Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Durrie Bouscaren

Health and Science Reporter

Durrie Bouscaren covers healthcare and medical research throughout the St. Louis metro area. She comes most recently from Iowa Public Radio’s newsroom in Des Moines, where she reported on floods, a propane shortage, and small-town defense contractors. Since catching the radio bug in college, Bouscaren has freelanced and interned at NPR member stations WRVO, WAER and KQED. Her work has aired on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Harvest Public Media, a regional reporting collaborative. 

Ways to Connect

Ameren's coal-fired power plant in Labadie
Véronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

Post updated 11:13 a.m. on Monday, 11/24/14. 

After four years and a court order that pitted environmental groups against the coal industry, the Environmental Protection Agency is nearing its December deadline to finalize regulations for how coal-fired power plants dispose of the ash they create.  

Coal ash — which contains toxic substances like mercury, lead and arsenic — can leach into groundwater if not properly contained. That has raised concerns among environmental groups who say Missouri does not properly regulate coal ash disposal.  

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
CDC

A female nurse who was admitted to Mercy Hospital Jefferson with a fever after returning from Liberia has returned home, officials confirmed Saturday night. 

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
CDC

Updated at 6:40 p.m.

A Jefferson County woman who was showing symptoms of Ebola has initially tested negative for the virus at Mercy Hospital in Crystal City. As a precautionary measure, officials said she will remain in an isolation room for treatment and will be monitored according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Curesa Atkins sits in her apartment at the Garfield Commons.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

When Curesa Atkins moved into her apartment at Garfield Commons, a group from her church decorated it for her.

“It was snowing, and I just thought, 'Thank God. I’m watching it from the other side of the window when there’s so, so many people out there,'” Atkins said.

Atkins, a 42-year-old former dental assistant, said she became homeless after a dealing with series of car repairs, a change in her marital status and, eventually, the loss of her job.

(Courtesy University City Children's Center)

About 12,300 fewer children attended federally subsidized day cares in Missouri during fiscal year 2013 than in 2012. That marks the largest decline in the country. But child service nonprofits say it’s unlikely the decline is due entirely to a reduction in need. Instead, it may be due to changes within the state agency that administers the funds.

Ferguson public safety press conference, 11-11-14. Belmar, Dotson, Ron Johnson, Isom, Bret Johnson, Replogle
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

(Updated at 9 p.m., Mon., Nov. 17)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called out the National Guard to protect “the two pillars: safety and speech’’ that he says could be tested in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision regarding the August police shooting that killed teenager Michael Brown. 

"Our goal is to keep the peace and allow folks' voices to be heard,'' Nixon said Monday night in a conference call with reporters.

Dara Taylor of Community Catalyst.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

On Saturday, open enrollment season for Healthcare.gov begins. For the second time around, public health organizations and insurance "navigators" are holding outreach events, running ads, and looking for the remaining uninsured Missouri residents.

But who are those uninsured Missourians? And how have the changes implemented through the Affordable Care Act affected the state?  

Hundreds of thousands of people in Missouri are uninsured. Who are they?

Andre Wilson, an inclusive health advocate and transgender man, will speak at Washington University in St. Louis on Nov. 13 and 14.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Andre Wilson lived as a woman for the first 43 years of his life. It was excruciating, he said.

“I lived a life of depression, suicidality. I couldn’t even explain to myself, let alone others, what the barriers were,” Wilson said. “One lives a life of never having access to the core self.”

When Wilson began hormone therapy to transition into becoming a man, everything changed.

Project Manager Tom Kappelmeier holds a model of the facility's landfill gas filtration system during a tour at the Milam Landfill.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a network of pipes underneath the Milam Landfill in East St. Louis. The pipes gather the methane and carbon dioxide given off when organic matter heats up and decomposes. And soon, the landfill will be using it to produce natural gas.

The landfill’s operator, Waste Management, received a $2.4 million dollar grant from the state of Illinois to build the facility, which is the first of its kind in the state. Total construction costs reached $19 million, according to the company.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

On Monday, Missourians had their first glimpse at the health insurance rates they can choose from on the federal exchange. According to some, that shouldn't have been the first time the information was public.

Missouri is one of only a few states that does not have a state entity tasked with reviewing health insurance rates before they are finalized. Consumer groups say that means Missourians might be paying more for health insurance on the federal exchange than they should be. 

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Even though open enrollment doesn't start for several days, Healthcare.gov began on Monday to allow visitors to take a peek at the individual health insurance plans and rates that will be available for 2015. 

In the St. Louis area, two additional insurance companies  — Cigna and UnitedHealthcare — began offering plans on the federal exchange. For zip codes in St. Louis, the marketplace lists 41 plans with varying monthly premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

Ryan Barker of Cover Missouri said the additional competition likely led to a slight decrease in plan prices.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

The state of Missouri may be required to repay $11.5 million to the federal government, after miscalculating Medicaid payment rates for some case management services to people with developmental disabilities. The findings  were published last week in an audit by the Office of the Inspector General. 

File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A 2012 audit of the police department in Bel-Ridge is getting new attention from some members of the community's Board of Trustees.

Longtime resident and trustee Rachel White has been pushing for change since she found the audit this year in a stack of papers. It showed mismanagement and possible misconduct of officers. But the entity with the power to address it — the Village Board of Trustees —  had failed to make major changes.

Activist Lisa Fithian leads a training session at Greater St. Mark's Church in Dellwood. 11/08 Durrie Bouscaren
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

In Ferguson, nearly every store window is boarded up along West Florissant Avenue. Police department have stocked riot gear and held trainings to respond to potential civil unrest. And protesters have held sessions to organize their own response.

In many ways, it feels as though the St. Louis region is holding its breath awaiting the grand jury’s decision over whether the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown will face charges.

A processing floor at Express Scripts in north St. Louis County.
Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio

Just months after unveiling a multi-million dollar expansion of its headquarters in north St. Louis county, Express Scripts has announced it will lay off 400 people at multiple facilities around the country. That includes 90 people in St. Louis.

The layoffs are in addition to 1,890 jobs that were cut system-wide in May.

“These are difficult but necessary decisions we have to make in order to position our company for success, future growth and continued service excellence to clients and members,” spokesperson Brian Henry said in an email.

Xavier, Flickr Creative Commons
Xavier / Flickr Creative Commons

International and local human rights leaders will discuss their concerns for workers in the garment industry -- from cotton seed fields to textile factories and clothing distributors -- during a day-long symposium Saturday at Washington University.

St. Louis-based Monsanto is an underwriter of the event. The company has faced criticism of its own outsourcing practices in seed-production fields.

In 2005, according to metrics provided by the company, ten percent of field workers in India who produced hybrid cotton seeds for Monsanto were under the age of 14.

Lockerdome CEO Gabe Lozano (left) and project manager Kyle Cordia at the startup's headquarters in downtown St. Louis. 10/29/2014 Durrie Bouscaren/STL Public Radio
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Coding competitions have a way of bringing people together. And GlobalHack's next weekend hackathon will bring them to Ferguson

“Some of these people came from MIT, Wash U [Washington University], some of them came from their mom’s basement. Truth of the matter is, the only thing that matters in our world is that you can actually produce,” said local startup CEO Gabe Lozano, who co-founded GlobalHack.

GlobalHack III is the company's third quarterly competition and promises $50,000 in prize money. 

Rachel Lippmann / St. Louis Public Radio

A grandmother walking home from the store with her grandchildren. An Ethiopian refugee who worked as a convenience store clerk. A brother and a sister, killed three hours apart.

With a little more than two months left in the year, the city of St. Louis has already reached 120 homicides, the total number of murders reported in all of 2013.

That’s 120 victim’s families, assailant’s families, and neighborhood blocks that will never be the same, said James Clark.

A graphic included in the For The Sake of All report shows the economic divide along Delmar Blvd in St. Louis.
For the Sake of All

The numbers tell the story: unemployment among African Americans in St. Louis is 17.6 percent, four times that of whites.

And the unemployment rate is important because unemployment turns out to be a major factor in severe health disparities in the region, according to research by the “For the Sake of All” study.

Chris McDaniel | St. Louis Public Radio

Despite the rain, about a dozen protesters were arrested in front of the Ferguson police department Thursday night.

The number of protesters had remained small throughout the evening: around 10 p.m., about 15 people marched through a Walgreens and a grocery store with their hands in the air. Others documented the action through livestreaming on cell phones. 

When protesters returned to the street in front of the police station an hour later, they were told over a police loudspeaker that they were violating a noise ordinance. 

Police and protesters face off in Ferguson during the marches in August.
Stephanie Lecci / St. Louis Public Radio

There is a phone number that Ferguson protesters share: 314-862-2249.

That's the jail support number that they spread through Twitter and on fliers. Others write it on their arms in case of arrest.

The number goes to a hotline staffed around the clock by Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. The group gives individuals rides home from jail and raises money through a website to pay bonds. So far, it has served about 210 people, according to organizer Molly Gott.

Dara Taylor of Community Catalyst.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

At a YMCA in North St. Louis, Nancy Kelley of the Missouri Foundation for Health coached about 50 navigators on how to encourage people to purchase health insurance this year.

“In some ways, we got the easy people last year. Maybe they were motivated, maybe they had some knowledge about the marketplace. So we need to get creative,” Kelley told the crowd.

152,335 people bought health insurance on the federal exchange last year, according to the Cover Missouri Coalition. The organization’s goal is to bring the amount of uninsured Missourians below 5 percent in five years.

Along with mental health advocates and law enforcement officials, St. Louis County Police Sergeant Jeremy Romo coordinates the St. Louis-Area Crisis Intervention Team program.

The program trains officers to respond to people in a mental health crisis. As St. Louis Public Radio’s Durrie Bouscaren reported for NPR Tuesday morning, the need for this service becomes more pronounced as funding for mental health services declines in many communities.  

Vietnam veteran, Chester Chunn, stands to speak at a veteran's town hall meeting in downtown St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Exceptionally long wait times, missing records and doctors who failed to diagnose serious conditions were among the complaints aired at a veteran’s town hall meeting in St. Louis Friday.

Veterans Affairs officials in St. Louis have been required to hold two forums following federal investigations of hospitals and the mishandling of veteran’s benefit claims. While providing a public venue for people to speak about their experiences with the system, representatives were also on hand to answer individual questions about benefits and vocational rehabilitation.

Dr. Farouk / Flickr Creative Commons

A relatively rare virus strain that can cause respiratory problems in children has been confirmed in St. Louis. It has sent dozens to pediatric intensive care units in Kansas City and Chicago.

Late last week, St. Louis Children’s Hospital ran in-house tests and confirmed Enterovirus-68, or EV-D68, in a small sample of three patients who had been admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit.

St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness president Lisa Sienkiewicz stands next to the Kiener Fountain in downtown St. Louis, which has been dyed teal in honor of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

To kick off National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, local organizers dyed the water in the Kiener Plaza Fountain in downtown St. Louis teal -- the trademark color of the awareness campaign.

Sometimes called the ‘silent killer,’ ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognize before it’s in an advanced stage.

The rate of survival is low: 20,593 American women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011. 14,346 women died, according to the Center for Disease Control. But treatments are most effective when the cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages.

Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson Aug. 20.
Office of U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that his conversations with residents of Ferguson during his visit two weeks ago influenced his decision to investigate the city’s police department.

Holder says he heard directly from residents and listening sessions “about the deep mistrust that has taken hold between law enforcement officials and members of the community. ... People consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents, from general policing practices, and from the lack of diversity on Ferguson’s police force.”

Dr. Farouk / Flickr Creative Commons

Like many municipal services, the St. Louis City and County Departments of Health operate separately.

Although the city and county collaborate and serve many of the same purposes, the divide may make it more difficult for the agencies to help residents. That's according to a report released Wednesday by the group ‘Better Together,’ a project that is exploring whether or not St. Louis county and city should consider altering merging various services.

National Seismic Hazard map of the continental United States, released in July of 2014. This view measures peak ground acceleration.
United States Geological Survey

Last week, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Napa, Calif. ripped through a region where less than 6 percent of homeowners and renters have earthquake insurance.

Could the same thing happen along the New Madrid Fault in southeastern Missouri?

Statewide, about one-third of Missourians are insured against earthquakes. But those who live in the most earthquake-prone areas are much less likely to have coverage.

An infrared photograph shows a water main leak in Webster Groves. Water utility companies photograph roads at night to determine which pipes may be in need of repair.
Missouri American Water | Provided

Water pipes in the St. Louis area are old … and getting older.

A report published Tuesday by a consortium of five St. Louis-area water utilities shows much of the area’s water system has outlived its expected lifetime:

  • Life expectancy for reservoirs and da

    ms ranges from 50 to 80 years. The average age of a St. Louis-area reservoir or dam is 80 years.

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