Katie O'Connor

Katie O'Connor

Katie, a Manassas native, has covered health care, commercial real estate, law, agriculture and tourism for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond BizSense and the Northern Virginia Daily. Last year, she was named an Association of Health Care Journalists Regional Health Journalism Fellow, a program to aid journalists in making national health stories local and using data in their reporting. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, where she was executive editor of The Flat Hat, the college paper, and editor-in-chief of The Gallery, the college’s literary magazine.

Health officials have distributed 28,000 clean needles to prevent hep C and HIV, but the law allowing them sunsets next year.

By: - August 13, 2019

In 2017, Virginia passed a law allowing some localities to launch needle exchange programs, an attempt to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV. But it came with a hitch: the law is due to sunset in 2020. The Virginia Department of Health’s goal was to collect enough data to illustrate […]

Poll finds most Virginians approve of Medicaid expansion

By: - August 12, 2019

With more than 300,000 people now enrolled, a new poll shows that a large majority of Virginians approve of Medicaid expansion. The poll — commissioned by the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association and conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy — found that 71 percent of the 800 Virginians polled approved of expanding the program. According […]

Cleared to leave Virginia’s overcrowded mental hospitals, many patients have nowhere to go

By: - August 11, 2019

Virginia’s psychiatric hospitals are dangerously full. Though considered safest when operating at 85 percent capacity, often nearly every single bed is taken. Yet at any given time, many of those patients have been deemed ready for discharge, but they remain in the hospital because they have nowhere else to go. In May, there were 246 […]

‘The pig bomb’: Feral hogs make a great meme, but they are a serious pest in Virginia

By: - August 7, 2019

The frequently asked questions page on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website says it best. “Feral hogs are four-legged ecological disasters.” Earlier this week the “30-50 feral hogs” meme swarmed the internet, an unexpected by-product of the nationwide gun debate. But in many parts of the country, including Virginia, feral hogs have […]

Reflecting national trends, meth arrests and deaths continue to climb in Virginia

By: - August 1, 2019

Methamphetamine arrests and overdose deaths are climbing in Virginia, reflecting a national trend amid a crackdown on opioids. Seizures of methamphetamine spiked between 2017 and 2018, NPR reported, marking a national resurgence of the highly addictive stimulant that Virginia has also seen. Preliminary data from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the first […]

More than 300,000 people have signed up for Medicaid under expansion

By: - July 31, 2019

ALEXANDRIA — Of the 303,768 people who have signed up for Medicaid since Virginia expanded the program at the start of the year, nearly 230,000 have already used a health service, like visiting a doctor or filling a prescription, according to state health officials. Virginia hit the 300,000 enrollees mark last week, and Gov. Ralph […]

The Virginia State Capitol.. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Advocates push Virginia to join states and cities that make paid sick leave mandatory

By: - July 28, 2019

For Kim Bobo, co-executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the issue is simple. “How can we call ourselves a civilized society and not allow people to take a few days of paid sick time for themselves or their kids?” she said. The Richmond-based, nonprofit organization is working on legislation for Virginia […]

Virginia public health officials investigating outbreak of intestinal illness in several regions

By: - July 25, 2019

An intestinal illness that most commonly afflicts people living in tropical regions has infected nearly 40 people in Virginia. The Department of Health issued a news release notifying state residents that an increase in cases of cyclosporiasis that began in mid-June has persisted, with 39 confirmed cases compared to a year-to-date average of just nine […]

Of military suicides, 65 percent involved a firearm, new report shows

By: - July 24, 2019

Sixty-five percent of deaths by suicide among members of the military in 2017 involved a firearm, according to a new Department of Defense report. Drugs and alcohol, though, were the most frequently reported methods of attempted suicide. The report might reignite discussions within the military around limiting access to firearms to reduce the suicide rate […]

‘I can’t let go of it’: How a former secretary of the commonwealth dedicated herself to bolstering Virginia’s foster care system

By: - July 24, 2019

If someone had asked Janet Kelly 10 years ago what she would be doing now, crisscrossing Virginia to bolster the state’s struggling foster care system wouldn’t have been on the horizon. As the president of Virginia’s Kids Belong, Kelly, the former secretary of the commonwealth in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration, spends her days in meeting […]

Department of Health warns of increase in respiratory illnesses, which heat could worsen

By: - July 19, 2019

The Virginia Department of Health has received an increased number of reports of respiratory illnesses this summer, it said in a release. The department warned state residents and health providers about the uptick in diseases, which include influenza, Legionnaire’s disease, pneumonia and pertussis, or whooping cough. Each of the illnesses have their own particular seasonal […]

Virginia needs more information about children diverted from foster care, report says

By: - July 17, 2019

Every year, between 100,000 and 300,000 children nationwide are diverted from the foster care system to live with relatives, according to a new report from the national research group Child Trends that answers some — though not all — questions around the practice. Diversion occurs when child protective services has gotten involved with a family […]