Plans are underway to provide thousands of individuals under age 21 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with home-based interventions and other services through the state’s Medicaid program beginning Jan. 1. “This is absolutely huge,” said Jennifer Bogin, director of Autism Spectrum Services for the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS). “Many children already get quality programming during the school day. But it’s rare when that programming is brought into the home.
For the last 50 years, men have consistently had an easier time quitting smoking than women. More men go cold turkey. More men stop on nicotine blockers like gum and patches. More men succeed on medications. Sherry McKee, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, thinks she may know why.
Most children with autism are well past their fourth birthday by the time they’re diagnosed with the condition, according to new government data. Their parents and teachers may have raised red flags earlier, but it takes months or years to confirm suspicions with a formal diagnosis. And therapy rarely starts without one. “The school wouldn’t do anything for us until we had a diagnosis,” said Kimberly Vincent, of Wallingford, whose daughter Rebekah was diagnosed at age 6. That’s why researchers are trying to come up with new strategies for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders as early as possible. Last month’s release of new government data showing autism spectrum disorders now affect one in 68 kids provided an extra push and sense of urgency, several experts said.
When it comes to vaccinating adolescent females against human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease known to be the main cause of cervical cancer, Connecticut boasts a slightly higher participation rate than the national average. About 58 percent of females in the state received the initial HPV vaccine dose compared with roughly 54 percent nationally, according to the National Immunization Survey, based on data from 2012 for girls aged 13-17. HPV vaccine is given in three shots and Connecticut has a completion rate of 44 percent, better than the national average of 33 percent, according to the survey. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the number of girls receiving the HPV vaccine nationally lags behind other vaccination rates and has “not moved forward.’’
The state’s rate is “probably due to a combination of factors,” said Linda Niccolai, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and director of the HPV-Impact Project at the Yale Emerging Infections Program. “Health insurance coverage and rates are pretty good in Connecticut, but it’s also possible that providers in Connecticut are more proactive in making sure their patients are vaccinated and parents are more aware of the need for the vaccination.”
The national data show that Hispanic females have the highest participation rate at 63 percent, followed by whites at 51 percent, and blacks at 50 percent.
Since Newtown, the country has witnessed at least seven mass shootings. The most recent was in Chicago, where suspects used a military-type rifle and a gun, injuring 13 people in a park, including a 3-year old boy, who was shot in the head. Earlier that same week, a shooter killed 12 people at the Navy Yard in Washington. Ironically, that same day Newtown family members and other gun legislation advocates were in the nation’s capital for a long-planned trip to lobby for tighter laws. After each shooting, there’s a sense of despair that these horrible events will just keep happening.
Complaints of abdominal pain from patients seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms nationally rose 31.8 percent from 1999-2008, but about one-half of those patients were discharged without a diagnosis, according to data from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the CDC reports that abdominal pain and chest pain continue to be the most common ailments for a visit to the ER for patients aged 15 years and over. Statistics show that about 7 million people aged 18 and older visit the ER each year with complaints of abdominal pain. In Connecticut, emergency room doctors concur that abdominal pain is among the top ailments treated and among the most difficult to diagnosis. “It is like finding a needle in a haystack, in which you think ‘Please let them not be the 50 percent where I can’t tell them what is wrong,’ ” said Dr. Jeff A. Finkelstein, director of Hartford Hospital’s emergency department. The hospital’s ER reported treating 1,674 cases of abdominal pain during the months of April and May. Because the abdominal area contains multiple organs: the stomach, small and large intestines, pancreas, liver and gallbladder, “abdominal pain is very challenging to find the specific cause in a short time frame,” said Finkelstein.
Students who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol are more likely to have bad grades, according to results of the 2011 Connecticut Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey shows that only 8.4 percent of students who acknowledged smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days routinely received As in school. On the other hand, 39 percent of those students received Ds or Fs. A similar survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that even minimal smoking correlates with lower grades. The CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 2009 showed that 31 percent of high school students who had ever tried cigarette smoking – even one or two puffs – received mostly A’s.
After Adam Lanza broke Connecticut’s heart last December, speculation about what made him do it ran the gamut from easy access to guns to the shooter’s difficulty dealing with peers. Some news articles mentioned that before his death, Lanza had shut himself in his mother’s Newtown basement and played violent video games. Only a few people took note. One, a 12-year old Newtown boy, started a “Played Out” movement to dump violent video games, and other towns – including Southington – followed suit. But mostly, gamers played on, secure in the knowledge that their passion was protected by the First Amendment.
When Florence Bolella, director of nursing at Kimberly Hall South nursing home in Windsor, told her staff to remove all the alarms from patients, fear and panic set in. Not among the residents, who were relieved to be free of the annoying beeps and squawks that sounded every time someone with mobility problems moved, but among the nurses’ aides. “The CNAs were so afraid they were going to get in trouble if a patient fell,” Bolella recalled. “It took us almost a year to remove 33 alarms. I eventually had to lock up the alarms, so the staff would stop using them.”
In the two years that the nursing home has stopped using both alarms and restraints, it has seen a decline in the number of falls. Bolella isn’t surprised: “I never felt the alarms were effective.”
Kimberly Hall South is among a handful of nursing homes in Connecticut that have gone “alarm-free,” meaning residents at risk of injury, usually from falls, are no longer outfitted with detectors on their mattresses, chair pads and clothing that emit a warning signal when they try to get up and move around.