Covering oversight of federal government pandemic spending

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

NY National Guard staffing a mobile testing center

PHOTO: The National Guard via Flickr

The pandemic laid bare the woeful underfunding of the nation’s public health system as states and localities continue to struggle to provide timely testing, contact tracing, clear guidance to the public and reach vulnerable and underserved communities.

Though the pace of vaccinations has picked up considerably in the past month, the paucity of staff and resources at state and local health departments has meant that many public health departments could not get vaccines into the arms of the public as quickly as hoped, given the continued spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Continue reading

Letter to AHCJ members: Seeking your input through our survey

About Andrew Smiley

Andrew Smiley is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He is an assistant professor of professional practice at the Missouri School of Journalism. Smiley comes to AHCJ from a sports broadcasting background, including nearly a decade at the Golf Channel/NBC Sports and a decade at ESPN, where he won an Emmy.

Dear AHCJ members,

As a membership organization, we want to make sure we are offering the best possible resources to journalists. With that said, it has been some time since we have conducted a member-wide survey to gather your thoughts on AHCJ’s benefits and offerings. Well, the time has come and we need your feedback. Let us know what we are doing well, and what processes, resources and benefits could use some work.

The survey will only take about 10 minutes to complete, and you can do it from your phone or computer.

At the end, register for one our raffles. You can enter to win free registration to the Health Journalism 2021 conference, or a $100 gift card. We will select 10 winners for each raffle. Continue reading

Interest grows in therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms

About Katti Gray

Katti Gray (@kattigray) is AHCJ's core topic leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care.

PHOTO: figgenhoffer via Flickr

PHOTO: figgenhoffer via Flickr

During Election 2020, Oregon became the first state to approve the use of psilocybin, the active ingredient in more than 100 different species of wild psilocybin mushrooms, as a mental health treatment done in certified therapeutic settings. Last year, District of Columbia voters also decriminalized these wild, “magic” psychedelic mushrooms, a hallucinogen popularly known as a recreational drug.

Denver in 2019 became the first U.S. city to decriminalize mushrooms, and the federal Food and Drug Administration approved the first psychedelic, esketamine, to treat psychiatric disorders, including major depression that didn’t improve through previous use of other anti-depressants. Because of its psychedelic effects and potential to trigger suicidal ideation, dissociation disorders and other serious side effects, esketamine legally can be administered as a nasal spray only in a certified medical office and in conjunction with an oral anti-depressant. Trademarked as Spravato, esketamine is a more potent form of the anesthetic ketamine, which also is used to treat depression. Continue reading

AHCJ announces winners of 2020 health journalism contest

About Andrew Smiley

Andrew Smiley is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He is an assistant professor of professional practice at the Missouri School of Journalism. Smiley comes to AHCJ from a sports broadcasting background, including nearly a decade at the Golf Channel/NBC Sports and a decade at ESPN, where he won an Emmy.

Awards for Excellence in Health Care JournalismCOLUMBIA, Mo. – Coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2020 journalism contest, reflecting how well the profession explained the new coronavirus and how officials responded to it.

Seven of the 12 first-place winners focused on aspects of the pandemic. The contest drew 451 total entries, with strong interest in all divisions.

Lisa Krieger, science and research reporter for the Mercury News in San Jose, won first place in the beat reporting category for a set of compelling pieces about the crisis, including how the virus infects people, why there were so few treatments and why scientists believed vaccines could be successful.

“Lisa Krieger recognized this story earlier than most and explained it clearly, drawing real patients into almost every piece,” the contest judges wrote.

Continue reading

Mental health advocates pressing for swifter White House action

About Katti Gray

Katti Gray (@kattigray) is AHCJ's core topic leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care.

PHOTO: claire valej via Flickr

PHOTO: claire valej via Flickr

Here are just a few of the mental health initiatives that the Biden Administration appears poised to pursue, according to policy watchers and influencers.

  • Increased federal enforcement of an Affordable Care Act mandate that insurance companies put mental health care on par with all other health care.
  • Heightened oversight of short-term insurance policies that President Trump supported, but critics derided as “junk insurance” because they did not cover mental illness or behavioral, substance abuse and similar disorders.
  • More federal support to help municipalities join a nationwide emergency 988 call line — signed into law in 2020 by Trump — aimed at lowering suicide rates, police intervention in emergencies involving persons with mental illness and handling other mental health crises.
  • Urging Congress to approve $4 billion to help the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) expand services as the pressures of COVID-19 have prompted record numbers to people to seek mental and behavioral health care.

Continue reading

Welcome AHCJ’s newest members

About Andrew Smiley

Andrew Smiley is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He is an assistant professor of professional practice at the Missouri School of Journalism. Smiley comes to AHCJ from a sports broadcasting background, including nearly a decade at the Golf Channel/NBC Sports and a decade at ESPN, where he won an Emmy.

Welcome new membersPlease welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ.

All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves. Continue reading