Smart Talk Friday: Woman living with mental illness suffers in jail; HS sports plan comeback from shutdown

Last year, WITF’s Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis told the story of then 27-year-old Kimberly Stringer — a Bucks County woman who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in high school, but was refusing to take medication or see a therapist — claiming she wasn’t mentally ill.  Kim lived a metal shed even though she had an apartment, drank water from streams rather than from the tap or a bottle and scoured garbage dumps collecting items in a shopping cart. Brett’s story provided details on Kim’s parents’ numerous efforts to get treatment for their daughter even if it mean having her committed to a treatment facility involuntarily.

Last week, Brett began receiving collect phone calls from inmates at the Bucks County Jail — telling him that Kimberly has been confined to a bare cell, “completely naked,” with only a soiled blanket and a smock given to patients who are on suicide watch, which she rarely wears.

She urinates and defecates on the floor and on herself.

She has gone without a mattress at times and has no books or possessions.

She is covered with bruises, and at times has hit her head or punched herself.

She hasn’t had a shower in weeks.

After Brett updated Kim’s struggles this week, she was transferred to a hospital for treatment.

Kimberly Stringer’s experiences provide a sad example of what happens when someone living with mental illness goes to jail instead and the difficulty of getting treatment for someone who doesn’t want it.

Transforming Health’s Brett Sholtis appears on Friday’s Smart Talk.

Also, the Wolf Administration released guidelines last week for high school and youth sports, along with other outdoor activities to resume from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joining us on Friday’s Smart Talk to provide details are Melissa Nash Mertz, Associate Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), Jeremy Flores, Director of Athletics for the Chambersburg School District, and Justin Rose, Associate Executive Director of the Carlisle Family YMCA, who will address how their YMCA is preparing for summer camps, and hosting current day camps under the Pennsylvania guidance.

Smart Talk Thursday: WITF’s Toward Racial Justice engagement series; Economic recovery efforts after pandemic

Systemic problems require systemic change. WITF presents a bi-weekly summer series of virtual community conversations to address systemic racism and injustice.

The series will be a forum for essential conversations about race and racism — its effects on housing, education, finance, healthcare, relations with police and inequality.

Appearing on Smart Talk to share details is series moderator Charles Ellison, executive producer and host of Reality Check, a daily public affairs program on WURD radio in Philadelphia. Joining him is Major Kristal M. Turner-Childs-Director, Bureau of Forensic Services, Pennsylvania State Police & WITF Board Member.

As states begin to ease coronavirus-related restrictions the economy is sending signals of a potential recovery. Some experts are saying the numbers show what could be a slow and prolonged rally.

Michael Horrigan, president of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research authored an article for the PEW Charitable Trust and he’ll join Smart Talk to discuss what current economic data says about jobs and a recovery.

One Central Pennsylvania county is working to provide tools for small businesses to jump start a recovery there.

Lancaster County is one of only seven in the state to have received direct CARES money from the federal government. County leaders established a grant application program designed to help small businesses reemerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa Riggs, President of the Lancaster county Economic Development Company and Tom Baldrige, President and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber, appear on Smart Talk to share details about the Lancaster County Economic Recovery Plan.

Smart Talk Wednesday; A community celebrates pride and protests find common ground

Nearly 51 years ago, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular club in Greenwich Village with a mostly gay clientele, who were accused of serving liquor without a license.

Raiding gay clubs in the city was not uncommon at that time, but this one sparked a riot that led to days-long protests and violent confrontations with police.

What is now known as the Stonewall Riots is largely considered the catalyst for the Gay rights movement in the United States.

June is Pride month and the outgrowth of the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Joining Smart Talk to share what this means to the LGBTQ community are William Burton and Barry Loveland, authors of Out in Central Pennsylvania: The Story of an LGBTQ+ Community, which is being released this month.

And with people now mobilizing around the country in support of Black Lives Matter, some are drawing parallels between these protests and the Stonewall legacy.

Smart Talk will examine the connection between the two movements with the  Ismail Smith-Wade-El, President of Lancaster City Council, and Kimeka Campbell, Ph.D., cofounder of Young Professionals of Color (YPOC) in Harrisburg.

Smart Talk Tuesday: Reparations for descendants of enslaved people? Should Confederate Memorials come down?

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the past three weeks and subsequent attention on discrimination, inequality and violence toward African-Americans may re-open a conversation that up until now has not gained widespread national support — reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in America.

There is near universal agreement today that kidnapping Africans and enslaving them was wrong and immoral. But there never has been agreement on how to or even to apologize for slavery. Over the years, there have been rare occasions when an institution or company offered reparations to descendants of enslaved people. But fewer people have supported providing monetary reparations to the descendants of the enslaved.

Beyond questions of actually whether to provide reparations, logistics arise like how does one prove their enslaved ancestry and where would the money come from?

Democratic state Rep. Chris Rabb of Philadelphia has proposed a reparations bill and explains on Tuesday’s Smart Talk.

Also, statues and memorials commemorating Civil War Confederate soldiers, slave owners and others who are thought to have played a role in the nation’s racist past are being removed either by protestors or local and state governments.

Those who oppose eliminating the memorials or the Confederate battle flag often say they honor their heritage or history.

Professor Scott Hancock, Ph.D., associate professor of History and Africana Studies at Gettysburg College appears on Tuesday’s Smart Talk with his thoughts.

Smart Talk’s books for summer reading

At the beginning of every summer, Smart Talk produces a program that focuses on books to read on the beach or during vacation. This year is different. During the coronavirus pandemic, many people are home — either not working or not going on a getaway vacation.

Many people haven’t used the opportunity at home to read more books so this summer’s program will have suggestions for books to read while you’re at home or if you do go on a vacation.

Smart Talk welcomes a panel of area wordsmiths to share their summer book recommendations, from popular new releases to literary classics, even pandemic fiction and racial nonfiction. These books will keep you entertained for the summer to come.

Image of Black Lives Matter books on Catherine Lawrence’s list
Image of pandemic books included on Catherine Lawrence’s book list.

We’d also like to hear about a few of the books you’re reading this summer. Call the program at 1-800-729-7532 or email us at

Joining Smart Talk Monday are Catherine Lawrence, a writer and owner of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Travis Kurowski, an assistant professor of English and coordinator of creative writing at York College of Pennsylvania and Carolyn Blatchley, Executive Director of Cumberland County Library System.

Reading Lists:

Catherine Lawrence book list

Travis Kurowski book list

Carolyn Blatchley book list (digital list forthcoming)

Listener and host book recommendations

Smart Talk Friday: African Americans face disproportionate risk of COVID-19; Battle brewing over the state’s lockdown

African Americans are more likely to encounter the coronavirus, less likely to be tested for it, and more likely to die from it. They are also less likely to have jobs that allow them to work from home, to have high-speed internet to access telemedicine and online education, and to live in the types of low-density residential environments most conducive to social distancing.

These realities are fueled by what panelists at a state Senate hearing last week said is a pandemic of racism that has afflicted American public policy for decades in areas from education and employment to housing and health care. As a result, these experts say, African Americans face a disproportionate risk both to contract the virus and to have underlying health conditions that exacerbate its effect.

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday is state Sen. Art Haywood, a Democrat who represents parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties and was one of the senators to call for last week’s hearing, as well as two of the experts who testified: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia pediatric attending physician and National Medical Association officer Dr. Priscilla Mpasi, MD, and former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Calvin Johnson, MD.

A legal battle is brewing in Pennsylvania over the Disaster Declaration by Governor Tom Wolf that effectively shut down the state to manage the coronavirus outbreak.

Republican lawmakers say the declaration has damaged the Pennsylvania economy unnecessarily because restrictions were placed over the entire state, rather than in counties with large outbreaks. Wolf did extend the emergency declaration earlier this month, and while Republicans have conceded that the declaration was warranted in the early days of the crisis, it is not any longer. They are demanding an immediate repeal, but Wolf plans to extend the state of emergency, along with dozens of emergency executive orders that came after.

Joining Smart Talk to analyze how the fight may play out in the court is state and federal constitutional law expert Bruce Ledewitz, J.D., professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law. Duquesne University Law School offers a resource for information on the text, history and meaning of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Smart Talk Thursday: Pa. education chief talks school this fall; How many hours to work to pay rent; Seniors play ball

Since Pennsylvania schools closed their physical buildings last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been speculation about whether classes would begin on time in August and September and, if so, how they would be different.

Plans are being made for a fall opening of classes with dozens of guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Among the many issues that schools will have to address are transportation to and from school while maintaining social distancing, monitoring the health of students and staff, limiting the number of students and staff in a classroom, extracurricular activities like sports and band and attendance.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew Stem appear on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss what changes are coming.

Also, we’ll examine a new report by Self Financial that pinpoints how many hours of work it takes in order to pay rent in Central Pennsylvania’s metro areas.

Pennsylvania is the 28th least affordable state according to the survey. A person making the median income of $39,490 a year would have to work 34.9 hours to afford a one-bedroom apartment and 43 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom. Self Financial’s Vice President Jeff Smith is on Smart Talk with more details.

High School baseball and softball players who missed their senior years due to the COVID-19 pandemic are being invited to play in an invitational this summer at People’sBank Park in York. York Revolution President Eric Menzer joins us to explain.



Smart Talk Wednesday: Dental care resumes in Pa., but how to safeguard patients and providers?

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, dental care for most non-emergency procedures was deemed non-essential and many providers closed their doors.

Because the virus is most frequently transmitted through direct contact and respiratory droplets, the decision to stop routine dental treatments was considered imperative.

The danger is in the aerosols that are created in the treatment room. Dental equipment generates aerosols because of the high-speed rotation that is part of certain procedures. An aerosol is a tiny liquid particle that is suspended in the air for anywhere from seconds to hours. Dental patients, as well as providers, are then at risk of inhaling the contaminated air particles.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently released guidance for dental providers under the Governors phased reopening plan so that non-urgent dental procedures can resume.

Joining Smart Talk on Wednesday is Dr. James Tauberg, DMD, President of the Pennsylvania Dental Association to talk about the state’s guidelines and protocols to keep patients and providers safe.

Routine teeth cleaning also stopped when dental providers closed their doors in March. Regular cleanings are just one component of oral health and advocates point out that not everyone has equal access to dental care in Pennsylvania, let alone regular cleanings.

Appearing on Smart Talk to address these and other aspects to community dental care are Helen Hawkey, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health and Kelly Braun, RDH, MSDH, the Dental Delivery Systems Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, Pennsylvania State University.

Smart Talk Tuesday: Sewage tested for COVID-19 show more cases in Dauphin County; Rural real estate sales explode during pandemic

Dauphin County may have had at least ten times more COVID-19 cases than reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. That’s one of the findings of tests being conducted on sewage by an MIT research firm — Biobot Analytics.

Capital Region Water is one of about 400 systems across the country participating in the research.

The virus can be detected in human waste and that includes those who may have contracted the coronavirus but didn’t show any symptoms. The first two samples from Dauphin County in May indicated infection rates of 4.5% and 5.6% — ten times higher than those being reported by the state.

The data collected may help identify hotspots for the disease.

Appearing Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the sewage research are Charlotte Katzenmoyer, CEO of Capital Region Water; Jess Rosentel, Director of Wastewater Operations, Capital Region Water; and John Quigley, Former Secretary of both the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and currently the Director for the Center for Environment, Energy & Economy with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Also on Tuesday’s Smart Talk, rural real estate sales are booming in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are looking to rent short-term, buy second homes, or relocate altogether to somewhere with a smaller population.

Joining us on Smart Talk are Jessica Lautz, Ph.D., Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights at the National Association of Realtors and Sandy Stevens, a realtor with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.





Smart Talk Monday: Police reforms proposed in Pa.; What does HIPAA cover?

The death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers and subsequent protests against police brutality and racial injustice have prompted calls for more oversight of police departments across the country and in Pennsylvania.

Police reform legislation has been resurrected that was proposed in Pennsylvania in 2019 after an East Pittsburgh police officer shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager. That teen was suspected of being involved in another shooting and ran from police when he was shot. The officer was charged with murder but acquitted.

The proposals include barring the use of choke holds by police officers, allowing access to body-camera video under the state’s right-to-know law and establishing an independent review process after a civilian has been injured or killed by police.

Appearing on Monday’s Smart Talk to address police reform is Democratic State Representative Jordan Harris of Philadelphia, a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

Also, last month Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis of Dauphin County announced he had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, but Democrats who may have come into contact with Lewis said they weren’t notified. A spokesman for House Republicans responded that medical privacy laws kept him from identifying other legislators who may have been exposed.

HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is most often thought of as a law to protect the privacy of patients’ health information. But does HIPAA apply to instances when a healthcare professional or organization isn’t involved?

We learn more on Monday’s Smart Talk about HIPAA from John DeLorenzo, director of legal services and associate general counsel, UPMC Pinnacle.