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 

Patrick Feller // Compfight cc

Among the governor’s goals in her 2014 State of the State Address: deal with the shortage of health care providers in New Mexico. Every county except one doesn’t have an adequate supply of physicians and dentists, according to the federal government. And about 170,000 more folks will be eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Though Gov. Susana Martinez has unrolled some plans to deal with the shortage, the Legislature wasn’t able to pass measures that would have boosted the state’s health care work force.

Wikimedia Commons: Jacob Lofman, PIX Incorporated, NYC, photographer

A 30-day legislative session—like the one that ended yesterday at noon—is mostly about hammering out a state budget. But other priorities sneak in, too, and 2014 saw a lot of public health-related bills. Here’s a look at the new laws and programs that made it out of Santa Fe alive.

Newborn Heart Disease Testing—HB 9

• Adds a test for congenital heart disease to the list of evaluations a newborn undergoes before being discharged.

Public domain image.

UPDATE 7:20p 02/21:

Department of Energy officials say radiation levels detected in and around the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository are consistent with a leak at the southeastern New Mexico facility.

Carlsbad field office manager Jose Franco said Thursday that readings from sensors above and below ground indicate the radiation is coming from waste stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. But officials won't know what caused the leak until they can get underground to investigate. That could be weeks.

What Is Public Health?

Feb 20, 2014
cdc.gov / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

KUNM Call In Show Thu. 2/20 8a:  What is public health?  Maybe the term makes you think of vaccinations or controlling and preventing diseases like diabetes and influenza.  But the field is much larger than that.  

Call 277-5866 in Albuquerque or toll-free 1-877-899-5866.

Lawmakers Ban Texting While Driving

Feb 19, 2014
Centers for Disease Control

A bill that would prohibit texting while driving now heads to Governor Susana Martinez's desk for approval after clearing the legislature.

E-mail, instant messages and internet surfing all fall under the bills scope.

John McPhee is with New Mexico Department of Health. He says distracted driving is a growing problem across the country.

UPDATE Feb. 19, 2014, 10:17 a.m.: SB 55 is awaiting a vote by the Senate.

Today was Disability Rights Awareness Day at the Roundhouse, and a bill calling for a plan for the state's troubled waiver program is stuck in committee awaiting a hearing. 

UPDATE Feb. 19, 2014, 10:35 a.m.: This measure is in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

The state Senate approved a bill last night that creates temporary funding for more than two dozen rural hospitals. 

Bryant Furlow / New Mexico In Depth

When he learns that signing up for Medicaid will mean he can visit a nearby hospital in Española instead of traveling to Santa Fe for urgent care, the Native American man sits back in his chair, eyebrows arched. Then he smiles.

“Cool! Oh that’s good,” the gray-haired, middle-aged man from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo says.

Natalia Jacquez

Maria Cabrera owed $57,000 dollars after she suffered a heart attack and ended up in an Albuquerque hospital.

“Once I was out of the hospital, I got completely in debt,” Cabrera said. “The debt was so large that I don’t even know what’s going on.”

A large amount of that debt was cut down through financial assistance, but she says the debt collectors are still calling, and she’s unclear of just how much she owes. 

Bill Would Expand PE To Include JROTC, Other Activities

Feb 12, 2014
Albuquerque Public Schools

UPDATE Wednesday, Feb. 19, 10:59 p.m.: SB 122 passed the House and Senate.

Think physical education means just basketball or track?  Not necessarily, if lawmakers decide to change high school graduation rules and allow school districts to choose other activities to meet the PE requirement. That proposal received a unanimous “high five” from the Senate earlier this week.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

According to new figures released by the U.S.

CDC/NCHS

Meet Karla Castañeda. She’s 22, is a single mother, and recently went back to school. Her son is eligible for Medicaid, but she is not because she makes too much money, and her job doesn’t provide her with insurance. To get coverage, she turned to New Mexico’s insurance marketplace

Lawmakers Advance Ban On E-Cigarette Sales To Minors

Feb 6, 2014

  UPDATE Feb. 19, 2014, 10:10 a.m.: This measure was approved by the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

  State lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday evening that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.  

Department of Energy

UPDATE 5:30p 2/6: Work has resumed at southeastern New Mexico's nuclear waste repository. But officials say they don't yet know what caused the truck fire that forced an evacuation of the underground site.

A spokesman says an investigation will be conducted at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, where low level waste from the nation's nuclear weapons plants is stored in salt beds.

The site was evacuated and six people were treated for smoke inhalation after a truck hauling salt caught fire Wednesday.

UPDATE Feb. 19 11:07 a.m.: The dental therapists bill and medical malpractice act and the NMSU mental health nursing program, are stuck in committee.

puroticorico via Flickr

KUNM Call In Show Thu.

Wiki Creative Commons

UPDATE Feb.

AG Releases New Portion Of Health Audit

Jan 24, 2014

A state-hired auditor found $1,873 in questionable Medicaid payments to a health-care provider cleared of fraud last week by the state's top cop, according to a portion of the audit released Wednesday.

Using a statistical formula, the auditor then extrapolated from that $1,873 figure to come up with approximately $612,000 in potential Medicaid overpayments by The Counseling Center in Alamogordo, the document shows.

Debora Cartagena, CDC

According to the American Lung Association, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas all received Fs for their tobacco prevention efforts. That’s primarily because the states aren’t spending amounts recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Texas got the worst grades in the Southwest, including an F for smoke-free air and restrictions.

Most NM Enrollees Eligible For Health Insurance Discounts

Jan 15, 2014
Deborah Martinez

Almost 75 percent of the nearly 8,000 New Mexicans who have enrolled in insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act are eligible for discounts, according to numbers released by the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange Wednesday.  Officials are attributing the spike in the number of enrollees to the state’s multi-pronged advertising campaign.

Roswell Shooting Puts Focus On New Mexico Gun Violence

Jan 15, 2014
Center For American Progress

On Tuesday, two students were flown to Lubbock, Texas, for medical treatment after a seventh-grade student at a Roswell middle school opened fire with a shotgun on a crowd in a gymnasium.

There is still no known motive for the shooting, and officials report the gunman stopped firing when a school staff member approached the student and asked him to put the gun down.

healthcare.gov

The federal government has released new data on the number of people signing up for health care plans on the health insurance marketplace, and there has been a significant uptick in marketplace activity as of December.

KUNM Public Health New Mexico reporter Marisa Demarco breaks it down with the highlights of public health news for 2013.

Chicken Soup For The Influenza-Riddled Soul

Jan 9, 2014
Univ. of Melbourne - public domain

In California, at least eight people have died from the flu. In North Texas, 19 deaths.

A Krokodil Ripped My Flesh

Jan 9, 2014

According to WOAI, the Drug Enforcement Agency has “experienced the first case of a Texan being treated for using a new type of drug which leaves the user with flesh lesions and turns the skin a scaly green color.”

The drug, known as Krokodil, has made headlines in the United States for months, but has only shown up in a few isolated incidents, like the one in Texas.

Native American Cancer Rates Remain Static

Jan 7, 2014
National Cancer Institute

New statistics released by the American Cancer Society show that nationally there's been a 20 percent decrease in risk of death from all cancers. For breast and colon cancer, that rate of decline is closer to 35 percent. However, in the Southwest, there's a slightly different picture.

The director of the state's Behavioral Health Services Division is resigning. Diana McWilliams submitted her resignation letter on Monday, Dec. 16, and her last day is tomorrow. She'll be heading back east to Philadelphia to become the chief operating officer for a nonprofit behavioral health and child welfare organization, she said. 

Free App Enrolls New Mexicans in Obamacare

Dec 19, 2013
Cheon Fong Liew via Compfight cc

Medical residents at UNM created a free app to help New Mexicans get hooked into health care.

The app, called Get Covered New Mexico, can aid folks in calculating what they're eligible for. It links directly to websites people can use to apply for Medicaid and the health care exchange. It also points the way to the nearest physical location to apply for services in-person.

State of California Department of Justice

Stan Padilla has been using heroin for 45 years. On this cold December morning, he’s taking time to visit an Albuquerque syringe exchange to pick up clean gear for his habit.

"I just look out for myself,” said Padilla. “'Round here there isn’t no friends, when it comes out to drugs and money, it’s all about trying to use each other. It’s the way it is. It’s the drug business for you.”

He’s 61 years old, an Albuquerque native, and says he’s cut his habit down to using about once a month.

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