As State Steps Up Efforts To End Child Sex Trade, Public’s Ignorance Is Still An Impediment

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.

Less Access To Health Services, Programs In Rural Areas Take Toll

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.

Court Awards, Settlements Rising In Distracted Driving Lawsuits

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.

Female Surgeons Making Inroads In Male-Dominated Operating Rooms

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.

DCF’s New Strategy: Treating Children And Families In Their Own Homes

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.

Clinical Trials In Need Of Diversity

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.

‘Model’ Nursing Home For Paroled Inmates To Get Federal Funds

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.

Medicaid, ACA Uncertainty Threaten Success Of Ex-Offenders’ Health Care Programs

Since 2011, Connecticut has issued more than 39,000 new Medicaid cards to prisoners returning to communities, connecting them to health care services with the goal of keeping them healthy and out of prison. This initiative, which gives ex-offenders the opportunity to see a primary care physician on a regular basis and access critical mental health and drug-abuse treatment programs, exists because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and Medicaid pays most of the costs. Recidivism data show that the initiative is working, state officials say. Yearly, the Court Support Services Division (CSSD) refers approximately 20,000 adults on probation to various behavioral health programs and tracks them for 12 months. In 2016, CSSD reported that 23.1 percent of adults who completed their referral program were rearrested, a five-year low since CSSD started tracking in 2012.

State Ranks High In Opioid-Related Visits To Hospitals

In less than eight hours last June, Yale New Haven’s emergency department treated 12 patients who had overdosed on opioids. Three died; nine were saved. With opioids in wide circulation, Dr. Gail D’Onofrio, chief of emergency medicine at the hospital and chair of emergency medicine at Yale School of Medicine, isn’t sure that one-day spike will stand as a record. “To be honest, no, I don’t expect the numbers to get better,” D’Onofrio said. “We’re going to have more treatment options in Connecticut, I think, more safe prescribing — but I don’t know that we’ll see improvements in the numbers of people using.”

D’Onofrio’s concerns are borne out in a recent report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that ranks Connecticut the 5th highest among 30 states in the rate of opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits — 254.6 per 100,000 population in 2014, well above national rate of 177.7.