Durrie Bouscaren

Durrie Bouscaren is a general assignment reporter, based in Des Moines. She covers breaking stories, economic news, and reports from the Statehouse during the legislative session. 

Bouscaren joined IPR in March of 2013 as a one-woman bureau in Cedar Rapids. Her passion for public radio began in high school, when she would listen to BBC World Service newscasts in the middle of the night. While attending Syracuse University, she reported and produced local news for member station WAER, and received a statewide Associated Press Broadcasters Association award for a report on Syracuse’s Southern Sudanese community. Bouscaren also covered Syracuse and small towns  throughout Central New York as a stringer for WRVO Public Media. Her work has aired on NPR's All Things Considered, WBEZ's Front and Center and KQED's The California Report

Bouscaren's favorite public radio program is Planet Money.

Lessons on safe sleep practices for low-income parents, and 200 portable cribs. That’s what a $20,000 contract represented for a St. Louis nonprofit, before the Missouri Department of Health decided not to renew it this fall.

“We were told they are switching their focus … to violence prevention,” said Lori Behrens, executive director of Infant Loss Resources. “It’s hard to argue with the need for that.”

After filing a federal complaint, nursing home workers at the Christian Care Home in Ferguson plan to strike outside the facility early Friday morning. Union officials said they are protesting unfair labor practices.

Brenda Davis, a certified medication technician, said that leadership cut back hours for staff and changed schedules without giving notice, or a chance for the union to bargain. That left many shifts understaffed.

“We just don’t have the help. There’s nobody there. The work is so heavy, we have literally had two people for a floor of 50 and 60 residents,” said Davis, a member of the union's bargaining committee.

Once again, people who don’t get health insurance through their job are logging into online market places set up by the Affordable Care Act to buy it on their own. This year, the enrollment season is shorter —  six weeks — but business is brisk.  

In the first four weeks of this year’s enrollment season, 78,676 Missourians enrolled in a plan, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That’s about 17,000 more people than were signed up during the same period last year.  

In Illinois, the four-week total was 95,434, up from 68,198 in 2016.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is calling for a fourth investigation in less than six months of the St. Louis Veterans Home in north St. Louis County, following a public meeting Monday where relatives and staff accused the facility of neglecting patients.

“These allegations are deeply disturbing,” Greitens, a Republican, wrote in a statement. “We will continue to demand the best for our veterans, and we will hold accountable those responsible for their care.”

This story has been updated.

Missed medications. Falsified records. A veteran with dementia placed in a scalding hot shower, unable to move.

One by one, concerned family members and employees of the St. Louis Veteran’s Home — some angry, others in tears — took to a microphone at North Kirkwood Middle School late Monday. They alleged that the 300-bed facility in north St. Louis County is so mismanaged that its care of aging residents amounts to neglect. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are particularly vulnerable, they said.  

A fair housing advocacy organization has filed federal complaints against five new apartment complexes in the St. Louis area.

The Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council claims the buildings do not meet accessibility standards for people with disabilities, further restricting an already limited supply of accessible housing in the region.

When a child has an elevated amount of lead in their blood, it’s often up to Tammi Holmes to find the source.

Once, it was a packet of turmeric, brought home after an international trip. Another time, it was the metal letter on an apartment door, traced by a little girl every day as she learned the alphabet.

“We’re missing a lot of kids,” Holmes told a group of educators during a free-testing day at the Gary Gore Elementary School in Jennings. "Sometimes people don't think about things like that, until we have that conversation." 

To prove that a new-gene editing technology could be used to alter the cassava plant, scientists in the St. Louis suburbs zeroed in on a gene used to process chlorophyll. Before long, they had petri dishes full of seedlings that were white as chalk.

The plan is to use CRISPR — a cheaper, faster way to genetically modify crops — to grow cassava plants that are resistant to common plant viruses threatening food supplies in East Africa. But regulatory agencies have yet to finalize how they will treat the new crops.

“It’s only really been available for use in plants for three, four years,” said principal investigator Nigel Taylor, of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur. “Right now, it’s an experimental tool.”

Updated Nov. 27 with federal decision — Following an investigation and subsequent layoffs, Mercy Hospital Springfield is no longer at risk of losing federal funding due to reports of patient abuse. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave notice this month that the southwest Missouri hospital has achieved compliance with patient care standards after implementing a corrective plan.

Though Republicans in Congress have not passed a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump has used a series of executive orders and directives in an attempt to peel back parts of the law.

Last week, the administration announced it would stop paying cost-sharing reductions to insurance companies for individual plans purchased through Healthcare.gov, sparking fears of insurance rate hikes just before enrollment season.  

Official estimates show that losing cost-sharing payments could push some premiums up by 20 percent in states like Missouri. In the meantime, open enrollment for individual plans opens Nov. 1.  

It’s been almost a week since a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more in Las Vegas. The shooter used a device called a bump stock to modify his gun so that it could function as a machine gun. Politicians have unified around one thing: further regulations around the bump stock. But dealers at a gun show in St. Charles this weekend said the demand for the bump stock was up.

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria’s 155 mph winds pummeled the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, many residents remain without easy access to electricity, food or running water. Cell phone service is limited, and mail service has not been fully restored.

At a free drop-in clinic for sexually transmitted disease screening in Pine Lawn, just north of St. Louis, people wait outside the door before the doors open at 8 a.m. That’s because the spots usually fill up in about an hour.

“I’d be more concerned if it didn’t fill up,” said Dr. Fred Echols, director of communicable disease for the St. Louis Department of Public Health.  “I definitely think we’re moving the needle.”

Intense stress faced by new moms can also affect the emotional development of their baby. That's a good reason to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income mothers, a St. Louis child psychiatrist argued Tuesday.

“If you want to have healthy infants, you have to have healthy caregivers,” Dr. Cynthia Rogers told an assembly of physicians at Washington University. “And the preterm brain is particularly vulnerable.”

Jail inmates at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton stay for an average of 59 days before their cases are tried or dismissed. But 10 miles away, at the Medium Security Institution in the city of St. Louis, the typical prisoner waits for eight months.

The St. Louis jail, which does not have air conditioning in the men’s dorms, drew protests this summer after inmates cried for help during a heat wave. The city installed temporary cooling units at the facility, also known as the Workhouse, and extreme temperatures have since subsided. Inmates and their families say more must be done to improve conditions in the aging facility. But city officials say there isn’t much more they can do.

Updated at 9:20 p.m. with the Post-Dispatch interview with Stockley — A former St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer is not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a judge ruled Friday.

"This Court, as the trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant's guilt," St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson said in his verdict. "Agonizingly, this Court has poured over the evidence again and again."

Immediately, protesters, who promised weeks of protests, amassed downtown. The St. Louis chapter of the NAACP called for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to review the case.

St. Louis researchers have used a strain of the Zika virus to shrink highly lethal brain tumors in mice. 

The study, run by Washington University and the University of California San Diego, used 33 lab mice with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Mice injected with a strain of the Zika virus lived longer and were measured to have smaller tumors than the control group, which was injected with saltwater.

Every year, for the past 15 years, first year students at Washington University’s School of Medicine have climbed on board three yellow school buses and headed north. They take a route that passes through the city’s poorest neighborhoods, in a bid to introduce medical students to the lives of their future patients.

It’s a trip the school hopes will make them better doctors.

Saint Louis University Hospital's emergency services director, Helen Sandkuhl, has spent the last couple of weeks reviewing emergency plans, checking equipment and preparing a crisis communications center in a hospital conference room.

Visitors are descending on the St. Louis region to view the total solar eclipse on Monday, so Sandkuhl and other emergency room officials expect to be busier than usual.

In 2011, Aaron Murray bought his first gun at a sporting goods store — a .40 caliber Beretta pistol. He and his wife were fixing up a foreclosed home in a tough neighborhood in the northern suburbs of St. Louis, and he wanted to protect himself.

Two years later, a bullet from his own gun during a home invasion would leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

If you’re one of the about 10 million people who don't have health insurance through work and buy it on your own, this is the week to see what rate hikes your insurance company is asking regulators to approve for next year. That is, unless you live in Missouri.

State legislators approved a law last year to allow Missouri’s insurance regulator to review price increases for health insurance plans. But the state decided to postpone the deadline to share those rates with the public, citing “several significant developments impacting the individual health insurance market.”  About 240,000 Missourians buy plans on Healthcare.gov.

A two-year federal investigation of Backpage.com, a website that frequently advertises commercial sex, led Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to introduce legislation Tuesday. The bill, filed with bipartisan support, would make it illegal for websites to "knowingly  facilitate sex trafficking.”

McCaskill said Backpage.com appears to be actively involved in cultivating and publishing ads for minors engaged in commercial sex, a felony. The company's activities are detailed in a growing cadre of evidence released by federal investigators, uncovered in ongoing civil and criminal court cases and published by the Washington Post.

St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution, also known as the Workhouse, has been the target of protests and lawsuits for years, including for its lack of air conditioning during the recent record-breaking heat.

While the city brought in temporary air conditioning units Monday, providing what city engineers said would be the ability to “sustain a temperature of 78 degrees inside the dorms,” the events sparked several questions. Here are some important facts about the Workhouse and the regulations it must adhere to.

Twice as many United States women are dying in childbirth today as in 1990, even though all other wealthy nations have seen declines in maternal mortality rates.

Rising rates of obesity and women having children later in life may help explain the rising number of deaths, said Dr. Shilpa Babbar, who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis County.

Updated July 24 at 2:15 p.m. information on arrests — Amid continued protests during this week's heat wave, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson announced Saturday that the city is ordering portable air conditioning units to be installed "as soon as possible" at the Medium Security Institution. Inside the facility, which is also known as the Workhouse, many inmates are live in quarters without air conditioning as temperatures soar above 100 degrees. 

How long is the wait for a Spanish-language therapy session in the St. Louis area, if you don’t have health insurance? A year or more, providers say.

Jorge Riopedre, president of St. Louis-based Casa de Salud, which serves uninsured immigrants and refugees at a clinic on Chouteau Avenue, hopes to change that.

MONROE CITY, MO. — The closest emergency room is 20 miles east on the highway. That’s why it isn’t unusual for people experiencing heart attacks, blood clots and strokes to show up at Dr. Rodney Yager’s clinic on Main Street in Monroe City.

Yager, who grew up in the area, can handle the fast pace of a small-town clinic. What worries him more is how federal health care policies being shaped in Washington, D.C., could affect his patients.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of Missouri’s largest insurers, no longer covers emergency room visits that it deems unnecessary.

The policy aims to save costs and direct low-risk patients to primary care physicians and urgent care clinics. But doctors say patients may avoid going to a hospital when they really need it, if they fear a large bill.

Siteman Cancer Center is expanding its reach to north St. Louis County, a move aimed at better serving the region’s African-American population.

Doctors will begin seeing patients at Christian Hospital during the first week of July, where Siteman will replace the hospital’s existing Cancer Care Center. A new building in Florissant is slated to open in 2019, pending regulatory approvals.

Public health advocates say placing a cancer center in an underserved area will improve cancer care for residents in the neighborhood.

A new friend was scheduled for a mastectomy, but was now determined to get out of bed and cancel the surgery. So Ella Jones’ mothering instincts kicked in.

“I went over to the bed, and I rubbed her and talked to her, and explained in general terms what was going to happen,” said Jones, 71. “If she had gotten up out of that bed and left, she would have never done any treatment.”

Jones, a nine-year breast cancer survivor, is one of several women who coach others through their treatment in St. Louis. The program is run by The Breakfast Club, a local nonprofit that supports African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer.

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