Katarina Sostaric

Eastern Iowa Reporter

Katarina Sostaric is an Iowa City based reporter covering Eastern Iowa for Iowa Public Radio.

Before coming to Iowa, she was a reporter and host at a public radio station in Southeast Alaska, where her work also aired on Alaska’s statewide public radio network.

Katarina worked as a Morning Edition news anchor and general assignment reporter at KBIA in Columbia while she was a student

at the Missouri School of Journalism. She has bachelor’s degrees in Convergence Journalism and International Studies from the University of Missouri.

Katarina’s favorite public radio program is Reveal.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Iowa’s largest health system is considering ending its contract with one of the two remaining companies that insure Medicaid patients in the state.

UnityPoint Health announced Wednesday it will end its contract with Amerigroup if "contract issues" are not resolved by the end of the year. Amerigroup is one of the two remaining companies that participate in Iowa’s privatized Medicaid program.

Clay Masters/Iowa Public Radio

Scientists serving as advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency are finding out from news stories that they’ve been removed or demoted.

Many of these scientists come from academia, and they say they’re being replaced by scientists from industries regulated by the EPA

Professor Peter Thorne heads the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health. Until recently, he also chaired the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, the agency’s most prominent advising body.

Doc Searls

Iowa City public schools will stop using small, padded seclusion rooms by the start of the next school year.

The decision—announced Tuesday—comes after a state investigation found some improper use of these rooms and ordered the district to make changes. Schools use the rooms to temporarily isolate students who are at risk of harming themselves or others.

Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Stephen Murley says the district’s goal is to move away from using these tiny rooms for seclusion.

monica vernon
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Monica Vernon and Brad Hart will face each other in a runoff election for Cedar Rapids mayor next month.

None of the eight candidates got more than 50 percent of the vote Tuesday, which is required to win.

Vernon, a businesswoman and former city council member, led the field with 30 percent of the vote. She says giving out her phone number and having conversations with Cedar Rapids residents has been central to her campaign.

jorge sanders-galvez
John Lovretta / The Hawk Eye

Jorge Sanders-Galvez has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2016 killing of a gender-fluid teen.

Prosecutors say he aided and abetted Jaron Purham in the murder of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson in Burlington.

The jury submitted a verdict after less than two hours of deliberation in Keokuk.

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers says she was somewhat surprised with the speed of the jury’s decision, but she thinks it was the right decision.

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

At a hearing Thursday in Johnson County court, attorneys debated whether the state’s new "stand your ground" law allows for immunity from prosecution in self-defense cases.

The issue came up after an August shooting in Iowa City’s downtown pedestrian mall. Lamar Wilson is charged with murder, attempted murder and gang participation in the case.

courtesy Iowans for Sam Clovis

Updated Nov. 2--U.S. Department of Agriculture nominee Sam Clovis of Iowa withdrew from consideration to be the agency's top scientist amid questions about his connection to the Russia probe. 

Clovis sent a letter to President Trump asking for his name to be withdrawn. 

John Pemble / IPR

A lawsuit against the Board of Regents in the recruiting and hiring of the University of Iowa president has been dismissed.

The lawsuit accused five current and former regents of breaking the state’s open meetings law by scheduling private meetings to recruit UI President Bruce Harreld. The regents asked the court dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that a majority of the board was never present at the same time during the back-to-back meetings on one day in 2015.

The court has sided with the regents.

gavel
SalFalko / Flickr

A district court judge has yet to decide if a hearing is needed to determine whether a man accused in an Iowa City shooting can use a "stand your ground" defense.

The man accused of shooting three people in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall in August is asking the state to dismiss charges against him based on Iowa’s new "stand your ground" law.

lee county courthouse
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A federal hate crimes attorney says two men "kidnapped, suffocated and executed" a gender-fluid teen in Burlington.

Prosecutor Christopher Perras laid out the state’s case accusing Jorge Sanders-Galvez of first-degree murder in the killing of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson. The opening statement came Thursday after two full days of jury selection in Kekouk’s South Lee County Courthouse.

"The defendant and Jaron Purham shot and killed Kedarie, then took steps to cover it up," Perras says. He adds they had already "left a trail of evidence" after the killing on March 2, 2016.

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

A new federal grant will fund a statewide media campaign to educate teenagers and young adults about the dangers of misusing prescription opioids.

Janet Nelson at the Iowa Department of Public Health says the campaign will work to fill gaps in knowledge about prescription drugs.

"Youth, a lot of times, feel that if a drug is prescribed by a doctor, it can't be harmful," Nelson says. 

The grant will also help three counties—Polk, Jasper and Scott—develop additional strategies to reduce problems with prescription opioid abuse.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Navigators are getting ready to sign Iowans up for Obamacare next month despite uncertainty surrounding the health care law. They are preparing for the regular enrollment period as state and federal lawmakers continue to push for changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Karen Sullivan of Visiting Nurse Services manages a program in central Iowa that helps people sign up for insurance through the ACA. She says navigators are still scheduling appointments for November. 

pills and money
Images Money / flickr

It’s less than two weeks until people have to start signing up for next year’s health insurance plans, and Iowans who buy their own insurance through the Affordable Care Act don’t know what to expect. They don’t know what system they will use to buy insurance, what plans will be available to them, or how much they will have to pay.

Iowa is waiting for a last-minute decision from federal agencies on whether Iowans will buy insurance through the ACA marketplace, or through the state’s proposed "stopgap" system.

iowa city
Kris / flickr

The Trump administration announced Thursday it is leaving UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, but Iowa City still expects to keep its designation as a UNESCO City of Literature.

City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon says he is "profoundly disappointed" by the decision, but he does not believe this will change Iowa City’s designation.

"Our relationship is directly with UNESCO as a city," Kenyon says. "The designation was conferred upon Iowa City by UNESCO directly, so I don’t see a way that this would have an impact on that."

Downspec / Wikimedia Commons

The head of a mental health crisis center in southern Iowa says she expects it to close at the end of the month due to a lack of funding.

Jackie Sharp is executive director of Oak Place in Centerville. She says after a grant ran out, the regional mental health authority refused to fill that funding gap, and the state hasn’t set up rules that would allow Oak Place to bill Medicaid for services. 

"I don't put a lot of faith in us continuing after October 31. I think my alternate plan is to take care of the graduates that we've had and help my staff transition," she says. 

refugees
Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration is planning to admit 45,000 refugees this fiscal year—the lowest cap in the history of the nation's refugee program that started in 1980. Iowa’s refugee resettlement agencies are expecting fewer arrivals and facing more uncertainty than in past years. 

naloxone
Tom Wolf / flickr

Iowa’s attorney general has struck a new deal with a drugmaker to make an opioid overdose reversal drug more affordable.

Public agencies in Iowa, including law enforcement and public hospitals, will pay less for naloxone through a rebate agreement with Amphastar.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says first responders in the state have been using naloxone to save lives.

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

A new report from the University of Iowa makes policy recommendations for reducing prescription opioid abuse and overdose deaths.

Carri Casteel, UI associate professor and lead author of the report, says Iowa's prescription opioid overdose death rate is lower than in many other states, but it has quadrupled in the past 20 years. 

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Iowa's Planned Parenthood affiliate is ending its Affordable Care Act navigator program that helps Iowans sign up for health insurance after federal officials cut the organization’s navigator grant by 84 percent.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland was the biggest of Iowa’s three ACA navigator programs. At least 50 counties in Iowa will lose federally-funded assistance with health insurance sign-up as a result of the cut.

Iowa State University
Wikimedia Commons

Iowa’s public universities are asking the state for a $12 million funding increase next fiscal year. The additional money would be committed to resident undergraduate student financial aid.

The request is intended to help with some of the tuition increases that Iowa’s public universities proposed this summer. State-level cuts to higher education funding triggered those proposals.

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst told a loud crowd at the University of Iowa that it’s unlikely the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will come up for a vote.

The audience cheered when Ernst said the Graham-Cassidy bill likely won't go to a vote before a Sept. 30 procedural deadline. Sen. John McCain of Arizona announced his opposition to the bill shortly before Ernst’s appearance in Iowa City.

An audience member asked Ernst if the bill could "spring back to life."

Ernst said she can’t answer that.

cathy glasson
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Democrat Cathy Glasson officially announced her run for governor of Iowa Tuesday in Cedar Rapids.

Glasson says her campaign will focus on three main ideas: a $15 minimum wage, single-payer healthcare and the expansion of union rights.

"We’re fighting for an Iowa that cares about all people again, that realizes when any of us are left behind, none of us can move forward," Glasson told supporters.  

iowa city
Kris / flickr

An Iowa City man charged with shooting three people on the city’s downtown pedestrian mall will claim a "stand your ground" defense at trial.

Lamar Wilson is accused of killing one person and injuring two others in an August shooting that police have said was not random.

Wilson’s attorneys submitted court documents Monday stating he intends to rely on self-defense, defense of others, defense against a forcible felony, defense of property, and the right to "stand your ground".

desks
alamosbasement/flickr

Iowa has submitted a new school accountability plan to the federal government as part of replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.

Iowa’s proposed plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act—passed in 2015—includes state-specific academic goals and methods of supporting struggling schools.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Organizations that help Iowans sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are dealing with new funding cuts.

Late Wednesday night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced various grant reductions for ACA navigators. Some cuts are as high as 90 percent.

Genesis Health in the Quad Cities is facing a 90 percent cut to is ACA navigator grant.

doug ommen
Joyce Russell / IPR

Iowa’s insurance commissioner says he is now "less optimistic" about winning federal approval for a plan to stabilize the state’s individual health insurance market.

The state of Iowa submitted a "stopgap" plan to federal agencies in August. It would change the distribution of insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen told lawmakers Tuesday he was hoping to know by now whether the plan would be approved.

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Senator Joni Ernst voted against a measure Thursday that lumped federal aid for hurricane victims with budget and debt ceiling extensions.

President Donald Trump made a deal to that effect Wednesday with Democratic leaders. It pairs about $15 billion in disaster aid with an agreement to keep the government until Dec. 8.

In a call with reporters Thursday, Ernst said combining those issues into one bill is "a bad way of doing business." 

rockwell collins
Dean Borg / IPR

Cedar Rapids' largest employer—avionics manufacturer Rockwell Collins—is being sold in what's being called the biggest deal in aerospace manufacturing history.

Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp. (UTC) is buying Rockwell Collins for $30 billion. They will form a new company called Collins Aerospace Systems.

United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes says the combination will allow for more innovation and lower costs.

mcgregor damage
Courtesy of Carrie Nolan

After a tornado wrecked McGregor’s historic downtown area in July, most local businesses have recovered and are looking forward to the fall tourism season.

Kristie Austin is executive director of the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce. She says McGregor is ready for the fall tourism season, and it will be very important for local businesses.

"The two business buildings that were severely damaged and were basically lost have been cleaned up, and a lot of the other buildings that have had roof or other structural things, they’re getting that fixed," Austin says.

corn on truck
pixabay

Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent tropical storm could cause shipping delays and damage to infrastructure that is necessary for Iowa’s agricultural exports.

About 60 percent of soybean and corn exports leave the U.S. from the lower Mississippi River. 

Mike Steenhoek is executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. He says prolonged rainfall along the Gulf Coast is delaying some barge unloading and ocean vessel loading.

Steenhoek says the rain is also washing out railroads and putting stress on bridges.

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