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Headlines for Friday, October 7, 2022

 

Kansas Aims to Improve Student Mental Health

MAIZE, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Public schools in Kansas are spending more money on mental health services, but the supply of therapists isn’t keeping up with demand.  The Kansas News Service reports that Governor Laura Kelly heard about the issue Thursday from students and school leaders in south-central Kansas. Earlier this year, state lawmakers approved more money to expand mental health services to schools. A new federal gun law will send $6.5 million to Kansas schools and $15 million to Missouri. It’s paying for more counselors, social workers and therapists. But many kids are still waiting weeks or months for help. After meeting with students and school leaders at Maize South High School, Governor Kelly said a shortage of therapists is creating a backlog. "We have got to figure out ways to direct more people into the field of mental health services," she said. Kelly said expanding Medicaid services would help retain and attract mental health workers. She also proposed incentives for young people considering the field. "More money will help, but only if we have the trained professionals. You know, that’s what’s creating the backlog," she said. Kansas lawmakers approved $18 million to expand mental health services to 43 school districts this year and up to two dozen more districts next year.

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Much of Kansas Still Affected by Extreme or Exceptional Drought

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The latest information from the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) shows much of Kansas remains under extreme or exceptional drought conditions. KWCH TV reports that just a small portion of Kansas, toward the north-central part of the state, is not affected by at least abnormally dry conditions. That portion of Kansas accounts for just 1.5% of the state - the rest is experiencing some level of drought or dry conditions. More than half of the state is experiencing severe or extreme drought.

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Olathe Health Plans to Join KU Health System

OLATHE, Kan. (KNS/KCUR) - Olathe Health is planning to join the University of Kansas Health System.  The proposed merger will affect patients across several Kansas counties.  KU Health System leaders says the merger will allow them to improve existing clinics and expand specialized services to patients in the Olathe Health coverage area. That includes parts of Johnson, Miami, Franklin and Linn counties. All existing Olathe Health employees are expected to be retained. KU Health System president Bob Page said at a press briefing that the merger is still in its beginning stages. “What’s effective immediately is that we have a signed letter of intent. What now we are doing is starting the due diligence process," he said. The health systems did not give a date when a final agreement may be reached.

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Lenexa Gets New Lab and 230 Jobs

LENEXA, Kan. (KCUR) - A new medical testing laboratory in Lenexa is expected to bring 235 jobs to Johnson County. Eurofins Viracor, a clinical and drug development company, has unveiled the new facility that will house local operations and a corporate headquarters. Clinical Diagnostics President Michelle Altrich says the company was able to create the new positions after partially moving its operations into Kansas earlier this year. “We actually started testing at our new facility back in April," she said. "We created a lot of those kinds of new jobs here in Kansas when we moved.” A total of 460 employees will be employed at the new facility in Lenexa.

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Republican Nominee Pivots to Crime in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Republican candidate for Kansas governor is pivoting from education to crime as a focus in the final weeks of the campaign. GOP challenger and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is portraying Democratic Governor Laura Kelly as anti-police because she created a commission on policing and racial justice in response to the protests following the death of George Floyd.  Schmidt launched a new television ad Thursday suggesting that commission pushed what the ad called "anti-policing laws'' and said Kelly called police racist by referencing systemic racism at the outset. For her part, Kelly says her support for police is evidenced by increases in state spending on law enforcement.

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KU Announces Plans for Major Football Renovations

UNDATED (AP) – The University of Kansas has announced plans for long-awaited renovations to Memorial Stadium, the Anderson Family Football Complex and other facilities. The school has long studied ways to renovate the aging stadium, one of the oldest football venues in major college football, but support has been tepid as the Jayhawks struggled through year after year of losing seasons. But buoyed by a 5-0 start to the season, which has energized fans of the No. 19 Jayhawks, the school decided it was time to make public the behind-the-scenes discussions that have been taking place for the last several months.

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KU Research Shows Women Running for Office Face Extra Hurdles

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - Research from the University of Kansas shows that women running for office in midterm elections this fall face extra obstacles and stereotypes. Researchers found that unconscious bias about how women look or sound can impact the way voters perceive their electability. When Republican state Representative Barb Wasinger (WAH-sing-er) of Hays was elected as a county commissioner 10 years ago, she was the first woman on the commission in nearly a century. “I don't think people were against voting for a woman prior to that, I think it was mostly women weren't interested in it because they had so much on their plate," she said. Wasinger says practical concerns like finding child care or taking time off work can be even bigger barriers for women. This fall, Wasinger is one of only three women running to be a state representative in the 13 western Kansas districts.

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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Resurfaces in Kansas 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Department of Agriculture says highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been identified in Johnson and Neosho counties. This comes as the viral disease that can infect and kill chickens, turkeys, and other birds is having a resurgence nationwide. This outbreak has affected a wider range of bird species than in past outbreaks, and includes wild and domestic waterfowl. The Ag Department said in a press release that the new cases of HPAI were found in non-commercial mixed-species flocks, and that it's working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its response. The affected flocks have been quarantined and birds on both properties destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease. For more information on mitigation and prevention measures, visit the KDA Division of Animal Health webpage. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern.

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Woman Whose Toddler Died in Fire Sentenced to Probation

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas mother whose 17-month-old son died in a fire after she left him home alone was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation. Karlie Phelps, of Shawnee, pleaded guilty in August to involuntary manslaughter and endangering a child. If she violates the terms of her probation, she faces 18 years in prison. Authorities say her son's body was found in February in a crib as firefighters battled the flames. 

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Former Kansas Teacher, Coach Facing Felony Charges for Allegedly Having Sex with Student

OLATHE, Kan. (WDAF) - Authorities in Olathe say a former high school teacher and coach allegedly had sex with a 17-year-old student on multiple occasions. WDAF TV reports that 47-year-old Steven Mesa was arrested last month and charged with three felony counts of unlawful sexual relations with a student. Police were notified about Mesa’s sexual relationship with a student at Olathe Northwest High School in late August, according to an affidavit unsealed Thursday by a Johnson County District Court judge. The student, who has not been identified, initially denied having had sexual encounters with Mesa but later admitted to having sex several times both at his home and at the school starting in late July. Mesa was fired on September 1 after working for the Olathe School District for more than 20 years. In a statement to the Kansas City Star, the district said it had taken "swift action to place Mesa on leave" and referred the matter to the police for investigation. Mesa’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 15. (Read more.)

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Kansas Man Charged with Child Sex Abuse in New York State

ALEXANDER, N.Y. (WHAM) — A Kansas man faces charges following investigations into child sexual abuse allegations in western New York state that date back 13 years. WHAM TV reports that New York State Police received two complaints against 41-year-old Daniel Goodell between 2019 and 2021. He's accused of abusing two victims, aged 12 and 13, multiple times. Goodell moved from New York state before the investigation began. Police found him in Wichita, Kansas. He was arrested on 12 counts of first-degree sexual abuse and other charges. Goodell was extradited Friday to Genesee County, where sheriff's deputies say Goodell sexually abused a victim under age 11 multiple times in 2009 and 2010. He's charged with first-degree sex abuse. Goodell has been arraigned in Alexander, New York, and is being held on bail. Anyone with more information is asked to call New York State Police at (585) 344-6200.

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KBI Identifies Victims in Labette County Double Homicide 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Labette County Sheriff's Office have released more information related to the deaths of two people found Monday in Mound Valley. The KBI said in a press release that autopsies have determined both victims died from gunshot wounds, and the cases are now considered homicides. The victims were identified as 43-year-old Leanda R. Pound and 39-year-old Jason M. Bakken, both of Mound Valley. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME, or to submit a tip online
 
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Wet-to-Dry Conditions Causing Issues for Midwest Farmers

UNDATED (HPM) - Drought is deepening throughout much of the Midwest and Great Plains. But a few months ago, excessive rainfall was actually keeping some farmers out of their fields. Harvest Public Media reports that in parts of Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, the spring was too wet and cold for planting. But dry, hot conditions have developed over the summer. Missouri’s state climatologist Pat Guinan says this season has been too wet at the wrong time, then too dry at the wrong time. "We were heading into the growing season with a decent amount of water," he said. "But then June came around and the faucet turned off, and it's persisted for throughout much of the summer and on into the fall. And so things took a turn quickly for the worse." More than 98% of Kansas is at least abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Kansas Public Radio Seeks New Statehouse Bureau Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio (KPR), at the University of Kansas, is seeking a new Statehouse Bureau Chief.  This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. The position duties include managing all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau, which provides broadcast and digital news reports to a number of radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. This position is primarily responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. This includes but is not limited to covering the Kansas legislative session, the governor, attorney general, supreme court, the state’s congressional delegation and statewide elections. The KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief researches, writes, reports and produces spot news, digital stories and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners. Learn more about this position.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university's programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy.

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Company Picked to Build Terminal at Topeka's Philip Billard Municipal Airport

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A company has been selected to build a new terminal at Topeka's Philip Billard Municipal Airport.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority (MTAA) accepted the lowest of two bids Tuesday. The winning bid came from Wichita-based Icon Structures, which offered to do the project for $4.67 million. The MTAA received one other bid, from Topeka-based Senne Corporation, which totaled $5.2 million. The five-member MTAA is a volunteer board that oversees the operations of Philip Billard Municipal Airport, Topeka Regional Airport — formerly known as Forbes Field — and Topeka Air Industrial Park, located at Topeka Regional Airport. Though only two bids were received, MTAA President Eric Johnson said the project was advertised in print and online, and about 35 contractors viewed the plans.  Some of those were subcontractors. Grant funding from the Cares Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — Airport Terminal Program are being used to finance the project to replace the Billard terminal. Johnson says the current terminal, built in 1954, is in poor condition. Construction on the Topeka terminal is expected to begin next March.

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Kansas Deputy Keeps License Following Taser Incident of Handcuffed, Autistic Child

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A former Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy can keep his police license after he tased a handcuffed, autistic child. The agency that reviews Kansas police officer’s conduct says former deputy Matthew Honas acted unreasonably. He tased, hogtied and used excessive force on an autistic 12-year-old who was complying and posed no threat to officers. But the agency says Honas should only get a written reprimand, which means he can keep his law enforcement license. The Kansas City Star reports that Honas was fired by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in northeast Kansas, but he could be hired by another law enforcement agency.

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Kansas Highway Patrol Needs More Troopers

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Highway Patrol is hiring more troopers after it changed policies to become more competitive in the job market. But as the Kansas News Service reports, there's still a shortage of troopers. Wages at the Kansas Highway Patrol were sometimes up to five dollars less per hour than surrounding states. Raises helped make the state more competitive and a shorter application process is getting troopers onto the job quicker. This has increased staffing, but the agency is still down 78 sworn employees since 2019. Major Andrew Dean says that can hurt response times. “We're going to be less timely and assisting our local partners and agencies when requested," he said. "There's obviously officer safety concerns in some instances, and burnout retention is another factor.” KHP says its next training class had over 175 applications, which could help improve the situation.

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Are All Native American School Mascots in Kansas on the Way Out?

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - A committee formed by the Kansas Board of Education is urging schools to retire Native American mascots. More than 20 Kansas schools still have mascots that feature Native American images and names such as Raiders, Braves or Indians. The state school board will consider a proposal next week to urge districts to remove those mascots and help them pay for changes. Raphael Wahwassuck serves on the tribal council of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. He’s seen parents wearing jackets that say “tribal elder” on the back, which he says is insulting to Native students. “To us that’s a status that somebody earns through their lifetime. And for these folks to just, you know, put that on a T-shirt and wear it around, no big deal — it affected them," he said. Schools in Wichita, Atchison and Shawnee Mission recently retired their Native American mascots.

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Man Pleads Guilty in Deaths of Teenage Wichita Couple

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man pleaded guilty Friday in the shooting deaths of a teenage Wichita couple whose bodies were found three days apart. Dontenzie Kelly, 24, is scheduled to be sentenced next month after admitting to two counts of second-degree murder in the killings of 18-year-old Kaylah Blackmon and 17-year-old Michael Beasley. Beasley’s body was found Feb. 1, 2021, outside an abandoned church. At the time, authorities said Blackmon might be in danger and launched a search. Her body later was found inside her truck at a Wichita apartment complex.

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Nurses Try to Unionize at Wichita's St. Francis Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - Nurses at one of Wichita’s largest hospitals are trying to form a union. More than 600 nurses at St. Francis hospital could soon have a union. The nurses filed this week for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. If they vote to unionize, the nurses would be represented by the National Nurses United. It’s the biggest nurses' union in the country, with more than 175,000 members. Overall, about 20% of registered nurses in the U.S. are union members. The Kansas State Nurses Association says there are more than 50,000 registered nurses in the state. About a fifth of all registered nurses in the U.S. are union members. St. Francis is a part of the Ascension Via Christi network, which has hospitals across Kansas.

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Missouri Lawmakers Approve $40 Million in Tax Breaks for Farmers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Legislature has passed $40 million in annual tax breaks for farmers. The GOP-led Senate on Tuesday voted 26-3 to send the tax incentive package to Governor Mike Parson. Lawmakers had passed a similar bill in May. But the Republican governor vetoed it, in part citing the short two-year sunset on many of the tax credits. He called a special legislative session to extend the agricultural tax credits for a longer period of time. He also asked lawmakers to spend some of the state's surplus revenue on an individual income tax cut, which they approved last week.

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Kansas Farm Bureau Donates $5 Million for K-State's New Agriculture Buildings Project  
 
MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Farm Bureau has pledged $5 million over five years to support the Kansas State University College of Agriculture's innovation centers for grain, food, animal and agronomy research. It’s the largest donation in the Farm Bureau's history. The two new innovation centers will focus on the development and diversification of the food and agricultural economy, both in Kansas and around the world. This investment will fund new facilities, renovations of current buildings and improvements in the technology and equipment necessary for interdisciplinary, cutting-edge research and continue to enhance the college's student experience.  (Read more)

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Royals Fire Manager Mike Matheny After 65-97 End to Season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals fired manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians. The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer. Matheny is the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

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Royals Begin Manager Search as Picollo Charts New Course

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — New Kansas City Royals president of baseball operations J.J. Picollo wasted no time in firing manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred hours after the end of another dismal season. Now, the pressure is on Picollo to chart a new course for the franchise. Picollo says he will cast a wide net in his search for a new manager, though he wants to find someone on the forefront of baseball's data-driven revolution. Picollo is new to the job after replacing the fired Dayton Moore last month.

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France Hoping Embiid Will Join Team for 2024 Paris Olympics

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — France is hopeful that reigning NBA scoring champion Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers will choose to wear its colors for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Embiid recently became an American citizen. Embiid may choose to play internationally for the U.S. or France, but not both. It was widely presumed that he would play for France at the Paris Games, and possibly even next year’s Basketball World Cup in the Philippines.

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Kansas City Chiefs Could Miss Harrison Butker for Fourth Straight Game

UNDATED (AP) – The Kansas City Chiefs could be missing kicker Harrison Butker for the fourth consecutive game because of swelling that won’t abate in the left ankle that he sprained in the opener against the Arizona Cardinals. They would use Matthew Wright for the second consecutive week on Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders. First-round pick Trent McDuffie also appears close to returning from the hamstring injury that he sustained in Week 1. The defensive back has been on injured reserve and is eligible to return after this week’s game.

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Big Football Action this Weekend in the Big 12

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR/AP) - The second Saturday of October has a different focus in the Big 12 this season. The big game is No. 17 TCU at No. 19 Kansas in an unexpected matchup of undefeated teams. Kickoff in Lawrence is set for 11 am Saturday.  Iowa State's Big 12-best defense lines up against No. 20 Kansas State with Big 12 rushing leader Deuce Vaughn and dual-threat quarterback Adrian Martinez. Kickoff in Ames, Iowa, is set for 6:30 pm. Meanwhile, Texas and Oklahoma play their annual game at the State Fair of Texas with both teams unranked for the first time since 1998. Texas Tech plays at seventh-ranked Oklahoma State. Baylor and West Virginia have open dates before playing next Thursday.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.

 

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