‘Red Flag’ Law Is A Start, But Not Enough To Curb Gun Violence

You can have prayers. Or you can have teeth. After two mass shootings within 16 hours stunned the nation earlier this month, conversation turned to how best to remove guns from the wrong hands. Seventeen states—including Connecticut—and the District of Columbia have “red flag” laws, also known as “extreme risk” laws, that, depending on the state, allow family members, household members, or law enforcement officials to petition the courts to remove guns from the hands of someone who might do harm to himself or herself, or to others. It’s an approach that is supported by 85% of registered voters, according to a 2018 Washington Post/ABC poll.

Identifying LGBTQ Community’s Needs Is Network’s First Task

During 2018, members of the advocacy group CT Equality traveled around the state to listen to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community talk about their challenges and concerns about life in Connecticut. The conversations, said Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, deputy majority leader who attended one of the meetings in Hartford, had common themes, including a need for additional services and programs.

Among other tangible efforts during the legislative session that ended June 5, such as a ban on the so-called “gay panic defense,” the conversations moved Connecticut legislators to create an LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, which is charged with creating a safe environment for members of the community. This comes at a time when the Trump administration is rolling back rights at a historic rate. In June, the administration announced it would cut funding for a University of California HIV and AIDS research program. Trump has announced plans to allow “religious exemptions” to adoption agencies that want to deny services for LTBTQ couples.

Stricter Rules For SNAP Would Hurt Those That Need It Most

Wanda Perez considers the price and nutritional value of everything she puts in her shopping cart, as the New Haven woman relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to buy groceries and is trying to eat healthy to manage multiple chronic illnesses. Just over 364,000 people receive SNAP benefits in the state, a number that has decreased about 4.7% in the past year. “I try to stay on top of everything that’s going on,” said Perez, a member of  Witness To Hunger, which organizes SNAP users to speak about food policy and poverty. Perez lives on just over $700 in disability assistance a month, plus $192 in SNAP. Though her SNAP benefits are safe for now, proposed federal rule changes could push other Connecticut users off SNAP.

Medicaid Expansion Helped Reduce Disparities In Cancer Care

The racial disparity between white and black cancer patients in accessing timely treatments has virtually disappeared in states where Medicaid expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to a new study. Yale Cancer Center researchers analyzed more than 30,000 health records and found that, prior to Medicaid expansion, black adults with advanced or metastatic cancer were 4.8 percentage points less likely than white adults to begin treatments within 30 days of being diagnosed. But in states where Medicaid was expanded, in 2014 or later, the percentage of black patients getting timely treatment rose from 43.5 percent to 49.6 percent. There also was a small improvement in expansion states among white patients receiving timely treatment – from 48.3 percent to 50.3 percent – bringing the post-expansion difference between the two racial groups to less than one percentage point. “Our results suggest that Medicaid expansion led to improved health equity,” said study author Amy Davidoff, a senior research scientist at Yale School of Public Health and in Yale Cancer Center’s Cancer Outcomes, Public Policy, and Effectiveness Research Center (COPPER).

Dismal Maternal Mortality Rate Is Finally Getting Attention

Slowly—but perhaps surely—the country is beginning to address maternal mortality, both through legislation and through initiatives on the part of health care providers. This is critical. We have lost countless women to pregnancy and childbirth, and the majority of those deaths didn’t have to happen. This holds true especially for mothers of color. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die from pregnancy as white women, according to a study released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking Cessation Programs For People With Mental Illness Are Hard To Find

Betty Williams says giving up crack cocaine was easier than her ongoing struggle to quit cigarettes. “A cigarette is a friend,” said Williams, who lives with schizophrenia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with mental illness account for 44% of the cigarette purchases in the United States, and they are less likely to quit than other smokers. High smoking rates among people with mental illness contribute to poorer physical health and shorter lifespans, generally 13 to 30 years shorter than the population as a whole. About 37% of men and 30% of women with mental illness smoke.

Food Pantries Urged To Stock Nutritious Foods To Encourage Healthy Eating

People struggling with hunger suffer from a disproportionate number of chronic illnesses and often rely on food pantries for their groceries. So, pantries are now being urged to undergo a sea change and abandon their traditional emphasis on calories and nonperishable items in favor of more nutritional food. In Connecticut, 440,000 people are food insecure, which means they have limited or uncertain access to sufficient nutritious food, according to 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the latest available. They comprise 12.2 percent of the state’s population.People with food insecurity are 25 percent more likely to have heart disease and diabetes, and 50 percent more likely to have kidney disease, cites Feeding America, a national food bank network. “These issues can be prevented or managed better with a proper diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains,” said Michelle Lapine McCabe, director of the Center for Food Equity and Economic Development, based in Bridgeport.

Shifting Social Attitudes, Stagnant Budgets Fuel Dramatic Rise In STDs

Despite the best efforts of health departments across the state, the number of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) continues to rise dramatically, mirroring a national trend. According to surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. experienced steep, sustained increases in STDs between 2013 and 2017. In Connecticut, reported cases of syphilis rose 51 percent during the four-year period, while gonorrhea jumped 25 percent and chlamydia rose 27 percent. According to the CDC’s ranking of all 50 states, Connecticut was 27th for reports of chlamydia, 4oth for gonorrhea, and 45th for syphilis. Health officials acknowledge that the rise in reported STDs cases is partially due to better testing and tracking.

Immigrants Are Wary Of Using Assistance Programs As Feds Weigh Policy Change

When immigrant families bring their children to the Yale Children’s Hispanic Clinic, it’s just not about check-ups and vaccinations. Clinicians help them deal with everything from teething to nutrition to finding a place to live. But these days when front-line clinicians encourage families to use the many services offered through federal public programs, parents have questions—and misgivings. “They are hesitant because they are afraid,” said Patricia Nogelo, a clinical social worker at the Yale Children’s Hispanic Clinic. A proposed change in immigration law is making immigrants in Connecticut and nationally wary of utilizing federal programs that cover health, food and housing assistance.