Tornado drill planned today

The annual Kansas-Missouri tornado preparedness drill is planned this afternoon.

The tornado drill will be conducted between noon and 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, and is expected to be held around 1:30 p.m.

Conducted by the National Weather Service, the tornado drill will include a simulated tornado warning to be issued, and the all-hazards weather radio system will be activated.

The alerts messages will indicate this is a test of the system and not an actual tornado warning, according to a spokesman. The test will not be performed if there is threatening weather in the area, to avoid any confusion.

If the test is canceled because of the weather, the backup date will be Thursday, March 5.

Residents may listen to the simulated tornado warnings on the National Weather Service radio, local radio and television stations and listen for outdoor warning sirens. Do not rely solely on outdoor warning sirens as they are not designed to be heard in all locations within the county or inside buildings, according to a spokesman.

In Wyandotte County, the test will consist of sounding the tornado warning signal, a three-minute steady blast, on the emergency management outdoor warning sirens.

Residents may use this test as an opportunity to practice going to a tornado safe place such as above ground tornado shelters.

During a real tornado warning, residents should seek shelter in a basement or low-lying area. Motor vehicles and mobile homes are generally unsafe during tornadoes.

Actual tornadoes may be reported to the Emergency Management Department, 913-573-5300, or to the police and fire emergency numbers, through 911.

Wyandotte County is holding a free tornado severe weather awareness seminar at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at Kansas City Kansas Community College’s Performing Arts Center, 7250 State Ave., Kansas City, Kan.

The guest speaker will be Andy Bailey, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Pleasant Hill, Mo.

Menezes graduates from basic training

Air Force Airman Crystal D. Menezes graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.

The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.

Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Menezes is the daughter of April D. Menezes of Kansas City, Kan.

She is a 2014 graduate of Turner High School, Kansas City, Kan.

Proposal would delay KanCare health home expansion

Budget proviso postpones launch of health homes for Medicaid patients with chronic illnesses

by Dave Ranney, KHI News Service
The Senate Ways and Means Committee has adopted a budget proviso that’s expected to delay the implementation of “health homes” for KanCare patients with chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes.

The proviso, drafted by Sen. Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, stipulates that no state money shall be spent on KanCare health homes for chronic conditions without the Legislature’s explicit consent in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 — through June 30, 2017.

KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, began implementing health homes for 36,000 patients with severe and persistent mental illnesses in August 2014.

At the time, Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials said they hoped to roll out health homes for patients with chronic illnesses sometime in 2015.

Denning’s proviso, which is expected to pass the Senate and likely meet little resistance in the House, further delays an already uncertain start-up.
“I don’t think we should be pushing another (home health) program until we see how the first one works,” Denning said.

“We have anecdotal information from the mental health centers that it (health home model) is working, and the advocates say they like it,” he said. “But I think we need to wait until we have some hard outcome measures to see if A) it’s actually improving patient care and B) it’s bending the cost curve.”

In legislative circles, Denning is seen as a key figure in the state’s health care debate. He is vice chairman of the Senate budget committee and chairman of its social services budget subcommittee. He also serves on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and on the Robert G. Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.

Outside the Legislature, Denning is a vice president with Discover Vision Centers, a network of eye clinics in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Denning also said he was troubled by estimates that show while launching health homes for patients with chronic illnesses likely would lower the Medicaid program’s long-term costs, their start-up costs, depending on how broadly they’re implemented, could be between $45 million and $100 million.

Though KDHE officials have said the second phase of the health home expansion would focus on asthma and diabetes, federal statutes would have allowed it to include heart disease, obesity and substance abuse disorders as well.

Denning’s proviso occurs as legislators look for ways to offset a projected shortfall of nearly $344 million in the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and fill a $600 million hole in the budget for the next fiscal year.

KDHE Deputy Secretary Aaron Dunkel said the proviso, if enacted, likely would temper but not derail the agency’s interest in health homes.

“It might slow us down a little bit,” he said. “But we’d already been having conversations about the SMI (severe mental illness) health homes and how, if the data shows SMI health homes to be as effective as we think they’re going to be, lessons learned might be applied to the chronic condition health home implementation. Those conversations will continue. But between gathering information and the effect of the proviso, it would be at least another year before they’re implemented.”

Across Kansas, more than 80 providers — a mix of community mental health centers, safety net clinics, county health departments, and programs for developmental and medical facilities — offer health home-type services for mental health patients.

For many of the providers, the proviso was not unexpected.

“It seems a little penny wise and pound foolish, but the state is in a budget crisis, so I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Krista Postai, chief executive of the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, a multi-county safety net clinic based in Pittsburg.

“It’s a shame because all a health home is, really, is super-duper case management,” Postai said. “And I can absolutely prove to you that every time I’ve been able find some money to spend on case management and help people manage their disease, we’ve saved money. That’s just a fact.”

Dave Sanford, chief executive at GraceMed, a group of safety net clinics in Wichita, agreed with Postai’s assessment.

“It’s very disappointing,” he said, “primarily because we believe that once health homes are in place and we’re working with that Medicaid ‘frequent flier’ population, we will have the ability to change behavior, to develop accountability, to help people achieve better outcomes and at the same time reduce the overall cost to the state.”

GraceMed and COMCARE, the community mental health center in Sedgwick County, have put together a health home for mental health patients.

“As most everybody knows, most of these people with a severe mental illness are dealing with a chronic condition as well,” Sanford said. “So we’ve gotten our toes wet. It’s a SMI health home, but we’re seeing a lot of chronic conditions.”

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to when a story is reposted online.

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