A week after a wave of female first-time candidates won big in city-level elections, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was in Johnson County on Tuesday to kick off the campaigns of a group of women running for the statehouse in next year’s races.
In an appearance at the Johnson County Democrats offices in Overland Park, Kelly said it’s important for women to take on leadership roles. Newly elected women — from both sides of the aisle and in the House and the Senate — have been able to make “an incredible difference in the state,” she said.
Democrat Joy Koesten announced her plans to run for the Kansas Senate, District 11 on Nov. 12.
“Voters deserve a candidate who will not have to constantly endure extreme political pressure to follow their party’s agenda,” Koesten said in an event at the Johnson County Democrats headquarters last week. “They deserve a leader who will always advocate for sound public policy that aligns with the values and priorities of the district.”
From the Jewish Chronicle
With suicide among young people rising at alarming rates here and around the country, Joy and Stewart Koesten of Leawood have launched a campaign to fund an Endowed Professorship in Developmental and Behavioral Health at Children’s Mercy Hospital supporting research into adolescent depression and suicide prevention.
“We are extremely grateful for the Koestens’ financial gift and their recognition of our mission to care and advocate for children,” said Jenea Oliver, the hospital’s vice president of philanthropy and chief development officer. “This endowed fund will help us fulfill that mission as it relates to teen depression and suicide.”
Through a combination of annual gifts and planned-giving from the Koestens plus contributions from other donors, the endowed professorship eventually will total $1.5 million. The first year’s fundraising goal is $500,000: $300,000 coming from the Koestens and $200,000 being raised from outside contributions.
The first $50,000 contribution has come from Mike Cummings and Pam Miller of Kansas City, Missouri. As a young person, Pam struggled with the emotional and physical abuse caused by her parents’ alcoholism. “I could tell no one. I barely made it through it all,” Pam said. “We want no one else to experience that pain or to feel so alone, ever.”
The Koestens’ own experience as parents dealing with a young person’s anxiety, depression, addiction and suicide fears spanned a decade. “In our own family, we lived with all of that. Thankfully, we and our daughter survived but we’ve known many other families throughout our community who had similar struggles that didn’t end as well,” said Joy Koesten, a former Kansas State representative who co-chaired the House’s Mental Health Caucus. “We’re very gratified at Mike and Pam’s generosity and the other interest we’ve received as we’ve begun raising money for this project. Many people have told us this research will be an important step in better understanding depression that often leads young people to end their own lives.”
Joy’s legislative work brought her into close contact with Blue Valley schools in her district which were struggling with an increase in teen depression and suicide. At the same time, Children’s Mercy was looking for proactive ways to expand its presence in the community. Two years ago, the hospital and the school district formed a novel partnership. They share the expense of placing 19 social workers from the hospital’s staff inside Blue Valley Schools to support the District’s existing counselors and psychologists.
With her legislative experience fighting to fund mental health services coupled with her own family’s experience with teen depression, Joy applauded the new partnership and saw the early results were encouraging. “Clearly the partnership was working because in its first six months, more than 700 students were identified with an elevated risk of suicide and then were connected to additional help,” Joy said. “It shows prevention is possible and lives are saved when dollars are invested in programs supporting mental health professionals.”
Nationally, the suicide numbers are staggering. According to the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide now ranks second (behind accidents) as the leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24. CDC statistics show a death from suicide occurs every 12 minutes in the U.S.
Closer to home, reports in the local broadcast and print media have focused intense scrutiny on teen depression and suicide. A front-page article in the May 5 edition of the Kansas City Star described the metro-wide scope of the problem while staffs at Children’s Mercy Hospital have documented its increase. Its emergency rooms recorded a 39% increase in the number of its young patients needing a suicide assessment from July 2017 to June 2018. The average age of those 1,736 patients was 13; one patient assessed was only 3 years old.
Local advocacy groups and religious organizations have joined school districts and mental health professionals in responding to the rise in depression and suicides. They sponsor public seminars, panel discussions, conferences and new programs all aimed at prevention.
Most recently, superintendents from six Johnson County, Kansas, school districts jointly launched #ZeroReasonsWhy to educate their student and parent communities why “suicide is never an option” after teen suicides nearly doubled in the county during the first half of 2018. The student-driven prevention campaign organizes programs, events, speakers and activities to bolster students’ social and emotional well-being, which can stave off suicide attempts.
The Koestens are confident their endowed fund will enhance all those efforts and more. “Supporting a research scholar right here in our own community who is laser focused on this problem will have enormous impact,” said Stewart Koesten, chief executive of Aspyre Wealth Partners and a past president of Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City. “We couldn’t start soon enough raising funds toward that goal and we hope others like Pam and Mike will join us in this effort.”
Stewart also currently serves as an officer on the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City board and is a trustee of the Kansas City Jewish Community Foundation.
In addition to her commitment to mental health, Joy has spent 20 years in higher education. She earned a PhD in communication studies from the University of Kansas and has taught or lectured at all three KU campuses, Johnson County Community College and Washburn University in Topeka.
For more information about their research endowment fund at Children’s Mercy, contact Joy Koesten at 913-972-7883 or Stewart Koesten at 913- 345-1881.
Anyone needing help in dealing with suicide is encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day and offers free, confidential support.
On April 22, Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the Senate Bill 67, a bill that will prohibit a physician from providing, inducing, or attempting to provide or induce a medication abortion that uses mifepristone without informing the woman that it “may be possible” to reverse the intended effects of a medication abortion that uses mifepristone.
The bill also creates both criminal and civil charges should the physician fail to notify patients in specific ways set forth in the bill.
In other words, this bill would turn doctors into potential criminals for refusing to perform malpractice. If it is considered malpractice to give a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a medical condition, illness or injury, it should remain illegal to provide inaccurate information for medication abortion. The AMA and the ACOG have voiced strong concerns about this legislation, stating there is “no credible evidence to support the argument for abortion reversal.”
The goal of both physicians and policy makers should be to dispel misinformation, especially when it comes to women’s health care.
It is vital for our legislators to sustain the governor’s veto when they return on May 1. Sadly, even “moderate” Republicans voted for this horrible piece of public policy, hoping it will save them from facing a far-right primary contender in 2020. News flash: It won’t keep them from having a far-right primary contender in 2020! It will, however, make access to abortion care more difficult for all women in Kansas.
I have never met anyone who isn’t pro-life. But I do know women who have had to terminate a pregnancy. And, I for one am grateful that Gov. Kelly understands that this bill interferes with doctor/patient relationship by providing inaccurate information about medication abortion.
This bill is also a form of subtle coercion wrapped in the false narrative of “abortion regret” from the anti-choice lawmakers, portraying women as incapable of making decisions about their bodies, their health and their future.
Women are quite capable decision makers who know what is best for their own lives and they deserve to be given only medically accurate information. I trust women to make these very private and difficult decisions with guidance from their physicians, faith leaders and families.
Our lawmakers should trust women, too, and they should vote to sustain the governor’s veto on SB 67.
The Kansas Legislature finish up their turnaround break and have resumed their work in the capitol. It's a good thing, since they haven't done a whole lot in the first 36 days of the session. So far, they still haven't passed a school funding bill or passed Medicaid Expansion.
With the mid-April deadline set by the Supreme Court looming, the Kansas legislature has yet to complete its job concerned with school funding. Attorney General, Derek Schmidt has indicated that he needs a decision on school funding by March 15th so he would have time to prepare court briefs. Some lawmakers and community leaders are showing frustration, but today is March 13 and so far - no votes! Some of the litigants in the court case have expressed concern about the level of spending proposed and this has prompted Senator Wagle to threaten to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, to top it all off we now have a good-ole voucher bill to distract us from getting the real work of funding public education done. Man, it just shouldn't be this hard to prioritize (and pay for) what we value in Kansas.
Today, the House Appropriations Committee debated the Medicaid Expansion bill, but the bill failed to pass out of committee when the committee chair, Rep Waymaster (R) voted NO to break the 11 to 11 tie. So, the bill won't get a debate on the House floor unless something creative happens. This is in spite of clear evidence that Medicaid expansion could help us save rural community hospitals.
Johnson County Citizen’s Academy
What Happens Locally Matters, By Janet Milkovich
It was during the months following the last presidential election, a time when I felt powerless to stop the chaos happening in the nation’s capital, that I attended a League of Women Voters event at the Blue Valley Library. Representative Joy Koesten was on a panel with other representatives and senators and fielding questions about gun control and education funding, among others. Some panelists waffled, skillfully avoiding taking a clear position but not Joy! I was so impressed with the clarity of her answers and with her knowledge of what was happening at the state level that I waited in line after the forum to speak with her. My takeaway? What happens locally matters. Get involved on a city, county and state level where people like me can make a difference.
Listening to her, hearing truth in her confidently spoken words, I felt my panic subside and I realized that I could be an influencer rather than a helpless by-stander.
I’ve lived in Overland Park twice and have participated in city council meetings numerous times but I knew little about the county government structure or the role of the county commissioners. I was unaware that Johnson County Government provides 350 services and programs including health and human services, mental health services, public works, criminal justice and correction programs. I wanted to know more!
Joy sent me information about the Johnson County Citizens Academy and suggested that I apply. In their introductory materials was a quote by Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
I applied and was thrilled to be selected from a field of 160 applicants for a class of 40 citizens. I’m now halfway through the ten-week program and have gleaned a better understanding of the Johnson County Government Structure. Each week we hear from three county departments and do an on-site tour of one. Sitting in the Emergency Operations Center surrounded by screens with real time action in the county was akin to being in a Tom Cruise movie. A tour of the elections warehouse helped me see the giant scope of operations and the importance of election volunteers. My favorite field trip so far is the Emergency Management & Communications Center where trained staff and police officers respond to 911 calls.
Getting back to Joy’s advice. Because of my participation in the JOCO Citizens Academy, I am more familiar with how the county and city governments function and how citizens can participate through service on boards, commissions and committees. I need not by a helpless bystander. There are many ways to get involved, to use my life experiences and skill set to be a good citizen and an influencer in my own community.
Joy has blogged extensively about her experience and activities in the legislature and beyond.