HPPR Health, Education & Welfare

Health

‐state policy‐impact of federal policy‐rural health care delivery‐access & availability

Education

‐state policy‐programs and opportunities‐access & availability

Welfare

‐state policies‐income levels‐wellness‐quality of life

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It’s no secret that rural Americans don’t have enough options when it comes to health care. In fact, life expectancies for rural Americans have been dropping. Meanwhile, rural Americans are at more likely to die from each of the five leading causes of death in America.

In places where the unemployment rate is well below the national average — states like Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa — one would think it’d be easier for communities to recruit new residents to fill open jobs.

But the housing market works against rural towns and cities where jobs often stay open because there are too few affordable homes and apartments to buy or rent, or the ones that are affordable need lots of TLC. It’s a situation that threatens to turn low unemployment from an advantage into a liability.

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The Federal Government ruled last week that Texas Education officials illegally denied special education services to students across the state, reports The Austin American-Statesman.

The ruling rejected a long-ago decision by the Texas Education Agency that placed a cap on how many students in the state can be eligible for special education services.

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According to the latest numbers for incarceration rates across the U.S., Oklahoma held the second highest per capita incarceration rate among all states.

As KFOR reports, in 2016 Oklahoma incarcerated 673 people per 100,000 residents. That lands the state second behind only Louisiana, which imprisons a staggering 760 per 100,000. By comparison, Texas imprisons 563 per 100,000 and Colorado imprisons only 356. The national average is around 400 per hundred thousand.

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The City of Amarillo is considering getting rid of the 22,000 dumpsters that dot the city and replacing them with individual 95-gallon plastic carts that would be rolled to the curb by Amarillo residents. The carts would then be emptied by trucks with robotic grabbers.

The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday approved two new pilot programs for educating teachers to address Kansas’ teacher shortage.

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Kansas schools currently spend more per pupil than any state in the High Plains Public Radio listening area, according to Federal data.

And as The Tulsa World reports, Oklahoma continues to spend the least amount per student of any state in the region. Oklahoma only spends about $8,000 per year on its students.

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The Amarillo Police Department will soon begin employing the use of body cameras, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

On Tuesday the Amarillo City Council approved the use of 11 body-worn cameras to be used by the department’s motorcycle unit.

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In recent years, the number of deaths in Texas linked to pregnancy and childbirth has grown a staggering amount. By some measures, Texas now has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world.

Yet, as a new editorial in the Dallas Morning News reports, Texas has another, related problem: No one knows exactly how many women are dying.

Shelby Tauber / The Texas Tribune

  Texas Health and Human Services officials announced Monday that they are receiving $47.7 million to begin needed construction for existing state hospitals, some of which are more than a century old.

From The Texas Tribune:

Texas leaders are taking the first steps to make long-awaited fixes to state hospitals built in the 19th and 20th centuries that serve Texans who need mental health services.  

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At a meeting with state legislators in Garden City Saturday, citizens questioned the Supreme Court's school funding decision. The legislators said they accept the court’s decision, but will at least consider amending the Kansas state constitution.

The meeting was Garden City’s first Legislative Coffee of the new year and was attended by three local lawmakers: John Doll and John Wheeler, both of Garden City, and Steve Alford of Ulysses.

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Black babies in Oklahoma are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white or Hispanic infants, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Shoring up rural America’s economy must start with broadband access and technology, a federal task force says in a report released Monday.

The group, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and made up of other Cabinet members, says doing so will bring rural areas increased health care access, better job training, smart electrical grids and more precision farming technology. Little of that can be accomplished, the report says, without closing the broadband gap between urban and rural residents.

Kansas set lofty goals for its public schools in the next dozen years – but the Trump administration and independent experts suggest the state’s plan is as vague as it is ambitious.

The state’s plan lacks concrete details on closing academic gaps in its public schools, so much so that federal officials and outside reviewers question the state’s compliance with civil rights law that demands all children get fair learning opportunities.

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For almost 20 years, Amarillo went without a residential treatment center for alcohol and drug addiction.

But this weekend, as The Amarillo Globe-News reports, a Panhandle recovery group known as Amarillo Recovery from Alcohol and Drugs hosted an open house to cheer the opening of their new Comprehensive Treatment and Recovery Center.

A proposal to strengthen Kansas’ laws against elder abuse is expected to come before lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session.

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Last year, Amarillo saw another increase in homicides, marking the second year-over-year increase in a row, and the highest homicide total in a decade.

There were 16 total homicides in the city last year, reports The Amarillo Globe-News. That’s five more than in the previous year of 2016, and nine more than in 2015. Last year’s homicide victims ranged in age from eight months to 69 years old. This second year in a row of homicide increases marks the reversal of a trend.

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Yesterday, HPPR reported a story about rampant abuse and neglect in Texas’s juvenile prisons.

Today, The Texas Tribune is reporting that inmates in more than 30 of Texas’s adult prisons may not have been provided with adequate heating during the brutal cold spell that recently blanketed the state.

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Child and civil rights advocates are urging Texas lawmakers to close the state’s juvenile prisons.    

The state has five remaining juvenile lockups, and according to a new report in The Texas Observer, these facilities may be doing more harm than good. The prisons house young inmates who have committed serious or violent offenses. Budget cuts have resulted in staff shortages at these facilities, and that means the juvenile offenders aren’t receiving the attention they need.

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Vegans are finding new ways to survive—and thrive—in the Texas Panhandle, a land traditionally celebrated for its beef production.

Amarillo is, after all, the city that sued Oprah Winfrey in the 1990s for badmouthing hamburgers. Yet a small but mighty group of vegans is learning to make the city meet its needs.

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Last year in Oklahoma, the number of school districts that had gone to four-day school weeks nearly doubled.

As KFOR reports, 20 percent of public schools in Oklahoma are now only open four days a week, due to a crippling budget crisis in the state. Some officials in the state have said they think four-day weeks are a good idea, because of all the money it frees up in the budget.

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Retired Texas teachers will be facing higher health care costs in 2018, reports The Houston Chronicle. Some families of retired educators in the Lone Star State are facing skyrocketing premiums of up to $1,000 a month and beyond.

The high health care costs are even forcing some retired teachers back into the workforce. The problem lies in the fact that TRS-Care, the health care system for retired teachers created in 1985, is on the brink of insolvency.

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For the last 10 years, Texas elected officials have been gradually cutting funding to public schools. As a result, local school costs have been rising--and local property taxes have been rising with them.

The state Legislature has now shifted over $2 billion a year worth of funding that would have gone to public schools to other programs.

From Texas Standard.

As we make the turn from 2017 to 2018, one of the big areas we ought to keep an eye on is the economy. The jobs Texans do in the future will look a little different than they have in the past. That’s of course in part due to the impacts of technology, but it also has to do with the needs of the community.

Dr. Ray Perryman, who heads the economic and financial analysis firm the Perryman Group in Waco, says the biggest gains will be in health care.

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Out here on the High Plains, with all this cold weather and vast emptiness, New Year’s resolutions can feel daunting. That’s why it’s especially daunting to prepare yourself mentally for your resolution.

Business Insider recently spoke to behavioral scientists to learn which techniques they advise to help you stick to your resolution.  

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When it comes to educating workers to prepare for the future, Texas lags behind much of the country, according to The Houston Chronicle.

New statistics from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board show that 350,000 kids left high school last year, including the 6 percent who dropped out. And only 145,000 students graduated with four-year degrees; that’s less than 42 percent of the number who left high school.

When Kansans on Medicaid are incarcerated or treated at residential mental health facilities, their Medicaid benefits are terminated. Mental health advocates hope to change that during the upcoming legislative session by pushing for a bill that would instead suspend those benefits.

After patients or inmates are dropped from Medicaid, it can take weeks or months to reinstate health coverage — a risk for people who need continuous care for mental health conditions.

From Texas Standard.

Texas has been more urban than rural since the 1950s, and though the state’s wide open space has a lot to do with its mystique, rural Texas is often overlooked when it comes to resources.

In a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece for the Texas Observer, Christopher Collins writes about the seven most pressing issues facing rural Texas.

Students at most state universities in Kansas will pay more to live on-campus than if they were to rent an off-campus apartment, according to an analysis by KMUW.

The analysis is based on new room and board rates unanimously approved recently by the Kansas Board of Regents. Pittsburg State University received the smallest increase — less than 1 percent for a dorm room shared by two students — while Wichita State University saw the largest increase at just less than 3 percent.

  

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Oklahoma’s prisons have long been overcrowded and underfunded. For example, the state’s three women’s prisons are at 129 percent of capacity.

To make matters worse, there is a shortage of corrections officers in the state.

Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh recently called the state prison system “a sinking ship.”

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