Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots in tracking the policies, issues and and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is made possible by a group of funding organizations, led by the Kansas Health Foundation. Other funders include United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Sunflower Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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File Photo / Kansas News Service

Opponents of allowing guns on university campuses are not giving up their fight despite a setback this week in a Kansas Senate committee.

State law says Kansas colleges and universities must allow concealed weapons on campus starting in July. Bills in the House and Senate would exempt higher education institutions from the law, allowing them to continue banning guns on campus.

Ashley Booker / Hutchinson News

Eight rural communities across Kansas will share $120,000 in grants over the next year to find ways to improve access to fresh produce.

Fresh vegetables and fruits can be hard to find in rural Kansas because some grocery stores have closed or are struggling to survive.

Kansas’ two Republican senators said Monday they support increased vetting of those entering the country, but want Congress involved in developing permanent policy changes.

Sen. Jerry Moran and Sen. Pat Roberts issued statements in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Advocates of expanding Medicaid in Kansas are trumpeting new poll numbers that show them gaining ground despite what appear to be long odds of success.

The poll, conducted in December just before the start of the 2017 legislative session, indicated that 82 percent of Kansas voters supported expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which commissioned the survey.

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.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is hoping the federal government can rescue several critical infrastructure projects that the state can no longer afford.

The Brownback administration recently sent what amounts to a wish list to President Donald Trump for inclusion in his planned infrastructure initiative. It includes the following $240 million in highway and bridge projects delayed or abandoned because of the state’s ongoing budget problems:

File Photo

An Oklahoma company said Thursday it has reached an agreement with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and won’t have to suspend dental services to about 360 Kansans in nursing homes.

Leaders of Sterling Dental said earlier in the week that they would halt services to Kansans whose Medicaid applications are pending because of payment delays caused by a persistent backlog of applications.

Sam Zeff / Kansas News Service

Mothers, college professors, pastors, teachers and students packed a Capitol hearing room Thursday morning to make this plea to lawmakers: Roll back a law that in July will make it legal for almost anyone to carry a concealed gun on Kansas college campuses and in other public buildings.

So big was the roll-back contingent that many there to testify had to be hailed to the room from down the hallway.

Patrick McKay / Flickr -- CC

Kansas lawmakers seeking to keep university campuses, hospitals and government buildings off limits to firearms are facing a familiar argument from opponents.

Namely, that such restrictions infringe on the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s a Second Amendment issue,” says Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita Republican. “It’s a right to bear arms issue.”

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. Jan. 25.

Kansas 2nd District Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins said Wednesday she will leave her seat at the end of this term and explore jobs in the private sector.

There have been rumors about Jenkins running for Kansas governor in 2018, as Gov. Sam Brownback’s second term will be ending. In a statement, Jenkins seemed to put those rumors to rest.

Voters in the 4th District in south central Kansas will choose a new member of Congress on April 11.

Republican Mike Pompeo officially stepped down Monday after he was confirmed as the new director of the CIA. Gov. Sam Brownback signed an order Tuesday setting the date for the election. Brownback says he chose the earliest Tuesday available under state law.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

In what could be a blow to the road construction industry in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) Tuesday said it will only spend $44 million on new projects in the next fiscal year.

For the past several years KDOT has let about $400 million just on preservation projects, including roads and bridges.

“It’s going to cause us additional concern about the safety and reliability of our roads, getting product to market and also providing jobs for many of the folks who are in the construction business,” says Bob Totten with the Kansas Contractors Association.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Editor’s note: An update to this story was posted at 5 p.m. Jan. 26.

About 350 elderly and disabled Kansans are suddenly without dental care after an Oklahoma City company informed nursing homes that it was suspending services for Kansas residents whose Medicaid applications are pending.

The company, Sterling Dental, sends dentists to nursing homes in Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas for on-site care.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers are working to fill a $350 million budget hole in the current fiscal year that ends in June. Members of a House committee wanted to know what it would take to erase the deficit using only spending cuts. A legislative report says state agencies would see a 7 percent budget reduction.

Republican Representative Erin Davis requested the information. Davis says she’s not advocating for cutting Kansas spending, but she wanted to see what the option would look like.

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

Kansas legislators are seeking answers from the Brownback administration after federal officials denied a one-year extension of the state’s Medicaid program known as KanCare.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The number of degrees and certificates being awarded by state colleges and universities is up, as are on-time graduations.

Overall the Kansas Board of Regents seemed pleased Wednesday with its latest annual progress report.

In news that will also be very welcomed by the Legislature, the report says wages are rising for those earning either a two-year or four-year degree.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

The Kansas legislative session is not yet two weeks old, but there are already signs of the change that many voters called for in the recent elections.

New legislative leadership and an aggressive group of newcomers are pushing back against many of Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposal, which they say won’t fix structural problems with the state budget.

Message From Voters

From the earliest days of the campaign season it was evident that many voters were frustrated about the “budget mess” in Topeka.

File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

The debate over allowing concealed guns on college campuses is starting to heat up in the Kansas Statehouse.

A law passed in 2013 will require public universities to allow concealed guns on campus starting this summer. A group of Kansas lawmakers now is pushing a bill that would exempt state universities and colleges from the requirement.

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.

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.

Kansas News Service File

It very well might be too late, but some Kansas lawmakers are moving ahead on a plan to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted Thursday to introduce an expansion bill at the request of Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican.

Wikipedia -- CC

In his State of the State speech Tuesday, Gov. Sam Brownback threw down a gauntlet for state universities: come up with a $15,000 bachelor's degree. In education world, almost nobody saw that coming.

But now that the idea for a bargain bachelor's is out there, it's up to the Kansas Board of Regents to try and make it a reality.

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

Gov. Sam Brownback’s office released a budget proposal Wednesday that is likely to put him at odds with large swaths of the Legislature.

Legislators in both parties won re-election last year on platforms that included repealing a state income tax exemption for business owners and providing a state general fund that balances annual spending with tax revenue and doesn’t rely on one-time sweeps of other money.

Andy Marso / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback began a quest to preserve his legacy with Tuesday’s State of the State address.

Facing an immediate budget crisis and a Legislature rendered more oppositional with the ouster of dozens of allies in last year’s elections, Brownback used the 30-minute speech to try to reassure Kansans that the right-wing policy path he has blazed the last six years is worth maintaining.

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 News Service

As they gavel in Monday for the 2017 session, Kansas legislators are considering delaying juvenile justice reforms enacted last year.

Last year’s bill was intended to steer low-level juvenile offenders into diversion and treatment programs rather than group homes and detention facilities. It had broad bipartisan support, and Gov. Sam Brownback called it the premier legislation of the 2016 session when he signed it in April.

From left: Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kansas Farm Bureau CEO Terry Holdren, Gov. Sam Brownback and Overland Park Regional Medical Center CEO Kevin Hicks.
Andy Marso / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback unveiled a two-part plan Friday to bring more doctors to the state and quell health care shortages that he said threaten to kill rural communities.

Brownback, flanked by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a hospital executive and the head of the Kansas Farm Bureau, harkened back to his days growing up in Parker — population 250 — to personalize the push for more rural doctors.

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