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Let’s Work Together to Support Local Communities

The coronavirus pandemic has effected so many aspects of our daily lives, and now we all must to do our part to protect ourselves and each other. To fight the spread of the virus, the governor’s “stay-at-home” order is in place through April 6. This unprecedented effort is to help save lives and alleviate the strain on our health care system. Hoosier families and businesses are resilient and patient, but Indiana’s leaders understand the need for Hoosiers to get back to work as soon as possible. In the meantime, please consider opportunities to support your local community and neighbors.

Here are five ways Hoosiers can help:

Contribute To Your Local Food Bank

Aside from making cash donations, consider reaching out to local food banks to see what can be done to help others in the community. Many organizations rely on retirees to keep their shelves stocked and doors open, but older citizens are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Local charities are facing a growing need for both supplies and volunteers. If you are working age and in general good health, consider volunteering for a local food bank. These organizations are more vital than ever, providing not only food, but also household items like cleaning supplies, diapers and personal care products. They have plans in place for preventing the spread of the virus like making to-go boxes of food and coordinating drive through stations. Visit Feeding America’s website to find a food bank near you, and please contact them directly to see what they need and how you can help.

Check In With Neighbors

Consider checking-in with elderly neighbors by phone or via social media. Picking up groceries for others is a great way to help, just be sure to leave the items at a secure location, like a porch, in order to limit contact. Others may need help walking their dogs. In some neighborhoods, children are using their front porches as a safe location to play music, put on skits or host shows. There are many ways to help our neighbors, and perhaps build some new relationships along the way.

Donate Blood

The American Red Cross is reporting severe blood shortages since the pandemic took hold, putting many patients at risk. If you are in good health and not feeling sick, visit RedCross.org/Indiana or call 1-800-RED-CROSS and schedule a blood donation. The organization has safety protocols in place to protect donors, volunteers and workers from potential exposure.

Support Local Businesses

Only essential services remain open to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but there are ways to help small businesses and their employees. While dining rooms in Indiana are temporarily closed, restaurants and breweries can still offer carryout and delivery options. Check out Visit Indiana’s guide on statewide, low-contact carryout and delivery options, for a list of restaurants offering these services and guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus. Be sure to check local business websites and social media accounts for specifics on delivery and curbside options, and consider purchasing gift cards and contributing to fundraisers to help.

Sew And Donate Face Masks

According to Indiana hospitals, orders for standard/disposable masks are on long back-orders, due to both demand and supply chain issues. While fabric masks are not to be used in the care of COVID-19 patients, according to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted. Fabric masks can also be helpful in other areas of patient care as supplies of personal protective equipment are depleted. Follow these instructions on how to make face masks. Organizations that need masks can also request them through the Deaconess database connecting individuals and companies for this important effort. Physicians in Northwest Indiana started the Masks for NWI Healthcare Workers Facebook group encouraging citizens to sew face masks and donate them.

As we all do our part to combat this public health crisis, it is crucial to remember we’re all in this together. Helping fellow Hoosiers not only provides a much-needed lifeline to those facing difficulties, but it also strengthens communities and forges new connections among neighbors.

For a list of resources and the latest information on what Indiana is doing to address the coronavirus, visit IN.gov/Coronavirus.

Best Practices Amid COVID-19 Concerns

State and local leaders have taken bold and decisive actions to utilize all available resources to help Hoosiers as they adjust to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health continue to provide updates on the ongoing situation, there are simple precautions everyone should be aware of to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Chief among them is an emphasis on social distancing, or increasing physical space between people to avoid spreading illness, and many are already becoming familiar with this practice by staying home and out of large crowds whenever possible.

Under a recent executive order, all schools will be closed until May 1 and state mandated tests like ILEARN will be canceled for this current academic year. Parents in need of child care services can search the state’s child care finder for locations close to home, work or on a commute route. However, families are reminded that if they or their child show any symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they should stay home and contact their health care provider.

For those experiencing unemployment or financial hardship, the Department of Workforce Development is encouraging Hoosiers to apply for unemployment insurance benefits electronically through a computer or smart phone at Unemployment.IN.gov. Additionally, no residential eviction proceedings or foreclosure actions may be initiated during the public health emergency. Providers of essential utility services such as gas and electric, broadband, telecom, water and wastewater services are also prohibited from discontinuing service to any customer at this time.

These are unprecedented times, the state is working hard to ensure you have all the tools necessary to navigate these challenges. Governor Holcomb, ISDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to provide updates on this situation as it evolves.

Visit in.gov/coronavirus to stay up-to-date on the coronavirus and to find more resources.

Indiana Responds To Coronavirus

The Indiana State Department of Health recently confirmed the first cases of coronavirus and declared a public health emergency. As the number of COVID-19 cases in Indiana rises, the more important it becomes for Hoosiers to be aware of best practices to prevent the spread of this virus.

Indiana leaders, local health departments, hospitals, ISDH, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to identify patients and follow control protocols. By issuing a public health emergency, Indiana is receiving more than $10 million in federal funding to control and stop the spread of coronavirus.

However, there are still actions we can all take individually to protect ourselves from any respiratory illness, including the flu, like:

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
  • Staying home when you are sick;
  • Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; and
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

If you are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus, including but not limited to a fever, cough or shortness of breath, contact ISDH immediately for next steps. The state health department call center is staffed 24/7 to provide guidance from the CDC to health care providers and the public. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, call 317-233-7125. Calls after 8 p.m. ET should go to 317-233-1325 and will be answered by an on-call epidemiologist.

This is an ongoing situation and is evolving rapidly. ISDH provides live updates as new information becomes available. For more information, Hoosiers can also visit the Indiana State Department of Health online here, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Lead The Fight Against Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the leading causes of cancer deaths among Americans, with an estimated 147,000 new cases expected in 2020. The American Cancer Society estimates 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the Indiana House is leading the way with legislation to help Hoosiers catch the disease earlier.

House Bill 1080, authored by State Rep. Brad Barrett (R-Richmond), would make certain insurance providers cover colorectal cancer screenings starting at the age of 45. Currently, the law requires coverage if a patient is at least 50 years old.

Treatment measures have come a long way for colorectal or colon cancer. According to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the average survival rate for stage 4 colon cancer is around 30 months. This is up from the 6 to 8 months that was the average 20 years ago.

Barrett, a retired general surgeon, encourages patients to get screenings early to catch critical medical issues like cancer sooner rather than later. The Indiana House unanimously supported the bill, which if it becomes law, will greatly improve outcomes for those diagnosed and potentially save lives.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance encourages Hoosiers to dress in blue on Friday, March 6 to raise awareness about the disease and to support people impacted. Click here to learn more about free screenings in Indiana and how to qualify.

Saving lives through Indiana’s Safe Haven Laws

The Indiana House of Representatives recently honored a Bartholomew County teen for his fundraising efforts to prevent infant deaths in the community. Columbus North High School graduate Hunter Wart spent more than a year collecting scrap metal and mowing lawns to raise the $10,000 needed to install a Safe Haven Baby Box at the Seymour Fire Department. In January, Wart’s hard work led to the first child in the Seymour community saved using this life-saving device.

In 2015, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation allowing local cities and towns to install Safe Haven Baby Boxes in fire stations and hospitals across the state. This resource allows distressed parents to surrender their baby safely and legally while remaining anonymous. Since then, there have been no reported infant deaths from illegal abandonment.

The temperature-controlled box alerts first responders within a minute of placing the child inside. When the door of the box is first opened, a silent alarm is triggered, sending an alert to emergency providers and nearby staff.

Indiana is now leading the nation in the number of baby boxes, with 21 installed throughout the state, and more communities are working to add them. If a Safe Haven Baby Box is not available, parents can still legally surrender their infant under the Safe Haven Law.

This law allows people to anonymously leave infants younger than 30 days old with emergency service providers with no questions asked, as long as the child shows no signs of abuse.

If you or someone you know is considering surrendering a newborn, trained professionals can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-99baby1.

For more information visit shbb.org.

Preparing The Workforce Of Today And Tomorrow

Indiana’s jobless rate continues to be at its lowest level since 2000. That isn’t the only data point indicating Hoosiers are experiencing a booming job market.

According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits in 2019 fell to its lowest level in more than 10 years. The state’s labor force participation rate continues to climb higher than the national average.

With a need for more workers, it is important for Hoosiers to acquire the skills and training required to fill increasingly technical jobs. In 2017, lawmakers created the Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant program. Since then, more than 10,000 Hoosiers have earned a high-value certificate and approximately 23,000 are currently enrolled.

The program works to drive economic growth by providing education and training. Employees can receive up to $5,000 and employers up to $50,000 in grant money to help pay for training costs. Because of Next Level Jobs, more residents are now better prepared to work in high-paying, high-demand fields like advanced manufacturing, information technology and health and life sciences.

In addition to Next level Jobs, Indiana’s tax cuts play a role in spurring business investment and attraction from outside the state. Indiana is ranked the 10th most favorable in the country on the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. This includes corporate and individual tax rates and sales, property and unemployment insurance taxes. Indiana also ranks favorably compared to neighboring states.

With statistics and initiatives like these, Indiana can continue to break employment records and create a welcoming place for businesses to start and grow.

Putting A Stop To Surprise Medical Bills

As the legislative session moves full-speed ahead, state lawmakers continue to look at what is important to Hoosiers, including helping curb growing health care costs. This session, House Republicans passed a bill to stop surprise, out-of-network medical billing.

Surprise billing is when an individual goes to an in-network health care provider for a service, but is unknowingly seen by an out-of-network physician. The patient is then left with an expensive medical bill not covered by insurance. Surprise billing can happen for a number of reasons, for example, a person could have a surgical procedure with a surgeon covered by insurance, but another medical provider such as an anesthesiologist is out-of-network, unbeknownst to the patient. After the procedure, the patient has to pay an unexpected and high medical bill.

Unfortunately, approximately 8 percent of all emergency visits in Indiana result in surprise medical billing. Across the nation, 50 percent of all emergency ambulance rides result in surprise medical billing.

Proposed legislation would prohibit health care providers from billing in-network patients for amounts exceeding in-network rates. Patients would still be responsible for paying deductibles, copayments and coinsurance amounts, and would continue to have the option to receive services from out-of-network providers.

House Bill 1004 passed out of the House unanimously and is now being considered by the Senate. Visit iga.in.gov to learn more.

Heads Up, Phone Down

Many have seen drivers swerve in and out of lanes, stall at green lights, or slam on their brakes due to their eyes being off the road or their hands being off the wheel. Proposed legislation would prohibit the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving, except when using hands-free technology like Bluetooth.

Under this proposal, Hoosier drivers would not be able to hold a cell phone or electronic communication device while driving. However, a motorist could still use a device to make calls in hands-free mode or in place of a GPS on the dash of their vehicle.

Each day, nine Americans are killed as a result of distracted driving. It is also one of the top killers of teenagers, responsible for more than 58 percent of teen crashes. There are 21 states with similar hands-free device driving laws.

Texting is by far the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes a person’s eyes off the road for five seconds and while travelling at 55 mph, that is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field. Any non-driving activity engaged in while driving is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.

While Indiana already prohibits texting while driving, it is difficult to enforce. This is a simple but effective way to strengthen the current law. It provides clarity for drivers, law enforcement and prosecutors.

Studies conclusively show how dangerous distracted driving is, yet drivers continue to use their devices, including scrolling through social media feeds and playing games, placing everyone in danger.

There will be a comprehensive and statewide educational campaign to inform Hoosiers about this proposed law, if it is enacted.

Click here to learn more about this bill.

Saving Taxpayers More Than $130 Million

Just as everyday Hoosiers work hard to manage their finances by sticking to a budget, avoiding debt and preparing for the future, it is the responsibility of state government to make smart financial decisions with taxpayer dollars. House Republican lawmakers take this obligation seriously and continue to fulfill the trust that voters have placed in them by enacting responsible legislation and making sound investments for Hoosiers.

Indiana is in a unique position thanks to sound fiscal policies and responsible budgeting. Last year, Indiana’s tax revenues exceeded expectations by nearly $270 million, or about 1.7%. These unexpected revenues are the state government equivalent of a year-end bonus. Republican Statehouse leaders are responsibly investing these monies in one-time, higher education projects.

With House Enrolled Act 1007, Indiana will cash-fund six state university capital improvement projects approved last year for debt financing. This will save $137 million in long-term interest payments and eliminate $21 million in annual bond payments. This will put Indiana in an even better position by freeing up additional funds in future budgets.

While some called for the state to use these one-time dollars to start or expand government programs and projects, they failed to take into account the recurring expenses and costs. Indiana is in a sound place financially, and House Republicans are working to keep it that way for future generations.

The Indiana House of Representatives and the Senate voted in support of this fiscally responsible plan, with Gov. Eric Holcomb recently signing it into law.

For more information about House Enrolled Act 1007, click here.

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