Kansas

Health officials say about 30 children in Saline County have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Jason Tiller, director of the Saline County Health Department, says more cases could be discovered as public awareness of the health threat grows.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he will call state lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session to work on school funding issues. In a statement, Brownback said he made the decision after consulting with legislative leaders.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley says the governor’s priority is avoiding a school shutdown caused by a lawsuit over school funding.

“They’re going to work very hard to keep the special session focused on the issue of education to make sure the courts do not close our schools and the kids can go back to school,” says Hawley.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's Statehouse Blend podcast, we bring you an in-depth look at what is shaping up to be a competitive 2016 election year in Kansas.

Guests on this episode:

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

One in every five calories people around the world eat, comes from just one grain, wheat. And for generations the U.S. led the world in wheat exports. But, that’s changed, and maybe for good.

Wheat is not something you want to run out of. Wheat shortages helped spark the bloody French Revolution and the Arab Spring.

AP Pool Photo
AP Pool Photo

The Kansas Supreme Court has handed down its decision in the long-awaited Gannon school funding case, and it comes as no surprise to those who have followed its many twists and turns.   

“This case requires us to determine whether the State has met its burden to show that recent legislation brings the State's K-12 public school funding system into compliance with Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution,” the court wrote in an opinion not attributable to any individual judge. “We hold it has not.”

Bill Anderson / KCUR 89.3

It’s been a rainy couple of weeks in Kansas City and the rest of this week promises even more showers and thunderstorms. Why so much rain?

“You know the simple answer? It’s May,” Andy Bailey, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Steve Kraske on Wednesday’s Up To Date.

Bailey says rainfall so far this season has been above average, but not enough to cause alarm.

“The unusual thing for us here, is to be above normal rainfall and yet have a relatively below normal severe weather season.”

In the latest development in a long-standing disagreement between Kansas election officials and the federal Election Assistance Commission, a judge in Kansas has ruled that the state can't require people to show proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote at a motor vehicle office.

Courtesy Innara Health

The beginning of May was a roller coaster of emotions for Innara Health CEO Michael Peck.

The results of a promising trial of his company’s NTrainer product, which helps premature babies learn to nurse, were unveiled April 30 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Critics of a proposed rule change regarding birth certificates criticized the policy at a public hearing Thursday. The proposal would make it virtually impossible for transgender people to have the sex changed on their Kansas birth certificate.

Stephanie Mott, who is transgender, says government documents that don’t match a transgender person’s identity make it more likely they’ll face discrimination and harassment. She says this policy would further stigmatize transgender Kansans.

The TV series Star Trek went where no one had gone before, both in its day and in the reality it created. Now, we Earthlings are using instruments and processes originally imagined by the creator and writers of the series, while our struggles with the issues of race and ideology it addressed in the 1960s continue.

Guest:

America's Health Rankings

Kansas parents do a better-than-average job at getting vaccinations for their young children but don’t fare as well once those children reach their teen years.

That’s according to a report from the United Health Foundation showing about 77 percent of Kansas children had received their recommended sequence of shots by age 3, placing the state in the top 10 for on-time vaccinations. Nationwide, about 72 percent of kids had finished their early vaccines on time. 

File photo

This story was updated at 4:47 p.m.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, is stepping down after 19 years at the nonprofit advocacy organization.

Cotsoradis is leaving to assume “a leadership role” at the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, LLC, according to a KAC news release issued Monday morning. She has served in the top role at KAC for the last six years and recently has been one of the more vocal critics of Gov. Sam Brownback's social policies.

Kansas appears on track for a quiet year for pertussis cases after two years marked by outbreaks.

As of mid-April, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment had recorded eight cases of pertussis. There were 412 cases in 2014 and 431 cases in 2015, meaning the state is likely to have fewer cases this year unless a major outbreak hits in the next few months.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

While the Kansas Legislature’s final budget bill did increase spending on mental health hospitals by $17 million, more than two-thirds of that funding will be used to maintain the status quo.

That’s because $11.7 million — or 69 percent of the $17 million in extra funds the Legislature appropriated early Monday in Senate Bill 249  — will be used to replace federal funding the state hospitals lost or pay contract facilities to assist when Osawatomie State Hospital is at capacity.

File photo

The Kansas Legislature added several patient protection measures to a bill allowing “step therapy” for Medicaid drugs before passing the legislation early Monday morning.

Advocates for Kansans with mental illness and other conditions were pleased with the changes but remain concerned about the possible effects of the underlying bill on vulnerable patients.

Step therapy requires Medicaid patients to try the least expensive medications for treating their ailments first. If those fail, they can then “step up” to a more expensive alternative.

File photo

A “mega-bill” containing several provisions related to licensure of medical professionals survived a rules dispute to pass just before the Kansas Legislature adjourned early Monday morning.

Unless Gov. Sam Brownback vetoes the bill, the conference committee report combined in House Bill 2615 will require acupuncturists to be licensed, enter Kansas into a compact that will license physicians to practice across state lines and expand the authority of nurse midwives.

Miran Rijavec / Creative Commons-Flickr

The Kansas Legislature passed a bill Saturday banning tanning salons from serving minors, a measure advocates say will reduce cancer.

Free-market advocates had pushed for an amendment allowing tanning for customers under 18 with parental permission. But the House and Senate ultimately voted to join a dozen other states and Washington, D.C., in banning it completely.

Unless Gov. Sam Brownback vetoes the measure, it will become law as soon as it is published in the state statutes book.

Kansas' budget woes have resulted in public schools across the state reducing costs and arts education is taking the hit. One Shawnee Mission teacher has had enough of shrinking support for the arts in his district.

Guests:

  • Jonathan Lane is Orchestra Director at Shawnee Mission East High School.
  • Narric Rome is vice-president of Government Affairs and Arts Education for Americans for the Arts.

KHI News Service file photo

The Kansas House shot down a plan to return some 330,000 Kansas businesses back to the income tax rolls Friday, voting 45-74 on the measure.

A tax conference committee made up of House and Senate negotiators agreed to push the measure forward for a floor vote as the Legislature tries to close a budget gap, adjourn the session and head back to the campaign trail.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

A coalition of health care and religious groups is asking Gov. Sam Brownback to convene a conference on gun violence.

“In the immediate aftermath of the tragic attack at Excel Industries in Hesston, you declined questions about gun policy issues because you understandably felt the timing was not appropriate,” reads the first sentence of the request submitted earlier this week. “We the undersigned inferred that you do believe, however, a time and place for such a conversation exists. We think that time should be soon.”

Bigstock

The departure of UnitedHealthcare could leave Kansans shopping on the federal online marketplace with only one choice of insurer, but Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer is working to bring in more.

Deputy Commissioner Clark Shultz says Selzer has for several months been in talks with other insurance companies about joining the marketplace in 2017, and those discussions appear close to yielding results.

“It’s too early to announce that and we don’t have it secured, but there are some very positive developments,” Shultz says.

Feeding America

A new study of food insecurity finds some familiar patterns in Kansas. But there are also a few surprises.

Every year when the County Health Rankings are released, they show southeast Kansas and Wyandotte County as having persistent problems with lower average incomes and higher poverty levels. So it should come as no surprise that those same places have a high degree of food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of reliable access to adequate food.

Health Care Cost Institute

Kansas City-area residents needing a knee replacement might find it worthwhile to drive to St. Louis.

That’s because the average price of the procedure in the KC area is $26,601. In the St. Louis area, it’s $23,114 – a $3,487 difference.

On the other hand, the average cost of an ultrasound in metro St. Louis is $375. That compares with $271 in metro Kansas City, a $74 difference.

United Health Foundation

More than a quarter of adult Kansans say they don’t have any of five major behavioral risk factors for chronic disease, but the picture isn’t so rosy for minorities, men or people with lower incomes.

A recent report from the United Health Foundation examined the percentage of adults with five unhealthy behaviors: smoking, excessive drinking, insufficient sleep, physical inactivity and obesity.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A bill to legalize hemp oil at the state level has drawn the ire of Kansas medical marijuana advocates who say it’s too watered down to do any good.

Members of Bleeding Kansas, one of the state’s largest medical marijuana advocacy groups, rallied Wednesday at the Capitol to urge legislators to ditch Senate Bill 489.

Christine Gordon and others said the bill would only add fees and regulatory hurdles to cannabidiol, or CBD oil — a substance that already can be accessed legally at the federal level.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Federal officials have reversed position on a long-standing ban on paying for some inpatient psychiatric care, giving a possible boost to Kansas crisis centers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a proposed rule Monday that will place new requirements on managed care organizations administering Medicaid, such as the three insurance companies that operate KanCare, the state’s privatized $3 billion program.

File photo

An effort to roll back a controversial business tax exemption is among the budget-balancing proposals that lawmakers will take up in the final weeks of the 2016 legislative session.

Several key Republicans, including many self-described conservatives who voted for Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts in 2012, are openly supporting bills to either reduce or eliminate the exemption as legislators return Wednesday to the Statehouse to wrap up the session.

File photo

Members of the Legislative Post Audit Committee again declined Tuesday to request an investigation into whether the Kansas Department for Children and Families has placed children in risky situations because of a preference for heterosexual foster parents.

Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, first requested the audit in December after reports surfaced of DCF removing a baby from the home of a lesbian couple in Wichita and placing it with a heterosexual Topeka couple who subsequently were charged with child abuse.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

When Shannon Lindsey moved from Missouri to Kansas two years ago, she decided she wanted to go to Johnson County Community College to get a nursing degree that would make her more employable.

Lindsey, now 49, has several disabilities, so she contacted Kansas’ vocational rehabilitation office for assistance. In Missouri she had the same vocational rehabilitation counselor for years — a state worker who understood her needs, what was available to help her and how to get it to her quickly.

C_osett / Creative Commons-Flickr

Kansas spends only about $12 per person on public health, making it one of the states putting the least money into preventing chronic and infectious diseases.

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