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 

insunlight via Flickr / Creative Commons License


For hundreds of people in New Mexico, getting out of jail or prison hinges on whether there’s a bed in a halfway house, a slot in a treatment program or space in a mental health facility. Until a spot opens up, they remain behind bars, and it costs taxpayers thousands of extra dollars while they wait.

Ed Williams


Santiago Maestas has been growing fruits and vegetables on a small plot of land in the South Valley for over 40 years. He's standing by a centuries-old acequia near Isleta Boulevard south of Albuquerque—a modest, earthen ditch carrying slow-moving irrigation water away from the Rio Grande and into fields and gardens. / Creative Commons License

A Las Cruces behavioral health provider will take over clients of La Frontera, an Arizona firm that is shutting down its New Mexico offices.

Matt Kennicott from the state Human Services Department says many staff members from La Frontera are applying to work at La Clinica de Familia and that that will make the transition go smoothly.

"People who are seeing their current providers will continue seeing their providers even after the switching of companies is made," Kennicott said.

Mike Tungate via Flickr / Creative Commons License

KUNM Call In Show 5/7 8a: 

Bernalillo County commissioners are considering a residential development plan to build almost 40,000 new homes west of Albuquerque. Developers say it’s a smart, efficient way to plan for population growth and boost the local economy—but critics say it will hurt public health and burden dwindling water supplies. We’ll talk with Santolina’s planning team, public health researchers and South Valley farmers. 

Mark Bray via Flickr / Creative Commons License

The sound of city garbage trucks cruising the streets is familiar to most of us. But it’s a sound many people in Albuquerque’s North Valley are worried they’ll be hearing too much of, if the city’s proposal to build a trash center here goes through. Neighbors like Peggy Norton say the plan is a threat to the surrounding area.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

On a huge stretch of mesa to the Southwest of Albuquerque, people have built dwellings. These homesteaders on Pajarito Mesa say when they call for emergency services, help isn’t always on its way.   

There are questions about the legality of land-ownership or even whether people should be living in this part of Bernalillo County. Some county officials say they don’t want to encourage anyone to move there by providing services.   

Bruce Wetherbee

How clean was the hospital when you were there? How well did nurses and doctors explain things to you? When answering these questions, people in New Mexico ranked state facilities poorly, according to federal survey data that was just released. Local union members say that’s because hospitals like the one in Santa Fe run on staffs that are too small in order to pinch pennies.

Nimfolb via Flickr / Creative Commons License

KUNM Call In Show 4/30 8a: 

Several VA healthcare facilities in New Mexico are some of the worst in the nation when it comes to wait times for appointments and case backlogs. We'll find out what veterans are experiencing when they try to get medical care, in VA facilities and elsewhere.

We'd like to hear from you! Email, post your comments online or call in live during the show. 


Marisa Demarco / KUNM

The health care employees union used a Santa Fe hospital’s low patient rating as grounds to call for help from city officials on Friday morning. 

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center did worse than most hospitals in the state in recent patient surveys, scoring only two of five stars.

Samantha Celera via CC

The state's Veterans Affairs Health Care System set up a hotline to help people speed up appointments. It was going to expire Thursday but has been extended for another two weeks.

The hotline was established earlier this month after news broke that four VA medical facilities in New Mexico had some of the longest waits for health care in the country.

Veterans with appointments scheduled out 30 days or more can call 505-222-3351 to find alternatives. The hotline will be live through Thursday, May 7. Find out more at


Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department is going to hold hearings on a proposal to build an around-the-clock hot-mix asphalt plant less than half a mile from the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in the South Valley. The department received 156 public comments on the plan. 

Ed Williams-KUNM

About one hundred people showed up to a City of Albuquerque public meeting Tuesday on a proposal to build a trash transfer center in the North Valley.

Under the proposal garbage trucks would drop the city’s trash at a 75,000 square foot waste transfer station at the corner of Edith and Griegos - then larger trucks would haul the trash off to the dump.

Jane Foster lives in the neighborhood and, like many who attended, says she worries the plan will harm people living nearby.

triller14 via CC

Before you try a new restaurant, you might check out reviews to see what other customers thought of the place. Now you can do that with hospitals, too. But our state’s hospitals aren’t stacking up so well.

Using audio and video files obtained from the Albuquerque Policy Department, KUNM's public health project is investigating officer-involved shootings with an eye on mental health, substance abuse, poverty and post-traumatic stress disorder. It's part of a larger conversation about where health intersects with the criminal justice system and public policy.

The use of solitary confinement on people with mental illness is costing counties millions of dollars. The most famous example is Stephen Slevin, who was awarded $22 million after spending nearly two years in solitary in the Doña Ana County jail. KUNM's Public Health New Mexico Project developed a three-part series on the use of segregation around the state, looking at jails, prisons, mental health and incarceration, and recidivism. 


KUNM Reporting Series

Apr 15, 2015

The Rio Grande runs through three states, and all along the way communities use the river’s waters for drinking, crop irrigation, and for Native American religious ceremonies. But with New Mexico’s biggest urban centers and military bases—and the substantial pollution they generate—near to the riverbanks, how safe is the Rio Grande for people and wildlife?

Leo Reynolds via CC

Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill today that makes it so people seeking health care can find out what different routine procedures cost at hospitals around the state. Fourteen other states have these websites.

Patients will be able to shop around and find the best deal on medical procedures—and see which hospitals perform them best—when a new public website goes up. Prices of vary drastically from hospital to hospital, according to Think New Mexico’s Fred Nathan, and unveiling the price tags actually drives costs down.


This week Governor Susana Martinez signed a pair of bills aimed at addressing New Mexico’s nurse shortage by making more financial aid available for educators. 

Registered nurses who will become medical instructors can now use the Nurse Educators Fund to get a higher degree.

Ed Williams

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority announced Wednesday that it’s building more backup safety systems at the wastewater treatment plant following a massive spill of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande.

Contreleurope via CC

New Mexico still had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. last year, but the good news is that it’s declining—here and in the rest of the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a recommendation this week for how to drop the rate even further.

Wild Earth Guardians via flickr

Mora County was the first county in the United States to ban the practice of fracking. But, last week, commissioners there unanimously voted to overturn the ban.

Last week’s vote repealed a 2013 ordinance passed by the county commission that said fracking was a violation of the community’s right to clean air and water.

The public comment period ends Saturday, April 4, about an asphalt plant that could go in near a wildlife reserve in the South Valley. Albuquerque Asphalt applied for a permit to build at hot-mix asphalt plant, and neighbors are concerned that the site for the plant is too close to the Valle de Oro Wildlife Refuge. It’s a little more than half a mile away.

Intel Free Press / Wikimedia Commons

KUNM Call In Show 4/2 8a:

With high rates of illnesses like diabetes or addiction, rural New Mexicans have some of the most pressing medical needs in the state. But those same residents have the most trouble getting the health care they need. We'll dig into the health needs in rural New Mexico and explore how the Internet is being used to fill some gaps.

We'd like to hear from you! Email, post your comments online or call in live during the show. 


Auntie P. via Compfight CC

The weather’s warming up, but flu season’s not quite over. Even if you already had the flu this season, if you feel ill, you could have it again. A second virus is making its way around New Mexico. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

An Arizona nonprofit that came to New Mexico after the 2013 behavioral health shakeup called it quits on March 31 after less than two years. 

Turquoise Health and Wellness was the main provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment to several cities in Southeast New Mexico. Not anymore. Human Services Department spokesperson Matt Kennicott said since the company gave its 90-day closure notice, the state has been working with communities to find replacements.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

After less than two years serving southeastern New Mexico, a behavioral health provider will shutter its programs on March 31, leaving hundreds without services.

What does this mean for Roswell and its courts, which were ordering offenders into treatment there?

Judge Freddie Romero presides over the drug court for juveniles in Chaves County. It’s not what you might imagine. The judge is warm and friendly. The kids who approach the podium with their parents in tow are everyday teenagers—jeans, T shirts, the occasional piercing.

Arianna Sena

Psychiatric Meds In School—PASSED

wcn227 via Flickr

The Obama administration announced broad new federal regulations of hydraulic fracturing last week. The rules will only apply to drilling on public land — which in New Mexico accounts for around half of all oil and gas operations.

The new regulations announced by the Interior Department allow for federal inspections of drill sites and require public disclosure of fracking chemicals, among other things.   

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Advocates have tried since 2011 to pass a bill that would create a new breed of mid-level dental care providers in New Mexico. It passed the state’s House of Representatives on Monday for the first time ever on a bipartisan vote. If the Senate gives it a thumb’s up before the session ends on Saturday at noon, it could mean a big change for dentistry.