Karen Brown


Karen is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for New England Public Radio since 1998. Her features and documentaries have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, Third Coast Audio Festival Award, and the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize.

Karen’s work has appeared on NPR, in The New York Times, and other outlets. She previously worked as a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She earned a Masters of Journalism from the University of California at Berkeley in 1996.

Ways to Connect

Jimmie / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/jimmiehomeschoolmom

As school districts in Massachusetts submit their fall proposals to the state, many parents are coming up with their own contingency plans. 

Classroom chairs.
maxpixel.net / Creative Commons

Some staff at a Holyoke, Massachusetts, school for special needs students are alarmed that they’ve been called back into the building for in-person instruction; they don’t believe it’s safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, or beneficial to students.

The UMass Amherst campus.
Rhobite / Creative Commons

The town manager for Amherst warns that the influx of UMass students in the fall could spread COVID-19 in a town that, up until now, has had relatively few cases. He's asking the university to change its reopening plan to avoid making things worse.

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / masslive.com

Springfield, Massachusetts, city and police officials have responded to a scathing government report that charges the narcotics bureau with a pattern of excessive force with no accountability.

Students in STCC's automotive technology program, which is slated to close.
Ramiro Soares

Faculty members at Springfield Technical Community College are protesting the elimination of seven entire programs, most of them vocational.

Turners Falls, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

Some residents of Turners Falls, Massachusetts, want to change the name of their village to one they consider more respectful.

Turners Falls was named after Captain William Turner, thought to have led a 17th century battle that killed more than 100 members of the Nipmuc Nation tribe.

A crew from Archaeological and Historical Services Inc. works at one of two dig sites near North King Street in Northampton on Oct. 2, 2019.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

A Native American tribe is calling out opponents to a traffic roundabout in western Massachusetts for being "misleading."

Naomi London of Northampton, Massachusetts, survived a serious case of COVID-19.
Courtesy of Naomi London

While some parts of the country are seeing surges in COVID-19, cases in Massachusetts are down — but not gone. So, with the governor's reopening plan underway, early survivors of the virus are hoping their experience will convince others to be cautious.

Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts — owned by Mercy Medical Center — is planning to close all its inpatient psychiatric beds on Tuesday despite concerns from the state and criticism from staff.

Angelle Lopez before the graduation car parade at Springfield Central High School.
Courtesy of Angelle Lopez / Courtesy of Angelle Lopez

For Angelle Lopez, graduating from Springfield Central High School and moving onto college is a very big deal. 

A health care worker calibrates a ventilator on the USNS Mercy.
U.S. Pacific Fleet / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/compacflt

Early in the pandemic, hospitals were worried about having enough ventilators — since that’s a critical way to treat severe breathing problems that can come with COVID-19.

Over the past few months, some western Massachusetts hospitals have been trying to rely on ventilators less. 

Two children at Farm Hands Preschool in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Courtesy of Farm Hands Preschool

Starting Monday, child care centers in Massachusetts can apply to reopen as part of the governor's Phase Two plan. But they will have to meet the state's new safety requirements against COVID-19.

Worthington Street storefronts in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Douglas Hook / MassLive / masslive.com/photos

Public health and community leaders want Massachusetts to put the brakes on reopening until there are better safeguards for low-income workers and people of color.

Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Providence Hospital in Holyoke has responded to questions from Massachusetts state officials about its plans to close all its inpatient psychiatric units.

Leavitt Family Jewish Home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, reported 66 deaths so far from the coronavirus.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

More than half the people who have died from COVID-19 in Massachusetts caught the virus in nursing homes, according to new data from the state. 

Veterinarian Helen Spiegel Lee works at Mill Valley Veterinary Clinic in Belchertown, Massachusetts.
Courtesy of Helen Spiegel Lee

Unlike most medical offices right now, the Mill Valley Veterinary Clinic in Belchertown, Massachusetts, is busier than ever.

“Pets don’t know there’s a pandemic,” veterinarian Helen Spiegel Lee said.

Kevin Kulow, an emergency room physician, speaks with a patient in Panama City, Florida, in April 2020.
Dylan Gentile

A new study finds that visits to the doctor have rebounded somewhat from the beginning of the pandemic, but are still well below normal.

Prior times: the 2016 High School of Commerce graduation in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Hoang "Leon" Nguyen / The Republican / MassLive.com/photos

Springfield, Massachusetts, has decided to let high school graduates walk across an actual stage to receive their diploma, despite COVID-19 restrictions. But it will still be far from the typical ceremony.

Acting teacher Gabe Levey of Northampton, Mass., during his Zoom laughing club.
Screen Shot / Karen Brown / NEPR

It's not easy to find levity in today’s world. 

That's why Northampton, Massachusetts, acting teacher Gabe Levey created the Pioneer Valley Laughing Club

A bluebird at a backyard feeder.
Kristin Foresto / Mass Audubon

Every year, Mass Audubon holds a 24-hour birding competition during peak migration season. But the coronavirus is forcing a redesign of this year's event, which starts Friday evening.

Springfield Health Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris at a briefing on the coronavirus.
Douglas Hook / MassLive / masslive.com/photos

Hampden County has the sixth highest rate in Massachusetts for confirmed COVID-19 cases. But it has the highest rate of deaths.

A health care worker places a cotton swab into a vile after taking a sample from someone being tested for COVID-19 last month at a drive-through testing area at Somerville Hospital.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

Western Massachusetts health care providers say they have much better access to COVID-19 testing than a month ago, but ideally, they would like even more.

Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

As the number of new COVID-19 cases in western Massachusetts is beginning to flatten or decline, some hospitals say they're starting to think about opening to non-urgent services.

Newly released from prison in April 2020, James Watson is flanked by his lawyers, Madeline Weaver Blanchette (left) and Barb Munro.
Courtesy / Barb Munro

A Massachusetts man who's been locked up for 41 years is out of prison while he makes the case he was wrongfully convicted. He was released in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A desk in a physician's office.
Karen Brown / NEPR

Primary care doctors are supposed to be the first stop for the COVID-19 crisis. They're who you call if you have symptoms, partly to relieve pressure on hospitals.

But the pandemic has put immense financial strain on primary care practices.

The campus of UMass Amherst.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com

College students around the country are finishing the semester in a much different place than they started — many back with their families, in their hometowns — as classes continue online.

Vibra Hospital in Springfield, Mass.
Don Treeger / The Springfield Republican

A state-affiliated psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, is dealing with several COVID-19 cases.

Northampton police officer Justin Hooten shows a box of Narcan installed at the station, free to the public. He's involved with the DART program, which has scaled back its services.
Karen Brown / NEPR

A couple months ago, the most talked-about public health epidemic in New England was opioid addiction. While the COVID-19 pandemic has since taken over, the drug crisis has not gone away. But addressing it has become much harder.

UMass Amherst scientist Richard Peltier used a mannequin to test a sterlized N95 mask.
Courtesy UMass Amherst

A UMass Amherst scientist says he's shown that a high-grade medical mask — often considered disposable — can be sterilized and re-used at least once.

The town hall in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
File photo / MassLive / masslive.com/photos

Municipal offices across Massachusetts are closed to the public because of COVID-19, but many employees are still required to come in.