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Dr. Barbara Knox resigns; agencies investigated for fraud; cheaper child care and the labor shortage; alcohol’s toll on Wisconsin; solar fix stalled

Of note: A former University of Wisconsin doctor who leads Alaska’s forensic child abuse clinic has tendered her resignation, oficials there say. The announcement comes after Wisconsin Watch and the Anchorage Daily News reported at least a dozen instances in Wisconsin and Alaska in which Dr. Barbara Knox’s diagnoses of child abuse were later rejected by child welfare authorities, the courts, law enforcement or other doctors. Knox had left Wisconsin in 2019 under a cloud of controversy after being placed on leave for allegedly bullying colleagues and caregivers she suspected of abuse.

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Former University of Wisconsin Dr. Barbara Knox has resigned as medical director of Alaska’s forensic child abuse clinic. Knox has been on leave from Alaska CARES since the fall after a wave of departures that included every member of the medical staff other than Knox. Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch and University of Wisconsin file photo

Embattled former UW child abuse pediatrician resigns Alaska position

Anchorage Daily News / Wisconsin Watch — January 28, 2022

The embattled head of Alaska’s statewide child abuse forensic clinic — who also left the University of Wisconsin under a cloud of controversy — will soon resign, Providence Alaska Medical Center said. Alaska CARES medical director’s Dr. Barbara Knox “has chosen to pursue other opportunities and will be resigning,” Providence spokesman Mikal Canfield said. Her resignation comes days after the Anchorage Daily News and Wisconsin Watch published the story of Emily and Justin Acker, a Fairbanks-area military family who said Knox misdiagnosed their newborn daughter’s brain injuries as abuse, leading them to lose custody of their two children for most of a year. Experts hired by the Ackers found Knox’s diagnosis of abusive head trauma was wrong and ignored Izabel’s serious birth injuries. A forensic psychologist found Emily Acker no danger to her children — and a judge agreed. 

Read Wisconsin’s Watch’s Flawed Forensic series.

Several employees of Here For You Prenatal Coordination Services gather in the company’s former office on North Richards Street in October. Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Black babies in Milwaukee are dying at a staggering rate. Taxpayers are spending millions on the problem. But signs of fraud are surging.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — January 26, 2022

Chappelle Roe said she was busy delivering gifts to two low-income Milwaukee families on Christmas Eve back in 2015. At least that’s what she told the state when she billed Medicaid for her time. Her job was to help pregnant women prepare for new babies and then to advise them on caring for their children. But prosecutors say Roe was actually in Huntsville, Ala. Three years later, she pleaded guilty to theft by fraud for submitting bills to Medicaid stating she was in Milwaukee with clients when prosecutors say she really was in Miami, Memphis, Atlanta or Huntsville. She was sentenced to one-year probation and ordered to pay $2,819 in restitution. Today, despite the conviction, she is a privately paid consultant helping others open prenatal care coordination companies, an industry created in Wisconsin in 1991 that is experiencing explosive growth in Milwaukee. Spending in Wisconsin on these prenatal care coordination services has skyrocketed in recent years, from $4.9 million in 2018 to $22.3 million in 2021, the Journal Sentinel found.

Ashlee Xiong holds her 1-year-old daughter Audrey Paque at their home in Sun Prairie. Faced with child care costs nearly as high as her paycheck, Xiong quit her job last year to become a stay-at-home mom. Ruthie Hauge / Cap Times

The parent trap: Making child care cheaper could help fix labor woes

Cap Times — January 26, 2022

Ashlee Xiong was six months pregnant when she turned in her last assignment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning her a bachelor’s degree in social welfare. Her thoughts turned to her budding career. She’d just accepted a full-time job as a parent educator at nonprofit Family Services Madison. But soon after giving birth in December 2020, Xiong found herself in another career-shaping role: that of a parent whose paycheck barely exceeded the cost of child care. Xiong isn’t alone. In Wisconsin, the average cost of infant care is 18.5% of median family income — more than average rent or in-state university tuition. In Dane County, the cost averages $16,000 a year. Some parents run the numbers and decide working just isn’t worth it. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s longstanding labor shortages are only getting worse, as the pandemic puts new strain on a state where the birth rate and net migration have been declining for decades.

Workers from Full Spectrum Solar install solar panels on a Middleton home in 2020. John Hart / Wisconsin Journal Sentinel Archives

Wisconsin regulators deadlock on solar financing; bill to legalize tool in limbo

Wisconsin State Journal — January 27, 2022

With legislation stalled, Wisconsin regulators have deadlocked on the legality of a financing mechanism that could expand access to clean energy. Two Public Service Commissioners disagreed Thursday on whether the state’s largest utility acted legally when it blocked an Iowa solar company from leasing solar panels to the city of Milwaukee. Eagle Point Solar won a contract in 2018 to install 1.1 megawatts of solar panels on municipal buildings to help the city meet its clean energy goals. But We Energies refused to allow the panels to be connected to its system, saying Eagle Point would be selling electricity to one of its customers in violation of its monopoly agreement. Clean energy and consumer advocates say utilities are standing in the way of a financing mechanism that could make solar energy available to more people, including residents who don’t have thousands of dollars to pay up front and local governments, schools and nonprofits that can’t benefit from federal tax credits.

Earlier from Wisconsin Watch: Solar flare-up: Utility blocks Iowa firm from harnessing the sun in Milwaukee

One woman reflects on costs of alcoholism as Wisconsin loses more and more lives

WPR — January 27, 2022

Jenny has spent almost all of her life in Wisconsin, but she hasn’t always been around alcohol. Her parents didn’t drink much. She considered herself the type of college student who might go out on weekends, but she would never black out. Then, that changed. In her 30s, after Jenny and her then-husband had kids and settled in Walworth County, she started drinking so much she had trouble remembering. The pizza parties for the neighborhood, summer afternoon visits and kids’ birthday parties all started to involve beer, wine or mixed drinks. Last year, she said alcohol killed one of those neighbors. As Wisconsin’s binge-drinking culture mixed with the added turmoil of the pandemic, 2020 saw the largest year-to-year increase in alcohol-induced deaths in more than 20 years. The Wisconsin Policy Forum found a 24.5% increase in alcohol-induced deaths from 2019 to 2020 — going from 865 deaths to 1,077.

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