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MSSU Board of Governors approves new degree programs; tuition increase

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors approves two new degree programs and a tuition increase.

The two new degree programs are a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences and a Master of Arts in Teacher Education.

The tuition increase amounts to a 4% hike for undergraduates.

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Exotics Petting Zoo brings some guests to Newton County Library

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – There were some interesting guests at the Newton County Library today. The Thorni Ridge Exotics Petting Zoo brought in some of their animals.

The furry, and not-so-furry, guests included an elk, baby zebra, water buffalo and a baby alligator.

The program gives kids a chance to reconnect with some friends and learn about creatures that don’t inhabit the 4-states.

More than 150 visitors showed up for the event.

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StoryWalk – a new Joplin Library outdoor adventure

JOPLIN, Mo. (Release from Joplin Library) – Joplin Public Library’s Rosemary Titus Reynold’s Children’s Department staff are excited to announce a new interactive outdoor activity just in time for Summer Reading at Joplin Public Library – A StoryWalk®!

A StoryWalk® is an innovative way for families to enjoy reading and being outdoors at the same time. Laminated pages from a children’s book are attached to stakes, which are installed along an outdoor path. As you stroll along the path, you’re directed to the next page in the story. There are also fun action prompts on each sign to keep children engaged and enhance enjoyment.

The StoryWalk features, Just In Case You Want to Fly by Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson. It is a fun (and sometimes silly!) book about dreaming big and the importance of friends and family. The activity is located in JPL’s “Outdoor Classroom” area, which is at the Northwest corner of the library building.

The Storywalk will remain up throughout the month of June.

The activity is completely self-guided, free, and fun for all families. You may enjoy the activity at any time, but if you wish to also enjoy the library, the open hours are Monday-Friday: 9 am
to 6 pm, Saturday: 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday: 1 pm to 5 pm.

For more information, call the Library at 417-623-7953 or visit our website (http://www.joplinpubliclibrary.org).

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Worker shortage causes long waits for child psychiatric care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Psychiatric facilities have enough beds to treat children in Kansas in need of intensive mental health care, but a worker shortage means that about 100 of those spots remain empty.

Kansas News Service reports that in recent years, children have often waited months for openings in specialized facilities that offer long-term psychiatric care. In mid-2018, the average wait was nearly 200 days.

The wait time fell in 2019 and 2020, and as of last month, the average wait was 44 days. Yet 146 children remain in line for their turn, even though 104 beds are open.

Residential care centers are struggling to fill jobs that are physically and emotionally taxing, yet sometimes pay less than $15 an hour.

KidsTLC in Olathe is urging the state to help with incentives that could range from college tuition waivers and signing bonuses to subsidies for health insurance or child care.

KidsTLC bought land in March 2020 to add another 50 beds for children, and that work was finished in December, nearly doubling KidsTLC’s residential capacity. Forty-five of the new beds remain empty.

“We had space, we were licensed, and were feeling just exceptional about that and being able to make a significant dent in that waitlist,” CEO Erin Dugan said. “And then it became really hard to hire staff.”

Nonprofit facilities offer more than 400 beds for long-term psychiatric youth care in Kansas. Many of those slots were added within the past 18 months as the administration of Gov. Laura Kelly worked to license more beds and reduce wait times.

Andrew Brown, the state’s commissioner of behavioral health services, said the state would like to get to a point where the average wait time is a week or less.

KidsTLC has almost 300 workers but wants about 425. It has not struggled to hire and retain therapists and other salaried specialists. But hourly staff trained to work on site around the clock are a different matter.

Dugan said her organization offers starting pay of $14 an hour. It is now considering raising that to $16 an hour, but doing so would require significant fundraising by KidsTLC, which gets paid for its patients by Medicaid. Medicaid rates are widely considered low compared to private health insurance.

“How does KidsTLC find a couple million dollars?” Dugan asked. “It’s not sitting around.”

Meanwhile, the state has called on one of its Medicaid contractors to reduce wait times.

KanCare, the state’s Medicaid system, is privatized and run by three companies: Aetna Better Health of Kansas, Sunflower or UnitedHealthcare.

Those companies review and approve applications for residential treatment, but the state’s tracking of wait times that began in 2019 found that children with Aetna waited significantly longer than the others. The state found that Aetna appeared to have problems promptly gathering paperwork such as parental releases to get children in line for care.

“We hope that we will see improvements,” Brown said.

Aetna said it took swift action after the state pointed out the problem.

“We immediately took steps to review our process, identify causes for delays, and implement the changes necessary to minimize interruptions in care for our members,” a company statement said. “As a result of our internal review we have modified our processes to eliminate avoidable delays.”

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Take an educational, interactive stroll in Humboldt

HUMBOLDT, Kan. – If you’re looking for an educational, interactive activity – head to the Humboldt, Kansas Library.

Take a stroll along their Book Walk. It starts at the library and ends at City Hall. You can walk around and see different pages of a book called “How to Catch a Dinosaur.”

While you’re walking along, don’t miss the chance to “catch” a glimpse of the dinosaurs hidden along the path.

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Crowder College’s CAMP program gets major boost

NEOSHO, Mo. – Fanny Perez and Sulma Perez aren’t related, but they’re both participants of the Crowder College CAMP program who will be returning to act as mentors to new members.

And thanks to CAMP which is short for “College Assistance Migrant Program,” their educations are taking off.

“I plan to transfer to MSSU and hopefully one day become a professor,” said Fanny.

“Well, I’m going to transfer to PSU soon to get my bachelor’s in nursing and hopefully one day become a doctor,” said Sulma.

Director of the CAMP program Lisa O’Hanahan is celebrating because the program was recently notified that it would receive $2,375,000 in federal funding, allowing it to operate for the next five years.

The program provides first year Crowder College scholarships to 40 students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds and eliminates a lot of financial roadblocks in the way of their educations.

“They may be the first person, they may be the first generation of individuals for their family to come to college, but we often then see another sibling and then a couple years later we might see a cousin, and so it really does change the opportunity for the family,” said O’Hanahan.

Camp scholarships do more than just cover tuition, books, room, and board. They also provide participants with academic guidance, leadership opportunities, and more.

“I met new friends and those friends became family for me,” said Fanny.

“It helped me form friendships that I never thought I could ever form,” said Sulma.

Crowder College’s CAMP program currently has scholarships available. If you’d like to learn more and apply, click here.

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Webb City Farmers Market teaches kids gardening skills

WEBB CITY, Mo. – Some area kids Tuesday worked on their green thumb in Webb City, Missouri.

The Webb City Farmers Market hosted a kids’ gardening club. The club is designed for kids to learn about starting their own gardens and how to keep that garden thriving.

“I think it’s a life-long skill when you teach a child how to garden,” said Market Manager Rachel Lynch. “It’s something that they can do throughout their life. It helps them connect to their food, so that they can perhaps make healthier choices, and be proud of the food they are eating.”

Every child got to take home a seed project to begin their own garden.

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$1.6 million in fraud at child-feeding sites during pandemic

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – The Oklahoma State Department of Education uncovers a record amount of fraud at child-feeding sites. Officials say it happened while schools, community organizations and nonprofits were racing to provide free meals during the pandemic.

Organizations improperly claimed more than $1.6 million in federal fund reimbursements since April 2020. OSDE officials say the majority of improper claims were at child-care sites.

The agency’s Office of Child Nutrition Services uncovered the fraudulent activity through a number of accountability measures. 

“We are incredibly grateful for our schools and community partners that stepped up to ensure the nutritional needs of children were met over the last year, as hundreds of schools provided summer meals for the first time. Oklahoma families rely on these services, and we are committed to ensuring integrity for these programs that fuel young learners,” Hofmeister said. “Oklahoma will continue to leverage federal dollars to help our children gain supports to be healthy and successful, and it is our charge to safeguard that valuable investment by taxpayers.” 

Fraud and Extended Flexibilities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidizes a number of feeding programs to help kids get nutritious meals for free or reduced prices. One program is the National School Lunch Program. The USDA extended additional flexibilities for those programs over the past 12 months due to the pandemic. The OSDE says these relaxed rules helped sites sites to offer to-go meals.

Participation in OSDE’s Summer Food Service Program soared by over 700% during the pandemicProgram sites served over 13 million meals to children from May to August in 2020, surpassing the 1.6 million meals from the same period in 2019. 

OSDE provides oversight of the child-feeding sites administering the USDA programs. Those sites include public schools, day cares, juvenile centers, after-school programs and stand-alone summer feeding programs. 

Feeding Site Regulations / Accountability Measures

  • VCA checklist – OSDE requires that all applicants be Financially Viable and have Administrative Capability and Program Accountability (VCA). Applicants must submit financial information and demonstrate capacity for policies and procedures to operate programs according to regulations. 
  • Validations for highrisk claims – Through a rubric to determine high-risk claims, OSDE requires entities to submit records to verify irregular claims. This is required in addition to the review process, typically in a non-review year. 
  • Site approvals – Any entity must receive OSDE approval to add a feeding site to its program to ensure capacity and viability. 
  • Site agreements – If a sponsor contracts with a site to serve meals, OSDE requires a written site agreement to avert procedural difficulties. 
  • Training – OSDE requires entities to attend trainings if they receive a review deemed seriously deficient. For Fiscal Year 2022, all entities reapplying for OSDE programs must attend a training prior to approval. 
  • Frequent reviews for high-risk claims – OSDE reviews entities more often if previous review results are irregular. Entities deemed seriously deficient are reviewed again in the next fiscal year to ensure all areas are fully and permanently corrected. 
  • Identity checks – OSDE requires additional documentation to confirm identity of applicants or authorized representatives of program entities. 
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Kansas school employee arrested for sexual exploitation of a child

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas police arrested a former school worker for sexual exploitation of a child Friday.

Riley County police arrested 31-year-old Junction City man Aaron Zachry, The Manhattan Mercury reported. He’s jailed on a $60,000 bond.

An attorney for Zachry wasn’t listed on court records Saturday.

Police told the newspaper that they arrested Zachry after they got a call about suspicious activity Friday at a Manhattan, Kansas pool. Police found nude photos of children on Zachry’s phone.

Zachry worked as a paraprofessional at Manhattan’s Northview Elementary school from 2018 through the end of this school year, the district told the newspaper. The district said it will cooperate with the police investigation.