A former head nurse at York Correctional Institution has been reprimanded by the state Board of Examiners for Nursing for failing to properly care for an inmate who suffered a serious brain injury while in the prison medical unit in 2014. In the Niantic prison case, the board Wednesday also placed the registered nurse license of Mary Howe of Griswold on probation for three years and barred her from working in a clinical care setting for the first two years of the probation, a consent order she signed with the board said. Howe was also ordered to take courses in ethics, delegation of nursing duties, professional nursing standards, documentation and “empathy and compassion in nursing,” the order said. In signing the order, Howe did not contest the allegations against her but admitted no wrongdoing. In May 2017, a UConn Health spokesman said Howe no longer worked for the UConn Health unit that provided medical care in the prison.
Tens of thousands of adolescents in Connecticut still do not have access to effective mental health care, despite the passage of a 2008 federal law requiring health insurers to provide equal benefits for mental health. Poor access to care leads to undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental illness in children and adolescents, an increase in use of emergency rooms for psychiatric issues, and is a risk factor for severe mental illness, substance abuse, failure in school, and entering the juvenile justice system. National studies show that about 1 in 5 children and teens have mental illness, but only one quarter of them receive services. “That leaves about 125,000 children without mental health care in Connecticut,” said Susan Kelley, director of the Alliance for Children’s Mental Health. Some say that estimate is low, partly because it doesn’t capture mental illness misdiagnosed as behavioral problems. “I think that’s a very optimistic figure,” said Eliot Brenner, PhD, president and CEO of the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut.
The state Medical Examining Board on Tuesday disciplined three doctors, including fining a Newtown psychiatrist $15,000 for submitting false insurance claims.
In 2016, the doctor, Naimetulla Syed, paid $422,641 to resolve allegations that he submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid between 2009 and 2013, state and federal officials said in a news release at the time. An investigation revealed that he used a code for psychotherapy sessions lasting 45 to 50 minutes when in most cases, he only saw the patients for five to 30 minutes, the release said. The medical board also placed Syed’s medical license on probation for a year in connection with the false claims. Syed, who also has an office in Glastonbury, must complete courses in medical documentation. The state Department of Social Services had audited 100 of Syed’s patient charts and found that each chart lacked a treatment plan, according to a consent order cover sheet. Of those, 65 charts lacked basic patient demographic information and Syed’s signature.
Connecticut consumers were billed for more than $1 billion in facility fees for outpatient services in 2015 and 2016, documents filed with the state Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) show. Twenty-two of Connecticut’s 30 hospitals charged these fees, bringing in $600.7 million in 2015 and another $488.8 million in 2016, according to an analysis by Conn. Health I-Team. The state’s two largest hospital systems, Yale New Haven Health and Hartford HealthCare, accounted for almost half of the total facility fee revenue in 2016. Yale and its four hospitals billed $144.3 million; Hartford and its five hospitals, $80.9 million.
Depending on your ZIP code, Connecticut is a wonderful place to live. A recent United Health Foundation report said Connecticut ranks sixth in the nation for women and children’s health. The state scored high because of a low teen birth rate, as well as a high percentage of publicly funded women’s health services needs being met. But the state faces a yawning disparity of health status among residents—and its segregated towns. That’s significant because research shows that if you want to calculate your life expectancy, check your ZIP code and your median household income.
A new federal law will allow hundreds of Connecticut veterans with “bad paper” discharges to be eligible for long-term mental health care for the first time, and thus reduce their suicide risk. U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., a co-sponsor of the law, said it will “change the lives of veterans.” The legislation was included in the federal budget signed last Friday by President Trump. The new law affects veterans with an “other than honorable (OTH)” discharge, a status increasingly given for minor offenses. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs usually denies benefits to veterans with OTH discharges, even though Congress stipulated in 1944 that only severe conduct that would lead to court martial and dishonorable discharges should disqualify veterans from basic VA care. Many veterans have maintained that their minor offenses were triggered by service-related mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Under the new law, veterans with OTH discharges who either served in combat areas, were victims of military sexual trauma, or operated drones are eligible for VA mental health and behavioral health care.
As anxiety and depression among college students soars, universities in Connecticut and nationally are expanding their mental health counseling, even offering courses that address mental well-being. A new national report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State found that anxiety and depression were the top concerns of students seeking counseling services, and that self-harm behaviors have risen for the seventh year in a row. In another survey, 57 percent of directors of college counseling services said the severity of student mental health concerns increased between 2015 and 2016. And according to a National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey, 9.1 percent of college students reported being diagnosed in the last year with a psychiatric condition. “We have seen an increase this fall compared to last fall of almost 30 percent in students requesting to be seen by our counseling service,” said Kerry Patton, director of health and wellness at Quinnipiac University. Over the last few years, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common reason students at Quinnipiac are seeking counseling services.
The state Department of Public Health (DPH) has fined six nursing homes for various violations that endangered or injured residents. Masonicare Health Center in Wallingford was fined $3,900 after a resident developed a severe pressure ulcer. On June 12, 2017, a resident who suffered incontinence and was a risk for skin breakdown was diagnosed with an unstageable deep tissue injury in the lower back. An advanced practice registered nurse determined the resident had the wrong type of mattress and recommended the use of a pressure-reducing cushion, according to DPH. Once the resident received the cushion, it was under-inflated on multiple occasions and documentation from May through August failed to show staff were monitoring its inflation, according to the citation.
Thousands of consumers statewide are experiencing sticker shock at the pharmacy this year after increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for employer-sponsored insurance, forcing some to choose between their health and their finances. Since 2003, drug costs in Connecticut have increased faster than prices across the nation, reports the nonprofit Connecticut Health Policy Project. The advocacy group also found that Connecticut residents spend more per person on prescriptions than residents in all states except Delaware and that rate is rising much faster than in other states. According to the State Comptroller’s Office, the total net costs of prescription drugs in the state employee health plan rose 29 percent, from $257.6 million in 2014 to $332.3 million in 2017, with diabetes drugs the most expensive therapeutic class. Some of the companies to hike prices on dozens of medications by more than 9 percent this year include Allergan Plc, Insys Therapeutics Inc., Horizon Pharma Ltd., and Teva Ltd, according to Jefferies LLC, a New York-based investment advisory firm.
The state Medical Examining Board Tuesday disciplined four doctors, including fining a Hamden doctor $3,500 for allowing medical assistants to give patients medication, including a nasal anesthetic. The board also reprimanded the physician, Craig Hecht, an ear, nose and throat doctor, after the state Department of Public Health found he failed to maintain appropriate infection controls in his Madison office, a consent order he signed with the board said. The order said he kept expired medications, failed to follow proper sterilization procedures and failed to keep appropriate sterilization records. Hecht also has offices in Hamden and Milford, but the problems were confined to his Madison office, the order said. Hecht chose not to contest the allegations while admitting no wrongdoing.