Jocelyn Wiener

storyteller

I am an Oakland-based narrative journalist with a focus on health and mental health care and other social issues.

Portfolio
CALmatters
02/04/2019
Increasingly, California's default mental institutions are jails and prisons

Jeffrey Jurgens stood in a cage in an orange jumpsuit, screaming that he was Jesus Christ. From her seat in the Sacramento courtroom, his mother watched through tears. Joanna Jurgens knew how important it was for the district attorney prosecuting Jeffrey for stealing a car-and the judge deciding his fate-to see the extent of her son's illness.

CALmatters
03/10/2019
For families across California, a desperate struggle to get mental health care

Elizabeth Brown's bedroom holds a trove of evidence of her fight to save herself. Preserved among the Twilight novels, the posters of Korean pop singers and cameras she used for her budding journalism career are clues to the Santa Rosa teenager's agonizing struggle with the mental illness that claimed her life last year.

Undark
12/12/2018
To Treat Babies for Drug Withdrawal, Help Their Mothers, Too

S ix-week-old Jose Martinez Castillo stares up at his pediatrician and begins to scream. "I have a way with babies, don't I?" Dr. Salem Magarian intones, grinning at the baby's mother, Lisa Castillo, who is preparing a bottle of formula on the other side of the exam room.

CALmatters
08/30/2018
Why is it so hard to get mentally ill Californians into treatment? | CALmatters

For years, Diane Shinstock watched her adult son deteriorate on the streets. Suffering from severe schizophrenia, he slept under stairwells and bushes, screamed at passersby and was arrested for throwing rocks at cars. Sometimes he refused the housing options he was offered. Sometimes he got kicked out of places for bad behavior.

Washington Post
12/20/2017
When Nursing Homes Push Out Poor And Disabled Patients

Anita Willis says the social worker offered her a painful choice: She could either leave the San Jose, Calif., nursing home where she'd spent a month recovering from a stroke - or come up with $336 a day to stay on. She had until midnight to decide.

The Atlantic
05/19/2017
The Deportation Fears of Immigrants With Disabled Children

Every few minutes, Abril begins to choke. Diagnosed as a baby with severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy, the Santa Cruz, California, 8-year-old has never spoken, or walked or cleared her own throat. Dozens of times a day, her parents, Rafael and Sonia, use a special machine to suction out saliva and phlegm from their older daughter's mouth.

The Sacramento Bee
She keeps her teeth in a box - evidence of a system that failed her

Karen Wadsack stores her collection of broken teeth inside a tiny box. She considers each tooth essential evidence of a system that's failed her. For the past eight years, the 68-year-old Sacramento woman has been fighting the California Department of Health Care Services for appropriate dental treatment.

sacbee
Worried parents: What's wrong with my child?

Kirsten Yeates was worried. Her newborn daughter, Riley, wouldn't sleep more than a few minutes without being held and rocked. At just a few weeks old, she'd begun vomiting several times a day. Yeates askedRiley's pediatrician what was wrong. He reassured her that Riley was fine,Yeates said.

sacbee
That early help you need for your child doesn't come soon enough

The federal program Early Start, a statewide system to help infants and toddlers with developmental delays often fails to provide timely access to crucial therapies. The federal Office of Special Education Programs has notified the state Department of Developmental Services that the program had been demoted to "needs intervention" status - the only state in the country with such a low designation.

The Sacramento Bee
In rural north state, more seniors depend on government for daily meals

Social Security and senior nutrition programs were created to ensure that the elderly would not have to face hunger. But in some rural California communities, counties are struggling to keep up with requests for government-subsidized meals. More need means longer waiting lists - or more people flat-out turned away.

Kaiser Health News
01/03/2017
Fear Of Deportation, Hate Crimes Reportedly Threaten Mental Health Of Young Californians

In the months leading up to the presidential election, Guillermo and his friends at Oakland International High School had a running joke. "If Donald Trump wins," they'd tease each other, "go buy some suitcases." Then they'd laugh. They didn't think the candidate who was threatening to deport millions of undocumented immigrants stood a chance.

Center for Health Reporting
'Model' dental program proves painful for kids

Almost two decades ago, the state made Sacramento County the testing ground for a new model of delivering dental care to poor children. Officials envisioned a managed care system that would control costs and improve children's ability to see a dentist.

Center for Health Reporting
Families of mentally ill children struggle for access to residential treatment

The first time Emily tried to kill herself, at age 15, she swallowed the entire contents of a bottle of Prozac, along with some Sudafed and Claritin she found in the medicine cabinet. "Mom," she said as they sped to the emergency room that morning in May 2012, "I just want to die."

Marinij
10/06/2015
Marin lags among counties in providing eye care to low-income children

By many measures, Marin County is among the healthiest places in California. But when it comes to the eyesight of children, Marin has for years had a more dubious distinction. Children dependent on Medi-Cal in the county receive eye exams and glasses at a much lower rate than their counterparts in most other counties in the state.

Kaiser Health News
12/21/2016
In Battle Against Ovarian Cancer, A New Focus on Fallopian Tubes

Two thin tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus have assumed an outsize role in the battle against ovarian cancer. Research increasingly points to the likelihood that some of the most aggressive ovarian cancers originate in the fallopian tubes.

The Sacramento Bee
California launches audit of mental health services in schools

California's state auditor has launched an investigation of school districts and other local educational agencies to determine whether they are delivering enough treatment to children with serious mental illnesses. In 2011, a change in law shifted responsibility for decisions about the mental health care of students with disabilities from counties to the schools.

Kaiser Health News
05/12/2016
'Walking Wounded' Share Jarring Stories For No-Smoking Campaign

Felicita Soto remembers finding blood in the oddest places. On her pillow in the morning. In her sandwich after she took a bite. Once, a coworker whispered with disgust: "Felicita, you're bleeding." Soto felt mortified. She'd recently kicked a smoking habit she'd had since age 12. But it was too late for her teeth.

Center for Health Reporting
Hospitalizations way up for California's youngest residents

In recent years, Dr. Jason Bynum has seen the churn: teens in crisis cycling through his south Sacramento psychiatric hospital, admitted, released, and just a few months down the road, back with another breakdown. Increasingly, he lives with a deathly fear that his young patients are going to commit suicide after he sends them home.

Center for Health Reporting
Mentally ill languish in jails due to cuts, lack of beds

The latest chapter of Kim Green's recurring nightmare began last fall. In October, her 24-year-old daughter - who suffers from severe bipolar disorder and a mood disorder related to schizophrenia - was booked into the county jail after being arrested on a probation violation.

Center for Health Reporting
Two tiny towns struggle after their clinics close

DOYLE - Just before the turnoff into this tiny community, near the shuttered Burger Barn, a sign announcing Doyle's existence also hints at its fade toward oblivion. Underneath the name of the local clinic, Doyle Family Practice, someone has added the words: "Temporarily closed."

Center for Health Reporting
Finding specialists tough for rural patients under managed care

QUINCY, Plumas County - Diane Kantoff's job is to find specialists who will treat patients of the Plumas District Hospital Clinic in this quaint little town in the woods 80 miles northwest of Reno. These days, she said, when it comes to patients on Medi-Cal, doctors' offices frequently tell her "no" before she is even done speaking.

The Sacramento Bee
Tackling Life, Part 1

In 1992, football united a group of boys. Dangerous streets, however, beckoned. Some of the teammates would triumph, but tragedy was always near.

Kaiser Health News
02/24/2016
Latino Youth In California See Significant Rise In Psychiatric Hospitalizations

Psychiatric hospitalizations of Latino children and young adults in California are rising dramatically - at a much faster pace than among their white and black peers, according to state data. While mental health hospitalizations of young people of all ethnicities have climbed in recent years, Latino rates stand out.

The Atlantic
10/06/2016
The Parents Who Jump-Started Autism Research in California

Two decades ago, a group of well-connected, politically savvy families launched a world-leading research center-and fueled a debate over whether autism can and should be cured. For the first time in a long time, Chuck Gardner felt like he could breathe easy.

Essays

Brain, Child
My Son Wears A Dress

For my son, his desire for the dress is profoundly logical: He needs it to twirl. By Jocelyn Wiener "I want the yellow dress," begs the weeping, shrieking two-year-old boy crumpled at my bare feet. Still in my pajamas, I dig through my son's overstuffed dresser, scrambling to locate the pale cotton frock he has appropriated from his 4-year-old sister.

Washington Post
10/26/2017
Perspective | The tooth fairy is coming

My daughter floats into the living room, cheeks flushed, hair rumpled. A hopeful smile flutters across her face. Her tongue wiggles something. "Could I have a loose tooth?" she asks, eyes wide. I peer in. Bottom front. Indisputable. Dora Lee is almost 5. She has spent most of the past year preparing for this moment.

Washington Post
02/22/2017
Perspective | My 4-year-old's first encounter with homelessness left me struggling for answers

The white feathers floated everywhere. It took me a moment to discern their source. A woman, 30-something, slim and tired-looking, was trying to stuff a ratty down sleeping bag into a small plastic sack. My 4-year-old daughter, Dora Lee, was understandably intrigued - how often does she find a grown-up sitting on a dirty sidewalk surrounded by a cloud of feathers?

Pacific Standard
My baby and my fitbit

How a small piece of technology had a human-sized impact on a mother's relationship to her child.

Perspectives
12/22/2016
Magical Thinking

To the owners of the house around the corner with the over-the-top holiday decorations, I just want to say: Thank you. Depending on one's stance on Russian election interference, border walls and fake news, this hasn't been the easiest holiday season. Then, yesterday, my children and I stumbled upon your house.

Perspectives
10/12/2009
So It's Right to Be Worried?

Jocelyn Wiener's grandmother sometimes imagines things, but when she heard that something bad had happened in Chicago, she wasn't confused.

Perspectives
06/21/2011
Proud To Be a Wiener

I remember the first time it happened. We were at Baskin Robbins, placing an order for a cake, and my mom gave her last name as Wisner. I stared at her, confused. Wisner is a fine name. It just doesn't happen to be ours.

Perspectives
06/14/2012
Possibility

I can think of a lot of reasons not to bring a child into this world. War. Global warming. The price of college. The cost of health care. The growing income disparity between wealthy and poor. The Real Housewives. As a kid, I'd figured most of these problems would be solved by the time I had my own children.

Perspectives
07/30/2010
Gammy

Gammy can't see me anymore, but every time I visit, she tells me I'm beautiful. Gammy can't hear me well anymore, but she lights up at the sound of my voice. Gammy doesn't understand things the way she used to; the fog of time that's whiting out her eyesight is also encroaching on her mind.

Essays

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