 75.3 million, according to U.S. Census data.

For our purposes, the Millennials are that broad group born between 1981 and 1997, making them between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2015, as defined by the Pew Research Center.

In Pennsylvania, there are more than 2.8 million of them. More than half a million of them are concentrated in Pennsylvania’s two largest cities, with more than 450,000 living in Philadelphia and more than 100,000 in Pittsburgh.

Allegheny County police still keep many records on paper

Want to check out a police report? Welcome to the file cabinet

For the Allegheny County Police Department, searching for details on past crimes sometimes calls for cabinet duty.

That means a team of detectives literally thumbing through paper records in old-fashioned file cabinets.

That’s how police work was done before computers and before officers elsewhere could access databases from handheld devices.

Regulators to probe PA union-backed nonprofit

PHILADELPHIA — State election regulators will investigate whether Pennsylvanians for Accountability, a liberal nonprofit that repeatedly criticized former Pennsylvania GOP Gov. Tom Corbett and other conservative politicians, violated political disclosure laws.

The aftermath of the CSX Bakken crude oil train derailment in Mount Carbon, W. Va.

1.5 million at risk in PA for crude oil derailment

In Pennsylvania, nearly 1.5 million people are in potential danger if a train carrying crude oil derails and catches fire, according to a PublicSource analysis.

That is about one in every nine Pennsylvanians.

Bringing in more money, even after the campaign for PA governor is over

When the campaign for governor ends, the contributions and expenses don’t. As strange as it might sound, candidates can receive money after the election and a few people actually continue to give until Dec. 31.

Newly elected Gov. Tom Wolf raised $284,019 in contributions from 131 people and committees after the election. Former Gov. Tom Corbett received 96 contributions for $39,196 after he lost.

Uncommon compassion: Dying offenders seldom released in federal prison system

HARRISBURG – Linda Share fought for years to get her father home before he died.

Benjamin Share had been away for eight years. His kidneys were failing. He had congestive heart failure. His foot, an unnatural burgundy color, was swollen, and he had weeping sores that wouldn’t heal.

Marcellus Life

Marcellus Life: A Native American protest to stop a PA pipeline

Chief Carlos Whitewolf beat a small hand drum and sang a Native American prayer for Mother Earth in the cold January air in Hershey, Pa.

Many of the 50 or so other protesters outside the Hershey Lodge, where national Republican leaders attended a retreat, demonstrated against issues like the Keystone XL pipeline and climate change.

A flood of overtime for nurses at county nursing homes

Charged with considering a resident’s entire medical history during care, one registered nurse worked the equivalent of about 90 eight-hour overtime shifts in both 2012 and 2013.

That's just a slice of about 125,000 hours of overtime worked by the nursing staff of the four Kane nursing homes in each of those two years, according to county salary data analyzed by PublicSource.

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