Lisa Chedekel was a treasure who found me. We launched the Conn. Health I-Team in 2010 after working together for over 30 years, first at the New Haven Register and later at the Hartford Courant. Today she leaves a rich and powerful legacy that touched so many of us in Connecticut. That legacy includes all the aspects of what a journalist is.
While the prevalence of strokes in Connecticut has essentially remained the same in recent years, progress in slowing the number of deaths from stroke has declined in the state, a development the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “disturbing.”
The spike reverses a national decades-long trend that brought stroke death rates down. From 1999 to 2014, deaths from strokes were on the decline in the state and nationally. But a recent CDC report found that Connecticut was among 39 states in which the decline in stroke deaths has slowed or the number of stroke deaths has started to increase. From 2012 to 2015, the number of stroke deaths in Connecticut increased 9.5 percent, from 1,263 to 1,384. Stroke deaths were highest in the northeast and northwest regions of the state, CDC data show.
There are 27 facilities in Connecticut that use such large quantities of hazardous chemicals that they are required to submit disaster response plans to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About 170,000 people—roughly 5 percent of the state’s population—live within a mile of these facilities, risking exposure to a leak, explosion or adverse health effects. Low-income people and children of color under the age of 12 are more likely than their white counterparts to live in these “fenceline” communities, according to a report by the Center for Effective Government. In its report “Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards,” the center examined more than 12,500 facilities in 50 states, grading states based on the “disparities faced” by people living adjacent to or near these facilities. The center reported that children of color under age 12 living in the state were 2.2 times more likely than white children to live within a mile of one of these facilities. In many instances, residents are unaware of the dangers just blocks from their homes, the report said.
In the weeks before Bridgeport police rescued the teenager from the motel, she’d been forced by her pimp to have two tattoos identifying her as belonging to him inked on her face and neck. She’d been given morphine and crack. And she’d been sold on the internet, she told police, “to over 50 or 60 dirty men.”
The girl, who was 17 when she was pulled from “the life” on Aug. 26, 2015, is one of more than 650 children and adolescents referred to the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) as victims of sex trafficking since 2008. Nearly one-third of those were referred last year alone, a result of the state’s ramping up its anti-exploitation efforts.
Connecticut’s rural residents die at higher rates than their city and suburban counterparts and a large percentage of those deaths may be preventable if better public health programs or better access to health care services were available, according to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Doctor shortages and long commutes make it harder for rural residents to get health care. And some officials worry that changes in hospital ownership and the Affordable Care Act could amplify existing problems.
“We have excellent medical care as a general rule in the state,” state Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Windham, said. But rural and other high poverty areas, where many residents are on Medicaid rather than private health insurance, remain vulnerable to hospital service reductions and changes in eligibility for health care coverage, she said. “My battle is to make sure the basic hospital services, like critical care units, are maintained in the small rural hospitals,” Johnson said.
A New Britain couple, seriously hurt in a cellphone-related car accident on Route 8 in Harwinton, received a $1.3 million settlement in November. The previous year, a jury awarded a Torrington woman $1.4 million after a driver, talking on his cellphone while turning, struck her head-on, breaking her wrist and causing permanent injuries to her neck and back. These are two of the largest awards or settlements to go to motorists injured in crashes since Connecticut’s ban on talking and texting on cellphones went into effect in 2005, and a recent change to court procedure may pave the way for more large settlements. Despite the large awards, the incidence of fatalities and injuries from motor vehicle accidents in the state has continued to rise in recent years, state data indicates. The total number of car crashes increased every year from 2011 to 2016– from 78,433 in 2011, to 116,117 last year — according to UCONN’s Connecticut Crash Data Repository, which contains data that the state Department of Transportation collects.
When the lights power on in the operating room at Bridgeport Hospital, more than a half of the acute care team of surgeons peering from behind the masks are women. That’s unusual, given that only 28 percent of all surgeons in Connecticut are female, according to the latest figures from the American Medical Association (AMA). Flexible work schedules and hiring more surgeons to ease the on-call burden has helped to lure more women to the trauma surgical team, said Bridgeport Hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Ivy, a trauma surgeon. Hospitals statewide have launched initiatives to help boost the ranks of women surgeons. There’s been progress, but gaps persist.
Last May, Samantha Collins’ drug use, legal problems and dealings with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families forced her to strike a bargain with the agency. In return for allowing social workers to come into her home three times a week to help her stay off drugs, improve her parenting and learn the practical skills needed to function as an adult, DCF would not remove her children. The 26-year-old Somers mother of 2- and 7-year-old boys entered Family-Based Recovery, a program created 10 years ago by DCF, the agency better known, perhaps, for separating families than working to keep them together. Family-Based Recovery, or FBR, is an example of DCF’s dramatic reversal in philosophy and practices, after years of a policy approach based largely on removing children thought to be at risk and placing them in congregate care facilities. “‘Pull and ask later,’” said Kristina Stevens, a former DCF social worker who is now administrator of the agency’s Clinical and Community Consultation and Support Division, which includes a fast-growing array of in-home treatment programs.
As recently as 2011, nearly 1,500 children and youths were separated from their families and were living in 54 group homes and other treatment centers in and out of Connecticut.
Edith Baker of Plainville faced a devastating reality that patients with advanced cancer inevitably confront. She had stopped responding to conventional treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy could no longer contain her stage 4 bladder cancer. But there was a ray of hope. Baker’s oncologist at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center referred her to a clinical trial at UConn Health involving two immunotherapy drugs: the FDA-approved Keytruda (pembrolizumab) from Merck & Co., credited with successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma; and Epacadostat (IDO1 inhibitor), an experimental drug from Incyte Corp.
Inside the 60 West nursing home in Rocky Hill, two residents played solitaire to the sound of soul music. Others sat in wheelchairs beneath a simulation of rolling clouds, while one got a haircut in a barbershop decorated with Red Sox posters. From the outside, the 95-bed, single-story facility set back from the road looks like any other nursing home. But many of the elderly and ill residents are actually paroled prisoners, and the home is being watched nationally as a potential game-changer for states grappling for ways to care for their aging inmate populations. 60 West is the first facility in the country to win approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for federal nursing home funding—a designation that has national significance, experts say, because it’s a new option for cash-strapped states looking for ways to care for growing populations of older and sicker inmates.