Connecticut Acts To Help Its Lead-Poisoned Children

After decades of inertia, Connecticut is finally moving to help its thousands of lead-poisoned children and prevent thousands of other young children from being damaged by the widespread neurotoxin. The state will direct most of its efforts — and most of $30 million in federal money — toward its cities, whose children have borne the brunt of this epidemic. In announcing the allocation recently, Gov. Ned Lamont pointed to lead’s “catastrophic” effects on children’s health and development, noting that lead poisoning is “a problem that impacts most deeply minority and disadvantaged communities of our state.” Nearly half of the 1,024 children reported as lead poisoned in 2020 lived in New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford, or other cities, according to state Department of Public Health numbers. The more enduring thrust of the state’s new actions, however, is the strengthening of its outdated lead laws, starting in 2023.

DPH Report: More Than 1,000 Children Were Poisoned By Lead In 2020

More than 1,000 Connecticut children under age 6 were reported poisoned by lead in 2020, according to a report released this week by the state Department of Public Health (DPH). Of the children tested that year, 649 were new cases. As has been the case for many years, nearly half of the 1,024 lead-poisoned children lived in the state’s cities. New Haven had the highest number of lead-poisoned children, with 171, followed by Bridgeport, 148; Waterbury, 81; Hartford, 71; and Meriden, 35. These five cities had 49% of all lead-poisoned children in Connecticut in 2020.

The Migraine Breakthrough

Migraines have baffled humankind at least as far back as the ancient Egyptians, who blamed the excruciating headaches, and their often-accompanying visual auras and nausea, on the supernatural. Now, in a development doctors are calling revolutionary, an international group of neurologists has deciphered the mystery of why people get migraines and, in doing so, has determined how to greatly reduce their frequency and severity. The discovery “has revolutionized our treatment of migraine,” said Dr. P. Christopher H. Gottschalk, a neurologist at Yale Medicine and a professor of neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. “I’m witnessing a change in the landscape,” said Dr. Sandhya Mehla, a headache specialist and vascular neurologist with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group. “I would say this is a milestone.”

The discovery, the fruit of 40 years of research, won four scientists in Sweden, Denmark and the United States the 2021 Brain Prize, the world’s most prestigious award in neurology.

Children And Adolescents Struggling With Pandemic’s Mental Health Fallout

One day in early March 2020, just as the pandemic was gaining momentum, sixth-grader Carolina Martinez-Nava was heading to the school cafeteria when she saw her sister coming down the stairs, looking for her. Arlene, an eighth grader, was crying. “She came and hugged me,” Carolina said. Students had been peering out windows all morning at the black smoke rising a few blocks from the school, in Bridgeport. But that still couldn’t prepare Carolina for her sister’s news that it was their family’s house that was burning.

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.

Connecticut’s Halfhearted Battle: Response To Lead Poisoning Epidemic Lacks Urgency

It wasn’t until Bridgeport lead inspector Charles Tate stepped outside the house on Wood Avenue that he saw, immediately, where 2-year-old Rocio Valladares was being poisoned. The paint around a window at the back of the house was deteriorating. Beneath the window was Rocio’s favorite play area, a sloping basement door that was the perfect ramp for an energetic toddler. Next to the basement door was a patch of dirt where she loved to scratch with sticks. White chips of paint were visible in the dirt.

Cases Of Lead-Poisoned Children Drop 17%

A total of 1,665 Connecticut children under age 6 had lead poisoning in 2017, a drop of almost 17% from the year before and the largest one-year decrease in five years, according to a just-released report from the state Department of Public Health (DPH). But more children showed higher levels of the toxin in their blood than in 2016, the report says. In 2016, there were 105 children whose blood lead level was 20 micrograms per deciliter of blood or higher, at least four times the measure at which they’re considered poisoned. In 2017, the number had risen to 120 children. DPH epidemiologist Tsui-Min Hung said the improved overall numbers were at least partially due to the department’s more aggressive prevention activities, which 42 local health departments took advantage of, as well a social media campaign.

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.

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.