Kansas News Service | KCUR

Kansas News Service

The Kansas News Service produces essential enterprise reporting, diving deep and connecting the dots regarding the policies, issues and events that affect the health of Kansans and their communities. The team is based at KCUR and collaborates with public media stations and other news outlets across Kansas. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Bookmark our homepage at ksnewsservice.org

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

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 Forward Foundation. Additional support comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department

Updated 7:25 p.m. Oct. 7 — One suspect remained at large Monday evening, while another was in custody, in the killing of four people and the wounding of five others in a shooting at a Kansas City, Kansas, bar over the weekend.

Police have identified the four men who were killed at Tequila KC as Martin Rodriguez-Gonzales, 58; Alfredo Calderon, 29; Ebar Meza-Aguirre, 29, and Francisco Anaya-Garcia, 34.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Updated at 7:00 a.m. Oct. 7 — Celeste Trevino was dancing with a "friend of a friend" early Sunday morning at Tequila KC. It was about a half-hour before closing time when two men came into the close-knit neighborhood bar in Kansas City, Kansas. One of the men walked toward the pair.

“We were talking and dancing,” she said through tears at a Sunday night vigil, “and the next thing I knew, he wasn’t there anymore.”

Her dance partner, whom she called Ever, was killed, along with three other Latino men ranging in age from their mid 20 to late 50s. Five others were wounded. Police said they don’t believe the shooting was racially motivated — but said it wasn’t random, either.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — Dozens of primarily elderly or disabled Kansans lost their Medicaid coverage because of errors made by Aetna. Staff at the state health department discovered the problem, restored their insurance and stopped further cancellations.

Months later, state workers are still double-checking the work of Aetna Better Health — one of the three companies that helps run the state’s privatized Medicaid system — while Aetna puts together a permanent fix.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers spent years imposing ever tougher restrictions on abortion and then saw the state Supreme Court declare that women hold a right to the procedure.

Now Republicans and abortion opponents appear determined to amend the Kansas Constitution to reverse that ruling.

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Two years after closing an office in Garden City, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week it’s coming back to town.

The agency’s new setup comes at a time when methamphetamine seizures are on the rise in Finney County and the area’s seen some drug-related shootings. Plus, states are grappling with the fallout of billions of opioids distributed throughout the U.S., and western Kansas has few drug rehabilitation options.

When it comes to electric scooters, it seems that people either love them, or want to see them all thrown into a river — literally.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Sitting at the edge of the gently undulating landscape of the Flint Hills in east-central Kansas, the town of Hillsboro boasts a small hospital that has survived a remarkable roller coaster ride even as other rural hospitals stagger and fail.  

Nine months ago, everything seemed to be coming apart at the 15-bed facility, Hillsboro Community Hospital, which traces its roots back more than a century.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Olathe School District on Friday voted to authorize a lawsuit against the nation’s leading maker of electronic cigarettes, saying the widespread use by students of vaping devices is endangering their health and disrupting their education.

In a news release issued after it approved the suit, the district said that it “understands the threat to student health and is taking action against the epidemic.”

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE, Kansas — Faculty, students and alumni are pleading with the University of Kansas not to ax a teacher-training center slated to become the next victim of major budget cuts — or at least to extend its life a few more semesters.

KU announced earlier this month that the Center for STEM Learning will close in June. Students say they were blindsided, and that KU’s promise to create a more cost-effective path for math and science teachers doesn’t satisfy them.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

The federal public defender's office in Kansas says it’s entitled to nearly $224,000 in legal fees because of prosecutor misconduct in an explosive case over the taping of attorney-client phone calls at the Leavenworth pretrial detention prison. 

In a court filing this week, the public defender says it incurred nearly $1.7 million in fees and expenses litigating the case but is seeking only the amount “required to litigate the Government’s contemptuous conduct.”

Editor's note: This story was updated on Oct. 2 to include comments from Sen. Jerry Moran. 

The state’s four congressional representatives and Sen. Jerry Moran have weighed in after this week’s announcement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi that the House of Representatives will move forward with an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

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In a ripple effect of the General Motors strike, now in its second week, 66 maintenance workers have been laid off from their jobs at the Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City, Kansas.

Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc., a commercial real estate firm that provides maintenance services at the plant, said in a letter to the United Auto Workers that the workers were “not deemed critical to operations during this period of labor unrest.”

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

TOPEKA, Kansas — When Gov. Laura Kelly signed a proclamation recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month in Kansas this week, she hailed the culture and diversity that Latinos bring to the state. She also gave a serious warning. 

If the state’s 350,000 Latinos don’t take part in the 2020 census, she said, Kansas could lose federal money and, potentially, representation in Congress.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

The Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to change the benchmarks for in-state students to attend the state’s six public universities, and class-rank requirements are out.

The move is meant to increase the number of Kansas high schoolers who are eligible to attend Kansas State University, Emporia State University, Pittsburg State University, Fort Hays State University, Wichita State University and the University of Kansas. 

Bigstock

A Johnson County, Kansas, resident has filed a class action lawsuit claiming the country’s leading electronic cigarette maker, Juul Labs, fraudulently concealed the addictive nature of its vaping products and misrepresented their safety.

Isaac Gant says he began vaping as a senior in high school four years ago and now is addicted to nicotine, suffers from respiratory problems, bouts of anxiety, coughing fits and the need to take frequent breaks at work to satisfy his nicotine cravings.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Mold. No heat in the winter. Leaking roofs.

The most common complaints Teresa Baker hears about rental housing in Kansas revolve around poor living conditions that violate state law.

Air Ambulances Woo Rural Kansans With Memberships That May Leave Them Hanging

Sep 16, 2019
Sarah Jane Tribble / Kaiser Health News

FORT SCOTT, Kansas — On a hot June day, as the Good Ol’ Days Festival was in full swing, 7-year-old Kaidence Anderson sat in the shade with her family waiting for a medevac helicopter to land.

A crowd had gathered to see the display pre-arranged by staff at the town’s historic fort.

“It’s going to show us how it’s going to help other people because we don’t have the hospital anymore,” the redheaded girl explained.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Over the last five years, almost 15,000 workers disappeared from the Kansas workforce.

During the same timeframe, the state is growing economically, with a recent monthly report showing 14,000 jobs created in the last year and unemployment at 3.3%. That’s below the national rate. 

Despite the good news, Kansas officials see a long-term challenge: having enough employees to fill the state’s jobs, especially in high-demand careers like nursing and accounting.

Wikimedia

This story was updated at 10 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2019, to reflect comments from the Bureau of Prisons.

The federal Bureau of Prisons will provide opioid addiction treatment for a prisoner at the Leavenworth penitentiary, according to a settlement reached Wednesday.

This June the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plan to move two of its research agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area. Most of the people working at the agencies have since quit, leaving gaping holes in critical divisions. Researchers warn that the agency upheaval will starve farmers, policymakers and ultimately consumers out of the best possible information about food and the business of growing it.

GARDEN CITY — As a nurse, Betsy Rodriquez interviews teenagers who are sexually active and often shockingly ignorant about sex.

GARDEN CITY — Zion Roth farms with his uncle, father and brothers near Garden City. Roth uses tools that monitor weather and the soil moisture on his farm, including one that notifies him when conditions are ideal for irrigation.

School Districts Double Down On Drug Testing, Targeting Even Middle Schoolers

Sep 5, 2019
Chris Neal / for the Kansas News Service

FORT SCOTT, Kansas — Thirteen-year-old Aura Brillhart and her 11-year-old sister, Morgan, will face a new sort of test in school this year: a drug test.

The middle and high schools in their community of Fort Scott, Kansas, are among the latest to require random drug testing of students who want to participate in sports, clubs, dances or any other extracurricular activities.

“I hate that it’s even an issue for us to have to address,” said their mom, Jody Hoener. “But putting our heads in the sand isn’t going to make things any better.”

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner is ending his campaign for the U.S. Senate and will instead launch a primary challenge against Republican Congressman Steve Watkins.

Mark Davis / KCUR 89.3

As a teenager, Vince Sanders watched his father go to prison. He dropped out of school and ended up serving time himself.

It makes an unlikely history for the 55-year-old founder of a fast-growing retail chain who owes his fall and rise to the cannabis plant.

WICHITA, Kansas — Large industrial operations — think electrical power plants, oil refineries, ethanol facilities —cough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by the ton. That, in turn, warms the planet.

But now some researchers think Kansas could be a good place to pump the gas underground rather than up in the air.

Wichita  Kansas is a national leader in wind energy, but a new report shows the state lags in the adoption of other so-called green technologies.

Find out how Kansas compares to the rest of the country.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Aetna Better Health is struggling to keep its Medicaid contract with KanCare, to the point that state officials found fault with Aetna’s recent plan to improve services.

But Kansas lawmakers had two words this week for the company: Keep trying.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

COFFEYVILLE, KANSAS — Preschool was a logistical boon for Delice Downing and an educational bonanza for her son, Adrian.

The head volleyball coach and director of student life at Coffeyville Community College had ruled out day care when she heard the price: several hundred dollars a week.

Then Adrian reached preschool age. Coffeyville offers something most Kansas communities don’t: free attendance at a preschool with room for nearly all kids in town whose parents want it.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

Less than two weeks after a judge issued a blistering opinion on the taping of attorney-client conversations at the Leavenworth Detention Center, a settlement has been reached with inmates who alleged their calls were illegally recorded.

The settlement, which needs court approval before it becomes final, calls for the private operator of the prison and the provider of its phone system to pay $1.45 million into a settlement fund for the inmates.

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