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 

Kaiser Family Foundation

New Mexico is faring better than most states with health care costs under the Affordable Care Act. Our state experienced the third-largest drop in insurance premiums nationwide since last year.

Public Domain

News broke last weekend that Los Alamos National Laboratory took shortcuts when treating some nuclear waste headed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. One of the LANL waste drums sprang a radiation leak earlier this year, contaminating workers and closing the facility. 

Ed Williams-KUNM

A cold snap hit New Mexico Wednesday and prompted an Albuquerque homeless shelter to open its doors early. 

Albuquerque Rescue Mission was scheduled to start taking in homeless residents this weekend, but freezing temperatures have moved the clock forward.

Bernalillo County

Bernalillo County is hosting an event Saturday afternoon to educate young people about suicide, bullying and other youth issues.

All ages are welcome at Youth Jam 2014 at Warehouse 508 from 2-6 p.m.  The County’s Analisa Montoya says the event will highlight over 40 types of resources for young folks - such as Agora, a crisis call center.

Michael Coghlan via Flickr CC

Members of a National Academy of Sciences committee presented a report on high incarceration rates at the State Bar of New Mexico this morning. The NAS says the growth in lockups in the United States is historically unprecedented and unlike any other country in the world.

The U.S. has too many people behind bars, according to the NAS report, and the high rate of imprisonment has surpassed any public safety benefit.

Sodanie Chea via Flickr CC

The Human Services Department announced it would not begin demanding more New Mexicans on food stamps meet work requirements. The rule change was slated to go into effect at the beginning of this month, but a lawsuit filed by two nonprofits threw a wrench in the works. 

The lawsuit charged HSD with not following proper procedure in alerting people to the rule change—or posting the full and correct version of the work requirement—before it was adopted.

Art by Nani Chacon courtesy of Young Women United

Bernalillo County voters overwhelmingly came out on Tuesday in favor of a tax increase to pay for more mental health services. 

Bernalillo County residents with addictions or mental health problems may be closer to having more access to treatment, now that voters here have showed their support for a one-eight percent tax increase to fund more behavioral health services.

Halloween Safety Tips

Oct 31, 2014
B.C. Lorio via Flickr

Tonight before you send the kids out trick-or-treating, here are a few things to keep in mind for a safe Halloween.

Children should avoid going out trick-or-treating alone, according to the CDC. Loose-fitting clothing or masks can be dangerous as they can cause tripping and vision obstruction.

Kids who wear bright clothing or reflective tape are more visible in the dark.  Carry flashlights and walk on the sidewalk.

woodleywonderworks via Flickr

University of New Mexico researchers are estimating one-third of Bernalillo County residents with mental health problems didn’t get the care they needed last year.

Researchers at UNM say over 150,000 people in Bernalillo county had mental health issues that needed treatment in 2013, but only 98,000 of those people received care from local providers.

Courtesy of Amber Royster

Amber Royster is a sixth-generation New Mexican and Navy veteran who served in the Iraq War and was deployed twice overseas. She said Bernalillo County’s advisory mental health ballot question and the secretary of state’s race are her main interests this year.

She’s a registered Green Party member, and said she generally prefers to vote on issues instead of candidates. She’s voting for Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver for secretary of state because that office can allow direct issues-based questions onto the polls.

Alex E. Proimos via Flickr

A new analysis of insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act shows New Mexico has one of the highest rates of newly-insured people in the country. That’s good news for the residents here who now have access to health care, but the higher number of new patients is posing some challenges to doctors in the state.

    

New Mexico has seen a drastic reduction in uninsured residents since last year. Data shows the rate of people covered by health insurance has more than doubled in many counties.

Ed Williams-KUNM

KUNM Public Health Reporter Ed Williams met with Julie Martinez in the courtyard of Holy Cross Hospital in Taos. Martinez manages the hospital’s substance abuse prevention program and works on drug issues with local youth for the non-profit Taos Alive.

Martinez wouldn’t say who she was voting for because of her work. She did explain that the entrenched problems of addiction and substance abuse in her community are shaping her views of candidates this year.

Denicia Cadena

Christina Dominguez is a single mother of three kids in Albuquerque. Her primary interest in the election is the mental health poll question on the ballot in Bernalillo County. The question is only advisory, which means it wouldn’t become a law if passed, but it’s intended to allow the public to weigh in on mental health funding.

danielle_blue via Flicr CC

Two New Mexico nonprofits filed a lawsuit this week against the state that could halt changes to the state’s food assistance program.

The Center on Law and Poverty and the Southwest Organizing Project, along with three people who rely on food stamps, are asking for a temporary restraining order that would stop a work requirement for certain SNAP recipients that’s slated to go into effect on November 1.

Courtesy of Pete Comstock

Veteran Pete Comstock was wounded in Vietnam—once by a hand grenade and once by an AK-47—and he’s recovered physically. “I have some combat trauma issues that I had to deal with as I was recovering coming back. But today, most days I’m pretty normal.”

Comstock, a Republican from Cedar Crest, relies on VA health services and said he zeroes in on issues affecting veterans during every election cycle. In particular, he wants to ensure candidates will commit funding and support to medical care for returning soldiers, address military sexual trauma and work to stop the wars.

Marisa Demarco

People affected by mental health issues in Albuquerque gathered for a meeting on police reform on Monday night. 

Only people who’d signed up online in advance of the forum were allowed to participate in the discussion about the Albuquerque Police Department and mental health. A handful of participants sat in two separate circles with concentric rings of observers radiating from the center.

Rosemarie Sanchez and her 39-year-old daughter Nannie are disability rights advocates and hard-line Democrats. Rosemarie adopted Nannie, a child born with Down syndrome, when she was an infant. KUNM Public Health New Mexico reporter Marisa Demarco caught up with them at their home in Albuquerque’s Clayton Heights to talk about how their lives and their politics intertwine. 

Both women are concerned about changes to the developmental disability waiver in New Mexico.

Ed Williams-KUNM

KUNM public health reporter Ed Williams traveled north to Taos County where he met with Marty Michael, a conservative voter in Questa. Michael is an active member of the community, and has worked with the county on water issues. 

“Drought, global warming’s affecting it, lack of rainfall, mother nature. It’s something that can’t be measured," Michael said. "The conservatives are interested in keeping our water here. No more water transfers.”  

Check out the other Voices Behind The Vote profiles!

Ed Williams-KUNM

KUNM public health reporter Ed Williams spoke with Santa Fe resident Allegra Love, a former public school teacher who now works as a lawyer for ADELANTE, a Santa Fe Public Schools program that provides help for families experiencing homelessness.

Love is also an immigration attorney. Since this summer she’s been working on asylum cases for refugees held in the federal immigrant detention center in Artesia. 

PANationalGuard via Flickr

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services renewed funding this week for Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless.

Anita Cordova says the $1.22 million grant will allow her organization to continue providing medical and dental care to the homeless community. “Without the money," Cordova said, "we would be unable to provide as many services and pay our providers and staff to do the work that we do.”

Rita Daniels

Tuesday marked the first of 10 meetings of the Collaborative on Police-Community Relations in Albuquerque. Police officers and commanders attended, along with grieving families, mental health advocates and neighborhood association representatives.

Mayor Richard Berry said the process should yield a document that outlines expectations for effective community policing.  The Department of Justice investigated APD after a high-number of officer-involved shootings, and findings indicated city police use excessive force.

World Bank Photo Collection via Flickr / Creative Commons License

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 10/23 8a: What public health issues are New Mexico candidates talking about in their campaigns? What are politicians and elected officials not talking about? We'll have an in depth discussion with KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting team - Ed Williams and Marisa Demarco.

Post your comments below and check out the project site publichealthnm.org

Al Hikes via Flickr

Wednesday is National Student Pledge Against Violence Day, and school administrators in Santa Fe are encouraging students to sign a pledge promising not to use guns to resolve conflicts.

Both the Santa Fe School Board and City Council signed resolutions to join in the national observance of gun violence in schools.

Marisa Demarco

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that it’s decreasing the beds available at Albuquerque’s VA Medical Center—the only such inpatient facility in New Mexico.

The news that the VA is cutting the number of inpatient beds from 150 to 120 doesn’t sit right with Mike Gallegos, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart Medal recipient from Los Lunas.

Univ. of Melbourne - public domain

There’s been so much media attention focused on the Ebola crisis in West Africa and whether the healthcare system in the U.S. is ready for cases here, it’s easy to forget that the U.S. flu season has begun. Each year thousands of people in the U.S. die from the flu, tens of thousands in bad years. Last year there were 34 flu-related deaths in New Mexico.

Dr. Randal J. Schoepp via Army Medicine / Creative Commons

 

Gov. Susana Martinez has directed the state Department of Health to coordinate an Ebola preparedness plan in case the disease is diagnosed in any New Mexico patients.

Martinez's office says the Health Department will work with other state agencies, local governments and hospitals across New Mexico to ensure officials are prepared.

Martinez says that despite the low risk, she wants to reassure residents that the state would be able to respond quickly if an Ebola case emerges.

Sandra Bermúdez via Flickr

New Mexico health officials have screened 56 babies for tuberculosis since an El Paso hospital worker tested positive for the potentially lethal respiratory infection last summer. Now, state health officials say none of the babies living here appear to have contracted the disease.

“So far we haven’t seen any clear evidence of transmission with the babies here in New Mexico, so that’s a very positive thing,” said New Mexico Department of Health Tuberculosis Program Manager Diana Fortune.

futurowoman via Flickr

The federal government has tightened restrictions on prescription hydrocodone combo drugs to try to reduce overdoses. That could be good news for New Mexico, which has the second highest opioid overdose rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Drug Enforcement Agenct now considers the highly addictive pain medication a Schedule II drug alongside oxycodone and methamphetamine.

Rubén Diaz Alonso via Flickr

A state agency citing potential Medicaid fraud refused to consider documents that could have cleared a health care provider of allegations that it had overcharged the government by as much as $4.3 million, the organization’s officials said this week. 

Bill David Brooks via CC

A nonpartisan think tank in New Mexico released a report on health care costs this week suggesting that providers should be more transparent about the price of procedures up front.

Fred Nathan is the founder and executive director of Think New Mexico. The group’s report says New Mexicans are spending more out of their pockets for health care than ever before, and most of that extra money is going to administrative costs—not to doctors’ salaries or improved care for patients.

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