Jack Rodolico

Health & Science Reporter

As NHPR's Health and Science Reporter, Jack covers a far-ranging beat: public health, private insurance, hospitals, scientific research, drug addiction, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, mental illness and developmental disabilities. Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance  reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.

Jack comes from a rowdy family of Italians who wave their hands in the air while talking, and he competed for attention as a child by telling the loudest story. 

Follow Jack tweets about health and science news, and everything else he's tracking.

Greta Rybus for NPR

When Jack O'Connor was 19, he was so desperate to beat his addictions to alcohol and opioids that he took a really rash step. He joined the Marines.

"This will fix me," O'Connor thought as he went to boot camp. "It better fix me or I'm screwed."

After 13 weeks of sobriety and exercise and discipline, O'Connor completed basic training, but he started using again immediately.

"Same thing," he says. "Percocet, like, off the street. Pills."

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire will receive a big influx of federal dollars to treat addiction and mental illness.

The state will get up to $30 million a year for five years total. And for example, this year it would mean about an added 25 percent on top of what the state has budgeted for mental health and addiction.

That's a big gain for the state says Steve Norton, the executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Services.  But the devil's in the details: like how the money will be spent and how any new services will be evaluated.

Jack Rodolico

A new University of New Hampshire study suggests practicing football without helmets can lead to less head trauma.

Jack Rodolico

Last Friday, Linda Horan sat in front of a bank of reporters in the back room of a medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Maine. She was beaming.

"My god, I’m over the moon – completely over the moon," she said.

Jack Rodolico

At the Democratic presidential debate in Manchester last night, Genera Clay was one of a few hundred Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters dancing with placards – as much to support their candidates as to stay warm on this cold evening. Hours before Saturday night’s debate was set to start, these supporters were penned in by a metal fence, and a big flood light lit up the lawn.

Clay was annoyed the Sanders campaign had been blocked out of a crucial voter database as a punishment for the data breach – a move that temporarily hobbled his campaign.

The New Hampshire Attorney General is advising the Department of Health and Human Services to start issuing medical marijuana ID cards to eligible patients. In theory, patients could soon access medical marijuana, even though they can't yet buy it legally in the state.

One of the five insurance companies on the federal health exchange in New Hampshire is unexpectedly backing out early this year.

The CEO of Maine-based co-op Community Health Options says costs have simply gotten too high for them to continue. Community Health Options will continue to sell plans for about another week - and it will continue to insure those who have already purchased plans.

Cottage Hospital

The state is asking the federal government for more flexibility in establishing rural health clinics.

If approved by the feds, the policy will broaden what it means to be a rural health clinic in New Hampshire. The state has 14 federally-approved rural health clinics, which are located in areas with high poverty rates and not enough healthcare providers. These clinics receive more generous reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare.

Paige Sutherland/NHPR

For most of us the highlight of Thanksgiving is the food. So this year we thought we’d hear from people who cook for a living—professional chefs—and see what their Thanksgiving meals and traditions look like.

Casey McDermott

A judge has ruled the state can no longer stop an Alstead woman’s effort to get medical marijuana.

The legislature passed a medical marijuana law three years ago, but state-approved dispensaries are more than a year behind schedule.

Linda Horan was diagnosed with stage four terminal lung cancer this summer. Tuesday’s ruling out of Merrimack Superior Court means the state must issue Horan a registration card immediately, allowing her to access medical marijuana in Maine.

Jack Rodolico

Behind the counter at Fox Country Smokehouse stands the original smoker from 1969. It’s a wood closet – maybe six by four feet – with metal racks and a light bulb. The walls in there are deep brown, almost black. But they shine. You’d think they were shellacked, but the gloss comes from something else.

"It’s actually the creosote from the smoke," says Bill Annis, smokehouse manager. "This is the original door from day one. It just gets a little heavier every year from the smoke."

Jack Rodolico

Brady Sullivan Properties is a step closer to defending itself before a jury. Forty tenants are suing the property owner and landlord for lead contamination at Mill West, a luxury riverfront apartment complex in Manchester.

Jack Rodolico

The federal government is investigating the City of Concord for not providing accessible voting machines for people with certain disabilities during local elections. The city may have violated federal law.

Guy Woodland used his cane to find his way into a voting booth in Concord Tuesday morning. Woodland is blind.

"I have a non-valid driver’s license," he told a poll worker, "which you’re probably happy to know."

Here’s how Woodland would like to vote: on his own, with no help.

healthcare.gov

Healthcare.gov opens for business Sunday. This year there are more insurance plans available on the federal website for New Hampshire residents.

Jack Rodolico

The family of a man who died at Lakeview Neurorehabilitation Center is suing the company, which has all but shut down operations in New Hampshire.

The family filed suit against Lakeview and its medical director in Merrimack County Superior Court, claiming neglect and wrongful death, among other things.

NHPR

The New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union released a report today that details the practice of judges jailing poor people who can’t afford to pay fines – a practice that’s illegal.

Flickr/Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel

New Hampshire has confirmed a batch of mosquitos in Manchester tested positive for West Nile Virus.

So far this year, the public health lab has tested over 3,000 batches of mosquitos, 46 people and two animals for various mosquito-borne illnesses. Even though this is the first confirmed instance of West Nile Virus, state epidemiologist Benjamin Chan has a warning.

Jack Rodolico

Democratic presidential candidates and their surrogates lined up to address union members at the annual AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gave a rowdy keynote address to union members at a Greek Orthodox Church in Manchester. Sanders spoke about his opposition to international trade deals like NAFTA, as well as his long support for union workers - including during last year’s strike against FairPoint Communications.

Jack Rodolico

Manchester is getting a $2.9 million grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development to remediate lead hazards in 175 housing units.

While this is the fourth time the Queen City has received the federal grant, the announcement from Senator Jeanne Shaheen's office comes on the heels of a new state law aimed at educating families about lead hazards, and as one of the state's largest landlords faces a lawsuit over lead contamination in a Manchester apartment complex.

At a recent town meeting in Madison, just south of Conway, a tiny room was packed: five zoning board members sat at a table in front of the police chief, frustrated neighbors and attorneys for a company called Becket Family of Services. The mood was tense. This was the third meeting like this one, and the prior two ended in stalemates.

H.A. Kimball

The way New Hampshire cares for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities has changed dramatically over the past 200 years.

The shifts in approach have been urged on by advances in drugs and science, legislative mandate, budget cuts, and the force of media and popular culture.

Just 25 years ago, New Hampshire was a national leader in caring for people with mental and physical disabilities. Today, the state ranks closer to the bottom, and New Hampshire is in the middle of a period of dramatic change.

It was nearly a year ago that widespread abuse at Lakeview Neurorehabilitation Center in Effingham came to light. Now, Lakeview is shutting down.

The facility is a treatment center for people with brain injuries and intellectual disabilities. And as New Hampshire faces a future without Lakeview, families and state regulators are deciding where to send people with highly challenging behaviors. 

Brett Levin/Flickr

A growing majority of Granite Staters support loosening state laws on marijuana, according to a survey from WMUR and the University of New Hampshire.

Sixty percent of residents support legalizing marijuana. That’s up from 54 percent a year ago. Support is strongest among liberals, younger adults and non-churchgoers.

Jack Rodolico

Ohio Governor John Kasich wraps up a three-day swing through New Hampshire today, his first stretch of campaigning since officially joining the race for the Republican presidential nomination this week.

In front of crowds in Nashua and the Seacoast, Kasich’s stump speech was essentially an annotated version of his life story -- a  weaving together of what he calls his record of working across party lines with a personal history rooted firmly in the middle class.

Jack Rodolico / NHPR

Ohio Governor John Kasich made his first official campaign stop in New Hampshire as a presidential hopeful last night. The Republican candidate spoke to a friendly crowd at Rivier University in Nashua that included both long-time supporters and undecided voters.

Jack Rodolico

Shaghaf Mohammed has seen too much in her 11 years. Her family fled Iraq in 2013. And when they left, they never could have guessed the battle they’d face in their new home in Manchester. Shaghaf’s four-year-old sister, Aleel, is sick with lead poisoning.

Jack Rodolico for NHPR

A new state law aims to boost the number of children screened for lead poisoning. There's good reason New Hampshire is aiming for that goal.

Children aged 0-6 are the most likely to suffer permanent health and cognitive damage from lead exposure. Yet in 2013, New Hampshire tested a mere 16.5 percent of children in this age group for elevated blood lead levels. That's concerning because 62 percent of New Hampshire's houses were built before 1978 - the year the federal government cracked down on lead paint.

Thomas Fearon / NHPR

Last year, New Hampshire settled a class action lawsuit that alleged the state was violating the civil rights of people with mental illness. In the settlement, the state agreed to spend $30 million over four years to beef up services for those individuals.

Now, one year into the deal, a report from a court-appointed monitor says the state hasn’t yet hit the benchmarks it agreed to.

Bad news first

Thomas Fearon / NHPR

A new report finds New Hampshire is struggling to improve its mental health system, as it agreed to in a $30 million dollar lawsuit settlement. 

A court-appointed monitor finds, one year into the settlement, the state is lagging on nearly every benchmark. 

Jack Rodolico

The national death rate from knee replacement surgery is about one in a thousand. But patients are three times more likely to die if they have their knee replaced at a hospital that doesn’t perform that surgery frequently.

Now three leading healthcare systems, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock, are putting restrictions on their surgeons. 

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