News

File photo

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.

File photo

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.

File photo

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.

Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3

Can data help Kansas City, Kansas, reverse decades of urban decay?

Mayor Mark Holland thinks so.

It’s economics 101, the mayor says: property values plummet when there are more houses than people. That’s what happened when white families started to leave Kansas City, Kansas, in the 1960s. 

“Thirty-thousand fewer people is about 10,000 empty homes,” Holland says, “which has become about 6,000 vacant lots.”

More minorities moved in but not fast enough to make up for the population loss. Today, fewer than 150,000 people live in Kansas City, Kansas.

Ozarks Community Hospital

A new study by Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute finds stark differences between states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and those — like Kansas and Missouri — that haven’t.

Alex Smith / KCUR

A public hearing on proposed federal regulations for payday loans drew hundreds of supporters and opponents to downtown Kansas City Thursday morning.

Church members, union workers and community groups chanted outside the Music Hall and made the case during a public comment session that Missouri’s lax laws allow payday and other short-term lenders to exploit borrowers.

Terrence Wise, who supports tighter regulation of the industry, said a $150 payday loan ended up costing him $400.