Celebrating Moms and Healthy Babies

Ahkeya Howard

Ahkeya Howard, SHS Lead Community Health Worker and a licensed clinical social worker, shows off some of the many resources available to participants in the Healthy Start Initiative.

At Swope Health Services’ Healthy Start Initiative, every day is Mother’s Day.

The program, operating at SHS Central and Wyandotte, is where pregnant women and moms can find support for just about any need. About 80 women are now enrolled.

Healthy Start is a federal program, offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) department of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, to support healthy pregnancy and early childhood.

The Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative operates at SHS and at Samuel Rodgers Health Center as a program of the Mother & Child Health Coalition.

Kansas City Healthy Start supports eligible women from certain zip codes in Jackson (MO) and Wyandotte (KS) counties where infant mortality rates are higher than average.

The free program helps pregnant women and women with children under the age of 2 get information and services they need to have a healthy pregnancy, raise a healthy family, and keep themselves healthy and strong.

After enrolling, each participant is assigned a community health worker. Each program starts with an exploration, said Ahkeya Howard, SHS Lead Community Health Worker and a licensed clinical social worker.

“We talk about your needs,” Ahkeya said. “We ask questions and provide support. We are here for you.”

That support can be personal – encouragement, advocacy, listening and training. It can also be tangible items, like diapers (provided by Happy Bottoms), baby cribs and car seats.

For example, when mothers complete Safe Sleep Training provided by community health workers and Infant Loss Resources, they are eligible to receive a free portable playpen/napper.

Each participant is encouraged to set goals, which can also range from personal (practicing better coping skills or relationship building) to professional (enrolling in training, getting a degree or finding a job).

If needed, the support extends to finding housing, transportation, food and signing up for other benefits like health insurance.

Participants typically visit the program once a month, and the goals are re-examined and reset every six months. The program, typically covering the span from a child’s birth until age 2, focuses on key topics of relationships, education, employment, health, mental health, basic essentials and child development.

“It’s important to think about the future, about what will be best for your child,” Ahkeya said. “We’re your cheerleaders and we want to see you succeed.”

This month, the “cheerleaders” organized a special drawing for two baskets filled with treats designed to pamper new moms. All the items were donated by associates in WIC and Healthy Start, and all visitors to either program in the month of May were entered into the drawing.

“There’s something to celebrate every day,” Ahkeya said. “Happy moms and healthy babies are our favorite reasons.”

To learn more about the Healthy Start Initiative, ask your SHS OB-GYN or pediatric provider or talk with Ahkeya Howard at SHS Central or by phone at (816) 599-5791.

The staff of the WIC and Healthy Start Initiative

The staff of the WIC and Healthy Start Initiative donated items to create two gift baskets as another way to celebrate moms in their programs.

Is it Measles? One Mom’s Story

Gracelyn Spruell

Gracelyn Spruell

One recent Wednesday afternoon, Katie Spruell’s daughter came home from daycare with a red rash on her neck.

Katie, a Medical Assistant at Swope Health Services, examined her three-year-old daughter carefully. She found red bumps at her hairline, on her face and cheeks, down her neck and throughout the trunk of her body.

Little Gracelyn had a fever, too.

That’s when Katie began wondering if this was a case of measles.

An outbreak of measles had been reported in the Kansas City area, reaching 16 confirmed cases as of mid-April.  Most of the people who came down with measles had not been vaccinated.

Measles is highly contagious disease, producing a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a rash of tiny red spots. The rash typically starts at the head and spreads down the body. The disease is dangerous, especially in children, if it leads to pneumonia or swelling of the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Measles infographicKatie brought her daughter to SHS the next morning, where the Pediatric team ordered initial tests for strep throat and bacterial infection. Those rapid tests came back negative, Katie said, but that didn’t answer the specific question: was it measles?

“We had Gracelyn come back three days later for a blood draw to determine if it was an atypical case of measles,” said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, SHS Pediatrician and Chief Medical Officer. He explained the test should be performed three days after of the outbreak of the rash in order to get an accurate result.

Meanwhile, during those three days, Gracelyn stayed home to prevent any spread of her illness. She was irritated, whiny and still feverish, Katie reported. Katie was worried, too, because Gracelyn had only received one vaccination against measles.

The CDC, the American Pediatric Association and most physicians recommend defending children against the disease with a combination vaccine that provides protection against measles, mumps and rubella. The vaccine takes two doses: the first at 12 to 15 months old, and the second before the child starts school, usually between age 4 and 6.

After the blood tests, the SHS providers were able to identify the cause of Gracelyn’s rash: it was a case of scarlet fever, related to strep throat.

“I was so relieved,” said Katie, noting that Gracelyn is now better.

“This illustrates how important it is for every parent to make sure your children are vaccinated,” said Dr. Thomas. “People get complacent and think it isn’t a risk anymore. But it is – the world is a much smaller place these days.”

Most outbreaks of measles are traced to unvaccinated people or those who have traveled abroad where measles is still common. The same is true of other diseases, such as polio and the flu, he noted, which is why vaccinations are necessary.

“It’s important to protect yourself and your kids from disease,” he said. “The measles vaccine is effective and safe. We would much rather prevent the disease than treat it.”

Measles spreads quickly, typically through coughing and sneezing. If you think you have been exposed to measles and have the symptoms, it’s time to see a doctor. Bring immunization records with you, and be sure to explain the reason for your visit before you arrive. This will help us protect other patients and caregivers from risk.

“If you’re not protected from measles, this is a good time to fix that,” said Dr. Thomas. “Come talk with us. Help prevent more cases of measles, and more importantly, keep your kids safe and healthy.”

Call 816-923-5800 for an appointment at SHS Pediatrics Clinic.  

Additional resources:


It’s a Great Day to Read!

RAA Cat n Hat Logo_ 2017NEWFriday, March 2 is “Read Across America Day,” as designated by the National Education Association, and Swope Health Services is in on the festivities again this year. Plan on joining us!

We’ll have books available to all children visiting SHS locations throughout the day.

The books are provided courtesy of the Holiday book drive at the Plaza Barnes & Noble store.

“We’re going to make sure every kiddo who visits us on March 2 goes home with a new book,” said Amy Kuhnlein, Community Affairs and Development Manager. “Thanks to the generosity of the Plaza Barnes & Noble and their customers, we have almost 2,100 books to offer to our younger patients.”

SHS joins this nationwide event annual to help introduce children to the joys of reading.

The annual event is held on the birthday of Dr. Seuss, the beloved author of children’s classics including “The Cat in the Hat” and 43 other whimsical favorites.

Read Across Poem

“This is more than just a day for fun,” Amy noted. “We’re part of this because we understand how important reading is. It’s a huge factor in student achievement. Kids who like to read do better in school and become lifelong readers.”

Providers also use the books to help assess a child’s cognitive and physical development, said Kristy Willoughby-Randolph, LPN, Clinic Manager, Pediatrics.

The books lead to discussions about the importance of reading to children.

Reading with a child provides close, one-on-one time with that child,” said Kristy. “Reading helps children learn about numbers, colors, shapes, animals, people and more. It gives kids an opportunity to use their imagination and step into another world.”

The NEA reports that children who are read to enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not.

Fostering a love of learning and reading is key to children’s success, in school and in life.

Look who we caught reading at SHS!

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Dave Barber, President and CEO, with “Green Eggs and Ham”


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Naimesh Patel, CFO and COO, with “The Giving Tree”


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Dan Barnett, Communications Manager, with “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”


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Even our optometry team is in on the act!

Shiny, Sparkling New Facilities Unveiling at SHS

Open HouseAt long last, the dust is settling at Swope Health Services as three major renovation projects are coming to completion.

  • Behavioral Health Children’s Services

The north side of the second floor of building B at Central Facility is now home to an integrated Children’s Services Center. The new center is securely separated from adult services, and includes room for new services.

The total renovation of the 5,200-square-foot area cost $300,000, and took about four months of intense construction.

The project included creation of a new lobby and reception area, a community conference room, a “grand room” for groups of 30, a children’s playroom, two new treatment rooms, three new provider offices and a much-needed storage room. Additional renovation upgraded the staff breakroom, cubicles and hallways.

The result is bright and lively, full of vibrant colors.

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The new playroom in the Childrens’ Services Center is packed with games and toys in a fun space.

“It’s a friendly and welcoming environment,” said Josette Mitchell, Director of the Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program. “That’s by design. If you feel good about where you go, that’s an aid to the healing process.”

The project was designed by Bell/Knott & Associates Architects of Leawood, Kansas, and construction was performed by Purdum Construction of Overland Park, Kansas.

Mark your calendars for the Grand Opening: 8 a.m. Friday, March 30.

  • Pediatrics/OB-GYN Expansion

Debbie Meads, Program Manager, shuffled departments and clinics for about a year to make room for a vastly expanded Pediatrics and OB-GYN service area.

In Pediatrics, there are now 15 treatment rooms, up from 10. The Obstetrics clinic grew from nine rooms to 23, with space to support seven providers.

“The new spaces are designed for improved efficiency and workflow,” Debbie noted, “and include better infection control procedures for testing, easier access to weight stations, and new Neonatal Stress Testing rooms.”

Some of the additions in OB-GYN – like wall-mounted vital signs monitors – speed up examinations, as medical assistants no longer have to wheel in mobile units. Plus, the readings from the monitors now flow directly into the patient’s electronic medical records, reducing potential for errors in transcribing the data.

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The Pediatrics team in one of the new exam rooms.

“It’s faster for the staff and that means faster care for the patients, too,” Debbie said.

Dr. Kenneth Thomas, Chief Medical Officer and Pediatrician, said: “It’s a beautiful place for kids – full of healthy, educational and creative themes to stimulate kids’ minds and creativity and build strong habits.”

But, he added, “The beauty is just a bonus – the most important thing is how we’ve expanded.

We now have the capacity to see more patients and provide a higher level of service. We want to be a place our patients are proud to come to, a place our patients want to be.”

The final phases of construction are wrapping up this month.

This project was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number C8DCS29675 Renovation of SHS-Central Pediatrics & OB/GYN Clinics with an award of $1 million with $800,000 financed with nongovernmental sources.

The project encompassed 12,955 square feet, or about 10 percent of the entire Central facility. The design work was completed by Garcia Architecture LLC of Kansas City, and Purdum Construction handled construction.

The Pediatrics and OB-GYN Grand Opening will be at 8 a.m. Friday, May 11.

  • Imani House Renovation
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The new computer lab at Imani House.

SHS’s Imani House is a freestanding facility for substance abuse treatment, just behind SHS Central, at 3950 E. 51st St. The 10,733-square-foot facility was updated from top to bottom in this project, which began in 2016 and cost more than $655,000.

There are two new group rooms, a conference room and a new six-station computer lab. There’s also a workout space, plus all new offices and remodeled group meeting spaces throughout.

“These renovations, along with new programming, have shifted the atmosphere into one clients and associates alike can be proud of,” said Andrea Buford, Director of Clinical Operations, Behavioral Health.

“This aids in our goal to make Imani House the premiere treatment facility of choice in Kansas City.”

The project was designed by Bell/Knott & Associates Architects with construction performed by Purdum Construction.

The finishing touches will await warmer weather – that’s when the new landscaping will be added, just in time for the grand opening.

The Imani House Grand Opening will be 8 a.m. Friday, April 20.

Please add these dates to your calendars and plan to join us to see the changes for yourself.

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The OB-GYN team in their new workroom.


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One of the new conference rooms at Imani House.


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There’s bright and whimsical artwork throughout the new Pediatrics clinic.


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An example of the built-in vital signs monitors in the new Ob/Gyn clinic exam rooms.


It’s time for your flu shot!

flu season

From left, Sheila Shipley, Infection Control Nurse, and Bobby Mickens, Interim Director of Nursing and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, encourage you to get a flu shot. Call for an appointment or ask your provider during your next visit.

Welcome to October! It’s the time for cooler mornings, sunlight angling through the trees, even a bit of fog in the early hours.

It’s also time to get ready for flu season.

Experts say October is the best time to get your annual flu shot because you want to be vaccinated before the virus is circulating widely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting a flu shot between October and the end of the year.

At Swope Health Services, we’re ready!

“Getting a vaccine means you’ll have a better chance of avoiding the flu, missing work or school, and spreading the illness to others around you,” said Bobby Mickens, Interim Director of Nursing at SHS.

“I’m encouraging everyone to get a flu shot,” she said. “It’s a good prevention measure for everyone. And the more people who get the shot, the more protection we have to avoid spreading illness to the people who are more vulnerable to flu complications.”

Most health insurance programs cover flu vaccinations.

So what are you waiting for? Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment or visit any of the SHS locations for a walk-in appointment.

Myths about the Flu Vaccine

Sheila Shipley, Infection Control Nurse, spends a lot of time debunking myths about the flu and the flu vaccine. Here are the most common ones:

  1. The flu shot will make me sick.

The vaccination is not made with a live virus so it can’t make you sick. It takes the vaccine about two weeks to become effective and provide protection, so it is possible you can be exposed to the flu and get sick during that period. That’s why it’s important to be vaccinated before the flu is widespread in the community.

Also, after the shot, some people may have soreness in their arm, a low-grade fever or achy feeling.  That’s normal, and to address it, she recommends exercising the sore arm and taking either Tylenol or Motrin for the fever and aches.

  1. I’m allergic to eggs so I can’t get a shot.

The vaccine is safe even for people with egg allergies. Most people with egg allergies are still able to eat foods made with eggs, and so would not have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. People with serious allergic reactions to eggs are monitored after receiving the flu shot.

  1. I’m healthy and the flu is nothing more than a bad cold. I don’t need a shot.

Healthy people can get the flu. If you haven’t had it before, consider yourself lucky! But even if the flu affects you with only mild symptoms, you should remember that you are still carrying the virus and potentially spreading it to others who may be more vulnerable.

“In patients whose health is compromised, the flu can be truly life threatening,” she said. “They can be susceptible to pneumonia and other complications leading to death. Every year, thousands of people die from the flu.”

Mark Your Calendars! Back-to-School Health Fair – Saturday, July 29th

Back to School Health Fair FlyerIt’s summer now, but school season will be here in a few short weeks!

We’re ready to help all school-aged children get ready with our fourth annual Back-to-School Health Fair.

The fair is free and will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 29 at SHS Central, 3801 Blue Parkway in Kansas City, Mo.

Like previous years, this 2017 health fair offers a one-stop shop for health screenings for kids, including immunizations (as needed), pending provider availability. Parents, please remember to bring your I.D. and your child’s immunization records.

We’ll also provide backpacks, filled with school supplies, and bicycle helmets for school-aged kids – free, while supplies last. (Children must be present to receive these items.)

The event promises music and fun, too, with performances by The Battery Tour as well as balloon animals, face painting and refreshments.

The fair includes information for parents and children, with resource tables featuring staff from SHS and community organizations.

See you Saturday, July 29!

SHS Gratefully Acknowledges the Support of our Sponsors and community partners who make this possible:


Going Swimming? Follow These Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe

True or False: Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old.

Sadly, it’s true.

With hot summertime weather and swimming pools beckoning, it’s time for a refresher on how to make sure children are protected when they spend time around water.

Here are some top recommendations from HealthyChildren.org, a reference from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Don’t leave kids alone in the water, and make sure a responsible adult is watching them closely. This “water watcher” should never be distracted by a smartphone or other activities, like chatting with friends or reading.
  • “Touch supervision” – staying within an arm’s length of a child in the water – is especially important for kids under the age of 5 and those who have less swimming experience.
  • Never swim alone. Even good swimmers need buddies!
  • “Floaties” or those inflatable swimming aids are not rescue equipment. Don’t use them in place of approved life jackets. If you are boating, make sure kids wear properly fitted life jackets at all times.
  • Teach your child to never dive into water without getting permission from an adult who’s made sure the depth is safe.
  • Empty all tubs, buckets, containers and kiddie pools immediately after use. Store them upside down so they don’t collect water. It doesn’t take much water for a drowning accident.
  • Know what to do in an emergency. Learning CPR and basic water rescue skills may help you save a life.

Some Additional Resources:

Be a “Roll Model”: Bike Safety Saves Lives

national-bike-month-bicycle-logoMay is National Bike Safety Month – a good time to review ways you can take precautions to avoid injuries and accidents while cycling.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 818 bicyclists died and more than 45,000 were injured in bicycle-automobile accidents in 2015, with deaths rising 12 percent from 2014 numbers.

It’s not surprising that car and bicycle collisions are the most frequent source of injuries to cyclists, responsible for nearly one-third of all bicycling injuries.

This year’s awareness programs encourage bicycle riders and drivers to serve as “Roll Models” for safety. Here’s what it means to be a “Roll Model:”

  • Ride and Drive Focused — Never ride or drive distracted.
  • Ride and Drive Prepared — Always expect the unexpected.
  • Safety First — Always wear a bicycle helmet when on a bicycle and a seatbelt when in a vehicle.
  • Know the Rules of the Road — A bicyclist is considered a vehicle on the road with all the rights and responsibilities of motorized traffic.
  • Share the Road — Motorists and bicyclists should look out for each other and show mutual respect.

roll modelHere are a few references with more information:

If you don’t have a bicycle and would like one, check out The Bike Shop by Revolve KC. This not-for-profit organization provides free online bike safety training, refurbishes old bikes, and helps everyone get a bicycle. They’re a great resource for answering questions about bikes and biking.

Why Do You Need to Schedule Well-Child Visits?

well child (2)When a child is sick, it’s time to see your pediatrician. But you may not realize it’s just as important to take your healthy child for a visit.

These are called “Well-Child Visits.” They give the pediatrician a chance to detect disease, help prevent issues, track growth and development, and get a good measure of possible concerns.

“I want to see your child before there’s an illness or a problem,” said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, SHS Chief Medical Officer and a pediatrician. “There’s a good chance we can prevent a problem or an emergency before it even shows up – if we get the chance.”

Well-child visits are a best practice widely recommended by medical professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institutes of Health.

well child (3)In the visits, pediatricians take preventive measures like administering immunizations and conduct numerous screenings, including dental, hearing, vision, lead poisoning and others.

The visits also give parents a chance to ask questions. It’s a good idea for parents come to the well-child visit with an agenda of topics.

“I welcome the opportunity to talk with parents about their kids,” said Dr. Thomas. “I want parents to feel free to talk with me about anything unusual or anything they’re uncertain about in their child’s behavior, growth or habits. It helps us build a team to focus on what that child needs.”

Building that long-term relationship is valuable, giving the pediatrician insights to help parents anticipate their child’s specific needs. Common questions cover topics like sleep habits, potty training, nutrition, exercise and social behavior.

well child (1)“We anticipate what’s coming next in a child’s development,” Dr. Thomas said. “For example, for a six-month old, the focus will be on preparing for the child’s crawling stage – removing hazards and creating a safe home.”

Well-child visits are especially important if the child has a chronic condition like asthma, eczema or allergies.

“We can avoid potential problems if we stay caught up,” said Dr. Thomas. “We can refill prescriptions and manage the child’s condition better if we’ve had regular contact via a well-child visit.”

Experts recommend regular well-child visits, starting with frequent visits in the first year – within a few days of birth and then at 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24 and 30 months. After age 3, children should see a doctor at least once a year throughout their teen years. Well-child visits may be required by Medicaid or some other insurance plans.


Help your kids start the New Year off in a healthy way – bring them in for a Well-Child Visit. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule your appointment now.

How Do Your Children Behave at Home and School?


Colleen Innis

By Colleen Innis, MA, Child Behavioral Health Project Coordinator, CPRC Children

School is cool when kids can follow the rules. But we know that sometimes, kids need a little extra help to learn the rules or work through issues that might make it hard for them to follow the rules.

Here’s a checklist: Is your child having difficulty sustaining attention to tasks or activities at home and school? Does your child show any of these behaviors or have any of these actions?

  • Has multiple suspensions
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
  • Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure/play activities quietly
  • Has difficulty waiting his/her turn
  • Loses temper
  • Argues with adults
  • Actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ request or rules
  • Blames others for his/her mistakes or misbehaviors
  • Bullies, threatens, or intimidates others
  • Initiates physical fights
  • Has run away from home overnight
  • Is fearful, anxious or worried
  • Experiencing the effects of trauma

childrenIf any of these symptoms are preventing your child from developing and maintaining healthy relationships at home or school, you should consider having your child participate in a Behavioral Health Assessment at Swope Health Services.

Our walk-in hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. We provide a variety of services and treatment:

  • Individualized treatment plan and services
  • Community coordination and support services
  • Crisis intervention
  • School and community outreach and engagement
  • School coordination and support
  • Group programming
  • Psycho-social assessments

To learn more about our Children’s programs and services, please call Colleen Innis at 816-918-6130. When attending a walk-in appointment please bring Valid Identification for the parent or guardian, proof of address, proof of income, custody documents and child’s proof of insurance.

Our programs provide a safe place for kids to work through challenges and have positive and healthy experiences. For an appointment, call 816-923-5800.