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 

NM Program Targets Teen Mental Health

Feb 25, 2013

Mental Health professionals at UNM hospital have introduced a new mental illness program. The Early Assessment and Resource Linkage for Youth, or EARLY is focused on early intervention. It's part of a national, ongoing study looking to curb psychosis, which they say is a threat to young adults and their communities.

A bill that would prohibit the mandatory enrollment of Native Americans in the states Medicaid managed care program, Centennial Care, has passed through the House Judiciary Committee unanimously.

Indian Health Service Prepares For Sequestration

Feb 15, 2013

With the possibility of sequestration two weeks away, the Indian Health Services says they could be facing large cuts to program funding. Those cuts could be disastrous for the Indian Health Service which is already dealing with a massively underfunded budget.

Centennial Care Tribal Opt-Out Clears Committee

Feb 14, 2013

A bill that would allow Medicaid eligible tribal citizens in New Mexico to opt-out of the states Medicaid plan, Centennial Care, has taken it’s first steps in the legislature. HB 376, which gives Native Americans the ability to opt-out of Centennial Care has passed out of committee.

Under the states proposed Medicaid program entitled Centennial Care, all Medicaid enrollees in the state would be required to enroll in one of four managed care organizations (MCO) to receive healthcare.

For New Mexico’s tribal population, this proposal is causing problems.

NCAI Calls For Action On Violence Against Women Act

Feb 14, 2013

During the annual State of Indian Nations address today, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Jefferson Keel called on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with tribal provisions - which have been one of the primary sticking points for House Republicans.

Citing safety concerns of tribal citizens, NCAI President Jefferson Keel said one in three Native women will be raped in their lifetime; four in ten will be abused by their partner; and that Native women are murdered at rates nearly 10 times the national average.

State Reports Two Deaths Related To Flu

Feb 13, 2013

The New Mexico Department of Health reports two children have died from flu in the state in the past month, bringing the number of influenza related deaths in New Mexico to 89 since the beginning of the flu season.

Dr. Chad Smelser is an epidemiologist with the Department of Health. He says the number of deaths this year is somewhat elevated in comparison to previous years.

Op Ed: A Jobs Plan For NM That Might Actually Work

Feb 13, 2013


There’s been lots of talk about economic recovery lately, but there’s no good news on the jobs front in New Mexico. Again and again, the business community pushes for corporate income tax cuts and job creation credits.  But there’s no evidence that either does anything but drain the treasury.  So far, we’ve been kissing out tax revenue goodbye, along with the jobs that Hewlett Packard moved to Mexico and the 200 we lost when Schott Solar shut down.

The momentum is picking up for legislation that would tighten background checks on gun sales, and it could be brought to the floor of the House this week.  The compromise bill has some Republican lawmakers' and the governor's support.


Albuquerque Representative Miguel P. Garcia is the sponsor of the bill which mandates background checks at gun shows and removes the provision to have the Department of Public Safety handle the checks.  Instead the onus would be placed on the gun seller to get approval of the sale.


District 1 Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, says the impending sequestration crisis will hurt New Mexico’s economy. The Democrat was in Albuquerque today to meet with defense contractors and local business leaders.

On March 1st, the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, will take effect. Congress postponed them to March 1 as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal at the beginning of January.

Lujan Grisham says the spending cuts are across the board with no regard to what’s working and what’s not.

Tribe On Way Toward Managing Medicaid Program

Feb 11, 2013

Navajo Nation officials say they are on their way toward managing their own federally funded Medicaid program.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that the nation began looking into creating its own Medicaid program about five years ago because of issues some members had with other health care programs available in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Navajo officials are optimistic that the tribe can sustain its own Medicaid program, even though a feasibility study wasn't as optimistic.

State Takes Another Step Toward Centennial Care

Feb 8, 2013
Parker Dennison

The New Mexico Human Services Department has announced the selection of four, new Centennial Care Managed Care Organizations responsible for providing healthcare to nearly 600,000 New Mexicans.

Medicaid is the public health insurance program for low-income people which currently serves about 560,000 New Mexicans, and will expand to include about 170,000 more come 2014. Centennial Care is the new name for New Mexico’s Medicaid program.

GOP Senator Introduces Bill To Help Homeless

Feb 8, 2013

New Mexico's homeless programs that help people get a fresh start could get a funding boost if a legislative bill wins approval in Santa Fe. 

Senate Bill 50 is sponsored by Albuquerque Republican Sander Rue.  He says as a member of the Mortgage Finance Authority interim committee, he wanted to do something to help homeless people and families hit hard by the recession.


New Mexico's congressional delegation has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education hoping to avoid a punitive reduction in Special Education funds to the state.  Officials say that the Feds could penalize the state close to 43 million dollars unless New Mexico is granted a waiver by the USDE.

The State needs the waivers because it slashed its portion of special education spending below the amount required to receive federal supplemental funding in 2010 and '11. 

Key points of the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard report that most New Mexicans live in asset poverty. In other words, they lack both financial assets, like bank accounts and homes, but also lack education and educational opportunities.

Congressman Ben R. Lujan is spending some time in his district that includes the northern and eastern parts of the state.  Tuesday he'll address state legislators. he also dropped by the studio to talk with our statehouse reporter Deborah Martinez.  Here's part one of that interview.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is withholding some Medicaid payments to hospitals while the state tries to resolve a funding dispute with the federal government.

State Human Services Department spokesman Matt Kennicott says the quarterly payments suspended in December affect several categories of funding that add up to $250 million annually.

Those funding categories include hospitals that are the sole providers in their community and hospitals that treat more uninsured patients.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A new computer system is skewing the data on unemployment claims in New Mexico.

The state's "fully integrated tax and claims system" launched Jan. 6. But because the switchover was done Jan. 1 to Jan. 6, those collecting unemployment were unable to re-certify or file new claims for unemployment from New Mexico during that time.

Because of the shutdown, the number of claims being reported to the federal government is way down.

povertyOMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Federal Reserve says U.S. farm income could decline in 2013, but it depends upon whether the drought continues.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo., said Thursday that if drought conditions persist, prices of corn and other crops would remain volatile because of tight supply. But if normal weather conditions return, crop prices would decline and lead to lower farm incomes.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A new report released by a nonprofit organization gives New Mexico a top ranking for providing breakfasts to low-income students at schools.

The report by the Food Research and Action Center says 70 percent of low-income students in New Mexico who receive lunch also got breakfasts during the 2011-2012 school year.

That's up from about 64 percent the year before.

The Albuquerque Journal ( ) says the report's rankings are the first since a new state law took effect.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An economist says one reason why New Mexico's unemployment rate is only 6.2 percent could be because some people leave the state to find work elsewhere.

University of New Mexico economist Lee Reynis says natural population growth and migration into the state increased the state's overall population in the 12 months ended last July.

But Reynis says that 7,500 more people moved out of the state than moved in during the same period.

A New Mexico children's advocacy group is hoping the latest statistics on child poverty rates, teen birth rates and math and reading proficiency will spur action by the state Legislature.

Officials with New Mexico Voices for Children and others gathered at the state capitol Tuesday to release the annual New Mexico Kids Count report.

It shows 42 percent of New Mexico children now live in single-parent households and the state ranks last when it comes to the reading proficiency of fourth graders.

Overall, New Mexico is ranked 49th in child well-being.

New Mexico's Republican Governor Susana Martinez has approved the expansion of the state's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Native American health advocates say the expansion will have a huge effect on one of the largest Native American populations in the nation.

Over 200,000 registered tribal members live in New Mexico - and with nearly 40% of that population lacking healthcare - it's estimated that over 25-thousand Native people in New Mexico will potentially be eligible for the program in 2014. 

Gov. Martinez Says Yes To Medicaid Expansion

Jan 9, 2013

New Mexico's Republican Governor Susana Martinez has approved the expansion of the state's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Native American health advocates say the expansion will have a huge effect on one of the largest Native American populations in the nation.

Over 200,000 registered tribal members live in New Mexico - and with nearly 40% of that population lacking healthcare - it's estimated that over 25-thousand Native people in New Mexico will potentially be eligible for the program in 2014. 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — If a Bernalillo County commissioner gets his way, the minimum wage in unincorporated areas of the county would increase to match the minimum wage now in effect in Albuquerque.

Commissioner Art De La Cruz says he plans later this month to propose raising the minimum wage in unincorporated areas to $8.50 an hour later.

That's the rate now in effect in Albuquerque as a result of a voter-approved ordinance that raised the rate from $7.50 an hour.

Nationally, Native American women are more likely to be killed, raped, assaulted and stalked than any other women in the country, according to federal crime and health data.  What’s more, the offenders are both native and non-native. There’s been a breakdown in traditional practices, lack of funding for services and when it comes to non-natives, tribes don’t have the authority to arrest them on their own lands. A controversial law offered solutions but never made it through Congress in 2012.  

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions will unveil its new website on Jan. 6.

The new site will allow thousands of unemployed people to electronically track their claims.  It will also help thousands of employers manage their employment insurance taxes.

"We are modernizing all of our business processes," said Celina Bussey, secretary of the Department of Workforce Solutions. "We are embracing technology."

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A health clinic in Las Cruces is getting a half-million-dollar grant to expand into the border community of Santa Teresa.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced Wednesday that La Clinica de Familia will receive a two-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to build a new health center next to Santa Teresa High School and strengthen its existing school-based health services. The funding comes from capital project outlays under the Affordable Care Act.

N.M. Still Struggles With Teen Pregnancy

Dec 19, 2012

Using Department of Health vital statistics, a map created by the New Mexico Data Collaborative, shows that teen pregnancy in the Albuquerque South Valley is almost three times the national average.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State University researchers have launched a study to examine obesity among NMSU students and employees.

Researchers recently developed an online survey aimed at finding out more on obesity and lifestyle factors of students and employees, especially in southern New Mexico. So far, the survey has found that 47 percent of NMSU and employee respondents self-reported as overweight or obese.

Tribal Leaders Worry About Future Of Medicaid

Dec 17, 2012

New Mexico has one of the largest Native American populations in the nation with over 200,000 registered tribal members and it’s estimated that nearly 40% lacks health insurance. New Mexico has announced it will build a state-run healthcare exchange under the Affordable Care Act. However, the state has yet to decide on whether to expand Medicaid, which could mean a lot of tribal members would suddenly have access to affordable healthcare.

Take Erik Lujan for example: At the age of 30, Lujan, a Taos Pueblo tribal member, began experiencing medical problems.