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

Lethal doeses of heroin, left, and fentanyl, right. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller, is up to 50 times more potent than heroin.
provided by the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Lab

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller, made up almost half of drug overdose deaths in parts of the St. Louis region last year, according to county coroners in Missouri and Illinois.

The drug is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, and inhaling just a few grains can be lethal.

“If I can be blunt, it’s scary as hell,” said Brandon Costerison, a spokesperson for the anti-addiction group NCADA's St. Louis chapter. “And we don’t really have anything to indicate it’s subsiding yet.”

Sam Werkmeister, 30, sits on his porch in Granite City on March 30, 2017. Werkmeister is recovering from an addiction to opioids, which began with prescription pills.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

Sam Werkmeister, a father of two, nearly died six times last year.

He started taking pain pills to get through shifts at a restaurant. That led him to a full-blown addiction to opioids. After a relapse last summer, it took Werkmeister six months to gather the courage to go back into treatment. 

“It’s called carfentanil, and it’s really cheap,” he said, as he sat on a worn couch in the Granite City group home he shares with a half dozen other men. “It destroyed my life.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley signs documents proposing new rules to prosecute human traffickers, on April 3, 2017.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley wants to get tough on human trafficking, which long has been a problem in the state. To do so, he proposed rules Monday that could make it easier to charge human traffickers with a crime.

Richard Riegerix, 46, uses a breathing machine to treat emphysema in a temporary shelter set up in a city-owned warehouse. Riegerix stayed at New Life Evangelistic Center for three months before it was closed down by the city on April 2, 2017.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio.

By dinnertime, the beds had started to fill.

Earlier, employees for the city of St. Louis had laid out about 70 green and orange cots in the corner of a Forestry Division warehouse in the Carr Square neighborhood. They anticipated that at least several dozen people would be without shelter on Sunday night as the city order the closing the  New Life Evangelistic Center, in downtown St. Louis, after a years-long legal battle.

According to the new study, a woman's weight before her first pregnancy may have long-term effects.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | National Institutes of Health

The number of infants in Missouri who die in their first year is slowly dropping alongside national numbers, but St. Louis’ infant mortality rate has remained nearly stagnant, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis
provided by Barnes Jewish Hospital

A new Missouri rule will strip state family planning funds from organizations that provide abortions, including hospitals. But several facilities are choosing to go without the money, instead of providing the state with a letter to certify that they do not offer the procedure.

At issue is a $10.8 million portion of the state’s Medicaid program, which covers pelvic exams, tests for sexually transmitted diseases and  family planning services for about 70,000 low-income Missouri women. To prevent violating a federal law that says Medicaid patients must be allowed to choose their own provider, the state is rejecting about $8.3 million annually in federal funds, and paying the difference with money from the state.

Zika virus, here shown as a digitally-colorized transmission electron micrograph, can be transmitted by mosquitoes or sexually.
Cynthia Goldsmith | Centers for Disease Control

A Saint Louis University analysis of mosquito migration patterns and sexually transmitted diseases places the St. Louis region on a map of counties that could see an elevated risk for Zika infections this summer. The virus is spread by mosquitoes but can also be transmitted sexually for several months after symptoms occur.

However, the overall risk in the continental United States is still very low, study author Enbal Shacham said.

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

A central Illinois center for addiction treatment will stay open for now, despite payment delays during the state’s ongoing budget crisis. After two years without a permanent budget, the state is facing a backlog of $12.6 billion in unpaid bills to state employees, contractors and agencies.

Tax season is underway. So is a program that helps low- to moderate-income St. Louis families prepare their taxes for free.
401(K) 2012, via Flickr

Here’s something that may need to be clarified this tax season. Despite the ongoing debate in Washington over a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the law’s requirement for people to be enrolled in health coverage or face a tax penalty is still on the books.

“People should go ahead and take care of their taxes as they would, as if the law hasn’t changed," said Geoff Oliver, a staff attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. "Because at this point the law hasn’t changed.”

Advocate and author Christine McDonald, right, listens to U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri testify during a public hearing in St. Louis about human trafficking.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Eastern Missouri has four full-time police officers dedicated to investigating human trafficking cases, but convictions are rare.

Law enforcement officials say it's hard to build cases against perpetrators because witnesses are few and victims often are unseen. To improve awareness, Webster University will hold a training session this weekend for law students and the general public. Attendees will hear how people are forced into sex work and other trades, and how to identify warning signs.

File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The name of a recently ousted Bel-Ridge police chief will appear on the ballot when the city’s voters elect new aldermen on April 4.

Gordon Brock led the Bel-Ridge Police Department for 16 years before his termination last winter, following accusations of harassment, mismanagement and accepting bribes.

Dorothy Hunter, 109, sits in her apartment at an assisted living facility in Ballwin. Hunter, a retired teacher, has lived in St. Louis her whole life.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When a listener asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we were convinced we had found her — 109-year-old Lucy Hamm

But it wasn’t long before we started getting calls and emails about someone else we should meet — Dorothy Hunter of Ballwin.

Van Tyler checks a list of names and addresses while delivering meals in Jennings for the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging in June, 2016.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

States with rapidly aging populations, like Missouri, are seeing increased costs to Medicaid programs that cover low-income residents.

But the Republicans' health care proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would create per-capita caps for federal Medicaid funding, potentially shifting increased costs to states. Advocacy groups for seniors warn that the proposal working its way through Congress may not adequately fund their care.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Republican plan to replace major tenets of the Affordable Care Act would reduce the federal deficit by $337 billion over 10 years, according to new numbers from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In that scenario, 24 million people would lose their health insurance, bringing the uninsured rate back up to nearly what it was before the Affordable Care Act. The White House has disputed these numbers.

Members of Local 1148 meet in Marissa, Illinois. Union president Randy Phelps sits in yellow, in yellow, said that without health insurance, he would "probably make it three months."
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

After Congress extended the deadline for retired union coal workers and their families on the brink of losing their health insurance for four months, the group is again facing the loss of their coverage at the end of April.

In the meantime, a bill to use federal funds to maintain the benefits for about 22,000 former employees of now-bankrupt coal mines has not made it out of the Senate Finance Committee. Increasingly anxious retirees have written letters to their representatives, and are looking for other forms of coverage.  

Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

If House Republicans pass their proposed replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, state Medicaid programs would face some big changes, including a per-capita cap on spending.

Republicans introduced their plan Monday in the form of two budget reconciliation bills. Though the bills repeal several taxes that helped pay for the Affordable Care Act, they were sent into markup sessions before a cost estimate could be prepared by the Congressional Budget Office.

Dr. Bahar Bastani poses for a portrait at Saint Louis University Hospital on March 2, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 1984, Dr. Bahar Bastani knew he had to leave Iran.

During Iran's cultural revolution, religious leaders closed universities and threatened academics. Bastani, then a professor of medicine in Tehran, realized he had become “unhireable” in that political climate.

“I was religious, I was doing prayers, but I could not tolerate the hardship the government was putting on people,” said Bastani, now a kidney specialist who works at Saint Louis University Hospital.

Jamie Young and her daughter Maya, 3, listen to a speaker during a demonstration outside of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt's office in Clayton. The group delivered petitions in support of Planned Parenthood.  Feb 23 2016
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of Congress return to Washington on Monday after a week-long work sessions in their home districts.

Like some other around the country, St. Louis-area representatives are catching criticism for not using the break to host town hall meetings to hear from constituents.

There was one exception; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., held a listening session Friday in Hillsboro regarding pension funds.

So where are your representatives, and why aren’t they holding public meetings? Here’s what they said.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill.

Dr. Nathaniel Murdock, 79, visits the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Murdock delivered thousands of babies at the hospital as an OB-GYN in the 1960s and 70s.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the first half of the 20th century, segregation touched virtually every part of American life. Black residents of St. Louis weren't just barred from schools, lunch counters and drinking fountains reserved for whites. Even hospitals could refuse to admit black patients.

But the hospitals that were built to serve African-American patients hold a special place in medical history. The facilities employed and trained thousands of black doctors and nurses. In St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital quickly became a trusted household name. Today marks the 80th anniversary of its dedication ceremony on Feb. 22, 1937.

Longtime St. Louis resident Lucy Hamm celebrates her 109th birthday with her retirement community in Chesterfield. Hamm was born on Jan. 30, 1908.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It might be harder than you think to find the oldest person in town.

Local governments don’t formally track the data, and voting records are often manually entered, and can contain errors. So when a listener named Sally asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we started looking.

After calls to county election boards and senior service nonprofits came up short, employees in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay introduced us to someone who might just be the winner: 109-year-old Lucy Hamm.

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