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 

APD Chief Statement On Crisis Officer Contradicted

Apr 3, 2014
Still from APD video footage March 16, 2014

Contrary to initial reports from the Albuquerque Police Department, no Crisis Intervention Team officers trained to de-escalate situations involving people with behavioral health issues were called to the scene of a Sandia foothills standoff that ended in the death of a camper last month at the hands of police.  

Deborah Martinez

Midnight Monday is the deadline to sign up for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.  Over the weekend in New Mexico people lined up to get covered, either through the insurance marketplace or Medicaid.  

From those in their 60s to young people under 26 covered under their parents’ plan, hundreds stood in the bright spring sunshine sign up under Medicaid, or with one of four insurance plans.

AZ Firm Cuts Pay For NM Behavioral Health Workers

Mar 28, 2014
Agave Health logo

One of the five Arizona companies that took over operations from New Mexico behavioral health providers last year is announcing salary reductions.  The company says it had to cut pay because it was losing money.

Agave is a non-profit corporation formed in New Mexico by Southwest Behavioral Health of Arizona.  Rather than imposing layoffs, CEO and President Jeff Jorde said the firm needs to cut salaries for its 350 employees by five percent, beginning next week. 

peddhapati via Compfight CC

  In the wake of two shooting deaths by the Albuquerque Police Department  in two weeks, more families of people living with behavioral health issues are calling for reform of the department’s practices.  But despite recommendations years ago to train all staff on how to deal with people living with mental illness, just a fraction of the workforce has the special training.

whitehouse.gov

  The deadline to sign up for health care is Monday, March 31, and New Mexico lags behind just about every other state in the country in terms of enrollment.

Phil Schiliro is the adviser to President Obama on the Affordable Care Act. He moved his family to Santa Fe in 2012 and said enrollment is critical in New Mexico.

A study completed in 2012 showed more than 400,000 New Mexicans don’t have health insurance. Only about 15,000 have signed up on the exchange.

Rita Daniels

Someone has posted a YouTube video claiming to represent the hacker group Anonymous and promising to launch an assault on the Albuquerque Police Department's websites. 

As a Downtown protest against APD’s use of deadly force concluded Tuesday night, officers opened fire on a man on the Westside. He died Wednesday morning. 

Homeless Group Calls for Homes, Not Handcuffs

Mar 26, 2014
Victor Cassale via Flickr CC

  UPDATE: March 26, 2014—Hundreds marched Downtown last night to protest the Albuquerque Police Department's killing of a foothills camper on March 16. As the demonstration wound down, APD opened fire on a man on the Westside, who police say, fired shots at them first. The suspect died at the hospital.

lanl.gov via Public Domain

  The National Cancer Institute will come to New Mexico this spring to investigate how much radiation people were exposed to after the Trinity test in the southern part of the state nearly 70 years ago.

The CDC studied health hazards in the New Mexico and said state residents consumed radiation via water, milk, meat and produce grown here after July 16, 1945, when the U.S. Army detonated a nuclear weapon for the first time.

By ENERGY.GOV [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The director of an organization that evaluated the WIPP site for over 25 years said officials aren’t doing enough to inform New Mexicans.

Dr. Bob Neill led the Environmental Evaluation Group, which provided independent technical evaluations of the WIPP project for more than two decades. He retired a year after the plant opened in 1999, and the group disbanded in 2004.

David Niblack, Imagebase.net

New Mexico’s Human Services Department says more consumers, not fewer, are receiving services since the takeover last summer of a dozen behavioral health providers accused of fraud. HSD’s response is contrary to the results of a progress report by a federal oversight agency.

Screenshot from healthcare.gov

With less than two weeks left to sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act, employees with the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange are bracing for a surge of enrollment.

Spokeswoman Debra Hammer said there are almost 30 events scheduled over the next 10 days that are aimed at educating and assisting those who are still trying to enroll.

Nicolas Raymond via CC

03/20/14 Update: Nuclear Waste From New Mexico Lab May Go To Texas - The Associated Press

The operator of the nation's troubled nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico wants to temporarily store waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory in rural West Texas until it reopens.

Waste storage at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad is halted because of a Feb. 5 truck fire and a Feb. 14 radiation leak that contaminated 17 workers.

Steve A. Johnson via flickr

KUNM Call-In Show Thu. 3/20 8a:  The US has been adding fluoride to water supplies for almost 70 years, and no conclusive evidence links its use to poor public health.  But in many communities, including Santa Fe and Albuquerque, the topic is highly controversial.   This week on the KUNM Call-In Show, we'll talk with advocates on both sides of the issue in advance of an April 9 town hall in Albuquerque.

Douglas Muth via Creative Commons

 

Excessive drinking is among the leading causes of preventable deaths in the U.S., according to a report just released by the CDC.

Of the 11 states studied, New Mexico had the highest death rate due to alcohol use. For every 100,000 residents, there are about 51 deaths related to excessive drinking, which is almost double the median rate.

The report also tallied up all the years of potential life lost. In New Mexico, that’s a little more than 30 thousand years annually.

Flickr via CC

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved changes to the way sexual assault cases are handled by the military on Monday night—but stopped short of removing the chain of command from the process. Last week a measure that would have done just that failed by five votes.

Ajnagraphy via compfight

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 3/13 8a: New Mexico is perpetually at or near the bottom of state child well-being rankings. New Mexico's children are and have been at risk for abuse, poverty, hunger, and other issues that affect their ability to learn, grow, and be health.  

Ken Lund via Flickr

Community health workers can be paid through Medicaid after a measure signed by Gov. Susana Martinez on Sunday, March 9, goes into effect. As things stand, workers’ salaries are primarily funded by grants.

The legislation also creates a state certification program and funding for trainings.

Insurers Vie For Low-Income Patient Data

Mar 11, 2014
Deborah Martinez

As the March 31st deadline looms for signing up for individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies tried to obtain personal information in order to contact potential customers who were previously covered by a state plan.  But state officials would not release the information.

New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange officials say they will market Obamacare to the low-income group themselves, rather than provide personal information to the four big insurance companies. 

US Department of Energy

UPDATE 3/10 7a: The U.S. Department of Energy says new air testing in the nation's only underground nuclear repository shows no detectable radioactive contamination from a leak last month.

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad said Sunday that instruments used to measure air quality and radioactivity were sent underground Friday and Saturday in the first step to resuming operations at the plant.

They say initial results indicate no contamination in the air or on the measuring equipment.

Wikimedia Commons

  Regulators have been creating various models in order to try to predict when a plume of contamination from a decades old jet fuel leak at Kirtland Airforce Base will reach Albuquerque drinking water wells. 

Wikimedia

Just 26 miles east of Carlsbad, N.M., in the Chihuahuan Desert, the United States buries its radioactive waste. Mostly, that’s the clothes, tools and rags that come into contact with elements heavier than uranium on the Periodic Table. But about 4 percent of what’s dumped at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is more toxic and has to be stored in lead casks.

Obama's Budget Would Fund Navajo Water Project

Mar 4, 2014

President Obama’s $3.9 trillion budget could provide $2.4 billion to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. That’s an increase of about $33 million from the previous year.

The budget increase would go to education, social services, and Indian child welfare. It would also fund water projects in New Mexico.  

Deborah Martinez

Thousands of people with developmental disabilities in New Mexico have been waiting to receive the full spectrum of services available through a government program, some for more than 10 years.  The Tatz family is inching towards that benchmark, as they and their kids grow older.   

“I had back surgery," Lesly Tatz announced. Lesly's mom, Jill Tatz, explained, "She has had medical issues, and had open heart surgery at 18 months.” Her daughter has had numerous surgeries.

New Mexico Surpasses U.S. In Childhood Flu Vaccinations

Feb 27, 2014

The number of children receiving flu vaccines in New Mexico is higher than the national average, according to the state Department of Health.

During the 2010-2011 flu season, almost 60 percent of kids between the ages of five and 12 got vaccinated for flu. However, that number jumped to about 70 percent the following year.

publik15 via Flickr

The chaotic transition a state agency forced last year from 15 New Mexico-based health organizations to five Arizona companies had many problems, an annual audit has found.

Public domain image.

  The Department of Energy says preliminary tests indicate 13 workers were exposed to radiation during a recent leak at the nation's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.

The DOE said in a news release Wednesday that it has notified the workers of the positive results and will do further testing. They declined to comment further on the extent of the possible exposure until a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Udall Proposes Health Bills

Feb 26, 2014
Senator Tom Udall

New Mexico Senator Tom Udall has proposed two bills to address access to health care in rural communities. 

Every county in New Mexico, except one, has been designated by the federal government as having a health care provider shortage. And beyond a shortage, surveys show that over half of the doctors in New Mexico were at capacity and unable to take on more than a handful of new patients.

Preschool Obesity Rates Drop Nationally

Feb 26, 2014
Rita Daniels

Young children are beginning to show signs of lower obesity rates – 43 percent over ten years, according to a new Centers for Disease Control Study.  

The study doesn’t break down the decline state by state, but the news doesn’t surprise Judy Baron.  She’s a co-director of the Serendipity Day School for 2 to 4 year-olds in Albuquerque.

The audit the state used to justify suspending Medicaid payments to an Alamogordo health center last year appears to have included mistakenly flagged claims, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

That raises questions about the process the Human Services Department (HSD) used to ensure the audit was accurate before deciding to suspend Medicaid dollars to the Alamogordo organization.

Navajo Nation President: Tax Junk Food

Feb 24, 2014
jeffadair via Flickr

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly recently vetoed legislation that would increase taxes on junk food sold on the reservation but says he will support a new, tweaked version.

The bill would have added a two-percent tax to all junk food sold on the Navajo Nation, and was designed to encourage healthy eating habits while fighting problems like diabetes.

But how the tax will be collected, how business owners will be impacted, and what actually constitutes junk food all need to be hammered out before Shelly signs off, which he hopes will be this year.

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