Rebecca Smith | KBIA

Rebecca Smith

Health Reporter

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.

Ways to Connect

Kevin Wehner, left, wears glasses and a bright red flannel shirt. Scott Miniea, right, wears a tan shirt.
Regan Huston / KBIA

Kevin Wehner and Scott Miniea both have backgrounds in education, but now, they work for nonprofit organizations in Columbia and use their teaching skills to help people navigate the healthcare system.

Kevin is a Certified Application Counselor for Central Missouri Community Action and Scott is the Executive Director of the Primaris Foundation. They spoke about some of the biggest issues for people when trying to enroll in health insurance and how people can take advantage of free resources to get the best possible health care.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

Officials associated with Columbia’s Planned Parenthood clinic are reminding the public that it remains open for other healthcare services even as its partner clinic in St. Louis is under threat as the last abortion provider in the state.

It was announced Tuesday that the St. Louis Planned Parenthood Clinic may have to stop performing abortions as of Friday, May 31, which would leave Missouri without an abortion provider.

Libby Brockman-Knight, left, wears a bright red blazer and smiles into the camera. Gaurav Kulkarni, right, wears a black shirt and multi-colored tie and looks into the camera.
Trevor Hook / KBIA

Libby Brockman-Knight and Gaurav Kulkarni both work at Compass Health Network in Columbia. Brockman- Knight is the Deputy Chief clinical officer of substance use disorder services and Kulkarni is a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction.

They spoke about treatment for substance use disorders - specifically alcohol addiction, which according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as of 2015, more than 15 million American adults have an alcohol use disorder.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.

Cindy Polfelt, left, wears a denim jacket and a floral shirt. She stands next to her daughter, Jessica Hosack, left, who wears a dark denim jacket and a striped shirt.
Trevor Hook / KBIA

Cindy Polfelt has lived in Columbia for six years.

Cindy’s mother has Alzheimer's, and since her father passed away, Cindy has taken on the role of her mother’s personal caretaker. She feeds and clothes her mother every day, and can’t leave her house unless she finds someone to watch her mother – even then, it’s only for a few hours at a time.

Cindy says that it has affected her social life, and her independence. She spoke with her daughter, Jessica Hosack, about some of the stresses of being a caretaker. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Cindy Polfelt, left, wears a denim jacket and a floral shirt. She stands next to her daughter, Jessica Hosack, left, who wears a dark denim jacket and a striped shirt.
Trevor Hook / KBIA

Jessica Hosack and her mother, Cindy Polfelt, live in Columbia. Jessica began using opioids at parties when she was a teenager, and this quickly turned to regular opioid use.

Jessica went on to deal with a substance use disorder for a decade, and after seeking treatment several times, she was able to enroll in a month-long rehabilitation program at the McCambridge Women and Children’s Treatment Center. She has been in recovery for more than two years.

Jessica and Cindy spoke about Jessica’s breaking point, and how her mental health played into her substance abuse. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.

Jacey Schank, left, is the Treasurer of Period @ Mizzou and Jane Kielhofner, right, is in charge of External Outreach. Both women were part of the students who founded the Mizzou chapter of Period.
MaKenzie Bagley / KBIA

Jane Kielhofner and Jacey Schank are both on the executive board of a University of Missouri menstrual health student group called Period @ Mizzou. The group is focused on discussing and advocating for menstrual health, and is part of a larger national organization.

Jane and Jacey have known each other for many years, and they spoke about their organization, and why it’s important. They also spoke about some legislative changes they are working toward like House Bill 747, which aims to change "the laws regarding the taxation of feminine hygiene products, diapers, and incontinence products.”

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.

Robert Harrison sits – wearing a white shirt and blue tie. He smiles into the camera. There is an American flag behind him.
Trevor Hook / KBIA

Robert Harrison was born in St. Louis and has dealt with a substance use disorder throughout his life. After living drug-free for more than 20 years, Robert became the executive director of an alternative sentencing program in Columbia aimed at low-level drug offenders. He left his post two years later.

He spoke with KBIA’s Trevor Hook about why he first came to Columbia and sought treatment.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

A roundup of headlines from across the region, including:


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

In this excerpt from KBIA’s Intersection, Melanie Hickcox and Monica Palmer with Feeding Missouri, a coalition of Missouri food banks, discuss the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding food insecurity.

They spoke to KBIA for Missouri Health Talks.

Audrey Aton and Cortney Bouse sitting on a bench outside on MU’s campus.
Isabel Lohman / KBIA

Audrey Aton and Cortney Bouse both live in Columbia. Audrey is senior at the University of Missouri studying public health and is the founder and president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Mizzou. Cortney is a grassroots organizer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains and teaches sex education at her church.

They first met when Audrey applied for an internship with Planned Parenthood, and over the last two years, they have worked side by side as advocates. They spoke about some of their efforts to make sure kids, teen and adults have access to basic sex education. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Alexia Diamond / KBIA

Alissa Steward and Terilyn Harris are both juniors at Mizzou and are also roommates. While they live together now, they come from very different hometowns. Alissa is from El Dorado Springs, Missouri, which has a population of approximately 3,500 and Terilyn is from Atlanta.

They spoke about the differences and similarities that exist when it comes to access to healthcare in their hometowns.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Poplar Bluff, Missouri, is located deep in the southeastern part of the state, in the area known as the Bootheel. One resident joked to me that if something bad is going to happen in Missouri, “it’s gonna happen here.”

It’s also the location of an on-going hepatitis A outbreak. As of March 4, there have been 266 cases of hepatitis A identified throughout southeast Missouri. Nearly 50 percent of those cases have led to hospitalizations and there has been one associated death. 


Monica Palmer, left, has short brown hair and wears a blue shirt under a black blazer. Melanie Hickcox, right, has short blonde hair and wears a gray sweater.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Melanie Hickcox and Monica Palmer both work at Feeding Missouri, a coalition of Missouri food banks. Melanie is the SNAP project manager, and Monica is the communications manager.

They spoke about some of the myths that exist about SNAP benefits – or food stamps –and how that can detriment older Americans.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Robyn Schelp and Molly Myers sitting inside Robyn’s home.
Isabel Lohman / KBIA

Robyn Schelp and Molly Myers are both moms of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities here in Columbia.

Robyn has three sons, and her 11-year-old has an unknown genetic disorder. Molly has an 8-year-old son who is missing a part of his brain, twin girls who were born prematurely and another three-year-old daughter.

They spoke about their ongoing fight to get their children the therapies they need because, in Missouri, legislation only requires insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment for people with autism spectrum disorders.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Monica Palmer, left, has short brown hair and wears a blue shirt under a black blazer. Melanie Hickcox, right, has short blonde hair and wears a gray sweater.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Melanie Hickcox and Monica Palmer both work at Feeding Missouri, a coalition of Missouri food banks. Melanie is the SNAP project manager, and Monica is the communications manager.

During the partial government shutdown in January, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP or food stamp benefits, distributed February benefits at the end of the month in January.

Melanie and Monica spoke about how this disruption of normal benefits is still impacting food insecure Missourians and local food pantries.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Christina Jackson, along with her mother, Paula, and sister, Andrea, met me at an event called “The Art of the Scar” that was hosted by the Missouri Kidney Program in September.

Christina was diagnosed with lupus after high school, and then following issues with insurance coverage, she experienced kidney failure, numerous seizures, a stroke and a kidney transplant in her twenties

The family spoke about some of the ways they would like to see the healthcare industry change. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Local and regional content from the KBIA newsroom.


A roundup of headlines from across the region, including:

Christina Jackson, center, stands flanked by her mother, Paula Jackson, left, and her older sister, Andrea Jackson, right.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Christina Jackson, along with her mother, Paula, and sister, Andrea, met me at an event called “The Art of the Scar” that was hosted by the Missouri Kidney Program in September.

Regional highlights from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

JT Thomas is a senior at the University of Missouri and is studying biology and business. We met at an event called “The Art of the Scar” that was hosted by the Missouri Kidney Program in September.

JT was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 20, and he spoke about the role that community played in his health and transplantation journey.

He is now four years post-transplant.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Mark Kirchhoff is the homeless youth program coordinator for Rainbow House in Columbia, and Kelsey Louder is the former shelter director.

They spoke about some of the hardest parts of their jobs working with young people experiencing homelessness.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.

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