Plan To Expand Child Tax Credit Offers Hope Along With Direct Payments

When her car started making a noise more than a year ago, Chinara Johnson parked the vehicle and hasn’t used it since. As a New Haven mother of 5-year-old twin boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, and an 8-year-old daughter, Johnson doesn’t have the money to get the car running properly again. She also didn’t have money for childcare as she underwent breast cancer treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, and is now struggling with increased utility and food bills since the kids are home during the pandemic. Over the past few years, Johnson has not been eligible for federal child tax credits because she doesn’t make enough money. But under the American Family Act—sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, and others—Johnson would qualify to receive direct payments of $3,600 each for the boys and $3,000 for her daughter in federal child tax credits.

Medical Providers Are Taking Nature Therapy Seriously

Schools were closed and online learning was in full swing last March when a teenager and her mom arrived at Fair Haven Community Health Care in New Haven. The girl had been experiencing chest pains and her worried mother thought she should go to the emergency room, recalled Amanda E. DeCew, a Fair Haven clinic director and pediatric nurse. The girl “was spending her entire day inside and had been inside for like two weeks,” DeCew said. “But the more we got into her symptoms, the more I really felt like this was anxiety and nothing that she needed to go the emergency room for.”

But DeCew also knew that some kind of medical intervention was needed. “I’m going to write a park prescription for you,” she told the girl.

Education, Across All Demographics, Is An Effective Prescription To Combat Diabetes

Since Nydia Rodriguez met Wanda Santiago about a year ago, the New London resident has lost 20 pounds and gotten her Type 2 diabetes under control. That’s because Santiago, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s bilingual diabetes educator, has taught Rodriguez, a former nurse from Puerto Rico, about portion control, sugar substitutes and how to cut back on bread and pasta. Santiago, who was also a nurse in Puerto Rico, has even connected Rodriguez with food banks that offer fresh fruit and vegetables. “I talk to her almost every day,” Rodriguez, 64, said in Spanish, with her daughter Yolanda Mejias translating. “If I need anything, I’ll call her.”

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and the main cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations and adult blindness.

Medical Practices Become Another Pandemic Casualty

After 35 years as an oral surgeon, Dr. Arthur Wilk closed his practice in Clinton following “daunting challenges” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Darien, Dr. Cecile Windels sold her pediatric practice to a hospital health system after enduring significant income losses. They are among thousands of physicians and other health care professionals across the country who have made coronavirus-prompted career changes such as closing practices, joining larger health systems and retiring early.  The reasons for the moves vary from declines in income due to fewer inpatient visits to increased operational costs for personal protective equipment (PPE) and fears of contracting the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Health care advocates say the changes will exacerbate physician shortages, further erode the existence of private practices, decrease patient choice of doctors and obstruct continuity of patient care. A January report in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed journal of health policy research, said: “Consolidation tends to lead to higher prices without strong evidence of quality improvements.”

“The national trends are definitely happening in Connecticut,” said Dr. Gregory Shangold, president of the Connecticut State Medical Society.

School-Based Health Centers Remain Vital Resource During Pandemic 

Thirteen-year-old Estrella Roman and her mother have made the 30-minute walk to Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury several times during the pandemic, even when the school has been closed for in-person learning. That’s because the school’s on-site health center is where Estrella, who emigrated with her family from Ecuador in 2019, receives routine vaccinations, wellness care, and treatment for headaches, among other health services. Estrella’s mother, Katherine, who doesn’t speak English, said through Estrella that she’s “very grateful” for the teachers who told her that Estrella could still receive care there even when schools were closed. She praised the school nurse as patient and Spanish-speaking and said she would not have known where to seek care if not for the school-based health center. During their three decades in operation, Connecticut’s school-based health centers – defined by the state as fully-licensed primary care facilities — have become a critical health care delivery option, especially for children who have limited access to regular medical care.

For Some Transgender People, Pandemic Paves Path To Transition

Kyle Avery Jones had recently come out as transgender to her parents and friends when her final semester at the University of Connecticut began in January 2020. She wore androgynous clothes to school, sought out gender-neutral bathrooms, and limited her socializing to queer-friendly weekend gatherings off-campus. “Everyone in my classes assumed I was a dude. I didn’t want to show up one day with a face full of makeup and a dress on. I was literally counting down to the end of the semester.

Beyond COVID-19: Waste Testing A Vast Public Health Frontier

As scientists measure the prevalence of COVID-19 in the sludge flowing from New Haven sewage treatment plants, they’re also finding that our biological waste can tell them much more about our collective pathologies. Between March 19 and June 30, a group of scientists tested waste that had previously been used to detect COVID-19, looking for drugs and chemicals. The researchers found significant increases in three opioids, four antidepressants, and other chemicals in sludge from New Haven. The analysis, by scientists from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) and Yale University, offered the first glimpses of how the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders affected people’s behavior. It also underscored how important human waste can be as a resource for understanding public health and society’s habits.

2020 In Photos

Front-line health care workers pushed to the limit, extraordinary lines for food, surging demand for shelter  – these were some of the scenes as the pandemic swept through the state during this unprecedented year. Our photographers captured these moments and more as they illustrated a year’s worth of compelling stories. Scroll through the gallery to see C-HIT’s outstanding photography in 2020 by photographers Melanie Stengel, Steve Hamm, Carl Jordan Castro, Carol Leonetti Dannhauser and Cloe Poisson. And a shout-out to those who shared their photos of the moments our photographers couldn’t get to.

Flu Fighters Combat Vaccination Fears in New Haven

On a recent Friday evening, 30 men and women of color in and around New Haven converged on Zoom to share their thoughts about the flu vaccine. Most were apprehensive. Participants said they worried about contracting the flu from the vaccine, that the danger from the flu vaccine is far greater than catching the flu, and that people of color are again being experimented upon by the medical community. “Our trust levels are really low,” one woman at the online event said. “We think it’s just another way of getting to harm us even further.”

During the 2019-20 flu season in New Haven, more people of color than whites were hospitalized due to the flu: 35% of Black and 31% of Hispanic residents compared to 22% of white people, according to data from the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE).

State’s Efforts To End Use Of Toxic Firefighting Foam Slowed During Pandemic

The call came into the Lisbon fire department at 3:07 p.m. on Sept. 9: A vehicle was ablaze at a home on Bundy Hill Road. By the time the fire truck reached the scene, the flames had spread from the car to the side of the home and were moving rapidly. Firefighters immediately began spraying a fire suppression foam containing hazardous chemicals known as PFAS and had the blaze out within minutes. The homeowners were warned not to use or drink their well water, fearing the shallow well was likely contaminated by the toxic foam.