Public Health

As Wildfires Grow, So Does California’s Housing and Homelessness Crisis. Here Are Some Solutions

As climate change increases the intensity of wildfires in California, more people are losing their homes and facing long-term displacement and instability.

Researchers and those who work with disaster victims said there is insufficient government assistance to help the most vulnerable wildfire survivors find housing. There also isn’t enough housing to accommodate California’s swelling population of wildfire refugees.

Trapped in Harm’s Way as Disasters Mount

Columbia Journalism Investigations in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity and Type Investigations spent a year digging into the growing need for climate relocation across the United States.

Little organized government assistance exists for preventing the loss of homes and lives before a disaster, the investigation revealed — and there is no comprehensive focus on helping people escape untenable situations.

In South Los Angeles, A Community Poisoned by Oil

California is often held up as a model for climate policy, environmental legislation, and pollution regulation, but those standards are rarely reflected in frontline communities.

Since 2000, more than 16 million pounds of toxic chemicals, primarily hydrogen cyanide, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, have been spewed into Wilmington’s air from industrial sites in the city, according to the EPA. Community survey data shows dramatically higher rates of cancer, asthma and anxiety and depression in Wilmington, compared to national data.

Solutions For the Most Dangerous Part of Pregnancy: Violence in the Home

Across California, organizations are working on anti-violence solutions to improve outcomes for parents and their babies. Efforts include working with physicians to better detect and help pregnant people who are experiencing abuse.

Women are more than twice as likely to die from homicide during pregnancy and the year following childbirth than from hypertensive disorders, hemorrhage and infection.

Toxic Blooms Are a Public Health Risk and Increase Water Treatment Costs

The waters in Clear Lake, the second largest in California, shelter a treacherous occupant — potentially toxic blooms of cyanobacteria. The harmful algal blooms are a threat to public health, recreation, and the local economy.

For the 18 public water systems that draw from the lake the noxious blooms are something else: an operating hazard that is complicating their treatment processes and increasing the cost of providing clean water in one of the state’s poorest counties.

California Tribes Call Out Degradation of Clear Lake

Seven years ago, after the fish died, Sarah Ryan decided she couldn’t wait any longer for help. California was in the depths of its worst drought in the last millennium and its ecosystems were gasping. For Ryan, the fish kill in Clear Lake, the state’s second largest and the centerpiece of Lake County, was the last straw.

Ryan is the environmental director for Big Valley Rancheria. She and others raised alarms for several years about increasingly dire blooms of toxic cyanobacteria.

As Need for Mental Health Care Surges, A Funding Program Remains Underused

The need for mental health services has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing pressure on California’s already beset mental health care system.

Yet one source of funding that could potentially help counties meet the demand for mental health care remains underused more than a year after the California Health Report first drew attention to the issue. The funding benefits the mental health care program that serves a third of Californians.

Sad man making video call and talking to female psychologist by web cam

Therapists Want to Provide Affordable Mental Health Care. Here’s What’s Stopping Them

Even driven therapists face major hurdles navigating the fractured U.S. health care system. The end result is that they have less time to actually provide mental health care, at a time when therapists are needed more than ever.

Statewide statistics, as well as reports from providers and patients, suggest that insurance companies create hurdles to mental health care. Clients still struggle to get equal access to therapy. Therapists still struggle to get equal pay.

How to Heal Emotional Wounds After Disaster

Disasters are stressful. Our warming world keeps adding fuel to the fires — and floods and hurricanes, among other calamities. What can be done about the trauma that follows?

The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia Journalism Investigations and our partners in newsrooms around the country, including the California Health Report, have been reporting on this for months.

We heard from more than 200 disaster survivors and people helping them. Here’s what we learned.

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