Kristin Gourlay

Health Care Reporter

Kristin Espeland Gourlay joined Rhode Island Public Radio in July 2012. Before arriving in Providence, Gourlay covered the environment for WFPL Louisville, KY’s NPR station. And prior to that, she was a reporter and host for Wyoming Public Radio.

Gourlay earned her MS from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and her BA in anthropology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR.

She’s won multiple national, regional, and local awards for her reporting, and her work has aired on NPR and stations throughout the country. She’s particularly proud of the variety of protective clothing she’s had to wear on assignment, including helmets, waders, safety goggles, and snowshoes.

Originally from Chicago, IL, Gourlay loves music, cooking, and spending time with her family.

Ways to Connect

Has heroin abuse reached epidemic proportions? What about painkiller abuse? Or are we just hearing more about it?

The academic jury is still out on this, as far as I can tell. Of course, it doesn't really matter what you call it if you've lost a loved one to heroin overdose.

RICARES

Two community forums are taking place over the next week to talk about preventing overdose. They couldn't come at a better time.

Overdose kills more Rhode Islanders than any other kind of accident (including traffic and guns). During the first two weeks of January, 22 Rhode Islanders died from presumed illicit drug overdoses. Another two died over the past two weekends, according to a source at the health department.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

That depends on your priorities. But first, here's what's at issue:

The state’s health department is considering updates to its immunization policy for school kids from preschool through college. The proposals would require flu shots for kids up to age five and the HPV vaccine for kids entering ninth grade.

Al Tomkins / Poynter

I just returned from a seminar for reporters on covering what may come next for the Affordable Care Act. One of the last sessions was a talk by prominent bioethicist Art Caplan, new head of the NYU Langone Medical Center's Division of Medical Ethics (you can read more his illustrious career here).

We've been reporting on what the impacts might be if Governor Lincoln Chafee's proposed cuts to Medicaid take effect - for example, what's at stake for the state's nursing homes.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee has proposed $43 million in cuts to the state's Medicaid program. That's the program that provides health insurance for the poor and disabled. And it's recently been expanded under Obamacare.

And while Chafee's budget wouldn't cut services for Medicaid recipients, it would have an impact on how much health care providers are paid to care for Medicaid patients. To learn more, Rhode Island Public Radio's health care reporter Kristin Gourlay sat down with Virginia Burke, head of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, whose members are mainly nursing homes.

Aaron Read / RIPR

22 Rhode Islanders have died this month from apparent drug overdoses. It's an unusually high number for the first two weeks of January, and the Rhode Island health department is urging caution.

The Rhode Island Health Department is warning residents about a spike in apparent drug overdose deaths since the beginning of this month. Twenty-two Rhode Islanders, ages 19 to 62, have died, mostly on the weekends, throughout Rhode Island.

Health officials say they don't know yet what drug is behind these accidental deaths.  The state's Medical Examiner is investigating.

A little while ago I mentioned this plan was being drafted, and open for public comment. The final product is available now, and it's worth a read, here: http://www.healthcare.ri.gov/healthyri/resources/SHIPwithAppendix.pdf (.pdf opens another document).

First, this document, the "Rhode Island State Healthcare Innovation Plan," produced out of Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts' office, is a great snapshot of the state's health care system. If you want a primer on our health care system, our biggest health problems, and where the opportunities lie for fixing them, look it over.

Here's a sampling of headlines from the past two days about the latest Obamacare exchange enrollment numbers (thanks to Kaiser Health News for rounding these up):

Aaron Read / RIPR

About 4500 parents who used to have health insurance through RIte Care, the state’s Medicaid program, will have to reapply for insurance if they want to remain covered after the end of the month. The biggest concern is that the poorest Rhode Islanders may not be able to afford it.

Thousands of Rhode Islanders have signed up for health insurance in recent weeks, some for the first time. I'm thinking that means some might not be so familiar with our health care system, or they might not know how to keep costs down with plans that carry higher deductibles or out-of-pocket costs.

So... here are a few tools to help you navigate, from finding the highest quality, to keeping costs down, to managing your own health. It's not an exhaustive list, but a start...if you're starting from scratch!

Wikimedia Commons

Can we slack off on prevention efforts now? Not if we want to prevent the estimated 1,750 tobacco-related deaths every year, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health. And that doesn't take into account the number of years lives are shortened by exposure to second-hand smoke.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

It was only a matter of time…

The flu is now widespread in Rhode Island.

That means there are outbreaks of the flu in more than half the state. It also kicks into effect a state requirement that health care professionals who have NOT been vaccinated wear surgical masks whenever they’re in contact with patients. The health department reports that flu-related hospitalizations are up as well.

Some of the lowest-income Rhode Islanders may be losing their health insurance coverage or paying a bit more for it by the end of this month.

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