Page 1





A clear sign of I-49 U.S. 71 on Wednesday was officially designated as Interstate 49, stretching from Kansas City almost to the Arkansas border. Nick Salas attached a sign near the 155th Street exit. FRED BLOCHER | THE KANSAS CITY STAR


WORLD WAR I CENTENNIAL | House favors Kansas City location as focus for planning


LIBERTY MEMORIAL GETS NOD If measure is finalized, the site would be designated the “National World War I Museum and Memorial.”


By MATT CAMPBELL The Kansas City Star



he colorful flier lies. “Change can be easy” is the leading quote in a flow chart to help guide people through Kansas’ shift to managed care for those covered by Medicaid. But change is never easy. Not for humans. And this is a massive undertaking, set to begin next month. A slice of it, the impact on the approximately 10,000 Johnson Countians who seek county mental health services, was addressed in a forum Tuesday evening. Under the new KanCare system, people have been randomly assigned to either UnitedHealthcare, Amerigroup or Sunflower. Tim DeWeese, director of clinical services for Johnson County Mental Health, talked of his own reservations, the challenges, and yet still came across infectiously optimistic. “If I didn’t think this was possible, I wouldn’t be standing here,” he said. “We’ll make it work.” A few people thanked him for staying put, for not following other employees and joining the managed care companies. Never mind that he has far fewer case managers and clinicians than a year ago. Nor that the budget has been cut about 60 percent since 2008. And he is fully expecting it to be cut by 30 percent in the coming year. “I don’t know any business that can stay in business with a 90 percent cut in a four- to five-year time period,” he acknowledged. Yet issues endemic to mental health care services can be addressed during the switch, DeWeese stressed. Too often, mental health systems worked to help people become dependent on them, not independent, he said. There is the huge need to convert to integrated care. People with mental illness die about 20 years earlier than people without. But the reason isn’t necessarily the mental issue. It’s because they tend to not receive other primary care as well. DeWeese mentions the case of a person who had schizophrenia under control, and then died of a heart attack. “I’m tired of going to funerals of the people we serve,” he said. “They die far too young.” So by the end of next year in Johnson County, primary care needs will be met at the same location where people can receive their mental health care. Entry systems to care will be overhauled, he said, eliminating weeks of waiting for a first appointment. He wants the pediatric services to be geared more toward prevention of mental illness, to keep young people from needing help for serious issues later in life. The umbrella shift that encompasses everything is moving from a system designed around fee-for-service to focusing on outcomes. And the meeting was just a start. DeWeese plans to hold such open sessions for the public quarterly.

To reach Mary Sanchez call 816-234-4752 or email


oordination of the national observance of the centennial of the First World War would be anchored at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City under a resolution passed Wednesday by the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure also designates the local monument as the official “National World War I Museum and Memorial.” It still faces passage in the Senate,

but it has bipartisan support there. “We are hopeful that it will quickly go to the Senate and be passed by the end of the year so this important legislation will be completed,” said Denise Rendina, senior vice president of public affairs and marketing for the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City told the House it was important not to let the centennial fall victim to “partisan bickering” in Congress. The House resolution is a compromise between the Liberty Memorial and other interests that wanted to designate a national memorial to the Great War in Washington D.C. The

bill allows those interests to also establish a national memorial to the war there. The centennial commission would meet initially and regularly at the Liberty Memorial. The resolution does not commit any federal funds for its operation. The museum here has the largest collection of World War I material in the country. It is already working on plans to commemorate the 1914-1918 war, which the United States entered in 1917. A planning conference with representatives from around the world is scheduled here in March. Rendina said she is hopeful the centennial commission will be in place by

then and its members can attend. “North Missouri has deep ties to World War I,” U.S. Rep. Sam Graves said in a statement. “From ‘Black Jack’ Pershing to Frank Buckles, the Sixth Congressional District was home to thousands of men who served their country admirably. I’m glad that the World War I Centennial will bring people from all over the world to Missouri.” Pershing was commander of the American Expeditionary Force. Buckles was a Missouri native and the last living U.S. veteran of the war. To reach Matt Campbell call 816-234-4902 or send email to


Further charges in triple homicide Case is shifted to federal jurisdiction; tally of defendants related to the case expands to 11. By MARK MORRIS The Kansas City Star


A store called Stuff on 63rd Street in Brookside on Wednesday evening donated part of the value of all purchases to the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. Dressed as William Shakespeare, Matt Christopher waved to his son, 4-year-old Landon, who sported a Scooby-Doo mask.

BackSnack program brings out smiles Northland school shows how the food is used, sometimes to feed a whole needy family. By LAURA BAUER The Kansas City Star

The young girl wants to be a doctor. A veterinarian, too. Basically, she’d just like to help sick people and animals. And at age 10, she already feels like she’s helping her family. Each Friday, the Northland fifth-grader takes home a Harvesters’ BackSnack. She looks forward to it. That’s because one night each weekend her family uses it for a meal. Sometimes seven people surround the table. “We all share it,” said the girl, who isn’t being identified to protect her privacy. “We all eat it, everybody. We do not let anything go to waste.” She’s one of 40 children at Graden Elementary in Parkville who receive a

Rather than being photographed, children in a Kansas City Star series drew pictures of themselves. This is of a Graden Elementary fifth-grader.

pack each week. There are a couple on the waiting list. Just last week, Graden’s social worker, Colleen Pleiss, said she could add a few students to the BackSnack list because some other children who were receiving the weekly packs had left the school. She called the newly eligible families to see if they were in need of weekly BackSnacks. “They were ecstatic,” Pleiss said. “A lot of them mentioned it would let them

HOW TO HELP For the third year, The Star is partnering with Harvesters to host a virtual food drive. All money raised will go to Harvesters’ BackSnack program for kids. Go to to make a donation.

get through the holidays and put less focus on groceries and be able to buy a present or two.” Like the Graden fifth-grader, taking food home on the weekends allows kids to feel good about giving something to the people they love. “I’m happy because you guys are helping us,” said the girl. “I think that’s good …. Most people won’t help.” To reach Laura Bauer, call 816-234-4944 or email

SHORT TAKES KC ZOO | | Female polar bear will soon be on her way


A female polar bear at a zoo in Minnesota will be coming to the Kansas City Zoo, officials confirmed Wednesday. The transfer had been in question until zoo veterinarian Kirk Suedmeyer visited the bear to make sure she was up to the trip after recent surgery. The bear, named Berlin, could arrive as soon as next week and then undergo a 30-day quarantine. Officials hope the 23-yearold female will mate with the zoo’s 6-year-old male, Nikita. “The ultimate cougar,” zoo director Randy Wisthoff quipped. | Matt Campbell,


A time capsule to be opened in 150 years was placed Wednesday in the gate opening to the Janssen Place neighborhood in Kansas City; Dean Buntain assisted with the placement. Among the capsule’s contents: Photos, letters, videos and sweet gum tree seed balls — with a note hoping the sometimes-nuisance trees are gone when the capsule is opened.

Kansas City federal prosecutors announced charges Wednesday against 11 defendants in a drug case tied to a triple homicide in Independence last month. The federal action moves the prosecution out of state court in Jackson County to U.S. District Court, which has better tools for dealing with large drug conspiracies, said Acting U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark. “By bringing this case into federal court, we will mount a comprehensive prosecution of all of the defendants, bringing them to trial together under one charging document,” Ketchmark said in a written statement. Jackson County courts seldom try, as a group, all defendants facing charges in a single case. Such trials are routine in the federal system. The charges stem from a Nov. 16 home invasion at 1505 South Pope Ave. Maria Hernandez, her boyfriend, Tomas Dominguez, and her son, Antonio Hernandez, died. In the days following the homicides, Jackson County prosecutors charged Kevin M. Finley, 33, Raul Soto, 22, Antonio Cervantes III, 32, and Bobbi Jo Phillips, 37, with first-degree murder. Under the new federal charges, Finley and Soto each face three counts of murder during a drug-trafficking crime, each of which carries a possible death sentence. And they are charged with wounding Maria Hernandez’s 13-year-old son. Cervantes and Phillips join Finley, Soto and a new defendant, Carlos Zambrano Jr., 37, in a drug-conspiracy count that could bring a life sentence on conviction. Six others — Paula K. Deardorff, 31, Amber R. Hart, 26, Ryan J. Clayton, 30, Martin Medrano, 22, Stephanie K. Allinder, 30, and Clayton J. Deardorff, 34 — face charges of helping the conspirators by disposing of evidence or of not reporting the crimes to authorities. To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to


Hunger - BackSnack  
Hunger - BackSnack