Posted: Sep 23 2016

From Arizona Public Media | Story by Bryn Bailer

Law enforcement agencies and fire departments in Santa Cruz County and along the border frequently work together. But they can’t always communicate with each other, because more than 80 percent of their service area has “dead spots” unreachable by their shared radio channel.

“Santa Cruz County has a longstanding history of communication problems based on the terrain we have,” said Santa Cruz County Emergency Services Director Ray Sayre.
“We have rolling hills and it’s difficult to get coverage in the shadow areas,” he added. “Can’t hear you. Can’t see you.”

Sayre said the equipment upgrades will cost $330,000, which will be covered by two already approved grants. After federally mandated environmental and historic preservation reviews are completed, construction will begin in 2017.
For now, radio transmissions are frequently garbled in low-lying areas along Interstate 19, said Al Flores, a battalion chief in the Rio Rico Medical and Fire District. Other trouble spots are in Nogales, Rio Rico and Tubac.
“Without communication you’re basically playing hide and go seek,” he said. “Nobody knows where anybody’s at.”

The Arizona Interagency Radio System – commonly known as AIRS – is operated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. In theory, it enables departments that work on different radio frequencies to all talk together.
Two Homeland Security grants will enable the county to add or upgrade three radio-signal repeater sites for a shared emergency services channel, and connect them via microwave linkages.
“We need more repeaters, higher towers that can actually be seen from over the hills,” Flores said. “Technology for this is always changing.”

Currently, firefighters, customs agents, highway patrol officers and others have to call their separate dispatch centers to relay information, or lend each other matching radios, or communicate face-to-face. None of those tactics is easy at a large wildfire or other chaotic emergency scene.

“The public in Santa Cruz County deserves the same quality of dispatch as the rest of the state – and anywhere in the country,” said Rio Rico Medical and Fire District Chief Les Caid.


Posted: Aug 29 2016 | By Stephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star  Updated Aug 28, 2016


Fewer health insurers and higher rates are expected on the federal marketplace, where more than 150,000 Arizonans bought plans last year.

Last year, five insurance companies sold 31,161 marketplace plans to Pima County residents. Open enrollment begins Nov. 1 for coverage in 2017.

So far this year, the number of insurers expected to sell to Pima County on the marketplace is two — Health Net of Arizona and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

And there has not yet been a commitment from any company to sell marketplace plans in Pinal County, where 9,600 consumers bought Affordable Care Act marketplace plans last enrollment season.

Posted: Aug 19 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016 7:23 PM EDT | KVOA News 4 Tucson
Written By Sam Salzwedel

Arizonans all over the state are losing health insurance coverage options. Pinal County is the only known place in the country where no options are available through the Affordable Care Act exchange. 

Dr. Daniel Derksen teaches at the University of Arizona College of Public Health and has extensively studied the Affordable Care Act. He said the ACA has cut the number of uninsured Arizonans in half. “I don't think there is a great reason why Pinal County would be different than our 14 other counties in Arizona,” Derksen said. 


Posted: Aug 11 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016 | UAHS Announcements

From New York to New Mexico, Couple Offers Advice
Being a physician in a small, rural town offers a unique perspective.

Victor Cruz, MD, and Francine Jacobs, MD, visited the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix recently to share their experience of moving from the fast pace of New York City to a small, rural area in New Mexico to practice medicine. The couple, whose family backgrounds originate in the Caribbean, offered advice and encouragement to medical students.

They spoke as part of a Rural Health Seminar, one of the requirements for students participating in the Certificate of Distinction in Rural Health. The seminar was open to the entire campus.

Posted: Aug 8 2016

Thinking of working in rural health, or recruiting others? This video (4:25) from the Washington State Department of Health describes the benefits, from the point of view of healthcare providers.

Posted: Aug 5 2016

Jill BullockJill Bullock, Associate Director of the Arizona Center for Rural Health was recognized with a "Spirit Award" for her collaboration and innovative contributions to the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project, presented by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. This award is presented to the Flex Coordinator that exemplifies the collaborative and innovative spirit of the Flex Program.

Posted: Jul 20 2016

MBQIP Certificate of Excellence was presented to Jill Bullock on July 20, 2016 by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy - Hospital-State Division.

The 2016 Spirit Award for collaborative and innovative collaborations to the Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project.

Posted: Jul 20 2016

An estimated 162,000 Arizona children are without health insurance, but that number is expected to drop significantly this fall.

On Tuesday, the state of Arizona will for the first time in six years begin taking applications for the government-sponsored health-insurance program KidsCare, for coverage beginning Sept. 1.

KidsCare is Arizona’s version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. CHIP was created in 1997 with bipartisan support during the Clinton administration. Between 1997 and 2012, the uninsured rate for children in the U.S. fell by more than half, from 14 percent to the current rate of 6 percent.

Arizona’s rate of uninsured children is 10 percent, according to research conducted by Georgetown University.

KidsCare is administered by the state’s Medicaid program, which is known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).
Federal dollars will cover the entire cost of the program at least until 2017. Gov. Doug Ducey signed Arizona law SB 1457 reinstating the program on May 6. The Arizona House passed it 38-21, and the Senate vote was 16-2.

Critics worried that Arizona will eventually have to pick up the tab for the program. Supporters said reopening the program was the moral thing to do for Arizona children.

Until now, Arizona has held the distinction of being the only state without an active CHIP program. The state also has the third-highest rate of uninsured children in the U.S., according to a study by the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown. Only Alaska and Texas have higher rates.

The Georgetown study said that despite positive effects of the Affordable Care Act in Arizona, “It remains among the worst states in children’s coverage, likely reflecting the lack of KidsCare.”

Health-policy experts and supporters of KidsCare say families in the KidsCare income bracket are making too much to qualify for AHCCCS but often not enough to afford commercial insurance, including what’s offered on the federal marketplace, even with subsidies.

Before an enrollment freeze that began in 2010, KidsCare in Arizona provided health care to low-income children in families with incomes from 138 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or an income of $27,000 to $40,000 per year for a family of three, or up to $48,600 for a family of four.

At one time, the program enrolled nearly 50,000 children. Enrollment is now down to 549 children.

“KidsCare restoration helps cover our most vulnerable population — our children. Studies demonstrate that such coverage improves health outcomes, and yields significant benefits in terms of educational attainment for these children,” said health-policy expert Dr. Daniel Derksen, a professor at the University of Arizona’s Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

Posted: Jun 17 2016

Published in The Atlantic | DEBORAH FALLOWS  | June 13, 2016  

Finding Health Care in the Desert

With the closest hospital 100 miles away, Ajo, Arizona’s Desert Senita Health Center acts as the region’s clinic.

We returned to rural Arizona for our American Futures project this spring. During our travels, we have visited a number of towns that could easily be called rural: Eastport, Maine (pop. 1,300), far down-east and a mile across the strait from Campobello Island, and  Chester, Montana (pop. 850), 40 miles from Canada, vie for being the smallest.

Ajo, Arizona, one of our favorite towns, is slightly bigger. About 2,300 people live there throughout the year, and the numbers swell to almost twice that when the snowbirds arrive from the states that border Canada. Many winter residents arrive in their RVs or campers, and others settle into charming stand-alone small houses.  By snowbird standards, Ajo is very affordable.

Posted: Jun 15 2016

Arizona Public Media | Story by Gisela Telis

May 20, 2016 -- Sheri George, founder of the San Tan Valley Substance Abuse Coalition, fights to get her neighbors the help they need by bringing mental health care services to rural Arizona. (Video length: 8:52)


Posted: May 10 2016

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — The notice came with only six days’ warning. Alta Vista Regional Hospital, the only primary care facility within 65 miles of this northeastern New Mexico town, was closing its obstetrics division, effective March 7. For women like Desiree Castillo, who was pregnant with her second child, that meant scrambling to find a new doctor more than an hour away in Santa Fe or Raton for prenatal care and birthing.

Later that month, Castillo and her husband, Carlos Castillo, drove the 65 miles from Las Vegas for her first ultrasound in Santa Fe. “She called me around 11 all excited, saying, ‘It’s a boy, it’s a boy!” said her mother, Julie LouAnn Valdez.

As Desiree was driving home that afternoon on Interstate 25 east of Pecos, her husband ill and asleep in the passenger seat, a powerful wind gust knocked their sport utility vehicle out of control. The vehicle rolled, killing Desiree and her unborn son, whom she had already named Ezra Augustine Castillo. Her husband survived.

Continued at link below:

Posted: May 10 2016

Phoenix New Times | By Chris Parker | TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2016 AT 5 A.M

Our health is our most precious resource, yet our health-care system’s more adept at mining wallets than making us healthy. We pay one-and-a-half to two times what other countries pay for health care without appreciably better outcomes.

America spends more than $9,500 per person annually, more than one-sixth of our gross national product (17.5 percent), or more than $3 trillion on health care. The government alone spends $4,197 per person, more than many countries with universal health care. The United Kingdom, by comparison, spends the equivalent of $2,800 per citizen and covers everyone.

All this spending hasn’t made us healthier.

Continued at link below:

Posted: Apr 6 2016

The guide provides information and resources concerning the concept of social determinants of health, and encourages activities to help rural healthcare providers address these issues and improve the health of the communities they serve.

Posted: Apr 6 2016

The tool has been updated with a new interface and includes a map-based location verification. View the short video to learn how to use the tool's new features and then find out if your location is considered rural based on various rural definitions by using the tool.

Posted: Apr 6 2016

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report showing that states can greatly
improve access to behavioral health services for residents by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable
Care Act. Substance use disorders and mental illness are prevalent and serious public health problems in
American communities. According to the report, in 2014, the most recent year for which data is
available, an estimated 1.9 million uninsured people with a mental illness or substance use disorder
lived in states that have not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and had incomes that
could qualify them for coverage. The report finds that people with behavioral health needs made up a
substantial share of all low-income uninsured individuals in these states: nearly 30 percent. While some
of these individuals had access to some source of health insurance in 2014, many will gain access to
coverage only if their states expand Medicaid, and others would gain access to more affordable