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CT Resident Diagnosed with Legionnaires Disease


Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN  — First, there’s the Zika virus. Now comes Legionnaires disease to Connecticut.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Connecticut resident was recently diagnosed with Legionnaires disease.

The resident, a psychiatric patient at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, was infected with the Legionella bacterium, which is found in soil and in fresh water.

The disease is spread by inhaling a mist or vapor infected with the bacteria. It does not spread from person to person, according to the CDC. When bacteria cause pneumonia, it is called Legionnaires’ disease.

Crews with the health department and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services were still investigating the source of the contamination Tuesday evening. The building was not evacuated.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said his office is monitoring the cases.

Malloy said residents should not be alarmed.

State officials said that “the bacteria cannot be transmitted from person to person.”

Federal officials said that 8,000 to 18,000 people require hospital care as a result of Legionnaires’ disease. In Connecticut, about 80 cases are diagnosed each year.

Last summer, there was an outbreak of the Legionnaires disease in the South Bronx, which New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said is the largest outbreak in history. In that outbreak, at least 128 people were sick and 12 died.

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CT Receives More Grant Money to Study Mosquito Virus


EAST HARTFORD — More grant money is coming to Connecticut to fight the onslaught of the Zika virus.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said more grant money will be available “virtually immediately.” That’s because there’s a need for a national research effort to create a Zika vaccine and for public education.

The Centers for Disease Control will give Connecticut $120,000 in federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control to track Zika virus cases in the state and monitor the mosquitoes known to transmit the disease, state health officials said Monday.

So far the state has received $579,055 in grant money, including $479,000 that was awarded.

“What we have here is a potential epidemic,” Blumenthal said. Blumenthal called on GOP leaders to call the Republican-controlled U.S. House and Senate back into session to take action.

He also said that congressional  approval of $1.1 billion is needed to combat the mosquito-transmitted disease.

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Gov. Malloy, Health Chief Announce Zika Detection Protocol


NEW HAVEN — Gov. Dannel Malloy joined the state’s public health chief and a local scientist Thursday in announcing the state will launch a system that will potentially detect new Zika cases as part of its prevention efforts.

State Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino said Thursday the state has tested 472 people for Zika, confirming 31 cases, three of whom are pregnant women. The disease is especially concerning to pregnant women, as infection during pregnancy could lead to birth defects. Results are pending for several other female patients, Pino said. No child in Connecticut has been born with a birth defect related to a possible infection, Pino added.

“The Department of Public Health has decided to establish a sentinel system in the southern part of the state,” Pino said. “We are basically coordinating with community health centers, hospitals and emergency rooms.”

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DOJ Blocks Merger with Anthem and Aetna


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice blocked another mega merger in the health industry with a new lawsuit against two healthcare giants.

The DOJ on Thursday announced it will file lawsuits to block the Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana health-insurer mergers, which largely represents anti-competitive behavior.

These Wall Street driven deals would have had on our health care system, health advocates said.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have also joined the U.S. action against the Anthem-Cigna deal, including Connecticut, New York and California.

Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, and the Connecticut Medical Society, a coalition opposing the mergers, applaud the DOJ for putting the interest of the consumer first and for acknowledging the harm these mega-mergers will cause the public.

“The people of Connecticut and the nation now have a major ally in the fight against these mergers,” said Frances Padilla, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. “While these mega-mergers once seemed inevitable, when the facts surfaced, it became very clear to the Department of Justice just how harmful these deals will be to everyday people.”

The insurance companies can now choose to go to court and fight the federal government’s lawsuit, or they can decide to settle with the DOJ outside of court or terminate the deals all together.

These mergers would transform the health insurance market by turning its five biggest companies into three.

The Anthem-Cigna merger, in particular, would be the largest health insurance merger in U.S. history and impact 1.5 million Connecticut residents.

“This is an important first step in highlighting the significant deficiencies in these proposed mergers, and their negative impact on patient access to care in Connecticut and throughout the county,” said Matthew Katz, chief executive officer at the Connecticut Medical Society. “CSMS has expressed major concerns with giant health insurers becoming goliaths with exclusive or near-exclusive power to dictate price and care delivery to the detriment of patient medical care.”

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HIV Testing Day Slated for June in CT Cities


NEW HAVEN — Planned Parenthood of Southern New England will offer free rapid HIV testing services at select health centers in Connecticut this June.

National HIV Testing Day is June 27.

In the United States, more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV. In Connecticut, there are more than 10,200 people living with HIV. Almost one in seven do not know they are infected.

“You cannot tell by looking at someone if they have HIV – the only way to know is to get tested. We invite all people who do not know their status to come for a free test,” said Judy Tabar President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “National HIV Testing Day is a reminder that getting tested for HIV is an important step in stopping the spread of HIV and taking care of ourselves.”

In an effort to promote early detection and a healthy community, PPSNE will be offering free rapid HIV tests at select health centers during normal business hours on Monday, June 27.

Appointments are not necessary, but encouraged. Everyone who gets tested on June 27 will receive a free information bag that includes fun giveaways, educational brochures and safe sex supplies. The following health centers in Connecticut will be providing free rapid tests:

Bridgeport Health Center

211 State Street

Bridgeport, CT 06604

8 AM – 3:30 PM

Hartford Health Center

1229 Albany Avenue

Hartford, CT 06112

11 AM – 6:45 PM

New Haven Health Center

345 Whitney Avenue

New Haven, CT 06511

9 AM – 6:30 PM

“Our health centers are open to everyone and we are here to answer any questions or concerns anyone may have. Once you know your status, there is a lot you can do to protect your health, including practicing safer sex,” said Tabar. “The sooner you know your status, the sooner you can get any treatment and information you might need. Early treatment can help prevent serious health problems in the future.”

To make an appointment or for more information, call 1 (800) 230-PLAN (7526) or visit ppsne.org.

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Foodshare Summer Meals Begin This June


HARTFORD —  This summer Foodshare is partnering with several organizations to present Summer Meals Madness, a series of basketball events that will inform, engage and excite kids—and everyone 18 and under will receive a free meal.

Summer Meals Madness will run June through August at locations across the region, including Hartford, New Britain and Windsor. The program will offer
  • Free meals for all kids 18 & under, with information on free meals locations near you this summer. Mini skills clinics, with support from local athletes
  • A basketball competition for kids of all ages—winners will be invited to compete in our championship event in early August!
  • Special guest appearances by Fox 61 or iHeart Media
  • Prizes & Giveaways
For a complete list of participating sites, visit us online or call (860) 286-9999.

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Huntington to Hold Annual “Hope Walk”


KILLINGWORTH — The Connecticut Affiliate of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America is holding their 10th annual Team Hope Walk at Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth.

The Team Hope Walk program is HDSA’s largest grassroots event set for May 15, and will be held on over 100 cities across the country.

All proceeds support HDSA’s fight to improve the lives of people affected by HD and their families. We thank National sponsors Lundbeck and Teva Pharmaceuticals and local sponsors, Oak & Velvet, Backus Hospital, Suzio York-Hill, Tatas Family Restaurant, HDHat, The Mark, Devine Brothers, Kindred Healthcare at Laurel Lakes, The Lloyd Family and the Nixon Family. We also thank Kohl’s Cares Associates in Action for volunteering to help the day of the walk.

Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and the walk kicks off at 10 a.m.

The Connecticut Affiliate is asking for support of the community to become a sponsor, form a team, walk as an individual, donate products or volunteer to help with the event activities. This 1 1/2 mile scenic walk is a fun, family-friendly event that includes food, music, raffle/auction items and children’s activities, including face painting, balloon animals and magic. Dogs are welcome and children can ride their bikes. There is also trout fishing if you have your license.

The walk is handicap accessible. Sonar, the Hartford Wolfpack mascot will be there. You only need $25 sponsorship per person to participate.

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a devastating, hereditary, degenerative brain disorder that results in a loss of cognitive, behavioral and physical control, and for which, presently, there is no cure and only one FDA-approved treatment for one of the symptoms. HD slowly diminishes the affected individual’s ability to walk, think, talk and reason. Symptoms usually appear in an individual between 30 and 50 years of age and progress over a 10 to 25 year period.  Cases of Juvenile HD have been diagnosed in children as young as two years of age. More than 30,000 people in the United States are currently diagnosed.  Each of their siblings and children has a 50 percent risk of developing the disease, therefore 250,000 are at risk.  There are thousands of people in CT affected by this fatal disease.

Although medications can relieve some symptoms in certain individuals, research has yet to find a means of conquering or even slowing the deadly progression. However, recent research has found a way to silence the defective gene. There is hope for the future but we need our support.

To volunteer or support the Team Hope Walk, please contact Susan McGann at 860-558-8847 or cthdsa@gmail.com or go to www.hdsa.org/thwct to register and for more information.


 
					

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Youth Service Officers: We are not Abusing Kids in Jail


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A state investigation that uncovered improper use of restraint and seclusion at Connecticut’s juvenile correction facilities left out one important element, front line staff members say: their voices.

“We cannot and will not be portrayed as the enemy or the abuser of the young people we are dedicated to helping and healing,” says Suzanne Borner, a teacher at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys in Middletown.

“We ask you to remember that every story has another side, and a whole lot more context. Please hear ours,” said George Register, a youth service officer of eight years.

For example, consider  the story of Jennie.

A video of her being violently tackled from behind in a hallway was among those made public by the Office of the Child Advocate and became a centerpiece of the investigation‘s condemnation the juvenile facilities’ practices. Jennie had refused to return to her cell in the Pueblo Unit, the secure facility for girls.

“What people don’t realize is that back in July there was a huge riot where every single resident in the facility at the Pueblo Unit was involved. There were staff assaults. There were youth assaults. And there was mass destruction on an entire floor of the facility because the fire system was pulled,” said Sarah Levok, a youth service officer of 13 years. A fight involving four girls happened the night before the incident with Jennie.

“The staff that were still working were under the directive to make sure that they could keep the residents contained, but they still had to have some of their needs met where the kids would have to come out to use the bathroom,” said Levok.

And when Jennie was let out and refused to be locked up in her room again, staff decided they would physically escort her back into her room.

“She did have to get secure and get placed back to where she needed to be in order to keep the unit secure,” said Levok.

Jennie and a male youth service officer were injured in the incident. Last year, 160 staff were injured restraining youth at the state-run jails costing the state nearly $1 million in medical bills or lost time from work, reports the Department of Administrative Services.

The staff’s response to noncompliance of youth in their custody has been the center of debate among mental health experts and state legislators after the release of the Jennie video and seven others showing youth being violently restrained and dragged into seclusion.

Sarah Eagan, the state’s child advocate,  points to state law which only permits restraint or seclusion when there is an imminent risk of injury to the child in custody or others.

 

“That’s not really what happened here. What we had here was a youth standing in the common area and who didn’t want to go to her room which does not necessitate the type of intervention we see here,” she explained during a webinar when releasing the videos last month.

“The fact that they see restraint and seclusion as the only response to the fight the night before is telling,” she said Friday. “They didn’t even have a clinician present. Everyone is such a danger, but they didn’t have a clinician there to help.”

In her 68-page investigation, she documents dozens of stories of youths being restrained or put into solitary confinement for extended periods of time for not following orders.

Frontline staff members counter that they are unfairly being demonized, that the videos are being taken out of context and that they are just following the training they have received to deal with what they describe as a dangerous population.

“Many of our residents are the size of full-grown adults. They are big kids with developmental temperaments of teenagers and oftentimes toddlers. Whatever their history, their diagnosis, no matter how strong our relationships with them, each and every one of our youth at CJTS at any given moment can become aggressive and violent. Each and every one of them is inherently an  imminent risk to themselves and other residents and staff,” explained Peter Maylor, a youth service officer of nine years.

The primary crimes that result in incarceration for youths are mostly nonviolent offenses such as larceny or drug possession, according to the 2014 annual report of CJTS. The training school and Pueblo Unit house youth who commit crimes not serious enough to warrant handling them in the adult corrections system. Last year, 163 boys and girls under age 18 were incarcerated in adult prisons run by the Connecticut Department of Correction.

But several mental health experts said after reviewing the videos that the way the youth are handled might actually be contributing to the volatile environment.

Dr. Julian Ford, a psychiatry professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center, said the videos “show adults using force and coercion in ways that worsen — or actually create — conflict by provoking and escalating youths’ stress reactions.”

Staff members say they are just using the training they have received.

“In order for YSOs to do their work safely and effectively, we need more support from our agency. We need training moments, not ‘Gotcha’ moments. We are striving to do the best we can,” said Register.

“You don’t hear about all the times that staff are talking to kids, building relationships. There are a 1,000 times a day things are deescalated as a result of relations,” said Paula Dillon, a teacher at CJTS.

Staff members explained to reporters last week at their union hall in New Britain what preceded the incidents on the videos and shared stories of the good work that takes place inside the facilities. The unionized mental health professionals that work at the correction centers did not attend the event and have not yet publicly spoken.

Surveillance videos from CJTS

With the release of the videos and the sudden changes that have been made by top officials at DCF and the public spotlight on them, they say it is hard for them to do their jobs.

“Right now our structure is compromised. Our safety is compromised and security is compromised and we are just doing our best to hold it together,” said Levok. “It is very difficult for our managers to know what to tell us. The direction that we are headed in and what to do a lot of the YSOs and staff in general are unclear what their role is. They’re doing their best to use the training.”

DCF officials have said they are working to train staff on trauma-informed best practices that refrain from using restraints and seclusion.

“The men and women working at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and the Pueblo Girls Unit have extremely demanding jobs,” said DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt “The quality of these programs depends on our staff, so it is the department’s responsibility to provide them with our fullest support… We are committed to reducing the use of restraints whenever possible because we are convinced that will be better for youth and safer for staff.  We thank our staff at these programs for the hard work and dedication that they bring every day as they care for these youth. We know how difficult their jobs are and will do everything possible to support the staff in helping the youth. This includes reducing physical interventions.”

Asked if any of the incidents on the videos on the tapes were problematic, staff members who met with reporters last week said no.

hose videos just portrayed us in that one moment. It just looks like people ganging up on kids and restraining them. It never goes like that. There is a great deal of counseling that goes on before anything happens physically with youth,” said James Core, a youth service officer of nine years.

Frontline staff described the hours of talking with youngsters about their problems and the “watch sheets” that show staff checking in on he children when they are in seclusion.

“There’s staff right outside the doors, watching and checking on them,” said Levok.

While she respects their perspective, Eagan said, her investigation revealed that the staff relies too heavily on restraint and closed-door seclusion as opposed to therapeutic interventions and that the agency was unwilling to investigate her concerns.

“These issues are not created by staff and are not unique to Connecticut, but rather can be found in juvenile prisons around the country,” she said. “The videos depict common protocols and procedures in the facility and the additional harms that come to youth and staff through depicted interventions.”

Kristy Ramsey, assistant superintendent of CJTS

In the case of Jennie’s handling, DCF officials have also concluded that their personnel acted improperly, though no staff members have been disciplined for their conduct. Jennie ultimately injured herself after the incident and was hospitalized.

“We recognized immediately that that was not the best way to handle that situation and that was the finding of our own internal review,” Kristy Ramsey, the assistant superintendent of the facility told state legislators two days after the release of the videos.

So far, the legislative hearings about CJTS  have included testimony from DCF officials and mental health experts. No hearings have taken place where the public has had a chance to testify, though top legislators have said they plan to hold one.

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Group Celebrates Landmark Case: Griswold v CT


NEW HAVEN — In commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Griswold v. CT, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England will host a celebration of the landmark Supreme Court decision.

The event will be at the Long Wharf Theatre on Oct. 29, Stage II, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, Connecticut. It is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. with a special pre-event reception for sponsors that includes a meet-and-greet with guest speakers.

Officials said this event will honor the past, celebrate Estelle Griswold and the decision for which she fought so hard and look to the future of women’s health. The event will feature guest speakers Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General and Jonathan Eig, New York Times best-selling author.

“The public health legacy of Griswold cannot be overstated. The case opened a pivotal door for the expansion of vital reproductive health services for women and their families,” said Judy Tabar President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “We are thrilled to have Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Jonathan Eig and our very own Cecile Richards with us to offer their unique insights and opinions. This is sure to be a profound, entertaining and unforgettable evening for our supporters.”

On June 7, 1965, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Connecticut law of no birth control violated the constitutional right to marital privacy. The landmark court decision Griswold v. Connecticut provided the first constitutional protection for birth control and paved the way for the nearly unanimous acceptance of contraception that now exists in this country. The Griswold decision laid the foundation for the right to an abortion and was later used as evidence in Roe v. Wade.

Guests will have the unique opportunity to hear three prolific and profound champions of women’s health.

Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is a nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health and reproductive rights. She leads a movement that has worked for nearly 100 years to build a healthier and safer world for women, men and young people.

Elders was the 15th U.S. Surgeon General, and the first African-American woman to hold that post. Elders remains committed to changing the way we think about health by putting prevention first. She has also stated that she wants “every child that’s born in the world to be planned and wanted.”

Eig is the New York Times best-selling author of The Birth of The Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution, in which he chronicles the social and cultural history of “the pill” in the form of a gripping scientific suspense story.

This special event is open to the public. For more information, to become a sponsor or purchase tickets visit giving.ppsne.org/Griswold50, call (203) 752-2813 or email special.events@ppsne.org. Tickets – which are expected to sell out – can be purchased online and begin at $95.

 

 

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Feds tell States to Stop Processing Food Stamp Benefits


WASHINGTON –The state’s 423,000 food stamp recipients could soon be early victims of Washington’s budget crisis.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has instructed the Connecticut Department of Social Services and similar agencies in all of the states to not dispense any October benefits to food stamp recipients “until further notice.”

The USDA cites the threat of a federal government shutdown on Oct. 1 as the reason for holding up the benefits. Some $60 million in food aid could hang in the balance, one Connecticut official said.

“Considering the operational issues and constraints that exist in automated systems, and in the interest of preserving maximum flexibility, we are directing States to hold their October issuance files and delay transmission to State electronic benefit transfer (EBT) vendors until further notice,” the USDA letter from Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe said.

The stopping of processing October’s benefits means recipients are likely to suffer a delay in benefits, even if Congress resolves the standoff over the federal budget in the next few days.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a champion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) the formal name for food stamps, said she spoke with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday and was told there is not enough money in a contingency fund to continue benefits past the end of the month.

“To hear of this impending disaster when we are preparing to hear from His Holiness Pope Francis, who has spoken so eloquently about hunger, is nothing short of a cruel joke,” DeLauro said. The Pope arrived in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

The last time the government shut down, in 2013, SNAP benefits continued because there was enough money left in a stimulus bill fund to keep the program running. This time that is not the case.

Congress is running out of time to approve a budget for fiscal year 2016 or even approve a short term funding bill, called a continuing resolution. The bill is stymied by the insistence of conservative Republicans that Planned Parenthood be defunded in the legislation.

“What kind of morality moves them?” DeLauro asked.

GOP lawmakers were prompted to defund Planned Parenthood after a series of undercover videos were released, showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing — sometimes in a cavalier manner — arrangements to provide fetal tissues to medical laboratories.

“Republicans in Congress are proposing to deprive people of food – literally. And they’re doing it over bogus videos,” said Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel Malloy. “That Congress would shut down the government over bogus videos and in the process, deprive families in need of food is unbelievably alarming and unbelievably reckless.”

David Dearborn, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Social Services, said like many other states, Connecticut administers SNAP benefits through a federal account – not grants or a reimbursement program.

“If that federal account is actually frozen in October, about $60 million in food benefits would be withheld from Connecticut households and the food economy, ranging from supermarkets to farmers’ markets, throughout the state,” Dearborn said.

Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!, a non-profit that helps Connecticut residents sign up for the food stamp program, said damage has been done already, even if there is no shutdown. That’s because it will take a few days for benefits distribution to resume and recipients, especially the elderly, are likely to drop off the program.

“If they go to shop and there’s nothing on their cards, they are going to think they’ve been cut off,” Nolan said.

She said she would try to warn recipients about the situation. “Meanwhile, I hope the food banks and food pantries are prepared,” Nolan said.

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