Hélène Biandudi Hofer

Award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, TV news magazine host and producer. Creator of The Empty Hanger, a documentary news series currently in production by Hélène's media group, HBH Enterprises.

WATCH: Former Heroin Addict Speaks Out To Help Save Lives

206 - that is the number of deaths in 2016 related to heroin, opioids, fentanyl, and related substances within the ten counties served by the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office. That’s a number that grew 142% from 2015 to 2016. It’s also a number that the Polito family of Rochester, like countless others, feared would include their own child, Mary Jo. In 2016 they learned their daughter was addicted to heroin and life as they knew it changed. Now, Mary Jo is speaking out for the first time in the hopes of saving at least one life.

WATCH: Old-School Letter Writing Brings Diverse Demographics Together

From the outside they may look like an unlikely pair. One is an 11-year-old with a passion for handball, skiing and accelerated math. The other is a resident at a senior living center with a love of music - she sings in two choruses and plays in a band. They first met through a letter. It's part of a pen pal project launched by the Hillside Family of Agencies. As Hélène Biandudi Hofer shows us, what started in the form of letter-writing has now developed into something much more.

WATCH: Is Ridesharing Accessible For Everyone?

The Center for Disability Rights recently hosted a candidate forum on disability issues. WXXI’s Hélène Biandudi Hofer moderated the event last year where one question continued to come up for area politicians: Will you vote to approve ridesharing even if companies are not required to ensure people of all abilities can access rides? Fast-forward 12 months and now Uber and Lyft are both operating in Rochester. But are they operating for everyone?

WATCH: Pairing Mentors With Ex-Offenders In An Effort To Reduce Recidivism Rates

It all started with a group of about ten people eager to give back by helping others move forward. They were trained and equipped to take on the proud label of: mentor. Their “mentees” on the other hand had a different type of label, one associated with a host of stigmas due to a troubled past. The mentors: Rochester residents. The “mentees”: ex-offenders returning to the community from time served behind bars. Twenty years later, is this program reducing recidivism rates in Rochester? Hélène Biandudi Hofer reports.

WATCH: Fighting Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell. That’s something you've likely heard about, but don’t know much about. Sickle cell is a disease that doesn’t necessarily show wear and tear on the outside, but on the inside, it can do significant damage - damage that can lead to death. But in New York State and in the Rochester region, work is underway to breathe new life into efforts that would improve the prevention of complications and treatment of sickle cell disease.

WATCH: Closing The Opportunity Gap For ROC City Students Through Equity

There’s an opportunity gap that exists in urban education. For those who live in Monroe County, but outside the City of Rochester, this gap matters to them too. How? The fate of our suburbs is deeply connected to the livelihood of our cities, including our public schools. But closing that opportunity gap can happen. Hélène Biandudi Hofer interviews Pedro Noguera, Ph.D., a renowned expert on public education in America, a sociologist and a Distinguished Professor of Education at UCLA & Shaun Nelms, Ed.D., an associate professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Superintendent of East High School.

WATCH: Direct Support Professionals Fight For A Living Wage

A living wage. That’s what a coalition of advocates and community agencies that support individuals with disabilities have been calling for in New York. The focus of that fight - the more than 120,000 New Yorkers who work with and care for individuals with disabilities. They’re called Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and according to the New York State Chapter of the Arc they’re in chronic short supply. While the governor allocated $55 million in the budget this year to support a wage increase for these professionals working with nonprofits - is that enough to recruit, train and sustain employees?
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