Us & Them Us & Them explores all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us. Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on religion, sexuality, and other important issues
Us & Them

Us & Them

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Us & Them explores all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us. Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on religion, sexuality, and other important issues

Most Recent Episodes

Us & Them Encore: SNAP — Do The Hungry Get More Policy Than Nutrition?

Forty-two million Americans or about 12 percent of the the population need help feeding their families. That help often comes from a federal program called SNAP - which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps. The Mountain State is one of the top recipients of SNAP benefits. Nearly 45 percent of recipients are older adults or families with someone who's disabled while nearly 60 percent are families with children. The nation's food support program began six decades ago, as a pilot program in McDowell County. Since then it has reduced poverty and hunger across the nation. In an award-winning encore episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay talks with three people, a retiree, a mom and a lawmaker who all say that nutritional support has made a difference in their lives.

Us & Them Encore: SNAP — Do The Hungry Get More Policy Than Nutrition?

Us & Them Encore: Can Childhood Trauma Limit The Future?

We continue to learn more about the way childhood trauma can affect our physical and psychological health and the result is creating a social movement. More than two decades ago, researchers first came up with a way to assess the impact of childhood neglect, abuse and family dysfunction. Nearly half the kids under 18 in the U.S. have had an adverse experience or serious trauma. Now, advocates are getting traction with "trauma-aware" campaigns and coalitions. Many institutions are investing in trauma awareness, training and screening. The original study, published in 1998, concluded that early traumas contribute to poor health outcomes later in life. That research got almost no attention when it was first published, however today its findings are considered ground-breaking. But some say using such a rubric to assess a person's experience won't work for everyone and may simply label and limit their future potential.

Us & Them Encore: Compassion Fatigue

Homelessness has been on the rise since 2016 and the pandemic only exacerbated an acute shortage of resources to help people living on the streets. Now, many communities are struggling to provide support as some homeless people turn away from emergency shelters and remain in outdoor encampments. In Charleston, West Virginia, the city's opioid response program also now focuses on homelessness. Outdoor encampments have been a focus at the state legislature as debate continues over how best to help people living on the street. At the same time, some people say they're more afraid of people living on the street than in the past. Providing sustained care for homeless people continues to elude and divide even well-meaning and determined communities. Earlier this year, this episode received a second place award from the Virginias AP Broadcasters for Best Podcast.

Us & Them: Our Foster Care Crisis

There's a foster care crisis in America. Nationally, more than 390,000 children are in foster care, in West Virginia that's just over 6,000 children who need a safe place to call home. Last year, more than half of all states saw their number of licensed homes drop, some as high as 60 percent. That challenge comes because new foster parents don't stay in the system for long. On this episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay hears about the shortage of licensed foster homes. Foster care is most often needed because of parental substance use, mental health challenges, poverty and neglect. While official foster care cases are tracked and overseen by state agencies and non-profit organizations, there are many informal kinds of so-called kinship care that are not official or included in state data. Some experts say the number of those kinship cases drives the stakes of the challenge much higher.

Us & Them: Locked Out Of Voting?

More than 4.5 million Americans cannot vote because of a felony conviction but only about a quarter are currently in prison. On the newest episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay talks with people who support expanded voting rights for felons, and those who say people who've committed crimes should forfeit their rights until they serve their entire sentence, including any probation or parole. Felon disenfranchisement laws differ significantly from state to state and even legal experts say it can be difficult for someone to know their rights. In a few states a person can vote from prison, while in others, voting rights are restored upon release or completion of parole or probation. Despite recent trends to expand voting rights, some states are moving in the opposite direction. In Florida, voters passed an amendment to restore voting rights to most people with felonies, but lawmakers passed a new law requiring that people pay all of their court fees first. And in Virginia only the governor can restore the right to vote for someone convicted of a felony.

Us & Them: Another Small Town Paper Down

Our country's divides often reveal themselves in our choices and habits, including how and where we get our information. As the economics of the media landscape have imploded, the economics of the industry have forced changes. In the past two decades, online sites have taken over much of the income stream from classified ads and general advertising. That has led newspapers and broadcasters to slash thousands of jobs. Many local news outlets have gone out of business and there are now more than 200 counties across the country with no source of local news. One of those is McDowell County in West Virginia. Last year, publisher Missy Nester was forced to shut down the Welch Daily News after a valiant effort to keep the paper running. Join host Trey Kay and reporter Todd Melby on this episode of Us & Them to see what happens when local news organizations stop telling the stories of a community.

Us & Them Encore: Dicamba Woes

There's a nationwide rift among farmers over the use of dicamba, a popular herbicide. A 2024 federal court ruling has halted dicamba's use, but the Environmental Protection Agency has given the green light for farmers to use existing supplies this year. In this episode of Us & Them, we revisit a story from our archives that delves into the intense battle unfolding in farm country. Originally designed to help soybean farmers combat 'pigweed,' dicamba has proven controversial because it drifts from where it's sprayed, causing harm to desirable plants. The legal fallout has reached a point where farmers and gardeners hesitate to speak out about crop or plant damage due to fear. On the flip side, those advocating for dicamba have taken the matter to court, challenging the authority over pesticide use rules in some states. In a departure from the typical tight-knit atmosphere of rural farm communities, where issues are often resolved locally, Arkansas is experiencing an un-neighborly atmosphere, with tensions escalating.

Us & Them: Navigating Post-Pandemic Medicaid

Our healthcare systems continue to struggle from aftereffects of the pandemic. The most recent example spotlights Medicaid - a joint federal and state program that provides health coverage for more than 90 million Americans with limited resources. After several years of continuous coverage, now everyone must reapply for eligibility. In the this episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay reports more than a quarter of West Virginia residents rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. It pays for three-quarters of West Virginia's nursing home residents; and nearly half of the state's school kids use Medicaid to pay for their annual checkups. However the application process is finding many ineligible because of changes in personal information and contact data that weren't updated in the system. Join us as we look at the 'unwinding' of Medicaid, as millions of the nation's most vulnerable struggle to maintain their health coverage.

Us & Them: The Geography of Abortion

State borders are the new front lines in the nation's abortion battle. On this episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay looks at the evolving geography of abortion. Since a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned federal abortion rights, 21 states have either banned or restricted abortion access, including West Virginia. Meanwhile, West Virginia's neighbor, Maryland, is one of 22 states that are protecting abortion rights and expanding access. Kay follows the decision of Women's Health Center of West Virginia to move its abortion services from Charleston to a new clinic just over the border near Cumberland, Maryland. The move was intentional because western Maryland, like West Virginia, is a so-called abortion desert. The two regions have some deep political and cultural similarities. Western Maryland Republicans say they feel ignored by the overwhelmingly liberal, Democratic legislature in Annapolis. They say the new abortion clinic is not wanted or needed in their part of Maryland, and they blame the clinic's presence on the fallout from Roe v. Wade's defeat.

Us & Them: Expungement — Between Hope and Danger

It's estimated that more than a quarter of the adults in West Virginia have a criminal record. That includes cases with one arrest or more, but no conviction or jail time. Those records can still show up years later in a background check and make someone ineligible for a job or a place to live. On this Us & Them, host Trey Kay looks at the road toward a second chance. Nearly every state now has some sort of process to seal or expunge a record depending on the severity and type of crime, for people who want to take steps toward their future. In this episode, we look at the process which can be complicated and time consuming. Some say it has given them hope — while others suggest there are dangers in shielding potential employers from the truth about people they might hire.