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Title 42 remains in place despite deadline

 May 23, 2022 at 3:42 PM PDT

S1: A controversial Trump era policy continues at the border.
S2: We think the decision is misguided.
S3: It will perpetuate an illegal.
S2: And racist policy.
S1: I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Why there's a shortage of baby formula and what's being done about it locally.
S2: The shortage has actually been going on for a while , but it got very acute in just the.
S3: Last couple of weeks.
S1: What the economy means for your personal finances and the experiences of women who have survived cancer. Share their stories in a new play. That's ahead on Midday Edition. A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration's bid to end Title 42. The move late last week would have done away with the Trump administration's controversial pandemic era policy , which was originally set to expire today. The extension of Title 42 has prompted strong reaction from immigration advocates. Here's Melissa Crow , director of litigation with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies , who called the ruling a gut punch.
S2: We think the decision is misguided.
S3: It will perpetuate an illegal and racist. Policy.
S2: Policy.
S3: And continue to put a lot of.
S2: Vulnerable people's lives in danger.
S1: Joining us now with more is KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo , welcome back to the program. Hello.
S2: Hello.
S1: First things first.
S2: It's actually very similar to what happened when the Biden administration tried to get rid of Remain in Mexico , another controversial Trump era asylum policy. In that case , the judge also ruled that the administration didn't follow the proper procedures. And this pattern is really starting to frustrate immigration advocates who say Biden just can't or won't follow up on promises to restore the country's asylum system.
S2: Officially , the reason it was terminated or tried to be terminated was because the CDC determined that we're in a good enough place with the pandemic to lift Title 42. But Title 42 , as we know , has not really been about public health. It's from the very beginning. The CDC top doctors lobbied against it , but they were overruled by the Trump administration. The Biden administration has kept it in place for well over a year , despite calls from members of its own party to end it. Largely , I think , because he didn't want to appear weak on immigration. But in the last few months , he's faced so much public pressure to end it that he finally moved forward and announced this May 23rd and date.
S2: They're not surprised because the Trump appointed federal judge on the case essentially told everyone how he planned to rule a few weeks ago. They're devastated because the decision means that thousands of migrants who have been turned away from the border by Title 42 have ended up being victims of crime in Mexico right after our federal government turns them away. They've been involved in robberies , assaults , rapes and kidnappings. They've also continued to be systematically barred from pursuing their legal right to request asylum in the U.S.. So they're more concerned about the impact that the ruling will have on this vulnerable population.
S2: They'll continue to live in dangerous cities while waiting for their legal right to pursue a claim. It also means that some will grow so desperate that they will try to cross the border illegally. It's an established fact based on the CBP's own numbers and various studies , that Title 42 incentivizes migrants to cross the border illegally because it shuts off the only legal pathway. And we've seen it here in San Diego with drowning deaths from people who try to swim along the ocean and an increase in horrible injuries from people to try to jump the fence. I mean , last year , last fiscal year really was the deadliest year on record for illegal border crossings. And Title 42 was a big part of that.
S1: A coalition of states led the lawsuit that ended up keeping Title 42 in place.
S2: Other arguments are that lifting Title 42 would allow a lot of asylum seekers into the country , and that would place an undue burden on cities and states who would have to pay to house and feed some of them. Personally , I don't think there's a lot of weight to those arguments because I mean , we've already been doing that for four decades in this country before Title 42. Title 42 is a pandemic era policy , and it's really relatively new in terms of border enforcement tactics. So , I mean , we've lived in a non-Title 42 world for four decades , and it hasn't really been a huge issue in terms of undue burden on certain states.
S1: So how has the White House responded to this setback ? I mean , behind the scenes , we know that efforts to address Title 42 have been a difficult political situation for Biden.
S2: Well , the entire border situation has been a. Political situation for Biden and a frustrating one for people who live along the border lands. In terms of a response , I think I mean , the administration , the day of the ruling , they issued a statement saying that the administration disagrees with the decision and they plan to appeal. I don't have a timeline or what that appeal would look like. But on the political front , I mean , like we said before. Right , it's it's another example of Biden not following through on a campaign promise. And it's important to note that even though Trump is no longer in office , a lot of his policies are still with us. And so far , the Biden administration has been either unwilling or unable to end those policies. So politically , it's it's not painting him in a particularly good light heading into the midterms.
S1: I've been speaking with KPBS border reporter Gustavo Solis. Gustavo , thanks for joining us.
S2: Oh , Jake , thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
S4: The CEO of Abbott Laboratories apologized this weekend for his company's role in the nationwide baby formula shortage. An Abbott plant shut down over quality control concerns is one of the major factors contributing to the shortage. Meanwhile , the first planeload of formula from Germany landed in the United States yesterday , and the Defense Production Act has been mobilized to give priority to baby formula manufacturers. But families with hungry infants who can't find formula don't have time to wait. And the old time practice of breast milk sharing is having a resurgence. Concerned mothers who are lactating are donating milk mostly to families reaching out for help on the Internet. And joining me is L.A. Times reporter Sonia Sharp. Sonia , welcome to the program.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S2: You know , the shortage has actually been going on for a while , but it got very acute in just the last couple of weeks. And that's the point at which a lot of formula feeding families found , instead of having to go to several stores or kind of go on the Internet and shop out of state or a lot of other things that people had already been doing as formula became more scarce. They just couldn't find it at all. And that's really when a lot of these social media accounts that new parents follow sort of jumped in and said , you know , if you have something , connect with somebody else here in the comments who has what you need.
S4: A new profile , a mother who did begin sharing her extra breast milk supplies when she heard about the need on Instagram. Could you share her story with us ? Right.
S2: So I spoke with Diana Granados , who's a mom , a first time mom here in Los Angeles. She has a six month old son. And she follows one of these accounts that's really popular with us , new moms of babies. And she saw one of these call outs , right ? Precisely. If you have formula like please connect with somebody else who's in need. And she didn't have any formula , but she's been nursing and pumping and did have an excess of breast milk. And she thought , well , I have this , let me see what happens. And she kind of went right in the comments and said , I have some breast milk to share. I'm here. And she said within minutes she had competing requests from different parents who were just very , very anxious for anything they could get and were ready to come and pick up a milk.
S4: Much of the sharing is happening just from donor to needy family on the Internet.
S2: So it's hard to quantify exactly how much is happening , where , because , of course , there are formal milk banks , both for profit and nonprofit milk banks that people donate and even sell to on the for profit side and have for a long time. And there's always been a sort of niche market of informal milk sharing in general. What I've seen recently during this crisis has all been for free , but you can definitely go on Craigslist and find people selling for two or $3 an ounce. And you can also find people selling to for profit milk banks. Many do pay , but in general it's free. And I think most parents who do it either during this crisis or prior to this crisis , do it out of a sense of , you know , I have more than I need and I want to share with a baby who doesn't have.
S4: We'll hear more about those milk banks from the head of the University of California Health Milk Bank. That's coming up in just a few minutes.
S2: I mean , it's probable that we were sharing milk before we were even human beings. Right. It goes back that far. And there definitely are rich cultural practices of milk sharing. For example , in Judaism , there is a belief that or a tradition that every convert to Judaism is a descendant of somebody who was nursed by our matriarch , Sarah , not a relative of hers , but just a stranger who needed. And in Islam , there's actually a rich tradition around milk sharing that you actually form a kinship almost as though you were blood kin with somebody if you if you have nursed them. So it does have that kind of very beautiful tradition. But also , of course , there's millennia of poor women becoming wet nurses for rich women , often to the detriment of their own babies. And during slavery in the United States , there was a horrible practice of enslaved women being forced to nurse the children of their enslavers , often to the detriment of their. On children and in fact , many of their own children starved through that practice. So that's a it's a very ugly history that goes on as well.
S4: And doesn't the need for baby formula itself have a definite socioeconomic aspect to.
S2: Well , yes , absolutely. I'm so glad that you asked that , because I think it often gets overlooked in this conversation.
S3: We know that the vast.
S2: Majority of birthing people say that they want to nurse their own children. But when we look even a month or three months later , those who are still nursing versus those who are no longer nursing cuts very strongly on socioeconomic and racial lines. Right. And it's the same people who are marginalized in so many other ways , including with maternal mortality , infant mortality , all the other health metrics that go along in this constellation around birth and early parenthood. The same thing is happening with the ability to nurse your own child. Often that has to do with access to paid family leave. It has to do with access to good and consistent support and supplies around lactation. And we also know that this is true. If we look at the Wik program , which is this special supplemental program , nutritional program for women , infants and children , which is food and nutrition program for people living at or near poverty with young kids. And that program pays for about half of the formula that's sold in the U.S.. Right. So that alone tells us just how closely this issue is tied to poverty and how much more impacted the poorest people are in this issue.
S4: Now , Abbott Laboratories says it's closed baby formula plant is coming back online.
S2: It's going to be a little while is the short answer. They've just entered a consent decree with the FDA to reopen the plant. They've said it will take about two weeks from the time of reopening to start any production at all. And it could take up to eight weeks after that for those products to be on the shelves. So we're looking at the end of July or early August.
S2: But even if you don't , they really are very close to the ground on this and they are very urgently wanting to help. Definitely , if you have access to a pediatrician , contact your pediatrician. They can give you guidance on where to look for formula. If they have any connection to help you , they will. And if there is absolutely nothing else to give your baby , they can give you good , sound , scientific guidance on what you can give in the interim to keep your baby safe.
S4: I've been speaking with L.A. Times reporter Sonia Sharp. Sonia , thank you very much.
S2: Thank you so much.
S1: With that severe baby formula shortage on store shelves , many parents are hoping they can get what they need from milk banks. One that opened during the pandemic at UC San Diego provides donor breast milk to neonatal intensive care units for medically fragile infants and also sells milk by the ounce. Dr. Lisa Estelle Wagon is the bank's executive director and a professor of pediatrics at UCSD. Dr. Stella Wagon , welcome.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S2: And over the past two weeks , we've had an increase in inquiries about purchasing milk for families at home. The remarkable part of this from the milk banks point of view has been this outpouring of interest in donation from the families in our community , just a five fold increase in inquiries for wanting to donate milk and help other families.
S1: And I want to ask you a few questions about the shortage. I mean , what guidelines is the American Academy of Pediatrics giving to families now in response to the formula shortage ? Just in terms of dos and don'ts.
S2: So as it is a rough guideline , the AP looks at newborns to age six months is a fragile population where you must be more careful about what you feed your child and then baby 6 to 12 months in somewhat of a different group. So let's start with that. So if you have a child over the age of six month , healthy child does not have special nutritional needs. You have a little bit more option. You can , of course , switch brands and try a different formula. You could , on a short term basis use a toddler formula which is formulated for babies over age one. And then when you can switch back to your normal milk that you feed your baby , you also could , in a pinch , switch to whole cow's milk to give to a six month old because six month olds are also eating other food food stuffs. You want to be careful not with these age children to use a plant based milk , to not use any kind of a homemade milk formula that you've created yourself and never , ever dilute the milk by adding water that can lead to severe electrolyte disturbances. Now let's let's say , however , you have a young child from newborn to six months , you have to be more careful. This is their exclusive diet and they need to be given an appropriate infant formula. So first thing is , you can always switch products as long as you have a healthy child from one company to another. Most children don't seem to mind that at all. If there's a taste difference , you can. Sometimes you could start with your current milk and add a little bit of the new milk , and then for the baby by changing slowly changing the bottles over to the new product. Do not in this age group use whole milk. Do not use toddler formula , and never , as I mentioned , dilute formula or make your own your own product. And if you're in a critical situation , always feel free to reach out to your pediatrician or your clinic , your local office , get somebody to help you so that you're not struggling and unable to feed your child.
S1: You know , we're seeing stories of people connecting online and sharing breast milk. How is that milk different from what the milk bank provides.
S2: What we call in medicine , informal milk sharing , where family might offer raw milk untested to another family , something that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages because milk is a biologic substance and much like blood or another tissue , it carries viruses and bacteria and could transmit infection , although albeit albeit that's very rare , but we discourage informal milk sharing. Now approved milk then is very different. We like a blood bank to put our donors through an intensive , rigorous screening process. We check their blood for infections like HIV or hepatitis. We check with the doctor to make sure everything's safe. We ask the donor many , many questions before we accept the frozen milk , and then all that milk that we accept is pasteurized or heat treated , which kills bacteria in the milk and would prevent any foodborne illness and that type of thing. So it's a very rigorous process involving donor screening and the screening of the milk and a lot of safety steps before we provide this note to hospitals or families to feed babies at home.
S1: Tell me why breast milk is so important for low birth weight and medically fragile infants.
S2: So we have about ten or 20 years of data showing that if a baby is born prematurely , less than £3 , we call these babies very low birth weight infants. They have , as you can imagine , many struggles there in the hospital for many months. And what we feed them , the nutrition we provide is very important. And we've known for many years that mother's milk is the very best for them. But it turns out if you give these tiny babies infant formula before they reach the time that they're ready to go home , they can have a devastating bowel injury called necrotizing enterocolitis. Just the name kind of stirs fear in the heart of Nick Yousef. It's a compromise of the bowel where the baby can actually have dead bowel and need to have surgery. And of the children that go to surgery , a third of them will die. And this happens to about four or 5% of these very low birth weight babies. But if they get their mothers on mark , if they get if there's any shortfall and they get pasteurised donor milk , the chance of them getting necrotizing enterocolitis is greatly reduced. Hmm.
S1: Hmm. You know , not every mom can breastfeed or even produce enough milk to nourish their baby.
S2: Breast milk feeding is what we recommend is for the optimal health of the child in the in the mother. But healthy , full term babies , they do just fine on formula. And breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone. There are women and families who decide not to breastfeed their children. We need to support them in that. But I think that one of the things that this formula shortage is highlighting is that there are a lot of families who do want to breastfeed and they didn't get the support in the hospital. Perhaps they didn't get support after they leave home. They don't have a supportive work environment and they fail to reach their breastfeeding goals and it's really a struggle for them and they feel bad about it often for a very long time. And we need to step up as a society and support families better to succeed with breastfeeding their child if that's what they'd like to do.
S1: I've been speaking with Lisa Stone , again , executive director of U.S. Health Milk Bank and a professor of pediatrics at UCSD. Dr. Estelle Wagon , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you very much to.
S4: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. Stock market watchers are hopeful today that a rally is shoring up prices and ending the downward trend on Wall Street. President Biden's comments about possibly lifting Trump era tariffs on China seems to have encouraged investors. But even if you're not a stock market watcher , there are still big questions looming about the economy. Will rising interest rates eventually bring down inflated prices in the supermarket and for housing ? Or will higher rates stall the economy into a recession ? And what do those possible outcomes actually mean for your family's finances ? Joining me to talk about those questions is Chase Peckham , director of community outreach for the San Diego Financial Literacy Center. And Chase , welcome to the program.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S2: What used to surprise me is the lack of really financial understanding in general. And I'm going to talk in stock markets. We're talking about just everyday household budgets. You know , businesses , they follow very strict budgets. And if they don't follow strict budgets , they can go out of business. And the goal of businesses are to make a financial profit. So why don't we do the same in our households ? The problem is , we just aren't taught this at a young age unless we're lucky that our parents sat down with us and really coached us.
S4: You know , there were some things that helped us cope during the pandemic. I'm thinking of things like extra entertainment costs on TV and maybe getting restaurant deliveries all the time.
S2: You mentioned Ubereats and those kinds of things. I mean , those cost quite a bit. I mean , you do get a lot from it. I mean , you don't have to go to the place , but it's going to cost you an extra $10. And when you throw that into the fact that the cost of food is going up , so the cost of whatever your normal dish was is going up , throw that in and you know you're going to have what normally would cost a family of four $50 dinner is $100. So much of that has to be curbed. You have to just basically , if you're married and you and you have a family , have a meeting , discuss it , what are the things that we are doing that we can save money on ? So if you had Disney plus during the pandemic and you've been watching it like crazy , but now you're working and going to school and you're not watching as much. Is it worth the 499 or 1099 a month that you're paying ? It might not. Taking a look at those different things that you have , like Netflix and all those. You got to take a look , take an inventory of where you're spending your money and what you're spending your money on , which can help. Then have you make more choices on where that money needs to be spent.
S4: Now , there's been a lot of news that increases in interest rates have made mortgages more expensive. But that's not the only thing interest rates affects.
S2: In fact , when in 2010 , after the 2008 crash , there were laws that were put in place for the consumer to regulate credit. And what a lot of the credit card industry did is they took away that fixed EPR , that fixed rate , and made all of them a variable rate. So when the interest rates go up , if you haven't noticed , your interest rate on your credit card has probably gone up. Whether you have made payments on time or not , all those interest rates are now variable , and that can make it extraordinarily expensive to keep revolving debt on those credit cards.
S4: Now , summer is on the way and there are a lot of families looking forward to vacations that they haven't taken in quite some time. But again , inflation is playing a role here , too , right ? Absolutely.
S2: Again , many people that I've spoken to who planned on taking vacations have decided not to and decided to do a staycation or do a camping trip or do something a little bit different because of the cost of the airlines , the travel industry prices are crazy. I was talking to a friend who owns a hotel and they've had the best business they've had in 20 years. So they said , just people want to go away.
S4: One thing you've talked about with your work at the San Diego Financial Literacy Center is that even small changes can have a sizable impact on our budgets. Can you talk more about that ? Yeah.
S2: And basically that comes down to again , I'm going to say decision making , but decision making is based off of what information ? And we have to have that information. So the only way we can do that is figuring out where we're going to spend our money , how we're going to spend our money. And so think of it like this. You talked a little bit about summer vacations. If you were going to take a road trip , you've got to plan it out , right ? You've got to know where you're going , where you're going to. And you got to know where you're starting from when you start that GPS. It's the same thing. That's what a financial budget does. It helps you create a road map for your spending and you're saving.
S4: For families with kids. It can be especially hard to make budgets work.
S2: The ages don't change. You think , well , I don't have to pay for daycare anymore. Well , you know what ? It's going to be something else. But you've got to decide what is really , really important to you and what they do. And that comes down to whether it's travel , sports or what extracurriculars there are. Sometimes as we talk about needs versus wants , you have to take a look at what those absolute needs are. And then take take a look at the ones talking to your children about money goes back to what we were talking about at the very beginning of being surprised by the lack of financial education. And the best way , especially with children , is is sit down with them and explain that decisions have to be made , mom and dad's grandparents. We have to make decisions every single day about money. And so why not teach the kids those values in a young age as well and fill them in on how things are going ? That can be difficult for a lot of people because that may just not be the way that you did things and that that's for the adults and not for the kids to worry about. But we're really doing a disservice if we don't sit down and discuss with our children the decisions that we make for the better of our families.
S4: And I've been speaking to Chase Peckham , community outreach director with the San Diego Financial Literacy Center. Chase , thank you so much.
S2: Thank you for having me.
S1: When National Guard members and reservists deploy a federal law is supposed to preserve their civilian jobs and benefits. But in some states , government employees can't access those protections. And the issue now rests with the Supreme Court. For American Homefront Karson fame reports.
S3: Army Reservist Leroy Torres came back from Iraq in 2008 with severe lung and brain injuries , the result of months he spent living near a massive open air burn pit when he tried to return to his civilian job as a state trooper in Texas. Torres couldn't keep up a chronic cough , extreme fatigue , headaches and memory problems meant he often missed work. But he thought the highway patrol would work to accommodate his disability.
S5: Here I'm thinking in my head , well , I'm going to be taken care of. You know , there's laws that protect us. That was with my experience and my education. I'll be able to at least finish my six years that I was hoping to finish with the department.
S3: But Torres says the agency didn't accommodate him. He eventually resigned and didn't get all of his benefits. So he sued in state court , invoking his rights under a federal law called USERRA , the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Texas argues that it worked with Torres and didn't violate his rights. The state also says it's immune from the suit. TORRES His case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
S5: I never just thought that there was going to be this difficult.
S3: TORRES His attorney , Brian Lawlor , says there were a handful of states that won't allow individuals to sue them under USERRA. At issue is the balance of power between states rights and federal authority.
S2: The underlying issue is one that could potentially affect up to tens of thousands of Reserve and Guard personnel who are employed by state agencies , some of whom have the right to sue their state. Some of whom don't.
S3: More than a quarter of all USERRA claims are filed against public sector employers , according to the Labor Department. And the Federal Government wants to make sure service members can bring cases.
S2: Because otherwise we won't be able to raise an army.
S3: Suzanna Sherry is a professor emerita at Vanderbilt Law School.
S2: That's the government's sort of main argument for why this particular statute was passed to ensure that people would feel comfortable joining the reserves and being called up because they would know that they would come back to a job.
S3: Officials from the Texas Attorney General's office wouldn't comment on the Torrez case. But in its brief , Texas argues that former service members have rights under USERRA. The issue is who gets to sue the state for employment violations.
S2: Texas is not arguing that Congress can't pass USERRA or that Congress can't tell states that they have to abide by USERRA. What they are arguing is you can't enforce USERRA through a private individual suit. You got to do it some other way.
S3: Texas argues that individual service members should bring their USERRA complaints to the U.S. Department of Justice and try to persuade the department to file suit on their behalf. But advocates say those suits rarely happen. Kevin Hollinger is the legislative director for the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
S2: The DOJ is extremely short shorthanded right now , and they don't take most of the cases that come to it. So it.
S6: Becomes a very.
S2: Large problem very rapidly , and it's not easily resolved. Even if it does rise to the level DOJ does take it. We're still talking about years.
S6: For people to get.
S2: Jobs back.
S3: Leroy Torres has long since shelved his dream of returning to work at the Texas Department of Public Safety. His duty right now , he says , is to protect other veterans who face employment violations.
S5: It's been burdensome , but knowing that it's not only affects me , that it affects my fellow brothers and sisters who have served a dual role , you know , that gives me more momentum , you know , to stay in this effort.
S3: The Supreme Court is due to rule on Torres's case this summer.
S1: That was Carson framed for American Homefront.
S4: Five months ago , California unveiled a program to help low income Californians eliminate asthma triggers in their homes. But five months later , families are still struggling to get these services in the Central Valley. Matt Bolanos reports for the California Report.
S2: I went cheap once a month.
S3: It's a warm Monday evening in Madera. Maria Rubio's youngest kids are playing a video game in their living room. The windows are closed and the blinds are drawn to keep the heat out and the house cool. But Rubio worries about what they can't keep out. Yucky. What's the added , though ? The important question. Rubio points to a corner in her bedroom where black clusters of mold are forming. Rubio and her five kids have suffered with asthma for years. She says the doctors told her there were a number of things that could trigger asthma , like dust mites , mold and cockroaches at the mall. We walked through the hallway and into the kitchen where she kneels down to show me the wood under the sink. It's expanding due to humidity , which is another asthma trigger that I meet up with and come see. I get that. Mm.
S2: I think I'm , you know , I must be there.
S3: She says she asked her landlord to change it , but they just put in another wood panel and painted over it. The Rubio family is among roughly 2 million low income Californians who have health insurance coverage from Medi-Cal and have been diagnosed with asthma. Some will benefit from a new state program that aims to reduce asthma by offering remediation services like removing mold , installing air purifiers , and even replacing carpeting , blinds and mattresses. The asthma efforts are part of an $8 billion initiative to transform Medi-Cal and target the state's sickest and most expensive patients. But getting the services has proven to be more difficult than expected. Kevin Hamilton is the director of the Central California Asthma Collaborative , the organization leading these efforts in the San Joaquin Valley.
S2: The thing that that bothers me the most is it's more cumbersome for the patient.
S3: Take the Rubio family. To get help , they would first need to get a referral from a medical provider. From there , their health plan would have to approve the referral once it's been approved. The partnering community based organization would visit their home to determine what services are needed. Then the organization sends the assessment back to the health plan for one final approval before it can move forward with the services. I asked Hamilton how many people in the Valley have been referred to him since the start of the program on January 1st one. Wow.
S2: Wow. Okay. That's what we're saying. Just one.
S3: One referral from the five health plans. His organization contracts to deliver these services. That's out of the thousands of eligible Medi-Cal patients across five Central Valley counties , according to Jesse Cooper , the California Medicaid director. She acknowledges the program's slow start , but says it's expected.
S2: But I think identifying individuals , training providers to make referrals for new services , education and outreach to providers and beneficiaries , all of those things take a little bit of time to get nuanced and implemented.
S3: Back in Madera , Maria Rubio is stirring up some chorizo and eggs for dinner. She says a community health worker told her about the services and she thinks they could be really helpful. But in order to qualify , the family would generally need to get a referral. But Rubio is hesitant to go to the doctor because of bad experiences in the past. It's one more obstacle the state faces in helping families that need these services the most.
S4: That was Maddie Bolanos for The California Report.
S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. The inspiration for the new play , Red Jasper has very personal roots for Michael Madden. His sister is a breast cancer survivor , and her experiences led him to interviewing dozens of other women who often shared similar stories about their cancer experiences. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO spoke with playwright Michael Madden about the process of creating his play and getting its world premiere at Lamplighter Community Theater in La mesa this month.
S3: So , Michael , you have a new play , Red Jasper , and it's opening this month at Lamplighter. So give us a little sense of what this is about.
S6: My sister had breast cancer years ago and in the process I heard her tell me a number of things that people said or did around her that were off putting to her , you know , things that people said that they shouldn't have said or things that people did or didn't do that they should have. And so I decided to write a play about a love story , and somehow that kind of creeped into it. So I end up interviewing over 40 breast cancer survivors , and I asked most of them the same questions. And I kept hearing the similar responses that were said with a lot of emotion , even though these things that happened maybe months or even years ago , and I realized how many times people just don't know the right things to do or say around people with cancer. They're well-intentioned people. They just don't always know what to do. So I compiled a long list of things. Some were tragic , some were sad , some were funny. And I incorporated into the script , and it just kind of turned into a whole different play that I think is funny and it's sad and it's emotional. And my hope is that people that have had cancer either themselves , personally or in their lives , can sit in a theater and go , Yeah , that's what I was talking about , you know , I meant that , or why didn't somebody know that ? So I'm hoping it's entertaining , but I'm hoping people can learn from it , too.
S3: So you interviewed all these breast cancer survivors.
S6: And so I realized that was pretty prominent. And what people came up with sometimes in lie in the grocery store. And so I took those lines and just kind of backtracked it and then wrote scenes up to that line. And so that it felt natural into the narrative of the story as well as being something I wanted to kind of focus on.
S6: And she meets Tom , who's a very nice , affable guy who gets off on the wrong foot with her. And over the course of the first half of the play , he frustrates her , he makes her angry , he intrigues her. And , you know , it's the classic love story , too. They don't get along at first. They like each other. What's going to happen at the end ? And , you know , I'd like to believe it's a really sweet love story , especially a love story for people that love comes later in life. My wife and I met nine years ago , and there's something about people when they meet later in life and they're more formed as people , you know , they're kind of who they really are. And then when they connect , I think the connection can be really strong because they're their actual selves , their true selves. And when people accept that , I think it makes the emotion even deeper. So I went along that plane and then threw some stuff in there. My mom had Alzheimer's for five years. There's some Alzheimer's stuff in there. I think that's very valid that we , you know , took from our own personal family experiences. And almost everybody , you know , nowadays has had some connection with either Alzheimer's or cancer. And , you know , people don't talk about it. I worked with hospice for a couple of years , and oftentimes I'd be the only person at that person who was dying could talk about death , too , or how they felt about her or what they were scared about. And people just don't talk about stuff because it makes them uncomfortable or they think the person is going to feel bad. But everybody I spoke to that had cancer knew they had cancer. It wasn't like they were surprised. And , you know , they were thinking those things all the time. You know , they're scared. No matter how , you know , tough they are brave. They are they're still scared. And that's just a normal human emotion that needs to be kind of , you know , taking care of.
S3: You showed the plight of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
S6: The cancer survivors , they thought it was really representative. So I Senator Susan Coleman and the woman at the time who was the CEO of the San Diego branch , she goes , This is great. This is exactly what people complain about all the time. And we love this. You know , keep us informed. So we had two stage readings set up that ironically were affected by cancer and had to be canceled. And then the third one got COVID cancelled. And I didn't want to do the play on Zoom. I think it's a really visceral play. So if I was going to do the stage reading , I want to do it in person in front of cancer and Alzheimer's people and other theatre people. And so that's what we did. But Susan Coleman , now the new people there , they love it , too , and they're co promoting it. And on June 11th , we're going to have a benefit night for them where a lot of the ticket proceeds go to Susan Coleman. And there's a couple different ways to donate to that organisation in the lobby and in the program anyway. I interviewed a lot of the breast cancer survivors after Susan Coleman , a couple of walks. And , you know , the people that go to that are just so warm and they're so anxious to just , you know , remember , somebody there aren't their mom , their grandma , their sister , their daughter. And they're just really good , deep hearted people. And it was great to be around them. And they they just mean so well and they have such great stories.
S3: And the play is being produced at Lamplighter. So.
S6: It was really hard because the subscriber bases , they want something familiar. And with COVID , it just killed so many community theaters and they didn't have any money. And to take a chance on a new play was kind of hard , too. So , you know , I'm producing this through Lamplighter , but , you know , it's pretty much on me. They've been incredibly good and supportive of taking on this new play and structuring their support around it with my input. So I so appreciate them for , you know , not only keeping community theatre alive and la mesa , but , you know , helping a new play find a home in a place that otherwise is really difficult to do so.
S6: I hope it makes them pause before they say something the next time that could have a good or bad effect on somebody that really needs to be in a good place. Then I hope they're entertained. I hope they laugh , even though the subject matter is really serious. There are some , I think , almost knee slapping tightness in there. That's really funny. And I hope they're moved , you know , and I think they will be. I know in rehearsal I cast cries every night. I have such high expectations of pleasing an audience that I don't want to , you know , hope too much. But I really believe that somebody is going to come away from that being really glad they came to it and feeling maybe differently than they did before. And I think in a good way.
S2: Well , I.
S3: Want to thank you very much for talking about your new play.
S6: Well , I appreciate it. And thank you to keep yes. For all your support of all the local theatre and arts. And I don't know what we do without you , so thank you.
S1: That was KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with playwright Michael Madden. His play , Red Jasper , runs this Friday , May 27th through June 19th at Lamplighter Community Theater in La mesa.

A judge has blocked the Biden administration’s bid to end Title 42, a pandemic-era border policy that severely limits who can enter the country. Next, the ongoing baby formula shortage has brought a resurgence of breast milk sharing. Then, a financial literacy expert gives advice for coping with higher prices. And veterans who are state employees are fighting for employee protections with a case in the Supreme Court. Next, a state program meant to help low-income Californians remove asthma triggers from their home struggles. Finally, a new play shines a light on cancer and its survivors.