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.

Retired coal workers are no longer at risk of losing their union health insurance as the latest federal spending bill funded coverage that is no longer being paid for by bankrupt coal companies.

But the deal left another issue untouched: the looming insolvency of the union’s pension fund, which could run out of money as early as 2025.

Missouri is poised to strip additional providers from a state-run program that provides family planning services for uninsured women.

The budget lawmakers are sending to Gov. Eric Greitens contains a provision that prohibits hospitals and clinics from participating in the Missouri Women's State-Funded Health Services Program if the organization also provides abortion services, as defined by a state law for sexual education in schools.

The budget also cuts the program’s funding by $4.6 million.

St. Louis aldermen have reintroduced a bill to create a buffer zone outside Planned Parenthood's building in the Central West End, the state's only operating abortion clinic. A previous attempt stalled earlier this year.

Protesters generally gather near the building's driveway entrance at 4251 Forest Park Ave., asking women not to enter. The new proposal would require protesters to stay eight feet away from the driveway area of a health care facility.

Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine is removing an administrator who drew national attention for his work to prevent student depression and suicide. The decision comes as the school faces probation by the accrediting body for U.S. medical schools, which gave SLU two years to make recommended changes.

Administrators notified students and staff this week that Dr. Stuart Slavin, the associate dean of curriculum, would be placed on sabbatical “so that he can transition to the next phase of his career.”

This week, Missouri transferred the state-run health coverage of about 240,000 low-income adults and children to managed care plans run by three companies: WellCare, Centene Corporation and United Health Group.

The move is part of an increasing privatization of Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. Legislators call it a cost-saving measure that improves efficiency in health care. Critics say the transfer happened too quickly, putting patient health at risk.

Clinics that provide contraception and checkups for about 70,000 uninsured Missouri women may lose state funding next fiscal year, if they give patients information about abortion.  

As Congress faces a deadline to pass a stopgap budget for the rest of the federal fiscal year, scientists in research hubs like St. Louis are paying close attention.

The St. Louis region has long grappled with high rates of sexually transmitted infections, but an uptick in syphilis among women of child-bearing age is drawing the concern of public health officials.

In Missouri, 10 cases of congenital syphilis — when the infection is transmitted in the womb — were reported last year. That’s up from just two cases in 2015. Syphilis is treatable with penicillin, but can cause miscarriages, stillbirth and serious health problems if pregnant women do not receive medical care quickly. Men, however, make up the vast majority of cases.

Updated at 11:27 p.m. April 24 with the council's decisions — Two bills that would have established a drug monitoring database in Jefferson County failed during a Monday night meeting of the County Council.

The council heard two competing bills that would have allowed the county to join the local prescription tracking system set up by St. Louis County. But a disagreement over how long a database could keep Jefferson County data, however, likely derailed the whole process, even though council members appear to agree that the rising rate of opioid-related deaths is unacceptable and a prescription drug monitoring database could help prevent overdoses.

“SCIENCE IS REAL,” declares a stack of printed signs in a St. Louis shop. “Reject Alt-Facts,” reads a hand-drawn poster shared on a Facebook page. Another photo shows a purple Easter egg emblazoned with a diagram of an atom.

For many scientists planning to participate in the St. Louis March for Science on Saturday, activism is an unfamiliar role. But proposals by the Trump administration to slash federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health and federal science programs have been too much to accept, organizers said.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller, made up almost half of drug overdose deaths in parts of the St. Louis region last year, according to county coroners in Missouri and Illinois.

The drug is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and inhaling just a few grains can be lethal.

“If I can be blunt, it’s scary as hell,” said Brandon Costerison, a spokesperson for the anti-addiction group NCADA's St. Louis chapter. “And we don’t really have anything to indicate it’s subsiding yet.”

Sam Werkmeister, a father of two, nearly died six times last year.

He started taking pain pills to get through shifts at a restaurant. That led him to a full-blown addiction to opioids. After a relapse last summer, it took Werkmeister six months to gather the courage to go back into treatment. 

“It’s called carfentanil, and it’s really cheap,” he said, as he sat on a worn couch in the Granite City group home he shares with a half dozen other men. “It destroyed my life.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley wants to get tough on human trafficking, which long has been a problem in the state. To do so, he proposed rules Monday that could make it easier to charge human traffickers with a crime.

By dinnertime, the beds had started to fill.

Earlier, employees for the city of St. Louis had laid out about 70 green and orange cots in the corner of a Forestry Division warehouse in the Carr Square neighborhood. They anticipated that at least several dozen people would be without shelter on Sunday night as the city order the closing the  New Life Evangelistic Center, in downtown St. Louis, after a years-long legal battle.

The number of infants in Missouri who die in their first year is slowly dropping alongside national numbers, but St. Louis’ infant mortality rate has remained nearly stagnant, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

A new Missouri law cuts off a line of funding to all organizations that provide abortions in the state, including hospitals.

For years, Missouri has helped low-income women pay for family planning under a Medicaid program called Extended Women's Health Services, which is funded by both the state and the federal governments.

A new Missouri rule will strip state family planning funds from organizations that provide abortions, including hospitals. But several facilities are choosing to go without the money, instead of providing the state with a letter to certify that they do not offer the procedure.

At issue is a $10.8 million portion of the state’s Medicaid program, which covers pelvic exams, tests for sexually transmitted diseases and  family planning services for about 70,000 low-income Missouri women. To prevent violating a federal law that says Medicaid patients must be allowed to choose their own provider, the state is rejecting about $8.3 million annually in federal funds, and paying the difference with money from the state.

A Saint Louis University analysis of mosquito migration patterns and sexually transmitted diseases places the St. Louis region on a map of counties that could see an elevated risk for Zika infections this summer. The virus is spread by mosquitoes but can also be transmitted sexually for several months after symptoms occur.

However, the overall risk in the continental United States is still very low, study author Enbal Shacham said.

A central Illinois center for addiction treatment will stay open for now, despite payment delays during the state’s ongoing budget crisis. After two years without a permanent budget, the state is facing a backlog of $12.6 billion in unpaid bills to state employees, contractors and agencies.

Here’s something that may need to be clarified this tax season. Despite the ongoing debate in Washington over a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the law’s requirement for people to be enrolled in health coverage or face a tax penalty is still on the books.

“People should go ahead and take care of their taxes as they would, as if the law hasn’t changed," said Geoff Oliver, a staff attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. "Because at this point the law hasn’t changed.”

Eastern Missouri has four full-time police officers dedicated to investigating human trafficking cases, but convictions are rare.

Law enforcement officials say it's hard to build cases against perpetrators because witnesses are few and victims often are unseen. To improve awareness, Webster University will hold a training session this weekend for law students and the general public. Attendees will hear how people are forced into sex work and other trades, and how to identify warning signs.

The name of a recently ousted Bel-Ridge police chief will appear on the ballot when the city’s voters elect new aldermen on April 4.

Gordon Brock led the Bel-Ridge Police Department for 16 years before his termination last winter, following accusations of harassment, mismanagement and accepting bribes.

States with rapidly aging populations, like Missouri, are seeing increased costs to Medicaid programs that cover low-income residents.

But the Republicans' health care proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would create per-capita caps for federal Medicaid funding, potentially shifting increased costs to states. Advocacy groups for seniors warn that the proposal working its way through Congress may not adequately fund their care.

When a listener asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we were convinced we had found her — 109-year-old Lucy Hamm

But it wasn’t long before we started getting calls and emails about someone else we should meet — Dorothy Hunter of Ballwin.

The Republican plan to replace major tenets of the Affordable Care Act would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion over 10 years, according to new numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In that scenario, 24 million people would lose their health insurance, bringing the uninsured rate back up to nearly what it was before the Affordable Care Act. The White House has disputed these numbers.

After Congress extended the deadline for retired union coal workers and their families on the brink of losing their health insurance for four months, the group is again facing the loss of their coverage at the end of April.

In the meantime, a bill to use federal funds to maintain the benefits for about 22,000 former employees of now-bankrupt coal mines has not made it out of the Senate Finance Committee. Increasingly anxious retirees have written letters to their representatives, and are looking for other forms of coverage.  

If House Republicans pass their proposed replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, state Medicaid programs would face some big changes, including a per-capita cap on spending.

Republicans introduced their plan Monday in the form of two budget reconciliation bills. Though the bills repeal several taxes that helped pay for the Affordable Care Act, they were sent into markup sessions before a cost estimate could be prepared by the Congressional Budget Office.

In 1984, Dr. Bahar Bastani knew he had to leave Iran.

During Iran's cultural revolution, religious leaders closed universities and threatened academics. Bastani, then a professor of medicine in Tehran, realized he had become “unhireable” in that political climate.

“I was religious, I was doing prayers, but I could not tolerate the hardship the government was putting on people,” said Bastani, now a kidney specialist who works at Saint Louis University Hospital.

Members of Congress return to Washington on Monday after a week-long work sessions in their home districts.

Like some other around the country, St. Louis-area representatives are catching criticism for not using the break to host town hall meetings to hear from constituents.

There was one exception; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., held a listening session Friday in Hillsboro regarding pension funds.

So where are your representatives, and why aren’t they holding public meetings? Here’s what they said.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill.

In the first half of the 20th century, segregation touched virtually every part of American life. Black residents of St. Louis weren't just barred from schools, lunch counters and drinking fountains reserved for whites. Even hospitals could refuse to admit black patients.

But the hospitals that were built to serve African-American patients hold a special place in medical history. The facilities employed and trained thousands of black doctors and nurses. In St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital quickly became a trusted household name. Today marks the 80th anniversary of its dedication ceremony on Feb. 22, 1937.

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