Celia Llopis-Jepsen | KBIA

Celia Llopis-Jepsen

Celia comes to the Kansas News Service after five years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. She brings in-depth experience covering schools and education policy in Kansas as well as news at the Statehouse. In the last year she has been diving into data reporting. At the Kansas News Service she will also be producing more radio, a medium she’s been yearning to return to since graduating from Columbia University with a master’s in journalism.  

Celia also has a master’s degree in bilingualism studies from Stockholm University in Sweden. Before she landed in Kansas, Celia worked as a reporter for The American Lawyer in New York, translated Chinese law articles, and was a reporter and copy editor for the Taipei Times.

 

TOPEKA — Aetna is bringing in new leadership to run its Medicaid operations in Kansas after chronic complaints from hospitals and others put it at risk of losing its contract.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment confirmed Friday that Aetna Better Health of Kansas CEO Keith Wisdom is no longer in that role. But the insurer declined to answer questions about whether it had replaced Wisdom.

TOPEKA — Bullying just won’t go away. If anything, the advent of smartphones and social media has made it worse.

That’s forced a conversation on what Kansas schools can do to help. The problem? It’s easier to get adults to weigh in than students.

TOPEKA ― The “Kidney Stone Belt” is a thing, and it’s coming for Kansas.

Climate change is expanding that swath of America, currently in the south and southeast, that suffers much higher rates of this sometimes-excruciating renal complication.

By 2050, the belt will include Kansas, according to a new review by the Kansas Health Institute.

TOPEKA ― Aetna remains in hot water with the state of Kansas, which recently threatened to cancel the company’s Medicaid contract.

TOPEKA ― State officials have told one of the key players in Kansas’ privatized Medicaid system that it stands in danger of getting fired for not living up to its contract.

Aetna Better Health has until Wednesday to tell state officials how it is addressing chronic complaints about delayed payments to hospitals and other problems.

A formal letter from the state to Aetna says failure to fix the problems so far means the company’s contract “is in jeopardy of being terminated for cause.”

LAWRENCE — Before starting his CBD company, Chris Brunin researched the competition, the labs they used, the products they sold.

He checked out ingredient suppliers and organic hemp farmers. He took everyone’s pitches with a heapful of salt.

“The hemp industry is like the Wild West and Wall Street had a baby,” said Brunin. “You have to vet everything and everybody … to make sure you’re not getting messed with or lied to.”

TOPEKA― Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced Friday he’ll retire in mid-December after serving on the state’s highest court since 2002, when Republican Gov. Bill Graves tapped him for the role.

That makes the second retirement announcement from the court in less than a month. Justice Lee Johnson will retire in September. He was appointed by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2007.

TOPEKA — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday that it’s opened dozens of investigations into alleged sex abuse by Catholic clergy after 119 people came forward in recent months saying they were victims.

The KBI called for tips from the public in February and continues to seek information. Agents have launched 74 cases so far in 33 counties.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, praised the news in a statement.

This spring, abortion rights supporters scored a massive legal victory: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to abortion under the state constitution.

That means even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, lawmakers won’t be able to ban abortion in Kansas unless voters amend the state constitution.

TOPEKA — Kansas schools will require two new vaccines come August, including one against a virus that’s hospitalized 13,000 people and killed 200 across the country since 2016.

TOPEKA — They’re here in Kansas. CBD products with a bit of that oh-so-taboo THC in them. To vape, to put under your tongue.

Some retailers argue those products became legal on July 1 because of tweaks to state regulation of cannabis-related substances in a bill supporting the state’s fledgling industrial hemp program.

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Many people figure vaping spares their health because it lets them inhale nicotine in aerosols instead of sucking in smoke from burning cigarettes.

New research from the University of Kansas casts doubt on that, raising the specter that vaping nicotine may cause some of the same respiratory problems that plague and even kill smokers today.

“Vaping is just considered not harmful, even though there are no data to support that statement,” researcher Matthias Salathe said. “There are more and more data to actually oppose that statement.”

A detainee at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Chase County, Kansas, has tested positive for mumps, and 22 other migrants may have been exposed.

ICE discovered the detainee with the mumps on June 18, then identified the others who came into contact with that person, said Shawn A. Neudauer, an ICE public affairs officer.

The 22 other detainees are not sick but have been “cohorted,” or separated from the general population, and will remain there until July 16, he said.

Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado.

The national measles outbreak — numbering more than 1,000 cases so far — hasn't hit Kansas yet, but it has crept awfully close to home.

Kansas can no longer put off care for Medicaid patients with hepatitis C because of a recent legal settlement. But hundreds of the state’s prison inmates not covered by that lawsuit will have to wait another year for the pricey treatment.

A teenager wakes up, gets ready for school. Slips a smartphone into her pocket on the way out the door.

Her day may well include some biology or chemistry, history, algebra, English and Spanish. It likely won’t include lessons on how that smartphone — more powerful than the computers aboard the Apollo moon missions — and its myriad colorful apps actually work.

In April, the Kansas Supreme Court said the state’s constitution gives women a right to abortion.

That landmark ruling bolsters an ongoing lawsuit to expand access to abortion in Wichita. The case aims to clear the way for a clinic there — unable to find any willing, local doctors — to lean more on physicians in other states.

A fresh push by school districts to get Kansas to pony up more money for public education met with skepticism Thursday from the Kansas Supreme Court.

Justices had pointed questions for both sides in the lawsuit that began in 2010 and has already gone through multiple rounds of oral arguments and rulings.

The justices, who so far have consistently ruled in favor of the districts, may be ready for it to be over.

Justice Eric Rosen called it frustrating that the funding goal that school districts argue for seems to be a moving target.

Stephanneth Adams plans to leave Kansas.

The nurse practitioner landed in the state’s rural southwest — where she saw patients in Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal — through a federal program aimed at stubborn health care shortages in urban and rural America.

But why stay? Adams has her eyes on Nevada, a state that lets its most educated nurses roll up their sleeves and work without permanently needing, as they do in Kansas, permission from a physician.

(This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.)

 

Kansas women have a fundamental right to abortion, the state’s Supreme Court ruled Friday — a decision that has conservatives vowing to amend the state constitution.

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

The Kansas Constitution protects a woman's right to an abortion, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The landmark ruling now stands as the law of the land in Kansas with no path for an appeal. Because it turns on the state's Constitution, abortion would remain legal in Kansas even if the Roe v. Wade case that established a national right to abortion is ever reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many Kansas families may not be following safe sleep practices meant to cut down the risk that infants could die in their sleep.

The first survey of its kind in the state found four in five new mothers said their babies sleep primarily on their backs.

Rachel Sisson, the director of the Bureau of Family Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, wants to make it five out of five.

Ray Alvarez remembers the summer he couldn’t make ends meet driving children to school.

“I did qualify for food stamps,” the Olathe school bus driver said. “And yes, I accepted them. My income was so low.”

UPDATE: On April 5, after this story was first published, both chambers of the Kansas Legislature passed a measure mandating notice that the abortion pill may be reversible, sending the bill to Gov. Laura Kelly's desk where it currently sits. The amended bill includes a compromise sought by Democrats under which physicians who attempt a reversal would report the outcome to state health officials.

There’s a way to shave thousands of dollars off the cost of a bachelor’s degree that’s more reliable than applying for dozens of scholarships and hoping one of them comes through.

Community college.

DODGE CITY — Check out Dodge City.

A new $12 million waterpark. A shiny new craft brewery — not far from the new whiskey distillery. And, yes, that trendy new downtown cafe.

A nearly $6 million addition to Boot Hill Museum just kicked off last fall. That’s about when Dodge City wrapped up $86 million in renovations and expansions to its schools.

KANSAS CITY — Seventy hours a week got old. Fast. So did working multiple jobs.

So Joseph Cowsert wept tears of joy and relief the day he got word while bathing his baby daughter that UPS was offering him a 40-hour-a-week position in web development.

“It was like a burden lifted off of me,” he said. “I didn’t realize it was weighing so heavily.”

LIBERAL — Hefty college debt won’t saddle Bryan Medina.

He’s on a fast track to an energy career that he hopes will pave the road to family dreams: Buying his own cattle and going in on the purchase of 300 acres of land with his dad.

“We could grow and eventually own our own feedyard,” said Medina, who finished high school last May in the small southwest Kansas town of Sublette. “If things go great, if we put all the work into it, we’ll definitely get there.”

Life is expensive. Rent, health care, raising a family, saving for retirement — it adds up. But so does college debt. In fact, the cost of college shot up many times faster than typical U.S. earnings in recent decades.

So, what to do after high school? Here’s what you need to know.

TOPEKA — The glittery gold print on Cara Simon’s graduation cap begged — maybe only half-jokingly — for a break: “Can I take a nap now?”

Toilsome college coursework may have kept the Wichita native up at night, but looking for a job won’t. Simon lined one up at an emergency room before even graduating — one of the benefits of earning a nursing degree.

“It’s so versatile,” she said. “You can work in a million different places. You can work in any state. It’s exciting.”

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