Health

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.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Every Tuesday at 11 a.m., a big group gathers for "T'ai Chi for the Heart" at Turning Point, a healing center in Leawood, Kansas.

"We typically start with meditation, then we do our warm-ups and start T'ai Chi movements," says Al Hussar, who's been coming to the class for more than five years.

Hussar has diabetes, and he's supporting a wife with multiple sclerosis. Others in the room also suffer from chronic illnesses, or are supporting chronically ill loved ones.

www.haysmed.com

Extending its growing reach in Kansas, The University of Kansas Hospital has finalized its agreement to partner with Hays Medical Center in the northwest part of the state.

In September, the two institutions signed a letter of intent to join forces, with HaysMed maintaining its name and separate ownership structure.

Courtesy Jill Wagner

Jill Wagner’s life changed the day her then-10-month-old son, Dean, was hospitalized after a series of seizures.

Tests revealed that Dean had a rare genetic condition that put him at risk for a host of medical issues. By the time he was discharged, little Dean already had a handful of diagnoses, including one for autism. Doctors weren’t sure if he would ever walk, talk or read.

For the next eight months, Wagner, a businesswoman and former professor who lives in Salina, Kansas, tried to navigate the complex world of health insurance for applied behavior analysis, or ABA.

Alex Smith / KCUR

On a chilly winter morning, dozens of truck driver trainees file into a classroom at the headquarters of Prime Inc., a trucking company based in Springfield, Missouri.

At the front is Siphiwe Baleka, an energetic African American in his mid-40s. The former swimming champion delivers grim news about trucker health to the new recruits.

“If you haven’t started to think about this, you need to start right now,” Baleka says. “I’m gonna tell it to you straight, OK? You are about to enter the most unhealthy occupation in America.”   

James Dobson / Garden City Telegram

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by a Garden City, Kansas, mother who lost custody of her son over her use of cannabis oil in an incident that drew national attention.

In a brief four-page order Tuesday, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten dismissed the action, finding that Shona Banda had failed to respond to the defendants’ “prima facie valid arguments.”

Banda, who represented herself, had sued the Garden City school district and one of its employees; the Garden City police department and its chief; the state of Kansas and Gov. Sam Brownback; and the Kansas Department for Children and Families and its secretary, Phyllis Gilmore.

Banda filed her lawsuit in March, exactly a year after Garden City police raided her home and seized marijuana, cannabis oil and drug-related equipment after her 11-year-old son spoke up about her use of cannabis at a school anti-drug presentation.

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.

BikeWalkKC

Kansas City will reassess its approach to accommodating cyclists, City Manager Troy Schulte told the city council Thursday.

His announcement came in response to a new audit showing the city failing to achieve its goals of becoming more bike friendly.

The audit concluded that the city’s on-street bike plan, Bike KC, lacks critical elements to serve the needs of cyclists and the city’s multi-modal transportation goals.

The failure to update the plan and follow the recommendations of a public committee have led to project delays and increased costs.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Dementia is an impairment of brain functions marked by memory loss and personality changes. It affects an estimated 4 million to 5 million adults in the United States annually and, as the elder population increases, is likely to have a growing impact in the future.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting as many as 5 million Americans in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2050.

NIAID / www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/15138207362

A new report from the nonprofit Trust For America’s Health says Kansas meets six of 10 measures related to public health threats while Missouri meets five.

The “Ready or Not” report says Kansas and Nebraska are among 17 states, along with the District of Columbia, that meet six indicators. Missouri was among four states that meet only five.

Download the Trust for America's Health Report: Ready or Not

www.weisspaarz.com

The owner of a medical imaging company allegedly defrauded Medicare and Medicaid of more than $1.5 million, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in Topeka.

Cody Lee West, 38, did business as C&S Imaging Inc., a mobile diagnostic testing facility based in Paragould, Arkansas. The facility provided ultrasound services to chiropractors and other medical providers in Kansas.

According to the complaint, West told chiropractors he would provide them with ultrasound equipment and a technician at no charge. The chiropractors would bill for the services.

Charlie Szymanski, Christine Chan, Matt Weber / Reuters

This story was updated at 2:39 with comments from a spokeswoman for the St. Joseph Health Department.

More than 15 percent of children tested in seven census tracts in St. Joseph, Missouri, had elevated lead levels, according to an investigation by Reuters.

That was more than triple Missouri’s average of 5 percent, Reuters reported.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Medicaid application backlog in Kansas is on its way back up, threatening months of progress on a coverage problem that has vexed health care providers across the state.  

For more than a year, providers that rely on Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare, have been stung by delayed payments as they wait months for eligibility determinations that by federal rule are supposed to take no more than 45 days.

File photo

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.

File photo

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration has requested a one-year extension of the current KanCare program while delaying a proposal for an updated version of the Medicaid managed care system.

KanCare, which placed all 425,000 Kansans in Medicaid under the administration of three private insurance companies, began in 2013 and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2017.

State officials had planned to make changes to the current contracts and then apply for a long-term extension of KanCare with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the beginning of 2017.

Corbis / Flickr-CC

The Missouri Department of Corrections and its health care provider have systematically denied medical treatment for prisoners with Hepatitis C, a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday alleges.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Jefferson City, seeks relief on behalf of thousands of inmates. It says the defendants have withheld drug treatment from the inmates in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth and Fourteenth amendments and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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.

Charlotte Cooper / womensenews.org

A new federal rule barring states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood could prove to be a short-term victory for the organization.

Congressional Republicans have already put the rule on their hit list and it may not survive the first 100 days of a Donald Trump administration.

The rule, posted Wednesday on the website of the Federal Register, is slated to take effect Jan. 18, two days before Inauguration Day.

BigStock Images

Kansas is continuing to do business with a home health care agency that a few weeks ago agreed to settle a federal kickback case for $1.8 million.

State officials say that because the agency, Best Choice Home Health Care Agency Inc. in Kansas City, Kansas, did not admit liability as part of its settlement with the government, the state’s hands are tied.

File Photo / KHI News Service

Kansas Sen. Vicki Schmidt is regaining the chairmanship of the state Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee for next year.

“I’m certainly excited to chair public health and welfare again and excited for the opportunities to explore issues that are very important to Kansans,” Schmidt said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Schmidt, a Republican pharmacist from Topeka, last chaired the committee during the 2012 legislative session, when the chamber was led by moderate Republicans.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Many pet owners expect to be able to bring their furry friends everywhere – to restaurants, to the grocery store, on planes – and now some want even more doors to open up.

Increasing numbers of domestic violence shelters are accepting the pets of owners who have experienced abuse, and a federal proposal would set up funding for even more to do so.

There’s more a stake that just keeping owners and pets together. Supporters say accommodating pets can be a matter of life and death.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A task force chaired by Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to address problems in rural health care determined that expanding telemedicine, addressing workforce shortages and giving providers more flexibility were key to Kansas’ future.

The Rural Health Working Group wrapped up a year of meetings Tuesday and is now compiling a set of recommendations to present to the Legislature ahead of the session that begins Jan. 9.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

School lunch has long been a target of jokes. Those jokes turned to complaints from students and parents alike in 2012 when new congressionally mandated nutrition standards took effect.

Adam Piotrowski / Flickr--CC

Donations to the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City always drop off around the holidays, but lower-than-expected collections last month have led to a shortage.

“We try to collect more blood in anticipation of those days off, and we usually do OK,” says Executive Director David Graham. “But we had more of a challenge this year than normal. November is traditionally a strong month of blood collections for us, and it wasn’t quite as strong this year.”

Courtesy Melinda Miner

At 59 years old, Bill Miller is starting to have neck and back problems. Thirty-two years of bending over to check patients’ teeth and gums will do that, he said.

Miller is the only dentist in Hill City, a community of about 1,500 people northwest of Hays. He has treated Medicaid patients his entire career, even as reimbursements increasingly have lagged the cost of providing care.

State of Kansas official portrait

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline is appealing a federal court’s dismissal of his lawsuit challenging the suspension of his law license by the Kansas Supreme Court three years ago.

Kline filed an electronic notice of appeal late Saturday to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

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.”

Elana Gordon / KCUR

Planned Parenthood Great Plains says it has been flooded with support since the national election in November.

The women's health organization, which serves Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, says that between Nov. 8 and Dec. 1, it has received three times the amount of donations it receives in a typical month.

Spokeswoman Bonyen Lee-Gilmore says around 200 volunteers have signed up during the same period, compared to around 10 in an average month.

Photo courtesy U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote early next week on a major medical research and mental health bill that two members of the Kansas congressional delegation played a role in.

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