News

  • The Homeless Are Dying In Record Numbers On The Streets Of L.A.
    This story also ran on Los Angeles Times. This story can be republished for free (details). A record number of homeless people — 918 last year alone — are dying across Los Angeles County, on bus benches, hillsides, railroad tracks and sidewalks. Deaths have jumped 76% in the past five years, outpacing the growth of the homeless population, according to a KHN analysis of the coroner’s data. Health officials and experts have not pinpointed a single cause for the sharp increase in deaths, but they say rising substance abuse may be a major reason. The surge also reflects growth in the number of people... Read more »
  • Watchdogs Cite Lax Medical And Mental Health Treatment Of ICE Detainees
    It’s Saturday morning and the women of the Contreras family are busy in Montclair, Calif., making pupusas, tamales and tacos. They’re working to replace the income of José Contreras, who has been held since last June at Southern California’s Adelanto ICE Processing Center, a privately run immigration detention center. José’s daughter, Giselle, drives around in an aging minivan collecting food orders. First a hospital, then a car wash, then a local bank. Giselle’s father crossed illegally from Guatemala more than two decades ago. He worked in construction until agents picked him up and brought him to Adelanto. José languished there for three... Read more »
  • Lethal Plans: When Seniors Turn To Suicide In Long-Term Care
    When Larry Anders moved into the Bay at Burlington nursing home in late 2017, he wasn’t supposed to be there long. At 77, the stoic Wisconsin machinist had just endured the death of his wife of 51 years and a grim new diagnosis: throat cancer, stage 4. His son and daughter expected him to stay two weeks, tops, before going home to begin chemotherapy. From the start, they were alarmed by the lack of care at the center, where, they said, staff seemed indifferent, if not incompetent — failing to check on him promptly, handing pills to a man who couldn’t... Read more »
  • Mourning Paradise: Collective Trauma In A Town Destroyed
    One of the final memories Carol Holcomb has of her pine-shaded neighborhood was the morning sun that reflected red and gold on her trees last Nov. 8. That day, she said, promised to be a beautiful one in the Butte County town of Paradise. So she was surprised to hear what sounded like raindrops tapping her roof a short time later. Holcomb, 56, stepped outside to investigate and saw a chunk of pine bark floating down from the sky. “It was about 3 inches by 2 inches,” she said. “And it was smoking.” It was her first glimpse of the approaching wildfire that... Read more »
  • Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes
    The Friday Breeze Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend. Happy Friday! The question for the day is: If there were a drug that would turbocharge your brain, would you take it? I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to make me, uh, less than enthused about the idea, but as my second cup of coffee of the day has yet to kick in, I find it interesting to ponder. Anyway, on to this roller coaster of a news week! Republicans on the Hill have been quietly... Read more »
  • Readers And Tweeters Chime In On Investigation Of Electronic Health Records
    Letters to the Editor is a periodic feature. We welcome all comments and will publish a selection. We edit for length and clarity and require full names. Empowered by the digital revolution, the U.S. government claimed that turning American medical charts into electronic records would make health care better, safer and cheaper. Ten years and $36 billion later, the system is an unholy mess. KHN partnered with Fortune magazine to investigate this botched operation. The resulting story, “Death By 1,000 Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong” (March 18), proved clicky on social media. Even Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare &... Read more »
  • California Hospitals See Massive Surge In Homeless Patients
    Homeless patients made about 100,000 visits to California hospitals in 2017, marking a 28% rise from two years earlier, according to the most recent state discharge data. More than a third of those visits involved a diagnosis of mental illness, according to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. By contrast, 6% of all hospital discharges in California during that time involved a mental health diagnosis. Health officials and homeless advocates attribute the trend to the surging number of people living homeless in California in recent years. From 2015 to 2017, the state’s homeless population grew by about 16%, to 134,000,... Read more »
  • Suicide Risk Grew After Missouri Medicaid Kids Shifted To Managed Care, Hospitals Say
    After more than 2,000 Missouri children diagnosed with mental illness were shifted from traditional Medicaid into three for-profit managed-care companies, the state’s hospitals noticed an alarming trend: a doubling in the percentage who had thoughts of suicide or attempted suicide. Additionally, the average length of stay for these children in psychiatric hospitals dropped from 10 days to seven following the Medicaid change in May 2017, according to a study released this month by the Missouri Hospital Association. The hospital association called on state Medicaid officials to investigate the study’s findings about children covered by the state-federal program for low-income families. The group... Read more »
  • Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes
    The Friday Breeze Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend. Happy Friday and happy spring! A huge thanks to KHN Executive Editor Damon Darlin for stepping in last week as yours truly did a bit of sightseeing in the Windy City. (I now have some very shallow but gruesome trivia about Chicago’s gangster history to pull out at parties.) Now on to what has been a rather busy health care week. President Donald Trump handed (very delighted) Democrats a gift-wrapped talking point this week when... Read more »
  • She Was Dancing On The Roof And Talking Gibberish. A Special Kind Of ER Helped Her.
    For decades, hospitals have strained to accommodate patients in psychiatric crisis in emergency rooms. The horror stories of failure abound: Patients heavily sedated or shackled to gurneys for days while awaiting placement in a specialized psychiatric hospital, their symptoms exacerbated by the noise and chaos of emergency medicine. Long wait times in crowded ERs for people who show up with serious medical emergencies. High costs for taxpayers, insurers and families as patients languish longer than necessary in the most expensive place to get care. “If you are living with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, that is a really tough way to begin that... Read more »