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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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Getting Right

Getting Right

An HIV outbreak spurs change in Austin, Ind.


by Jake Harper 2015 Restorative Narrative Fellow

This story was originally posted on Side Effects Public Media and aired on 90.1 WFYI in Indianapolis June 23-26, as part of ivoh’s Restorative Narrative Fellowship. Photos by Seth Herald.

If a town could be said to hit rock bottom, Austin, Indiana did so this year. The drug abuse problem had been out of hand for several years, but it took the worst possible outcome to make this community wake up: More than 170 newly identified cases of HIV since December, spread almost entirely by needle sharing.

State and federal officials led an emergency response to control the outbreak. But for locals, the real work of change and recovery is just beginning. Facing the problem is always the first step, and there are signs of hope in Austin.

This radio series airs on 90.1 WFYI in Indianapolis June 23-26, during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Read and listen to the stories

Chapter 1: Recovering addict Kevin Polly

Chapter 2: Police Chief Don Spicer

Chapter 3: Public health nurse Brittany Combs

Chapter 4: Stand Up youth group


About This Series

This project was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a reporting collaborative exploring the impacts of place, policy, and economics on Americans’ health. Read more of our Scott County coverage here.

This project is also part of Images & Voices of Hope’s Restorative Narrative Fellowship, which gives journalists across the U.S. a stipend to spend six months telling stories of resilience and recovery. Jake Harper was named one of six inaugural IVOH fellows last year.