Mental Health Archives - California Healthline Wed, 13 Dec 2023 18:59:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 161476318 As Foundation for ‘Excited Delirium’ Diagnosis Cracks, Fallout Spreads Wed, 13 Dec 2023 10:00:00 +0000 When Angelo Quinto’s family learned that officials blamed his 2020 death on “excited delirium,” a term they had never heard before, they couldn’t believe it. To them, it was obvious the science behind the diagnosis wasn’t real.

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Quinto, 30, had been pinned on the ground for at least 90 seconds by police in California and stopped breathing. He died three days later.

Now his relatives are asking a federal judge to exclude any testimony about “excited delirium” in their wrongful death case against the city of Antioch. Their case may be stronger than ever.

Their push comes at the end of a pivotal year for the long-standing, nationwide effort to discard the use of excited delirium in official proceedings. Over the past 40 years, the discredited, racially biased theory has been used to explain away police culpability for many in-custody deaths. But in October, the American College of Emergency Physicians disavowed a key paper that seemingly gave it scientific legitimacy, and the College of American Pathologists said it should no longer be cited as a cause of death.

That same month, California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the nation’s first law to ban the term “excited delirium” as a diagnosis and cause of death on death certificates, autopsy reports, and police reports. Legislators in other states are expected to consider similar bills next year, and some law enforcement agencies and training organizations have dropped references to excited delirium from their policy manuals and pulled back from training police on the debunked theory.

Despite all that momentum, families, attorneys, policing experts, and doctors say much remains to be done to correct the mistakes of the past, to ensure justice in ongoing trials, and to prevent avoidable deaths in the future. But after years of fighting, they’re heartened to see any movement at all.

“This entire thing, it’s a nightmare,” said Bella Collins, Angelo’s sister. “But there are silver linings everywhere, and I feel so fortunate to be able to see change happening.”

Ultimately, the campaign against excited delirium seeks to transform the way police deal with people undergoing mental health crises.

“This is really about saving lives,” said Joanna Naples-Mitchell, an attorney who worked on an influential Physicians for Human Rights review of excited delirium.

Changing Law Enforcement Training

The use of the term “excited delirium syndrome” became pervasive after the American College of Emergency Physicians published a white paper on it in 2009. It proposed that individuals in a mental health crisis, often under the influence of drugs or alcohol, can exhibit superhuman strength as police try to control them, and then die suddenly from the condition, not the police response.

The ACEP white paper was significant in catalyzing police training and policy, said Marc Krupanski, director of criminal justice and policing at Arnold Ventures, one of the largest nonprofit funders of criminal justice policy. The theory contributed to deaths, he said, because it encouraged officers to apply greater force rather than call medical professionals when they saw people in aggressive states.

After George Floyd’s 2020 death, which officers blamed on excited delirium, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association formally rejected it as a medical condition. Then came disavowals from the National Association of Medical Examiners and the emergency physicians’ and pathologists’ groups this year.

The moves by medical societies to renounce the term have already had tangible, albeit limited, effects. In November, Lexipol, a training organization used by thousands of public safety agencies in the U.S., reiterated its earlier move away from excited delirium, citing the California law and ACEP’s retraction of the 2009 white paper.

Lexipol now guides officers to rely on what they can observe, and not to guess at a person’s mental status or medical condition, said Mike Ranalli, a lawyer and police trainer with the Texas-based group. “If somebody appears to be in distress, just get the EMS,” he said, referring to emergency medical services.

Patrick Caceres, a senior investigator at the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s Office of the Independent Police Auditor, successfully pushed to remove excited delirium from the BART Police Department’s policy manual after learning about Quinto’s death in 2020 and seeing the American Medical Association’s rejection of it the following year.

Caceres fears that rooting out the concept — not just the term — more broadly will take time in a country where law enforcement is spread across roughly 18,000 agencies governed by independent police chiefs or sheriffs.

“The kinds of training and the kinds of conversations that need to happen, we’re still a long way away from that,” said Caceres.

In Tacoma, Washington, where three police officers have been charged with the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis, The Seattle Times reported that local first responders testified as recently as October that they still “embrace” the concept.

But in Colorado, the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training board ruled on Dec. 1 to drop excited delirium training for new law enforcement officers, KUSA-TV reported.

And two Colorado lawmakers, Democratic state Reps. Judy Amabile and Leslie Herod, have drafted a bill for the 2024 legislative session banning excited delirium from other police and EMS training and prohibiting coroners from citing it as a cause of death.

“This idea that it gives you superhuman strength causes the police to think they should respond in a way that is often completely inappropriate for what’s actually happening,” Amabile said. “It just seems obvious that we should stop doing that.”

She would like police to focus more on de-escalation tactics, and make sure 911 calls for people in mental health crisis are routed to behavioral health professionals who are part of crisis intervention teams.

Taking ‘Excited Delirium’ Out of the Equation

As the Quinto family seeks justice in the death of the 30-year-old Navy veteran, they are hopeful the new refutations of excited delirium will bolster their wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Antioch. On the other side, defense lawyers have argued that jurors should hear testimony about the theory.

On Oct. 26, the family cited both the new California law and the ACEP rebuke of the diagnosis when it asked a U.S. District Court judge in California to exclude witness testimony and evidence related to excited delirium, saying it “cannot be accepted as a scientifically valid diagnosis having anything to do with Quinto’s death.”

“A defense based on BS can succeed,” family attorney Ben Nisenbaum said. “It can succeed by giving jurors an excuse to give the cops a way out of this.”

Meanwhile, advocates are calling for a reexamination of autopsies of those who died in law enforcement custody, and families are fighting to change death certificates that blame excited delirium.

The Maryland attorney general’s office is conducting an audit of autopsies under the tenure of former chief medical examiner David Fowler, who has attributed various deaths to excited delirium. But that’s just one state reviewing a subset of its in-custody deaths.

The family of Alexander Rios, 28, reached a $4 million settlement with Richland County, Ohio, in 2021 after jail officers piled on Rios and shocked him until he turned blue and limp in September 2019. During a criminal trial against one of the officers that ended in a mistrial this November, the pathologist who helped conduct Rios’ autopsy testified that her supervisor pressured her to list “excited delirium” as the cause of death even though she didn’t agree. Still, excited delirium remains his official cause of death.

The county refused to update the record, so his relatives are suing to force a change to his official cause of death. A trial is set for May.

Changing the death certificate will be a form of justice, but it won’t undo the damage his death has caused, said Don Mould, Rios’ stepfather, who is now helping to raise one of Rios’ three children.

“Here is a kid that’s life is upside down,” he said. “No one should go to jail and walk in and not be able to walk out.”

In some cases, death certificates may be hard to refile. Quinto’s family has asked a state judge to throw out the coroner’s findings about his 2020 death. But the California law, which takes effect in January and bans excited delirium on death certificates, cannot be applied retroactively, said Contra Costa County Counsel Thomas Geiger in a court filing.

And, despite the 2023 disavowals by the main medical examiners’ and pathologists’ groups, excited delirium — or a similar explanation — could still show up on future autopsy reports outside California. No single group has authority over the thousands of individual medical examiners and coroners, some of whom work closely with law enforcement officials. The system for determining a cause of death is deeply disjointed and chronically underfunded.

“One of the unfortunate things, at least within forensic pathology, is that many things are very piecemeal,” said Anna Tart, a member of the Forensic Pathology Committee of the College of American Pathologists. She said that CAP plans to educate members through conferences and webinars but won’t discipline members who continue to use the term.

Justin Feldman, principal research scientist with the Center for Policing Equity, said that medical examiners need even more pressure and oversight to ensure that they don’t find other ways to attribute deaths caused by police restraint to something else.

Only a minority of deaths in police custody now cite excited delirium, he said. Instead, many deaths are being blamed on stimulants, even though fatal cocaine or methamphetamine overdoses are rare in the absence of opioids.

Yet advocates are hopeful that this year marks enough of a turning point that alternative terms will have less traction.

The California law and ACEP decision take “a huge piece of junk science out of the equation,” said Julia Sherwin, a California civil rights attorney who co-authored the Physicians for Human Rights report.

Sherwin is representing the family of Mario Gonzalez, who died in police custody in 2021, in a lawsuit against the city of Alameda, California. Excited delirium doesn’t appear on Gonzalez’s death certificate, but medical experts testifying for the officers who restrained him cited the theory in depositions. 

She said she plans to file a motion excluding the testimony about excited delirium in that upcoming case and similar motions in all the restraint-asphyxia cases she handles.

“And, in every case, lawyers around the country should be doing that,” Sherwin said.

This article was produced by KFF Health News, formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. 

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


This story can be republished for free (details).

El condado de Los Angeles ofrece terapia virtual gratuita de salud mental para estudiantes Mon, 11 Dec 2023 11:00:00 +0000 LOS ANGELES – Las escuelas públicas del condado de Los Angeles han puesto en marcha una ambiciosa iniciativa para ofrecer servicios gratuitos de salud mental a sus 1,3 millones de estudiantes de primaria y secundaria (K-12), una prueba clave del amplio programa de $4,700 millones del gobernador de California, Gavin Newsom, para hacer frente a la crisis de salud mental entre los jóvenes.

Impulsado por los planes Medi-Cal del condado —que proporcionan seguro médico a los residentes con bajos ingresos— en colaboración con su Oficina de Educación y el Departamento de Salud Mental, el programa se basa en servicios de teleterapia proporcionados por Hazel Health, una de las empresas que han surgido para hacer frente a la escasez nacional de servicios de salud mental, algo que se agravó durante la pandemia de covid-19.

La teleterapia es uno de los cuatro proyectos del condado de Los Angeles que recibirán en conjunto hasta $83 millones del Programa de Incentivos de Salud Mental para Estudiantes del estado, uno de los componentes del “plan maestro” del gobernador demócrata para subsanar las deficiencias en el acceso de los jóvenes a los servicios de salud mental.

El contrato de Hazel Health en Los Angeles tiene como meta ayudar a las escuelas sobrecargadas a hacer frente al aumento de la demanda de estos servicios. Promete ser una iniciativa piloto para demostrar tanto la eficacia de la terapia virtual para los alumnos, como la capacidad de educadores y administradores para gestionar eficazmente un programa extenso y delicado en colaboración con una empresa con fines de lucro.

Para algunos educadores y familias los resultados iniciales son prometedores.

Anjelah Salazar, de 10 años, dijo que el especialista de Hazel la ha ayudado a sentirse mucho mejor. La estudiante de quinto grado empezó a sufrir ataques de pánico diarios al cambiar de escuela este año a la primaria Stanton de Glendora.

Su madre, Rosanna Chavira, contó que no sabía qué hacer —aunque es coordinadora clínica de una empresa que trata enfermedades mentales— y le preocupaba no poder pagar un terapeuta que aceptara su seguro. Cuando Chavira supo de Hazel, no lo dudó.

“El hecho de que sea gratis y de que un profesional le enseñe estrategias para sobrellevar distintas situaciones significa mucho”, dijo Chavira. “Ya se notan los resultados”.

Salazar dijo que hasta ahora tuvo cinco citas virtuales con su terapeuta. Una técnica de afrontamiento que aprecia especialmente es un ejercicio de tapping: todas las noches, antes de acostarse, se presiona con el dedo un poquito los ojos, las mejillas, el pecho y las rodillas. Con cada toque, dice: “Soy valiente”.

Christine Crone, madre de Brady, alumno de séptimo grado, afirmó que aún no ha comprobado si las sesiones son eficaces para su hijo, que estudia en Arroyo Seco Junior High en Santa Clarita, pero sí sabe que las disfruta.

“Normalmente le cuesta llegar a tiempo y estar preparado, pero con estas sesiones siempre deja lo que está haciendo y es puntual”, dijo Crone. “Dice que su terapeuta es agradable, divertido y que es fácil hablar con él”.

Jennifer Moya, consejera de salud mental en la escuela primaria Martha Baldwin de Alhambra, una ciudad al este de Los Angeles, dijo que a sus alumnos les gusta la flexibilidad de la teleterapia, que les permite reunirse con los terapeutas en cualquier momento entre las 7 de la mañana y las 7 de la tarde.

“Esta generación de niños ha crecido en la era digital”, señaló Moya, que se encarga de remitir a los alumnos a Hazel en su centro. “Les encanta que esto sea fácil”.

Pablo Isais, consejero de salud mental en la escuela primaria Granada’s Alhambra, dijo que los servicios también pueden ser una solución provisional mientras un estudiante espera una cita en persona, que puede tomar de seis a ocho semanas.

“Ser capaz de comunicarles que hay servicios disponibles a los que pueden acceder en la próxima semana es increíble”, dijo Moya.

Hasta ahora, sólo 607 estudiantes del condado de Los Angeles han participado en las sesiones desde que se ofrecieron por primera vez, en Compton, en diciembre de 2022, explicó Alicia Garoupa, jefa de servicios de bienestar y apoyo de la Oficina de Educación. Ella reconoció algunos problemas iniciales, pero aseguró que Hazel es “otra herramienta en nuestra caja de herramientas”.

El estado confía en las empresas con fines de lucro

La teleterapia desempeña un papel cada vez más importante en las escuelas del país, a medida que educadores y trabajadores sociales se enfrentan a la presión de abordar los crecientes problemas de salud mental. Según un informe de abril de Chalkbeat, 13 de los 20 distritos escolares más grandes del país, incluido Los Angeles Unified, la han incorporado desde que comenzó la pandemia.

El acuerdo del condado de Los Angeles con Hazel prevé el pago a la empresa de hasta $20 millones hasta finales de 2024. Además, Hazel puede facturar a los seguros de los estudiantes.

La empresa con sede en San Francisco, fundada en 2015, ha recaudado $112,5 millones de inversores y tiene contratos en 15 estados. Entre las empresas que buscan los dólares destinados para la salud mental de los jóvenes están otra startup de San Francisco, Daybreak Health, graduada de la prestigiosa incubadora tecnológica Y Combinator, junto con BeMe, Brightline y Kooth.

California eligió a Brightline y Kooth para una iniciativa estatal de $532 millones, en 2024, sobre servicios virtuales de comportamiento juvenil, otro componente importante del plan maestro de Newsom. Algunos programas estatales y locales se superponen, reconoció Naomi Allen, cofundadora y CEO de Brightline, pero dijo que la oferta de Brightline es más amplia que lo que Hazel hace en las escuelas, con servicios que incluyen desde sesiones de coaching para cuidadores hasta recursos de meditación.

“El estado financia el acceso gratuito a los servicios para todos los niños del estado, lo cual es un programa extraordinariamente ambicioso”, afirmó Allen.

Aún así, quedan muchos interrogantes sobre la eficacia de la teleterapia para estudiantes. Tampoco ha resultado ser una fuente de ingresos segura para las empresas: Brightline despidió al 20% de su plantilla la primavera pasada, la segunda ronda de despidos en seis meses.

Complemento, no solución

Chelsy Duffer-Dunbar, que en aquel momento trabajaba para Los Angeles Unified como trabajadora social psiquiátrica, declaró a KFF Health News en octubre que aún no había trabajado con Hazel, pero señaló que el condado exige que un miembro del personal permanezca a la vista del estudiante durante sus citas y le ayude si surgen problemas técnicos.

“Le sigue quitando tiempo al personal”, aseguró Duffer-Dunbar. “Mi día ya es muy estresante. No puedo imaginar tener una evaluación por amenaza y otra por suicidio en el trabajo y luego tener que buscar a alguien para que se siente en esta sesión de terapia con el niño o la niña y su iPad”.

Duffer-Dunbar añadió que quiere que el distrito dé prioridad a los terapeutas en persona que trabajan con la comunidad local, especialmente para los niños más pequeños que tienen problemas con la teleterapia.

Duffer-Dunbar ha dejado el distrito por recortes presupuestarios que la obligaban a desempeñar un trabajo más agobiante.

Hazel insistió en que la teleterapia no es una solución para todas las situaciones.

“Es una oportunidad para ampliar el acceso”, apuntó Andrew Post, jefe de innovación de la empresa.

Colaboración entre educación y salud

Fue necesaria una complicada colaboración entre los distritos escolares, las agencias del condado y los dos planes de Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Health Plan y Health Net, para poner en marcha el programa de terapia escolar. Las normas de financiación estatales se diseñaron para ayudar a las entidades a trabajar juntas.

“Este programa nos ha ayudado a acercarnos a los distritos escolares”, comentó Michael Brodsky, director de salud comunitaria de L.A. Care Health Plan. “Si podemos tratar a los niños cuando van a la escuela y derivarlos para que reciban tratamiento mientras están en la escuela, eso es bueno”.

Hazel ofrece principalmente sesiones de terapia individual de corta duración con trabajadores sociales clínicos u otros consejeros, el 40% de los cuales son bilingües. Son los más indicados para prestar apoyo temporal a quienes tienen necesidades leves o moderadas, como los estudiantes que luchan contra el estrés académico o empiezan en una escuela nueva, pero también pueden derivar a pacientes para que reciban atención a largo plazo.

El mayor distrito inscrito en el programa, Los Angeles Unified, cuenta con el 41% de los alumnos del condado, pero no todos los distritos están preparados para dar el salto. Cuatro de cada 10 distritos han optado por no ofrecer los servicios de Hazel, lo que Garoupa atribuye en parte a la preocupación por el intercambio de información sobre los estudiantes.

El contrato con Hazel termina en diciembre de 2024, pero Garoupa dijo que la Oficina de Educación y sus socios tienen la intención de mantener los servicios hasta junio de 2025. Cualquier prórroga posterior dependerá de los resultados.

Sonya Smith, colega de Garoupa, indicó que la Oficina de Educación evaluará la eficacia de Hazel a través de una encuesta anual, informes mensuales de impacto y reuniones semanales.

“El número de estudiantes que utilizan Hazel va a ser, obviamente, una medida clave”, añadió Smith. “La tasa de utilización de Hazel es del 3% al 8%. Evaluaremos si esas cifras se mantienen, si los estudiantes acceden a la atención en el momento oportuno y si alivia la carga del personal escolar y los proveedores comunitarios”.

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


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LA County Invests Big in Free Virtual Mental Health Therapy for K-12 Students Mon, 11 Dec 2023 10:00:00 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County public schools are rolling out an ambitious effort to offer free mental health services to their 1.3 million K-12 students, a key test of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s sweeping, $4.7 billion program to address a youth mental health crisis.

Spearheaded by the county’s Medi-Cal plans — which provide health insurance to low-income residents — in collaboration with its Office of Education and Department of Mental Health, the LA school program relies on teletherapy services provided by Hazel Health, one of a clutch of companies that have sprung up to address a nationwide shortage of mental health services that grew much worse during the covid-19 pandemic.

The teletherapy effort is one of four LA County projects that will collectively receive up to $83 million from the state’s Student Behavioral Health Incentive Program, one component of the Democratic governor’s “master plan” to address gaps in youth mental health care access.

LA’s Hazel Health contract is aimed at helping overburdened schools cope with a surge in demand for mental health services. It promises to be a telling case study in both the efficacy of virtual therapy for students and the ability of educators and administrators to effectively manage a sprawling and sensitive program in partnership with a for-profit company.

For some Los Angeles County educators and families, the initial results are promising.

Anjelah Salazar, 10, said her Hazel clinician has helped her feel a lot better. After the fifth grader switched to a new school this year, Stanton Elementary in Glendora, she started having panic attacks every day.

Her mom, Rosanna Chavira, said she didn’t know what to do — even though she’s a clinical coordinator for a company that treats mental health conditions — and worried she wouldn’t be able to find an affordable therapist who accepted their insurance. Once Chavira learned about Hazel, she jumped at the opportunity.

“This being free and having a licensed professional teaching her coping skills, it just means the world,” Chavira said. “You can already see changes.”

Salazar said she’s met with her virtual therapist five times so far. One coping technique that she especially appreciates is a tapping exercise: Every night before bed, she taps her eyes, her cheeks, her chest, and her knees. With each tap, she recites the same affirmation: “I am brave.”

Christine Crone, parent of seventh grader Brady, said she has yet to see if the sessions have been effective for her son, who attends Arroyo Seco Junior High in Santa Clarita, but she knows he enjoys them.

“He struggles normally with being on time and prepared, but with these sessions, he always stops what he is doing and makes sure he is logged in on time,” Crone said. “He says that his therapist is nice, fun, and easy to talk to.”

Jennifer Moya, a mental health counselor at Martha Baldwin Elementary in Alhambra, a city east of Los Angeles, said her students like the flexibility of teletherapy, which allows them to meet with clinicians anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“This generation of kids has grown up digital,” said Moya, who is in charge of referring students to Hazel at her school. “They love that this is easy.”

Pablo Isais, a mental health counselor at Alhambra’s Granada Elementary School, said the services can also be a stopgap while a student waits for an in-person appointment, which can take six to eight weeks.

“To be able to let them know that there are services available that they can access within the next week is amazing,” Moya said.

Thus far, early in the rollout, only 607 Los Angeles County students have participated in Hazel sessions since they were first offered, in Compton, in December 2022, said Alicia Garoupa, chief of well-being and support services for the Office of Education. She acknowledged some bumps in the rollout but said Hazel is “another tool in our toolbox.”

State Relies on For-Profit Ventures

Teletherapy is playing an increasingly important role in schools across the nation as educators and social workers face pressure to address growing mental health issues. According to an April Chalkbeat report, 13 of the nation’s 20 largest school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have added teletherapy since the pandemic began.

LA County’s deal with Hazel calls for the company to be paid up to $20 million through the end of 2024. In addition, Hazel can bill students’ insurance.

The San Francisco-based company, founded in 2015, has raised $112.5 million from investors and has contracts in 15 different states. Other companies chasing youth mental health dollars include another San Francisco startup, Daybreak Health, a graduate of the prestigious Y Combinator tech incubator, along with BeMe, Brightline, and Kooth.

California chose Brightline and Kooth for a 2024 $532 million statewide initiative on virtual youth behavioral services, another important component of Newsom’s master plan. There is some overlap between the state and local programs, Brightline co-founder and CEO Naomi Allen acknowledged, but she said the Brightline offering is broader than what Hazel is doing in schools, with services including everything from coaching sessions for caregivers to meditation resources.

“The state is funding free access to services for every child in the state, which is just a remarkably ambitious program,” said Allen.

Still, many questions remain about the efficacy of teletherapy for students. It’s also proving to be no surefire moneymaker for the companies thus far: Brightline laid off 20% of its staff last spring, the second round of layoffs in six months.

Supplement, Not Solution

Chelsy Duffer-Dunbar, who at the time worked for Los Angeles Unified as a psychiatric social worker, told KFF Health News in October that she hadn’t yet worked with Hazel, but noted that the county requires that a member of staff stay within eyesight of the student during their appointments and assist if tech issues arise.

“It is still taking up staff time,” Duffer-Dunbar said. “My day is already so stressful. I can’t imagine having a threat assessment and a suicide assessment at work and then trying to scramble around to find someone to sit in on this therapy session with the kiddo and their iPad.”

Duffer-Dunbar said she wants the district to prioritize in-person clinicians who are immersed in the local community, especially for younger kids who have trouble engaging with teletherapy.

Duffer-Dunbar has since left the district in response to budget cuts that forced her into a more burdensome role.

Hazel emphasized that teletherapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

“It’s an opportunity to expand access,” said Andrew Post, chief of innovation at the company.

Education and Health Care Working Together

It took a complicated collaboration between school districts, county agencies, and the two Medi-Cal plans, L.A. Care Health Plan and Health Net, to set up the school therapy program. The state funding rules were designed to push the entities to work together.

“This program has helped us get closer to school districts,” said Michael Brodsky, senior medical director for community health at L.A. Care Health Plan. “If we can catch kids while they’re at school and refer them to get treatment while they’re in school, that’s good.”

Hazel provides primarily short-term one-to-one therapy sessions with clinical social workers or other licensed counselors, 40% of whom are bilingual. They are best suited to provide temporary support to those with mild to moderate needs, such as students struggling with academic stress or starting at a new school, but they can also make referrals for long-term care.

The largest district enrolled in the program, Los Angeles Unified, accounts for 41% of the county’s students, but not all districts are ready to take the leap. Four in 10 districts have opted to not offer Hazel’s services, which Garoupa attributes partially to data-sharing concerns.

The contract with Hazel ends in December 2024, but Garoupa said the Office of Education and its partners intend to maintain services through June 2025. Any extension beyond that will depend on the results.

Sonya Smith, a colleague of Garoupa’s, said the Office of Education will be continuously evaluating Hazel’s effectiveness through an annual survey, monthly impact reports, and weekly meetings.

“The number of students that are using Hazel is obviously going to be a key metric,” Smith said. “Hazel’s historic utilization rate is 3% to 8%. We’ll be evaluating if those numbers hold up, if students are accessing care in a timely manner, and if it’s lightening the burden for school staff and community-based providers.”

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


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She Once Advised the President on Aging Issues. She Now Battles Disability and Depression. Tue, 28 Nov 2023 10:00:00 +0000 If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

The GoFundMe request jumped out at me as I was scrolling through posts on LinkedIn.

Nora Super, executive director of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging and former director of the Milken Institute’s Center for the Future of Aging, was seeking contributions after suffering a severe spinal cord injury.

“Right now, I have no feeling below the waist. I need lots of equipment to go home from the hospital and live safely and independently,” she wrote in her appeal.

Since coping with disability — and the cost of coping with disability — is an enormously important issue for older adults, I wondered if Super would discuss her experiences and try to put them in perspective.

The Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire ran the numbers for me: About 19 million people 65 and older in the U.S. — a third of that age group — had some type of disability in 2021, the latest year for which data is available. This includes difficulty with hearing, vision, cognition, mobility, or activities such as bathing, dressing, or shopping.

Super agreed to talk to me, but her story was more complicated than I anticipated.

First, some context. Super, 59, has been open about her struggle with major depression, an issue she’s written about. In mid-June, after being fired from the Milken Institute, she began slipping into another depression — her fifth episode since 2005.

Super’s psychiatric medications weren’t working, she said, and she sought electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which had been effective for her in the past. But mental health services are difficult to get in a timely way, and Super couldn’t get an ECT appointment until Aug. 7.

On July 30, convinced that her life had no value, she attempted to end it. This was the event that led to her injury.

After two weeks in intensive care and a recovery unit, Super was ready to leave the hospital. But no rehabilitation facility would take her because of her mental health crisis. Without psychiatrists on staff, they claimed they couldn’t ensure her safety, said Len Nichols, her husband.

Nichols, 70, has held several high-level health policy positions during his career, among them senior adviser for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration and director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University. 

Using every contact he could, Nichols searched for a facility in New Orleans where Super could get intensive rehab services. During the pandemic, the couple had moved there from their longtime home in Arlington, Virginia. New Orleans is where Super grew up and three of her sisters live.

It took six days to get Super admitted to rehab. And that was just one of the challenges Nichols faced.

Over the next month, he prepared for Super’s return home, at considerable expense. An elevator was installed in the couple’s three-story home (their bedroom is on the second floor) for $38,000. A metal ramp at the home’s entry cost $4,000. A lift for their Jeep cost $6,500. A bathroom renovation came to $4,000. An electronic wheelchair-style device that can be used in the shower was another $4,000.

Super’s privately purchased insurance policy covered a wheelchair, bedside commode, hospital bed, and a Hoyer lift (a device that helps people transfer in and out of bed) with a small monthly copayment.

“It’s been surprising how much stuff I’ve needed and how much all of it costs,” Super admitted when we spoke on the phone.

“Even with all our education, resources, and connections, we have had a hard time making all the arrangements we’ve needed to make,” Nichols said. “I cannot imagine how people do this with none of those three things.”

He showered praise on the physical and occupational therapists who worked with Super at the rehab facility and taught him essential skills, such as how to move her from bed to her wheelchair without straining his back or damaging her skin.

“I don’t think I ever appreciated how essential their work is before this,” he told me. “They explain what you’ll be able to do for yourself and then they help you do it. They show you a pathway back to dignity and independence.”

Still, the transition home has been difficult. “In the hospital, nothing was expected of me, everything was done for me. In rehab, you’re very goal-oriented and there are still people to take care of you,” Super told me. “Then, you come home, and that structure is gone and things are harder than you thought.”

Fortunately, Nichols is healthy and able to handle hands-on caregiving. But he soon needed a break and the couple hired home-care workers for four hours a day, five days a week. That costs $120 daily, and Super’s long-term care insurance pays $100.

They’re lucky they can afford it. Medicare typically doesn’t pay for chronic help of this kind, and only about 7% of people 50 or older have long-term care insurance.

What does Super’s future look like? She isn’t sure. Physicians have said it could take a year to know whether she can recover function below her waist.

“I’m happy to be alive and to see how I can take where I’ve ended up and do something positive with it,” she said. “I still have a voice, and I can help people understand what it is to live with physical limitations in a way that I’ve never really understood before.”

Hopefully, this sense of purpose will sustain her. But it won’t be easy. After we spoke, Super became discouraged with her prospects for recovery and her mood turned dark again, her husband said.

“Knowing her, I believe that she will make it her mission to help others better understand the enormous and multiple challenges associated with the onset of a disability, and she will press for changes in our health system to improve the lives of families who have to deal with disabilities,” said Stuart Butler, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has worked with Super in the past.

Persistent accessibility problems for people with disabilities are part of what Super wants to speak out about. “I live in an old city with sidewalks that are very uneven, and just getting down the street in my chair is a big hassle,” she said. “Finding parking where we can open the door fully and get me out is a challenge.” 

Nichols has been surprised by how many medical offices have no way of lifting Super from her wheelchair to the exam table. “The default is, they ask me, ‘Can you pick her up?’ It’s stunning how poorly prepared they are to help someone like Nora.”

Then, there are reactions Super encounters when she leaves the house. “Going down the street, people look at me and then they look away. It definitely feels different than when I was able-bodied. It makes me feel diminished,” Super said.

Nichols finds himself thinking back to something a neurosurgeon said on the day Super was injured and had her first operation. “He told me, ‘Look, there’s more damage than we thought, and she won’t be what she was. You’re not going to know for six to 12 months what’s possible. But I can tell you to do as much as you can as soon as you can to move on to a new normal. Millions of people have done it, and you can too.’”

We’re eager to hear from readers about questions you’d like answered, problems you’ve been having with your care, and advice you need in dealing with the health care system. Visit to submit your requests or tips.

This article was produced by KFF Health News, formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. 

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


This story can be republished for free (details).

Health Care Is Front and Center as DeSantis and Newsom Go Mano a Mano Mon, 27 Nov 2023 10:00:00 +0000 Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantisAge: 45Florida population: 22.2 million


Gov. Gavin NewsomAge: 56California population: 39 million

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom — political rivals from opposite coasts and proxies for red and blue America — are set to square off for a first-of-its-kind debate Nov. 30 in Georgia.

Newsom, a liberal firebrand in his second term as governor of California, isn’t running for president in 2024. But he goaded DeSantis, in his second term as governor of Florida, to go mano a mano. “I’ll bring my hair gel. You bring your hairspray,” he taunted on social media.

The matchup promises to be a heated brawl between rising political stars who lead two of the nation’s most populous and diverse states. And it will mark the first time the politicians meet in person even as they have very publicly traded barbs and insults, in recent weeks attacking each other in fundraising videos and campaign ads.

Front and center will be homelessness and health care, top priorities for voters — and issues that have largely defined the governors’ policies and leadership styles. From abortion to covid-19 vaccines, Newsom and DeSantis could not be further apart.

Earlier this year, DeSantis blasted California for being too generous with public benefit programs, such as Medicaid, which the Golden State has expanded to all eligible residents regardless of immigration status. That sweeping policy takes effect in January and goes well beyond the optional expansion of Medicaid that the Affordable Care Act offered states. In Florida, one of 10 states that have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, DeSantis wears the state’s 11% rate of uninsured residents as a badge of honor.

“We’re not going to be like California and have massive numbers of people on government programs without work requirements,” DeSantis said at a presidential primary debate in Southern California earlier this year.

DeSantis has led his state to restrict abortion and gender-affirming care and to ban covid-related mask and vaccine mandates.

Newsom, a slick and brash surrogate for Democratic President Joe Biden, has slammed DeSantis for putting Floridians in danger and stripping them of their rights.

“Join us in California, where we still believe in freedom,” Newsom said in a political ad earlier this year.

Newsom has earned the moniker of “health care governor” by catapulting the issue to the top of his policy priorities. He made California an abortion sanctuary and is dramatically expanding health care benefits. He had promised to bring single-payer health care to the nation’s most populous state while campaigning for his first term, but that idea hit stiff political opposition early in his tenure. And now Newsom boasts about bringing the state’s uninsured rate to an all-time low of 6.5% by expanding coverage in other ways.

These issues are expected to take center stage during the nationally televised 90-minute debate on Fox News, which could have major reverberations for the presidential contest next year and could even help shape the 2028 field of White House contenders.

In advance of the showdown, KFF Health News analyzed 10 of the governors’ top health care positions and how their policies have improved — or hindered — the health of the residents they represent.



DeSantis has refused to expand Medicaid eligibility to more people under the Affordable Care Act. Partly as a result, more than 3 million Floridians had coverage through the federal Obamacare exchange as of February, more than any other state. Florida does not have a state-based exchange or offer state-sponsored subsidies.


The state has enthusiastically embraced the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid while setting up its own insurance exchange, Covered California. Under Newsom, it has also gone well beyond the provisions of Obamacare and created a state requirement for Californians to have health insurance after the federal mandate was eliminated.



DeSantis approved legislation in April banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. However, the Florida Supreme Court has taken up a challenge to the 15-week ban introduced in 2022, which will determine if the six-week ban can take effect.


Newsom spearheaded the effort in 2022 to amend the state constitution to enshrine the right to abortion and birth control. He also approved $60 million to help uninsured patients and people from out of state pay for abortions in California, and signed reproductive health care laws, including one protecting doctors who mail abortion pills to other states.

Transgender Care


Under DeSantis, Florida passed a law this year banning gender-affirming health care for trans minors and mandating that adult patients sign informed consent forms before starting or continuing hormone treatment. The law also restricts who can order hormone therapy to physicians and prohibits the use of telehealth for new prescriptions. A federal lawsuit challenging the law is set to go to trial in mid-December.


Newsom and other state leaders have amended state law to ensure all California adults and children are entitled to gender-affirming health care services. And insurance companies doing business in California must include information on in-network providers for gender-affirming services by 2025. State health care agencies are designing “enforceable quality standards” to ensure trans patients have access to comprehensive care.



DeSantis has not declared homelessness a priority. In a video filmed on the streets of San Francisco and posted to social media in June, DeSantis used the topic as a campaign cudgel to criticize what he called “leftist policies” in California. Florida is experimenting with using Medicaid funds to address homelessness, but the program is limited. Nearly 26,000 people are homeless in Florida, or 12 of every 10,000 residents.


Newsom has plowed more than $20 billion into the homelessness crisis, with billions more for health and social services. For example, some homeless Californians can get social services through the state’s Medicaid program, such as money for rental security deposits, utility payments, and first and last month’s rent. Newsom also led a new state initiative that could force some homeless people into mental health or addiction treatment. More than 171,000 people are homeless in California, or 44 of every 10,000 residents.

Mental Health


DeSantis has kept his pledge to advocate for mental health treatment programs as governor, although Florida still ranks 43rd nationally in access to mental health care and has the fourth-highest rate of adults with mental illness who are uninsured, according to the Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery. Under DeSantis, Florida has increased state funding for mental health programs in schools and peer-to-peer mental health services for first responders, and directed funding to suicide prevention.


Newsom in 2020 signed one of the nation’s strongest mental health parity laws, which requires insurance companies to cover mental health and substance use disorders just as they would physical health conditions. He is funding a $4.7 billion initiative to provide mental health treatment in schools. Newsom is also leading the campaign for a statewide, $6.4 billion bond measure in 2024 to revamp and expand community-based behavioral health programs, including thousands of new treatment beds.



Florida’s drug overdose death rate was 37.5 per 100,000 people in 2021. In August, DeSantis announced a new statewide addiction recovery program billed as a “first of its kind” in the United States, using peer counselors, medication-assisted treatment, and a coordinated network of support services. DeSantis also authorized Florida counties to adopt needle exchange programs in 2019 to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases and encourage addiction treatment.


California’s drug overdose rate was 26.6 per 100,000 people in 2021. Newsom is sending the state Highway Patrol and National Guard into San Francisco to combat the open-air fentanyl trade and is boosting addiction recovery programs statewide. But he vetoed legislation last year that would have allowed Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland to establish safe injection sites.

Prescription Drugs


A DeSantis proposal submitted to the FDA in 2020 includes allowing imported medications from Canada. A new state law also sets price limits for pharmacy benefit managers — intermediaries between insurers, pharmacies, and manufacturers — and creates new rules for them around pricing transparency. The law also requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose significant price hikes.


Newsom is spearheading a $100 million, first-in-the-nation initiative that puts California in the generic drugmaking business, beginning with insulin and the opioid reversal drug naloxone. California already had a pricing transparency law when Newsom took office. This year, he signed a law that tightens state regulations for pharmacy benefit managers.

Health Care Affordability


In 2019, DeSantis signed the Patient Savings Act, which allows health insurers to share cost savings with enrollees who shop for health care services, such as imaging and diagnostic tests. Under his leadership, Florida lawmakers have also allowed short-term health plans lasting less than a year and direct health care agreements between a patient and a health care provider that are not considered insurance and are not subject to Florida’s insurance code.


One of Newsom’s first health care initiatives was to fund state-financed health insurance subsidies for low- and middle-income residents who purchase insurance through Covered California. Newsom this year also agreed to lower copays and get rid of some deductibles for plans sold through the exchange. California’s newly created Office of Health Care Affordability is capping industry cost increases and could potentially regulate health industry consolidation. California bans short-term health plans.

Public Health


DeSantis signed legislation in 2021 banning government, schools, and private employers from requiring covid vaccinations. In 2023, he pushed legislators to adopt laws prohibiting certain vaccine and mask requirements. He also formed a Public Health Integrity Committee led by his hand-picked surgeon general, Joseph Ladapo, whose official guidance on covid vaccines contradicts the CDC’s recommendations. The Sunshine State’s covid-19 vaccine booster rate for residents age 5 and older is 12.4%.


Newsom became the first U.S. governor to issue a statewide stay-at-home order at the start of the covid-19 pandemic. He pushed strong vaccination and mask mandates and accused DeSantis of being weak on public health. Newsom has also signed laws strengthening childhood vaccination mandates, including a measure that cracks down on bogus medical exemptions granted by doctors. The Golden State’s covid-19 vaccine booster rate for residents ages 5 and older is 21.9%.

Immigrant Health Care


With DeSantis making immigration a priority, legislators passed a state law requiring all Florida hospitals to ask on their admission forms whether a patient is a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the country. Doctors, nurses, and health policy experts say the law targets marginalized people who already have difficulty navigating the health care system and will further deter them from seeking care.


Beginning in January, all immigrants who meet income qualifications will be eligible for the state’s Medicaid program. Before Newsom took office, California had already expanded eligibility to immigrant children through age 18 living in the state without authorization. Newsom then signed laws expanding the program to young adults up to age 26, adults 50 and older, and, later, immigrants of any age who otherwise meet eligibility requirements.

This article was produced by KFF Health News, formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. 

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


This story can be republished for free (details).

La atención de salud, en el centro del debate entre DeSantis y Newsom Mon, 27 Nov 2023 10:00:00 +0000 Florida

Gobernador Ron DeSantisEdad: 45Población de Florida: 22.2 million


Gobernador Gavin NewsomEdad: 56Población de California: 39 million

El candidato presidencial republicano Ron DeSantis y el gobernador demócrata Gavin Newsom —rivales políticos y representantes de la América roja y azul— se enfrentarán en un debate sin precedentes el 30 de noviembre en Georgia.

Newsom, un agitador liberal en su segundo mandato como gobernador de California, no se presenta a las elecciones presidenciales de 2024. Pero incitó a DeSantis, en su segundo mandato como gobernador de Florida, a un cara a cara. “Yo llevaré mi gomina. Tú trae tu laca”, bromeó en las redes sociales.

El enfrentamiento promete ser una acalorada pelea entre estrellas políticas en ascenso que lideran dos de los estados más poblados y diversos del país. Y será la primera vez que los políticos se vean las caras, a pesar de que en las últimas semanas han intercambiado insultos en videos para recaudar fondos y anuncios de campaña.

Los temas principales serán la falta de vivienda y la salud, prioridades de los votantes y cuestiones que han definido, en gran medida, las políticas y los estilos de liderazgo de los gobernadores. Desde el aborto hasta las vacunas contra covid-19, Newsom y DeSantis no podrían ser más opuestos.

A principios de este año, DeSantis criticó a California por ser demasiado generosa con los programas públicos como Medicaid, que el Estado Dorado ha ampliado a todos los residentes elegibles, independientemente de su estatus migratorio. Esa política de gran alcance entra en vigencia en enero y va mucho más allá de la expansión opcional de Medicaid que la Ley de Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio (ACA) ofreció a los estados. En Florida, uno de los 10 estados que se ha negado a ampliar Medicaid bajo ACA o Obamacare, DeSantis alardea de la tasa de residentes del estado sin seguro de salud, que es del 11%, como si fuera una medalla de honor.

“No vamos a ser como California y tener un número masivo de personas en programas gubernamentales sin requisitos de trabajo”, dijo DeSantis en un debate de primarias presidenciales en el sur de California a principios de este año.

DeSantis ha llevado a su estado a restringir el aborto y la atención médica de afirmación de género, y a prohibir las máscaras relacionadas con covid y los mandatos de vacunación.

Newsom, un hábil e impetuoso sustituto del presidente demócrata Joe Biden, ha arremetido contra DeSantis por poner a los floridanos en peligro y despojarlos de sus derechos.

“Únete a nosotros en California, donde todavía creemos en la libertad”, expresó Newsom en un anuncio político a principios de este año.

Newsom se ha ganado el apodo de “gobernador de la atención de salud” al catapultar este asunto a lo más alto de sus prioridades políticas. Ha hecho de California un santuario del aborto y está ampliando drásticamente las prestaciones de salud. Durante su primera campaña, prometió estabecer el sistema de salud de pagador único al estado más poblado del país, pero esa idea encontró una dura oposición política al principio de su mandato. Y ahora Newsom se jacta de haber conseguido que la tasa de personas sin seguro en el estado haya alcanzado un mínimo histórico del 6,5% al ampliar la cobertura de otras maneras.

Se espera que estas cuestiones sean el centro del debate de 90 minutos televisado a todo el país por Fox News. Un debate que podría tener importantes repercusiones en la contienda presidencial del próximo año, e incluso ayudar a conformar el grupo de aspirantes a la Casa Blanca en 2028.

Con miras al debate, KFF Health News analizó 10 de las principales posiciones de los gobernadores en materia de salud y cómo sus políticas han mejorado —o perjudicado— la salud de los residentes a los que representan.



DeSantis se ha negado a ampliar la elegibilidad de Medicaid a más personas bajo la Ley de Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio (ACA). Una de las consecuencias es que, hacia febrero, más de 3 millones de floridanos tenían cobertura a través del mercado de seguros federal del Obamacare, más que cualquier otro estado. Florida no cuenta con un mercado estatal, ni ofrece subsidios patrocinados por el estado.


El estado ha adoptado con entusiasmo la Ley de Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio (ACA), ampliando Medicaid y creando su propio mercado de seguros, Covered California. Con Newsom, se ha ido mucho más allá de las disposiciones del Obamacare y se ha creado un requisito estatal que obliga a los californianos a tener un seguro de salud, después de que se eliminara el mandato federal.



DeSantis aprobó en abril una ley que prohíbe los abortos después de las seis semanas de embarazo. Sin embargo, la Corte Suprema de Florida ha tomado un recurso de apelación sobre la prohibición de las 15 semanas introducida en 2022, lo que determinará si la prohibición de las seis semanas puede entrar en vigencia.


Newsom encabezó en 2022 la iniciativa de enmendar la constitución estatal para consagrar el derecho al aborto y al control de la natalidad. También aprobó $60 millones para ayudar a pacientes sin seguro y a personas de fuera del estado a pagar abortos en California, y firmó leyes de atención a la salud reproductiva, incluida una que protege a los médicos que envían píldoras abortivas por correo a otros estados.

Atención transgénero


Bajo DeSantis, Florida aprobó este año una ley que prohíbe la atención médica de afirmación de género para menores trans y obliga a los pacientes adultos a firmar formularios de consentimiento informado antes de iniciar o continuar un tratamiento hormonal. La ley también limita la capacidad de los médicos para ordenar la terapia hormonal y prohíbe el uso de la telesalud para nuevas recetas. Está previsto que a mediados de diciembre se celebre un juicio por una demanda federal contra esta ley.


Newsom y otros líderes estatales han modificado la ley estatal para garantizar que todos los adultos y niños de California tengan derecho a servicios de atención médica de afirmación de género. Y las compañías de seguros que operan en California deben incluir información sobre los proveedores de la red de servicios de afirmación de género para 2025. Las agencias de salud estatales diseñan “normas de calidad aplicables” para garantizar que los pacientes trans tengan acceso a una atención integral.



DeSantis no ha declarado que la falta de vivienda sea una prioridad. En un video grabado en las calles de San Francisco, y publicado en redes sociales en junio, utilizó el tema como un arma de campaña para criticar lo que llamó “políticas de izquierda” en California. Florida experimenta con el uso de fondos de Medicaid para hacer frente a la falta de vivienda, pero el programa es limitado. Casi 26,000 personas carecen de hogar en Florida, es decir, 12 de cada 10,000 residentes.


Newsom ha destinado más de $20,000 millones a la crisis de los sin techo, y miles de millones más a servicios sociales y de salud. Por ejemplo, algunos californianos sin hogar pueden obtener servicios sociales a través del programa estatal de Medicaid, como dinero para depósitos de alquileres, pagos para servicios públicos, y para el primer y último mes de alquiler. Newsom también lideró una nueva iniciativa estatal que podría obligar a algunas personas sin hogar a someterse a tratamientos de salud mental o de adicciones. En California hay más de 171,000 personas sin hogar, es decir, 44 de cada 10,000 residentes.

Salud mental


DeSantis ha reiterado su promesa de abogar por programas de tratamiento de salud mental como gobernador, aunque Florida todavía ocupa el puesto 43 a nivel nacional en el acceso a la atención de salud mental y tiene la cuarta tasa más alta de adultos con enfermedades mentales sin seguro, según el Miami Center for Mental Health and Recovery. Con DeSantis, Florida ha aumentado la financiación estatal para programas de salud mental en las escuelas y servicios de salud mental entre pares para personal de primeros auxilios, y ha canalizado fondos para la prevención del suicidio.


Newsom firmó en 2020 una de las leyes de paridad en salud mental más estrictas del país, que obliga a las compañías de seguros a cubrir los trastornos mentales y las adicciones de la misma forma que lo harían con las afecciones físicas. Financia una iniciativa de $4,700 millones para proporcionar tratamiento de salud mental en las escuelas. Newsom también lidera en 2024 la campaña a favor de una medida de bonos estatales de $6,400 millones para renovar y ampliar los programas comunitarios de salud mental, incluidas miles de nuevas camas para tratamientos.



La tasa de muertes por sobredosis de drogas en Florida fue de 37,5 por cada 100,000 personas en 2021. En agosto, DeSantis anunció un nuevo programa estatal para recuperarse de las adicciones, calificado como “el primero de su tipo” en Estados Unidos, que utiliza consejeros pares, tratamiento asistido con medicamentos y una red coordinada de servicios de apoyo. DeSantis también autorizó a los condados de Florida a adoptar programas de intercambio de agujas en 2019 para reducir la propagación de enfermedades por transmisión sanguínea y fomentar el tratamiento de adicciones.


La tasa de muertes por sobredosis de drogas en California fue de 26,6 por cada 100, 000 habitantes en 2021. Newsom ha enviado a la Patrulla de Carreteras del estado y a la Guardia Nacional a San Francisco para combatir el comercio de fentanilo al aire libre e impulsa programas de recuperación de adicciones en todo el estado. Pero el año pasado vetó una ley que habría permitido a Los Angeles, San Francisco y Oakland establecer sitios seguros para inyectarse.

Medicamentos recetados


Una propuesta de DeSantis, presentada a la FDA en 2020, incluye permitir la importación de medicamentos de Canadá. Una nueva ley estatal también establece límites de precios para los administradores de beneficios farmacéuticos —intermediarios entre aseguradoras, farmacias y fabricantes— y crea nuevas normas para ellos en torno a la transparencia de precios. La ley también obliga a las farmacéuticas a revelar aumentos de precios significativos.


Newsom encabeza una iniciativa de $100 millones, la primera en el país, que sitúa a California en el negocio de la fabricación de medicamentos genéricos, empezando por la insulina y la naloxona, un fármaco para revertir el efecto de los opioides. California ya contaba con una ley de transparencia de precios cuando Newsom asumió el cargo. Este año, firmó una ley que endurece la normativa estatal para los administradores de beneficios farmacéuticos.

Cuidado de salud asequible


En 2019, DeSantis firmó la Ley de Ahorro del Paciente, que permite a las aseguradoras de salud compartir los ahorros de costos con los afiliados que compran servicios de atención médica, como imágenes y pruebas de diagnóstico. Bajo su liderazgo, los legisladores de Florida también han permitido planes de salud a corto plazo, que duran menos de un año, y acuerdos de atención médica directa entre un paciente y un proveedor de salud que no se consideran seguros, y no están sujetos al código de seguros de Florida.


Una de las primeras iniciativas de Newsom en materia de salud consistió en financiar subvenciones estatales al seguro médico para residentes ingresos bajos y medios que contraten un seguro a través de Covered California. También acordó este año reducir los copagos y eliminar algunos deducibles de los planes vendidos a través del mercado. La recién creada Office of Health Care Affordability de California limita los aumentos de costos del sector y podría regular la consolidación de la industria de la salud. California prohíbe los planes de salud a corto plazo.

Salud Pública


DeSantis firmó una ley en 2021 que prohíbe al gobierno, las escuelas y los empleadores privados exigir la vacunación contra covid. En 2023, presionó a los legisladores para que aprobaran leyes que prohibieran ciertos requisitos de vacunas y uso de máscaras. También estableció un Comité de Integridad de Salud Pública dirigido por su cirujano general elegido a dedo, Joseph Ladapo, cuya orientación oficial sobre las vacunas de covid contradice las recomendaciones de los CDC. La tasa de vacunación de refuerzo contra covid-19 en el Estado del Sol para los residentes de 5 años en adelante es del 12,4%.


Newsom fue el primer gobernador de Estados Unidos en emitir una orden para permanecer en casa en todo el estado al comienzo de la pandemia de covid-19. Impulsó fuertes mandatos de vacunación y máscaras, y acusó a DeSantis de ser débil en materia de salud pública. Newsom también ha firmado leyes que refuerzan los mandatos de vacunación infantil, incluida una severa medida contra las falsas exenciones médicas concedidas por los doctores. La tasa de vacunación de refuerzo contra covid-19 en el Estado Dorado para los residentes de 5 años en adelante es del 21,9%.

Atención de salud del inmigrante


Al tener DeSantis la inmigración como una prioridad, los legisladores aprobaron una ley estatal que obliga a todos los hospitales de Florida a preguntar en sus formularios de admisión si un paciente es ciudadano estadounidense o se encuentra legalmente en el país. Médicos, enfermeras y expertos en políticas de salud afirman que la ley afecta a personas marginadas, que ya tienen dificultades para desenvolverse en el sistema de salud, y que los disuadirá aún más de buscar atención médica.


A partir de enero, todos los inmigrantes que cumplan los requisitos de ingresos podrán acogerse al programa estatal de Medicaid. Antes que Newsom asumiera el cargo, California ya había ampliado la elegibilidad a los niños inmigrantes indocumentados hasta los 18 años. Newsom firmó luego leyes que ampliaron el programa a adultos jóvenes hasta los 26 años, a adultos mayores de 50 años y, más tarde, a los inmigrantes de cualquier edad que cumplieran con los requisitos de elegibilidad.

Esta historia fue producida por KFF Health News, conocido antes como Kaiser Health News (KHN), una redacción nacional que produce periodismo en profundidad sobre temas de salud y es uno de los principales programas operativos de KFF, la fuente independiente de investigación de políticas de salud, encuestas y periodismo. 

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


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A Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance Wed, 22 Nov 2023 11:00:00 +0000 If you’re wealthy, you’ll be able to afford help in your home or care in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. If you’re poor, you can turn to Medicaid for nursing homes or aides at home. But if you’re middle-class, you’ll have a thorny decision to make: whether to buy long-term care insurance. It’s a more complex decision than for other types of insurance because it’s very difficult to accurately predict your finances or health decades into the future.

What’s the difference between long-term care insurance and medical insurance?

Long-term care insurance is for people who may develop permanent cognitive problems like Alzheimer’s disease or who will need help with basic daily tasks like bathing or dressing. It can help pay for personal aides, adult day care, or institutional housing in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Medicare does not cover such costs for the chronically ill.

How does it work?

Policies generally pay a set rate per day, week, or month — say, up to $1,400 a week for home care aides. Before buying a policy, ask which services it covers and how much it pays out for each kind of care, such as a nursing home, an assisted living facility, a home personal care service, or adult day care. Some policies will pay family members who are providing the care; ask who qualifies as a family member and whether the policy pays for their training.

You should check to see if benefits are increased to take inflation into account, and by how much. Ask about the maximum amount the policy will pay out and if the benefits can be shared by a domestic partner or spouse.

How much does it cost?

In 2023, a 60-year-old man buying a $165,000 policy would typically pay about $2,585 annually for a policy that grew at 3% a year to take inflation into account, according to a survey by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a nonprofit that tracks insurance rates. A woman of the same age would pay $4,450 for the same policy because women tend to live longer and are more likely to use it. The higher the inflation adjustment, the more the policy will cost.

If a company has been paying out more than it anticipated, it’s more likely to raise rates. Companies need the approval of your state’s regulators, so you should find out if the insurer is asking the state insurance department to increase rates for the next few years — and, if so, by how much — since companies can’t raise premiums without permission. You can find contacts for your state’s insurance department through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ directory.

Should I buy it?

It’s probably not worth the cost if you don’t own your home or have a significant amount of money saved and won’t have a sizable pension beyond Social Security. If that describes you, you’ll probably qualify for Medicaid once you spend what you have. But insurance may be worth it if the value of all your savings and possessions, excluding your primary home, is at least $75,000, according to a consumer guide from the insurance commissioners’ association.

Even if you have savings and valuable things that you can sell, you should think about whether you can afford the premiums. While insurers can’t cancel a policy once they’ve sold it to you, they can — and often do — raise the premium rate each year. The insurance commissioners’ group says you probably should consider coverage only if it’s less than 7% of your current income and if you can still pay it without pain if the premium were raised by 25%.

Many insurers are selling hybrid policies that combine life insurance and long-term care insurance. Those are popular because if you don’t use the long-term care benefit, the policy pays out to a beneficiary after you die. But compared with long-term care policies, hybrid policies “are even more expensive, and the coverage is not great,” said Howard Bedlin, government relations and advocacy principal at the National Council on Aging.

When should I buy a policy?

Wait too long and you may have developed medical conditions that make you too risky for any insurer. Buy too early and you may be diverting money that would be better invested in your retirement account, your children’s tuition, or other financial priorities. Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, says the “sweet spot” is when you’re between ages 55 and 65. People younger than that often have other financial priorities, he said, that make the premiums more painful.

When can I tap the benefits?

Make sure you know which circumstances allow you to draw benefits. That’s known as the “trigger.” Policies often require proof that you need help with at least two of the six “activities of daily living,” which are: bathing, dressing, eating, being able to get out of bed and move, continence, and being able to get to and use the toilet. You can also tap your policy if you have a diagnosis of dementia or some other kind of cognitive impairment. Insurance companies will generally send a representative to do an evaluation, or require a doctor’s assessment.

Many policies won’t start paying until after you’ve paid out of your own pocket for a set period, such as 20 days or 100 days. This is known as the “elimination period.”

This article was produced by KFF Health News, formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. 

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


This story can be republished for free (details).

It’s Getting Harder to Find Long-Term Residential Behavioral Health Treatment for Kids Thu, 16 Nov 2023 10:00:00 +0000 HELENA, Mont. — Connie MacDonald works for the State Department at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It’s a dream job, and she loved living abroad with her two sons.

But earlier this year, MacDonald said, her 8-year-old son started to become aggressive. At first the family thought it was ADHD. Her son was indeed eventually diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — as well as disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, which makes it difficult for her son to control his emotions, particularly anger.

“He was hurting me. He was threatening to kill his brother. One of the last straws was they had four people at school holding him down for almost an hour trying to calm him down,” she said.

The American International School of Jeddah told her that her son couldn’t come back. His behavior was so severe that MacDonald started to look for residential treatment back in the U.S.

She found Intermountain Residential in Montana. Children in the Intermountain program learn to build healthy relationships through intense behavioral therapy over the course of up to 18 months.

Intermountain Residential is one of the only facilities in the U.S. that serves young children with emotional dysregulation, like her son.

MacDonald remembers crying hysterically when she dropped him off in June, but tears gave way to hope as his violent outbursts decreased over the weeks and months afterward.

“Now when we have our weekly calls, it’s very normal. It’s like talking to your child again. It’s wonderful,” she said.

Intermountain is one of about a dozen programs in the nation that provide long-term behavioral health treatment for kids under 10, according to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. It’s one of the only options for kids as young as 4.

Intermountain is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in Helena and has been treating children for over 100 years. The children Intermountain treats have emotional disorders, behavioral issues stemming from mental illness or trauma, and other issues. They struggle with self-harm, severe depression, or violent outbursts that can lead to attacking other people or animals. Most families that come to Intermountain have tried medication, outpatient therapy, or even short-term residential treatment, all without success.

Long-term treatment programs like the one Intermountain offers are often a last resort for families.

It can take months before kids with severe mental and behavioral health issues feel safe enough to open up to Intermountain staff, said Meegan Bryce, who manages the residential program. Some kids have been traumatized or abused while adults were supposed to be caring for them, she said. Living through that can leave them deeply scared of or resistant to adult interaction, even once they’re living in a safe environment. Bryce said that Intermountain staff have to gain a patient’s trust before working to figure out the root cause of the child’s behavior. It takes time before they can make an effective long-term treatment plan based on intensive behavioral therapy and building healthy relationships.

Intermountain parents and staff were shocked when the facility announced suddenly this summer that it would close its doors this fall, blaming staffing shortages.

Some parents threatened to sue. A law firm representing them argued in a September letter to Intermountain’s board that it has a contractual responsibility to finish treating children who remain at its residential facility.

Intermountain then reversed course, saying it would downsize in an attempt to keep the program open. But spokesperson Erin Benedict said it’s no guarantee Intermountain can keep its doors open long-term. Intermountain plans to decrease its capacity from 32 beds to eight.

Megan Stokes, until recently executive director of NATSAP, thinks staffing shortages are not the full story of Intermountain’s troubles.

“We are seeing a lot of long-term facilities moving to what they call the short-term, intensive outpatient. You’re able to get insurance money easier,” she explained. Stokes said she knows of 11 long-term programs for kids 14 and younger that have shifted to offering only shorter stays, of 30 to 90 days.

Short-term programs are cheaper and insurance companies will pay for them more quickly, Stokes said. Over the course of a year, short-term programs can treat more patients than long-term residential facilities. That can make them more lucrative to run.

But those programs aren’t likely to help kids who might have to leave Intermountain. In fact, short-term programs could cause them harm.

“The problem is if that kid bombs out of that shorter-term stay, or they do well and maybe six months down the road they don’t have the tools in their toolkit to continue that, and now you’re labeled as treatment-resistant, when that kid wasn’t treatment-resistant,” Stokes said.

Kids labeled treatment-resistant can then be rejected from other short-term programs.

For now, parents of kids at Intermountain are looking for other treatment options because of the uncertainty over whether Intermountain will remain open. Parents told NPR and KFF Health News they’ve had to sign up for waitlists that can take a year or longer to clear for the few programs that take kids 10 and younger. That’s if they can find facilities that would accept their kids at all.

Stacy Ballard hasn’t been able to find a facility willing to treat her 10-year-old adoptive son with reactive attachment disorder who is currently at Intermountain. The condition can make it hard for kids to form an attachment with their family. Ballard said her son can be extremely violent.

“He was walking around our house at night thinking about killing all of us, and he said it was almost nightly that he was doing that,” Ballard explained.

Facilities that treat children his age generally won’t treat kids with a reactive attachment disorder diagnosis, which often is associated with severe emotional and behavioral problems.

MacDonald also can’t find another facility that could be a backup option for her son. He was supposed to complete 14 more months of treatment at Intermountain.

She said she can’t gamble on keeping her son at Intermountain because of the uncertainty over whether it will remain open.

So, she’s getting ready to leave Jeddah and fly back to the U.S., taking a leave of absence from her job.

“I’ll take him to my family’s place in South Carolina until I can find another place for him,” she said.

This article is from a partnership that includes MTPR, NPR, and KFF Health News.

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


This story can be republished for free (details).

Underdiagnosed and Undertreated, Young Black Males With ADHD Get Left Behind Thu, 09 Nov 2023 10:00:00 +0000 As a kid, Wesley Jackson Wade should have been set up to succeed. His father was a novelist and corporate sales director and his mother was a special education teacher. But Wade said he struggled through school even though he was an exceptional writer and communicator. He played the class clown when he wasn’t feeling challenged. He got in trouble for talking back to teachers. And, the now 40-year-old said, he often felt anger that he couldn’t bottle up.

As one of the only Black kids in predominantly white schools in upper-middle-class communities — including the university enclaves of Palo Alto, California, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina — he often got detention for chatting with his white friends during class, while they got only warnings. He chalked it up to his being Black. Ditto, he said, when he was wrongly arrested as an eighth grader for a bomb threat at his school while evacuating with his white friends. So he wasn’t surprised that his behavioral issues drew punishment, even as some of his white friends with similar symptoms instead started getting treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

“Black kids at a very young age, we start dealing with race, we have a lot of racial stamina,” said Wade, who now lives outside of Durham, North Carolina. “But I didn’t understand until later on that there was probably something else going on.”

After spending years grappling with self-doubt and difficult relationships — and smoking what he called “Snoop Dogg volumes of weed” from middle school until his 20s — he learned he had ADHD and dyslexia, two diagnoses that often overlap. He was 37.

It’s long been known that Black children are underdiagnosed for ADHD compared with white peers. A Penn State report published in Psychiatry Research in September studied the extent of the gap by following more than 10,000 elementary students nationwide from kindergarten to fifth grade through student assessments and parent and teacher surveys. The researchers estimated the odds that Black students got diagnosed with the neurological condition were 40% lower than for white students, with all else being equal — including controlling for economic status, student achievement, behavior, and executive functioning.

For young Black males, the odds of being diagnosed with ADHD were especially stark: almost 60% lower than for white boys in similar circumstances, even though research suggests the prevalence of the condition is likely the same.

The racial ADHD divide isn’t merely a health concern. It’s deepening inequity for Black children, and especially Black males, said the study’s lead author, Paul Morgan, the former director of the Center for Educational Disparities Research at Penn State. He now leads the Institute for Social and Health Equity at the University of Albany.

ADHD has been diagnosed in nearly 1 in 10 children in the United States, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in 2022, with rates surging nearly 70% in the past two decades. It is often a lifetime condition that can be managed with treatments including therapy and medication. Untreated, children with ADHD face much greater health risks, including drug addiction, self-harm, suicidal behavior, accidents, and untimely death. By adulthood, many people with undiagnosed ADHD have spent years feeling isolated and hopeless, just as Wade did.

Even before Wade’s diagnosis, he was helping similar college students in a career counseling role at North Carolina State University. Today, he’s a licensed mental health and addiction counselor and doctoral student, but he said it’s been hard to see his successes.

“To the rest of the world, this is a Black man with two master’s degrees, and he’s a PhD candidate, and he has two licenses and certifications,” he said. “But to me, I’m a brother who’s had a lot of bad luck with people and jobs I’ve gotten fired from. I’ve never been promoted, ever, in my professional life.”

Wade’s experiences of race and ADHD are intertwined. “ADHD is an accelerant to my Black experience,” he said. “I can’t separate my experiences as a Black boy and Black man from my experiences of understanding my neurodivergent identity.”

People who study and treat ADHD cite several reasons why young Black males fall under the radar, including teachers who are racially biased or have lower expectations of Black students and don’t recognize an underlying disability, and Black parents who are distrustful of teachers and doctors, fearing they’ll label and stigmatize their children.

“We’ve known for a long time that ADHD diagnoses are not made in a vacuum. They’re made in a geographic context, cultural context, racial context,” said George DuPaul, a psychology professor at Lehigh University who studies nonmedication interventions for ADHD.

Studies have shown that ADHD underdiagnosis contributes to harsher school discipline and to the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Black kids routinely face punishment, including criminal prosecution, for problem behavior and mental health conditions such as ADHD, while white kids are more likely to be diagnosed with behavioral conditions and receive medical treatment and support. There’s a common saying: “Black kids get cops, white kids get docs.”

Courtney Zulauf-McCurdy, a researcher and clinician at the University of Washington School of Medicine, focuses on decreasing mental health disparities in early childhood. By preschool, she said, Black children with ADHD symptoms are more likely to be expelled and less likely to receive appropriate treatment than their white peers.

Her research has found that teachers’ judgments of children are heavily influenced by their opinions of the kids’ parents, and that often determines whether those children are evaluated for behavioral conditions and given appropriate support — or simply kicked out of class. She said the Penn State findings confirm what she’s seen in clinics and heard from parents.

Zulauf-McCurdy also pointed to research that shows Black children are 2.4 times as likely as white kids to receive a diagnosis of conduct disorder compared with a diagnosis of ADHD. She said the racial bias and overdiagnosis of conditions such as oppositional defiant disorder, defined by symptoms of being uncooperative and hostile toward authority figures, result in more punitive consequences such as being isolated in separate classrooms.

To fix inequities in ADHD diagnosis, mental health experts see a need for increasing culturally sensitive screening and addressing Black families’ concerns about potential bias and racism. Ensuring access to information about symptoms and treatments for ADHD may help address obstacles to care.

Looking back, Wade said, he is grateful he got diagnosed, even if it came late. But, he said, learning about his condition earlier would have given him more confidence navigating school, work, and life. “If I was able to get a diagnosis, I would have had a lot more support and love in my life,” he said.

Behavioral tools and medication have made it easier for him to focus and to regulate his mood. The diagnosis has also helped him become more aware of how to manage his depression and anxiety.

“Now it’s an understanding of how I exist, how my brain works,” Wade said. “I don’t think that I’m just broken.”

Still, Wade wonders what the ADHD label would have meant for him as a child — despite his family’s privileges of money and education — before more awareness existed about the condition. Even now, he said, the remaining stigma around the diagnosis is probably worse for Black kids, who still get less benefit of the doubt than white children.

Today, Wade is helping Black and neurodivergent youth and adults identify ADHD and other conditions. It’s part of his work, but it’s also deeply personal.

“I remember how it felt to not be seen, to not be heard, and to have your needs dismissed,” he said. “It feels good to see other people getting the help that they need and know that it helps Black people as a whole and generations of those families.”

This article was produced by KFF Health News, formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. 

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


This story can be republished for free (details).

Children Who Survive Shootings Endure Huge Health Obstacles and Costs Mon, 06 Nov 2023 21:01:00 +0000 Oronde McClain was struck by a stray bullet on a Philadelphia street corner when he was 10.

The bullet shattered the back of his skull, splintering it into 36 pieces. McClain’s heart stopped, and he was technically dead for two minutes and 17 seconds.

Although a hospital team shocked him back to life, McClain never fully recovered. Doctors removed half his skull, replacing it with a gel plate, but shrapnel remains.

The shooting left him in a coma for seven weeks and in a wheelchair for nearly two years. School bullies magnified his pain, laughing at his speech and the helmet he wore to protect his brain. McClain said he repeatedly attempted suicide as a teenager. He remains partly paralyzed on his right side and endures seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“People who die, they get funerals and balloon releases,” said McClain, now 33. “Survivors don’t get anything.”

Yet the ongoing medical needs of gun violence survivors and their families are vast.

In the year after they were shot, child and adolescent survivors were more than twice as likely as other kids to experience a pain disorder, said Zirui Song, an associate professor of health care policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School and the co-author of a new study in Health Affairs. The shooting survivors in the study — age 19 and younger — were found to be 68% more likely than other kids to have a psychiatric diagnosis and 144% as likely to develop a substance use disorder.

Across the United States, firearm injuries were the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 19 in 2020 and 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 48,000 Americans of all ages were killed by firearms in 2022. And an average of about 85,000 Americans survive firearm injuries every year.

“The public hears about mass shootings and the number of people who died,” Song said. “The population of people affected by firearm violence is much larger than deaths alone.”

Most Americans say they or a family member has experienced gun violence, including witnessing a shooting, being threatened by a person with a gun, or being shot, according to a KFF survey.

“We are now a nation of survivors, and we have an unmet obligation to help families and communities heal, both physically and emotionally,” said Megan Ranney, dean of the Yale School of Public Health.

Being shot added an average of $35,000 to the health care costs of each young person studied, compared with the expenses of those who weren’t shot. The more serious the injury, the greater the cost and extent of medical complications, according to the study, based on data from employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

Although McClain’s mother had health insurance through her employer, the plan did not cover the cost of his wheelchair. Insurance didn’t pay for dance or theater classes, which his therapists recommended to improve his speech and movement. Although his grandparents helped pay the medical bills, his family still held fundraisers to cover additional out-of-pocket costs.

The study is one of the first to assess the effects of a child’s shooting on the entire family, said Ranney, who was not involved in the research.

Psychiatric disorders were 30% more common among the parents of the gun-injured children, compared with parents of uninjured kids. Their mothers made 75% more mental health visits than other moms.

Ranney noted that caregivers of shooting survivors often neglect their own needs. In the study, parents and siblings of the injured children made fewer visits for their own routine medical care, lab tests, and procedures.

Doctors can now save most gunshot victims, said Jessica Beard, a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital who was not involved in the study.

“We have more experience with bullet wounds than even many battlefield surgeons,” said Beard, who is also director of research for the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting. “Surgeons from the military will get stationed at hospitals in Philadelphia to learn how to do combat surgery.”

Survivors of gunshot wounds often need continuing care from physical therapists, occupational therapists, makers of prosthetics, and others, which can pose additional hardships for rural residents, who may need to travel long distances multiple times a week for specialized services. Even in major U.S. cities, the hospitals and health systems best equipped to treat shooting survivors may be out of range for families who rely on public transportation.

Using public transportation would have been especially difficult when McClain was in a wheelchair. He said he feels lucky that his grandfather could drive him to the hospital for the first couple of years after his shooting. Later, when McClain could walk, he took two buses and a subway to the hospital. Today, McClain drives himself to get care and receives health insurance through his employer.

The psychological damage from child shootings may be even greater than the study indicates, Ranney said. Negative attitudes surrounding mental illness may have prevented some patients from acknowledging they’re depressed, so their struggles weren’t recorded in doctors’ notes or payment records, she said. Likewise, children afraid of punishment may not have told their doctors about illegal substance use.

McClain said he saw a therapist only once or twice. “I would scream at the doctors,” McClain said. “I said, ‘Don’t tell me you know how I feel, because you don’t understand.’”

Yet McClain has found purpose in his experience.

Last year, he co-produced a documentary called “They Don’t Care About Us, or Do They?” with the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting, where he works. In the film, young survivors talk about wearing hoodies to hide their scars, navigating the world in a wheelchair, and combating infertility caused by their injuries. McClain is now working to improve news coverage of gun violence by creating a directory of shooting survivors willing to share their stories.

“My therapy is helping people,” he said. “I have to wake up and save somebody every day.”

Survivors are the forgotten victims of the nation’s gun violence epidemic, McClain said. Many feel abandoned.

“They push you out of the hospital like you have a normal life,’’ McClain said. “But you will never have a normal life. You are in this club that you don’t want to be in.”

This article was produced by KFF Health News, formerly known as Kaiser Health News (KHN), a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. 

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


This story can be republished for free (details).