With Connecticut children testing positive for lead at consistently high numbers, and millions of dollars thrown at the problem with tepid results, lawmakers may finally be stepping up to seek an effective solution. The Banking Committee is considering a bill that would create a task force to study better ways to finance the removal of the toxin from thousands of homes around the state. The task force would also investigate how to enforce abatement measures, including rental property inspections, and look into increasing workforce training in the specialized process needed to remove lead. State Department of Public Health (DPH) numbers from 2015, the latest available, show more than 72,000 children under the age of 6 testing positive for some level of lead in their blood. More than 900 children were at levels two to four times the baseline at which a child is considered poisoned.
Nearly 1,400 new cases of lead-poisoned children under age 6 were reported in Connecticut in 2015, a slight drop from the year before, but more children showed higher levels of poisoning. A child whose blood test shows 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter or higher is considered poisoned. The 2015 numbers show 98 new cases of children with lead levels of 20 micrograms or higher, four times the threshold number and a 32 percent jump from 2014. “We cannot, with any certainty, explain why this is the case,” said Krista M. Veneziano, coordinator of the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s (DPH’s) Lead, Radon, and Healthy Homes Program, about the disproportionately larger numbers of higher toxicity. Exposure to lead can damage cognitive ability, including a measurable and irreversible loss in IQ points.
A New Haven substance abuse treatment center that was fined $2,500 by the state last year has agreed to hire a temporary manager to oversee its operations as more violations have been found at the facility. Crossroads Inc., at 54 East Ramsdell St., must hire the temporary manager to act as executive director for six months to correct a number of violations that the state Department of Public Health (DPH) found during three days of inspections in May. The manager will review all staffing levels, have full access to bank accounts, review the center’s behavioral health services, and report to the state regularly on improvements, under a consent order signed Aug. 21 by Genoveva Palmieri, chairperson of Crossroads’ board of directors. In 2014, the center was fined and placed on probation for two years for multiple violations of state regulations.
The number of students suspended or expelled from schools has declined, as have in-school arrests, but minority students face disciplinary action more often than their white peers, according to a report released today by Connecticut Voices for Children. Between 2008 and 2013, in-school arrests dropped 34.8 percent statewide while expulsions declined 31 percent and out-of-school suspensions fell 46.5 percent, the report noted. The report, “Keeping Kids in Class: School Discipline in Connecticut, 2008-2013,” analyzed data provided by school districts statewide. While the drop in disciplinary actions is encouraging, Connecticut schools still have work to do, according to the advocacy group. “Extensive research shows that excluding children from school for disciplinary problems is often ineffective and even counterproductive.
The state will use a $4 million federal grant to launch a pilot program in a New Haven neighborhood that officials hope will be a statewide model for improving early identification and treatment of children’s mental health. The five-year grant, announced Tuesday by the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) and New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, will not add new mental-health services for children, but instead will embed care coordinators and clinicians in schools and pediatric offices, in an effort to catch problems early and improve access to existing programs.
The grant is targeted to children ages 8 and younger in the city’s Dwight neighborhood, which has a robust network of mental health providers, including Yale-New Haven Hospital. “This is all about making the existing services more effective and accessible,” DCF Deputy Commissioner Michael Williams said of the grant project, dubbed the Elm City Project Launch. He said the agency selected the Dwight neighborhood because it has a “tremendous array of services” to handle referrals to care resulting from increased mental health screenings. In other areas of the city and state, he acknowledged, “There clearly are a dearth of services” – a problem that the new grant does not address.
Arrests in Connecticut schools dropped 13.5 percent from 2008 to 2011, but hundreds of the arrests made in 2011 were for minor policy violations such as throwing erasers, shouting, or leaving class without permission, a new report says. The report by Connecticut Voices for Children – the first comprehensive study of its kind in the state – also found significant racial disparities in arrest rates: Black students were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than white students, and Hispanic students were 3.2 times more likely. “The overall number of arrests have declined, which is an encouraging trend,” said Sarah Esty, the report’s author and a former policy fellow of Voices for Children. “However, there remains a great deal of work to be done in terms of students being arrested for behaviors that likely could have been handled without police involvement . .
Two decades after New Haven’s English Station power plant stopped producing energy for United Illuminating, state officials have ordered the owners to conduct a massive clean-up of the property, which is contaminated with hazardous PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls. “English Station has been a potential source of pollution to Fair Haven and the waters of the state for too long. It must be cleaned up by all those responsible for its present condition,’’ said Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office is working with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The administrative order announced Thursday requires that the current and previous owners of the plant make a full investigation of the contamination on, and emanating from, the site; submit a remediation plan for DEEP approval that is in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations; and then remediate the site in accordance with the approved plan. The property, on the Mill River, contains the former electric-generating plant and a warehouse. The parties named in the order include the current owners, Asnat Realty, LLC of Bayside, N.Y. and Evergreen Power, LLC, of Wilmington, Md., as well as Quinnipiac Energy, LLC; Grant Mackay Demolition; and the United Illuminating Company, which previously owned the site. The plant is shut down, and access to the property has been limited, pending submission of a formal plan to clean up extensive contamination by PCBs, a known carcinogen, as well as heavy metals and other contaminants.
In Alexandria, Va., the rate of antidepressant use is the highest in the country, with a full 40 percent of residents receiving prescriptions. Cape Cod, Mass., tops the country in the use of stimulants, with 16 percent of the population filling at least one prescription, compared to a mean of 2.6 percent nationally. Gainsville, Fla., has the highest utilization rate of antipsychotics – 4.6 percent of residents, well above the national mean of .8 percent. Usage rates of the three classes of mental health medications vary widely across the U.S., with Connecticut in the middle, according to a new study by the Yale School of Management. The study found that much of the geographic variation could be explained by access to health care and pharmaceutical marketing efforts, rather than by the underlying prevalence rate of the psychiatric disorders.
Juveniles in the Hartford judicial district who break the law are far more likely to be locked in a pre-trial detention center following arrests or referrals than juveniles from the state’s other districts, an analysis of data from the judicial department shows. More than a third, or 34 percent, of new delinquency cases in Hartford juvenile court ended up in secure detention, compared to 17 percent in Bridgeport and 20 percent in New Haven, according to fiscal year 2011 data released by the judicial branch. In Middletown, Waterford and Willimantic, fewer than 10 percent of juveniles arrested were sent to detention.
Twenty-three Connecticut hospitals will forfeit Medicare funds in the next year under a new federal policy that penalizes hospitals with significant numbers of patients who are readmitted within a month of discharge.