At least 12 states, including California, are suing the Trump administration over its plan to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census. Talking Points Memo summarizes the situation: “The stakes are extremely high, not just for immigrant populations, but for the states where they live and for the communities that serve them. If the question dis-incentivizes certain populations from participating — as many experts and advocates expect — the undercount would lead to a shrinking of their political representation, and a stiffing of federal resources allocated for them.” According to the New York Times, research shows that, as of 2015, “132 government programs used information from the census to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for programs that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and reduced-price school lunch programs. Highway spending is also apportioned according to census data. Mother Jones reports that “undercounting minority populations would do the greatest harm to states like California, which has the most immigrants in the country. A significant undercount in 2020 could cost the state more than $20 billion over a decade and potentially one or two congressional seats and electoral votes. California is planning to spend $50 million over the next two years on outreach to hard-to-count populations… ‘If we lose a congressional seat or two, our voice is minimized,’ says state Rep. Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat from the Fresno area.” There are also implications for public health data collection: “Low response rates from any one demographic group would undermine the validity of various population-wide statistics and program planning. Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of diseases and health concerns such as cancer and obesity across the United States population, including drilling down to race and ethnicity to identify health patterns across demographics. Public health officials then use the data to target their interventions in at-risk communities. Inaccurate census data could lead public health officials to invest in solving a problem that does not exist — or worse, to overlook one that does. ‘ It’s getting harder to conduct the census, due to a variety of factors, including increasing cultural & linguistic diversity, and distrust of the government,’ said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist who directs the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. ‘The addition of the citizenship question will make the enumerators’ jobs even harder by heightening privacy concerns and reducing participation among immigrants, who may fear the information will be used to harm them or their families.’”
New research published in PLOS One finds that hospitalization rates for mental illness double among people who have been displaced from their neighborhoods. City Lab writes, “The potential public health implications are significant: Nearly a million people are at risk of being priced out of their homes in New York City alone. National numbers reveal that gentrification is greatly accelerating. Since 2000, 20 percent of low-income neighborhoods gentrified in the 50 largest cities in the country (compared to 9 percent in the 1990s) with the highest number of gentrifying census tracts located in New York City… The study… examined which mental health conditions were driving displaced persons to New York City hospitals and emergency rooms most often. The top five were alcohol and substance abuse, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety. They found that before the displaced group was priced out of their homes, they had similar rates of mental health illness to those who remained in their home: in terms of mental health illness, 24 percent and 22 percent; and equivalent levels of hospitalization (0.8 and 0.8 times per year) and emergency room visits (2.3 and 2.3 times per year)… “Gentrification is not a secret thing where people in the community are not aware. You know what’s happening and you are waiting to see what will happen to you,” said Negesti Cantave, an advocate with a public housing organization in Harlem. “That’s a prolonged stressful experience.’”
The March for Our Lives drew tens of thousands of Americans to protests across the US on Saturday, March 24. Vox reports on the role of black women and girls in advocating for gun violence prevention: “In addition to calling for stricter gun control policy, they had a more nuanced message to deliver: America has failed to focus on black victims, especially black women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by gun violence. ‘I am here to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news,’ said 11-year old Naomi Wadler during a speech at Washington’s March for our Lives. Wadler, who helped organize a walkout at her elementary school earlier this month, spoke of black girls like 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington, who was fatally shot in her Birmingham, Alabama, high school classroom in early March; Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old shot and killed in Chicago days after performing in President Obama’s second inauguration; and Taiyania Thompson, a 16-year-old shot and killed in a Washington, DC, apartment earlier this year. ‘For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have been just numbers,’ Wadler added. ‘I’m here to say ‘never again’ for those girls too.’”
Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for the repeal of the second amendment in a New York Times op-ed: “For over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation. In 1939 the Supreme Court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a ‘well regulated militia’… In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned Chief Justice Burger’s and others’ long-settled understanding of the Second Amendment’s limited reach by ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that there was an individual right to bear arms. I was among the four dissenters. That decision — which I remain convinced was wrong and certainly was debatable — has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option. That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. It would eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States — unlike every other market in the world. It would make our schoolchildren safer than they have been since 2008 and honor the memories of the many, indeed far too many, victims of recent gun violence.”
Linda Brown, the young African-American student at the heart of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation in education violated the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law, died this week at age 76. NPR reports: “The 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, involved several families, all trying to dismantle decades of federal education laws that condoned segregated schools for black and white students. But it began with Brown's father Oliver, who tried to enroll her at the Sumner School, an all-white elementary school in Topeka just a few blocks from the Browns' home… Brown never got the chance to attend Sumner. The family had moved out of the neighborhood during the lengthy case. But her mother said her younger daughters attended integrated schools, and one of them went on to become a teacher within the Topeka school district.” In 1979, 23 years after the Supreme Court ruling, Linda Brown became a plaintiff in a “resurrected version of Brown… [suing] the school district for not following through with desegregation.” Since that time, school desegregation efforts have lost ground: between 2001 and 2014 alone, the number of high-poverty schools serving primarily students of color has more than doubled.
NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast looks at how “hypermasculinity” perpetuated in American culture can limit boys’ and men’s emotional and social capacity to form deep and sustaining relationships. As boys move into adolescence, cultural messages discourage emotional expression. “These are human beings with unbelievable emotional and social capacity,” psychologist Niobe Way says. “And we as a culture just completely try to zip it out of them, and we ignore it.” She said her research shows that right about the time that boys’ emotional connections with one another begin to weaken, their reports of mental health problems increase. “I just don’t think it’s just coincidental that at the very time you hear their language-the love in their language, the emotional attunement in their language-diminish, and the anger, the frustration, the I-don’t-care voice comes into their stories is the exact same time that the suicide rate increases.”
Maya Dusenberry reports on the ways women’s pain is overlooked and dismissed by doctors and researchers: “The majority of the 100 million Americans who live with chronic pain are women. In surveys that ask respondents whether they’ve had pain in different parts of the body over the last several months, greater proportions of women report pain. It’s a finding that’s fairly consistent across different populations: a 2008 study of tens of thousands of patients in over a dozen countries found that the prevalence of any chronic pain condition was 45 percent among women, compared to 31 percent among men. Many of the most prevalent chronic pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis (OA), which affects over 30 million Americans, chronic low back pain (nearly 20 million), IBS (44 million), and migraine (36 million), are more common among women. Women are twice as likely to have autoimmune diseases, many of which bring with them persistent pain.”
This week, all 22 female senators signed on to a letter calling on their colleagues to reform the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to eliminate waiting periods before victims can take their harassers to court, increase transparency, and require that legislators – not taxpayers – cover settlement costs. The letter concludes: “Inaction is unacceptable when a survey shows that four out of 10 women congressional staffers believe that sexual harassment is a problem on Capitol Hill and one out of six women in the same survey responded that they have been the survivors of sexual harassment. Survivors who have bravely come forward to share their stories have brought to light just how widespread harassment and discrimination continue to be throughout Capitol Hill. No longer can we allow the perpetrators of these crimes to hide behind a 23-year-old law. It’s time to rewrite the Congressional Accountability Act and update the process through which survivors seek justice.”
The Washington Post explores the debate over what service therapy dogs can and should do for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, and who should pay for it. While there are many success stories illustrating the benefits the dogs can provide, from offering a sense of safety to waking vets from nightmares, studies examining the effectiveness of psychiatric service dogs are scarce.
The Trump Administration’s plan to address the opioid epidemic includes a provision that medication-assisted treatment be provided to people leaving prison who have substance misuse conditions, but stipulates that only one type of medication, naltrexone, be used. STAT reports that while providing access to treatment represents an improvement over current conditions, some addiction experts have expressed concern that the plan allows only one of the available treatment drugs to be used. Some speculate that the reason that the plan requires the use of naltrexone (which is marketed under the name Vivitrol) rather than the other alternatives, buprenorphine or methadone, is because it is not an opioid. “Methadone and buprenorphine have been shown on a variety of metrics to be far superior to Vivitrol — that includes safety, effectiveness, and cost,” Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and public health at Northeastern University who focuses on drug policy, told STAT. “The reason Vivitrol is preferred is that it’s a medical version of forced abstinence. That is why it’s been the darling of those who rhetorically support medication assisted treatment.”
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams noted the importance of considering childhood trauma and resilience in addressing the opioid epidemic, Michigan Radio reports. Speaking at a panel discussion at the University of Michigan, he said, "We want to understand what adverse childhood experiences are, and how trauma sets people down this pathway towards these negative outcomes. It's not what's wrong with you, it's what happened to you."