Dave Ranney

Reporter, Heartland Health Monitor

Dave Ranney is a reporter for KHI News Service, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. HHM is a reporting collaboration among KCUR, KHI News Service in Topeka, Kan., KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, Kan.

Ranney developed a statewide reputation for excellence while covering state government and social issues for the Harris News Service, the Wichita Eagle and, most recently, the Lawrence Journal-World. 

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Studies have shown that nearly half of the cigarettes consumed in the United States are smoked by people thought to have a mental illness.

At the same time, people who have a mental illness die an average of 25 years earlier than those who don’t have a mental illness.

“There’s a really big disparity in who’s smoking and in who’s dying,” said Kim Richter, who runs the tobacco cessation program at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

“And we as a society haven’t really done anything about this,” she said. “We really need to turn this around.”

A spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services says the agency will need an additional $6.5 million to comply with a recent ruling that requires employers to pay in-home workers minimum wage and overtime.

The department has asked Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget office to build the additional funding into its budget for the current fiscal year, according to Angela de Rocha, KDADS’ director of communications. However, tax revenues are more than $60 million below projections so far this fiscal year, creating a bleak budget situation in Kansas.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

A recent change in Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services policy will reduce access to services that help the state’s frail elders avoid often-costly nursing home stays, according to directors of the state’s Area Agencies on Aging.

“This will have an impact on case management services, which we believe are pivotal when it comes to helping our customers remain in their homes,” says Janis DeBoer, executive director of the Kansas Area Agencies on Aging Association. “Case management is the glue that keeps everything together.”

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.

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.

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.

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.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Wednesday that it had renewed its navigator grants with two Kansas programs: Ascension Health and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved (KAMU).

An advisory committee charged with helping state officials design a system for regulating the use of prescription mental health drugs for Medicaid patients met for the first time Tuesday.

“This is going to be an evolving process,” said Dr. Vishal Adma, a committee member and president of the Kansas Psychiatric Society.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

A national expert on the federal government’s plan for reforming its support for child care says Kansas has a lot to be concerned about.

“When you look at Kansas, you see that you’ve lost lots of children who were receiving child care assistance and that you’re paying very low rates to child care providers who serve families getting assistance,” said Helen Blank, director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. “You don’t want that, and you don’t want that to be cut any further.”

State officials have decided to ask members of a committee charged with critiquing the state’s behavioral health system to continue meeting.

“We don’t want this to be a group that makes recommendations and stops,” said Doug Wallace, housing and homeless specialist at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. “We want this to be an action-oriented group.”

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas officials are reviewing a recent federal appeals court ruling that requires the state’s Medicaid program to pay in-home care workers minimum wage and overtime.

Officials at the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services issued a statement shortly after the ruling was handed down Friday saying they were attempting to determine its “potential impact” on the state’s Medicaid program, known as KanCare.

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  Each month, according to the latest available data, roughly 225 KanCare beneficiaries file complaints about the care they’ve received or been denied. That’s a small percentage, considering that more than 400,000 Kansans depend on the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The numbers also show that all but a handful of the complaints are resolved within 15 days.

State officials often cite the data when assuring legislators that KanCare, now in its third year, is meeting the needs of its beneficiaries.

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David Wiebe, one of the best known advocates for people with mental illness in Kansas, died Monday in Fairway at age 76. He had cancer.

“If you step back and look at how, over the decades, Kansas’ mental health system was developed, created and formed to where it is now, you’ll see that he was one of the pioneers,” says Tim DeWeese, executive director at the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

“His service to both the mental health field and to mental health consumers was invaluable,” DeWeese says.

Dave Ranney/KHI News

For years, Kansas has partnered with a network of regional prevention centers to alert and connect people to mental health programs and those that prevent substance abuse, suicide and problem gambling.

But that network appears to be unraveling as state officials work toward implementing what they call a more holistic, data-driven approach.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

One out of five adult Kansans and nearly one out of four adult Missourians has at least one disability, says a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kansas, difficulty walking was the most common disability (13 percent), followed by cognitive impairment (9 percent); inability to live alone due to physical, mental or emotional conditions (5 percent); difficulty bathing or dressing (3 percent), and seriously impaired vision (3 percent).

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration on Thursday announced $63 million in changes to the state budget.

Much of that comes from increases in federal aid, cost-cutting measures and some services costing less than initially projected. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, outlined in a Statehouse news conference.

The biggest single change — $17.6 million — comes from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which provides health coverage to children in low-income families.

Publik15 / Flickr-CC

Kansas officials have decided against participating in the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a federal initiative that could have generated millions of dollars for behavioral health programs throughout the state.

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A children’s psychiatric facility in Kansas City, Kansas, has agreed to set aside 12 inpatient beds for adults who have been referred to Osawatomie State Hospital but haven’t been admitted due to overcrowding there.

  “This will definitely help with the situation at Osawatomie,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director with the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas.

The additional beds at KVC Prairie Ridge Hospital will be available Monday, Kessler said.

U.S. House of Representatives

Kansas 4th District Congressman Mike Pompeo has agreed to co-sponsor a joint resolution that would allow states to form a health care compact and, potentially, circumvent parts of the Affordable Care Act.

“Mike has agreed to be a part of the health care compact because he views it as one of the last remaining opportunities to protect Kansans from the disaster that is the Affordable Care Act,” Heather Denker, a spokesperson for Pompeo’s office, said in an email.

Pompeo, she said, believes the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will “drive up costs for the poorest people in Kansas and diminish access, especially in the rural areas of Kansas.”

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

The switch from county oversight to management by a Wichita-based nonprofit is under way for the four safety net clinics in Shawnee County.

Together, the four clinics provide health services to about 8,000 patients a year, regardless of their ability to pay.

That sounds like a lot. But for a county with 20,500 uninsured children and adults, health officials say it’s not enough.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

A Kansas district court judge is raising concerns about reports that state officials are considering policy changes that would prohibit couples who aren’t married from being foster parents.

File photo

The filing of a murder charge against a former patient at the Osawatomie State Hospital is prompting questions about the state’s mental health system.

On May 14, Brandon Brown, 30, was released from a five-day stay at Osawatomie. He was sent to the state hospital after threatening other patients at the Haviland Care Center, a nursing facility in Kiowa County that specializes in treating adults with serious and persistent mental illness.

The Kansas Health Consumer Coalition will cease operations this week.

“It’s been a struggle to maintain our funding,” said Carol Ramirez Albott, president of the Topeka-based advocacy group’s governing board. “Things just got to a point where we felt like we couldn’t adequately do the job.”

The board, she said, notified its supporters of the decision late last week.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

A state official on Wednesday announced that Osawatomie State Hospital has stopped admitting patients.

Addressing a meeting in Topeka of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, Ted Jester, assistant director of mental health services at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said admissions were suspended Saturday evening when the hospital’s census reached 146 patients.

Enforcement of a law designed to limit where low-income Kansas families can spend their public assistance will take longer than expected, state officials said Monday.

The new law, initially scheduled to take effect July 1, will not be enforced for at least six months.

Theresa Freed, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, attributed the delay to “a computer-system fix that needs to be done.”

Also delayed, Freed said, will be enforcement of the new law’s $25-a-day ATM withdrawal limit for public assistance accounts.

Megawatts86 / Flickr-CC

Federal officials are reviewing new rules Kansas lawmakers approved that restrict poor families’ access to cash assistance.

“This is new territory,” said Liz Schott, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. “I don’t know of any other state that’s done what Kansas is doing, and I don’t know that anybody knows what the feds will do.”


Two of the three companies that sell individual-market policies for Kansans on the federally administered health insurance marketplace are proposing significant premium increases for 2016.

Rate increases proposed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest insurer, range from 35 percent to 39 percent. Aetna and Coventry Health Company, which merged in 2013, requested rate increases of 20 percent to 35 percent.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families won’t be dropping 350 families from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families rolls on July 1.

Instead, these families — all of whom have been on TANF for at least 36 months — will have a six-month “grace period” to figure out how to make ends meet without their TANF benefits. The new cutoff date for these families will be Jan. 1.