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.

Mike Sherry / Flatland

With the infusion of $10 million in philanthropic support, two of the region’s largest medical centers have established four high-level research positions aimed at making Kansas City an international hub in the fight against pediatric cancers.

Children’s Mercy Hospital and The University of Kansas Cancer Center announced the new endowed chairs Monday evening at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

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.

File photo / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 23 with information from legislative hearings.

As Kansas lawmakers move forward with efforts to increase oversight of KanCare, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer says Brownback administration officials are addressing the issues that federal regulators cited in denying a one-year extension of the program last week.

Colyer still says he thinks politics played a role in the decision, which came in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The Kansas Geological Survey has spent years studying the groundwater levels of the Ogallala Aquifer to determine how long it can continue to support the western Kansas farm economy.

Now the leader of the agency says it’s time to start monitoring the aquifer that the Kansas River produces to see how long it can continue to provide drinking water to the growing population centers in the eastern part of the state.

Courtesy HCA Midwest Health

This story was updated at 2:41 to include comments from the Health Care Foundation and HCA.

An appeals court has cut by more than half the $434 million in damages awarded to the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City in its breach-of-contract lawsuit against hospital giant HCA.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

The Brownback administration has increased advance payments to nursing homes while a backlog of Kansas Medicaid applications persists.

The administration instituted advance payments of 50 percent for nursing homes residents with pending applications last spring, when almost 11,000 applications backed up past the 45-day federal processing limit.

Wyandotte County civic and government leaders are calling on the Kansas congressional delegation to oppose repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

A statement from Kansas City, Kansas, Mayor Mark Holland says Obamacare is working, and repealing it would leave 6,000 Wyandotte County residents without health coverage.

“The time and energy our community invested in taking full advantage of this law must now be used to protect it,” Mayor Holland said. “There is too much at stake.”

Kansas News Service

Think twice and don’t be in such a hurry to repeal Obamacare.

That’s the message that an alliance pushing for Medicaid expansion in Kansas is sending to members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Kansas doctors who mistakenly diagnose a case of child abuse are not liable for malpractice, a court has ruled.

In a case of first impression, the Kansas Court of Appeals found that the Kansas law requiring health providers to report suspected cases of physical, mental or emotional abuse of children protects physicians and other health providers from civil liability.

The case involved the parents of a nine-month-old girl who brought her to The University of Kansas Hospital for a respiratory infection.

Photo courtesy Hostess Brands

Kansas City-based Hostess Brands is voluntarily recalling its Holiday White Peppermint Hostess Twinkies due to a concern about possible salmonella contamination.

Although no illnesses have been reported and none of the affected products have tested positive for salmonella, Hostess says it’s initiating the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

The confectionary coating used on the Twinkies was previously recalled by its maker, Valley Milk Products, prompting Hostess’ recall. No other Hostess products are affected by the recall.

Photo courtesy of Cornerstones of Care

Five Kansas City area agencies that provide treatment and support services for children and their families have merged.

The five – Gillis, Healthy Families, Marillac, Ozanam and Spofford – already operated under the Cornerstones of Care umbrella. The merger gives them one board of directors instead of five and allows them to consolidate their programs.

“We believe that as one organization we can deliver an even higher quality of consistent care,” says Denise Cross, president and CEO of Cornerstones of Care.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon today granted pardons to 18 individuals, including 16 clergy members and activists who were convicted of trespassing after they staged a protest in the Missouri Senate gallery over Missouri’s decision not to expand Medicaid.

The so-called Medicaid 23 – several of them well-known African-American ministers from Kansas City – refused to leave the gallery during their protest in May 2014 after they were ordered to do so by Capitol police.

File photo

After four years of filling out four different sets of paperwork to join Kansas Medicaid, or KanCare, health care providers will soon only have to fill out one.

State officials announced that they are standardizing the credentialing process for the three private insurance companies that administer KanCare, as well as the state’s own provider forms.

The move comes after a raft of providers told a legislative oversight committee last month that the current process is tedious and duplicative.

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.

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.

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.

File photo / Kansas News Service

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.

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