Dustin Dwyer

Reporter/Producer

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

In 2010, Dustin left journalism to be a stay-at-home dad. Now that his daughter Irene is turning two, he's happy to be back at Michigan Radio, where there are far fewer temper-tantrums. 

Ways to Connect

Photo courtesy of George Bayard

February is a busy time for George Bayard. He’s a collector and a keeper of black history, and this is the one month he’s in high demand in Grand Rapids.

I met him this past weekend in a large, noisy hallway during an ethnic festival at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. He stood in front of a table full of his own collected pieces of black history.

Some pieces he collected during the 25 years he ran his own art gallery in Grand Rapids. Some were just left for him.

“I’d come in some days,” he says, “and there’d be something just sitting on a step.”

flickr.com/swaity / Licenced under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Michelle Gach grabs a couple slices of pizza before we get started. She has a story to tell, and it turns out to be a long one, covering the past 14 years of her life, with more tragic turns than most people see in an entire lifetime.

But that comes later. For now, we’re sitting in a room together: Michelle, two of her daughters, and two friendly pit bulls.

The room is mostly bare, exposed plywood on the floor, blue strips of painter’s tape along the baseboard, new doors still leaning against the wall. A project waiting to be finished.

While Michelle Gach finishes her pizza, her daughter Felicity begins to tell me the story of what happened on a Saturday in August 2014.

flickr/bradadozier

The Centers for Disease Control released new statistics Friday on drug overdose deaths in the U.S. The numbers may not be surprising to anyone who's followed our reporting, but they are still shocking. According to the CDC, 1,762 people died from drug overdoses in Michigan alone in 2014. And that's a 13.2% increase over 2013. 

flickr/hernanpc

This is the story of a new movement in American education; a story about a new way of thinking about how some students learn, and how to get them to love school.

And it is a story about one person in this movement who’s trying to make a difference.

This story starts in Rochester, New York, in the 1980s, where a kid named Bettina Love was growing up. She grew up knowing her town had been home to some of the world’s greatest companies: Xerox, Kodak, Bausch and Lomb. Then the economy changed.

LBJ Library photo by Frank Wolfe

The federal government has a long history of involvement in the nation's schools, particularly in the past half century, after President Lyndon Johnson first signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into law. I wrote of that history earlier this year. At the time, I mentioned many education leaders were optimistic that the latest update to the law would soon pass.

Well, soon has arrived.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act was approved by the U.S House last week. The Senate takes it up starting tomorrow. Politico says the bill has plenty of support on both sides of the aisle, and President Obama is expected to sign it if it reaches his desk. 

So, what's in the new law? Well, a lot. 

stockmonkeys.com

Pacific Standard magazine published a piece online yesterday tracing the history of OxyContin, and the rise of opiate addiction in the United States. We've reported here that opiate abuse has killed more than 3,000 people in Michigan alone since 2005. A growing number of those deaths can be attributed to heroin overdoses. Heroin is one kind of opiate. But it's worth remembering how this epidemic started. It started with prescription drug companies chasing profits. 

leeroy09481 / flickr

Michigan is beginning to reach a state of normalcy after the worst economic shock in a generation. Last week, the state announced the unemployment rate held steady at 5%, which matches the national average. Which is to say, Michigan is no longer a worse-than-average place for people trying to find work. 

And that's good news, because a new economic paper spells out just how bad a job loss can be not just for the adults going through it, but for their kids too. 

flickr/michigancommunities / Michigan Municipal League

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder took some time yesterday to clarify his stance on the future of Syrian refugees in Michigan.

Snyder, who two years ago declared himself "probably the most pro-immigration governor in the country," now says he doesn't want to completely stop Syrian refugees from arriving in Michigan. He just wants a pause, so that the federal Department of Homeland Security can review its screening procedures to ensure none of the refugees (who already undergo intensive screening) are terrorists. 

"Most people are not terrorists," the governor said, according to a report from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta. "This is just to be prudent, to make sure some terrorist element is not entering our country." 

U.S. House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee

What you see above is a chart of all 80 federal programs that provide help to low-income families. This chart was prepared by the leaders of the U.S. House committee that oversees federal social service programs. Republican leaders on the committee put it together for a hearing a couple days ago.

flickr/vcucns

Kent County Sherriff Deputy Patrick Stewart was on his lunch break last week. Lunch, in his case, was at 12:30 in the morning. He stopped at a fire house in the town of Cutlerville, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids.

"And I heard a very loud knocking, pounding on the door," he says. "When I got to the door, there was a frantic man there saying that he had somebody – his buddy – in the back of his vehicle, and had ODed on heroin, and was no longer breathing."

Stewart called for an ambulance, and started chest compressions on the man. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic who came to help is actually Stewart’s wife, Amanda. She gave the man a drug called Naloxone. It works as basically an antidote to a heroin overdose, reviving someone who’s on the verge of slipping away. Together, the newly married husband and wife saved the man’s life.

That part of the story is remarkable.

Everything else about it has become far too common, says Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young.

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