I-Team In-Depth

Recent Stories

High-Prescribing Nurse Charged With Accepting Drug Company Kickbacks

A Derby nurse practitioner identified as the state’s highest Medicare prescriber of potent narcotics has admitted taking kickbacks from a drug company in exchange for prescribing pain medication. Heather Alfonso, 42, of Middlebury, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S District Court in Hartford to receiving $83,000 in kickbacks from January 2013 until March 2015 from an unnamed pharmaceutical company that makes a drug used to treat cancer pain. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Handful Of High Prescribers Boost Medicare Spending, New Data Show

Oxy

Ten Connecticut prescribers, including a Derby nurse practitioner who is under investigation by the state, were responsible for more than 22 percent of the state’s Medicare spending on potent narcotics in 2013, new federal data show. More than 4,300 Connecticut clinicians, mostly physicians, wrote Medicare prescriptions for oxycodone, morphine and other Schedule II drugs, which have a high potential for abuse and addiction, at a total cost of $40 million. But a handful of those providers accounted for the largest share of those prescriptions, an analysis of the data show. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Binge, Heavy Drinking Rates Rise In State, Especially For Women

Drinking by County

Rates of heavy drinking in Connecticut spiked 21.3 percent between 2005 and 2012, while binge-drinking rates rose nearly 14 percent, with the largest increases among women drinkers, a new report shows. The increases put Connecticut’s drinking rates above the national average, with survey data from some counties showing that more than one in five adults are binge drinkers -- defined as consuming more than four drinks a day for women and five for men on at least one occasion in the past 30 days. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Mental Health Crisis Teams Bridge Service Gap To Stabilize At-Risk Youth

EMPS

The growing number of children and teens exposed to traumatic events in everyday life has forced the state’s crisis intervention teams to respond to a broader range of behavioral and mental health issues, and those teams often serve as a bridge until at-risk youth find appropriate outpatient or inpatient services. Sixty-four percent of Connecticut’s youth who use Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services (EMPS), the state’s mobile crisis intervention team, have experienced one or more traumatic incidents, such as domestic violence, cyber-bullying, physical assaults, or gang warfare, experts report. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Mental Health Is Main Cause Of Hospitalizations in CT, New Data Show

Yale-New Haven was among the hospitals reporting a large increase in patient hospitalizations for mental health disorders.

Mental disorders surpassed respiratory problems and all other ailments as the leading cause of hospitalization in Connecticut in 2012 for children ages 5 to 14, teenagers and younger adults, according to a new state health department report. The report shows that the number of days that patients with behavioral health problems were hospitalized surged 5.3 percent between 2011 and 2013, to nearly 260,000 patient days. Other categories of hospitalizations, including cardiac and cancer care, declined during that time. (more…) Continue Reading →

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High-Prescribing Nurse Surrenders Drug Licenses

A Derby nurse practitioner whose prolific prescribing of potent narcotics was the subject of a February story by C-HIT has surrendered her state and federal licenses to prescribe controlled substances and is the subject of an “open investigation” by the state health department, officials said Monday. Heather Alfonso, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at the Comprehensive Pain & Headache Treatment Centers, LLC, in Derby, surrendered her controlled substance registration after a recent probe by the Drug Control Division of the Department of Consumer Protection, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Connecticut Nurse Among Highest Prescribers In U.S.

pills and RX

A Derby nurse practitioner was among the top 10 prescribers nationally of the most potent controlled substances in Medicare’s drug program in 2012 – an anomaly in a state where Medicare records show nurse practitioners rarely prescribe such drugs, which have a high potential for abuse. Heather Alfonso, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at the Comprehensive Pain & Headache Treatment Centers, LLC, wrote out 8,705 prescriptions for opioids and other Schedule II drugs in 2012 – the most prolific prescriber among all Connecticut practitioners, including pain specialists and other physicians, according to Medicare data compiled by ProPublica. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Report Raises ‘Significant Concern’ With Use Of Restraints, Seclusion In Schools

A report in a student file

A 4-year-old boy identified with a developmental delay was physically restrained by school staff after he “threw (puzzle) pieces on the floor and across the room” while playing with a puzzle on a classroom rug. An elementary school student was put into seclusion after “swinging her coat at staff.”

These are among hundreds of incidents -- deemed “emergencies” by school personnel -- that warranted restraining and isolating pre-school and elementary school students in Connecticut last year. A new report by the state Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) raises “significant concern” regarding the frequency with which young children with autism and other disabilities are restrained or secluded; lapses in documentation or actual compliance with state laws; and the prevalence of “unidentified and unmet educational needs for children subject to forceful or isolative measures.”

(more…) Continue Reading →

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Diabetes Takes Disproportionate Toll On Hispanics And Blacks

Diabetes graphic

Connecticut’s diabetes rate ranks lower than the national average, but Hispanics and African-Americans are more than twice as likely to have the disease compared with their white neighbors and are at greater risk of dying from diabetes-related causes. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Hospital Reports Of Surgical, Medication Errors Climb

Adverse events

Connecticut hospitals reported record numbers of patients killed or seriously injured by hospital errors in 2013, with large increases in the numbers of falls, medication mistakes and perforations during surgical procedures, a new state report shows. The report, covering 2013, marks the first time that the number of so-called “adverse events” in hospitals and other health care facilities has topped 500 – double the number in 2012, when 244 such incidents were reported. Much of the increase was due to an expansion of reporting on pressure ulcers, which added a new category with 233 “unstageable” ulcers that were not counted before. Even without that category, however, reports of adverse events climbed 20 percent over 2012. (more…) Continue Reading →

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