Meg Wingerter

Reporter, Kansas News Service

Meg Wingerter is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.

Previously, she was a business reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal where she covered the state economy, agriculture and healthcare.

Before moving to Topeka, Meg was a reporter for The Muskegon Chronicle and The State News in Michigan. Meg has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Chinese from Michigan State University.

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Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

Dana Stanton drove hours from Hays to a Friday meeting in Topeka hoping to learn what the governor’s budget proposal would mean for the children’s programs she oversees.

After the Kansas Children’s Cabinet meeting adjourned, she didn’t know much more than she did before.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

A Kansas House committee overseeing budgets for social services offered appreciation to programs serving the elderly and people with disabilities or mental illnesses.

Legislators may not be able to offer much more than that.

Adapt Pharma

Kansas is one of three states that doesn’t allow first responders to carry a drug to reverse opioid overdoses.

Rep. Greg Lakin, a Republican from Wichita, wants to get the state off that exclusive list. A bill in the House Health and Human Services Committee would allow first responders to carry medication to reverse opioid overdoses.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

A Senate committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would repeal an income tax exemption for more than 300,000 business owners. The bill, which could go before the full Senate on Thursday, also would increase income tax rates overall.

Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican, said she supported the measure because the Legislature needs to make some progress on tax issues.

Meg Wingerter / Kansas News Service

A key Kansas lawmaker says the state doesn’t have the money to fix problems in its mental health system, which a new report says are getting steadily worse.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas’ two state-run psychiatric hospitals would lose nearly $20 million under the budget proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

In the current fiscal year, Osawatomie and Larned state hospitals are relying on state funds to make up for the loss of federal funding. Brownback’s recommendations for the fiscal year that starts in July would end that practice, leaving it to the hospitals to make up the lost revenue.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Some Kansas lawmakers hope allowing community-based rehabilitation programs to bill Medicaid for their services will help more people with mental illnesses find work.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican and chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow the psychosocial rehabilitation programs known as “clubhouses” to claim reimbursement from Medicaid as allowed by federal law. Some states already allow clubhouses to receive Medicaid funds.

Travis Morisse / Hutchinson News

Editor’s note: Every day, hundreds of Kansans with serious mental illnesses receive treatment in communities, state psychiatric hospitals or nursing facilities. But when a person with a serious mental illness slips through the growing gaps in the system, the results can be deadly.

This article examines how Brandon Brown, a Kansas man with schizophrenia, moved through the state’s mental health system — and how that system may have failed him and the man he murdered.

Creative Commons-Pixabay

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposal would sell the state’s future payments from tobacco companies to plug financial holes for the next two years.

The budget proposal — outlined Wednesday morning — calls for the state to receive $265 million from “securitizing” the tobacco payments in fiscal year 2018, which starts in July, and the same amount in the following year.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

In tight budget times, Kansas mental health advocates are turning to the lottery for some financial help. 

Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, said the association will ask the Legislature to commit an additional $31 million over the next two fiscal years for the centers. That $31 million — pulled from Kansas lottery proceeds — would return funding for the 26 centers across the state to the 2007 fiscal year level.

Flickr/Mark Warner

If someone you loved had a psychiatric emergency, would you know what to do?

Because many people wouldn’t, Kansas mental health advocates are pushing for the state to recognize psychiatric advance directives to guide care for patients in crisis who are unable to communicate. 

File photo

More offenders are completing the sexually violent predator treatment program in Kansas, but state officials say they still need a bigger building to house those in treatment.

The program, based at Larned State Hospital, attempts to treat offenders who have completed their prison sentences but who were found to have a mental or personality disorder that placed them at a high risk of committing another violent sexual offense.

Kansas News Service File

Medicaid expansion will get hearings in the Kansas House during the upcoming legislative session, the chairman of its health committee says, and leadership assignments suggest the issue may have a more receptive audience than in the past.

Rep. Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican who also headed the committee in 2016, says he remains opposed to expanding Medicaid to some low-income non-disabled adults, but his committee will debate the issue.

America's Health Rankings/United Health Foundation

Kansas was the only state where the obesity rate went up significantly in 2015, according to an annual report, and state officials are trying to figure out why and how to reverse the trend.

The state also lagged on vaccination rates and remained stuck in the middle on overall health, according to the America’s Health Rankings Report, which was released Thursday.

Donna Young / Communities Creating Opportunity

A recently released study shows where babies in Wyandotte County are at the highest risk of dying, but figuring out how to prevent infant deaths and help their mothers stay healthy remain unsolved problems.

Heartland Health Monitor

Dana Schoffelman sees one way to keep serving Kansas kids with serious mental health needs without going under financially: taking fewer of them and supplementing with out-of-state children.

Schoffelman, executive director of Florence Crittenton Services in Topeka, has new financial concerns because of a policy change by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Kansas Department for Children and Families

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Children and Families confirmed this week that a call center for child abuse reports had trouble keeping up with the volume of calls it received in September but denied the center had a “backlog.”

Foster care contractors learned of the issue in a Sept. 22 email sent by a DCF employee that said the call center was “experiencing a backlog in processing new reports of abuse or neglect, due to a severe staffing issue.”

healthcare.gov

Close to 25,000 Kansans have signed up for health insurance through the online marketplace, healthcare.gov, despite uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act under a new administration.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service reported Wednesday that 24,778 people in Kansas had signed up for insurance since open enrollment for 2017 started Nov. 1. The number of people seeking insurance was up less than 2 percent compared to the same period during open enrollment last year.

Megan Wingerter / Heartland Health Monitor

It isn’t far from the gleaming bank buildings and high-end hotels to the rent-to-own stores and corner shops that stock more chips than fruit.

A visitor getting off the highway in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, would pass by a Hilton Garden Inn and several high-rise buildings bearing the names of financial companies.

Listen to Jerry Jones, executive director of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, talk about the Kirwan report

File Photo / Kansas News Service

This story was updated at 6:04 p.m. 

Kansas is seeking a private partner to operate Osawatomie State Hospital under a proposal that would allow the contractor to shift more than half the hospital’s beds to other parts of eastern Kansas.

Photo by Kansas Action for Children

Babies in midsize Kansas counties were more likely to die before their first birthdays than those in counties with larger or smaller populations, according to the 2016 Kids Count report.

The annual report, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compares states and counties on a variety of measures related to children’s health, financial well-being and educational prospects. In some cases, the most recent data was from 2015, while in others it was from 2014.

Kansas families who buy health insurance through the online marketplace for 2017 could pay $20,000 or more if they have serious medical problems, according to federal data.

Most families likely won’t pay that much because they qualify for subsidies, but the information shows that even low-premium plans can become costly.

File photo

Nine months after Osawatomie State Hospital lost its federal payments, all rooms are back online after renovations and the state is looking at partnerships to address some of its long-term struggles.

The state hospital — one of two in Kansas for patients with severe mental health issues — has shown progress on several problems that led to the loss of Medicare payments, though it isn’t clear when it could receive federal payments again. 

American Hospital Association/Health Research and Educational Trust

As part of a federal quality improvement effort, Kansas hospitals are reducing the odds that patients will get certain types of infections.

And while that effort provides information on hospital quality throughout the state, finding information about the quality of care at individual hospitals remains a challenge.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Two community mental health centers in Kansas hope a new program will help young people recently diagnosed with schizophrenia avoid its possible complications — a higher risk of unemployment, homelessness and incarceration and lower life expectancy — and achieve goals for school, work and their personal lives. 

Brad Nading

After a series of hits to their budgets, community mental health centers in Kansas are adjusting through cutbacks, changes in services or a combination of the two.

In Topeka, Valeo Behavioral Health Care plans to limit sessions for uninsured patients. Valeo provided about $2 million in charitable care last year but can’t offer that much this year because of cuts to Medicaid and other revenue streams, CEO Bill Persinger says.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Michael Fellman says a chance passerby — or, perhaps, divine intervention — kept him alive when the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder became overwhelming.

Fellman, a combat veteran of the Iraq War who spoke Friday at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs summit in Topeka about mental health care, said he had planned to die on July 31, 2015.

Megan Hart

A Saline County, Kansas mom has a message for state officials wrestling with a difficult budget: Leave an autism diagnosis program alone.

Allison, who wanted to be identified only by her first name to protect her family’s privacy, said a telemedicine program — funded in part by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet —made it easier to find out if autism was behind her 9-year-old son’s behavioral symptoms.

File photo

The waiting list for Medicaid services for Kansans with physical disabilities has dropped by more than 1,700 since last year but hasn’t budged for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

In July, 3,450 Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities were waiting for home and community-based services provided through Medicaid, as were 10 Kansans with physical disabilities.

Heartland Health Monitor

Nine Kansas medical practices and collaborative groups will participate in an experiment to find out if doctors could do a better job preventing heart attacks and strokes.

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