Public Health New Mexico

KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting project provides in-depth, investigative and continuous coverage of public health in New Mexico, with an emphasis on poverty. For all articles and web exclusive content, go to publichealthnm.org 

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  While students wait for the University of New Mexico to investigate their claims of sexual assault, sometimes their grades suffer, and the long process can be consuming. The holdup might be because civil rights investigators at UNM only recently had sexual assault cases added to their workload.   

Ed Williams

On Monday, the governor announced a two-week program offering free vaccinations to children before school starts.

 The Department of Health will run the program with money from the state’s general fund to cover vaccinations for uninsured children.

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Albuquerque’s Environment Department has denied the permit for a company to build a hot-mix asphalt plant near a wildlife refuge in the South Valley.

The department was slated to hold hearings about the plant, but before those were set, found that Albuquerque Asphalt’s plan could generate contaminant levels that exceed air quality standards.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

The traditional healing method known as curanderismo has been passed down through generations in this region, and practitioners from Mexico and around the state gathered Wednesday on the University of New Mexico campus.

Ed Williams

During the Cold War, the Navajo Nation found itself in the middle of a uranium mining boom. Today, more than 500 mines on the reservation are shut down or abandoned—but the pollution they left behind is still very much there. 

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More than one in five New Mexicans is on food stamps—that’s almost half a million people. Advocates are concerned that coming changes could force people off the federally funded program, and many religious folks are speaking out against the possible new rules. Faith leaders don’t see feeding the hungry as a partisan issue but rather as a basic tenet of their faith.  

Washington and Jefferson College

People in Albuquerque are spending more of their paycheck​s​ on rent than ​people in places like New York ​and​ San Francisco​. We'll look at why people in the Duke City, and in parts of northern New Mexico, are spending so much on housing. ​Do you spend a large chunk of your ​paycheck​ on ​rent​?​ ​How does this impact your household budget? We'd like to hear from you! 

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An environmental watchdog group is criticizing a decision by the state of New Mexico to join a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. The suit claims the EPA overreached its authority with a new rule that gives more streams and tributaries federal pollution protection.

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New Mexico’s auditor identified more than $4.5 billion in unspent state funds earlier this year. Now a national agency wants to see some of that money go to a program for people with disabilities.

It’s known as the DD Waiver, and it’s a program that helps folks with developmental disabilities get services. But the waiting list is up to 10 years long.

Sheila Stephenson

Mental health care and substance abuse treatment here has been in flux since Medicaid payments to providers were frozen in 2013. And two counselors are striking out on their own in a rural part of the state.

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U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich announced Monday that he will propose legislation to address poverty across multiple generations. 

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If you are a member of the Navajo Nation with respiratory problems and you live near the Four Corners Power Plant, you may have more access to health care soon.

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Some New Mexicans may have been dropped by mistake from a federal program that aims to help people pay their phone bills.

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Albuquerque’s City Council will consider an ordinance in August aimed at helping part-time workers, but small business owners and employers say it’s unrealistic. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Around the country, pedestrian deaths are most common in low-income areas. And New Mexico has had the highest average rate of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. for the last few years, according to the CDC. 

Looking Within Report

Residents of McKinley County in northwestern New Mexico have long complained of health problems associated with uranium mining. A new study looks at the health impacts the uranium mining industry may have caused there.

Nearly 100 of the 520 abandoned uranium mines on Navajo land are in McKinley County. That area is also home to the decades-old Church Rock Tailings Spill, one of the worst radioactive disasters in American history.

Bernalillo County rejected the application this week of a Florida company, Humic Growth Solutions, that wants to build a fertilizer plant next to a residential neighborhood south of Albuquerque.  

Zoning Administrator Juanita Garcia issued her decision Tuesday, saying the information the company provided in its application was too vague, and did not address the health and safety concerns of people living nearby.

US EPA

KUNM Call In Show 6/18 8a: 

There are well over 100 abandoned uranium mines in New Mexico, and most of them are on Navajo land. Many communities are still dealing with the health and environmental consequences of uranium contamination from mines that haven’t been cleaned up.

What has uranium mining meant for your community? What should the state, tribal and federal governments be doing to fix the problem?

We’ll be asking those questions this week and we'd like to hear from you! Email callinshow@kunm.org, post comments online or call in live during the show.  

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Women looking to vaccinate themselves against a cancer-causing virus usually have to take three trips to the doctor’s office. But researchers are looking into more efficient ways of delivering protection.

Two types of the sexually transmitted infection HPV, or human papillomavirus, cause three quarters of all cervical cancers. And a research paper published this month shows that it may only take a single dose of vaccine to prevent them.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Sudden cardiac arrest hits hundreds of thousands of people of all around the country, and it affects folks of all-ages, even those with no other illnesses or obvious symptoms. A new program in the state is training people to know what to do when it happens.  

Ed Williams

Bernalillo County is considering a Florida company’s proposal to build a fertilizer plant near a residential neighborhood. The proposal has neighbors worried about impacts to health and traffic.

The company, Humic Growth Solutions of Jacksonville, wants to manufacture humic acid fertilizer at the site of an old paint warehouse south of Albuquerque.

The property is zoned for heavy industry, but there are homes about 100 feet away. That has neighbors like Marisol Archuleta worried.

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A survey by the Associated Press has revealed that fewer abortions are happening around the country, and New Mexico is among the six states that have seen the biggest drop. 

The abortion rate fell by almost a full quarter—24 percent—in New Mexico since 2010, according to the AP. 

Lalita Russ, a field organizer with Planned Parenthood here, said it’s important to note that the decline happened both in states that did not pass laws to limit access to abortion—and those that did.

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Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall joined 28 other Democratic senators and two independents in sending a letter Friday to the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They support new federal rules that would require lenders to check if customers could actually pay back their loans. The rules would also restrict the ways creditors could collect on debts.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

  Since the ’70s, people have been homesteading on the mesa near Albuquerque, just south of the proposed Santolina development. Bernalillo County says without official roads and permits, these Pajarito Mesa structures are illegal, but families are fighting to keep their homes.  

Scattered across Pajarito Mesa’s 18 thousand acres are gutted trailers, piles of tires battered by the sun and sandy dirt trails. Somewhere around 800 people are making a go of it here, despite the lack of modern conveniences like running water or an electrical grid. But there’s another side to the mesa. 

Ed Williams

New Mexico’s first long-term addiction recovery center tailored specifically to teenagers and young adults, Serenity Mesa, opened its doors this week.

Up until now, youth in the state who are struggling with addiction could go to detox, short-term rehab, or jail, but then they get released without continuing support. Serenity Mesa founder Jen Weiss says that’s led to a lot of relapses.

Ed Williams

It’s a peaceful scene on the banks of the Rio Grande south of Albuquerque, with ducks paddling on the slow moving current and the breeze rustling the willows at the water’s edge. But not all is well with the river, says Rich Schrader of the conservation group River Source. He’s out analyzing water samples with students, and there’ve been some troubling results—mainly, the turbidity, or murkiness, of the water.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Just about every woman who finds herself behind bars in New Mexico will get out eventually. The question is, will she be able to restart her life, rejoin her family? There aren’t enough services in this state for all the women who want to break the cycles that landed them in jail or prison.

Ed Williams

Stormwater is a major source of pollution in the Rio Grande. The U.S. Geological Survey released a nine-year study of stormwater in the Albuquerque area last week, finding high concentrations of pollutants in the city’s arroyos.

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Some of the money from the Department of Energy’s settlement with New Mexico following a radiation leak at a nuclear waste storage facility last year will go to address stormwater issues at Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

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May is Teen Pregnancy Awareness Month, and since 2000 our state has seen its teen birth rate fall nearly 50 percent for teens age 15 to 17. 

A lot of factors contribute to the drop in teenage parenthood in New Mexico, like expanded access through Medicaid and improvement in birth control.

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