Michael Kelly is still fighting. After waging—and winning—an epic battle with COVID-19 in spring 2020, Kelly is now focused on his recovery and preventing a second infection. But getting back on his feet has been challenging. Once intimidated by what he described as wealthy, better-educated clients of his carpeting business, Kelly, 64, says he feels he’s on equal footing with the world today. During his recovery from COVID, he said, he realized that regardless of wealth, education or status, everyone has the same allotted 24 hours to live each day.
When University of Connecticut student Natalie Plebanek was 16 years old, she suffered heavy menstrual periods and subsequent fainting spells. But when she asked her pediatrician about a prescription for birth control pills, proven to reduce menstrual bleeding significantly, the doctor balked, citing a common myth. “She thought I would become extremely sexually active,” Plebanek said. Now 21, Plebanek is considering a more convenient method of birth control. Seeking advice from a gynecologist about her options, she was handed a brochure.
Rory M. sobbed in her kitchen. It was just after 7:30 on a frosty winter night, and her dad had baked a pizza for the family. She wanted dinner, but no matter how much she tried to bring herself to eat a slice, she could not do it. The panic was too much. “The guilt you feel is literally like you just murdered someone.
After the COVID-19 crisis came to Connecticut, the New Haven office of Comprehensive Dental Health shut down completely for two weeks. Later, Dr. Joseph Tagliarini began opening the office a few days a week with a skeleton crew to handle emergencies. Now the office is operating at nearly full staffing—with six full-time and six part-time employees. Nobody on the staff has gotten sick, and Tagliarini wants to keep it that way. He hopes the health care industry will produce a new generation of tests for the virus that will be simple, inexpensive, and accurate, and will deliver results on the spot.
Tameeka Coleman and six of her children lived on the streets before moving into a shelter in Fairfield. “We were together, so it was bearable,” said Coleman, 38. The hardest part was when her children cried for their home. “They wanted to know how we had lost our apartment,” said Coleman, who was evicted after she couldn’t pay the rent. Living conditions play a key role in children’s well-being.
Leslie Radcliffe looks ahead to the planned reopening of Connecticut’s economy beginning on May 20 with a mix of hope and anxiety. Hope, because people in her working-class Hill neighborhood in New Haven will be able to return to work, but anxiety because she’s worried that the “reopening” won’t go smoothly. In particular, she is concerned about testing for coronavirus. Will there be enough testing so the disease won’t catch fire again and threaten the lives and livelihoods in her predominantly black and Latinx neighborhood? Radcliffe, an administrative assistant at Yale University, has been working from home, but last week she began driving her brother to his job at Costco.
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.
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.
Stephanie Almada’s journey to opioid addiction began with a prescription to relieve her premenstrual symptoms and accelerated after she had a cesarean section. “The pain pills came, you know, very quickly and I had bottles at home anyway,” she said. “And then it became energy for me. It became the way I coped with life.” Today Almada, 44, is a peer recovery specialist at Wheeler Clinic in Plainville, where she helps women get off opioids. Americans are using opioids at record rates.
Connecticut has seen a continued rise in opioid-related addiction among women, with more than 420 women dying of drug overdoses in 2015 and 2016. To address the crisis and stir community discussion about prevention, intervention and treatment, the Conn. Health I-Team, in collaboration with Wheeler Clinic, will host a free community forum, “Working Women: The New Face of Addiction,” from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on April 6 at the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St., New Britain. The event is open to the public. Register here.