Sarah Fentem

Sarah Fentem reports on sickness and health as part of St. Louis Public Radio’s news team. She previously spent five years reporting for different NPR stations in Indiana, immersing herself deep, deep into an insurance policy beat from which she may never fully recover. A longitme NPR listener, she grew up hearing WQUB in Quincy, Illinois, which is now owned by STLPR. She lives in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood, and in her spare time likes to watch old sitcoms, meticulously clean and organize her home and go on outdoor adventures with her fiancé Elliot. She has a cat, Lil Rock, and a dog, Ginger.

Lawyers for Missouri’s only abortion provider told a St. Louis Circuit Court judge on Wednesday that it has been unable to renew the clinic’s annual license because state health officials have not followed proper procedures.

Planned Parenthood has asked Judge Michael Stelzer to issue a temporary injunction barring the state Department of Health and Senior Services from delaying or denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.

Jamie Boyer, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, told the judge during a hearing that the department’s efforts to interview independent physicians who work at the clinic have been an obstacle.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. June 4 with reaction from Planned Parenthood — A St. Louis Circuit Court judge has delayed until Wednesday a hearing that could determine whether Missouri’s sole abortion clinic remains open. Judge Michael Stelzer ruled Tuesday that current and former independent doctors at Planned Parenthood will not have to testify.

Lawyers for the state Department of Health and Senior Services had subpoenaed doctors, aiming to compel them to testify in court. That request pushed back a hearing on Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction barring the state Department of Health and Senior Services from delaying or denying a renewal of the clinic’s license. The judge set that hearing for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Planned Parenthood’s lawyers have asked Stelzer to bar the state Department of Health and Senior Services from delaying or denying a renewal of the clinic’s license.

Updated at 6 p.m., May 31 with comments from clinic officials and supporters — Missouri's only abortion provider will remain open.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order that keeps the license of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic valid beyond midnight, when it expires.

Judge Michael Stelzer’s ruling keeps the clinic’s license in effect until he rules on Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction that would bar the state Department of Health and Senior Services from denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. A hearing is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday. 

The battle over abortion rights in Missouri spilled from the courtroom into city streets on Thursday as hundreds of people gathered near the St. Louis Arch to demand state officials stop trying to limit access to abortion.

Carrying signs that read “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” and “Protect Safe, Legal Abortion,” they were there to protest the state’s efforts to limit access to abortion and the potential closing of the state’s only abortion provider.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and Planned Parenthood have been in a standoff over the clinic’s license, and today its future is in the hands of St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer.

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood will ask a St. Louis Circuit Court judge to block Missouri health officials from using an investigation into a patient’s complaint to close the state’s only licensed abortion provider.

Planned Parenthood went to court Wednesday to prevent the state Department of Health and Senior Services from denying a renewed license to Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. But Judge Michael Stelzer rescheduled the hearing for Thursday, a day before the clinic’s license expires.

In their request for a restraining order, the organization’s lawyers also asked Stelzer to bar state health officials from interviewing seven doctors at the St. Louis clinic.

The Washington University School of Medicine will more than double the number of students receiving full tuition each year thanks to $100 million in scholarship funding.

Officials from the medical program on Tuesday announced the boost in scholarships, which will be provided throughout the next 10 years. The scholarships are aimed at recruiting more low-income students and people of color and reducing the massive amount of medical school debt students incur.

“They look at our tuition and they don’t even consider applying because of concern they would accumulate very large amounts of debt,” said Eva Aagaard, the school’s senior associate dean for education. “This might change their mind, and we might see a really different population applying and being accepted into Wash U.”

Food insecurity is affecting a significant number of seniors, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. A recently released report found 12% of Missouri seniors did not have consistent access to food in 2015.

Close to 170,000 older Missourians — or 1 in 8 of the state’s seniors — suffer from food insecurity. That’s when a person can’t safely access healthy food due to cost, lack of transportation or other factors. With seniors in already-vulnerable health, a lack of healthy food can cause new health conditions and make existing ones such as high blood pressure or diabetes more serious.

About 60 percent of the approximately 70,000 Missourians purged from the state’s Medicaid program in 2018 lost coverage because they failed to reply to a mailed renewal form, according to state data.

The Missouri Department of Social Services started using an automated system to determine residents’ Medicaid eligibility last year. If the system couldn’t find their information, the state mailed enrollees renewal forms to complete and return.

Some health experts and state officials are concerned people otherwise eligible for the program are living without insurance because they never received the mail.

The Missouri State Board of Nursing has approved expanding five of the state’s nursing programs, adding 250 slots for future students.

State officials say the move aims to help reduce nursing vacancies. The profession has one of the highest vacancy rates in the health sector, with 13 percent of positions unfilled in Missouri, according to the Missouri Hospital Association.

Health officials in Jefferson County are trying to find people who may have come in contact with a person there who has caught measles.

The person caught the virus after traveling, according to officials at the Jefferson County Health Department. The department is “working directly with the case to identify potential contacts and make arrangements for follow up immunizations and care if necessary,” officials said in a release.

Measles infects the respiratory system and can cause deafness, blindness and can even be fatal in some rare cases. People who contract the measles develop a distinctive red, splotchy rash over their bodies. There is no specific antiviral treatment or medicine for measles, but giving a person a vaccine soon after they’ve been infected may lessen symptoms.

A Missouri lawmaker is demanding that state health officials explain how 73,000 people dropped off Medicaid rolls last year.

The state debuted an automated system in 2018 to help identify people who were no longer eligible for Medicaid, the health-insurance program for low-income and disabled people. Among the system's critics is state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, who worries that its flaws led to the nearly 7 percent drop in Medicaid enrollment. Most of the people who lost coverage are children.

Department of Social Services officials have pointed to decreased unemployment as one reason for the drop, but Sifton thinks the numbers don’t add up.

Controversial changes to Missouri's home health-services program by former Gov. Eric Greitens and the Republican-controlled legislature saved one fourth of the $43 million lawmakers had expected, according a state audit.

The Republican governor and state lawmakers didn’t take rising costs and sicker patients into account, concluded the report from State Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat. 

Updated at 4:35 p.m. with comments from the ACLU — A U.S. appeals court has upheld a federal judge’s decision to include thousands of Missouri Department of Corrections inmates with hepatitis C in a class-action lawsuit that could change how the disease is treated inside the state’s prisons.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the state on behalf of three inmates with the virus in 2016. The plaintiffs allege that the state didn’t treat their condition properly or quickly enough and only gave treatment to the people with the most serious symptoms. Those actions, they argue, violate the U.S Constitution and constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson thinks the state is “long overdue” for a statewide prescription-monitoring database for doctors.

Parson, a Republican, said Wednesday he hopes state legislators will pass a bill legalizing such a program next year. Missouri remains the only state without such a database, which proponents say helps cut down on opioids being sold on the street.

Parson made his remarks during a St. Louis stop on a weeklong statewide tour focusing on health issues. He met with state health officials and St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to discuss Missourians’ addiction to opioids. The drugs in 2017 killed 760 people in the St. Louis region alone, and 951 in the entire state. One in every 65 deaths in Missouri that year was due to an opioid overdose, according to the the state’s health department.

Biologists at the University of Missouri have found that a chemical commonly used in consumer plastics could affect how a body reacts to and regulates blood sugar.

Bisphenol A — or BPA — is a plastic additive found in bottles, the resin lining of food cans and thermal receipt paper. An experiment by Mizzou researchers exposed a small group of people to the chemical. After the exposure, the researchers measured subjects’ insulin levels, and found people exposed to the BPA had produced more insulin.

Pages