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 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

There have been more than 300,000 civilian gun deaths in the United States in the last 10 years. That’s right up there with the number of military casualties in the nation’s biggest wars. The country's surgeon general says gun violence is a public health issue.

But in rural parts of New Mexico, many people use guns as tools in their daily lives. 

"This is my 12-gauge shotgun, and I’ll say it’s definitely the most versatile tool in the gun cabinet," Billy Ogle said. "And you can take anything from the smallest game to the largest game in North America down."

Curtis Gregory Perry via CC

  After mass-casualty shootings, the national debate often focuses on preventing people with mental illness from buying guns. But at the forum hosted by UNM’s Psychiatry Department this week, researchers said that might not be the smartest way to decrease gun violence in America—or in New Mexico.

Courtesy of Paul Ielacqua

KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting project has been investigating Albuquerque Police Department shooting deaths with an eye on behavioral health issues. This week, we’re looking at officer mental health.

Paul Ielacqua was an APD Aviation officer from 2001 to 2008 but has worked in law enforcement—at the Bernalillo County jail and Conchas Lake—since 1996. He talked to KUNM about how police handle their own mental wellness in high-stress situations.

Courtesy of Mary Jobe

When the Department of Justice report on the Albuquerque Police Department came out last year, it highlighted that interactions between officers and people with mental illnesses can be volatile. It also pointed to limited services. But what about the mental wellbeing of the officers?

On March 19, 2012, the call that came in to Albuquerque police was not an emergency. via CC

UPDATE Thursday 3/5 at 6 p.m.: KUNM Host Chris Boros and I just discussed the two abortion bills making their way to the House floor soon, including HB 391, which requires doctors to alert parents at least 48 hours before a minor gets an abortion, and HB 390, the

Ed Williams-KUNM

Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant spilled nearly 6 million gallons of partially treated sewage into the Rio Grande last Friday. Public Health New Mexico’s Ed Williams reports there was an equipment failure at one of the plant’s pumping facilities.

Officials with the Southside Wastewater Reclamation Plant say there was a spike in power during last week’s heavy snowstorm. That power spike disabled a pump station.

Plant Operations Manager Charles Leder says backup systems should have protected the facility from power fluctuations.

Ed Williams

High interest, small dollar loans are abundant in New Mexico. Businesses offer quick cash payments for people who need money right away. But the interest rates on these loans can be as high as two thousand percent, and many people are unable to pay them off.   

This is especially true in the state's low-income communities. Statewide, storefront lending businesses outnumber fast food chain restaurants.

Ed Williams

We recently published the first two stories in an ongoing series on pollution and the Rio Grande in which we plan to explore a range of topics and issues.

ChrisGoldNY via Flickr

KUNM Call In Show 3/5 8a: 

Critics say short term loans trap New Mexicans in a cycle of poverty. Often borrowers end up paying more than the amount of the loan in interest. But lending industry supporters say people who take out storefront loans know exactly what they are getting into and that there aren't other easy ways to get small loans quickly.

State lawmakers in Santa Fe are considering changes to how the storefront loan industry is regulated. Should we let the free market work it out or do New Mexicans need protection from what some call predatory lending? 

AHealthBlog via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Another Arizona-based behavioral health provider is planning to shut down operations in New Mexico. La Frontera is one of five nonprofits that took over for local providers accused of fraud. Turquoise Health and Wellness announced earlier this year they would close their New Mexico offices on April 1st.

Substance abuse treatment is not available for everyone who needs it in New Mexico, and this shortage is at the root of some tragic altercations with police.

Mike Gomez met me in a park in Albuquerque, holding a framed photo of his son Alan. “He was a good kid, a normal kid,” he said. “He graduated high school on time. He was a Little League All-Star.” via CC

The use of solitary confinement on mentally ill inmates sparked expensive lawsuits in New Mexico in the last couple of years. Doña Ana County paid Stephen Slevin millions of dollars in 2013 after he spent almost two years in solitary confinement. A bill making its way through this legislative session could outlaw such lengthy stays in isolation. 

Arianna Sena

A former UNM student who said she was assaulted by two Lobo football players and a CNM student last year filed a lawsuit in District Court  against the university Thursday. The lawsuit alleges Title IX investigators at UNM protected the athletes by conducting a shoddy investigation. 

Rita Daniels

Businesses, military bases and city utilities have dozens of permits to release pollution into the Rio Grande watershed. Albuquerque’s wastewater treatment plant is one of the biggest sources of discharges into the river.

The plant has had trouble with regulators and neighboring communities in the past, but they’re making some headway. 

On a recent sunny day in Albuquerque’s South Valley, water utility workers bent over a grate taking readings of the city’s treated wastewater as it rushes from the Southside Water Reclamation Plant into the Rio Grande.

Ed Williams-KUNM


Editor's Note: After we published this story, a spokesperson for Kirtland Air Force Base wrote with a series of objections to the story. Kirtland did not allege any factual inaccuracy in our story but we did make a change to reflect that Kirtland's lead discharges into the Rio Grande watershed are not in violation of environmental laws. You can read all of their objections and our responses here


josemanuelerre / Creative Commons

Female inmates are the fastest-growing prison population in the state. New moms and pregnant women who are heading to jail could be affected by legislation proposed this session. 

Sen. Lisa Torraco’s bill would do two things: One, it would allow new moms to pump their breast milk while they’re in jail or prison, so it can be given to their babies. / Creative Commons License

The Bernalillo County Commission voted last night to postpone a tax hike for a special session that will likely happen next week. The one-quarter of 1 percent tax increase on goods and services would be divided up as follows: Half of it would go to mental health and substance abuse treatment services, and half of it would go to the county’s operational budget.

A New Mexico legislator is trying to help inmates sign up for Medicaid around the state. 

SilverGryphon8 via CC

Bernalillo Commissioners will vote Tuesday night on whether to increase taxes and increase mental health care in the county.

The gross receipts tax increase of one-eighth of a percent would generate $15 to $20 million. At the top of a mental health care wish list? A crisis center where people could go to be stabilized and plugged into services, instead of being arrested and sent to jail.  

Sylvia Fuentes

You’ve heard of James Boyd, the homeless man who was killed by Albuquerque police last year. But you might not have heard of Len Fuentes. He, too, was mentally ill when he brandished a knife and was shot and killed by APD.

Fuentes’ mom said she had found mental health care for her son, but it was three days too late.   

MDC Chief Phillip Greer

The Bernalillo County jail’s chief resigned more than nine months ago. Phillip Greer filled the position last month at the Metropolitan Detention Center, the 39th biggest jail in the country. Greer hails from Minnesota, where he was the executive director of corrections for three counties, and he has a background in assuring jails comply with national standards.  

Environmental Protection Agency

The Navajo Nation is set to receive over a billion dollars to clean up abandoned uranium mines on tribal land. The money comes after years of court battles with mining companies.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It’s his first month as attorney general and on Thursday, Jan. 29, Hector Balderas released the more than 300-page PCG audit that caused 15 behavioral health service providers to have their funding suspended. 

Since 2013, behavioral health providers in New Mexico have waited to see the details of accusations of Medicaid fraud leveled against them. 

Ed Williams-KUNM

Two local nonprofits are leading a survey of the Albuquerque’s homeless population this week. Teams of volunteers are canvassing the streets in the pre-dawn hours to count homeless residents and interview them.

There were almost 1,200 homeless Albuquerque residents last time the count took place, and organizers are hoping there are even fewer people to count this year. via CC

Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union will square off with the Attorney General's Office in court on Monday, Jan. 26, about whether terminally ill New Mexicans can choose to end their lives. 

District Court Judge Nan Nash ruled a year ago that physicians in New Mexico should be able to prescribe life-ending medications to terminally ill patients. This practice is called “aid in dying,” and the distinction is patients administer the medication themselves. 

Ed Williams-KUNM

Lawmakers are set to consider a proposal that would give homeless people protection under the state hate crimes act. Under the proposal anyone convicted of violent crimes against a homeless person—for example someone who lacks a regular place to sleep or is living in a homeless shelter—would be subject to a longer jail sentence.

Thien V. via Flickr CC

KUNM Call In Show Thu 1/22 8a: 

What options are available to survivors of on-campus sexual assault in New Mexico? How can we make campuses safer? What can be done to improve the way universities and colleges handle sexual assault?

We'd like to hear from you. Email, add your comments to this post, Tweet @KUNMHealth, or call in live during the show.


Governor Susana Martinez outlined specifics for how New Mexico can better combat child abuse and neglect during her State of the State address today

El Avi via flickr

Five New Mexicans  have died so far this year from flu related illnesses, ranging in age from 29 to 92. The announcement from the state Department of Health comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning of epidemic levels of flu activity nationally. 

Anna Dashkova via Flickr

Democratic State Senator Michael Padilla of Bernalillo County plans to introduce legislation that would require pharmacies to set up programs to take back unwanted medications from residents. A recently changed federal law had previously prohibited such programs.