Public Health

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.

Disasters Are Driving a Mental Health Crisis

From climate-fueled wildfires to COVID-19, mounting catastrophes are sowing stress and trauma. The country’s one program to help reaches only a fraction of survivors.

California counties are required by state law to provide mental health services in the wake of a wildfire or other emergency event, but only to the extent their resources allow. Many poorer, rural counties – which are often those most impacted by wildfires – just don’t have the money or resources.

Community Gatherings Offer Healing for Emotional Wounds After Disasters

Disasters are stressful, and these events are worsening as the climate warms. But therapy isn’t an option for everyone. ‘Convivencias’ are an alternative in a fire-prone region.

Convivencia means “coexistence” — or colloquially, “gathering.” Formally speaking, they are therapeutic support groups. Except they aren’t marketed that way.

Former foster youth Diana Pham, 26, celebrates her graduation from San Jose State University in May. She completed her degree online after the school halted online classes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

California Considers Extending Foster Care for Young Adults Until Pandemic Emergency Ends

More than 7,000 young people ages 18 to 21 are in California’s foster care system. These young people, and others who recently aged out of foster care, are struggling under the weight of the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Meeting the needs of foster youth is also a racial justice issue. A disproportionate percentage of foster youth are Black or Native American, largely due to structural inequality and racism.

Woman in green shirt and protective gloves put delivered box with food products on wooden table in kitchen.

How Grocery Shopping Online Could Help Close Equity Gaps

Low-income families can’t easily shop for groceries online, contributing to COVID-19 disparities—but allowing them to use food stamps online could help. Food policy advocates are asking the state to provide online purchasing opportunity for pregnant women and families with young children who get benefits through WIC.

Health equity is a key reason why allowing WIC recipients to shop online is so critical. California has the largest WIC program in the U.S. and most recipients are people of color.

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