Nomin Ujiyediin

Nomin is a Kansas News Service reporting fellow at KCUR.

Prior to joining the news service, Nomin produced All Things Considered at WNYC in New York City and was a host, producer and reporter at KGOU in Norman, Oklahoma. She has an MA from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, where she focused on urban reporting, radio and photography. She also has a BA from Rutgers University. Nomin was a Knight CUNYJ fellow in 2015, and an AIR New Voice fellow in 2017.

In her spare time, Nomin lifts weights, plays video games and tries to contain her bad New Jersey attitude.

TOPEKA, Kansas — The same kids who end up in trouble with the law often come from families in disarray.

Those families, in turn, regularly turn to the state for food assistance, foster care or mental health care.

Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday a plan to form a singular agency — the Kansas Department of Human Services — that would absorb social welfare programs currently handled by three agencies.

The new agency would have a massive statewide presence, employing 6,000 workers, and oversee foster care, mental health services, four state hospitals and the juvenile justice complex. 

TOPEKA, Kansas — This state capital made national headlines in December when it announced it would pay anyone up to $15,000 to move here and work for local companies in Shawnee County.

With a pilot program called “Choose Topeka,” the city joins a long line of places like Vermont and Tulsa, Oklahoma, that offer cash to new arrivals.

TOPEKA, Kansas — It typically took Walt Hill more than a year to recruit a psychiatrist to northwest Kansas. Now he doesn’t even bother.

Instead, the executive director of the High Plains Mental Health Center relies on out-of-state doctors willing to work remotely, treating patients through video conference.

For years, the center has used remote appointments with local psychiatrists to reach patients in far-flung corners of its coverage area, which spans 20 largely rural counties.

TOPEKA, Kansas — One solution to Kansas prisons’ woes could come with a $35 million price tag for three new specialty prisons.

The state’s corrections system only treats half of its inmates who struggle with substance abuse. And as some people serve decades-long sentences, the system finds itself home to more elderly prisoners who need special care as they age.

When Dan Hoyt started graduate school at the University of Kansas in 2016, he knew he had anxiety and depression. He worried about being able to find a job after graduation. And, sometimes, he couldn’t get through his assigned reading.

“When you have anxieties, that gets impossible,” he said. “I'll think about the same things over and over and over again.”

But when he reached out to KU’s counseling services, he was told he had to wait five months before he could get an appointment with a therapist at the Lawrence campus. And getting there from KU’s Overland Park campus, where he took classes, complicated things.

Holes punched in walls. Car headlights smashed. Windows broken. Weapons, threats, sexual comments. Children who can’t live with other children. Children whom foster parents won’t take in. Children who aren’t able to get the mental health care they desperately need.

Kansas foster care contractors and parents say all of these situations have become more common — and more risky — since 2017, when the state made sweeping changes to the juvenile justice system. The changes, they say, removed options for dealing with foster children who have high needs and violent behaviors.

Updated Nov. 15 with statement from the governor: Attorneys for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly have asked a federal court to remove her from a class-action lawsuit over the state’s troubled foster care program, arguing that she doesn’t actually oversee the system.

The move comes as parents and advocates say that the system continues to traumatize the thousands of children in its care.

Kansans reported more sexual assaults, domestic violence and stalking to the police in 2018, according to a report from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Compared to the previous year, it’s a 6% increase in domestic violence incidents, a 9% increase in rapes and a 27% increase in stalking incidents.

But the numbers don’t necessarily reflect an increase in those crimes being committed, KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood said.

TOPEKA, Kansas — When it comes to medical marijuana, Kansas may end up looking more like Ohio than Missouri — with edibles and topicals only, no smoking.

The Special Committee on Federal and State Affairs recommended potential regulations on Wednesday for the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. It’s far from the first time the legislature would consider medical marijuana: The Kansas Health Institute says 18 bills have been introduced since 2006.

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