Marisa Demarco

Public Health New Mexico Reporter

Marisa Demarco is a reporter and musician based in Albuquerque, N.M. She's spent more than a decade in journalism, founding the New Mexico Compass, and editing and writing for the Weekly Alibi, the Albuquerque Tribune and UNM's Daily Lobo. She covers poverty and public health for KUNM. 

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How quickly criminal cases work their way through the system has a big impact on defendants’ lives. And it’s been a little over a year since the state Supreme Court first set deadlines to speed things up and clear thousands of backlogged cases in Bernalillo County, the state’s busiest judicial district. The criminal justice system is still adjusting.

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More than half a million people in the state make use of food stamps. Federal judges ordered the state on Monday, March 7, to halt work requirements for the program.  

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The Legislature found more money for health care this year than it did last year, but it’s still not enough to cover the costs of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. A group of advocates and associations from all corners of the health care system met on Friday to grapple with the projected shortfall.

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A congressional panel investigating fetal tissue exchange held its first hearing this week, and among the topics of debate: Should institutions be forced to turn over a list of names of the people involved? Officials at the University of New Mexico have expressed concerns about doing so.

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The state’s Medicaid Advisory Committee is meeting Friday afternoon in Santa Fe to talk about budget shortfalls. 

One lawmaker called it the tightest budget in memory after the legislative session ended last month. And advocates are warning that Medicaid will be millions short, which could mean higher fees for low-income patients, lower rates for providers and limited job growth in the health care field. About 40 percent of the state’s population is covered by Medicaid after the expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

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A congressional committee that is investigating abortion providers nationally that supply fetal tissue to researchers asked several clinics to hand over documents. On Monday, an Albuquerque clinic provided just about all of the info that was requested—except for one thing.

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New Mexico has one of the highest overdose death rates in the country, and recent spikes in the state’s numbers have been linked to the abuse of prescription opiates. But a drug that reverses overdoses is about to become more widely available.

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Behavioral health funding in New Mexico took about a $4 million hit at the end of last week’s legislative session. But the Human Services Department may have asked for even less money than that.

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The legislative session ended at noon on Thursday, Feb. 18, and even though funding was scarce, lawmakers found money to process sexual assault evidence that’s been piling up around the state. 

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In the final hours of the 2016 session, lawmakers are scrambling to push legislation through and finish the budget. Several measures would address the almost 5,500 untested rape kits in the state, including one that creates a task force to help survivors and ensure their rights.

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Changes to the way the courts handle bail passed both chambers of the state Legislature as of Wednesday morning and will be on the ballot in November. 

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More than 20 organizations joined together Tuesday to call on lawmakers not to cut funding for behavioral health services. 

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In the final days of the 2016 session, lawmakers are trying to figure out how to deal with a tight budget caused by plummeting oil and gas prices. 

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UPDATED 2/16 7a:

Several groups that were in favor of a bail reform measure are yanking their support after a House committee amended it Monday, Feb. 15. 

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KUNM Call In Show Thu. 2/18 8a: 

  

The state’s attorney general cleared just about all of the providers accused of Medicaid fraud a couple of years ago—but the news didn’t come soon enough to keep many of their doors open.

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UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that New Mexico House Republicans and Senate Democrats say they have reached a compromise on a bail reform proposal.

Both sides spoke Friday at a press conference, with Republican Rep. David Adkins saying the bill crafted by Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat, is the "right piece of legislation to support."

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Presbyterian Medical Services was cleared of fraud allegations by the Attorney General’s Office on Monday. The nonprofit won’t be getting a refund on millions it paid to stay open after the state made those accusations in 2013.

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Ten behavioral health agencies were cleared of fraud on Monday, Feb. 8, by the New Mexico attorney general. The AG’s Office found no deliberate pattern of abuse.

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When Native American people move to Albuquerque from more rural parts of the state, some say the transition can be tough. And a community center that provides basic resources is in danger of shutting its doors. 

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There were 5,406 untested sexual assault evidence kits in the state at the end of last year, according to the state auditor. A pair of bills to tackle the problem cleared their first hurdles on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

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The state Legislature is working up a budget, and one proposal on the table would cut more than $8 million from behavioral health services. Residents who’ve been deeply affected by drug use in their communities called on lawmakers Saturday, Jan. 30, not to cut the funding that combats it.

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The rate of drug overdose deaths—nationally and statewide—is racing up the charts, echoing HIV trends of 30 years ago, according to the CDC. That’s why demonstrators in Santa Fe on Saturday asked legislators not to erode resources that fight substance abuse. 

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In the latest round of the ongoing fight about food stamps, a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Jan. 27, aims to halt new work requirements. 

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The Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial. But how speedy is speedy? The Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday, Jan. 27, to alter controversial rules that sped up criminal cases in the state’s most populous county. 

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The James Boyd killing two years ago spurred voters to increase taxes and spend additional millions every year on behavioral health in Bernalillo County. Now, there's a new roadmap for those funds.

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A community center that’s helped thousands of urban Native Americans in this region over the last two decades is facing possible closure. 

The Albuquerque Indian Center is known for providing culturally sensitive services tailored to the needs of Native Americans. On an average morning there, people dig through piles of donated clothes in the main room, look over free bread in the kitchen and drop in to check their mail. 

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Hundreds of hospitals around the country—even the famous Mayo Clinic—are being fined in 2016 because of safety concerns, and six in New Mexico will be facing that fine, too.

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A law in Texas that opponents say could cause the shutdown of all but 10 abortion clinics there is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court in early March. In the meantime, some women seeking the procedure have been coming to neighboring New Mexico instead.

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Local gun safety advocates are applauding President Obama’s executive orders on guns, which include requiring gun dealers to be licensed and to do background checks on their customers.

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The number of people who are behind bars in America is much bigger than it was 40 years ago. In fact, it’s five times higher. That means a lot more parents are doing time, and having a record can limit people’s ability to get a job, find a place to live and provide for their kids. A local program is trying to help dads get around the obstacles and back on track with their families.

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