public policy

Dorm residents at Columbia clash with officials over assistance animals

Students at Columbia are seeking help from disability rights lawyers to convince university housing officials that multiple assistance animals are a medically required disability accommodation. Olivia Deloian of the Columbia Chronicle interviewed business major Lindsey Barrett who says her therapist prescribed dog companionship to treat symptoms of adjustment disorder. The problem is, Barrett already has an emotional support cat for her severe anxiety disorder, which means she needs new approval from Columbia to house the second animal. Deloian carefully describes her journalism process in contacting Columbia officials to request their side of the disagreement. With Barrett’s help, Deloian also provides a useful explanation of the distinction between emotional support animals and other service animals.

U.N. report highlights disability issues in Africa are neglected as economies develop

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) published a report analyzing disability issues in Kenya, Zambia, Uganda and Sierra Leone. The report is titled “Bridging the Gap: Examining disability and development in four African countries.” The report was published on www.ReliefWeb.int, UNOCHA’s online news source for humanitarian experts. The report examines how disability accommodations are frequently neglected as other community services develop.

Medicaid providing subsidies for health services in public schools

Many American public schools rely on Medicaid to subsidize the cost of school psychiatrists and therapeutic services, but some critics suggest the funding is misused and expanding too quickly. Anna Gorman and Carmen Heredia Rodriguez wrote a special report for CNN and Kaiser Health News outlining the numerous ways Medicaid is utilized by schools to provide health services to low-income students, but also to cover general budget shortfalls. As the story reports, pubic policy think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, oppose Medicaid expansion and advocate for closer oversight.

Labeling mass shooters as “sickos” perpetuates mental health stigmas

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement condemning the imprecise language recently used by public figures to discuss the connection between mental health and mass shootings. President Trump and Dana Loesch, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, used words including “sicko,” “nuts” and “crazy person” to describe the diagnoses of mass shooter Nikolas Cruz. The NAMI statement criticizes such comments as reinforcing “inaccurate and negative stereotypes” that “create barriers to having real conversations about how to improve the mental health services that lead to recovery and participation in American society by people experiencing mental health conditions.” CNN.com interviewed several mental health experts who also suggested that mental illness is not a reliable condition for predicting violent behavior. Click here to read NAMI’s statement and click here to read CNN’s article.

Update to NCDJ award-winning story “Suffering in Secret” reports continued problems

The Chicago Tribune published a followup investigative report to its award-winning story “Suffering in Secret” and unfortunately the promised reforms of Illinois group homes have not materialized. Michael J. Berens, the reporter who co-wrote “Suffering in Secret” with Patricia Callahan, penned the update and highlights several specific problems the group homes failed to correct. The story also features a compelling video interview with Peggy Strong, the mother of a daughter with disabilities whose health improved after being moved from a group home to a large institutional facility. Click here to read the article and click here to watch the video interview.

Protesters arrested during congressional hearing on ADA reform (H.R. 620)

Disability rights activists were arrested by Capitol Hill police on Tuesday during a House Rules Committee hearing on H.R. 620. The protesters oppose policy reforms that would change ADA regulations regarding complaint waiting periods. Click here to read Cristina Marcos’s full report on TheHill.com.

Massachusetts urges hospitals to better prepare for dementia patients

Hospitals frighten many patients but they can be especially confusing and traumatic for people with dementia. According to a story for the Boston Globe by Felice J. Freyer, hospitals in Massachusetts are making an effort to better accommodate patients with memory loss. Freyer reports that the loud, high-tech hospital environment is disorienting to patients with “fragile minds,” and staff frequently rely on sedatives to calm confused patients. Freyer interviewed family caregivers, Alzheimer’s advocacy groups and hospital executives to learn more about the problem and how hospitals are making improvements.

‘Doomed by Delay’: NCDJ co-winner Callahan has new story on Krabbe disease

If a hospital fails to identify symptoms of a debilitating disease in infants it could spell disaster for patients as they grow up. In her story “Doomed by Delay,” Chicago Tribune investigative journalist Patricia Callahan describes the struggles of parents of children with Krabbe disease who weren’t properly diagnosed until it was too late to salvage their motor functions. Callahan is the 1st place co-winner, along with Michael J. Berens, of the NCDJ’s 2017 Katherine Schneider Award for Disability Journalism.

In a related report, Chicago Tribune photographer Brian Cassella interviews the mother and caretaker of a 6-year-old living with Krabbe disease.