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Jackson County Executive Frank White Thursday blasted the audit of the COMBAT anti-crime tax commissioned by the prosecutor's office. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3 file photo

Over the last three years, millions of dollars generated by COMBAT, the anti-drug and anti-violence sales tax in Jackson County, has been spent with little or no oversight, according to a new audit.

The COMBAT sales tax was approved by voters in 1989, and it has recently generated more than $20 million a year. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker commissioned the audit after she took over the agency in 2018.

Segment 1: While the rest of the nation has seen a decrease in the number of drug overdose deaths, Missouri and Kansas have seen a rise.

In 2018 death by drug overdose declined 4.2% in the United States, but Missouri saw an increase of 17% while Kansas saw a 5.6% rise. Public health officials from each side of the state line offer their thoughts on what was behind the respective upswings.

Destini Hutson spent much of her childhood picturing what life would be like when her dad came home.

Over time, her plans turned to the practical: teach him how to use an iPhone, help him find a job, go to Chick-fil-A together.

“‘It’s a lot that you’re going to have to learn,’” Hutson told her dad, Donald, who went to prison in 1997 when she was still a baby.

Those plans came to a halt last September, when Donald Hutson died of a drug overdose at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific. He’s one of more than 430 inmates who have overdosed in state prisons since May 2017, according to internal data from the Missouri Department of Corrections. While there are many ways drugs are smuggled into prisons, DOC employees say internal corruption is a key part of the problem.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE — Before starting his CBD company, Chris Brunin researched the competition, the labs they used, the products they sold.

He checked out ingredient suppliers and organic hemp farmers. He took everyone’s pitches with a heapful of salt.

“The hemp industry is like the Wild West and Wall Street had a baby,” said Brunin. “You have to vet everything and everybody … to make sure you’re not getting messed with or lied to.”

Segment 1: The changing culture of language-learning in professional baseball.

About 25 percent of Major League Baseball players were from Spanish-speaking countries on Opening Day in March. What role do professional baseball teams play in incorporating language-learning into their players' transitions to living and playing in the United States?

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

Douglas rattles around a collection of glass jars in the storage closet of his Denver apartment. They’re filled with a small grain, like barley, and covered in a soft white fungus — a mushroom spawn. Soon, he’ll transplant it in large plastic bins filled nutrients like dried manure and coconut fiber.

Over the course of two weeks, mushrooms that naturally contain psilocybin, a psychoactive ingredient, will sprout.

Segment 1: The author of "One by One" shares his battle with opioid addiction.

Nicholas Bush found himself hiding from police for crimes related to his to an opioid addiction. After 10 years of drug abuse and the loss of two siblings, Bush was finally able to kick his habit after a dream involving his deceased sister.

Segment 1: Kansas governor and lawmakers don't see eye to eye.

Political reporters described a hostile environment  between Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican-led legislature. They explained what each side is looking for on the issues of Medicaid expansion, school funding, protecting vulenerable children and the food tax.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

Farm filming

Nearly two decades ago, Kansas became the first state to outlaw the unauthorized filming of farms, animal research labs or meatpacking plants.

The law came from a push by ag groups trying to fend off guerilla documentaries by groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals collecting gritty footage of all it takes to make a steer into hamburger.

A man with dark hair and a goatee wearing headphones and a charcoal jacket sits behind a microphone in a radio studio.
Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: Vince Ortega has a long history working with COMBAT and the Kansas City Police Department.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Jeffrey Wayne Henry, the co-owner of the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, arranged to have sex with a female human trafficking victim and paid her in part with Schlitterbahn tickets, according to a motion to revoke Henry’s bond filed by prosecutors.

Henry faces second-degree murder and other charges in connection with the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab more than two years ago on the Verrückt waterslide in Schlitterbahn’s Kansas City, Kansas, waterpark.

Frank Morris / KCUR/NPR

The sharp rise in opioid abuse and fatal overdoses has overshadowed another mounting drug problem: Methamphetamine use is rising across the country.

“Usage of methamphetamine nationally is at an all-time high,” says Erik Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Kansas City office.

O'Dea / Wikimedia Commons

Segment 1: Three separate ballot measures aim to allow medical marijuana in the Show-Me State.

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

Segment 1: Methamphetamine epidemic of the 90s hasn't gone away in Missouri, it's gotten worse.

Screenshot

In 2015, a woman donned a clown mask and slipped into a Dollar General Store in Wichita just before closing time.

In the final moments of the robbery that eventually got her three years in prison, she did something that could complicate her life for many more years to come.

She flashed a stun gun, stuffed the $3,400 in her coveralls and fled.

Fox News Channel

Updated at 3:55 p.m.:  

U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., said Thursday morning that Mexican drug cartels are directly sending narcotics into Overland Park.

file photo / Wikimedia Commons

A Kansas House committee on Thursday recommended the legalization of medicinal supplements containing cannabidiol, CBD, a marijuana extract used by some to control seizures and pain.

It also moved to keep an herbal stimulant, kratom, legal in Kansas.

Statewide criminal registries took off in the 1990s, fueled by crimes against children and a desire to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. But some are saying that Kansas’ database has gotten out of hand, that it’s expanded to include too many different types of offenders. So, a debate is beginning about how it might be streamlined.

file photo / Harvest Public Media

Kansas sits in a shrinking pool of states with the strictest marijuana and hemp laws, surrounded by a wave of decriminalization and legalization that’s swept most of the U.S.

So it’s no surprise that the topic of cannabis keeps cropping up in the Kansas Statehouse, where some lawmakers and lobbyists want the Free State to jump on the bandwagon.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers may once have thought stiffer penalties for marijuana made sense, but in recent years crowded prisons forced them to take another look.

One of the changes, made in 2016, reduced the crime of being caught with marijuana a second time from a felony to a misdemeanor.

But on Tuesday, the Kansas Sentencing Commission said that change overlooked state law that still keeps harsher penalties on the books for getting caught with pot residue than for possession of marijuana.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

In the fight between the Jackson County Legislature and County Executive Frank White score one, at least for now, for lawmakers.

In a two-page ruling, Circuit Judge George Wolf made it clear that White and the county executive's office is to stay out of "the day-to-day supervision of the administration of the COMBAT tax and COMBAT Commission."

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

Update: On Tuesday, Rep. Steve Alford gave up his chairmanship on a Kansas House committee and stepped aside from a child welfare task force.

 

After a western Kansas lawmaker suggested black people respond to the use of marijuana differently than others, the Republican leader of his own party condemned the remarks.

On Saturday in Garden City, Rep. Steve Alford of Ulysses said the drug was made illegal because of the way he contended it affects African-American users.

FIle Photo / Kansas News Service

Anecdotal evidence from prosecutors across the state indicates opioid abuse is growing in Kansas, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said, but he urged lawmakers not to forget the state’s ongoing methamphetamine problem.

Schmidt answered questions about the issue Thursday from a panel of lawmakers in Topeka.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

In May, local Drug Enforcement Administration agents, along with Kansas City police, raided a house in Kansas City, Kansas.

What they found surprised them: 16 pounds of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

"We had no idea that it was 100 percent fentanyl," says DEA special agent Troy Derby.

But they were certainly aware of the risks of even a minute amount of the powerful opioid.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

It was a clear night in late July 2016 on the 3600 block of Askew Avenue on Kansas City’s East Side.

But inside one home, a fight was brewing. It was just after midnight, the police report would later say, when Lon’Nasha Tate opened the freezer to find that the ice cream she had saved for her kids was half empty.

frankieleon / Flickr - CC

While communities across the country deal with dramatic increases in illegal opioid use, statistics in Johnson County suggest rates of death and addiction closer to home are relatively more stable.

Court filings involving opioid offenses have remained relatively flat in recent years, and illegal use has decreased for hydrocodone and oxycodone, two of the most popular opiates, according to a report from public health and crime experts presented to the Johnson County Commission in June. Heroin use remains steady.

Despite those encouraging numbers, local officials are wary.

Tex Texin / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas City's ongoing violent crime problem is no secret. Today, we hear from two former presidents of the Board of Police Commissioners, Jeff Simon and Pat McInerney, who offer their thoughts on solving the city's preeminent hurdle. Then, we examine how a wall between the U.S. and Mexico would (or would not) affect existing tensions over immigration, crime, trade and more.

Ryan Bavetta / Flickr - CC

It's easy to claim that Mexican immigrants, workers or political policies are what ails the American economy, but the problem is more complex than that. Today, we learn why simple solutions won't solve complicated issues between the United States and its southern neighbor. Then, we meet a journalist and author who toured small towns throughout the Midwest, and was pleasantly surprised by the resilience and hope she found in them.

The state of Missouri filed suit Wednesday against three major drug companies, alleging they fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic with a campaign of false advertising and fake claims.

On the steps of St. Louis Circuit Court, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said he would seek “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damages against Purdue Pharma L.P., Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

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