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Courtesy Olathe Medical Center

As part of an ambitious $100 million-plus expansion plan, Olathe Medical Center broke ground today on a new $25 million cancer center.

The 25,000-square-foot facility, expected to be completed next year, will consolidate the hospital’s currently fragmented cancer outpatient services in one place.

It’s the latest project in a frenzy of construction at the hospital’s 250-acre medical campus near 151st Street and Interstate 35. The last year has also seen the opening of a new hospice house and the start of construction on a neonatal intensive care unit.

Joe Gratz / Creative Commons-Flickr

Does a prison’s failure to regard atheism as a “religious preference” violate the Constitution?

That’s the question raised by a former Missouri prisoner, who contended the failure of the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) to list “atheist” on prison intake forms violated his First Amendment rights.

The case was filed in federal court in Kansas City more than four-and-a-half years ago by Randall Jackson, a persistent DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) offender who served prison terms from 2006-08 and again from 2010-2014.

Zach Klamann / Heartland Health Monitor

Planned Parenthood Great Plains says it has joined forces with three Planned Parenthood facilities in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, giving it a total of 12 health centers in four states.

Formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, the organization earlier this year expanded into central Oklahoma and took on its current name to reflect its greater geographical reach.

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One attorney said she’d never witnessed anything like it in her 26 years of practice.

Another said it was extraordinary – and painful – to watch.

Both were referring to a court hearing Wednesday in which a federal judge excoriated federal prosecutors for their handling of a drug smuggling case at the privately run Leavenworth Detention Center.

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Fallout from the disclosure that the pretrial detention center in Leavenworth had been recording attorney-client meetings and phone calls has now spread beyond Kansas.

The Federal Public Defender’s office in Kansas City, Missouri, recently sought to have one of its clients released from detention as a result of the apparent breach of attorney-client privilege.

Courtesy Nimrod Chapel Jr.

An attorney for the so-called “Medicaid 23” says his clients will appeal their convictions on trespassing charges, even though they face no jail time.

A Cole County, Missouri, jury on Wednesday acquitted 22 clergy members of obstructing government operations but found them guilty of trespassing when they refused to leave the Missouri Senate gallery during a protest in May 2014. The case of the 23rd defendant will be decided later.

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Facing increasing criticism from health care providers about recent cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates, Gov. Sam Brownback said that he will attempt to restore the cuts by increasing a tax that hospitals pay.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Brownback said he was forced to order a 4 percent cut in provider reimbursement rates in May after efforts to negotiate an increase in the surcharge failed.

It's a split decision in the trial of the so-called "Medicaid 23," a group of religious leaders who staged a protest in the Missouri Senate more than two years ago over lawmakers' refusal to expand Medicaid.

Twenty-two members of the group were found guilty of trespassing for not leaving the Senate gallery when ordered to do so by Capitol police. But they were found not guilty of obstructing the operations of the Senate. The case of one other member will be decided later.

Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons-Flickr

New revelations emerged at a court hearing today that the private prison contractor operating a pretrial detention center in Leavenworth recorded phone conversations between attorneys and their clients and turned them over to federal prosecutors.  

The disclosures came atop revelations at a hearing last Tuesday that the contractor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), had made video recordings of meetings at the Leavenworth Detention Center between lawyers and their clients and turned those over to prosecutors.

Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

The trial of 23 people who protested Missouri’s failure to expand Medicaid began today in Jefferson City with jury selection.

The so-called Medicaid 23 defendants include many notable Kansas City clergy members, among them Sam Mann, Wallace Hartsfield and Vernon P. Howard Jr. They are accused of trespassing and obstructing government operations, both misdemeanors.

The unusual mass trial stems from protests the defendants staged in May 2014. They were arrested after refusing to leave the Senate gallery, where they were chanting and singing.

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.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab Sunday on the Schlitterbahn water park’s Verrückt water slide is the first known accident involving the attraction since it opened in 2014.

But at least three negligence lawsuits have been filed since 2014 against Schlitterbahn, which opened seven years ago – although none involved the Verrückt, at 17 stories the world’s tallest water slide.

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Three Kansas City hospitals earned national bragging rights in U.S. News & World Report’s latest hospital rankings.

The University of Kansas Hospital was nationally ranked in 11 adult specialties, Children’s Mercy Hospital was nationally ranked in 10 pediatric specialties, and Saint Luke’s Hospital was nationally ranked in four adult specialties.

The three were the only hospitals in the metro to receive national recognition in the publication’s 27th annual Best Hospitals rankings.

Zach Klamann / Heartland Health Monitor

Missouri must pay more than $156,000 in attorneys’ fees after losing a court battle against Planned Parenthood over the revocation of its abortion license in Columbia, Missouri, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey on Monday awarded Planned Parenthood Great Plains (formerly Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri) all but $157.50 of the legal fees and expenses it sought after it prevailed in the case.

You know his voice ... but did you know his life? We remember KCUR's Steve Bell, who died last week doing one of the things he loved: getting ready for the afternoon newscast.

From a broadcasting career that began in 1958 to a stint as a psychologist — plus his love of animals and bluegrass music — we celebrate the life of our friend and a cherished voice to many.

Guests:

Courtesy University of Kansas Hospital

The University of Kansas Hospital will break ground Wednesday morning on a new building in Overland Park.

The new $100 million dollar facility, set to open in 2018, will feature eight operating rooms and 18 patient rooms. It will also include room for 17 additional beds for future expansion.

The facility’s services will include imaging, sports medicine, orthopedics, plastic surgery, ENT and cancer surgery.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

New federal legislation aimed at combating the nation’s opioid addiction crisis has a provision tailored specifically for Missouri, which is the only state without a database designed to prevent pill shopping among multiple dispensers.

The language, inserted by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, makes counties and municipalities eligible for federal funds that help establish a prescription drug monitoring program. Her amendment applies only to states without a prescription drug monitoring database.

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Kansas community mental health centers are sending a distress signal to state policymakers.

The association that represents the state’s 26 community mental health centers issued a statement Wednesday expressing “strong concerns” about the $30 million in funding cuts that it says its members have suffered in the past 12 months.

“The community mental health centers have taken one devastating hit after another over the last year,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Inc.

Missouri Department of Insurance

Starting in 2018, Missouri will no longer be the only state in the country barred from collecting information on health insurance rates.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday signed legislation requiring health insurers to file proposed rates with the Missouri Department of Insurance and the department to determine if they’re reasonable or not.

If the department finds them to be unreasonable because they’re excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory, the law authorizes it to disclose that to the public, which can then comment on the proposed rates.

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The Kansas Hospital Association is urging federal officials to stop Gov. Sam Brownback from implementing $56.4 million in Medicaid cuts set to take effect today.

Brownback ordered the cuts in May to cover shortfalls in the fiscal year 2017 budget approved by the Legislature. The hospital association is asking the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to immediately intervene to stop the cuts, which include a 4 percent reduction in provider payments.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansans who register to vote using a federal form at the Department of Motor Vehicles will have to provide proof of citizenship as a lawsuit plays out, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The League of Women Voters and other civil rights groups had sought a preliminary injunction to block such rules in Kansas, Alabama and Georgia.

“Because it’s a barrier to voting,” says Dolores Furtado, the immediate past president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas. “The percentage of eligible registered people that vote is sometimes terrible.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has signed legislation stepping up oversight of the state’s 360 Community Improvement Districts.

“When residents vote to improve their communities through local taxing districts, they expect those districts to be held accountable and follow the law,” Nixon said Wednesday in Kansas City. “They need a watchdog, and that watchdog needs to have teeth.”

The bill Nixon signed makes that watchdog State Auditor Nicole Galloway. Before, Galloway could only audit a CID if a citizen petition requested it.

Natural Resources Defense Council

A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says more than 5,000 public water systems — including 68 in Kansas — are in violation of Environmental Protection Agency rules meant to protect people from lead in the water they drink.

Augie Grasis
Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Augie Grasis doesn’t shy away from the label “serial entrepreneur.”

“I guess it’s true from the standpoint that I’ve had a number of startups,” says Grasis, the founder of multiple technology companies in Kansas City. “It’s really what interests me the most and what turns me on the most about life and about commerce. It’s innovating and improving the way things are done.”

Grasis is best known for starting up Handmark, which made content apps for the Palm operating system before expanding to other platforms and being acquired by Sprint in 2013.

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The troubled Larned State Hospital has a new superintendent.

Veteran state attorney Bill Rein has been named to head the facility, which provides inpatient treatment for people from the western two-thirds of Kansas suffering from severe or persistent mental illness.

United States Mission Geneva / Wikimedia Commons--CC

Four former governors have banded together to “Save Kansas” from Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters.

In a letter circulated Friday, former Govs. Kathleen Sebelius, Bill Graves, Mike Hayden and John Carlin urged Kansas Democrats, Republicans and Independents to band together “to regain our fiscal health and stop the calculated destruction of our revenue stream and our educational, healthcare, and transportation systems.

Americasroof / Wikimedia--CC

The Mid-America Regional Council, or MARC, releases a Skycast each day with a forecast of ozone air quality. The third orange ozone alert in 2016 for the Kansas City area was issued for Thursday. It recommended "limiting prolonged outdoor exertion" by children and adults, especially those with respiratory issues, such as asthma. 

In recent years, ozone alerts haven't been issued until July, says Amanda Graor, MARC's air quality program manager.

U.S. Department of Transportation

Kansas City lost out to Columbus, Ohio, in a bid to become the first Smart City, but it’ll still get help from the U.S. Department of Transportation to turn its ideas into reality.

On Tuesday, as Columbus media reported their city won the $50 million challenge, the DOT said it would back all seven finalists as they build better-connected cities.

Hannah Copeland / KCUR

About 7,000 volunteers and patrons traveled to a pasture on Saturday, June 11, near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas to listen to the Kansas City Symphony perform at the 11th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills.

As the sun began to set Saturday evening the crowd's attention was diverted to the co-stars of the outdoor concert: cows. Volunteer ranchers on horseback herded brown, white and black cattle across the bright green grassy hill behind the Symphony stage.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A few years ago, Blue Springs police officers were fielding daily calls about disturbances at two apartment complexes near Interstate 70 and Woods Chapel Road.

Now disturbances are down at the complexes, which are  under new management. Both have been renovated recently .

Police Department Deputy Chief Bob Muenz credits the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program, a national initiative to clean up apartment complexes.

Participating landlords attend training and attach a “crime-free” addendum to their lease.

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