Health & Wealth Desk

Wednesday mornings during Morning Edition, and Wednesday afternoon during All Things Considered

KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a short weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Emerald O'Brien / KBIA

As mobile health technologies like Fitbits and Apple Health become more common, better health seems inevitable. But much of the data that users can now track never actually reaches their doctors.

That’s one of the problems University of Missouri psychiatrist Dr. Ganesh Gopalakrishna faced while treating his patients with various mental illnesses. While some of his patients were logging their activity, both mental and physical, he couldn’t get a good record of it.


When 85-year-old retired farmworker and grandmother Amparo Mejia needed surgery on her spine because of a rare form of tuberculosis, she was able to pay for the procedure through emergency Medicaid. She was lucky. For many low-income immigrants – even those authorized to work in the US – it can be challenging or outright impossible to get health insurance. 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Heroin continues to be a serious problem throughout the county. The Centers for Disease Control released data earlier this month that showed heroin use increasing among nearly every group – age, income, gender, etc. And according to the CDC’s report, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths heave nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.

The White House announced earlier this month that it was determined to do something about this problem. It introduced the Heroin Response Strategy, which works to promote public health and public safety partnerships through a 15-state area. This new project aims to focus more on treating heroin addicts than on punishing them.


Tyler Adkisson / KBIA

More than a 1000 graduate students and their allies – faculty, staff, undergraduate students and families – gathered at noon Wednesday in support of graduate students and their demands.

Some graduate students also took part in an all-day walk-out to illuminate the role they play in the education of undergraduate students and in research.

The rally and walk-out were planned as a response to the health insurance subsidy issue that has been taking place over the last two weeks. 

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Following outcry from both students and faculty, University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Friday that the University will "defer implementation" of its decision last week that would have stopped graduate student health insurance subsidies.

The University will pay previously promised health insurance subsidies to eligible graduate students.

MU says this reversal of the decision comes after “conversations with external experts and leadership, along with consultation with peer institutions, compliance experts and internal constituents.” 

But, as the phrase "defer implementation" implies, the complicated issues behind MU's original decision have not changed. MU has just adjusted its current plan.

cindyt7070 Flickr

University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Friday that the University will “defer implementation” of its decision last week that would have stopped graduate student health insurance subsidies.

The University will continue to pay health insurance subsidies to eligible graduate students.

When asked what had changed between last Friday and this Friday, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said simply “time.”

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Updated 8/21/15 at 12:40 p.m.

The University has reinstated previously promised health insurance subsidies for graduate students. 

 

Original Post:

University of Missouri- Columbia graduate students are considering walking out of classes next week, after finding out the university would stop providing health insurance subsidies. And some departments across campus are standing with those students.


U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

At the beginning of the summer, the US Department of Agriculture announced its goal to serve 200 million meals to low-income children through the summer meals program, which is 13 million more than it served last year. The USDA is also highlighting several new ways of reaching kids in rural areas of the country.

As the summer comes to a close, I spoke with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about the program’s growth and the USDA’s success in serving rural communities.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

On Friday, many University of Missouri graduate students found out via email they would no longer receive help from the university to pay for their health insurance. The response on social media was strong and on Monday graduate students from across campus gathered to discuss their concerns and plan for their next step. 

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

More than 1,700 people waited in line for hours to get free dental care at a clinic in Columbia, Mo. this month. The turnout for this clinic, called the Missouri Mission of Mercy, reveals a hidden crisis: the expense of dental care and lack of access are major obstacles for many throughout the state and the country.

Throughout the event, held July 31st - August 1st, a team of reporters from the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk spoke to the patients receiving treatment at the event, and the volunteers who made it all possible.

Heroin use and overdose rates are rising across many demographics, including race, age, gender and income.  One former addict, Jude Hassan, works at a St. Louis-area treatment center and is working to raise awareness of drug abuse and addiction.

Jude Hassan was once a typical high school student– active in school extracurriculars and just wanting to fit in. But before he completed his time at St. Louis-area Lafayette High School, he was using heroin eight to 10 times a day.

Now, after more than eight years of sobriety, he's sharing his personal experiences of heroin addiction with high school students and working to educate parents and teachers about how to spot opioid use. 


Rosemary / Flickr

  Nine cases of mumps have now been confirmed in Columbia.

Andrea Waner with the Columbia/ Boone County Department of Public Health said the department is waiting on test results for three other suspected cases.

MU Health Care / University of Missouri Health System

A program at the University of Missouri is training social workers to bring behavioral healthcare into primary care clinics. The Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training program is run through the MU School of Social Work and completed its first year in July.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

One Saturday afternoon at a backyard cookout, St. Louis architect Dan Rosenberg enjoyed a cheeseburger – a food he’d enjoyed many times before.

That night, a couple hours after he went to sleep, he woke up with a searing pain in his stomach.

“Let’s be clear here,” Rosenberg says, “this was like a nine on the ten-scale.”


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Boone County Recorder of Deeds Nora Dietzel said June 26 was a busy morning for her.

That’s when the US Supreme Court announced their decision requiring all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Dietzel said she got a call almost immediately from one couple who’d had their application on file for almost a year.

Jack Howard / KBIA

The Veterans Health Administration has reported it found PTSD in almost one in three soldiers since 2001. Examining the disorder in veterans and how it is treated was the subject of 'Of Men and War,' a film shown at this year's True/False Film Festival. 

Lt. David Wells, a Columbia native, is one of the soldiers profiled in the film. He spoke with KBIA's Jack Howard about how an innovate treatment center in California helped him and how others with PTSD can find help. 

 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Mark Stringer, the new Director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health began his job last week. This follows eight years as the Director for the Division of Behavioral Health and more than 28 years of experience in the mental health field.  KBIA’s Rebecca Smith sat down with Stringer to discuss his goals for the department and the challenges he expects to face. 


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

When Darvin Bentlage needed colon surgery in 2007, he had an expensive stay at the hospital.

“The room alone for a week was $25,000,” Bentlage says. Add in the cost of the procedure and, “it added up to about $60,000 or $70,000.”


inhaler
Hope Kirwan / KBIA

TaNisha Webb points out a leak in the furnace room of an apartment in Kansas City, Mo. She explains the damp conditions are not ideal, especially right next to the system that circulates air throughout the home.

"It's going to pull in any other issues, airborne mold spores, bacteria growth potentially through the furnace and kind of distribute it in other places," Webb said.

Hope Kirwan / KBIA

Several months remain until the next open enrollment period for health insurance, but any insurance company looking to raise the cost of their plans next year had to submit their proposed increase by June 1.

In Missouri, seven insurance companies submitted rate increases for 11 different plans, with proposed raises ranging between 11 and 28 percent. Almost every company who submitted a rate increase cited the rising cost of healthcare as a reason for the change.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

When cattle farmer Greg Fleshman joined the board of Putnam County Memorial Hospital in rural northern Missouri in 2011, the hospital was on the brink of closing.

“Things we just falling apart financially and the morale of the employees. And it just seemed to get worse and worse,” he recalls. “Those were the darkest days.”


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA

Earlier this year, KBIA began a special reporting project highlighting the income and health disparities in the Missouri Bootheel. In May the project continued as KBIA traveled to the Bootheel town of Kennett, Mo., to host a community conversation.

The goal was to bring local residents and leaders to the same table to discuss difficulties in access to health care, the struggling rural economy and how to fix it. The following is an excerpt from that conversation. The full version may be found in an earlier post


Kristofor Husted/KBIA/Harvest Public Media

On May 20th, KBIA held a community conversation event in Kennett, Mo. The goal was to bring local residents and leaders of rural southeast Missouri to the same table to discuss difficulties in access to health care, the struggling rural economy and how to fix it. It's an event we called Health Barriers: Symptoms of a Rural Economy.

CDC NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality / The Center for Disease Control

The CDC reported in March of this year that the Midwest now sees higher rates of heroin overdose deaths than any other region of the country. The rate for heroin related deaths in the Midwest increased nearly 11-fold between 2000 and 2013.

Members of Missouri Law Enforcement said that opiates, including prescription drugs and heroin, have become more commonly abused in recent years.

According to the St. Louis County Health Department there were 113 heroin related deaths in 2014. And according to the St. Louis City Department of Health there were 123 heroin or opiate overdose deaths in the city.

Here a lawmaker, a treatment expert and families talk about the impact heroin and opiates are having in Missouri.


Dr.Farouk / Flickr

Last weekend, around 100 students graduated from the University of Missouri School of Medicine.  

 

But four times that many doctors will commit suicide this year in the United States.

 

Many believe problems with depression and anxiety in medical students is a leading cause for the mental health issues among physicians. Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, said these issues can also effect a doctor's ability to practice.

 

"Some doctors end up taking their own lives, but many go on practicing in a state where they're not as effective as they would be if they were completely healthy," said Frederick, who is also an orthopedic surgeon. "The healthcare provided by those physicians in training and future physicians will be much better if they aren't themselves suffering from depression.

 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

A House bill that would have allowed anyone to possess and administer naloxone, a drug that reverses opiate overdoses was one of the victims of the Senate stalemate at the end of the 2015 Legislative session.

Last July, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill that allows law enforcement to carry naloxone in their vehicles and administer the drug at the scene of an overdose. This is much like what paramedics have done throughout the state for many years.

But some legislators, advocates and law enforcement believe that putting Narcan in the hands of friends and family of addicts would be more effective at saving lives.


alamosbasement / flickr

  

  When it comes to kids, physical health may be what sends them to the doctor. Scrapes and fevers may get students sent to the school nurse.

But studies from the National Institute of Mental Health show that half of all mental disorders start by age 14, and almost half of teens have a mental disorder.

Several years ago, Missouri State Representative Holly Rehder’s daughter struggled with prescription drug abuse. “She had cut her thumb at work and went and got stitches and got a prescription,” Rehder recalls. When her prescription ran out she continued using the pain killers, says Rehder, “because they were so easy to obtain.”

Now, Rehder is sponsoring a bill to make it harder for addicts to obtain drugs in Missouri.


KOMUnews / Flickr

Dr. Claudia Preuschoff is a pediatrician in Poplar Bluff. She often treats children from rural communities in her area, especially those who may need more than primary care.

“I just had a referral last week from a nurse practitioner in a much more rural area,” Preuschoff said. “The question was 'Do you think this child has autism, and if so what are we going to do about it?'”

According to a study by the CDC, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses in the United States more than doubled between 2000 and 2010.

In rural areas - where there are few medical specialists - the increase in identified cases of autism can be especially difficult to manage.

Provided by the University of Missouri Extension

McDonald County, Missouri, is home to many immigrant groups that have moved into the county in the last twenty years. These groups include Hispanic, Somali, Burmese, Sudanese and numerous others. And while these groups do not overlap culturally, they do share one thing - language acts as a barrier to access when it comes to their health.


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