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.
Beyond the gleaming office towers overlooking I-95 in Stamford and the pleasure boats that frequent the city’s marinas, thousands of city residents are struggling with hunger, a situation worsened by the pandemic. Severe food needs in Stamford, which has the most COVID-19 cases in Connecticut, reflect the state and national food emergency wrought by record unemployment. Consistent with the national experience, Latino and black residents, who comprise about 40% of the city’s population, are disproportionately contracting COVID-19 and losing low-wage work. Latinos comprise 26% (33,000) of Stamford’s population, blacks 14% (17,000). The Brookings Institution has reported that more than one in five households nationally were food insecure by the end of April.
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.
The state Medical Examining Board on Tuesday disciplined six doctors, including fining a Norwalk doctor $5,000 for prescribing high doses of opioids to a prison inmate and other patients without proper safeguards. The board also suspended the license of a family medicine physician from Westport, saying his excessive drinking of alcohol presents a “clear and immediate danger” to the public. In the Norwalk case, the board also reprimanded Dr. Martin Perlin and limited his ability to prescribe painkillers. Between 2013 and 2015, Perlin prescribed high doses of opioids without adhering to standard safeguards, state Department of Public Health records show. One of the patients was incarcerated during the time that Perlin prescribed drugs for him, the records show.
Connecticut seniors on Medicare are more likely to take sedatives for insomnia and medications for depression than their counterparts across the country, according to a new report by Dartmouth researchers. An analysis of state data in a national report by the Dartmouth Atlas Project also shows that Connecticut’s Medicare program relies heavily on brand-name drugs, versus generics, especially in wealthy towns in Fairfield County – a factor that could be contributing to the state’s ranking in the top 10 nationally in prescription drug spending per patient. Connecticut seniors spent an average of $2,795 on medications in 2010 – 45 percent higher than the lowest-spending state, Minnesota, and the highest rate in New England. The new report provides an in-depth look at how prescription drugs are used by Medicare beneficiaries, age 65 and older, in the program’s Part D drug benefit, which had 37 million enrollees in 2012. It shows wide variations in the use of both effective and risky drugs among the 306 regional health care markets across the U.S.
While the underlying health status of populations is a factor in prescription drug use, “it really does not explain the variations in drug use intensity that we observed,” said Dr. Nancy Morden, a lead author of the study.
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 . .
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.