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Weekend rain triggers higher Missouri River

After a weekend that brought several inches of rainfall, the Missouri River is once again on the rise.

The river had been slowly receding in recent weeks following months of historic flooding. It fell below 20 feet last week, but has since crept up to roughly 20.5 feet Sunday night.

“Right now it does look to still stay fairly close to the trend, with a slight increase,” said Sarah Atkins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill. “It should stay in minor flood.”

Minor flooding consists of the river rising above its 17-foot flood stage while not exceeding the moderate flood stage of 21 feet.

Atkins says the recent rise is due to the tremendous amount of rain the basin saw over the weekend, with areas north of St. Joseph seeing more than four inches.

“It was certainly a welcome rain,” she said. “We don’t necessarily want a whole bunch at one time, having it spread out is a little bit better in terms of flooding.”

Atkins said it was a welcome rainfall because the area has actually been relatively dry this month, despite the deluge of rain earlier in the year.

“It has been a wet year,” said Atkins. “We were in a pretty active pattern starting in March through the end of June, but much of July has been fairly dry across the area.”

Outside of additional heavy rainfall and increases to upstream flows from Gavin’s Point, the Missouri River looks to remain fairly steady despite the recent spike. Atkins said she’s more concerned about the potential heavy rainfall bringing localized flash flooding.

“It has been wet and if you do happen to come across a roadway that has water on it make sure you turn around,” she said. “You don’t know how fast that water is going or how deep it is, it’s safer to just turnaround and find another route.”


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Medicare fraud making its way into St. Joseph

Back in April of this year federal agents broke up a billion dollar medicare scam that “gave away” orthopedic back braces for free. This last spring, two dozen people were charged in this case.

It seems that this scam is not over and has made its way into the St. Joseph area.

“They said these braces would be free of charge. You are entitled to these braces free of charge,” Gary Hughes, a senior citizen in the community said. “Both of us told them 15 times we do not need braces. But still here they come.”

Hughes is referencing his wife, who both were recent victims of medicare fraud. Hughes said that he received a call from several different numbers offering up free back braces, leg braces, arm braces, etc.

They were persistent on every single call not taking no for an answer.

“In two days time I had blocked 84 calls,” Hughes said.

Hughes and his wife were getting calls for different braces and they never said that they were interested in these braces at any point. Before he knew it there was a big box waiting on his doorstep.

“I look in there and there are like 7 different types of braces,” Hughes said.

They called back the people who called them who were claiming they were part of the medicare system. When they got no answer their suspicions rose but they were “free” so what was the big deal?

It was not until they received notification from medicare that the braces for both husband and wife totaled into the thousands of dollars.

“I can’t give you an exact number but I am going to say around $2,600,” Hughes said. “Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield needed several hundred dollars from us both.”

They filed a report with medicare for fraud and have been trying to get a refund on their braces ever since with no luck. The return address for the braces will not take the package back as of right now.

Julie Brookhart who is the Public Affairs Specialist for the Kansas City Regional office of Medicare and Medicaid Services wants it to be known that it is happening widespread across the country, but no specific data shows how many times it has taken place in St. Joseph.

“We don’t have exact data to give on how many times this has happened in specific area of the United States,” Brookhart said.


File photo | News-Press NOW  

Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill practices a drill earlier this year during rookie minicamp at the Chiefs training facility in Kansas City, Missouri.


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Police pull body from river near Atchison

ATCHISON, Kansas — Police are having difficulty identifying the body of a man pulled on Sunday morning from the Missouri River in an area not far from south Atchison, Kansas.

Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson said in an update to regional media that he believes the body likely floated downriver from a location north of Atchison, perhaps a significant distance.

However, authorities can’t rule out that the man entered the water near Atchison, Wilson said. A Kansas City-area pathologist is studying the cause and circumstances of the death, Wilson said.

“We’ve put out a broadcast with several agencies up north and we’ve already had a communication by phone with some of the agencies just north of here,” Wilson said. “What we do know now is we have a white male adult.

“That helps us try to identify in the sense of who could’ve had a missing person, who might possibly have had a boating accident, there’s just all kinds of potential factors that could’ve occurred.”

Wilson said authorities believe that tattoos and other descriptors on the body, which he anticipates releasing information on in the near future for assistance in discovering its identity, will likely prove crucial toward solving the immediate mystery.

Wilson said authorities responded at 11:29 a.m. after a jogger reported the body floating down the river near the northern Atchison city limits along a trail near River Road. Authorities reached the scene immediately, Wilson said, and then followed the body as it floated downriver before recovering it with assistance from local first responder boat crews, including the Atchison Fire Department.

Wilson said the process of recovering the body, despite the elevated waters of the Missouri and swifter than usual currents, went off without any difficulties.

“We know that it didn’t end up in the river today,” Wilson said. “It’s been in there longer than that. There’s obviously a number of factors ... We know from past cases that a body will often end up below surface for a period of time before it will surface and allow people to see it ... The examination does indicate that it’s been in the water more than a day.”


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Treatment vs. Imprisonment: Bill brings focus to veterans courts in Missouri

On July 9, Gov. Mike Parson signed several bills into law that would bring change to the criminal justice system, one of which focuses on veterans who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law because of substance abuse.

House Bill 547, which was introduced by a newcomer in the House, Rep. Dave Griffith R-Jefferson City. Griffith said that the bill was originally designed so every judicial circuit in Missouri would be required to establish a treatment court specifically for veterans, but a compromise had to be made before the bill could pass.

“Veterans that have been in combat and have been on the battlefield when they come back from that situation, they are different people then they were before they went into battle,” Griffith said. “Many of them were injured and out on medications, and they get addicted to opioids. When that prescription runs out, they turn to self medicating, like heroin or fentanyl and many times, find themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

Griffith said that while he would have liked to see a veteran’s court in each circuit, the bill now requires that each circuit have a treatment court of some kind that can be utilized by veterans and other citizens.

“It was brought to my attention that was going to put an undue burden on the judicial system, and it would actually place above other treatment courts that were in place,” Griffith said. “We compromised on that, and if there was not a veteran’s treatment court in that circuit, if they didn’t have one or could not create one because of administrative reasons or financial reasons, then they could defer that veteran to a treatment court.”

In Buchanan County, one such alternative treatment court has been in effect for 17 years which can work with up to 150 participants at one time. Prosecuting Attorney Ron Holliday, said that through the alternative treatment courts, he has seen many lives changed and taxpayer money saved.

“What we’re finding is, and this gives legislative approval to that, we need to find alternative methods of dealing with people locally in our communities that costs Missourians less money that are appropriate and successful,” Holliday said. “Some people this doesn’t work for, bit we want to give people every opportunity to remain out of jail, out of prison and that’s part of the thrust of this bill.”

Currently in Missouri, there is only one circuit that does not have some form of treatment court. According to the Treatment Courts Coordinating Commission there are 80 adult treatment courts, four juvenile treatment courts, 15 family treatments courts, 23 designated DWI courts and 13 veterans courts.

Griffith said that though the bipartisan-supported bill did not establish a veterans court in each of Missouri’s 46 judicial circuits, the popularity of the bill is spreading the idea of veterans courts.

“I went to a graduation in Boone County last month where they graduated four men, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Because now these men feel like society has not given up on them and that they do have a second chance.”

By Aug. 28, 2021, each circuit will have an established treatment court of some kind, offering an alternative for both veterans and others in need of substance abuse treatment.