Phil Cauthon for the KHI News Service

Two separate Kansas legislative committees have approved proposals from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to provide an additional $17 million to the state's two mental hospitals.

The decisions Thursday by the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee mean both chambers will consider the spending as part of broader budget legislation next week.

The extra funds will provide pay raises and offset lost federal funds over the next 15 months.

Workers from the Larned State Hospital say staffing shortages have created difficult and unsafe working conditions at the mental facility. Two employees told a legislative committee yesterday about the challenges they face.

Kyle Nuckolls says staff often work 12- to 16-hour shifts multiple days in a row at the western Kansas facility and they can’t take time off for family emergencies or illness. He says the long shifts lead to worker mistakes and other challenges.

Ecig Click, flickr Creative Commons

Updated Tuesday, April 19: Commissioners approved the consent agenda item allowing vaping in county buildings in a 3-2 vote Monday night during their meeting in Derby. 

Original story:

The Sedgwick County Commission will consider a change to the policy procedures manual regarding county buildings and county personnel within them. One of the changes will allow vaping.

Alex Proimos, flickr Creative Commons

A group of health leaders and elected officials will be traveling to Tulsa in May to learn about that city’s public health department.

The visit is part of a new Public Health Sister City Program getting started in Sedgwick County.

Organizers picked Tulsa for the sister city program because it is similar in size and demographics to Wichita. The city also has an accredited public health department.

Becky Tuttle with Health ICT says the local group will learn about the Tulsa health department’s structure and core functions.

A health care consultant with experience in hospital turnarounds will take over the top job at Larned State Hospital for the next six months. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services announced Wednesday that Chris Mattingly will serve as interim superintendent of the facility.

The announcement comes on the heels of the resignation of former superintendent for the hospital Tom Kinlen. Larned faces ongoing challenges in hiring and retaining staff; earlier this year, internal reports found that employees racked up significant overtime hours.


A new study confirms that when it comes to life expectancy, income matters: The richest American men live 15 years longer than the poorest men, and the richest American women live 10 years longer than the poorest women. But the study also contains some surprises.

The report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the poor in some geographical areas live nearly as long as their wealthier neighbors while the longevity gap is widening in other geographical areas.

Morning Calm Weekly Newspaper Installation Management Command, U.S. Army, flickr Creative Commons

An annual ranking of health environments in counties throughout the nation contained depressingly familiar news for Wyandotte County this year.

The county ranked 101st in Kansas, based on data from about 40 factors, ranging from premature deaths, obesity, child poverty, housing stock and access to exercise. Four Kansas counties didn't provide data for the report. Wyandotte County has consistently ranked last or nearly last in the rankings since they began in 2010.

Phil Moyer, flickr Creative Commons

Officials from northeast Kansas met on Tuesday to review response plans for a possible outbreak of the Ebola virus.

More than 50 people from local governments, health agencies and law enforcement gathered for the exercise. Shawnee County Emergency Management Director Dusty Nichols says they have plans in place, and these types of agency reviews help them determine if the plans will work.

Tom Simpson / Flickr Creative Commons

According to new data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, if you have spring allergies, Wichita is one of the worst places to live.

The report identifies the 100 most challenging places to live with spring allergies in the U.S. The research is based on the amount of pollen in the air, the number of prescriptions being written for allergy medication, and the number of allergists available to write those prescriptions.

A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says approximately 34,000 Kansans could get treatment for mental illness or substance abuse disorders if the state would agree to expand its Medicaid program, known as KanCare.

Amy Campbell is a lobbyist for the Kansas Mental Health Coalition, which represents a wide range of Kansans with an interest in mental health. She thinks coverage through KanCare might help relieve some of the pressure on the state mental hospitals.