Kansas News Service

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

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. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Ways to Connect

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Experts from a variety of fields gathered Wednesday at the Kansas Statehouse for a mental health symposium spurred by an Emporia hospital’s struggle last year to find a psychiatric care bed for a suicidal patient.

House Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, a Republican from Emporia, said she was inspired to convene the symposium after hearing from officials at Newman Regional Health.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is sticking to his talking points. In a rare informal conversation with Statehouse reporters late last week, Brownback said the results of the recent primary election aren’t causing him to re-think his positions on tax cuts, school finance and Medicaid expansion.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Legislators in cash-strapped Kansas approved a 4 percent cut to Medicaid reimbursements this year. That’s made an already tough situation even tougher for a dentist in Prairie Village who serves some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

John Fasbinder’s dental office was busy on a recent Tuesday.

The effort to expand Medicaid in Kansas has been stuck in the political mud for the better part of three years.

Not anymore.

The results of last week’s primary election may have given expansion advocates the traction they need to overcome opposition from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative conservatives who thus far have blocked debate on the issue.

A series of victories by moderate Republicans over conservative incumbents and challengers for open seats has fundamentally changed the legislative landscape.

A company that issues health care ID cards for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City says a cyberattack in July may affect more than 400,000 Missouri policyholders.

Newkirk Products, Inc. says the breached data varied by plan but generally only included information found on members’ ID cards.

Kelly Cannon, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, said financial and medical information was not exposed.

Shawnee Mission Medical Center Facebook

The federal government yesterday released its much anticipated – and controversial – hospital quality ratings. The system uses a one- to five-star system to rate hospitals on things like patient safety, mortality, readmissions and patient satisfaction.

Among the quality ratings for 4,000 hospitals in the United States, just one in greater Kansas City, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, received the top rating of five stars.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

The economy of western Kansas is based on the Ogallala Aquifer. But that ancient underground water supply is being rapidly depleted. The Kansas Water Office is teaming up with forward-looking farmers in an effort to demonstrate that new irrigation technologies can reduce the demand on the aquifer without sacrificing crop yields.

From mid-May through the end of August, a sound is heard almost non-stop in farm fields all across western Kansas. It’s the sound of an irrigation pump pulling water from deep underground to nourish thirsty crops. Tom Willis owns several of these wells.

Jasleen Kaur / flickr Creative Commons

A review of health system performance nationwide shows some improvement in Kansas—but not much.

The report by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund covers three dozen indicators of access, quality, cost, and health outcomes. Like the rest of the country, Kansas saw more measures improving than declining—but the majority showed little or no change.

Heartland Health Monitor/File photo

A contract dispute has ended a University of Kansas research center’s more than 30-year collaboration with the state’s community mental health centers--and that has several mental health providers lashing out at officials in the administration of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Heartland Health Monitor’s Jim McLean explains the history behind the growing controversy.

KDADS

A contract dispute between a state agency and a research center at KU could affect the quality of care at community mental health centers across Kansas.

What appears at first blush to be little more than a contract dispute between a state agency and a University of Kansas research center is actually much more than that.

The state’s failure to renew a contract with the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation is another assault on the state’s mental health system, according to the directors of several community mental health centers.

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