This week, the House of Representatives is debating the latest Farm Bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. The current House proposal threatens to strip food benefits from millions of people by imposing stricter time limits and work requirements, and ending ‘categorical eligibility’ for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Categorical eligibility streamlines access to SNAP and to free and reduced-price school meals for families of low income in 40 states. SNAP helps one in eight Americans—over 40 million people—and is the most far-reaching and effective program to prevent hunger in the United States. In addition to preventing hunger, SNAP supports long-term health and wellbeing, improves educational outcomes for children, lowers healthcare costs, helps families make ends meet, and fuels local economic development. In 2015, SNAP helped prevent over eight million families from falling below the poverty line.
Centro de Periodismo Investigativo reports that domestic violence and sexual violence have spiked since Hurricane Maria, fitting a broader pattern of sexual violence increasing in the wake of natural disasters, due in part to “increased stress and feelings of powerlessness due to bereavement, loss of property and loss of livelihood, mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the scarcity of basic provisions, destruction of social networks, breakdown of law enforcement, cessation of violence prevention and other social support programs, and disruptions to the economy—all of which has plagued Puerto Rico.”
A new report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health calculated average years of life lost at the hands of law enforcement and estimated that in just one year, 57,375 years of life were lost as a result of police violence.
On Monday, the Trump administration announced that the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will prosecute anyone illegally crossing the southern border of the US and threatened to separate families. In a speech to law enforcement officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions referred to parents crossing the border with their children as “smuggling” children and threatened to prosecute parents and send children to juvenile facilities. In an interview with National Public Radio, Margaret Huang of Amnesty International USA said, "These are children who have already suffered the trauma of violence and persecution in their native countries and the arduous journey to seek safety… why in the world would the U.S. government institute a policy that would compound their distress by separating them from their families, claiming it's for their own good?"
A new report from the National Abortion Federation finds that incidents of trespassing (823 incidents) and obstructing healthcare services at reproductive health clinics more than tripled from 2016 to 2017. Reproductive health advocates believe that protesters have been emboldened to take more drastic measures against clinics and patients by the passage of more than 400 abortion restrictions in the past seven years and the support of the Trump administration.
In Thrive Global, Craig Martin, Global Director of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and PI’s Sheila Savannah write about the important role that strong communities play in promoting mental health. In light of Mental Health Month, the piece highlights the Making Connections initiative, which uses community-level prevention strategies to imbue communities across the US with a sense of hope, trust, safety, belonging, dignity, and agency, and control of destiny.
Early evidence in Virginia suggests that providing more accessible, better quality addiction treatment can reduce emergency department visits related to opioid misuse, German Lopez reports in Vox. Virginia’s Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) program, launched a year ago, increases Medicaid reimbursement rates for addiction treatment providers. The ARTS approach includes medication-assisted treatments, which have been proven to be effective but sometimes are maligned as swapping one drug for another. The program also includes better pay for those who help people struggling with substance misuse find housing, employment and other supports. In the first year of the program, the portion of Medicaid members accessing treatment for opioid misuse disorders has increased, and ED visits for opioid misuse have decreased.
A report by Promundo and the Oak Foundation examines how the ways in which we are raising boys is contributing to their likelihood of being both victims and users of violence. Masculine Norms and Violence: Making the Connections looks at the connections between our “norms of manhood” and eight forms of violence, including intimate partner violence, child sexual abuse and exploitation, homicide, and suicide. The report focuses on how norms such as those that discourage showing emotional vulnerability and reinforce patriarchal power structures foster violence, and how we can challenge and move beyond these harmful norms.
The intense demand for mental health counselors to treat veterans for conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder is creating stress for the counselors themselves, NPR reports. Counselors say part of the problem stems from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ move to measure counselor productivity by the number of clients treated rather than hours spent with clients.