Tag Archives: disabilities

Tracking deaths in custody in America’s jails

About Emily Willingham

Emily Willingham (@ejwillingham) is AHCJ's core topic leader on the social determinants of health. She is a science journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and Forbes, among others, and co-author of "The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Guide to Your Child's First Four Years."

Photo: Paul Robinson via Flickr

Gary Harki of The Virginian-Pilot came to his team’s sweeping series on mental illness, death and U.S. jails by way of a single incident: a young man who died in jail from direct neglect and bureaucratic incompetence for the crime of stealing a zebra cake and a Mountain Dew from a local convenience store.

The young man, Jamycheal Mitchell, had both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and his death, Harki says, was “just appalling,” especially as Mitchell was supposed to have been transferred to a mental health care facility. That incident led Harki to wonder how often people like Mitchell met this fate in America’s jails. And from that, the “Jailed in Crisis” series was born. Continue reading

Making sense of how the new tax bill will impact health care

About Joanne Kenen

Contributing editor to Politico Magazine and former health care editor-at-large, Politico, Commonwealth Fund journalist in residence and assistant lecturer at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Photo by Sean Stayte via flickr.

The House and the Senate both have passed tax bills which have provisions that will deeply affect health care, ranging from the repeal of the individual mandate to repeal of a tax credit meant to help businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Since the bills are not identical, the final legislation must first be negotiated in a conference committee. Not all the provisions will survive, although the final bill most likely will more closely resemble the Senate version, which includes repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Continue reading

Some do’s and don’ts when interviewing people with disabilities

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

NPS Graphics via commons.wikimedia.org

As I write this blog post, I’m scheduled to interview two individuals for a story based on a study about autism and its link to an increased risk of certain comorbidities. One person is an autistic adult, and the other is the parent of an adolescent diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

At this point in my career, I have spoken with many autistic individuals and count several among my friends, but before I had known anyone on the autism spectrum, I likely would have felt a bit of initial uneasiness: Is there anything I should or shouldn’t say or do? Will they communicate in ways I am familiar with? Will they understand how I am trying to communicate? Continue reading

Bringing oral health tips and tools to disabled adults

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

I recently had the chance to spend the morning with Malissa Savage, a community health worker dedicated to reaching people in need of dental care.

She works for Allegany Health Right, a nonprofit group with a mission to improve the lives of poor and uninsured adults living in a pocket of Appalachia that is located in the far western tip of the state of Maryland.

On visits to senior centers, health fairs, unemployment offices and other sites, Savage offers practical lessons of prevention. She also helps connect people with urgent dental needs to dentists who work with Allegany Health Right to provide care. Continue reading

NYT series digs into overprescription and developmentally disabled adults

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In the series Abused and Used, New York Times reporter Danny Hakim and a host of his colleagues have been investigating how public resources are used to treat developmentally disabled New Yorkers. The series is ongoing, but hit an inflection point with the publication of Hakim’s piece on the few-strings-attached use of very powerful drugs to treat some of the state’s most vulnerable adult residents.

Developmental disabilities, Hakim writes, often manifest themselves in ways that are easily mistaken for mental illness, and these misdiagnoses can lead to unnecessary or improper medication. “In fact,” Hakim writes, “developmentally disabled residents of group homes in New York are more likely to be given Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug that has a tranquilizing effect, than multivitamins, the records show.”

Hakim’s reporting is rich with both anecdotes and data. These paragraphs from the series will give you an idea of how he approached the issue.

Tens of thousands of powerful pills created to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia are given to developmentally disabled people in the care of New York State every day.

…a review by The Times of previously unreleased records, as well as interviews with state employees, clinicians, family members and outside experts, reveals that the psychotropic medications, which alter the brain’s chemistry, are often dispensed sloppily, without rigorous or regular review, by general practitioners with little expertise in the area.

And low-level workers at state group homes are frequently given discretion to increase the medication “as needed,” despite their lack of significant training.

Psychologists who have worked inside the system describe a culture in which the drugs are used to control the disruptive behavior of the developmentally disabled — people with conditions like autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy — an approach increasingly discredited in the field.