Tag Archives: new mexico

Why are rural Westerners killing themselves?

Writing for ABC News, Alan Farnham seeks to explain the jump in suicide rates in the rural American West, particularly in Intermountain states such as Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico.

Historically the suicide rate in rural states has been higher than in urban ones. According to the most recent national data available, Alaska has the highest rate, at 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people. Next comes Wyoming (23.3), followed by New Mexico (21.1), Montana (21.0) and Nevada (20.2). Idaho ranks 6th, at 16.5. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Idahoans aged 15-34. Only accidents rank higher.

Farnham focuses on the Gem State, where suicide rates are rising alongside unemployment and related economic hardship. In addition to economic factors, including cuts to Medicaid funding, and a regional lack of resources for the initial diagnosis of mental illness, local experts point to demographic and cultural factors.

Kim Kane, executive director of Idaho’s Suicide Prevention Action Network in Idaho says other factors explain the high rate of suicide in western mountain states. One is the greater prevalence of guns: In 2010, 63 percent of Idaho suicides involved a firearm, compared with the national average of 50 percent.

She and Garrett also say the West’s pride in rugged individualism can prevent people from seeking help. Their feeling, says Kane, is that they ought to be able to pull themselves up by their mental bootstraps. Idaho is the only state not to have a suicide-prevention hotline.

New outlet to cover food, environment outlet opens with story on N.M. dairy regulation

Under Editor-in-Chief Sam Fromartz, The Food and Environmental Reporting Network has published its first story, a look at pollution and the New Mexico dairy industry which ran in the High Country News.picture-3

In the story, the first of several collaborations set to publish in the near future, reporter Stephanie Page Ogburn profiles a New Mexico activist whose efforts have influenced how the state regulates manure runoff and dairy water regulation.

FERN’s mission statement is “To produce investigative journalism on the subjects of food, agriculture and environmental health in partnership with local and national media outlets.”

According to the press release, the new network is “A registered 501(c)3 non-profit corporation based in New York, the Food and Environment Reporting Network was founded in October 2009 and began operations in January 2011. It is funded by the generous support of the The 11th Hour Project, McKnight Foundation, Clarence Heller Foundation, Columbia Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.”

N.M. midwives deliver a model for rural health

We’ve been following Wisconsin State Journal reporter David Wahlberg’s series on the future of rural health in his state, particularly because Wahlberg’s willing to look pretty far afield for examples that put rural Wisconsin in perspective, and which point to possible solutions to local rural health issues. His latest story, on rural midwifery and child delivery, took him to the mountainous areas around Las Vegas, New Mexico. In a way, it seeks to answer the key dilemma raised in the Montana piece: How do you provide care in areas so remote that the population can’t support an obstetrician and delivery facilities?

ratonPhoto by adventurejournalist via Flickr

Midwives have the potential to at least answer part of that equation, especially when they are used as obstetrician extenders. New Mexico is the nation’s leader in births overseen by midwives. Midwives account for 31 percent of births in New Mexico, a number that dwarfs the 8 percent national average.

Jaymi McKay, New Mexico’s maternal health program manager, said Hispanic midwives have long been a tradition in the state and activists pushed for midwife-friendly laws decades ago.

New Mexico still faces rural maternity care challenges, as 16 of its 33 counties have no hospital that delivers babies, McKay said. But without so many midwives, “it would be a lot worse,” she said. “They fill an important niche. That happens more in New Mexico than in other places.”

In addition to its culture, the New Mexico system stands out for its midwife licensing procedures. Wahlberg goes into greater detail, but here’s the national perspective:

All states offer licenses for nurse midwives. Most private insurers and Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor, pay for their care.
Just 27 states license other midwives – including Wisconsin, which started doing so in 2006. Ten states ban them. Medicaid covers their care in 10 states, not including Wisconsin, and some private insurers cover them.