Health

mental health, in crisis
Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

The voice started when Shawna Ervin was 16 years old, and it hounded her for two years.

It told her to hurt herself.

“It was relentless and wouldn’t stop laughing at me until I burned myself on my face,” she said.

When she finally did burn her face, the laughter turned maniacal. Then it stopped.

Ervin’s mental illness is not rare. She is one of thousands of Idahoans whose disorders can be severe enough to warrant hospitalization.

Philip Mazeikas, mobile crisis, mental health
Joe Jaszewski / Idaho Statesman

Two years ago, Philip Mazeikas answered the front door of his family home. The course of his life changed when he opened it.

At 24-years-old, Mazeikas found himself in the middle of his first psychotic episode.

He thought he'd been contacted by aliens who were using him in a scheme to control the world. He wasn't eating well. He was drinking his own urine.

mental health, in crisis
Joe Jaszewski | jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com / Idaho Statesman

Philip Mazeikas, now 26-years-old, started noticing signs of his mental illness when he was 18.

"I started thinking there was a prophecy about me rising to power, or being famous," he says. "Things turned worse when I was 23, when I started hearing voices."

By the time Mazeikas was 24, the Boise Police Department had been called to his home more than once. Mazeikas had become unpredictable and volatile. 

"He would sometimes say to us, 'Hey Dad I'm back, I've been gone a while'," Mike Mazeikas recalls.

In Crisis: How To Help Someone Needing Mental Health Care

Oct 27, 2014
telephone, buttons, hotline
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some phone numbers to call:

  • Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Idaho's 24-hour crisis line: 2-1-1
  • Medical or public safety emergency: 9-1-1

If someone you know is in emotional crisis and you worry they're in need of help, here are some warning signs to watch for from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and National Institute of Mental Health.

Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Roy Vopal didn’t expect to live at a Boise Rescue Mission shelter in Downtown Boise this year. But the 60-year-old had a serious knee injury, then surgery, that he said left him unable to work for the first time in his life.

“Mentally, it’s a mind-screw” to be out of work, Vopal said. “It definitely twists the brain.”

Vopal says his service in the Marines during the Vietnam War left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There were times when I wanted my life to end,” Vopal said. He attempted suicide in his 30s and used drugs.

the hive, gabe rudow
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Organizers of a new nonprofit want to do more than provide cheap studios for Boise’s growing music scene. They’re helping musicians who are struggling with things like stress, depression and addiction by connecting them with low-cost services.

Idaho Nurses Concerned But Not Scared About Ebola

Oct 15, 2014
Monash University / Flickr Creative Commons

Nurses are worried about Ebola after nurses in Texas and Spain contracted the disease while caring for infected patients. A survey from the organization National Nurses United says most nurses have serious concerns about how prepared their employers are to deal with Ebola.

Season's First Two Flu Deaths Reported In Idaho

Oct 9, 2014
flu, flu shot, sickness
US Army Corps Of Engineers / Flickr Creative Commons

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports two adults have died from influenza-related sicknesses.

The two deaths, one in Ada County and the other in Kootenai County, are the first flu-related deaths in Idaho this season. The department says 19 Idahoans died last year from the flu.

Both of the people who recently died were women, both were over 60-years-old.

DBKing / Flickr

The Supreme Court will decide whether private sector health care providers can force a state to raise its Medicaid reimbursement rates to keep up with rising costs.

The justices on Thursday agreed to hear an appeal from Idaho.

The state is trying to overturn a lower court decision that ordered the state to increase payments.

Parkinson's Disease, dance class
Jodie Martinson / Boise State Public Radio

Elizabeth Keller has trained her body to be completely stable even while standing on her tip toes. She's performed with Boise's best dancers as part of the Trey McIntyre Project and now with Ballet Idaho. But her passion these days is for helping people who shake because of Parkinson's disease find fluidity through dance.  

Stethescope, Health Care, Doctor, Medical
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho health officials say an unusual respiratory virus that's been causing illness among children across the U.S. is in Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday confirmed the presence of the enterovirus D68.

Officials say a child hospitalized in eastern Idaho tested positive for the virus. The child has since been released from the hospital.

Census Report: High Number Of Idahoans Are Uninsured

Sep 16, 2014
census.gov

The percentage of Idahoans with no health insurance was unchanged between 2012 and 2013. A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau says 16.2 percent of the state’s residents lacked health coverage in 2013. That’s about 257,000 people.

The nation as a whole saw a slight decline in the uninsured in that time, from 14.8 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013.

Eastern Idaho health officials say four children have been hospitalized due to a respiratory virus.

Officials tell KIFI-TV that the children are being treated at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

Hundreds of children in more than 10 states have been sickened by a severe respiratory illness that public health officials say may be caused by an uncommon virus similar to the germ that causes the common cold.

medical stock, scale, healthcare
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

New figures on weight show Idaho stands out among Western states -- but not in the way public health officials would like. 

Idaho was the most obese state west of the Dakotas and one of only six states nationwide where adult obesity rose between 2012 and 2013.

Idaho jumped nine places on the annual ranking by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report shows nearly 30 percent of adults in Idaho are obese.

Becky diVittorio, Optum
Idaho Statesman

A federal agency is investigating whether the company Idaho hired to manage part of its Medicaid program has violated patient-privacy laws.

Optum Idaho, a unit of United Behavioral Health, took over insurance management for Idaho Medicaid's mental-health and substance-abuse patients last fall.

Local health-care providers who treat those patients say Optum has erroneously sent them reports meant for other providers. The reports show patient names and mental-health or substance-abuse services the patients received or were authorized by Optum to receive.

Federal Officials Order Medicaid To Cover Autism Services

Aug 26, 2014

When Yuri Maldonado's 6-year-old son was diagnosed with autism four years ago, she learned that getting him the therapy he needed from California's Medicaid plan for low-income children was going to be tough.

Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman

The state’s effort to rein in Medicaid costs has created deep friction between small businesses that deliver behavioral-health services to Medicaid patients and a new contractor hired to manage them.

Service providers across Idaho have raised complaints over the last 11 months that the contractor, Optum Idaho, a unit of United Behavioral Health, has created red tape and cut services needed by at-risk patients.

Map by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare

The number of West Nile virus cases in Idaho have gone up this month in humans and mosquitoes.  
 

Human cases of West Nile were reported in four counties recently, Blaine, Lincoln, Payette, and Washington.  

Public health officials across the U.S. say the number of cesarean sections being performed has gotten way out of hand. It's a life-saving surgery for complicated births, but today nearly a third of pregnancies end up as a C-section.

bannokcountymosquito.com

Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare has confirmed the state’s first human case of West Nile virus of 2014. A Blaine County woman in her 20s is recovering from a virus-induced fever. Eight other Idaho counties have found West Nile in mosquitoes this summer, but the Blaine County case is the first confirmed human infection.

Last year, 40 known people in Idaho contracted West Nile and two died. A 2006 outbreak saw nearly 1,000 cases and 23 deaths in Idaho.

medical stock, scale, healthcare
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho's employee health insurance plans are comparable to the federal government's most expensive option offered under the Affordable Care Act and better than what most private companies provide.

According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts released Tuesday, Idaho covers 93 percent of all medical costs for state employees.

That compares to private Idaho employers, where plans generally cover 80 percent of medical costs.

New York Canal
Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Boise’s ethics commission next week will look into a case of a city firefighter who rescued a man from an irrigation canal, who then died several days later.

In June, Boise firefighter Brent Matthews jumped into one of the area’s biggest and fastest irrigation canals to rescue a man who had fallen in. Local TV station KTVB did a story praising Matthews for his heroism.

mosquito, bug, West Nile
Enrique Dans / Flickr Creative Commons

West Nile virus has now been reported in seven Idaho counties. The mosquito-borne virus has shown up in Adams, Ada, Bingham, Boundary, Canyon, Gem and Payette counties.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says all instances of the virus have been discovered in mosquito pools, no human cases of the disease have been reported.

Last year, West Nile was found in 16 Idaho counties. Forty people were infected with the virus and two Idahoans died. One of the worst West Nile years on record was 2006 when nearly 1,000 Idahoans were infected and 23 people died.

Federal dollars meant to restore toxic areas like old factories, mines and gas stations are now going to clean up after another long-time industry: methamphetamine.

Ben Rauch / Flickr

West Nile virus is in Ada County. A mosquito trap near Star, Idaho tested positive for West Nile this week. It the first instance of the disease in Ada County this year.

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