Kealey Bultena

SDPB News Reporter

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).

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A new form of radiation therapy allows breast cancer patients to avoid weeks of trips back-and-forth to the hospital. That means some women who live far away from treatment centers don’t have to jeopardize their health if they can’t make it to radiation. A Sioux Falls hospital is one of eight in the country using what's called IORT. 

Eighteen months ago, Lu Rice was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Madison woman knew she needed surgery and radiation. She’s seen people go through treatment for five days a week.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

October brings a sea of pink to billboards, t-shirts, stores and even the NFL. Talking about every aspect of breast cancer during a designated awareness month is impossible. Patients and health providers say each person's journey is unique. A common thread does exist among these individual stories: a tenacious fight against allowing cancer any control.

The women featured here refuse to relinquish their dignity, their decisions, and their lives to a devastating disease - and each manifests this perseverance in a different way.

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A new agreement preserves health insurance options for 26,000 State of South Dakota employees. State leaders and Sanford Health negotiated to cover state employees at an in-network cost. That allows some DakotaCare patients to see Sanford doctors without huge price increases.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Lakota man is celebrating three decades teaching life lessons to elementary school students through Native American dance. Dallas Chief Eagle started working as an artist-in-residence for schools in the mid-1980s. Today he’s still sharing Lakota culture with school children across the state.

In his performance, Dallas Chief Eagle rapidly moves his feet as he glides across a gym floor, picking up plastic hoops. He links them together in a long line. Chief Eagle tosses the chain into the air, and spins the hoops over the heads of screaming elementary school students.

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People who study differences across generations say they have some tips for business leaders and workers. Experts with a Minneapolis organization are in Sioux Falls. They’re discussing the social and business benefits of creating a collaborative atmosphere across ages.

Scott Zimmer is the Generation X representative for BridgeWorks. Hannah Ubl is the millennial. They both say all age groups attract stereotypes. 

"Scott’s generation was slackers, grunge, Nirvana, flannel,” Ubl says.

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Congresswoman Kristi Noem says she’s voting to elect Donald Trump for president. The Republican revealed her continued support for Trump in Monday’s debate against Democratic challenger Paula Hawks.

Two women who want to represent South Dakota in the US House of Representatives faced off just hours after a presidential debate and days after damaging recordings exposed vulgar language from Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

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A Sioux Falls doctor says insurance status often dictates resources available for meth users who want to break free from the drug. Health leaders say meth is a dangerous substance with devastating physical, mental, and social ramifications.

A typical poster condemning meth use displays a disheveled person with a miserable gaze, ashen skin and open sores. Doctor Jennifer Tinguely with Falls Community Health in Sioux Falls says meth affects every system of the body. She says the drug triggers a rush of hormones including dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin.

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A Sioux Falls doctor is accused of human trafficking after authorities rescued a teenage girl from his home. Officials say they arrested 36-year-old Jonathan Cohen Tuesday after the victim called 911 for help.

Authorities say a 16-year-old from Georgia was reported a runaway in August. Sioux Falls Police Lieutenant Mike Colwill says she met Jonathan Cohen on an internet dating website and traveled to meet him.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Thousands of South Dakotans must change doctors and clinics if they want their health insurance to cover the care. Starting January 1, 2017, Sanford Health no longer accepts Avera insurance including DakotaCare, and Avera Health in South Dakota isn't taking Sanford Health Plan insurance. That leaves some people who can't afford to pay out of pocket with little choice, and it requires others to leave trusted medical providers to find new services that work with their insurance.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Avera Health is removing its South Dakota hospitals, clinics, and physicians from the Sanford Health Plan. The change means people who have Sanford insurance won’t have coverage if they go to Avera’s providers. It’s the latest development in a health care clash among the state’s two largest health systems.

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University Sioux Falls officials say their school can fill a void left when a community college closed. USF is preparing to launch a program aimed at helping people learn English so they can go to college or become skilled workers. A program that used to help those students ended earlier this year. Now USF leaders say they’re resurrecting the opportunity.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Political parties court different demographics, and one crucial group of voters includes young people. Many have the chance to vote in their first presidential election this year. College students studying media at the University of Sioux Falls are watching the presidential race, and they’re learning to balance their journalism training with their Constitutional rights. 

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Educators in Sioux Falls say they want computer science classes to equip kids with technology skills and context in the digital community. The Sioux Falls School District implemented a new curriculum one year ago; that move ended keyboarding classes for students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades.

Middle school curriculum coordinator Sandy Henry says in the spring the district assessed 1,140 sixth graders. She says the average they could type was 23 words per minute.

Some Nebraska lawmakers are campaigning for a South Dakota ballot initiative. Nebraska elects state legislators without separating them into political parties. They say many of the legislative races in South Dakota are decided even before the general election - and that erodes the integrity of the political system. Nebraska has used non-partisan elections for more than 80 years. SDPB's Kealey Bultena has this conversation with Nebraska State Senators Galen Hadley, Colby Coash and Adam Morfeld.

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Convicted killer Rodney Berget says he wants to stop an appeal that’s preventing him from being put to death, but his attorney can't support the move. The issues are enough to delay major action in Rodney Berget’s case for a few months.

Rodney Berget was in a Minnehaha County courtroom Friday. He wants to end his execution appeal.

Judge Douglas Hoffman asked if he understood that waiving his rights is a path to execution. Berget responded "yes".

That wasn’t enough for the judge to authorize a path to execution that day.

Courtesy Melody Schopp

South Dakota’s Secretary of Education is reflecting on a recent trip to Africa. Melody Schopp is set to be the next president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and she went to Malawi last week through the US Department of State.

Schopp says students in Malawi learn in huge classes or groups outside, and they don’t have bright, colorful classrooms like she sees in South Dakota. She says she saw this while touring African schools.

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Many teachers spend their summers preparing for class by attending seminars, plotting lesson plans, and incorporating technology into coursework. Yet one instructor in Sioux Falls goes dumpster diving. Meet a longtime woods teacher who is not afraid to plunge into his work.

Bob Darkow’s classroom is so typical it’s borderline boring. He has scrawled the classes he teaches in black marker on a white board attached to a beige cinderblock wall. Dark blue plastic chairs rest under school desks grouped in pods of four. A shiny, wooden rectangular box sits on one surface.


Cardiologists in Rapid City are using a new pacemaker that is fully implanted inside a person’s heart. The FDA only recently approved the technology. Doctor Kelly Airey with Rapid City Regional Hospital performed the first procedure to place the pacemaker.  Her patient is impressed.

Paul Baldwin has had two traditional pacemakers to normalize and regulate his heartbeat. When his latest device’s battery was up for replacement, he talked with Dr. Kelly Airey about his options. Baldwin says she recommended a tiny pacemaker that’s self-contained within his heart.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting

West Nile has killed an elderly South Dakotan. State Health Department leaders say the person lived in Yankton County and was in the age range of 80 to 89. That case is one of dozens reported this summer, and officials looking to Labor Day expect even more infections.

South Dakota ended 2015 with 40 cases of West Nile Virus. State epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger says 2016 so far almost doubles last year’s total.

"We’re having a fairly heavy year this year with West Nile," Kightlinger says. "We’ve had 74 cases reported, and the number’s growing every day."

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakotans who don’t have insurance are more likely to skip cancer screenings. Figures from the South Dakota Department of Health show insurance status affects patients’ preventative care decisions.

Health leaders are examining cancer screening rates, and they say a stark division emerges when breaking down the numbers.

Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon leads South Dakota’s Department of Health. She says people without insurance receive fewer cancer screenings than people with health coverage.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Public safety officials say this year’s holiday weekend breaks a trend in fatal crashes on South Dakota roads. Lee Axdahl is director of the state’s Office of Highway Safety.

"We always head into Memorial Day weekend, which is the unofficial start of summer, with our fingers crossed, and this year that worked," Axdahl says. "Apparently, from the information that we have so far in South Dakota, we don't know of any roadway fatalities that have been reported in the state for the official Memorial Day weekend, which is good, because in 2014 we had six fatalities and in 2015 we had four."

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A Pierre man is alive because first responders used a medication to reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Officials credit the drug Narcan for saving the man’s life.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says emergency crews responded to a call in Pierre Monday night for a man who needed medical attention.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A United States Senator and a state lawmaker agree that the federal government is failing to provide adequate health care to Native Americans. United States Senator John Thune and South Dakota State Senator Troy Heinert see different solutions to ongoing problems with the Indian Health Service.

U-S  Senator Thune has legislation in Congress aimed at comprehensive reform for federal health services for Native Americans. He says the bill makes it easier to fire ineffective IHS leaders, examines whistle-blower protections, and requires fiscal accountability so patient care funds actually make it to patients.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The 42nd president was back on the campaign trail in South Dakota Friday – this time not for his own political race but for his wife. Former US President Bill Clinton spent time in Sioux Falls stumping for democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Pop music pumped through the speakers in Sioux Falls as people who waited in line excitedly filed into a space draped with stars and stripes, including massive flags. More than an hour and a half later, former president Bill Clinton took the stage.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Avera is launching the first South Dakota-based study to track twins. The health organization’s Institute for Human Genetics has partnered with the world’s leading twin registry out of the Netherlands for seven years. Now the Avera Twin Register will collect and analyze DNA from twins.

Doctor Dave Kapaska is the regional president and CEO of Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls. He highlights how people are fascinated by multiples as he introduces two Avera physicians who are twins and mixes them up in the process.

Crazy Horse School is receiving a federal grant worth $107,631 to help students cope with suicide on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This is the third grant from the US Department of Education to Pine Ridge schools after tribal leaders declared a state of emergency following a string of suicides.

Project SERV grants target schools where kids experience significant violent or traumatic events. The latest funding adds two counselors at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee to help restore the learning environment.

Secretary John King leads the US Department of Education.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

People in Delmont are marking the anniversary of a tornado that tore through the tiny town. The storm struck mid-morning on May 10, 2015. No one died, but several people were hurt, and the storm brought widespread damage to the southeast South Dakota community. Some residents are still rebuilding while others have left for good. 

One year ago, crews used machines to shove massive piles of broken boards, downed trees, and debris off the streets of Delmont. A tornado toppled cars, shattered windows, and decimated city landmarks.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A new study shows judicial reforms saved South Dakota $34 million in the first two years. Sweeping changes in mid-2013 included presumptive probation. That means judges sentencing people for low-level felonies keep offenders in communities instead of sending them to prison. Researchers from the Justice Policy Center say initial results are promising, but the work isn’t finished.

A new report indicates changes that keep more offenders out of prison are helping state coffers without risking public safety.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakotans list agriculture as the number one driver of economic development. That’s according to a recent survey that polled people nationally and gathered data in three separate states. Some people’s perceptions of the economy don’t jibe directly with information from businesses. 

A Wells Fargo and USA Today survey polled South Dakotans to find out which sectors they think contribute to a healthy economy. The top responses in order were agriculture, health care, education, construction, and retail.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A new study shows many children in South Dakota are vulnerable when it comes to poverty and hunger. The latest information from Feeding America shows some areas have up to four out of 10 kids who don’t know where they’ll get their next meal. The annual report is a detailed look at food insecurity in the state.

The latest data on hunger issues in South Dakota shows 12.4 percent of people in the state are food insecure. That number is unchanged from last year, but Kerri DeGraff with Feeding South Dakota says more South Dakotans are hungry.