Rusti Barger, a stay-at-home mom of six, delivered her first two babies in the local hospital. When she became pregnant a third time in 1999, she and her husband David, from rural Faulkner County, chose to have a home birth. They hired a midwife who instructed her to undergo a state-mandated medical risk assessment. Barger made an appointment at the county public health clinic. And that’s where, she says, things went awry. 

Physician assistants don’t have the same level of education as a doctor but do many of the same things, but they're being credited with helping to fill some of the scheduling gaps that have long been a problem in rural Arkansas.

Supporters of the profession say physician assistants can help with writing prescriptions for common illnesses, setting simple fractures and assisting with long-term management for illnesses such as diabetes.  Physician assistants were also the highest level of medical professional to attend the recent executions in Arkansas.

Each month, Arkansas Works, the state’s Medicaid expansion program which provides health coverage for low income residents, refers new and renewed enrollees in the program to the Department of Workforce Services. The Arkansas Department of Human Services issued a report Monday on the number of enrollees referred to employment services this year. 

In the first quarter of the year 144,716 referrals were made. According to the report from DHS, the number of people actually acting on those referrals rose from 628 in January to 2,792 in April.

City of Monticello / City of Monticello

In the aftermath of the resignation of Monticello’s mayor, two of the city’s former mayors are in a special runoff election to see which of them will complete the remaining 18 months of the term.

In January, Zack Tucker resigned as mayor and pleaded guilty to abuse of office after misusing city funds. David Anderson, a Democrat, and Joe Rogers, an Independent, and are both vying to fill the position and become the city’s 8th mayor since 2014.

Harold Coggins, the editor of the Advance Monticellonian newspaper, covers local politics.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) was selected as to chair the Tax Reform and Relief Task Force.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Arkansas legislators held the first meeting of a newly formed task force on taxes on Monday and selected its leadership. Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) was confirmed as chair.

The Tax Reform and Relief Task Force was formed as part of a compromise last legislative session that helped deliver a $50-million tax cut for low-income Arkansans. Some conservatives had called instead for a $100-million-plus tax cut for the state’s wealthiest earners.

UAMS campus carry guns
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Ahead of a new law taking effect in September that expands places where people can carry firearms, schools that want to prohibit concealed handguns are working with state police to get exemptions.

Institutions seeking to ban concealed weapons from certain areas and events must send a security plan to be approved by Arkansas State Police.

The plan calls for schools to have enhanced security measures in place should they choose to opt out of the bill. One institution seeking to restrict concealed carry is the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

Preserve Arkansas, which each year releases a list of 10 most endangered places, has released its list for 2017.  

From the group's press release:

Cemeteries, Burial Grounds, and Graveyards
Statewide

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has been approved by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to bring back its pre-licensure nursing program.

The Pine Bluff Commercial reports the university's approval for the program, which extends through 2020, is the final step before accreditation. 

On this week's podcast: As questions about possible collusion between the Donald J. Trump White House and the Russian government swell to a fever pitch in Washington, we talk Arkansas’s congressional reaction to the firing of the FBI director, the appointment of a special prosecutor and more.

-A look toward the 2018 general election. Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other incumbents are in a strong position. What are the big issues? What challenges lie ahead? Who will emerge as the potential challengers?

-And we look at the economic impact of spring flooding on Arkansas farmland.

ualr.edu

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has named a new provost. Dr. Velmer S. Burton Jr. was named to the position on Friday. Burton recently served as the dean of the University of Mississippi’s School of Applied Sciences. He holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.

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