Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate

Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Advocate

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.

Parents of transgender Arkansas minors testify in favor of gender-affirming care

By: - October 18, 2022

Donnie Saxton said his son Parker’s depression returned in May 2021 when the Arkansas Legislature was about to pass a bill that would become Act 626. “He said, ‘I feel like we’ve done all this for nothing,’” referring to Parker’s gender transition process so far, Donnie Saxton said. Act 626 bans gender-affirming medical care for […]

Federal trial over Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care underway

By: - October 17, 2022

This story was updated at 11:26 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, to include additional comments. The federal trial challenging Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors began Monday with testimony from medical professionals with years of experience treating people, including minors, with gender dysphoria. Act 626 of 2021, or the Save Adolescents From Experimentation […]

Law banning care for transgender youth in Arkansas will go on trial Monday

By: - October 14, 2022

Arkansas’ currently blocked ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender minors will go on trial in federal court Monday in Little Rock. Several transgender minors, their parents and two doctors who provide gender-affirming care challenged the 2021 law in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. U.S. District Judge James Moody will […]

$1M from opioid settlement will bolster drug treatment courts in Arkansas

By: - October 11, 2022

Arkansas will direct $1 million of the $5.4 million it received from last year’s multi-state settlement with consulting giant McKinsey & Co. to the state’s 49 drug treatment courts, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Tuesday. “With this additional funding, it is my hope that the Administrative Office of the Courts can continue to successfully rehabilitate […]

AG’s Medicaid fraud watchdog arrested 51, convicted 33 in fiscal year 2022

By: - October 6, 2022

Arkansas’ Medicaid fraud watchdog saw its most active year in fiscal 2022, which ended Sept. 30, racking up 51 arrests and 33 convictions for various types of Medicaid fraud, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Thursday. The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit also brought in a record of more than $42.5 million in civil settlements, restitution and […]

Arkansas joins national maternal health care alliance

By: - October 3, 2022

Arkansas recently became the 48th state to join a national maternal health support organization that provides evidence-based standards of medical care to pregnant people, with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas Department of Health spearheading the move. States qualify for enrollment in the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) by […]

Little Rock housing complex facing AG lawsuit pleads no contest to city code violations

By: - October 3, 2022

Management of a housing complex facing a state lawsuit pleaded no contest to several city code violations Monday in Little Rock environmental court. Sylvester Smith, the attorney representing Big Country Chateau, said about 90% of the “life and safety issues” at the complex have been resolved. The issues include mold, broken windows, scattered garbage and […]

Little Rock housing authority failed to follow spending and contracting rules, HUD finds

By: - October 3, 2022

Little Rock’s public housing agency routinely failed to comply with federal, state and its own purchasing rules, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD’s Departmental Enforcement Center reviewed samples of two and a half years of contracts and financial documents from the Housing Authority of the City of […]

Arkansas Senate suspends Clark for “frivolous” complaint, changes rules for future ethics filings

By: - September 27, 2022

The Arkansas Senate voted to sanction Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale), who was not present at Tuesday’s Senate meeting, for filing a “spurious, frivolous and retaliatory” ethics complaint against Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff). The 26-4 vote came after three Senate Ethics Committee meetings and two full Senate meetings, bringing an end to several weeks of […]

Most Arkansas pregnancy center grant applicants awarded requested state funds

By: - September 26, 2022

Twelve of the 16 applicants for Arkansas’ $1 million grant program meant to assist pregnancy resource centers will receive the full amounts requested in August, according to data the state Department of Finance and Administration released Monday. Two organizations will only get some of the money they requested, and the final two will get none, […]

Pregnancy centers outline advertising plans in Arkansas grant applications

By: - September 23, 2022

Many of the Arkansas crisis pregnancy centers that applied for state funding hope to use the money for digital advertising, including targeted ads aimed at Arkansans who might have an unplanned pregnancy, according to the applications. Applicants also hope to use a portion of the taxpayer-funded grant to pay for physical advertising, rent and utilities, […]

Mold, sewage, broken appliances among tenants’ problems in properties whose owner faces AG lawsuit

By: - September 20, 2022

Nick and Amy Black’s son, August, already had a persistent cough by the time he was two months old. Their pediatrician said the baby is allergic to the mold in the family’s Little Rock apartment. It’s what makes Amy “the most mad” about their living situation at Big Country Chateau, which has had a plethora […]