- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lawrence Journal-World, Aug. 1

An audit report released last week indicates Kansas is taking some steps to improve conditions at its mental hospital in Osawatomie, but it still has a long way to go.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decertified Osawatomie in December, making the facility ineligible for federal reimbursements for care provided at the hospital - a loss to the state of about $1 million a month. Federal funds were cut off after CMS documented a number of deficiencies in the hospital’s staffing and procedures that compromised care and safety at the facility. Among the incidents that drew CMS attention was the reported rape of a hospital employee by a patient.

Last week, Tim Keck, interim secretary of the state Department for Aging and Disability Services told state legislators that the department would apply “very, very, very soon” for recertification of 60 of the 206 beds at Osawatomie. If the renovation of the 60-bed unit satisfies federal officials, about $400,000 a month in federal funds may be restored.

As noted above, that’s a step in the right direction, but Keck already seemed to be making excuses for why more progress hasn’t been - and might not be - made. He said the state hadn’t yet decided whether to seek recertification of additional beds because it was unclear what it would take to pass muster with CMS. “We’ll have to see after we get through this part of it,” he said. “Part of it is how reasonable we’re treated by CMS when they come in to do recertification.”

CMS is not being unreasonable when it demands that Osawatomie provide facilities and staffing that ensure proper treatment and safety for patients and staff. Federal officials first threatened to cut off Medicare funds in November 2014, when the hospital was 25 percent over its approved capacity. Renovations were demanded in July 2015, but it wasn’t until December 2015 that funding finally was canceled. The hospital was given time and opportunities to address deficiencies before it was decertified.

Osawatomie is one of just two state hospitals that treat patients with serious mental illness. The services it provides are vital to patients and their families and contribute to public safety across the state. The reduction in beds during its renovations has placed even more pressure on already stressed mental health facilities.

It’s clear that Osawatomie had dug a pretty deep hole for itself before federal funds were cut off. Additional funding approved by the Legislature is helping officials dig out of that hole, but much work remains to be done.


Wichita Eagle, July 29

Lacerating politics, terror fears, and fatal encounters with police followed by slayings of officers have made this a joyless summer for too many Americans. Perhaps that heightens the gratitude in south-central Kansas for acts of kindness and reasons to cheer.

An example of the latter, the National Baseball Congress World Series returns Friday through Aug. 13 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. A Kansas Stars team of mostly former major leaguers including Roger Clemens and Tim Hudson has ignited interest in this 82nd tournament.

But its pleasures are as fundamental as ever, starting with seeing future pros and other young talents sharpen their skills and athleticism on a storied ball field. Because a nonprofit foundation took it over two years ago, the NBC is not only a good time but also a good cause.

Another heartening annual tradition will return at 10 a.m. Aug. 6 at Bethel Life Center, 3777 S. Meridian. The Convoy of Hope anticipates offering donated goods and services to 10,000 people this year. The outpouring of caring is a credit to many local partnering organizations and businesses, as well as a testament to how many of our neighbors need a hand.

Wichita drew national praise - and the police chief earned a White House invitation - for the First Steps Community Cookout, the inspiring July 17 event held by the Police Department and Black Lives Matter activists during which nearly 2,000 people ate burgers and sought common ground.

This month also offered the thrill of seeing the B-29 known as “Doc” take flight again, 16 years and thousands of volunteer hours after its restoration began.

And diverse individuals recently came together to right wrongs in two unexpected ways.

Responding to an article in The Eagle’s Neighbors section, one group donated money to add a headstone in Maple Grove Cemetery and properly honor Nannie Jones. She was an African-American woman who sued and, remarkably, won a $400 jury award after being denied admittance to a Wichita amusement park in 1908.

Then there was “Support Le Monde Day,” when diners flocked to the small Mediterranean restaurant at 602 N. West St. last week to counter an ugly anti-Muslim online comment.

“I want to thank him,” said Ghassan Hajeh, who runs the restaurant, of the Facebook post’s author. “He helped me a lot. He showed me how beautiful Wichita is.”

Such beauty stokes hope that this tough summer still can end well.


Salina Journal, July 25

It’s disappointing but sadly not shocking that Kansas could fail to receive $800,000 in arts funding in the coming year.

The administration of Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature are not adequately supporting the arts in the Sunflower State, and that decision has come back to bite them.

It all started when Brownback in 2011 signed an order to kill the Kansas Arts Commission. That stance embarrassed the state among the creative sector inside and outside its borders. Following a public outcry, state officials formed another group - the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, charged with getting money into the hands of community arts groups and others around the state.

This slow-motion train wreck has been playing out for years, but there was always hope that lawmakers eventually would come to their senses.

But in the latest debacle, Kansas reportedly will fall $250,000 shy of spending enough this year to garner matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. That group wants to see whether states are serious about trying to promote the arts. Kansas isn’t.

“It’s very deflating to know that we are not playing on the same level playing field that arts entities in other states are playing on,” said Rodney Miller, the dean of the College of Fine Arts at Wichita State University.

Well said. And by failing to meet the NEA requirement, Kansas will be suspended from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, which had provided $370,000 to Kansas arts organizations in the last year.

In a news release, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said the governor “is focused on fostering economic growth and job creation within the creative community.”

Think how many jobs that $800,000 of matching funds - not money directly from Kansas taxpayers - could have helped create or keep in Kansas.

Hawley added that “it is disappointing that the Mid-America Arts Alliance is choosing not to join that mission” of job growth. Say what? The alliance, like the NEA, wants states to put skin in the game before they can get access to other funds. Nothing wrong with that stance, which often is embraced by conservative politicians like Brownback.

Kansas is underfunding too many of its public services right now, largely because of revenue shortfalls caused by the 2012 income tax cuts championed by Brownback and the Legislature.

Still, it’s especially disconcerting that Kansas lawmakers have missed out on opportunities to enhance the arts in the state.


Topeka Capital-Journal, July 22

The time was right for Bob Chipman to retire as the men’s basketball coach at Washburn University.

That was how he phrased it when making the announcement and he should know. If anyone can evaluate time, it is Chipman.

The 2016-17 season will be his 38th, and last, as head coach of the Ichabods. Chipman, 65, took over in 1979-80 after spending three seasons as a Washburn assistant.

Chipman will look to crack the 800-win mark this season. His 788 career wins account for 51.8 percent of the all-time victories (1,520) by Washburn in 111 overall seasons.

Yet the numbers are not nearly as important as the influence Chipman provided so many players, including 23 All-Americans, while building his incredible longevity.

Coaches rarely remain in one position so long. Unrealistic expectations and testy impatience often prompt fans to demand change, even at the small-college level. The transient nature of coaches looking for better opportunities often contributes to steady transition.

In the case of Chipman, he once bid for an opening at Kansas State, where he started in Jack Hartman’s backcourt opposite Lon Kruger. Chipman was not chosen for the K-State post, and instead solidified a career at Washburn while guiding the Ichabods through their own transitional phases.

Moves Washburn made at the national level, from NAIA into NCAA Division II, and at the conference level, from the CSIC into the MIAA, broadened the competitive difficulties the Ichabods faced.

After guiding WU to the 1987 NAIA national championship, Chipman’s teams have made 12 NCAA Tournament appearances in Division II, including a 2001 appearance in the national finals and Elite Eight berths in 1993 and ‘94.

Prospects are good that Chipman could go out in grand style. The Ichabods lost just one senior off last year’s squad, which went 15-13, but included the MIAA freshman of the year and defensive player of the year. A highly regarded recruiting class will add to existing talent, providing a bright outlook, which should carry into the future under the next head coach.

Washburn officials will be deliberate making a decision on Chipman’s replacement, presumably to give them time to examine coaches on the current staff and outside candidates.

The position will be difficult to fill based on the enduring success Chipman maintained in climbing to 17th all-time in coaching wins at all NCAA levels.

The base Chipman established, however, is firm. The next coach will be provided a foundation from which he can build his own successful basketball program.

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