Ms. Kong said a local official responsible for carrying out coronavirus policies had told her that she should not “buy unnecessary food.” She said she asked the official what standards the government used to determine what kind of food was necessary.

“Who are you to decide the ‘necessity’ for others?” she said. “It’s totally absurd and nonsense.”

On state television, Beijing’s “nine storm fortification actions” around the pandemic are frequently repeated to keep people in line with Covid policies. The nine actions are: neighborhood lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing, disinfection, quarantine centers, increased health care capacity, traditional Chinese medicine, screening of neighborhoods and prevention of local transmission.

Yang Xiao, a 33-year-old cinematographer in Shanghai who was confined to his apartment for two months during a lockdown this year, had grown tired of them all.

“With the Covid control, propaganda and state power expanded and occupied all aspects of our life,” he said in a phone interview. Day after day, Mr. Yang heard loudspeakers in his neighborhood repeatedly broadcasting a notice for P.C.R. testing. He said the announcements had disturbed his sleep at night and woke him up at dawn.

“Our life was dictated and disciplined by propaganda and state power,” he said.

To communicate his frustrations, Mr. Yang selected 600 common Chinese propaganda phrases, such as “core awareness,” “obey the overall situation” and “the supremacy of nationhood.” He gave each phrase a number and then put the numbers into Google’s Random Generator, a program that scrambles data.

He ended up with senseless phrases such as “detect citizens’ life and death line,” “strictly implement functions” and “specialize overall plans without slack.” Then he used a voice program to read the phrases aloud and played the audio on a loudspeaker in his neighborhood.

No one seemed to notice the five minutes of computer-generated nonsense.

When Mr. Yang uploaded a video of the scene online, however, more than 1.3 million people viewed it. Many praised the way he used government language as satire. Chinese propaganda was “too absurd to be criticized using logic,” Mr. Yang said. “I simulated the discourse like a mirror, reflecting its own absurdity.”

His video was taken down by censors.

Mr. Yang added that he hoped to inspire others to speak out against China’s Covid policies and its use of propaganda in the pandemic. He wasn’t the only Shanghai resident to rebel when the city was locked down.

In June, dozens of residents protested against the police and Covid control workers who installed chain-link fences around neighborhood apartments. When a protester was shoved into a police car and taken away, one man shouted: “Freedom! Equality! Justice! Rule of law!” Those words would be familiar to most Chinese citizens: They are commonly cited by state media as core socialist values under Mr. Xi.

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How a Hospital Chain Used a Poor Neighborhood to Turn Huge Profits

RICHMOND, Va. — In late July, Norman Otey was rushed by ambulance to Richmond Community Hospital. The 63-year-old was doubled over in pain and babbling incoherently. Blood tests suggested septic shock, a grave emergency that required the resources and expertise of an intensive care unit.

But Richmond Community, a struggling hospital in a predominantly Black neighborhood, had closed its I.C.U. in 2017.

It took several hours for Mr. Otey to be transported to another hospital, according to his sister, Linda Jones-Smith. He deteriorated on the way there, and later died of sepsis. Two people who cared for Mr. Otey said the delay had most likely contributed to his death.

the hospital’s financial data.

More than half of all hospitals in the United States are set up as nonprofits, a designation that allows them to make money but avoid paying taxes. Although Bon Secours has taken a financial hit this year like many other hospital systems, the chain made nearly $1 billion in profit last year at its 50 hospitals in the United States and Ireland and was sitting on more than $9 billion in cash reserves. It avoids at least $440 million in federal, state and local taxes every year that it would otherwise have to pay, according to an analysis by the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

In exchange for the tax breaks, the Internal Revenue Service requires nonprofit hospitals to provide a benefit to their communities. But an investigation by The New York Times found that many of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital systems have drifted far from their charitable roots. The hospitals operate like for-profit companies, fixating on revenue targets and expansions into affluent suburbs.

borrowing tricks from business consultants, have trained staff to squeeze payments from poor patients who should be eligible for free care.

John M. Starcher Jr., made about $6 million in 2020, according to the most recent tax filings.

“Our mission is clear — to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved,” the spokeswoman, Maureen Richmond, said. Bon Secours did not comment on Mr. Otey’s case.

In interviews, doctors, nurses and former executives said the hospital had been given short shrift, and pointed to a decade-old development deal with the city of Richmond as another example.

In 2012, the city agreed to lease land to Bon Secours at far below market value on the condition that the chain expand Richmond Community’s facilities. Instead, Bon Secours focused on building a luxury apartment and office complex. The hospital system waited a decade to build the promised medical offices next to Richmond Community, breaking ground only this year.

founded in 1907 by Black doctors who were not allowed to work at the white hospitals across town. In the 1930s, Dr. Jackson’s grandfather, Dr. Isaiah Jackson, mortgaged his house to help pay for an expansion of the hospital. His father, also a doctor, would take his children to the hospital’s fund-raising telethons.

Cassandra Newby-Alexander at Norfolk State University.

got its first supermarket.

according to research done by Virginia Commonwealth University. The public bus route to St. Mary’s, a large Bon Secours facility in the northwest part of the city, takes more than an hour. There is no public transportation from the East End to Memorial Regional, nine miles away.

“It became impossible for me to send people to the advanced heart valve clinic at St. Mary’s,” said Dr. Michael Kelly, a cardiologist who worked at Richmond Community until Bon Secours scaled back the specialty service in 2019. He said he had driven some patients to the clinic in his own car.

Richmond Community has the feel of an urgent-care clinic, with a small waiting room and a tan brick facade. The contrast with Bon Secours’s nearby hospitals is striking.

At the chain’s St. Francis Medical Center, an Italianate-style compound in a suburb 18 miles from Community, golf carts shuttle patients from the lobby entrance, past a marble fountain, to their cars.

after the section of the federal law that authorized it, allows hospitals to buy drugs from manufacturers at a discount — roughly half the average sales price. The hospitals are then allowed to charge patients’ insurers a much higher price for the same drugs.

The theory behind the law was that nonprofit hospitals would invest the savings in their communities. But the 340B program came with few rules. Hospitals did not have to disclose how much money they made from sales of the discounted drugs. And they were not required to use the revenues to help the underserved patients who qualified them for the program in the first place.

In 2019, more than 2,500 nonprofit and government-owned hospitals participated in the program, or more than half of all hospitals in the country, according to the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

in wealthier neighborhoods, where patients with generous private insurance could receive expensive drugs, but on paper make the clinics extensions of poor hospitals to take advantage of 340B.

to a price list that hospitals are required to publish. That is nearly $22,000 profit on a single vial. Adults need two vials per treatment course.

work has shown that hospitals participating in the 340B program have increasingly opened clinics in wealthier areas since the mid-2000s.

were unveiling a major economic deal that would bring $40 million to Richmond, add 200 jobs and keep the Washington team — now known as the Commanders — in the state for summer training.

The deal had three main parts. Bon Secours would get naming rights and help the team build a training camp and medical offices on a lot next to Richmond’s science museum.

The city would lease Bon Secours a prime piece of real estate that the chain had long coveted for $5,000 a year. The parcel was on the city’s west side, next to St. Mary’s, where Bon Secours wanted to build medical offices and a nursing school.

Finally, the nonprofit’s executives promised city leaders that they would build a 25,000-square-foot medical office building next to Richmond Community Hospital. Bon Secours also said it would hire 75 local workers and build a fitness center.

“It’s going to be a quick timetable, but I think we can accomplish it,” the mayor at the time, Dwight C. Jones, said at the news conference.

Today, physical therapy and doctors’ offices overlook the football field at the training center.

On the west side of Richmond, Bon Secours dropped its plans to build a nursing school. Instead, it worked with a real estate developer to build luxury apartments on the site, and delayed its plans to build medical offices. Residents at The Crest at Westhampton Commons, part of the $73 million project, can swim in a saltwater pool and work out on communal Peloton bicycles. On the ground floor, an upscale Mexican restaurant serves cucumber jalapeño margaritas and a Drybar offers salon blowouts.

have said they plan to house mental health, hospice and other services there.

a cardiologist and an expert on racial disparities in amputation, said many people in poor, nonwhite communities faced similar delays in getting the procedure. “I am not surprised by what’s transpired with this patient at all,” he said.

Because Ms. Scarborough does not drive, her nephew must take time off work every time she visits the vascular surgeon, whose office is 10 miles from her home. Richmond Community would have been a five-minute walk. Bon Secours did not comment on her case.

“They have good doctors over there,” Ms. Scarborough said of the neighborhood hospital. “But there does need to be more facilities and services over there for our community, for us.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

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They Were Entitled to Free Care. Hospitals Hounded Them to Pay.

In 2018, senior executives at one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, Providence, were frustrated. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars providing free health care to patients. It was eating into their bottom line.

The executives, led by Providence’s chief financial officer at the time, devised a solution: a program called Rev-Up.

Rev-Up provided Providence’s employees with a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients — even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes, a New York Times investigation found.

nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.

But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.

focused on investments in rich communities at the expense of poorer ones.

And, as Providence illustrates, some hospital systems have not only reduced their emphasis on providing free care to the poor but also developed elaborate systems to convert needy patients into sources of revenue. The result, in the case of Providence, is that thousands of poor patients were saddled with debts that they never should have owed, The Times found.

provide. That was below the average of 2 percent for nonprofit hospitals nationwide, according to an analysis of hospital financial records by Ge Bai, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.

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Elton John Performs At The White House

The White House has always had musical guests come and perform, but what is the history and strategy behind these visits?

From Wembley Stadium in London to Madison Square Garden in New York City, Sir Elton John has performed on some of the biggest stages in the world. Friday, he performed for a relatively smaller crowd: an audience of 2,000 people at the White House.  

Over the past decade, the White House has hosted a slew of musical guests.  

Artists like Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson and Lin Manuel-Miranda have performed at the White House as part of the Obama administration’s celebrations of American music.  

Singer Kid Rock attended the Trump administration’s signing ceremony for the Music Modernization Act.  

And performers like Olivia Rodrigo and the K-Pop boy band BTS have spoken at the White House to advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine and to address the issue of anti-Asian hate crimes. 

David Jackson is a professor of political science at Bowling Green State University.  

“The demographics that each of the artists bring with them are demographics that the party is trying to persuade,” said Jackson.

Jackson has been researching the political influence of celebrity endorsements for the past two decades, and he’s noted that since President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, the administration’s choices for musical guests and performances can be seen as “an attempt to bring together generations.” 

Some of the performers during the 2020 Democratic National Convention included Gen Z pop star Billie Eilish, folk rock musician Stephen Stills and Broadway singer Billy Porter.  

“A celebrity endorsement’s a great thing. It gives energy, enthusiasm, helps raise money, helps persuade people, but it’s a lot more complicated than that,” he said.  

He noted that celebrity endorsements are only effective if the celebrities are familiar, likable, and credible in the eyes of fans.  

Elton John has long been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and a major activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  

The British icon’s performance at the White House has been dubbed “a night when hope and history rhyme,” and honorees in attendance include “everyday history-makers” like teachers, health care professionals and LGBTQ advocates. 

Source: newsy.com

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Breakthrough Device Could Ease Deep Depression

A very small group of just several hundred Americans is trying an at-home medical treatment involving electrical stimulation of part of the brain.

It looks a little “weird science.” 

But the headpiece that Susan Meiklejohn dons daily is giving her head peace— peace and relief from the deep, debilitating depression from which she has suffered most of her life. 

SUSAN MEIKLEJOHN: I had a very, very stressful — overwhelmingly stressful — childhood. I had a violent father. And at 11, was the first time I had suicidal ideation.   

NEWSY’S JASON BELLINI: How old are you now?   

MEIKLEJOHN: 68. So, I’ve never gotten past the ideation phase. I’ve never attempted suicide. But I certainly have been enmeshed in that ideation.  

Meiklejohn, a retired college professor and amateur artist, is one of nearly three million adults in America with depression that does not respond to medication. Now she’s one of a very small group — just several hundred — trying an at-home medical treatment involving electrical stimulation of part of the brain.  

BELLINI: How many medications have you tried?   

MEIKLEJOHN: I’d say 10. … I have always been very, very eager to do what it takes to get out of this.

So she tried ketamine—most commonly used in anesthesia—forking over $16,000 out of pocket to see whether the new psychedelic treatment, now being offered in hundreds of U.S. clinics, could provide her with some relief. It did, but not for long. 

“It makes you feel great,” Meiklejohn said. “So, that lasted for about three days. And then it’s right back again.”

Back again to suicidal ideation. Then, a few months ago, Meiklejohn heard about a new treatment protocol — one she could try at home.

It’s provided by a team led by Leigh Charvet, who is a neuropsychologist at NYU Langone Health. She’s pioneering research in transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a treatment for a wide range of neurological disorders, depression among them. 

“I have to say, of all of our experience with tDCS, the response in the depression trial has been absolutely remarkable,” Charvet said.

And the treatment is considered low-risk enough to let Newsy’s Jason Bellinni try it, powered up. 

At his lab, at the City College of New York, Marom Bikson develops cutting edge methods of “neuromodulation.”

“Neuromodulation as a field is the use of devices to deliver energy in a controlled way to the nervous system to change the body,” he said. “When you think something, when you feel something, it’s all electricity. We’re adding electricity into that mix. So, it’s sort of, maybe not a surprise that an electrical organ is sensitive to electricity coming in.”

BELLINI: What do you think is most exciting right now when it comes to this field generally? 

MAROM BIKSON: One is more and more sophisticated technologies that can deliver energy to the nervous system in a more intentional and targeted way. So, more and more specificity.  

To demonstrate, Bikson suited Bellini up for an experiment to see if targeted electrical stimulation can improve one’s concentration while doing a boring, repetitive task. 

BELLINI: Is there a sweet spot you’re trying to hit? 

“This electrode here is roughly over a part of your brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” Bikson said.

That’s an area of the brain associated with problem solving, attention switching, memory management and inhibition.  

BIKSON: Now, you’re at the full current, can you feel it? 

BELLINI: I feel the itchiness, that’s for sure. 

Itchiness, where the electrode touched Bellini’s scalp, which he says went away within a few minutes. He had no other sensation beyond that.  

As far as the game, as shown to Bellini in an analysis afterward, stimulation appeared to improve his performance a bit. Depression treatments target the same brain area as that experiment.  

“We have developed a hypothesis that this energy may not directly affect the neurons of the brain, but actually affect the blood vessels in the brain,” Bikson said.

They headed over to an MRI machine, where they set Bellini up to capture what the stimulation does inside his head.  

The areas in red showed an increase in blood flow. But how that may impact people with depression and other neurological diseases remains a medical mystery. 

BIKSON: It works, but it also works on the most difficult people, people who have been failed by conventional medicines.  

BELLINI: But not everyone?

BIKSON: But not everyone. And then, there’s the opportunity, right? Just like with medications, with neuromodulation, you’re thinking, “How can I make this work better? How can I capture the people who did not respond? And even for the people who did respond, can I do better for them still?”

Today, another approach to stimulation, called “repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation,” or repetitive TMS, is both FDA approved and widely available. But it requires a series of sessions over days or weeks. And larger studies are needed to determine how long improvements last. 

“I’m very interested in creating something that is as effective as that. But you can use it at home still under prescription,” Bikson said.

NYU is using a device developed in partnership with Bikson that can be positioned properly remotely.

BELLINI: You haven’t done this long enough to know how long it will last?   

LEIGH CHARVET: No. … We know that more is better. We don’t know if you reach a plateau or If you have remission in depression. Do you need to continue or do you need to taper it?   

Meiklejohn has been using it daily, while meditating, for more than three months. 

BELLINI: When did you start to notice changes?  

MEIKLEJOHN: I’d say after about three weeks. 

BELLINI: Has the suicide ideation gone away? 

MEIKLEJOHN: Not completely, no. You know, when I dip, I dip. … The difference is, I bounce back in a day or two. 

Meiklejohn hopes she’ll continue to be a portrait of hope.

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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Mental Health America: Texas Ranks Last In Mental Health Care Access

Canutillo Independent School District and Kingsville Independent School District try to get a handle on mental health care for students in need.

The old saying is “everything is bigger in Texas” — including its problems. 

Mental health ranks atop.  

In the wake of the Uvalde massacre, conservative politicians are waving away talk of gun control and stressing that mental health is the real culprit. And in boastful Texas, mental health is a big problem.  

Mental Health America ranks Texas dead last in access to mental health care. The Kaiser Family Health Foundation found that Texans suffer depression at higher-than-average rates. 

In data released by the Texas Education Agency, more than half of Lone Star schools don’t have a psychologist or access to telehealth.

Texas has also opted out of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. In various studies, that amounts to tens of billions of dollars in federal funding, which could insure more than a million Texans and provide reimbursements for mental health professionals.  

Canutillo Independent School District is north of El Paso, Texas. It’s like Uvalde, with a supermajority Hispanic population and a mental health desert. It’s chief concern is access for those services for its 6,200 students 

“So, one of the things that is most important is social workers, counselors and prevention specialists working together,” social worker Rosario Olivera said.

The school district is Title I funded, meaning more than 40% of its students fall below the poverty line.

Administrators grappled with various problems across 10 schools, like how to get students access to medical care and in a pandemic, access to mental health and more counselors.

“We do the best we can do to service children of highest need,” Olivera continued. “However, it’s the same thing as with counselors. The ratio is very high.”

In Canutillo, it meant a pilot program of bringing in social workers and social work interns from the University of Texas El Paso.

“For every campus that has 350 students, you need one counselor. The majority of our campuses have 500 and above,” Canutillo Independent School District Director of Student Support Services Monica Reyes said.

Another glaring indicator in mental health access is poverty.

“This is typically what you’ll see: A mobile home with six or seven family members in it,” said Francisco Mendez with Familia Triunfadores.

In the colonias of San Elizario, access to mental health is a question of whether there are any therapists close by. But oftentimes, the answer is no. 

“It’s really difficult for them,” Mendez said. “They’ll have to drive at least 35 miles to El Paso.”  

In Kingsville, Texas, the schools have one mental health professional for more than 2,800  students.

Tracy Warren is a licensed school specialist psychologist, or LSSP. She’s an intern completing her doctorate. The challenge for Kingsville Independent School District is holding on to her and getting more people like her.

“We are trying to let everybody know how important mental health is and that if we don’t have the mental health foundation, the education is not going to take place,” Warren said. 

She is the front line. The school district leans on nonprofits to help kids outside of class. 

“There are a lot more anxious students this year than I’ve ever seen,” Warren continued. “We actually had a student that was at one of our campuses — he’s 4, going into Pre-K. First day of school, he stopped outside to count the police cars that he can see to ensure that he was safe before he came into school.”

The small school district’s leader, Superintendent Cissy Reynolds-Perez, says more mental health professionals and counselors need to be trained to work in rural schools.

“It’s very difficult because not everybody wants to come out to this area,” she said. “You know, you have your metropolitan areas, which I’m not saying it’s easier, but there are more resources there.”

At nearby Texas A&M Kingsville, the school has opened an institute for rural mental health.

Steve Bain is the director of the Rural Mental Health Institute. His goal is to create a mental health graduate student counselor pipeline direct to public schools.

“We have an opportunity now to reverse this trend of being last, or toward the last, in terms of accessibility of mental health services,” he said. “Only about 25% of students in K-12 who suffer from depression are getting mental health services. And depression has increased among our student population in the last five to eight years, significantly so.”

In Texas, licensed school specialty psychologists and social workers can be mental health caregivers to emotionally fraught kids, but there is a catch.

“Texas Education Agency has not recognized social workers as TEA employees yet, per se. We don’t have a specific job description, like teachers or counselors do,” Olivera said. 

That means school districts miss out on funding and insurance reimbursements when social workers provide mental health care for kids.

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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Federal Reserve Attacks Inflation With Another Big Hike, Expects More

The central bank raised its key short-term rate by a substantial three-quarters of a point for the third consecutive time.

Intensifying its fight against high inflation, the Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate Wednesday by a substantial three-quarters of a point for a third straight time and signaled more large rate hikes to come — an aggressive pace that will heighten the risk of an eventual recession.

The Fed’s move boosted its benchmark short-term rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, to a range of 3% to 3.25%, the highest level since early 2008.

The officials also forecast that they will further raise their benchmark rate to roughly 4.4% by year’s end, a full percentage point higher than they had forecast as recently as June. And they expect to raise the rate further next year, to about 4.6%. That would be the highest level since 2007.

On Wall Street, stock prices fell and bond yields rose in response to the Fed’s projection of further steep rate hikes ahead.

The central bank’s action Wednesday followed a government report last week that showed high costs spreading more broadly through the economy, with price spikes for rents and other services worsening even though some previous drivers of inflation, such as gas prices, have eased. By raising borrowing rates, the Fed makes it costlier to take out a mortgage or an auto or business loan. Consumers and businesses then presumably borrow and spend less, cooling the economy and slowing inflation.

Fed officials have said they’re seeking a “soft landing,” by which they would manage to slow growth enough to tame inflation but not so much as to trigger a recession. Yet economists increasingly say they think the Fed’s steep rate hikes will lead, over time, to job cuts, rising unemployment and a full-blown recession late this year or early next year.

In their updated economic forecasts, the Fed’s policymakers project that economic growth will remain weak for the next few years, with rising unemployment. It expects the jobless rate to reach 4.4% by the end of 2023, up from its current level of 3.7%. Historically, economists say, any time the unemployment rate has risen by a half-point over several months, a recession has always followed.

Fed officials now see the economy expanding just 0.2% this year, sharply lower than its forecast of 1.7% growth just three months ago. And it expects sluggish growth below 2% from 2023 through 2025.

And even with the steep rate hikes the Fed foresees, it still expects core inflation — which excludes the volatile food and gas categories — to be 3.1% at the end of next year, well above its 2% target.

Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged in a speech last month that the Fed’s moves will “bring some pain” to households and businesses. And he added that the central bank’s commitment to bringing inflation back down to its 2% target was “unconditional.”

Falling gas prices have slightly lowered headline inflation, which was a still-painful 8.3% in August compared with a year earlier. Declining gas prices might have contributed to a recent rise in President Joe Biden’s public approval ratings, which Democrats hope will boost their prospects in the November midterm elections.

Short-term rates at a level the Fed is now envisioning would make a recession likelier next year by sharply raising the costs of mortgages, car loans and business loans. The economy hasn’t seen rates as high as the Fed is projecting since before the 2008 financial crisis. Last week, the average fixed mortgage rate topped 6%, its highest point in 14 years. Credit card borrowing costs have reached their highest level since 1996, according to Bankrate.com.

Inflation now appears increasingly fueled by higher wages and by consumers’ steady desire to spend and less by the supply shortages that had bedeviled the economy during the pandemic recession. On Sunday, though, President Biden said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that he believed a soft landing for the economy was still possible, suggesting that his administration’s recent energy and health care legislation would lower prices for pharmaceuticals and health care.

Some economists are beginning to express concern that the Fed’s rapid rate hikes — the fastest since the early 1980s — will cause more economic damage than necessary to tame inflation. Mike Konczal, an economist at the Roosevelt Institute, noted that the economy is already slowing and that wage increases – a key driver of inflation — are levelling off and by some measures even declining a bit.

Surveys also show that Americans are expecting inflation to ease significantly over the next five years. That is an important trend because inflation expectations can become self-fulfilling: If people expect inflation to ease, some will feel less pressure to accelerate their purchases. Less spending would then help moderate price increases.

Konczal said there is a case to be made for the Fed to slow its rate hikes over the next two meetings.

“Given the cooling that’s coming,” he said, “you don’t want to rush into this.”

The Fed’s rapid rate hikes mirror steps that other major central banks are taking, contributing to concerns about a potential global recession. The European Central Bank last week raised its benchmark rate by three-quarters of a percentage point. The Bank of England, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of Canada have all carried out hefty rate increases in recent weeks.

And in China, the world’s second-largest economy, growth is already suffering from the government’s repeated COVID lockdowns. If recession sweeps through most large economies, that could derail the U.S. economy, too.

Even at the Fed’s accelerated pace of rate hikes, some economists — and some Fed officials — argue that they have yet to raise rates to a level that would actually restrict borrowing and spending and slow growth.

Many economists sound convinced that widespread layoffs will be necessary to slow rising prices. Research published earlier this month under the auspices of the Brookings Institution concluded that unemployment might have to go as high as 7.5% to get inflation back to the Fed’s 2% target.

Only a downturn that harsh would reduce wage growth and consumer spending enough to cool inflation, according to the research, by Johns Hopkins University economist Laurence Ball and two economists at the International Monetary Fund.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Teen Suicide Crisis: Colorado Parents Work To Reduce State’s High Rate

Parents are sharing their tragedies in hopes of reducing suicide in Colorado. It’s the No. 1 cause of death for kids and young adults in the state.

Vicky Goodwin says February 4, 2021, is the day her world changed forever. 

“It was a Thursday morning. I got up, took my dog for a walk. I remember walking in,” she said. “Then, I walked down the hall to Jonathan’s room and opened the door, and he wasn’t in his bed, and I walked into his room and then I found him.”

Jonathan Goodwin was just 15. 

“Jonathan was incredibly bright, funny, quirky, a wonderful friend. He was a twin. He and his brother were really close,” Goodwin continued. 

But for reasons he kept hidden, Jonathan took his own life. His mom says nobody knows why. 

“It doesn’t matter how it happens. It doesn’t matter if there were signs or if there weren’t signs,” Goodwin said. “It’s just, you know, losing a child is as bad as every parent thinks that it would be.”

In the U.S., the rate of young people dying by suicide increased nearly 60% between 2007 and 2018. Researchers say trends are especially alarming among Black youth. 

In Goodwin’s home state of Colorado, suicide is the No. 1 cause of death for kids and young adults.

COVID-19 turned life upside down. Teens — already under the usual adolescent pressures of life, school, social media— are now dealing with a year-and-a-half of chronic pandemic stress. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Children’s Hospital Colorado Clinical Child Psychologist Jenna Glover said. “I’ve never seen this number of children who need help in mental health services. And I’ve never seen this many kids be in acute crisis.”

It’s gotten so bad that in 2021, for the first time in its 117-year history, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a “state of emergency” for youth mental health. 

“We’re seeing lots of kids come in with depression and anxiety, really nervous about starting the school year,” Glover continued. “So, real sense of hopelessness and not knowing how to solve their problems other than, ‘I just got to get out of this.'”

Experts say the reasons behind the nationwide jump in teen suicide over the last decade are varied and hard to pin down. Social media, money or family problems, even fear of school shootings and worry about climate change can all add up.  

Making it worse, says Glover, is a shortage of professional help. 

“There are not enough mental health services,” she said. “Catching kids early on — screening them in pediatrician offices, screening them at school and when they have just the beginnings of symptoms, getting them into preventative programs, and doing immediate intervention, so they don’t show up at the emergency department — we just need more of that.”

Short of professional help, experts say one of the most effective ways to prevent suicide is to talk about it. 

“It is the most common myth that asking about suicide will increase it,” Glover said. “What we know is asking about suicide will absolutely decrease the risk of it and it keeps your kids safe.” 

If teens are reluctant to talk to adults, the hope is they’ll talk to other teens. 

Marin McKinney is a teen ambassador for a suicide prevention group called Robbie’s Hope, giving advice to other kids and adults, too. 

“It’s OK to not be OK,” Marin said. “And a lot of us … we do go through bad days and tough situations. But there’s always someone out there who wants to listen and talk to you. … I would tell a parent to not overreact or overcomplicate the situation.”

Kari Eckert and her husband started Robbie’s Hope after losing their son in 2018. 

Their home in Golden, Colorado, is now headquarters for an all-out effort to get kids and adults help to prevent suicide. They do everything from producing free guides on how to talk about it to lobbying state lawmakers for new laws.  Several states, including Colorado, now allow teens to miss school to take a mental health day.

 “Just really really good tips and it’s written by teens. … Kids bring this to the table and say, ‘It’s important to me. I shouldn’t have to lie about why I can’t be in school today,'” Eckert said. “We aren’t just about saying that teen suicide is a problem. We want to bring resources to this … We want to reduce teen suicide rates by 50% by 2028. That’s a big goal.”

For now, Goodwin is taking things day by day, hoping that being open about her tragedy helps other parents to not feel so alone.  

“I guess focusing on something positive, focusing on the gift that we have — the gift that we had — with him makes the hard days a lot easier,” she said. “Secrets are toxic. And we felt that the only way that we could make losing a child worse is by passing that burden on to our other children, and being open and choosing to talk about it has been, I think, good for all of us. We just want to help one family.”

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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Maryland Quietly Shelves Parts Of Genealogy Privacy Law

Maryland set limits on police access to ancestry websites. But state leaders stopped rolling out some of the new law, a Newsy investigation finds.

State leaders in Maryland quietly stopped implementing key parts of a landmark privacy law meant to protect ancestry data online, a Newsy investigation has discovered. 

The law, enacted last year, was seen as a model for other states looking to set standards for when law enforcement can tap into DNA uploaded by Americans researching their heritage.

“States that don’t have a law like ours, it’s kind of the Wild West,” said Natalie Ram, law professor at the University of Maryland.

The state’s law set some of the first limits in the nation on forensic genetic genealogy, a technique used occasionally to help crack the toughest murder and rape cases. 

Authorities take DNA from a crime scene, and if they can’t find a match to known offenders in law enforcement databases, they compare the sample to profiles of millions of Americans whose DNA is online from ancestry research.

“Like where I would go to try to find my long-lost relatives, we would use exactly those same publicly available tools to try to find out, whose DNA is this?” said Ray Wickenheiser, director of the New York State Police Crime Lab System. 

Forensic genetic genealogy has become a more popular practice after 2018, when it was used to help catch Joseph DeAngelo, the notorious “Golden State Killer.”

But unlike a police search of a home or car, there were virtually no standards for when and how law enforcement could dip into genetic genealogy data online. 

Maryland’s law set some of the nation’s first guardrails on the investigative tool. 

“It is comprehensive,” Ram said. “It regulates the initiation of forensic genetic genealogy, how it is conducted.”

Newsy’s investigation found, almost a year after the law became active in October 2021, key pieces of it have yet to roll out. 

The Maryland Department of Health has yet to publish best practices and minimum qualifications for people using forensic genetic genealogy.

In a required annual report, a branch of the governor’s office failed to disclose how often law enforcement accesses ancestry data, as well as the number of complaints. 

The health department also suspended a task force working on the new regulations, without providing an explanation even to members of that task force, including Wickenheiser. 

The Maryland Department of Health would not answer Newsy’s detailed questions about the lack of progress. 

But emails obtained through state open records requests show by March, a decision had been made to stop implementing major parts of the law.

Dr. Tricia Nay, director of the health department’s Office of Health Care Quality, wrote in a March 16 email, “Unfortunately, OHCQ did not receive any staff or funding for this bill, so we are unable to implement it at this time.”

A health department spokesman confirmed there are no funds to support the law this fiscal year, which runs through June 2023. 

That came as news to Ram, who worked with legislators to get the pioneering law on the books. 

“That concerns me,” Ram said. “I’d like to see this law implemented, and I hope that resources are available to do so.”  

The law has faced other challenges, including concern and opposition from a key health department leader.

In an email dated June 13, 2021, Paul Celli, public˙health administrator for clinical and forensic laboratories, wrote: “I am just not sure how to go about getting started on all of this. The bill tasked OHCQ with all this with zero consultation on it … I don’t even agree with most of what’s in it …”

Emails show that by this summer, communication appeared to break down between the Maryland Department of Health and Maryland State Police, another agency also required to help roll out the law. 

“I still don’t know what MDH’s plan is in regard to the regulations. They have gone silent and I’ve tried every avenue available to me to get some resolution without success,” reads a July 13 email from Dan Katz, lab director for Maryland State Police.

Katz declined a request to be interviewed for this story.

Maryland Department of Health spokesman Chase Cook sent a statement responding to Newsy’s findings: “The Maryland Department of Health has actively been working internally and with our partner state agencies on implementation of this law, which we understand has not been implemented anywhere else in the United States. We will provide further updates as they become available.”

For now, ancestry websites are setting their own privacy rules. 

User terms of service for ancestry.com and 23andme.com say they won’t voluntarily share data with law enforcement. 

There are looser restrictions on GEDmatch.com, a free online ancestry database used to find the Golden State Killer.

The site has 1.8 million profiles.

Users must opt out if they don’t want to share data with police.

“For me, it’s critical that Maryland continue this,” Wickenheiser said. “The sooner we can have these discussions and have these laws put in place, the better it is. We want to prevent and solve crime, and we also want to make sure that we respect people’s rights.”

A major test of how things are going in Maryland is just weeks away: The law requires the health department to establish licensing requirements for labs using forensic genetic genealogy by Oct. 1.

Source: newsy.com

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