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 

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.

mandaloo via Flickr / Creative Commons License

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.

spartacus pustota via flickr

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.

Andy Magee via Flickr

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. 

Hey Paul Studios via CC

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.

Geologue via Flickr

An environmental law firm in Santa Fe is petitioning the state Supreme Court to overturn a law that allows copper mines to pollute groundwater. 

As the law stands, companies can allow toxic drainage to seep into the groundwater beneath their copper mines, as long as the pollution stays within a designated perimeter. But New Mexico Environmental Law Center director Douglas Meiklejohn says that’s a violation of the state’s Water Quality Act.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM


The Asian Family Center in Albuquerque works to help immigrants overcome language barriers so they can access things like health care and education. Advocates there also say the stereotype that Asians are model immigrants can translate to a lack of services for the population. 

It’s 3:30 in the afternoon at the Japanese Kitchen, a sushi bar and Teppanyaki restaurant where chefs prepare the food on a tabletop grill. Employees ate their midday meals before service began again. 

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.