Effort to enroll released inmates in Medicaid faces big hurdles

June 5, 2014 § Leave a comment


Flickr photo by San Quentin News. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Flickr photo by San Quentin News. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

This story was originally published in the Reporting on Health Affordable Care Act blog.

One of the ironies of the American health care system is that only the incarcerated are constitutionally guaranteed health care.

But an inmate’s exit from jail or prison often means an exit from the only health care system they have known. Those behind bars are more likely to suffer from chronic disease, addiction and mental illness. Without continued treatment, problems easily reemerge. In many cases, relapse is followed by a quick return to incarceration.

Ensuring care for inmates after release has long been a challenge. The Affordable Care Act could help. Starting January 1, the majority of the incarcerated qualify for Medicaid coverage thanks to changes in the program that now make single, childless adults eligible. Previously, between 70 and 90 percent of the 10 million individuals released each year in the U.S. were uninsured. « Read the rest of this entry »

As mental health coverage expands, providers not always there

May 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Flickr photo by Casey Muir-Taylor. https://www.flickr.com/photos/caseydavid/8271781446

Flickr photo by Casey Muir-Taylor. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

This story was originally published in the Reporting on Health Affordable Care Act blog.

At the start of the year, before the state’s health insurance exchange was enrolling people in earnest, California rolled out a huge new addition to its Medicaid benefits.

Following the Affordable Care Act’s passage, Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, expanded coverage to those with mild and moderate mental health problems. The benefits previously were limited to very select groups and the most severely ill patients.

To deliver the new benefits, managed care plans have been charged with pulling together “adequate” networks of mental health providers in every county, from psychologists and psychiatrists to social workers and marriage and family therapists.

Complete provider networks must be submitted to the state by the end of next month, according to the Department of Health Care Services. But despite assurances from the state and managed care organizations that networks will be robust enough to meet the needs of nearly 11.5 million beneficiaries, some caregivers see a different reality. « Read the rest of this entry »

Explainer: How the ACA will affect mental health and substance use disorder coverage

May 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Flickr photo by Lee Winder, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Flickr photo by Lee Winder, courtesy of Creative Commons.

A shortened version of this piece is available at the Reporting on Health Affordable Care Act blog. This extended article explains how different pieces of legislation are working together to shape access to mental health care coverage.

Of the many projections made about the Affordable Care Act, one number stands out among the rest: 62 million. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS), that’s the number of individuals who will either gain mental health and substance use disorder coverage under the ACA, or will benefit from federal parity protections for their existing coverage. It’s been over a year since that number was originally published, and with new insurance a reality for millions across the country, it’s time to take a closer look at how the ACA could potentially change access, affordability, and quality of coverage in this area of health care. « Read the rest of this entry »

New model seeks to address social factors shaping health

April 24, 2014 § Leave a comment


Flickr photo by calvinnivlac, courtesy of Creative Commons

This story was originally published on the Reporting on Health Affordable Care Act blog

As Obamacare’s first open enrollment period came to an end last month, the vast majority of media coverage focused on just a few questions. How many people actually enrolled through the exchanges? Were attitudes changing towards the law? And what kind of political consequences would Republicans and Democrats face in the upcoming election cycle? Less prevalent, however, was the discussion of the social conditions that often exert a powerful influence over people’s health. « Read the rest of this entry »

Finding mental health somewhere between east and west

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment


Pictured above: Khmer Rouge survivor Sophany Bay now provides mental health care to Cambodian patients in San Jose. Photo by Erica Mu.

In this story, I conclude my series on Asian American mental health by visiting a mental health clinic in San Jose.

To find the Unify Event Center in San Jose, you have to weave your way through a huge parking lot, swing around the Wal Mart, and follow the music into a large banquet hall. Today just happens to be Khmer or Cambodian New Year. There are about a hundred people in the hall, sitting around large circular tables while the house band warms up for the evening’s party.

It’s a small crowd, but this is a small community. An estimated 12,000 Cambodians live in the Bay Area. Khmer New Year is a positive reminder of their roots and homeland, despite the fact that so many came here under such traumatic circumstances. « Read the rest of this entry »

For Asian American women, depression and suicide go largely unseen

June 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Danise Sugita shows the diary she kept during one of her suicide attempts. Photo by Erica Mu

A couple weeks ago, KALW began a series on Asian American mental health. We introduced you to the Lieu family, who described their challenges as immigrants finding care for their schizophrenic daughter.

Albert and Anne Lieu run a support group in Oakland to help Chinese families navigate the complex American healthcare system. Their hope is to remove barriers to care, including stigma, and get families to open up to treatment. Asian Americans tend to wait longer before seeking mental health care, and often have more serious problems when they finally see a specialist.

This plays into a surprising statistic among Asian American women. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Asian American women aged 15 to 24 have the highest rates of depressive symptoms of any ethnic or gender group. The CDC reports that young Asian American women have the second highest suicide rate among their age group – the same goes for Asian American women over 65.

In this second installment of KALW’s series, “Asian American Mental Health: Inside Out,” Erica Mu introduces us to two women who have stories that shed light on that statistic. « Read the rest of this entry »

Asian American Mental Health: Inside Out

May 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Flickr photo by Alaina Abplnalp Photography, courtesy of Creative Commons

This article has been formatted for the web. Listen to the audio above to hear the full Q&A and story.

It’s difficult to deal with any kind of illness when it hits. But when it affects your emotional and psychological health, it’s often impossible to even describe.

“I think if I were to describe it, it’d be like being in a dream state and not feeling like anything’s real,” says Danise Sugita, one of the estimated 57 million Americans who currently suffer from mental illness. “Whether I go through good things or bad things, the feelings of just like this darkness I still have.”

Sugita is fourth-generation Japanese American, and her experience is emblematic of the many issues Asian Americans face when it comes to mental health. « Read the rest of this entry »

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