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 / 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.

PunchingJudy via flickr CC

A drug called naloxone reversed more than 700 overdoses in New Mexico last year. But hurdles remain for making the drug more widely available. 

Naloxone—brand name Narcan—can be prescribed by pharmacists, not just doctors, and Medicaid covers the cost. In 2014, those big policy changes resulted in a spike of overdose reversals. 

Wikimedia Commons

As cleanup of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant commences, folks down south remain concerned about transparency and oversight.

Arianna Sena

Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was investigating the University of New Mexico over its policies on sexual assault.

Public Health New Mexico student reporter Arianna Sena gathered student reactions to the DOJ announcement and found that many on campus were unaware that an investigation was taking place.

Click here for a link to resources for victims of sexual assault on campus.

@BeWellNM on Twitter

New Mexico residents have until midnight to sign up for health insurance in order to be covered by Jan. 1. The final deadline for the open enrollment period is Feb. 15. The Obama administration is urging everyone to go online and check the available coverage options, even those who signed up last year. 

Arianna Sena

The US Department of Justice announced today Friday that it is opening an investigation into the University of New Mexico’s policies on dealing with sexual assaults on campus. It’s the latest in a number of DOJ investigations into university sexual assault policies nationwide.

The Justice Department review is a first for the university, and administrators say they still don’t know the details of the student accusations or the planned investigation.

jacilluch via flickr

Monday was World AIDS Day and Planned Parenthood offered free and confidential HIV screenings at the Santa Fe Health Center.

In case you missed it, it’s important to know that free testing doesn’t only take place on World AIDS Day. There are organizations all across New Mexico that give tests throughout the year. Planned Parenthood gave over a thousand HIV tests here over the past year.

lu_lu via flickr

New Mexico health officials are reporting the first confirmed case of measles in the state since 2012. The one-year-old victim was released from the hospital yesterday, but health officials are taking the opportunity to remind residents to get vaccinated.

Jeff Adair via Flickr

Residents of the Navajo Nation will now be paying more for junk food. Last week Navajo President Ben Shelly signed the Healthy Dine' Nation Act into law, adding a tax on unhealthy food sold anywhere on Navajo land. Deswood Tome is Special Advisor to President Shelly. He spoke to KUNM about the law's implications. 

"The law imposes a tax on junk food as a deterrent, so when people go to the store they'll make a conscious decision to buy nutritious food," Tome said.

clevercupcakes via Flickr

The organization managing health insurance signups in New Mexico is reporting positive numbers one week into the Affordable Care Act’s second open enrollment period. 

"We are seeing some response," said Linda Wedeen of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. "Our goal this year that's going to be different from last year is we're working very hard to let people know we're there to assist them through this process. We know it can be complicated."

Marisa Demarco


When we get sick, most of us make an appointment with a doctor trained in Western medicine. But in New Mexico, for some ailments people might head to their local curandero, a practitioner of regional, traditional healing. And in parts of Mexico and South America, curanderismo is sometimes the only option for medical care.           

Screenshot from video provided by APD through an IPRA request


KUNM Call In Show Thu. 11/13 8a: 

The Department of Justice is requiring APD to figure out how to respond to people in mental health crisis with the goal of decreasing the use of force in those situations. The agreement between the DOJ and Albuquerque’s police force also calls for APD to provide crisis intervention training to all officers.

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.