Archive | September, 2018

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CRT Awarded Grant to Address Opioid Addiction


HARTFORD — Of the five major cities in Connecticut, Hartford has the highest rate of Opioid-related deaths.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services agency awarded a three-year federal grant to Community Renewal Team to help those addicted to Opioid.

The $1.6 million grant will help expand access to CRT’s Behavioral Health Services to provide medication assisted treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.

The grant will serve individuals in Greater Hartford and will prioritize recently released offenders, said CRT’s Vice President of Clinical Support Services Heidi Lubetkin.

The overall goals include increasing the number of individuals receiving integrated care and decreasing the number of Opioid use at a six-month follow-up care.

CRT will be working with the University of Connecticut to evaluate the program and follow-up with clients.

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Capital Receives Dislocated Worker Grant



HARTFORD — Dislocated workers will now have some help with reentering the workforce.

Thanks to a nearly $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Capital Workforce Partners in Hartford will receive $5,880,350 in Trade and Economic Transition Dislocated Worker Grants.

Dislocated Worker Grants, supported under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, assist those who are seeking to reenter the workforce by equipping them with the skills to compete in high-demand areas of the economy.

State officials said this grant will help those dislocated from the workforce by arming them with skills to succeed in high-demand employment sectors like health care and advanced manufacturing.

The grant will support up to 500 dislocated workers, said President and CEO of Capital Workforce Partners Alex Johnson.

Johnson said that the grant will also help Capital Workforce meet the needs of regional employers and job seekers with education to close the skills gap.

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Hartford Police Seek New Recruits


HARTFORD — Hartford Police department is now accepting applications for new police officers.

Applications are being accepted from now through Oct. 19. Separate applications for residents and nonresidents will be available at PoliceApp.com/HartfordCT.

Applicants must be 21 years or older at the time of application, provide proof of United States citizenship, have a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver’s license.

The number of police hired since 2015 is 100, city officials said. Currently, there are 380 police officers in Hartford. The goal is to hired close to the department’s full strength of 475 police officers, officials said.

For more information, you can call 860-757-4233 or email JoinHPD@hartford.gov.

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CAIR: Spike in Hate Crimes Against Muslims


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has reported that there’s a spike in hate crime against Muslims and is calling for stepped up security measures.

The call comes after an envelope containing white powder and hate mail with derogatory comments about Islam were sent to a mosque in Groton.

A 43-year-old man was exposed to the powder after he opened the envelope at the Islamic Center of New London at 16 Fort St, according to police.

The Groton Police Department and the FBI are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

“We are in contact with mosque officials and law enforcement authorities and will continue to monitor the situation,” said CAIR-Connecticut Executive Director Alicia Strong. “We advise all Connecticut mosques and other Islamic institutions to remain alert for any suspicious letters or packages. If you do receive anything suspicious notify authorities immediately and report the incident to CAIR-Connecticut.”

Strong is also urging Islamic institutions to take extra security precautions using its “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety” booklet. The advice in CAIR’s security publication is applicable to religious institutions of all faiths.

The booklet may be viewed here or at: https://tinyurl.com/BestSafetyPractices

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization recently released an update on anti-Muslim incidents nationwide between April and June of 2018 indicating that anti-Muslim bias incidents and hate crimes are up 83 and 21 percent respectively, as compared to the first quarter of 2018.

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Connecticut’s Unemployment Rate Dips


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Connecticut’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in August, according to the state Department of Labor’s report released on Thursday.

Employers added 1,100 jobs in August, helping its unemployment rate drop from 4.4 percent to 4.3 percent, according to the report. This is the fourth straight monthly gain in jobs.

Last year,  the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

The U.S. unemployment rate in August was 3.9 percent, down from 4.4 percent in the previous year. Connecticut has the highest unemployment rate in New England, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. New Hampshire has the lowest rate of 2.7 percent.

Connecticut has now recovered 86 percent (105,400 jobs) of the 119,100 seasonally adjusted jobs lost in the “Great Recession.”

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Group Receives Grant for Crash Reduction Efforts


By Kevin James, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — City residents may be noticing neon signs and yellow crosswalks around Hartford.

Thanks to a national grant to support crash reduction efforts in the city. Hartford has one of the highest car, pedestrian and bike crashes in the metro area, according to Transport Hartford.

And crash rates in the capital city are an urgent concern for the Greater Hartford region. That’s why bright, durable signs reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians are now placed at 30 crosswalks throughout Hartford.

The National Safety Council Grant supporting Transport Hartford at the Center for Latino Progress was used to purchase 46 crosswalk signs and repair parts. The crosswalks were then donated to the city. A team from Hartford’s Department of Public Works placed the signs throughout high risk pedestrian crossings in the city on Sept. 14.

The project is a result of the work of Transport Hartford, which during the summer sought community input at neighborhood meetings and local events to identify locations for the signs. At those meetings, organizers shared a map of pedestrian and bicycle crash locations to best focus safety improvement suggestions.  Before the signs were installed, Transport Hartford’s youth interns conducted research at high crash corridors and crosswalk locations in Hartford, observing pedestrian, cyclist and driver behavior. They tracked how many cars passed before pedestrians could cross safely, what level of conflict existed between crossing pedestrians and cars, and how many pedestrians crossed within marked crosswalks.

Now that the signs are placed, the Transport Hartford Road to Zero coalition is gearing up for a busy fall. In addition to the signs, the yearlong grant is funding part time employment for over a dozen young adults across the city, to conduct research, education, and outreach to improve vulnerable user safety. The Road to Zero team based at The Center will develop a presentation about road safety to share at schools, libraries, community organizations, and other neighborhood spaces. Interns working with the Hartford Police Explorers will evaluate the effectiveness of the crosswalk signs with continued the counts and observations, while learning about traffic enforcement.

The Blue Hills Civic Association will lead a service learning internship project, including a public education on road safety in high crash corridors in North Hartford.

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Access to Breakfast Program Increases


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — More Connecticut students have access to a school breakfast, according to a recent report from End Hunger Connecticut.

The School Breakfast Report card shows that 14,440 students from at least 30 schools receive free breakfast in the last two years.

The free breakfast is a part of the state’s program to ensure that children have access to healthy breakfast at school to promote learning readiness and healthy eating behaviors, officials said. It’s a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Connecticut State Department of Education.

Despite the increase in the number of students who gained access to a free breakfast, Connecticut fell five places in the national rankings from 33 to 38 for low-income students participation in school lunch and school breakfast in the 2015-2016 school year compared to the 2016-2017 school year.

Also, the state is still ranked in the bottom 10 states for the number of schools participating in the school breakfast program.

The report compares Connecticut’s data to national data and takes an in-depth look town by town.

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Many Nurses Lack Knowledge of Health Risks for New Mothers, Study Finds


By Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR News 

In recent months, mothers who nearly died in the hours and days after giving birth have repeatedly told ProPublica and NPR that their doctors and nurses were often slow to recognize the warning signs that their bodies weren’t healing properly. Now, an eye-opening new study substantiates some of these concerns.

The nationwide survey of 372 postpartum nurses, published Tuesday in the MCN/American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, found that many of them were ill-informed about the dangers new mothers face. Needing more education themselves, they were unable to fulfill their critical role of educating moms about symptoms like painful swelling, headaches, heavy bleeding and breathing problems that could indicate potentially life-threatening complications.

By failing to alert new mothers to such risks, the peer-reviewed study found, nurses may be missing an opportunity to help reduce the maternal mortality rate in the U.S., the highest among affluent nations. An estimated 700 to 900 women die in the U.S. every year from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes and 65,000 nearly die, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The rates are highest for black mothers and women in rural areas. In a recent CDC Foundation analysis of data from four states, nearly 60 percent of maternal deaths were preventable.

Forty-six percent of nurses who responded to the survey were unaware that maternal mortality has risen in the U.S. in recent years, and 19 percent thought maternal deaths had actually declined. “If [nurses] aren’t aware that there’s been a rise in maternal mortality, then it makes it less urgent to explain to women what the warning signs are,” said study co-author Debra Bingham, who heads the Institute for Perinatal Quality Improvement and teaches at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

Only 12 percent of the respondents knew that the majority of maternal deaths occur in the days and weeks after delivery. Only 24 percent correctly identified heart-related problems as the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S. In fact, cardiovascular disease and heart failure — which, according to recent data, account for more than a quarter of maternal deaths in this country — were “the area that the nurses felt the least confident in teaching about,” says Patricia Suplee, an associate professor at the Rutgers University School of Nursing in Camden, New Jersey, and the lead researcher on the study.

Nurses also said they spent very little time instructing new moms about worrisome symptoms — usually 10 minutes or less. Many of the nurses said they were only likely to discuss warning signs of such life-threatening conditions aspreeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure), blood clots in the lungs, or heart problems “if relevant” — even though, as the study noted, “it is impossible to accurately predict which women will suffer from a post-birth complication.”

The post-delivery education provided by nurses is particularly important because, once a mother leaves the hospital, she typically doesn’t see her own doctor for another four to six weeks. Up to 40 percent of new moms — overwhelmed with caring for an infant, and often lacking in maternity leave, child care, transportation and other kinds of support — never go back for their follow-up appointments at all.

Figuring out the best way to instruct new mothers is all the more crucial, the survey noted, because the first days after giving birth are “exhausting, emotionally charged, and physiologically draining” — hardly an ideal learning environment. But like so many other important aspects of maternal health care, postpartum education has been poorly studied, Bingham said.

The respondents, of whom nearly one-third had master’s or doctorate degrees, were members of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the leading professional organization for nurses specializing in maternal and infant care. AWHONN began looking at the education issue in 2014, when Bingham was the association’s vice president of nursing research and education. “We had to start really from the ground up, because we didn’t know exactly what women were being taught,” she said.

In focus groups conducted in New Jersey and Georgia, two states with especially high rates of maternal mortality,researchers discovered that postpartum nurses spent most of their time educating moms about how to care for their new babies, not themselves. The information mothers did receive about their own health risks was wildly inconsistent, and sometimes incorrect, Bingham said. The written materials women took home often weren’t much better.

Some nurses were uncomfortable discussing the possibility that complications could be life-threatening. “We had some nurses come out and say, ‘Well you know what, I don’t want to scare the woman. This is supposed to be a happy time. I don’t want to seem like all I want to talk about is death,’” Bingham said.

But the researchers also found that nurses could be quickly educated with short, targeted information. Using insights from the focus groups, an expert panel developed two standardized tools — a checklist and script that nurses could follow when instructing new mothers and a one-page handout of post-birth warning signs that mothers could refer to after they returned home, with clear-cut instructions for when to see a doctor or call 911. Those tools were tested in four hospitals in 2015. “Very quickly we started hearing from the nurses that women were coming back to the hospital with the handout, saying, ‘I have this symptom,’” Bingham said.

One of them was a Georgia mom named Sarah Duckett, who had just given birth to her second child. A week later, she recognized the warning signs of what turned out to be a blood clot in her lung — an often fatal postpartum complication. “Those were anecdotes, but they were very powerful anecdotes,” Bingham said. “I’ve led multiple projects over the years and rarely do I get such immediate feedback that something is working.”

The shortcomings documented by the national survey could foster wider use of these tools, suggested Mary-Ann Etiebet, executive director of Merck for Mothers, which funded the study as part of a 10-year, $500 million initiative to improve maternal health around the world. “Something as simple as creating educational and training programs for nurses … can have a real impact,” she said.

This story was co-published with NPR. Photo courtesy of Propublica.

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Hartford Council Expected to Confirm Erik Johnson


By Kevin James, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — The City Council is expected on Monday to confirm Mayor Luke Bronin’s pick for one of the city’s top economic development job.

Bronin selected Erik Johnson to serve as director of the department of development services. Johnson is expected to start Oct. 2. His annual pay will be $148,000.

“Erik Johnson is a seasoned, highly-regarded economic development professional with extensive experience, and I am excited to bring him on board,” Bronin said.  “Erik has worked in New Haven for almost a decade and in cities around the country for most of his career, as well as in the private sector.  He has helped create the kind of public-private partnerships that are key to Hartford’s continued economic development, and we’re looking forward to working with him to pursue projects across our city.”

Johnson currently serves as the Senior Director of Strategy, Policy, and Innovation at the Housing Authority of the City of New Haven. Between 2010 and 2015, he was Executive Director of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative. He was also head of New Haven’s anti-blight agency. One of Bronin’s campaign promises was to address blight in the city.

“I’ve watched the beginnings of a revitalization take root in Hartford, and I am thrilled to help lead economic and community development in Capital City at an exciting time,” Johnson said.  “I’ve worked to bring residential and commercial development projects to life across the country, and I think Hartford is in a strong position to build on the growth we’ve already seen.”

Johnson will replace Sean Fitzpatrick, who resigned in January after questions about his residency. Department heads must live in Hartford.

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Hartford to Open Reentry Welcome Center


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Beginning on Monday, ex-offenders will have a welcoming center to guide them as they transition back into the community.

“They’ve served their time and it’s time we help them achieve a better future,” said City Councilman James Sanchez.

On Wednesday, city officials and representatives of several community agencies formally unveiled the Re-entry Welcome Center. It is located on the ground floor of city hall off Prospect Street. The center will be opened Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

City officials billed the center as a “one-stop-shop” where those returning from prison can get connected to services and supports as they work to successfully reintegrate into their communities. They will also get complimentary backpacks with toiletries, towels and other basic items after the Department of Corrections drop them off at the center.

The Center will be run by Community Partners in Action with support from other community-based organizations. The center was funded by a $450,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

“This Re-entry Welcome Center is about making our city safer and our community stronger,” said Mayor Luke Bronin. “And it’s about helping those who are serious about making the most of a second chance. Helping returning citizens rebuild their lives in our community doesn’t just help those individuals. -it helps their families, their neighborhoods and our city as a whole.”

In 2016, there were 1,021 people released without a probation officer in the Hartford region, according to state officials.

Beginning on Sept. 17, the welcome center will be staffed with three case workers and a program coordinator to help ex-offenders with resources such as food, shelter, and job training.  Organizers are hoping to direct ex-offenders within 90 days of their release from prison. The center will also serve as a data collection hub and track ex-offenders and their success with the program.

“I’m thrilled that as a city we are opening our doors and working directly with people who deserve a second chance,” said City Council President Glendowlyn Thames. “This has been a priority for Mayor Bronin and many of my council colleagues since we took office.”

Hartford’s Reentry Welcome Center is the first of its kind in the region.

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