Munster and Lake Central HS Named Among Top in State

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Munster and Lake Central High Schools were among the top schools in the state, according to the US News and World Report 2013 Best High School Rankings released this week. Several other area high schools were also honored, including Chesterton, Hobart, Knox, Kouts, La Porte, Merrillville, Plymouth, Portage, West Central, Whiting, Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy. For a link to the list, visit: ...

Read more: Munster and Lake Central HS Named Among Top in State


84 of 95 Compliant in Porter Co Sex/Violent Offender Check

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porter co sheriff dept
Members of the Porter County Sheriff's Department recently wrapped up a week long detail that included a residence verification for registered sex or violent offenders living in Porter County. Authorities say 95 registered offenders were checked out by officers at various times of day, between April 15th through the 19th, and found 84 were compliant with the registry. Of the eleven that weren't, six were already incarcerated, with reports sent out for charges to be filed for two who were in violation, and according to the press release, three offenders require further investigation. A state statute requires a personal visit by law enforcement to the offender's listed address at least once a year, with those designated as a“sexually violent predator”, to be visited at least once every 90 days.
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Read more: 84 of 95 Compliant in Porter Co Sex/Violent Offender Check


Traffic Hazard Closes 2 Center Lanes SB I-65 @ Ridge Rd

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A number of traffic tipsters are calling in Northwest Indiana's Traffic Hotline reporting a full-size refrigerator was in the center lane southbound I-65 near Ridge Rd.  The traffic hazard has caused INDOT to close the two center lanes southbound I-65 approaching Ridge Rd. and that is backing up traffic on the connector ramp from the Borman (I-80/94).
Drivers need to exercise caution.
Traffic backing up on connector ramp
Eastbound I-80/94 connector ramp to southbound I-65 backing up due to traffic hazard in the center lanes southbound I-65 near Ridge Rd.
(photo from INDOT)
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Burglary Suspect and His Mom Arrested by Portage SWAT

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portage pd
Two suspects wanted in connection with numerous burglaries throughout Portage are now in police custody, including one suspect's mother. Portage Police report just before 9 this morning, they served a felony forgery warrant in the 68-hundred block of Mercedes Avenue for 22 year old James Rasch, whom police say they had looking for, along with another suspect, 26 year old Mark Bogart, for approximately a week. Authorities report James's 46 year old mother battered a SWAT officer during the execution of the warrant, and was subsequently arrested for battery and resisting arrest. Police say Bogart had previously been arrested on Wednesday, at a residence on Airport Road, and charged with felony possession of a hypodermic needle, and that the detective bureau is currently working on burglary charges for Bogart and Rasch.
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Indiana Professional Licensing Agency Divisions Honored

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IPLA’s prescription monitoring program, INSPECT, and their Medical Licensing Board of Indiana both win national award.
The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency’s (IPLA) prescription monitoring program, INSPECT, received national recognition recently when it was awarded the Administrators in Medicine (AIM) “Best of Boards” award on April 17, 2013. The award recognized both INSPECT and the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana’s recent efforts to become the 1st state nationally to integrate prescription drug monitoring data into an electronic healthcare system.
On January 15, 2013, INSPECT began delivering prescription data to healthcare systems at Community Hospitals, St. Vincent Hospitals and Health Services, St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers, I.U. Health, and Wishard Health Services through the Indiana Network for Patient Care (INPC). For the first time nationally, physicians are now able to access patient prescription history within their daily workflow without taking the added and onerous step of accessing the same information via the Web. This ensures that healthcare providers have a ready access to valuable prescription history before writing a prescription for a controlled substance.
“It’s an honor to be recognized by AIM,” said Marty Allain, the Director of INSPECT, who accepted the award on behalf of the program and the board. “Being the first program in the country to deliver this data to physicians is an important step in the fight against prescription drug abuse.”
Prescription drug abuse is a national epidemic according to the Centers for Disease Control. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, prescription painkillers have topped car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. To combat prescription drug abuse, Indiana maintains a prescription drug monitoring program, INSPECT, that collects controlled substances dispensed by pharmacies into a database accessible to physicians and pharmacists. INSPECT collects 13,000,000 prescription records annually and the system processes over 11,000 requests for patient history reports every day; however, the system is only accessed 1 time for every 10 controlled substance prescriptions written in the state. This low rate of use is due to the difficulty of accessing the system on-line with a username and password, and the added task of querying for search results. Doctors lose valuable time attempting to access the data and many times choose not to use the program at all.
To increase use, INSPECT has partnered with the Regenstrief Institute and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to deliver this data directly into physicians’ workflows. In June 2012, Wishard’s Emergency Department used the new system during a pilot project. The results were staggering: Physicians stated that this new data in their system reduced the number of pills they prescribed for 6 out of every 10 patients treated.
“All of the physicians that are now accessing the data through the INPC have responded positively to the integration efforts,” said Kristen Kelley, the Director of the Medical Licensing Board. “In a recent survey, 100% of the physicians responded that the new system was easier to use.”
The integration efforts deliver Indiana’s PDMP data to the five major hospital systems connected to the Indiana Network for Patient Care (INPC), which includes Wishard, I.U., St. Francis, St. Vincent, and Community Hospitals. These five INPC hospital systems operate a total of 11 different hospital facilities and more than 100 geographically distributed clinics andday surgery facilities. Collectively these systems admit 165,878 patients and serve more than 390,000 emergency room visits and 2.7 million clinic visits per years.

In March 2013, the integration effort was also showcased at the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference, the premier exhibition for healthcare data interoperability in the nation.
Administrators in Medicine (AIM), a not-for-profit organization, is the national organization for state medical and osteopathic board executives. Founded in 1984, the mission of AIM is to assist and support administrators for medical licensing and regulatory authorities to achieve administrative excellence and ultimately advance public safety.
The Office of National Drug Council Policy (ONDCP) has named prescription drug program monitoring as one of the four major tenants of addressing the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. See INSPECT has continually pursued progressive efforts to ensure that it provides the best possible service in the fight against prescription drug abuse:

  • First PDMP in the nation to participate in interstate sharing of data (along with Ohio) (2011).
  • First PDMP to engage in email-based unsolicited reporting of PDMP information to practitioners (2011).
  • First PDMP to permit user-led unsolicited reporting (2012).
  • First PDMP to track and enforce pharmacy uploading (2009).
  • 2009 Recipient of the Governor’s Public Service Achievement Award for its efforts in registering end users and increasing pharmacy compliance.

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Read more: Indiana Professional Licensing Agency Divisions Honored


Bill to Study Student Athlete Safety Goes to Governor

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Senator Travis Holdman
A bill to better protect youth athletes cleared the Indiana Senate today and now moves to the Governor's desk. Senate Bill 372 would ensure a consistent standard to make sure all athletes are safe by establishing the Coaching Education Issues Study Committee to address concussions and sudden cardiac arrest in student athletes. Bill author, State Senator Travis Holdman, of Markle, says “giving our coaches the proper training to address emergency situations can reduce the long-term effects of sports injuries and even prevent them from happening.”
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RailCats Caravan Stops Begin Tonight in Schererville

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GARY, Ind. —The RailCats Caravan is rolling through Northwest Indiana starting tonight at Jak’s Warehouse in Schererville from 6-8 p.m.
Members of the RailCats Caravan include RailCats manager Greg Tagert and players Cristian Guerrero, Mike Massaro and Craig Maddox. Of course, mascots Rusty and Rascal will be there to join in the fun as well. The RailCats crew will be interacting with fans, signing autographs, holding raffles and spreading the word about the upcoming season.
Here is the full schedule of RailCats Caravan stops:
RailCats Caravan
Friday—Jak’s Warehouse, Schererville, 6-8 p.m.
Saturday—Fuel Fitness, Cedar Lake, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
                   Catch 22, Merrillville, 6-7 p.m.
Sunday—Fuel Fitness, Crown Point, 12-1 p.m.
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Read more: RailCats Caravan Stops Begin Tonight in Schererville


Cash Pleads Not Guilty, Trial in August

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ryan cash
(Photo Courtesy of the Times)
A 18 year old charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death pleaded not guilty today. The Times reports Ryan Cash, who is out on bond, is scheduled to go to trial on August 19th, for an April 6th incident in South Haven, where he is accused of causing the death of Brian Hagerman, who Cash allegedly drove into.
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George Jones Dies at 81

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George Jones Dies at 81
Uncle Len with George Jones at the Star Plaza Theatre in Nov 2004
Country music legend George Jones has died. Jones was hospitalized last month in Nashville.  When George Jones – a-k-a “The Possum” –  performed at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, in November 2004, he was part of a mini-reunion that helped Radio One Communications mark 40 years of broadcasting in Northwest Indiana.  Company founder Leonard J. Ellis  – known as “Uncle Len” from his on-air days -- says he remembers bringing the future country music hall-of-famer to local shows at the Hammond Civic Center back in the 1950s when Ellis worked as a concert promoter.
After being first in line to greet Jones backstage, during the “meet-and-greet”, Uncle Len came out on stage just before Jones’ performance to thank the crowd for coming out and to reminisce a little about his own long history in country music. Ellis and his wife Bee founded the company that today is known as Radio One Communications, going on the air with their first radio station, WAYK-AM AM-1500 in November 1964.

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Prescription Medicine Take-Back Apr 27

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Police departments across the Region... including Indiana State Police Lowell Post... Lake, Porter, Newton County Sheriffs Departments... Schererville Police and Valparaiso Police.... just to name a few are joining law enforcement agencies around the country taking part in the Drug Enforcement Administration's 6th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Saturday, April 27, 10 am to 2 pm local time. The Drug Enforcement Administration says it's a great opportunity for those who missed the previous events, or who have subsequently accumulated unwanted, unused prescription drugs, to safely dispose of those medications.
In the five previous Take-Back events, DEA in conjunction with state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners have collected more than 2 million pounds (1,018 tons) of prescription medications were removed from circulation.
The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposal, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of these medications. 
To find a dropoff location near you, visit:   You can contact the Call Center at 1-800-882-9539 if you require assistance.

Read more: Prescription Medicine Take-Back Apr 27


Police Warn of Police Impersonators

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Police in Hammond are warning residents about recent home invasions where people impersonated police officers. It happened Monday in the 43-hundred block of Baltimore where two men, one reportedly displaying a handgun, said they were on a raid, then went inside and took money. Another incident happened Tuesday in the 44-hundred block of Ash Avenue, where officials say someone came to the door saying he was an officer, and two other people got inside through a back door. Police report nothing appeared to be taken in that case.

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Donnelly Introduces Suicide Prevention Act

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Freshman Indiana US Senator Joe Donnelly introduced his first bill Thursday, the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act of 2013. Donnelly says last year, our nation lost more troops to suicide than to combat in Afghanistan. He says the legislation would create a pilot program integrating mental health assessments into a servicemember’s health assessments and involve first-line supervisors’ input to identify risk factors in evaluating readiness to serve. Sexton was a 21-year-old National Guard soldier from rural Farmland, Indiana, who authorities say fatally shot himself while watching a movie at a theater with friends in October of 2009 while on a 15-day leave from Afghanistan.

Read more: Donnelly Introduces Suicide Prevention Act


SUV Crashes Into Business

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[Photo by John Scheibel of The Times]
No reports of injuries when an SUV crashed into and through the front wall of an upholstery business in Valparaiso Thursday morning. Officials say the driver apparently hit the accelerator instead of the brake while pulling into a parking space near an area of small businesses off Formula Drive.

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Teens Arrested After Pursuit

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Multiple police agencies were involved in a pursuit that ended with the arrest of two teens from Gary and Merrillville Thursday at the Lake/Porter County line. Officials say the chase down Interstate 94 involved juvenile suspects in a burglary on North Goldring Road outside La Porte. Police say a third suspect, a teen from LaPorte County, was not in the car that fled the scene. Police say one of the suspects in the car, a 16-year-old girl, had a gun, but did not threaten to use it.

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Budget Has Billion-Dollar Tax Cut

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The state of Indiana is poised to cut taxes by a billion dollars. The largest package of tax cuts in state history is up for vote as lawmakers Thursday announced the budget plan now includes a combined five-percent income tax cut, with the first reduction beginning in 2015, followed by an additional two percent two years later. House Bill 1001 also eliminates the inheritance tax, and contains tax relief for businesses as well.
Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma [bahz-muh] issued a joint statement Thursday, regarding House Bill 1001, which they say will provide a three percent individual income tax cut for Hoosier taxpayers on January 1, 2015 and an additional 2 percent cut on January 1, 2017. Long says the measure represents single largest tax cut in the history of the state. Bosma says they have reached a budget that meets their goals of “prioritizing education and road funding while maintaining strong fiscal reserves. “
Governor Mike Pence, who had sought a ten-percent reduction in the income tax rate, called the agreement reached between his administration and legislative leaders for a 5 percent income tax cut... along with repeal of the inheritance tax ...and additional tax relief for businesses... a “great victory” for Hoosier taxpayers.

Read more: Budget Has Billion-Dollar Tax Cut


Calumet City Project Starts May 1

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Starting the first of May, you'll need extra time traveling through Calumet City, A signal modernization project begins, weather permitting, at the intersection of River Oaks Drive and Burnham Avenue. The Illinois Department of Transportation says traffic signal improvements, patching and resurfacing will require weekday lane closures between 7am and 3:30 pm, with lanes reduced to one lane in each direction.The 582-thousand dollar project has a tentative completion date of mid July 2013. Find details on other construction projects in IDOT’s District 1 at . Updates on the impacts to traffic are available at


Read more: Calumet City Project Starts May 1


Lawmakers Want Med Device Tax Taken Out

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State Sen. Ryan Mishler, Bremen (Photo provided)
Northern Indiana lawmakers are urging the federal government to repeal a new excise tax on the sale of medical devices in the United States, the tax is a provision of the new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act. The Indiana Senate has approved a resolution authored by Columbia City State Representative Kathy Heuer and sponsored by Bremen State Senator Ryan Mishler to that effect. Mishler says Warsaw, Indiana, is commonly known as the Orthopedic Capital of the World, and the tax would hurt residents of his district. The medical device industry is a strong component of Indiana's economy and employs 26-thousand Hoosiers.  “Firms like Biomet, Zimmer, DePuy, Medtronic, Orthopediatrics and supporting companies account for $11 billion of the world’s $38 billion orthopedic industry and employ 13,000 people. I sponsored this resolution in an effort to preserve this great industry in Indiana,” Mishler said. A copy of House Concurrent Resolution 51 can be found at Mishler's website,  by clicking on the 2013 Legislation link

Read more: Lawmakers Want Med Device Tax Taken Out


Suspect in Mary Austgen Murder Case Faces Charges

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Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance acknowledged that through tips received by the public, several people were viewed as possible suspects early in the murder investigation of former
Griffith businesswoman, 76 year-old, Mary Austgen. 
Police Chief Mance said one of those suspects, the same man appearing in the surveillance photos released shortly after the crime, was identified as 57 year-old Ralph Perez Martinez of south suburban Alsip, Illinois.  Mance said with additional publicity about the case Martinez became the main suspect, which lead to a search warrant of his residence and subsequent arrest and charges.
The Lake County Prosecutor's office this afternoon returned charges of Murder, Robbery and Criminal Confinement against Martinez for "acts that occurred Mary Austgen during the evening hours of march 28th, 2013." 
Chief Mance revealed that the suspect, a mechanic by trade, had been a past tenant at property owned by Austgen in the 800 block of E. Main Street in Griffith.  Meanwhile, Mance said the investigation is no longer pursuing information about the black sedan seen other security photos picking up the suspect at the Majestic Star Casino, as  the driver has cooperated with police and is no longer a person of interest in the investigation.
The victim's son, Jeff Austgen spoke at the press conference saying the family was "elated" that the suspect was in custody.  But Austgen also said that the family had gone through a lot emotions including "glad he's (the suspect) apprehended" and "sad the next minute" because "it doesn't change what has happened."  He also expressed the families appreciation, thanking, "the press, people out there that have extended offers to us to help us anyway they can.  It's been great."  He added, "it really make  think there are still good people out there."
Mance said investigators are still seeking a motive in the case and the missing two rings the victim reportedly was wearing the night of her murder and photos of which have been featured by the media.  Chief Mance asks that if anyone has information about the movements and actions of Martinez in the days before and after the murder of Mary Austgen, and in particular the two rings taken, are asked to contact the Griffith Police Department's non-emergency line; 219 924-3141, the Griffith Police Tip Hotline 219 922-3085 or Gary Police Detective, Lorenzo Davis at 219 881-4738. 
Griffith Police Chief Mance
Griffith Police Chief, Greg Mance at today's press conference at Griffith Town Hall
Jeff Austgen
Murder victim's son, Jeff Austgen expresses the family's appreciation of the media and public for making the suspect's arrest possible
Griffith Gary Police ATF and FBI
Griffith Police Chief, Greg Mance (center), victim's son, Jeff Austgen (left) among investigators at today's press conference announcing the arrest on three charges including murder of their main suspect, Ralph Perez Martinez
Suspect being driven away to Lake County Jail
The murder investigation's prime suspect, 57 year-old, Ralph Perez Martinez of Alsip, Illinois seen in rear seat leaving the Griffith Police Station and being transported to Lake County Jail.
(photos courtesy of Jay Stevens)
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Read more: Suspect in Mary Austgen Murder Case Faces Charges


Free Mulch for Porter County Residents While Supplies Last

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Just as Porter County residents are itching to begin the gardening season, Valparaiso’s Public Works department has announced that it will provide free loading of mulch for Porter County residents, while supplies last. The loading fee for compost remains in place, as does the delivery fee for either mulch or compost.
There are 3 options for obtaining mulch and compost:
  • Residents may self-load the materials for free at two locations. Self-loading locations and hours are: Valparaiso Compost Site (2150 West Lincolnway) - Monday – Friday, 9 am - 5 pm and Saturday, 9 am - 4 pm, and Department of Public Works (406 Don Hovey Drive) – Monday – Friday, 7 am - 4 pm and Saturday, 7 am - 3 pm. Please bring your own shovels and containers.
  • Bulk loading is available for any Porter County resident or business at the Public Works location only (406 Don Hovey Drive, Monday – Friday, 7 am – 3:30 pm and Saturday, 7 am – 2:30 pm) Public Works will load your pickup or open trailer. Mulch is free and compost is $10.00 per cubic yard for residents/non-profits and $15.00 per cubic yard for businesses.
  • Delivery is provided by Valparaiso Public Works to those Valparaiso residents inside the city’s garbage service area only. (There is no delivery service provided to County residents outside the city service area.) The price for delivered mulch is $15 per cubic yard to homes and non-profits, and $20 per cubic yard to businesses. Minimum for delivery is two yards and must be arranged in person at the Public Works office during regular office hours, Monday through Friday, 7 am to 4 pm. The homeowner must sign a permit for delivery and pre-pay by cash or check. In most cases delivery will occur on the following business day. At this time Public Works is requesting residential delivery be limited to 10 cubic yards.
Please see the city’s website at or call Public Works at 462-4612 for more information.


Read more: Free Mulch for Porter County Residents While Supplies Last


16 Year Old Skylar Burgess of Cedar Lake Missing

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Skylar Burgess
(Photo Courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office)
Authorities are investigating the disappearance of a 16 year old Cedar Lake girl. The Lake County Sheriff's office reports Skylar Burgess was last seen at the Lake County Public Library, Cedar lake Branch, on March 21st. Skylar Burgess is described as a white female, 5'8'', weighing 120 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. The Sheriff's Department reports Burgess has some ties out of state, particularly in South Jordan, Utah, and had no money or cloths with her when she was last seen. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to please contact the Lake County Sheriff's Office. For more information visit,  The Lake County Sheriff's Anonymous Hotline number with information is 800-750-2746.
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Read more: 16 Year Old Skylar Burgess of Cedar Lake Missing


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