Sebastián Martinez Valdivia | KBIA

Sebastián Martinez Valdivia

Health Reporter

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia is a health reporter and documentary filmmaker who focuses on access to care in rural and immigrant communities. A native Spanish speaker and lifelong Missouri resident, Sebastián is interested in the often overlooked and under-covered world of immigrant life in the rural midwest. He has a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in documentary journalism at the same institution. Aside from public health, his other interests include conservation, climate change and ecology.

On this week's episode, we're previewing some of the films coming to True/False this year, with festival programmers Jeanelle Augustin, Chris Boeckmann and Amir George. The line-up includes a whopping 38 feature films, 26 shorts and multiple repertory programs. Jeanelle, Chris and Amir talk us through some of this year's world premieres, potential crowd-pleasers and can't miss screenings. 

It's a cold and windy January morning in Boonville, Missouri, and Thomas Talent has driven close to an hour to Pinnacle Regional Hospital for an appointment. The only problem: the hospital closed suddenly the day before.

Having your work rejected is part and parcel of being a filmmaker, be it when submitting to festivals, applying for funding, trying to sell a film or get distribution. But it can be hard to separate self worth from work, or to reconcile the reality of the industry with personal beliefs and values.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

On a cold and windy January morning in Boonville, Thomas Talent had driven close to an hour to Pinnacle Regional Hospital for an appointment. The only problem – the hospital closed suddenly the day before.

Talent didn’t find out until he saw a sign on the door saying, “This hospital and all of its services, including the emergency room, will close on Wednesday, if you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.”

"It’s a long drive for us and nobody let us know anything," Talent said. "I got ‘em on the phone and they said that they’ve closed down, didn’t say why."

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Missouri Legislators on Tuesday held one of the only official hearings on Medicaid enrollment since a major drop left more than 90,000 children without coverage. 

Initially, officials attributed the low numbers to a strong economy. Department of Social Services officials now argue the dip in Medicaid enrollment is largely due to improved eligibility verification.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Patients and former employees alike showed up to the Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville Thursday, a day after its abrupt closure.

Most doors to the hospital were locked, but the emergency room entrance was open for patients to collect medical records.

There were also representatives from Bothwell Regional Health Center in Sedalia, looking to recruit former Pinnacle employees. Lisa Irwin, director of human resources for Bothwell, said they had spoken with some 20 former employees, and had already hired one. 

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

On a chilly afternoon, Terry Cox had come to Mountain View, Missouri, to see a dentist and was waiting on a bench outside a converted rectory.

“Came to get a tooth check and see what they got to do to it," Cox said. "Maybe get ‘em all out."

The 56-year-old works in northern Arkansas, and drove an hour and a half to the Good Samaritan Care Clinic.
Bruce Baker / CC BY 2.0

The annual Roots N Blues festival in Columbia announced a couple major changes Friday, including that it’s dropping the “and BBQ” from its name.

The festival’s new owners, who took over six months ago, said the festival is making a push for greater inclusivity by focusing on female representation.

In a statement, the management team said the 2020 festival will have women performers in every act they book, and announced two Grammy-award-winning female headliners: R&B singer and activist Mavis Staples and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile.

MU Health Care's main campus, near Stadium Blvd. in downtown Columbia.
Nathan Lawrence / KBIA

A healthcare group that owns hospitals in Jefferson City and Mexico has announced it’s ending exclusive negotiations with MU Health Care over their acquisition.

St. Louis-based SSM Health and MU Health Care released statements Friday saying the decision was mutual and the two groups will continue talks even as SSM looks for other prospective buyers. They said they have agreed to let a Letter of Intent for the acquisition expire in January.

Regional stories from the KBIA Newsroom, including:

KBIA/file photo

The computer system the state implemented last year to handle Medicaid renewals is known as the Missouri Eligibility Determination and Enrollment System or MEDES. At multiple points in its workflow, it sends out forms asking for information like income, expenses and immigration status. 

The state sent out 13,710 of these forms due by September 30, but received just 7,965 responses by October 2 - less than 60 percent.  

File photo / KBIA

Missouri has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the country, and the number is growing, according to a new report.

The Georgetown University report found an estimated 83,000 children were uninsured in 2018: 21,000 more than in 2016.

The rate of uninsured children has increased nationally, but with 5.7 percent of Missouri children uninsured, the state is above the national average.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

On a sunny afternoon in Sedalia, Jennifer and Matt Boatright escorted some unusual visitors into a pasture on their farm. They opened the heavy gate and called their sheep over to meet a half-dozen medical and health professions students from the University of Missouri system. 

The farm tour was part of a week-long program designed to introduce future doctors, pharmacists and nurses to rural life.  The goal: Get the students interested in working in rural areas.

KBIA/file photo

Georgetown University professor Tricia Brooks focuses her research on access to health insurance for children in low-income families with a particular focus on Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program, or CHIP. In this week's episode of Health and Wealth, Brooks talks about how Missouri's Medicaid enrollment drop compares to the rest of the country, and some of the factors behind it.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

More than a dozen people testified at an unofficial hearing on decreasing Medicaid enrollment at the capitol Thursday, raising concerns, particularly about the rate of uninsured children in the state.

Legal advocates, activists and private citizens spoke on a range of issues, including the complexity of forms applicants for Medicaid have to fill out to re-enroll, and potential glitches in the renewal system.

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg is a town of fewer than 300 people, midway between St. Louis and Kansas City. But the school also serves the surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

Eldon School District / Photo Provided

In rural school districts, teachers and staff can often wear a lot of hats. When it comes to addressing mental health and taking care of students, the responsibility is shared between teachers, counselors and other administrators. This is true in Eldon, where elementary school teacher Katie Schulte and high school counselor Tara Jenkins sat down to talk about looking out for their students' mental well-being. 

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

It’s the middle of summer but Harrisburg Middle School is a hive of activity. Between summer school classes and renovations, it’s a little chaotic for school counselor Brett Rawlings, who just wrapped up his first year at the school.

Harrisburg itself is a small town of fewer than 300 people, but the school serves the larger surrounding area, which is primarily farmland. As the K-through-8 counselor, Rawlings is responsible for some 400 students, and he deals with a range of issues.

In the world of nonfiction filmmaking, the idea of "engagement" is often raised as a key part of the process. How does a film engage the audience, or with its subjects, what conversations does it start, or augment? For Robert Greene, whose film "Bisbee '17" screened at the 2018 True/False Film Festival, engagement offers an opportunity to counter the exploitative aspect of documentary filmmaking. And in the case of "Bisbee '17" it meant going back to the eponymous town year after year to continue the conversation.

American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri

An appellate court panel has given the go-ahead for the American Civil Liberties Union to start collecting signatures to put the 8-week abortion ban up for a public vote.

The court ruled Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft exceeded his authority in denying the ACLU’s petition to collect signatures as part of the referendum process.

The next season of the True/False Podcast doesn't start up for a few more months still, but we thought it was a good time to re-feature an episode from last season. The Edge of Democracy, which screened at this year's festival, is now streaming on Netflix, so we're bringing back our episode with the film's director, Petra Costa. 

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Around 100 people gathered outside Missouri congresswoman Vicky Hartzler’s office in Columbia Tuesday afternoon, to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which she has supported.

Dozens of protesters filled the sidewalk and parking lot outside congresswoman Hartzler’s office at noon, demanding an end to family detentions at the southern border.

Speaking through a bullhorn, demonstrators condemned Hartzler’s vote last week in favor of a multi-billion dollar border spending bill. They called for her to close the camps instead.

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA

Memorial services for former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman were held over the weekend. Some Columbia residents chose to honor the mayor, who was an avid cyclist, in a unique way.

Dozens of cyclists gathered at the Darwin and Axie Hindman Discovery Garden at Stephen’s Lake Park Saturday morning for a memorial ride to Hindman’s services at Calvary Episcopal Church.

Henry Domke / Photo Provided

It was humid spring morning in the woods of central Missouri and Henry Domke was lining up a shot. His target? The vibrant petals of a red buckeye bloom.

"I want to level it. Make sure it’s really sharp," Domke said as he adjusted his tripod and focused in before snapping the photo. 

Domke — a retired family doctor — has been photographing the wildlife in his back yard for years. When he was a doctor, he decorated his practice with his photographs, and after he retired he started exhibiting his work.


Paul Sableman / CC BY 2.0

Missouri health officials said Friday an ongoing investigation into reported abortion complications is the reason they’ve withheld a license for the last clinic performing abortions in the state.

The Department of Health and Senior Services says it’s still seeking answers from the clinic about why patients were unaware that they remained pregnant after what the officials described as "failed surgical abortions."

In a statement, Planned Parenthood accused state officials of fearmongering, and maintained it has “bent over backwards to cooperate with [the department].”

Photo provided by Mat Reidhead

In 2017, the Missouri legislature expanded Medicaid managed-care organizations, or MCOs, state-wide, putting third-party contractors in charge of hundreds of thousands of patients. Advocates say managed care programs allow for more personalized care for patients and more predictable budgeting. But hospitals have criticized MCOs, saying they cover less and take longer to reimburse for care than traditional Medicaid.

Now, a new study from the Missouri Hospital Association suggests switching from traditional Medicaid to MCOs could be linked to increased risk of suicide in teens. Mat Reidhead is the Hospital Association's lead researcher.

Photo provided by Mei-Ling Wiedmeyer

The language barrier can cause  a lot of problems when it comes to refugees getting health care, but there are other obstacles as well.

Mei-Ling Wiedmeyer, a family physician who grew up in Columbia, but now works with refugees in Vancouver, Canada and is on the faculty of the North American Refugee Health Conference. She spoke with Health and Wealth about the other barriers to care, and how communities can get around them.

At a pediatric clinic in Kirksville, Missouri, a young boy is waiting in an exam room to be vaccinated. A nurse explains the shots to his mother, and Lisette Chibanvunya translates.

Chibanvunya is one of two Congolese interpreters the Northeast Health Council has hired to help the clinic care for refugees and immigrants from central Africa. She first came to town to study at Truman State University in 2013.

Chibanvunya says, "When I came I faced discrimination, because they didn’t have a lot of black people." But now, she says, "They start accepting people because they finally understand that people kind of decided to make it home."