The Atchison County Health Department came together in a time of emergency, and it is still dedicated 100 years later toward the greater mission of public health.
A celebration to mark the founding of the health department on May 17, 1919, held Friday in downtown Atchison took place amid a barbecue, celebratory cake cutting and outdoor fun and games. The community marked a moment of levity in contrast with the stark realities of the health department’s historic mission.
At the time of its founding, the Spanish Flu plague ravaging Kansas would leave countless local residents feeling well in the morning and “dead by nightfall,” as a review of the department’s history narrates. Before its creation, diseases like the flu, which killed 12,000 Kansans throughout 1919 and more than 50 million people worldwide, many had nowhere to go for emergency medical care.
“We do still serve the impoverished community and provide services like shots,” said Camron Roloff, RN, nursing supervisor. “There should be no misconception that we are anything less than a fully operating health clinic. We are a clinic that provides all services to all ages.”
The department, now part of the Northeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department — serving Atchison, Brown and Jackson counties — remains focused now on its mission, defined by the motto, “Prevent. Promote. Protect.” Atchison County Commissioner Eric Noll, who serves on the health department’s board in his capacity as an elected official, said the three-county coverage area offers great utility to rural communities and the governments which serve them.
“With one administration and three health clinics, we can provide what we need, where we need it,” he said. “As a county commissioner, it’s been my privilege to serve with not just the Atchison County health clinic, but the efforts in Brown and Jackson counties also. It helps very much.”
Road crews worked on Thursday morning to reopen a portion of a key traffic corridor between northeast Kansas and St. Joseph.
Wes Lanter, Atchison County Emergency Management director, said the Missouri Department of Transportation has been monitoring the flow of the flooded Missouri River near low-lying areas of U.S. Highway 59, between Atchison and the Y interchange with Missouri Highway 45, in coordination with Kansas authorities.
When flood waters began to recede in recent hours, Lanter said, crews came in and dumped asphalt on the north side of Highway 59 to keep the water back.
“There will be one lane open with a temporary stoplight regulating traffic,” Lanter said. “The river is expected to recede more, but the dam is expected to be necessary for a while. Depending on the rain we receive this weekend, we’ll see what happens, but it’s going to be one lane for a while.”
Highway 59 has been closed for a week. That follows a four-week closure earlier this spring that also was due to flooding.
An extended investigation, ultimately leading to the arrest last month of a former Atchison resident, uncovered a massive cache of child pornography including violent sexual acts involving children, according to federal authorities.
Special Agent Jonathan C. Polner of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has filed an affidavit of probable cause that led to Christopher Patrick’s arrest on April 29. The 41-year-old is facing three felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child on the basis of possessing pornographic images of children under 18 years of age, according to a criminal complaint.
In his affidavit, Polner describes how the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided tips that made their way to the Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Eventually, authorities determined Patrick to have participated in the circulation of child porn.
According to the affidavit, on Sept. 12, 2017, authorities tracked the uploading of an image of a partially clad child, described by Polner as between the ages of 5 and 7, posing a suggestive manner. Twelve days later, on Sept. 24, 2017, another upload depicted a girl of about 10 years of age engaging in a sexual act with a nude adult male.
Eventually, on Nov. 1, 2018, authorities seized 1,744 pieces of evidence from Patrick’s Atchison residence, including a large number of electronic devices and media items. Some of the media seized include violent sexual depictions of infants and toddlers, according to the affidavit. Agents and detectives with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force and the Atchison Police Department participated in the seizure in the 1300 block of Locust Drive.
Following the seizure, Patrick relocated to Easton, before his April arrest by Leavenworth County authorities. He remained in jail as of Friday evening pending fulfillment of $50,000 bond agreement. He is scheduled to appear in district court at 1 p.m. Monday, May 20. Rex Lane of Atchison has been appointed to serve as Patrick’s defense counsel.
Authorities say a local teen drove around town late Wednesday night firing a BB gun at various targets, without causing serious injuries.
Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson said that Taggart D. Lee, 18, of Atchison, wielding the BB gun from a truck driving around town, first came to authorities’ attention at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday when officers responded to the 400 block of River Road in Atchison to investigate several vehicles with windshield damage.
At 10:10 p.m., officers followed up on another incident of damage in the 800 block of Washington Street in Atchison, to find a house with damaged siding. Officers also learned that a resident of the house had come outside to inspect the damage before being struck in the leg by a shot from the BB gun. Wilson said the man suffered no serious injury.
Finally, at 10:30 p.m., an officer spotted the truck believed to contain the culprit in the BB shootings along Woodlawn Avenue in Atchison. The officer stopped the truck and arrested Lee, before transporting him to the Atchison County Jail. Booking information indicated he remained there as of Thursday morning with no bond amount set in the case.
Formal charges remained undetermined on Thursday morning, but Lee is jailed on suspicion of several counts of criminal damage to property and aggravated battery, a felony, for allegedly shooting the man on Washington Street.