rural issues

Updated on March 23 at 12:21 p.m. ET

Orders to stay home leave many people glued to their screens. In rural Oregon, some people are turning their time on social media into tangible help for neighbors coping with coronavirus.

"I never thought I would say this, but we're using Facebook to express love to our neighbors in really meaningful ways," said Morgan Schmidt, moderator of a group for Bend, Ore. residents, where housebound people can crowdsource help with daily tasks.

Rural hospitals may not be able to keep their doors open as the coronavirus pandemic saps their cash, their CEOs warn, just as communities most need them.

In Grangeville, Idaho, population 3,000, Syringa Hospital has just 15 beds, an emergency room and a clinic. As is common in rural medicine, the chief medical officer, Dr. Matthew Told, is also a family practice OB and, on a recent evening, the on-call ER doc.

"We don't have ventilator services, we don't have respiratory therapy," Told says during a break between seeing patients.

Remote rural towns are a good place to be early in a pandemic, as they tend to be more spread out, which potentially means fewer chances to catch a bug. Remote rural areas are also, by definition, way removed from major seaports, airports and often even big highways. So it generally takes longer for new viruses to show up in tiny towns, like Fredonia, Kan.

"I always say it's a hundred miles from anywhere," says Cassie Edson, with the Wilson County Health Department. "It's a hundred miles from Wichita, a hundred miles to Joplin, a hundred miles to Tulsa."

(Chelsea Stanfield / KOSU)

KOSU's Engagement Team wants to hear from you as the 2020 election season heats up. In an effort to be more transparent about the questions we are asking, KOSU is looking for common or repeated answers to focus reporting efforts on. 

We want to know what concerns Oklahomans about their communities in the coming year and if you live in a rural or urban community.

Some rural Oregonians are so frustrated by Democratic politics that they want to leave the state.

But not by moving elsewhere.

Instead, a group is seeking to change the map itself, so that most of Oregon and a chunk of Northern California would break off and join Idaho, a Republican-majority state. Move Oregon's Border For a Greater Idaho succeeded in getting petitions approved for circulation in two rural Oregon counties this month.

Ethan Howard cradled his prized Martin-brand guitar, strumming gently as he sang of happiness he thought he'd never find.

With support from his family and community, the 26-year-old is making his way as a musician after emerging from the hell of addiction, disease and stigma. The former intravenous drug user was among the first of 235 people in the southern Indiana community of Austin, Ind., to be diagnosed in the worst drug-fueled HIV outbreak ever to hit rural America.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Governor Kevin Stitt gave his second State of the State Address today before a joint session of the State House and Senate for the 58th Oklahoma Legislature.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The outside world was overwhelming when Robin Wertz was released from prison in 2007. Today, she helps others who are having that same experience as the site director of Exodus House, a transitional housing unit that helps people get back on their feet.

“We can’t go back out into crime-ridden drug-infested neighborhoods,” Wertz said. “We have to provide communities where they’re getting the resources they need and they’re being inspired.”

In her office, she has a file cabinet filled with neatly organized folders holding dozens of letters from prisoners hunting for a home.

Dr. Angela Gatzke-Plamann didn't fully grasp her community's opioid crisis until one desperate patient called on a Friday afternoon in 2016.

"He was in complete crisis because he was admitting to me that he had lost control of his use of opioids," recalls Gatzke-Plamann.

The patient had used opioids for several years for what Gatzke-Plamann calls "a very painful condition." But a urine screening one week earlier had revealed heroin and morphine in his system as well. He denied any misuse that day. Now he was not only admitting it, but asking for help.

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