Bryan Thompson

Rural Health & Agriculture Reporter, Kansas News Service

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service, specializing in rural health and agriculture. He is based in Salina.

Researchers at the University of Kansas have been hired by the State Department of Education to develop a model anti-bullying policy for use in schools statewide.

All Kansas schools must have an anti-bullying policy, but coming up with effective policies and practices to meet that requirement can get complicated. Researchers at the University of Kansas plan to launch a statewide series of meetings in October to present educators with a model policy to build their own programs around.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved the Kansas Plan on Aging for the next four years. The plan is a broad outline of how the state intends to use federal resources under the Older Americans Act.

Secretary for Aging and Disability Services, Shawn Sullivan, says the plan is based on priorities identified by older Kansans, and those who work with them.

“Seniors here in Kansas want to stay at home, and in order to do that, I think there are some changes that we need to make," says Sullivan.

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Researchers at the University of Kansas say fatty acids added to baby formula produce lasting gains in intelligence and performance.

Infant formula has been enriched with fatty acids since 2001, based in part on research done by University of Kansas scientists John Colombo and Susan Carlson.  The new findings by Colombo and Carlson are based on 81 babies who were tested every six months over a span of six years. 

KHI News Service

In a little less than two months, Kansans will be able to begin shopping for individual health insurance plans through the new, online marketplace called the exchange. Most of the plans will be sold by three companies.

According to Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, they'll be the same three companies that provide the bulk of health insurance in Kansas now: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Blue Cross of Kansas City, and Coventry.

The Kansas Insurance Department is planning meetings to help educate people about the Affordable Care Act.

Kansas policymakers have decided not to expand the state's Medicaid program or to create a Kansas-specific exchange for consumers to buy individual health insurance policies. But the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will bring some changes to the Medicaid program, whether the state's political leaders want to cooperate, or not.

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A two-year investigation by the U.S. Senate concludes that so-called dental management companies have provided substandard care to low-income children covered by Medicaid, while over billing the joint federal-state program.

A $10 million estate gift will fund scholarships for health professions students at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and support libraries at the medical center and at KU in Lawrence. 

The gift is from the estate of David and Stata Ringle. Stata Ringle was a researcher, professor and dean at the medical center for 28 years, beginning in 1962. 

KU Endowment President Dale Seuferling says the bequest will more than double the scholarship support for students in the School of Health Professions at KU Med.

Three years after taking effect, the Clean Indoor Air Act remains overwhelmingly popular among Kansas voters, according to a statewide public opinion poll. It finds that 78 percent of Kansas voters approve of the law that prohibits smoking in most public places. 

One of the tradeoffs made to get the law passed exempts state-operated casinos from the smoking ban.

The Brownback Administration wants federal permission to make changes to the new, privatized Medicaid system known as KanCare.  You'll have a chance to comment on the plans next Monday and Tuesday, in Wichita and Topeka.

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Medicare patients who have diabetic testing supplies delivered to them experienced some changes this week.

It’s all part of an effort by the Medicare program to save money and cut down on fraud. But some people are worried about unintended consequences.

A public services announcement issued by Medicare attempts to lay out the changes for diabetic Medicare recipients:

An on-going scam to bill senior citizens for medical alert device service is gaining steam in Kansas and other Midwestern states.  

The Better Business Bureau says there’s been a significant increase in calls about the scheme.  The pre-recorded message claims that someone has purchased a medical alert device for the person as a gift.  Then the recipient is asked to verify his or her identity with a bank account or credit card number. 

Douglas County has been awarded grants totaling more than $68,000 for a regional food hub feasibility study. 

The year-long study will determine whether 16 counties in the northeast corner of Kansas could benefit by creating a warehouse for locally-grown foods.  Lawrence/Douglas County Sustainability Coordinator Eileen Horn says one goal is to help meet the demand from institutional kitchens for fresh, local food.

A new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts bolsters the argument that dental access challenges in Kansas require a new type of dental provider.

The report lists the ten states with the most severe shortage of dentists, and the ten states where low-income children are least likely to receive dental care. Kansas is not on either of those lists.

Still, nearly 55 percent of Kansas kids covered by Medicaid received no dental care in 2011. The report also reveals that more than 16 percent of the state’s population is underserved, and living in a dental shortage area.

Ash Grove Cement Company has agreed to pay a penalty, and invest $30 million in new pollution control technology at its nine manufacturing plants-one of which is in Chanute, Kan. The settlement stems from charges that Ash Grove violated the Clean Air Act.

The consent decree allows the Overland Park-based company to pay a $2.5 million penalty, and install new pollution controls at plants in nine states, without having to admit to violating air quality requirements.

The University of Kansas is wrestling with how to cut $13.5 million from its budget over the next two years, but the funding reduction will not prompt the closing of the KU School of Medicine's campus in Salina

The KU Medical Center, which operates the school, will have to absorb more than $8 million in cuts. KU spokesman Jack Martin says closing the Salina campus, and scaling back operations in Wichita are no longer on the table.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that segments of naturally-occurring human genes cannot be patented. The ruling may change the focus of genomic research, but it won't stop it.

Professor Andrew Torrance specializes in biotechnology patent law at the University of Kansas. He says the ruling falls hardest on companies that have invested billions of dollars, hoping to profit from patents on human gene fragments like those that help reveal a person’s risk for breast cancer.

The Medicare Summary Notice senior citizens receive every month has been redesigned. The changes are meant to make it easier to spot fraudulent claims.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the federal government has devoted new resources to rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare program. The notice beneficiaries receive each month to explain their claims is being upgraded to make it easier to spot claims for services they never received.

Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital expect a three-week-old girl to make a full recovery after they closed an aneurysm in her brain, using super glue. 

Jared and Gina Julian knew there was something wrong with their three-week-old daughter.  Her mother says little Ashlyn began screaming and showing other symptoms.

“She was very stiff, then very rag-doll limp, and then kind of not super responsive,” says Gina Julian. “And later that night, she again projectiled, at which point in time we just were, she’s going back to the hospital.”

A new EPA report to Congress says the nation's drinking water infrastructure will need $384-billion dollars worth of improvements over the next 20 years, including more than $4-billion in Kansas. 

William Carr manages the revolving loan fund that finances drinking water projects in Kansas.  He says most of the projects on the list are for transmission and distribution—especially the underground pipes that carry water to homes and businesses…

Kansas lawmakers this year spared early childhood programs from the budget axe, but advocates for those programs say children didn't fare well overall in the 2013 legislative session.

The top concern, according to April Holman of the non-profit Kansas Action for Children, is that lawmakers balanced the budget using more than $9 million that should have gone into an endowment for early childhood funding.

photo by dan verbeck

U.S. Attorneys from Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa will gather next week for a conference centered on domestic violence and sexual assault in Indian Country. 

U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom says the statistics on violence against women and girls in tribal communities can only be described as shocking.

As Kansas lawmakers continue to search for common ground on a budget, an advocacy group says the long-term future of early childhood programs is at stake.

So far, the competing versions of a state budget for 2014 have all included Governor Sam Brownback’s plan to transfer $9.5 million dollars from the Children’s Initiative Fund to the State General Fund. 

Plans to expand a coal-fired power plant in southwest Kansas have run into another snag.

An appellate court in Washington, DC, says a federal agency violated the law by clearing the way for expansion of Sunflower Electric’s power plant in Holcomb without first reviewing its impact on the environment. 

Attorney Amanda Goodin represents the Sierra Club, which filed suit to stop the expansion.

The Superfund National Priorities List now includes nine new sites-one of them where a smelter used to operate on the east side of Iola.

The EPA says the soil on hundreds of residential and commercial properties in and around Iola is contaminated with lead, arsenic, cadmium and zinc. EPA Region 7 spokeswoman Dianna Whitaker says the biggest concern is lead.

“Children can get into that lead—especially young children," she says. "They put their hands in their mouths, and then they can be exposed and absorb lead, and lead is very dangerous for young children."

Bryan Thompson / KPR

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wants lawmakers to extend a temporary sales tax hike as a way to fund the state's universities.

The governor says cuts to higher education would be a momentum-killer at a time when he thinks a lot of positive things are happening in Kansas. Lawmakers are hesitant to extend the sales tax hike, which was approved in 2010 on the condition that it would expire July 1 of this year.

Following a tour of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Salina, Brownback called the facility a great place to invest.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas Public Radio

After a series of problems, the operators of the only nuclear power plant in Kansas say they're making progress toward satisfying the concerns of federal regulators.

A competitive bidding program aimed at helping Medicare avoid overpaying for products like scooters, diabetic testing supplies, and oxygen tanks is being expanded to 91 communities nationwide, including Wichita. 

The program began a little more than two years ago as a demonstration project in nine communities, including Kansas City. 

Tyson Foods has agreed to a settlement with the federal government over accidental releases of anhydrous ammonia at its facilities in Kansas and three other states.

A federal grand jury has indicted three Kansas men on charges that they operated a global sales and supply network for synthetic marijuana. 

Bradley Miller of Wichita, his brother, Clark Sloan of Tonganoxie, and Sloan’s son Jonathan Sloan of Lawrence face charges of mail fraud, conspiracy, distribution of a misbranded drug, smuggling, and conspiracy to launder money from the operation.  They’re accused of manufacturing and distributing a marijuana substitute called K2 through businesses named Bouncing Bear Botanicals and Persephone’s Journey. 

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