Stephanie Almada’s journey to opioid addiction began with a prescription to relieve her premenstrual symptoms and accelerated after she had a cesarean section. “The pain pills came, you know, very quickly and I had bottles at home anyway,” she said. “And then it became energy for me. It became the way I coped with life.” Today Almada, 44, is a peer recovery specialist at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville, where she helps women get off opioids. Americans are using opioids at record rates.
Is marijuana a harmless way to relax or a dangerous gateway drug? The science says “No” and “We don’t know,” respectively. Arguments for and against legalization often misrepresent the medical effects of cannabis, some experts say. Several bills proposed in the 2017 session of the General Assembly would make recreational use of marijuana legal in Connecticut. Medical marijuana use for conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to cancer has been legal in the state since 2012, though dispensaries did not open until 2014.
Connecticut doctors and health care workers are battling childhood obesity by helping low-income families make healthier food choices, and coaching busy parents on fast but healthy ways to feed their children. Children are more likely to be obese if they grow up in low-income families, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. And when parents work long hours at low-wage jobs, that can contribute to childhood obesity as well, according to health experts, because time-squeezed parents struggle to provide home-cooked meals and family activities. Colleen Shaddox explores how teens in New Britain learn how to make healthy food choices. The CDC defines obesity as “having excess body fat,” and says it is affected by genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.
This year 97 percent of blacklegged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, survived the Connecticut winter and are hungry for blood as temperatures warm. These arachnids transmit bacteria that cause Lyme disease and are likely thriving in your backyard, according to Connecticut Chief Entomologist Kirby Stafford. About 3,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported in the state each year, the state Department of Public Health reports, but Stafford says that most cases aren’t reported. The true number is closer to 35,000, he estimates. “Under-reporting is more likely to occur in highly endemic [widespread] areas, whereas over-reporting is more likely to occur in non-endemic areas,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Emerson Cheney has survived drug addiction, an abusive relationship, years of cutting and burning himself, and multiple suicide attempts. Now a student at Tunxis Community College, Cheney, 22, recalls how he struggled as a teenager with rejection by friends, school administrators and even doctors, after he came out as transgender. Advocates for LGBT youth say that Cheney’s story is all too common—rejection often pushes young people to risky behaviors that result in health challenges. For LGBT youth, finding health care professionals who can fully address their medical and psychological needs at a critical time in their psychosocial development can be difficult. Several recent studies have highlighted discrimination and mistreatment of sexual and gender minority individuals seeking health care. In Connecticut, a 2008 study that surveyed pediatricians to examine health barriers among LGBT adolescents found that 31 percent of doctors expressed reservations about discussing sexual orientation or gender with patients.
Bridget Araldi’s headaches started after a concussion on the soccer field, and they became so debilitating that the Wilton girl missed 70 days of her sophomore year at high school. She spent much of that time lying in her darkened bedroom, her head covered with cold cloths. A succession of doctors Araldi’s mother took her to did not offer any relief—an experience that is not unusual, according to a new study. The study shows that most children do not get proper treatment for migraines. Many doctors who specialize in headaches say this is because children’s pain is too often dismissed.
Debbie Hardy, a home health care aide, is the reason that Frank Geraldino, 48, a paraplegic, is able to live in his Seymour apartment – rather than in a nursing facility. Hardy, of Ansonia, is an independent worker providing in-home personal care services, such as bathing and feeding, for people with serious disability. Medicaid covers the bill, but the patients are technically the employers, hiring and scheduling their own in-home care. More than 6,000 personal care workers are listed on various registries as providing in-home care services. The lists include home health aides, who are trained and licensed as certified nursing assistants, and personal care assistants, who are not licensed.
Connecticut is using a shrinking pool of federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention to focus on getting more people into treatment, particularly men whose sexual activity puts them at risk. New HIV/AIDS cases are falling in Connecticut, especially among injection drug users, but men who have sex with men make up a growing proportion of diagnoses in the state. They are also the largest group affected by HIV nationally. Getting these men tested and into treatment is key, as medication now drastically reduces the risk of infected people passing on the virus. AIDS workers say that “men who have sex with men’’ includes gay and bisexual men and men who identify themselves as heterosexual, despite having sexual relations with other men.
Patient-centered medical homes are designed to improve health care quality while lowering costs, but advocates also want to make sure that the new primary care model tackles another issue – health equality.