A collaboration among KCUR Public Radio, KCPT Public Television, KHI News Service and Kansas Public Radio, Heartland Health Monitor focuses on health issues and their impact in Missouri and Kansas.

Whether breaking news or in-depth features, we strive to bring listeners and readers timely, accurate and comprehensive coverage of a topic that leaves no one untouched.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A Kansas committee formed to vet a federally mandated plan to cut carbon emissions met for the first time Thursday in a hearing dominated by criticism of the plan.

Rep. Dennis Hedke, chairman of the Clean Power Plan Implementation Study Committee, blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for putting forth the rule, which is intended to prevent climate change.

“They have overstepped so many bounds it’s just almost unconscionable,” Hedke said.

Advocates for elderly and disabled Kansans are anxiously awaiting the publication of the state’s plan to combine seven Medicaid waivers into one.

The waivers currently provide home and community-based services for people within a range of support categories, including developmental disability, physical disability, traumatic brain injury or frail/elderly.

Iowa Healthcare Collaborative

Roughly 1,000 Kansas doctors soon will be participating in a massive nationwide initiative aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of the health care system.

The Kansas doctors will be part of a six-state transformation project managed by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, a nonprofit organization formed in 2004 by doctors and hospitals in the state.

Dr. Tom Evans, the CEO of the Iowa collaborative, said each of the participating states will be free to focus on its own improvement strategy.

Nineteen-year-old Claudia Rivera shares a single-story tract home in Liberal, Kansas, with her boyfriend, 20-year-old Jesùs Varela.

Last month, Varela’s mother moved in so she could watch Rivera’s baby boy, Fabian, while Rivera works at the Dollar General store and Valera pulls down a shift at the local meatpacking plant.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

After nearly two years of work, proponents of establishing a mental health crisis center in Kansas City’s urban core may be only weeks away from sealing a deal that involves a lot of moving parts.

“You can see the stars aligning,” said Kansas City Councilman Scott Wagner, a member of an informal coalition working since late 2013 to open the facility, which would stabilize individuals so they could be referred for other medical or behavioral health services.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

If Kansas legalized marijuana for broad medical use, marijuana-related car collisions and accidental ingestion hospitalizations likely would increase but crime and illegal consumption would not.

Those are the findings of a nearly yearlong study of other states that legalized marijuana for medicinal use done by the Kansas Health Institute, a health-policy information and research group based in Topeka, Kansas.

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

Once upon a time Kansas was a national leader in public health. Credit largely goes to Dr. Samuel Crumbine, who early in the 20th century created and led what is now the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

He convinced Kansans to stop spitting on sidewalks. And he pushed state lawmakers to pass food purity laws and to ban the public drinking cup. 

But times have changed.

Maria Carter / KCUR

A 72-bed, private behavioral health hospital opens its doors this week in Olathe amid growing demand for mental health and substance abuse services in an era of uncertain government support.  

Cottonwood Springs Hospital is the 12th behavioral health hospital built or under construction by Springstone Inc., a for-profit company founded in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2010 and backed by venture capital.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Los Angeles-based actor David Dastmalchian returned to Kansas with a message he said should transcend politics: We can’t give up on people who struggle with substance abuse and mental illness.

Dastmalchian is now a budding Hollywood star, with roles in blockbusters like 2008’s “The Dark Knight” and 2015’s “Ant-Man.” But 15 years ago he was a self-proclaimed “full-time heroin addict” living out of a car near Shawnee Mission Parkway.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library

An infectious disease that typically affects about 10 people in Kansas City annually has already spread to more than 14 times that number this year, health officials said Friday.

Shigella is spread by direct or indirect fecal-oral contact. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever and vomiting, among other symptoms. It may also cause convulsions in young children.

The Kansas City Health Department has investigated more than 143 cases of the disease since the start of the year, officials said.

The University of Missouri–Kansas City on Thursday said it's launching a program aimed at bringing more high school students into  science, engineering, technology and math.

The university said its School of Nursing and Health Studies and its School of Computing and Engineering had received a five-year, $2.5 million dollar grant to fund the program, called KC HealthTracks.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Several advocates for people with mental illness on Wednesday panned a proposal that would allow treatment facilities to hold people in crisis situations for up to 72 hours as involuntary patients.

“This is a deprivation of liberty,” Mike Burgess, a spokesperson with the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, said during a meeting of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition.

It would be better, he said, to expand access to voluntary treatment.

Andy Marso/KHI News

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday convened a new Governor’s Social Services Policy Council for the first time Wednesday in the luxury suites area at Sporting Park, the Kansas City, Kansas, home of the Sporting Kansas City soccer team.

At the end of the hourlong meeting, the council decided to focus on obtaining data about criminal recidivism and the breakdown of the family structure.

Kansas’ decision to not expand Medicaid is putting health care providers in jeopardy, the head of the state’s largest health system said Wednesday.

Jeff Korsmo, CEO of Wichita-based Via Christi Health, issued a statement calling on Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to drop their opposition to expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

Janet Rogers / UMKC

The National Institutes of Health has awarded up to $4.38 million in research money to the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s dental and nursing schools to address disparities in oral health among Kansas schoolchildren.

The Kansas Legislature’s in-house auditors released an efficiency study of Topeka’s Auburn-Washburn USD 437 in July, part of a series of school district audits commissioned by lawmakers looking to cut public education costs for kindergarten through 12th grade.

One of the auditors’ findings was that the district could save about $68,000 in salary and benefits and the state could save an additional $9,000 in pension contributions if Auburn-Washburn replaced four of its 10 school nurses with “health aides.”

Trust for America's Health/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Almost one in three adults in Kansas and Missouri is not just overweight but obese, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Updated, 11:00 a.m. Tuesday:

Registered nurses working at Menorah Medical Center "overwhelmingly" approved a new contract Tuesday morning at 12:30 am, according the National Nurses United spokesperson Julie Perry.

Prior to the approval, a spokesperson with HCA Midwest, which owns the hospital said in a statement say they were pleased with the agreement.

The original post continues below.

Mercy Hospital Independence

The scheduled closure of the only hospital in the southeast Kansas community of Independence could create new urgency around the Medicaid expansion debate.

Advocates of expanding the Kansas Medicaid program — known as KanCare — say the additional federal money it would generate would help stabilize a growing number of struggling hospitals in the state and might have helped save Mercy Hospital Independence.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

People who live in small towns across Kansas are struggling to save institutions that in their minds define their communities. Schools are often at the heart of these efforts.

But recent changes in the health care system are also focusing attention on rural hospitals, which are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. That’s true of both hospitals in Harper County, located along the Oklahoma border southwest of Wichita, where a long-standing rivalry is complicating efforts to find a solution.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Dantia MacDonald, 40, has anosognosia.

“It means I don’t have insight into my illness,” she said. “I can be having delusions that are really terrible and fantastical, but I’ll refuse any and all treatment because I don’t think I’m sick. I think the delusions are 100 percent real.”

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

An informal coalition of Kansas mental health advocates is close to proposing legislation that could prevent hundreds of people with serious mental illnesses from ending up in jails, emergency rooms or a state-run hospital.

“This has the potential to be one of those win-win-win situations that, frankly, in my 38-year career I can honestly say doesn’t come along very often,” said Bill Rein, commissioner of behavioral health services at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Both Kansas and Missouri are underperforming when it comes to reducing the number of uninsured within their borders.

From 2013 to 2014, all 50 states recorded statistically significant reductions in their uninsured rates, mostly because of the implementation of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

But most states saw bigger reductions than those posted in Kansas and Missouri.

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:39 p.m. and at 4:39 p.m.  

Truman Medical Centers said it is closing its behavioral health emergency department effective immediately and will transfer current patients to the hospital’s inpatient facility or to another psychiatric facility.

Truman CEO Charlie Shields said in a telephone interview that the move came after state and federal regulators made it clear the department needed “to look and operate as if it’s an emergency department in a regular hospital, and that’s fairly challenging for us.”

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A group of case managers from Johnson County who work with Kansans with disabilities came to Topeka last month to air grievances about the state’s “health homes” initiative.

In the morning, several of them testified in front of the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

James Dobson / Garden City Telegram

Lawyers for Garden City resident Shona Banda have prepared a lawsuit against Gov. Sam Brownback and the state agency that has custody of her child, claiming she has a constitutional right to use cannabis to treat her Crohn’s disease.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City invited Kathleen Sebelius to help it celebrate its first decade of grant making, but the woman who has served as both U.S. health secretary and Kansas governor came armed with a big idea for the next decennial.

“I think the challenge over the next 10 years is: How do you make Kansas City the healthiest region in the country?” Sebelius said at the foundation’s Tuesday luncheon in Kansas City. “I think that is a very reasonable goal. I don’t think that is at all out of reach.”

Esther Honig

This summer, more than 200 teams from around the world competed in KCRW's third International Radio Race. Participants were given the theme "Time Change" and 24 hours to produce a short radio story.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

This year marks historic anniversaries for several pieces of landmark legislation, including Medicare and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s also the 50th anniversary of another significant program, Head Start, which was launched as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

The program promotes school readiness for children in low-income families by offering educational, nutritional, health, social and other services.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A sudden exodus of top officials has public health officials concerned about the immediate future of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Two KDHE leaders were terminated and three others announced their retirements in recent weeks. Combined, the five have more than 80 years of agency experience.

“Our concern is the fact that the Department of Health and Environment is going to be weakened by the loss of all these people who had so much experience,” said Dennis Cooley, a Topeka pediatrician who is one of the state’s most vocal child health advocates.