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 

Woman In Santa Fe Dies From Hantavirus

Nov 1, 2013

The New Mexico Department of Heath has announced that a woman in Santa Fe has died from Hantavirus. It’s the second reported case in the state this year

Preliminary investigations indicate that the Hantavirus was acquired locally, likely within the woman’s home. But the Department of Health says it will also be performing an investigation at the patient’s house to make sure there's no risk to others. The woman’s identity has not yet been released.

Centers For Disease Control

A team of scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are reporting a breakthrough in the effort to develop an HIV vaccine. The research used what’s called a mosaic vaccine, which showed some test animals had protection when exposed to the infection.

The study, which was conducted on 36 monkeys, has provided new insight into vaccines that could eventually protect humans from infection. 

LANL scientist Bette Korber said that a mosaic vaccine, unlike traditional vaccines, is designed to respond to the large variety of HIV viruses that exist.  

Under the Affordable Care Act, around 63,000 New Mexicans will need to buy new health insurance policies by the end of the year. Those plans could cost more and cover more.

In Albuquerque, Human Trafficking Evolves And Grows

Oct 30, 2013

A recent study claims that nearly 30-­million people on the planet live in slavery-­ a practice that relies on the trafficking of human beings. The majority of victims are found in places like India, Thailand and Russia. Human trafficking is also a growing problem in the Southwestern United States, and the black market trade is growing in New Mexico.

It was a bad night, and none of the girls had made much cash. The evening's customers were more interested in the Spurs game on television then the strippers. But one of the dancers knew how they could make up for it.

New Mexico Leads Nation In Per Capita Mental Illness

Oct 30, 2013

A new federal report ranks New Mexico as the state with the highest percentage of citizens with mental illness. But the 416-page survey also reveals states in the Southwest are above average in many areas like access to mental health services.

The purpose of the Behavioral Health 2012 report is to look at where states stand in relation to national averages. The hope is for policy makers to examine areas of the mental health system that need help.

Life Link of Santa Fe

Five years ago victims of human trafficking had no legal remedies under New Mexico’s laws.  But in 2008 a new statute provided prosecutors with tools to help victims and bring the traffickers to justice.  And the state was years ahead of 39 other states that only began to pass laws this year, according to the Polaris Project.   

Audit: NM Sexual Assault Programs Not In Compliance

Oct 30, 2013

An audit conducted by the Department of Justice says the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs failed to comply with essential grant conditions when handling about $4-million dollars in federal awards over the last six years. 

According to the audit by the Office of Inspector General Audit Division (OIG), there were conflicts of interest when hiring; questionable payroll costs; and inadequate monitoring of contracts, sub-grantees and timesheets, to name a few of the findings.

No matter what kind of football helmet you buy for your teenager, the risk of concussion is still the same. That's according to a new study that looked to examine the relationship between concussion risk and equipment used to prevent injury.

In June, New Mexico’s Behavioral Health care system was thrown into chaos — the state abruptly froze Medicaid payments to more than a dozen mental health providers in the state after an audit allegedly found widespread

Despite Progress, NM Teen Pregnancy Rate Still Tops Charts

Oct 22, 2013
Deborah Martinez

New Mexico’s teen pregnancy rate is declining – down 41 percent between 1998 and 2011 – but the state still has the second highest rate in the nation behind Mississippi.  High poverty and high drop out rates play a big part.  But a Santa Fe high school program that’s helping teens earn their diplomas while overcoming the challenges of parenthood is making a dent in the stark statistics.

This summer, the State of New Mexico froze Medicaid payments to mental health providers because of fraud allegations.

Researcher Aims To End Cycle Of Hurtful Behavior In Kids

Oct 15, 2013
HeyPaulStudios via Flickr

New research is taking a look at how childhood trauma can alter the development of the brain, sometimes with lasting effects  that can carry into adulthood.   Dr. Elaine Bearer’s work looks at ways to stop the cycle of kids “acting out” before they grow up.

University of New Mexico Professor  Elaine Bearer’s research on mice suggests early childhood trauma might interfere with normal changes in the brains of children.   She and her team are also studying the stress a premature baby endures.

Indian Health Service

In June, Deleana Other Bull was laid off. She lost her insurance, and turned to the Indian Health Service for her needs.

I recently had a miscarriage, and it was very devastating for me,” said Other Bull. “Going and following up and making sure that everything is okay. It was really scary because I didn’t have insurance.”

Centers for Disease Control

Health Departments in the Southwest are beginning to see some of the first flu cases of the season. Officials warn there are many populations at higher risk for health complications for the flu.

One high-risk group is Native Americans. However, the reason why isn’t fully understood.

Tristan Ahtone

Hate it or love it, the Affordable Health Care Act is set to roll out soon. And as most already know, the act requires nearly all citizens to obtain health insurance or face penalties. But some of those exempted from the mandate are Native Americans. That hasn’t deterred private insurance companies from launching a campaign in Indian Country to sign up tribal members in New Mexico.

On a cool, Saturday afternoon on the Navajo Nation a crowd of tribal members are lined up at a row of folding tables staffed by insurance company representatives that speak English.

clevercupcakes via Flickr

KUNM Call In Show 9/26 8a: We've been hearing about the roll out of the Affordable Care Act for years now, but what does the full implementation of the healthcare law actually mean for New Mexicans? Who is eligible for tax credits for insurance premiums? What about people who are happy with their employer provided health insurance?

New Mexico Poverty Rate Rises

Sep 20, 2013
U.S. Census Bureau

New Census data shows that poverty rates in New Mexico have increased significantly since 2000. About one fifth of the state’s population earned an income below the federal poverty line last year and more than 100,000 New Mexicans fell into poverty over the last dozen years. 

Heavy Rains Bring Worries Of West Nile Virus

Sep 19, 2013
Centers for Disease Control

With heavy rainfall still drenching parts of the Southwest, health officials are warning that mosquito populations could increase, and more mosquitoes could mean more West Nile Virus.

Centers for Disease Control

A new survey ranks the United States 11th in the number of reported plague cases around the world. Of the cases found in the U.S. over the last decade, most infections were acquired in the Southwest.

Rrrodrigo via Flickr

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has filed a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of an audit that identified potential overbillings and fraud by providers of mental health and substance abuse services.

The Human Services Department has frozen payments to more than a dozen behavioral health providers because of the fraud allegations.

Bryant Furlow / New Mexico In Depth

At the end of June, 15 New Mexico behavioral health agencies had their Medicaid funding frozen by the state's Human Services Department due to “credible allegations of fraud.”

The agencies provide services to approximately 30,000 patients, many who seek help for mental health issues ranging from substance abuse treatment to schizophrenia.

Deborah Martinez

When Medicaid funding for 15 of New Mexico’s behavioral health providers was frozen earlier this summer, lawmakers began hearing from their constituents.

Senator Tim Keller says people in his district in southeast Albuquerque are extremely upset. Now Keller has drafted a piece of legislation he hopes will prevent this kind of situation from happening again. 

Uninsured To Get Lower Premiums Under Obamacare

Sep 9, 2013

The state expects about half of the 400,000 uninsured New Mexicans to purchase insurance through the state health insurance exchange when it’s fully implemented in 2014.  A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds New Mexicans will pay some of the lowest rates in the nation.  

Fifteen New Mexico behavioral health providers that were accused of fraud and shut down still haven’t been able to see the audits that lead to their downfall. The audits supposedly showed the companies over-billed the state for Medicaid reimbursements.

Kaiser Family Health Foundation

A new national study says the cost of medical plans available through New Mexico's health insurance exchange likely will be lower than in many other states.

New Mexico's top insurance regulator said uninsured individuals also will find more insurance options through the exchange than currently are available in the private market.

Insurance Superintendent John Franchini said people who qualify for federal subsidies can expect to buy their insurance through the exchange at costs lower than current market rates.

Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, many consumers buying health insurance could take a big hit to their checkbooks, and New Mexico may take the biggest hit of all.

In June the state of New Mexico froze Medicaid payments to 15 behavioral health providers due to "credible allegations of fraud." The agencies were then taken over by

A Health Blog via Flickr

Members of New Mexico's Behavioral Health legislative subcommittee discovered this week that state officials were considering contracts with Arizona providers before local firms had been notified of fraud allegations.

Some lawmakers are now looking at potential lawsuits because of an audit performed by the firm Public Consulting Group, or PCG. The audit resulted in a freeze of Medicaid funding to 15 local behavioral health providers.

Deborah Martinez

Protestors gathered at the state capital in Santa Fe today,  pleading with Governor Susana Martinez to change course and end the chaos now hampering New Mexico’s behavioral health system.   Front-line workers who treat extreme cases of the mentally ill reported losing touch with their clients after five Arizona firms took over operations at 12 local providers.