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Noonletter, Nov. 15, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

More beds or more services

Legislators heard Wednesday that Kansas either needs to improve a range of services for the mentally ill or to be prepared to more than double the number of psychiatric beds available. Or both.

Today, the state offers 258 slots in mental health hospitals. Madeline Fox reports that’s down from more than 1,000 beds in 1990. A report from January says the state needs 300 more.

Advocates for the mentally ill say the state wouldn’t need to add quite so many beds to mental hospitals if it did some other things: expanded Medicaid to more Kansans, did a better job of the “warm handshake” that connects patients with outpatient support services when they’re discharged from a psychiatric ward, or otherwise bolstered regional crisis care.

A new study is in the works to calculate the needs, without much hope that the demand for intensive psychiatric care has dropped.

Uncheck the box

In some child abuse investigations in Kansas, the Department for Children and Families concludes that an accusation is “affirmed.” In DCF argot, that means there’s some evidence of mistreatment, but not enough to justify a parent losing custody of a child.

Once the agency issues that finding, the person implicated can, for instance, be required to acknowledge the history on a job application.

State law isn’t specific about an appeals process. DCF has allowed people stuck with the “affirmed” child abuse label to appeal the finding. Yet some of those appeals have been tossed out on the grounds that the process isn’t necessarily promised in state regulations. A legislative committee on Thursday, Madeline Fox reports, changed that.

Now people tied to an abuse investigation that ended in an “affirmed” finding — the agency calls cases with more conclusive evidence of abuse “substantiated” — is promised a chance to challenge that conclusion.

Don’t say that

A white Leavenworth County Commissioner is under fire for referring to himself as a member of the “master race” when talking to an African-American woman at a public meeting.

KSHB-TV reports that another member of the commission is calling on Louis Klemp to resign after making the comment at a commission meeting this week.

The incident came after the woman had presented a land-use study to the panel.

“I don’t want you to think I am picking on you because we are part of the master race,” Klemp said, “You have a gap in your teeth. We are part of the master race, don’t you forget that.”

Walmart settles in straw buyer case

Neo-Nazi F. Glenn Miller wanted a gun in 2014. But, as a convicted felon, he couldn’t legally buy one.

So he coaxed someone else to purchase a shotgun from a Walmart store. Bent on killing Jews, he took the gun to the Jewish Community Center and the Village Shalom care center in Overland Park and killed three people (none of whom turned out to be Jewish).

The family of one of his victims, Terri LaManno, sued Walmart over the “straw” purchase — selling the shotgun to somebody who intended to hand the weapon over to Miller. The Kansas City Star reports that the suit was settled for an undisclosed sum.

Secret ballot, public voting records

The Kansas Attorney General’s office is arguing in court that soon-to-be-former Secretary of State Kris Kobach isn’t personally liable for any Kansas voter data that might leak from a program intended to sniff out supposed vote fraud.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that documents filed in the case in recent weeks by Attorney General Derek begin to lay out the state’s defense of problems springing from the Interstate Crosscheck System.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging how Kobach has run the system.

Kansas has used it since 2005, matching names and dates of birth from some other states in search of people supposedly trying to vote in more than one location.

Kobach’s office sent an unsecured email to Florida officials identifying nearly 1,000 voters that, potentially, could be the same ones registered in Florida. (Such apparent matches rarely indicate one person voting in two places. It’s a matter of the birthday paradox.)

The Kansas-to-Florida email included partial Social Security numbers.

Schmidt’s office argues the U.S. Supreme Court “has never held that there is a constitutional right to prevent government disclosure of private information.”

The ACLU contends, in contrast, that spilling out that personal information violates constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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