Marisa Demarco

Public Health New Mexico Reporter

Marisa Demarco is a journalist, musician and event curator based in Albuquerque, N.M. In December 2012, she co-founded the New Mexico Compass news website at nmcompass.com with Margaret Wright. Since then, she's helped build and launch several local websites. Demarco's spent more than a decade in journalism, editing and writing for the Weekly Alibi, the Albuquerque Tribune and UNM's Daily Lobo. Find Demarco around Albuquerque crusading for journalism, modern grassroots media, and radical, D.I.Y. art and music.

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  After mass-casualty shootings, the national debate often focuses on preventing people with mental illness from buying guns. But at the forum hosted by UNM’s Psychiatry Department this week, researchers said that might not be the smartest way to decrease gun violence in America—or in New Mexico.

Courtesy of Paul Ielacqua

KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting project has been investigating Albuquerque Police Department shooting deaths with an eye on behavioral health issues. This week, we’re looking at officer mental health.

Paul Ielacqua was an APD Aviation officer from 2001 to 2008 but has worked in law enforcement—at the Bernalillo County jail and Conchas Lake—since 1996. He talked to KUNM about how police handle their own mental wellness in high-stress situations.

Courtesy of Mary Jobe

When the Department of Justice report on the Albuquerque Police Department came out last year, it highlighted that interactions between officers and people with mental illnesses can be volatile. It also pointed to limited services. But what about the mental wellbeing of the officers?

On March 19, 2012, the call that came in to Albuquerque police was not an emergency.

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UPDATE Thursday 3/5 at 6 p.m.: KUNM Host Chris Boros and I just discussed the two abortion bills making their way to the House floor soon, including HB 391, which requires doctors to alert parents at least 48 hours before a minor gets an abortion, and HB 390, the

Substance abuse treatment is not available for everyone who needs it in New Mexico, and this shortage is at the root of some tragic altercations with police.

Mike Gomez met me in a park in Albuquerque, holding a framed photo of his son Alan. “He was a good kid, a normal kid,” he said. “He graduated high school on time. He was a Little League All-Star.”

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The use of solitary confinement on mentally ill inmates sparked expensive lawsuits in New Mexico in the last couple of years. Doña Ana County paid Stephen Slevin millions of dollars in 2013 after he spent almost two years in solitary confinement. A bill making its way through this legislative session could outlaw such lengthy stays in isolation. 

Arianna Sena

A former UNM student who said she was assaulted by two Lobo football players and a CNM student last year filed a lawsuit in District Court  against the university Thursday. The lawsuit alleges Title IX investigators at UNM protected the athletes by conducting a shoddy investigation. 

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Female inmates are the fastest-growing prison population in the state. New moms and pregnant women who are heading to jail could be affected by legislation proposed this session. 

Sen. Lisa Torraco’s bill would do two things: One, it would allow new moms to pump their breast milk while they’re in jail or prison, so it can be given to their babies. 

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The Bernalillo County Commission voted last night to postpone a tax hike for a special session that will likely happen next week. The one-quarter of 1 percent tax increase on goods and services would be divided up as follows: Half of it would go to mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and half of it would go to the county’s operational budget.

A New Mexico legislator is trying to help inmates sign up for Medicaid around the state. 

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Bernalillo Commissioners will vote Tuesday night on whether to increase taxes and increase mental health care in the county.

The gross receipts tax increase of one-eighth of a percent would generate $15 to $20 million. At the top of a mental health care wish list? A crisis center where people could go to be stabilized and plugged into services, instead of being arrested and sent to jail.  

Sylvia Fuentes

You’ve heard of James Boyd, the homeless man who was killed by Albuquerque police last year. But you might not have heard of Len Fuentes. He, too, was mentally ill when he brandished a knife and was shot and killed by APD.

Fuentes’ mom said she had found mental health care for her son, but it was three days too late.   

MDC Chief Phillip Greer

The Bernalillo County jail’s chief resigned more than nine months ago. Phillip Greer filled the position last month at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the 39th biggest jail in the country. Greer hails from Minnesota, where he was the executive director of corrections for three counties, and he has a background in assuring jails comply with national standards.  

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It’s his first month as attorney general and on Thursday, Jan. 29, Hector Balderas released the more than 300-page PCG audit that caused 15 behavioral health service providers to have their funding suspended. 

Since 2013, behavioral health providers in New Mexico have waited to see the details of accusations of Medicaid fraud leveled against them. 

  Attorney General Hector Balderas released a 339-page audit by Public Consulting Group that caused the suspension of funding for 15 behavioral health providers in New Mexico.

Read the released audit here.

Arizona firms were hired to provide behavioral health services, and local providers have said they were unable to see or refute the specific fraud allegations against them. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

In this era of modern medicine, the dying process can be prolonged. Can doctors legally prescribe fatal medications to terminally ill patients who request them?

That issue was at the heart of an Appeals Court hearing in New Mexico this week. 

Over the last 40 years, intensive care units and advances in medicine have stretched out the final days of our lives. Sometimes recovery is possible. But in other cases, it becomes a question of comfort.

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Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union will square off with the Attorney General's Office in court on Monday, Jan. 26, about whether terminally ill New Mexicans can choose to end their lives. 

District Court Judge Nan Nash ruled a year ago that physicians in New Mexico should be able to prescribe life-ending medications to terminally ill patients. This practice is called “aid in dying,” and the distinction is patients administer the medication themselves. 

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KUNM Call In Show Thu 1/22 8a: 

What options are available to survivors of on-campus sexual assault in New Mexico? How can we make campuses safer? What can be done to improve the way universities and colleges handle sexual assault?

We'd like to hear from you. Email callinshow@kunm.org, add your comments to this post, Tweet @KUNMHealth, or call in live during the show.

Guests:

Governor Susana Martinez outlined specifics for how New Mexico can better combat child abuse and neglect during her State of the State address today

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A drug called naloxone reversed more than 700 overdoses in New Mexico last year. But hurdles remain for making the drug more widely available. 

Naloxone—brand name Narcan—can be prescribed by pharmacists, not just doctors, and Medicaid covers the cost. In 2014, those big policy changes resulted in a spike of overdose reversals. 

Marisa Demarco

A city bus crashed into a house on the SE corner of the Girard and Coal intersection in Albuquerque a little after 10 a.m. this morning.

Five passengers were transported to UNM Hospital with injuries, none of which were life-threatening, said Rick De Reyes, spokesperson for the Transit Department. 

Bystanders, one of whom was a friend of the driver's, breathed a sigh of relief when the she was escorted off the bus and into an ambulance. 

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The Village Council of Corrales is calling on Congress to stop the overuse of antibiotics on industrial livestock operations. Corrales is a bucolic village north of Albuquerque, home to about 8,500 people, some of whom keep farm animals. 

    

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As cleanup of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant commences, folks down south remain concerned about transparency and oversight.

Marisa Demarco

  

When we get sick, most of us make an appointment with a doctor trained in Western medicine. But in New Mexico, for some ailments people might head to their local curandero, a practitioner of regional, traditional healing. And in parts of Mexico and South America, curanderismo is sometimes the only option for medical care.           

Screenshot from video provided by APD through an IPRA request

    

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 11/13 8a: 

The Department of Justice is requiring APD to figure out how to respond to people in mental health crisis with the goal of decreasing the use of force in those situations. The agreement between the DOJ and Albuquerque’s police force also calls for APD to provide crisis intervention training to all officers.

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News broke last weekend that Los Alamos National Laboratory took shortcuts when treating some nuclear waste headed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. One of the LANL waste drums sprang a radiation leak earlier this year, contaminating workers and closing the facility. 

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Members of a National Academy of Sciences committee presented a report on high incarceration rates at the State Bar of New Mexico this morning. The NAS says the growth in lockups in the United States is historically unprecedented and unlike any other country in the world.

The U.S. has too many people behind bars, according to the NAS report, and the high rate of imprisonment has surpassed any public safety benefit.

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The Human Services Department announced it would not begin demanding more New Mexicans on food stamps meet work requirements. The rule change was slated to go into effect at the beginning of this month, but a lawsuit filed by two nonprofits threw a wrench in the works. 

The lawsuit charged HSD with not following proper procedure in alerting people to the rule change—or posting the full and correct version of the work requirement—before it was adopted.

Arianna Sena

Two New Mexico Republicans hoping to oust incumbents in Congress were handed big defeats on election night despite their efforts. 

When we spoke Tuesday night in his campaign headquarters, Allen Weh was still hoping to overtake Sen. Tom Udall and win his Senate seat. Instead, the retired Marine colonel ended up trailing in the polls. He said he’ll be happy to get back to work as the head of CSI Aviation after the election, and he mused, briefly, on the political system in America. 

Marisa Demarco

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez secured a second term last night, beating her Democratic challenger Gary King handily. Martinez emphasized bipartisanship during her acceptance speech at the Marriott in Albuquerque, which was packed with Republicans from around the state.

As Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela introduced Gov. Martinez late Tuesday night, he focused on her heart—perhaps a nod to opponent Gary King’s maligned comment about the governor’s not being Latino enough. 

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