COMBAT News

Contact COMBAT Communications Administrator Joe Loudon • jloudon@jacksongov.org • 816-881-4337

Continual Updates

  1. Coronavirus

    COMBAT Agencies Making Adjustments In Response To Pandemic 


    COMBAT funds nearly 100 programs throughout Jackson County that offer prevention and treatment services. We will be posting changes those agencies are having to make in response to the Coronavirus pandemic as they are reported to us. Some agencies have closed their physical locations, but are continuing to try and deliver services via the phone or through online options like Zoom. 
    » MORE

March 19, 2020

  1. Healing House Packedd Community Center

    Pandemic Poses Unique Challenges For Treatment Facilities


    Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, COMBAT-funded treatment agencies are continuing to serve their clients the best they can under difficult circumstances. The global public health crisis poses unique challenges for all these agencies, but especially those operating residential facilities or recovery houses—places where practicing “social distancing” isn’t necessarily easy and runs counter to addressing the social isolation many people with a substance use disorder (SUD) can feel.
    » MORE

March 19, 2020

  1. Pandemic Could Really Sicken The Economy Too

    Pandemic 'Financial Hit' Coming


    They have or, at least, had jobs—the men and women who call Healing House home, the women seeking a fresh start at the Sisters In Christ recovery houses, the men undergoing treatment at Benilde Hall.  The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic tole is already be felt by many of these individuals as they live with uncertainty while striving to continue their substance use disorder (SUD) recoveries. And the agencies serving them know “there’s going to be a financial hit—a hard hit—coming.”
    » MORE

March 12, 2020

  1. 2020 Census

    Everyone Counts & Needs To Be Counted


    “We need good data to make good decisions,” points out COMBAT Director Vince Ortega. With data now driving COMBAT’s decisions about where resources can most effectively be allocated, accurate numbers—such as statistics about population density—are crucial. That data collection starts with the U.S. Census Bureau. States that are undercounted, due to people not participating in the 2020 Census, could lose billions of dollars in federal funding and seats in the House of Representatives. Also, inaccurate data would impact crime analysts, like COMBAT’s Holli Crowley, seeking to identify correlations between Census data and criminal activity.
    » MORE

February 24, 2020

  1. Drug Task Force Record-Setting Year

    Drug Task Record-Setting $30.4 Million In Seizures


    The Jackson County Drug Task Force had never before seized more than $20 million in illegal substances in a single year. But the Task Force discovered nearly $12½ million worth of  methamphetamine during a single search last fall as that record-setting day led to what would be a record-setting year in 2019—with $30.4 million in illegal substances confiscated or purchased in “controlled buys.” COMBAT Director Vince Ortega emphasizes most of those drugs were seized before they could be distributed on the streets, “which is when we would see the surge in violence associated with drug trafficking.”  Therefore, he says the COMBAT-funded Drug Task Force is “very much an anti-violence task force too.”
    » MORE

February 3, 2020

  1. Not Just About The Numbers: Budget Coordinator Keron Hopkins

    New COMBAT Budget Coordinator


    Keron Hopkins brings 20-plus years of experience to her role as COMBAT’s new Budget Coordinator. During a career that has included posts with three major universities and a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, she has administered grants and contracts, managed budgets, modernized financial procedures, and overseen multi-million-dollar portfolios. She wasn’t seeking “just any job” when she accepted an offer from COMBAT. She wanted to work for an organization committed to making a difference in the community. She says of her new position with COMBAT, “This is a job worth fighting for.”
    » MORE

January 14, 2020

  1. The Boxing Ballerina

    The Boxing Ballerina


    She is a graceful ballerina. Floats like a butterfly. She also throws a nice punch. Stings like a bee. Meet Brijhana Epperson—an aspiring dancer and boxer, a true “Rising Star,” a little girl with big dreams. Those dreams are being nurtured through the COMBAT-funded youth programs at the Whatsoever Community Center in Kansas City. Bri envisions herself representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, then someday opening a combination dance studio/boxing gym called “B2,” short for The Boxing Ballerina. It'll be a place where girls will be taught dance and self-defense—to plié and to counterpunch.
    » MORE

January 2, 2020

  1. Doing More Than Patching Bullet Holes: A Trauma Surgeon's Perspective On Gun Violence

    'I Opened My Eyes More Widely...'


    A case that began with what sounded like a funny announcement in the Emergency Department—“GSW to butt, ETA 5 minutes”—has forever changed Dr. Robert Winfield, a trauma surgeon at KU Medical Center. He writes about his experience treating gunshot wounds and how he is now willing “to speak to anyone, anywhere, at any time, who wants to talk about gun violence and its root causes.” We consider his first-person account a must-read, but be warned that it does include graphic details that some readers might find disturbing. The case that started with the “GSW to butt” announcement ended with a heartbreaking encounter with a grieving mother: “The anguish she expressed when I told her of his death was like a bullet fired into my soul.”
    » MORE

December 19, 2019

  1. Hope Hangout

    Hope Has A New Hangout


    Since COMBAT launched the Hope Hangout in 2015—right across the street from Ruskin High School in south Kansas City—the program’s director has mentored more than 300 children. Now Marva Moses expects to mentor more students than ever before as the Hope Hangout is “taken to another level” with its move to a new location: inside the Hickman Mills alternative school, Burke Academy. The Hangout’s children affectionally call Moses “Mama Marva” as she teaches them life lessons about respect, responsibility, resolving disputes, setting goals, making plans and pursuing dreams. “For some of the students at the Hope Hangout, Marva is a second mom,” said Hickman Mills’ Deputy Superintendent of Student Services. “For a few of them, she is their first mom.”
    » MORE

December 13, 2019

  1. State Line Arrest


    County Drug Task Force 'Striking' At Criminals Crossing State Lines


    The COMBAT-funded Jackson County Drug Task Force has joined a federally-formed Strike Force that will pursue drug traffickers and violent criminals who crisscross Greater Kansas City’s state line. “Crime does not stop at the state line and neither does the Strike Force,” said Stephen McAllister, the U.S. Attorney for  Kansas. For years the Jackson County Task Force has been seizing drugs that can be traced to Mexican cartels, including 144 pounds of methamphetamine during one recent search. These international cases have had the Task Force working with federal authorities on a regular basis, making the Task Force a logical fit for this initiative targeting “drug trafficking organizations that are making the streets of metro Kansas City less safe and more violent.” 
    » MORE

November 21, 2019

  1. Treating Veterans Better For PTSD and Better Treating Everyone

    Project RISE - Part 3

    Vets Spark Progress On PTSD 
    During the Civil War, amputations were routinely performed to “treat” arm and leg wounds. In both World Wars doctors observed the psychological toll combat wounds had on “shell-shocked” soldiers. Then Vietnam veterans—and women displaying similar symptoms after suffering domestic violence or sexual assault—pushed for more research to be done. In 1980 Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was finally recognized as an official diagnosis. Early intervention to treat PTSD is being widely viewed as the latest progression in the overall treatment of gunshot wound survivors, whether they sustained their wounds in a war zone or a crime committed in our community.
    » MORE

November 21, 2019

  1. Adapting Mass Disaster Methods

    Project RISE - Part 2

    From 9/11 To Katrina To GSW Survivors
    Suffering a gunshot wound is obviously a traumatizing experience. At Truman Medical Center, the staff is adapting methods developed to treat the survivors of the World Trade Center attacks, Hurricane Katrina and other mass disasters to help GSW victims cope with their PTSD symptoms. “We understand the need for more immediate intervention to treat people beyond the gunshot wound, itself,” says Dr. Joah Williams, a clinical psychologist with the TMC Behavioral Health Unit. A full recovery entails treating both the physical and psychological harm done.
    » MORE

November 21, 2019

  1. Focus On PTSD Care

    Project RISE - Part 1

    Keeping Surivors Alive!
    A new COMBAT-funded program at Truman Medical Center is focused on treating all the wounds—seen and unseen—a gunshot can cause. Studies have tracked what becomes of gunshot wound (GSW) survivors long-term. They’ve discovered some alarming trends, including the high risks of survivors being shot again and eventually dying in another firearms-related incident. The TMC program, Project RISE, seeks to identify shooting victims with severe PTSD symptoms and provide early intervention. TMC doctors and nurses can start administering “psychological first aid” the moment a wounded patient has been physically stabilized.
    » MORE

November 1, 2019

  1. Before

    Making A Difference You Can See


    The chill and gloom of a bitter—winterish—fall day failed to keep more than 50 volunteers away as COMBAT held a neighborhood clean-up effort in the blocks surrounding Central High School in Kansas City. Before and after photos—and during—photos show the difference the effort made. The helping hands and heavy equipment did more than help brighten up the neighborhood. Studies have shown cleaning up the trash in a neighborhood can go a long way toward cleaning up crime.
    » MORE 

October 29, 2019

  1. DART_Day-3


    Just Another DART Day


    After being told to vacate his house, a Kansas City man winds up thanking the Jackson County Drug Abatement Response Team (DART). He realized his home was a deathtrap waiting to be sprung. Inspectors found numerous fire hazardous and other threats in the home, prompting the fire marshal to declare, “There’s no way we can let anybody stay in here.” DART addresses problem houses like this, which have been involved in drug or violent activity, to help improve the quality of life in entire neighborhoods throughout the county.
    » MORE 

October 18, 2019

  1. Meth Packages Being Pulled From Inside Tire

    Equivalent Of More Than 250,000 'Doses' (144lbs.) Of Meth Seized


    The COMBAT-Funded Jackson County Drug Task Force seized 144 pounds of methamphetamine during a recent search of a Kansas City property. The drugs, valued at more than $12 million, were hidden in metal containers that were sealed inside four tires. Task Force Officer-In-Charge Dan Cummings believes the meth—the largest amount the Task Force has ever recovered at one time—was probably within a day of being distributed for sale throughout the metropolitan area. "I don't think anyone was going to sit on that much meth for very long," he said.
    » MORE

September 18, 2019

  1. BKD Audit

    County Prosecutor's Office Releases Initial Audit Of COMBAT Financial Practices

    When a judge ruled last year that the Jackson County Legislature had the legal authority to move oversight of COMBAT from the County Executive’s Office to the Prosecutor’s Office, Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker immediately called for an independent audit of the anti-crime program. That audit has now been completed by a Kansas City CPA firm, which found a number of concerning financial issues related to COMBAT from the time prior the Prosecutor’s Office assuming oversight. The firm’s full final report can be downloaded here.
    » MORE

August 29, 2019

  1. STRIVING Together To Reduce Violence In Neighborhoods

    COMBAT Initiative Focuses On The Need For Joint Effort To Reduce Violence


    This COMBAT initiative brings together school administrators, police officers, elected officials, mental health professionals, social workers, faith-based leaders and concerned citizens to address violence in Jackson County’s most vulnerable neighborhoods. With a focus on developing a collaborative, comprehensive and coordinated plan in each “hot spot,” STRIVIN’ recognizes that no one individual or single agency can “save a neighborhood.” It takes working together—striving together—to make any neighborhood a safe place to call home.
    » MORE

August 7, 2019

  1. There are no easy answers for stopping all this violence, but we must keep seeking solutions

    Reducing Violence Requires Working Together


    As we do the grim calculations (nine homicides in 10 days, 87 thus far this year) let’s remember a name goes with each of those numbers.  As we mourn those taken from us, we cannot expect any one person or group alone—not the police, the courts, the schools—to reduce the violence in our neighborhoods. It’s going to take working together to make a real and meaningful difference.
    » MORE

July 22, 2019

  1. Medical Marijuana: Is there a connection between marijuana legalization and overdose deaths increasi

    Connection Or Coincidence?


    When states started legalizing marijuana, the nation’s overdose rate began to rise. There must be a correlation between decriminalizing marijuana and the OD crisis, right? But haven’t studies shown states with legalized marijuana have fewer opioid overdoses than states still outlawing pot? How can that be true, though, if Colorado really has the third highest rate of drug addiction in the nation? Or is 12th highest? Separating hyperbole from fact is not easy when it comes to cannabis laws and attitudes. 
    » Part 5  |  5-Part Series

JULY 19, 2019

  1. Arrests Made In Jackosn County and Beyond

    Case Illustrates Cartel Activity In Jackson County & Beyond


    What started off as a seemingly simple casea Kansas City, Kan., undercover police officer asking the Jackson County Drug Task Force with assistance when a drug deal made in Kansas was to be completed in Missouriturns into a months-long investigation involving multiple federal and local agencies. When it was completed, multiple indictments were made as the case illustrated the reach of Mexican cartels into Jackson County and beyond.
    » MORE

July 18, 2019

  1. Medical Marijuana Gummies

    'This Stuff Ain't Candy'


    Many marijuana edibles appeal to the sweet tooth (cookies, brownies, candy, etc.). That might make eating just a little and stopping difficult. “Who eats just one Gummy Bear?” Also, the THC in an edible takes longer to enter the bloodstream. Because they aren’t “feeling it,” people have often made the mistake of eating more. Then when the THC kicks it, the effect can be dramatic and dangerous: panic attacks, hallucinations, psychotic episodes, respiratory insufficiency and more.
    » Part 4  |  5-Part Series

July 15, 2019

  1. Federal and State Marijuana Laws

    When The Laws Clash


    Missouri has joined 32 other states that have legalized medical marijuana. Despite two-thirds of states now legalizing the drug’s use for medical purposes, the federal government still classifies cannabis as being a dangerous drug like heroin. President Trump has said marijuana legalization “should be left up to the states.” Official federal policies, however, remain in place that prohibit most marijuana dispensaries from banking their proceeds, and due to HUD regulations, people living in federally-subsidized housing may risk eviction if they use medical marijuana.
    » Part 3  |  5-Part Series

July 11, 2019

  1. Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and their location near schools

    How Close Is Too Close For Medical Marijuana Dispensaries


    Missouri reconsiders initial 200-foot buffer between medical marijuana dispensaries and schools, extending it to 1,000 feet. The state does give city governments the option to reduce that distance, but the constitutional amendment Missourians approved in 2018 prohibits cities from passing ordinances banning dispensaries. Meanwhile, studies about the relationships between dispensaries and crime rates vary significantly. Local officials are sorting through this conflicting information as they prepare for dispensaries opening in Jackson County next year.
    » Part 2  |  5-Part Series

July 8, 2019

  1. Medical Marijuana: Opportunity & Cause For Concern

    Opportunity For Some & Cause For Concern


    Dr. Kelvin Walls, a COMBAT Commissioner, supports the legalizaton of medical marijuana, saying, "For some people it is the correct medicine to prescribe." And in 2018 Missourians overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Now Jackson County leads the state in the number of applications to grow, manufacture and dispense medical marijuana. But what is clearly seen as an opportunity by some is cause for concern by others.
    » Part 1  |  5-Part Series

June 27, 2019

  1. FireworksNotFirearms

    Celebratory Gunshots Pose Deadly Threat


    Would you take gun in hand, close your eyes and randomly start pulling the trigger, firing bullets at what you can’t see? That is essentially what people do when they fire shots into the air to “celebrate” holidays like Independence Day. This unlawful behavior is reckless, always dangerous and potentially lethal.
    » MORE


June 21, 2019

  1. COMBAT Saved My Life

    I'd Be Back In Prison Or Dead


    I'm convinced that I would be back in prison or dead, if I had not gotten drug treatment through a COMBAT-funded program in 2015. Now today I am working to help others start their recovery journeys. The "mess" I had made out of my life can now be a "message" for someone else going through addiction. I want to give them hope, let them know if a guy like me can get clean and stay clean, they can too.
    » MORE

June 11, 2019

  1. Meth Still Number One Problem

    'Demand' For Meth Remains High In Jackson County


    Each year throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the Jackson County Drug Task Force and other law enforcement agencies would shut down dozens of meth labs—sometimes more than 100 labs in a single year. With these local supply lines being severed, Mexican cartels have stepped in to fill the void and meet the ongoing “demand” for methamphetamine. The Task Force is striving daily to stop these cartels from feeding Jackson County’s meth addiction—still the county’s No. 1 drug problem.
    » MORE

June 4, 2019

  1. Drug Task Force

    Jackson County Drug Task Force Changes With The Times


    The Jackson County Drug Task Force is now routinely engaged in joint investigations with federal authorities as they pursue drug supply lines across city limits and county lines, as well as state and international borders. Their objective is to "get the head of the snake," rather than just chasing the tail. With several of their cases having roots that trace back to Mexican cartels, the Task Force confiscated more than $16 million in illegal drugs last year.
    » MORE

May 22, 2019

  1. Firearm Violence Represents A Public Health Crisis

    Trauma Surgeons Have Seen Gun Violence Carnage Up Close—And It Is Personal


    The words of the trauma surgeons who had threated countless gunshot wounds carried a lot of weight during a KU Medical Center symposium about the epidemic of firearm violence across the nation (and in our own community). But the one non-surgeon who spoke during the day-long event really struck a chord when she said, “Our kids are worrying about being shot in their schools. How many are going to have PTSD? Our kids are thinking like kids in a war-torn nation."
    » MORE

May 9, 2019

  1. Sheffield Place Anti-Bullying Starts With Kindness


    Sheffield Place Anti-Bullying Program Starts With Kindness 


    When she began developing Sheffield Place’s anti-bullying program 2½ years ago, Heather Berry deliberately sought to avoid focusing solely on the negative: Don’t be mean. Don’t hurt others. Don’t be a bully. Instead, “Miss Heather” emphasizes the positive qualities that can help anyone any age be a better person. The program starts with children as young as 3. Sheffield Place serves homeless mothers and their children. The background of 75% of its clients includes domestic violence.
    » MORE 

May 9, 2019

  1. Their Safety Is On The Line Talking To Strangers Online

    Teaching Kids About Not 'Talking To Strangers' In The Digital World


    Their safety is on the line! Be sure your kids understand "don't talk to strangers" applies to the digital world. Predators are on the prowl online. Kids (like other people) often share too much personal info via social media and other digital content.
    » MORE

May 1, 2019

  1. COMBAT Chairman Larry Beaty

    The Voice Of Experience— New COMBAT Chairman Really Gets It


    Larry Beaty speaks with the voice of experience—the experience of being a recovering alcoholic (sober since 1981) and longtime treatment counselor—as he stresses utilizing COMBAT's resources where they are needed most, in Jackson County's "hot spots."  
    » MORE

April 25, 2019

  1. COMBAT Commissioner John Boyd

    'Violence & Drugs Don't Pay Attention To Zip Codes' 


    New COMBAT Commisisoner John B. Boyd stresses the need for county-wide effort to find solutions to the county-wide problems of drug abuse and violent crime. He also believes COMBAT can help address the issue of prescription drug addiciton. 
    » MORE

Janaury 25, 2019

  1. Dawna Shumate

    Dawna J. Shumate Appointed Deputy Director


    Jackson County COMBAT has appointed Dawna Shumate its new Deputy Director . She is an experienced treatment and prevention specialist who also has worked extensively in community engagement as director of the county's ombudsman's office. 
    » MORE

October 29, 2018

  1. COMBAT Director Vince Ortega

    VInce Ortega Appointed COMBAT Director


    Vince Ortega has assumed the duty's of COMBAT Director, having already stressed the need for the program to be more connected to the community through his work as Deputy Director. He previously served 30 years with the Kansas City Police Department. 
    » MORE