Alex Smith

Health Reporter

Alex Smith began working in radio as an intern at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. A few years and a couple of radio jobs later, he became the assistant producer of KCUR's magazine show, KC Currents. In January 2014 he became KCUR's health reporter.
 

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Health
8:12 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Nixon Proposes $20 Million To Train Mental Health Professionals

Gov. Jay Nixon says Missouri is sorely lacking in mental health services, but he hopes to fix that with more higher education spending. 

Speaking Wednesday at UMKC’s School of Nursing, the Governor said his balanced budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015 included $20 million in grants for schools to train future psychiatrists, psychologist and mental health nurses.

Only 10 of the state’s 114 counties currently have adequate mental health care, according to a federal report.

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Health
7:48 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Kansas Lags Behind Missouri In Infectious Disease Preparedness

Kansas lags behind Missouri in being prepared for infectious diseases. That’s according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health. 

Both states lose points for low vaccination rates and for cutting funding for public health. Kansas also ranked low because it doesn’t require health facilities to report infections.

But Dr. Jeffrey Levi says our region isn’t the only place falling behind on those prevention measures.

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Health
7:20 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Kansas City Doctor Testing New Hepatitis C Breakthrough Drugs

Credit Gilead Sciences

In the past, the standard treatments for hepatitis C have been nearly as bad as the disease, making some patients feel like they have a severe flu. And, even with treatment, hepatitis C often doesn’t get better. But things could be changing for the over three million people infected in the United States. A new class of improved hepatitis C drugs is emerging, and they're being tested in Kansas City.

“When you get a call that says you’ve got hepatitis, it’s a wakeup call,” says 57-year old Bob Barber.

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KC Currents
8:33 am
Fri December 6, 2013

School Bus Innovations, Chocolate Me!, Sporting KC

Ernest Garner drives this school bus for Crabtree Transportation in the Belton School District.
Credit Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Keeping Kids Safe And Engaged On School Buses

We discuss what it takes to be a school bus driver, how safe buses really are, and some innovative new programs to keep kids engaged while they're on the bus, and make the most of what’s usually down time.

Tell KCUR: Sporting KC Fans Get A Kick Out Of Connection To Team

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Health
9:46 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Obamacare Rates And Subsidies Vary Widely Within Missouri

Rates for insurance plans purchased through the healthcare.gov website vary widely in Missouri, and to a lesser extent in Kansas.
Credit healthcare.gov

Now that healthcare.gov has undergone some major tweaks, supporters of the Affordable Care Act hope that a lot more people will go online and compare insurance rates. But what might surprise shoppers is how rates and subsidies vary depending on their address.

In Missouri, insurance buyers in different parts of the Show-Me State are seeing some of the most extreme cost differences in the country. 

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Health
9:54 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Doctors, Hospitals Report Delays From KanCare Companies

Kansas Department of Health and Environment director Kari Bruffet, Division of Healh Finance, addressed the KanCare legislative oversight committee at the state capitol on Monday.
Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

On Monday morning, Kansas Department of Health and Environment director of Health Care Finance, Kari Bruffett, addressed a packed legislative oversight meeting about issues with Kansas' new privatized Medicaid program, KanCare. Her department oversees the work of the three managed care companies that started administering the program that was rolled out this year.

She said that most of the glitches that came at the start of KanCare have been fixed, and the new system is now working nearly as well as the old Medicaid system.

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KC Currents
5:06 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

KanCare, Heritage Turkeys, Janelle Monae

Heritage turkeys roam freely at Good Shepherds Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, Kansas.
Credit Esther Honig / KCUR

KanCare Means Big Medicaid Cuts For Prairie Village Man

Finn Buller was born with a rare degenerative disease that has required a lot of complicated medical care including 24/7 in-home care. Now, as Kansas privatizes the state's Medicaid, Buller has found the services he depends on may be getting cut back.

Is KanCare Working?

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KC Currents
11:11 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Slaughterhouse Shadows, Missouri Lobbying, Post Office Veterans' Display

Mumino Abdullahi, seated here with her family, is a 26-year-old Somali refugee who trains workers to debone, cut and pack chicken at the Tyson plant in Noel, Mo.
Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media / KCUR

Chasing The American Dream In Rural Kansas And Missouri

For many generations, meatpacking plants in Kansas City were a place where immigrants found a foothold in U.S. society. Now, these plants have moved to rural areas, and the children of immigrant and refugee workers face more challenges in getting an education and pursuing their dreams. Harvest Public Media asked young people in Noel, Mo. and Garden City, Kan. about their aspirations.

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Government
4:11 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

What Does The Translational Medicine Vote Say About the Future of Sales Taxes?

Tax opponents at The Drop cheer televised election results.
Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

Tuesday night at The Drop in midtown Kansas City, Mo., tax opponents cheered their approval as Jackson County election results popped up on the big-screen television. A ballot measure to create a half cent sales tax for medical research was voted down by more than 5-to-1.

Former Kansas City Star writer Jim Fitzpatrick was a leader against the tax. He believed the vote signaled more than a rejection of a single tax proposal.

"I think it could be the dawning of a new era of public scrutiny of tax proposals in Kansas City," Fitzpatrick said.

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KC Currents
4:01 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

West Bottoms Future, Zombie Queen, Haunted Creepys

The Zombie Queen walks on stilts for Kansas City's annual Zombie Walk.
Credit Shane Linden / P.S. Linden Photography

How Haunted Houses Helped Develop The West Bottoms

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, thousands of people flocked to the historic West Bottoms neighborhood to tour Kansas City’s haunted houses. And while these houses are known as some of the oldest and most terrifying attractions in the country, you might not know that they’ve also been major contributors to the development of the former stockyards district. But not everyone thinks they should be part of the future of the West Bottoms.

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Health
2:24 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

What Is Translational Medicine?

A proposed half-cent sales tax would raise $800 million over the next 20 years to be divided among Children’s Mercy Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.
Credit user Mrd7b2 / Wikipedia

On November 5, Jackson County voters will decide whether to fund a translational medicine institute. A proposed half-cent sales tax would raise $800 million over the next 20 years to be divided among Children’s Mercy Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

Ten percent of the $800 million and 20 percent of profits the program generates would fund local public health initiatives.

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KC Currents
11:31 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Youth Mental Health, Chiefs Windfall, Meet The Penguins

Penguins in the cold temperature section of the new exhibit at the Kansas City Zoo.
Credit Esther Honig / KCUR

Bistate Conversation About Youth Mental Health

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama called for a national conversation on mental health. Kansas City was chosen as one of ten cities to host a dialog in a program called Creating Community Solutions. On Saturday,  September 21,  two mayors and some 360 participants spent the day discussing how to improve mental health in metro Kansas City, particularly among young people. Hear voices of young people at the event.

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Health
10:00 am
Thu October 24, 2013

KanCare Means Big Medicaid Cuts For Prairie Village Man

Finn Bullers at home with family.
Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

It's early evening at the Bullers' house in Prairie Village, and the family gathers around the table. The Bullers kids, Alora and Christian, talk school while their mother, Anne, serves dinner.

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KC Currents
11:01 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Raising Bilingual Kids, Maryville Rape Case, Mike Stover

A kindergarten teacher at the Kansas City Chinese School points to characters on the white board.
Credit Beth Lipoff / KCUR
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KC Currents
11:22 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

KCPS Accreditation, Medical Apps, Lupe Gonzalez

Kindergartners at James Elementary use laptops in the classroom.
Credit Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

How One Kansas City Public School Is Improving Scores And Making Change

Visit James Elementary School, in Kansas City's historic Northeast neighborhood, which has seen substantial improvement in student test scores. So much so that the school recently landed on Missouri’s list of most-improved low-income schools. 

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KC Currents
11:19 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Sprint Pushes Medical App Development With KC Boot Camp

Sprint's Kevin McGinnis speaks at Accelerator launch.
Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

In his Overland Park, Kan. office, Dr. Rohit Krishna administers an eye test, but he isn't using big contraptions or wall charts. Krishna administers the entire test on his iPad using an app called The Eye Handbook. Krishna created The Eye Handbook about four years ago with other University of Missouri - Kansas City medical professors and residents. It is designed especially for use in countries that don't have a lot of medical services.

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KC Currents
4:48 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Farm Bill Expires, SNAP Benefits, Pageant in Drag, KC Ballet Debut

Miss Gay Kansas City 2013, Heidi Banks, is crowned on stage at Hamburger Mary's in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Esther Honig / KCUR
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KC Currents
9:50 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Kansas Voter Registration, Health Marketplaces, Radkey

Isaiah, foreground, and brother, Dee Radke perform at the Rendezvous in St. Joseph, Mo.
Credit Matthew Long-Middleton / KCUR

21,000 Voter Registrations Stalled In Kansas

More than 20,000 people in Kansas have their voter registrations on hold, which means their vote won't count until the situation is resolved. About 80 percent of these stalled registrations happened at driver’s license offices and stem from a new law requiring people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote. 

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Health
7:43 am
Fri September 27, 2013

KU Med Gets $3 Million To Study The Effect Of Exercise On Alzheimer’s

Study volunteer Joe Gittemeier and KU Med neurology professor Jeffrey Burns.
Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

With help from a new grant, University of Kansas Medical Center researchers will look at how Alzheimer's might be prevented without drugs. Pharmaceutical companies haven’t had much success fighting the disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

KU Med Dr. Jeff Burns will have older high risk volunteers in the study exercise 150 minutes a week. Burns will scan volunteers’ brains to see how exercise affects amyloid protein, which is linked to the disease.

Burns says even if exercise can only hold off Alzheimer’s, it could make a big difference.

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KC Currents
9:42 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Health Marketplaces Open Soon, But Supporters In Mo. Face Hurdles

Credit 401(k) 2012 / Flickr--Creative Commons

In recent weeks, states like Colorado, California and Oregon have been hit hard by advertising campaigns designed to let people know about their state-created health marketplaces. State health marketplaces are a central part of the Affordable Care Act, but information about Missouri’s health marketplace has been hard to find. And that’s not just because the state decided not to set one up.

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KC Currents
1:18 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

KC Charter Review, Sustainable Neighborhoods, Cheerleading Gym

Sisters Amber Finley and Marie Abed pose in front of this outer space themed Art Squad alleyway mural.
Credit Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Citizen Group Reviews KC Government Charter

Kansas City is known as a “weak mayor” town. That’s no slight on Mayor Sly James, it’s the way the city charter sets up our government, where the mayor is a glorified city council member, and the city manager really runs the town. Since June, citizens in the Charter Review Commission has been meeting to make recommendations to revise the charter. Two major issues are the role of the mayor and the composition of the city council.  

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KC Currents
12:39 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

Kansas City Catholic Diocese Announces Increase In Abuse Reports

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, MO.
Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

A new report from the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph shows an increase in reports of child sexual abuse and suspicious behavior toward children.  The report is the work of the diocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection. While the overall numbers of reports are up, confirmed cases of abuse appear to be down.

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KC Currents
4:53 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Coming Out In College, Forte Records, Steamboat Arabia

Photo of Marva Whitney used by permission of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Libraries, Dr. Kenneth J. LaBudde Department of Special Collections.
Credit UMKC LaBudde Special Collections
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KC Currents
9:34 am
Thu September 5, 2013

How UMKC Paved The Way For Gay Student Groups Across The Country

Credit Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

The University of Missouri – Kansas City has taken big steps in recent years to be more welcoming to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and sexually-questioning students and staff.

Like a lot of universities, the school now considers diversity and inclusion to be a mission, right alongside educating students. But there hasn't always been an attitude of acceptance at UMKC.

Students at the university fought hard for LGBT rights, and the resulting legal victory influenced campuses around the country.

Welcome to UMKC, 2013

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KC Currents
12:58 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Uzazi Village, Self-Realization Fellowship, Medicine Museum

Sherry Payne, Executive Director of Uzazi Village, works to address infant and maternal health inequalities, especially in Kansas City's African-American community.
Credit Monica Sandreczki / KCUR
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KC Currents
4:37 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

KCPS Achievement, Black Israelites, Kosher BBQ

Travelers waiting for a flight at KCI.
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR

 

Kansas City School District Celebrates Good Evaluation

On Friday morning at Paseo Academy, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Green made a big announcement about the district's accreditation status.  It had leaped more than 40 points in the new state assessment system. KCUR’s Maria Carter was there and talked to us about what happened.

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KC Currents
3:06 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

Kansas City Kosher BBQ Contest Draws National Attention

Team Farbrengit wins big at kosher barbeque competition.
Credit Alex Smith / KCUR

For Zev Nerenberg, the journey from his home in New York to the parking lot of a synagogue in Overland Park, Kan. was a kind of pilgrimage.

“This is the barbeque capital of the world,” Nerenberg explained with a laugh. “There’s nothing to talk about!”

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KC Currents
12:38 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Mo. Voter Fraud, Operation Breakthrough, KC Creative Couples

Zhou Long and Chen Yi have taught for more than a decade at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance in Kansas City, Mo.
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR
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KC Currents
1:59 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Kansas City Museum, Oz Memorabilia, KC Creative Couples

The Kansas City Museum has been the subject of controversy since Union Station management fired the museum director.
Credit Susan B. Wilson / KCUR

Union Station Issues Statement On Museum Agreement With City

It came as a shock to a lot of people when Kansas City Museum director Christopher Leitch was let go last month by the management of Union Station. The two institutions merged back in 2000, but have had a rocky relationship ever since.  And now it’s really unclear what the future will be for both institutions.  KCUR arts reporter Laura Spencer has been following the fall-out from the departure of the museum’s director.

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