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Police Paint Picture Of Week’s Work: Guns, Drugs, Murders


Fran Morgan, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — City police has been busy this past week, ridding the streets of guns, drugs and murderers.

Since last week, Hartford Police have issued a search warrant, arrested a man of homicide crack down on illegal liquor licenses among other crime busting activities, according to police reports.

The Smith and Wesson .22 caliber revolver seized from 67 Edgewood Street

This week, police show a photo of a Smith and Wesson (see photo inset). But there’s no word of how the gun made its way into the hands of three twenty-something young, black men.

On Thursday, detectives from the Hartford Police Department’s Vice and Narcotics Division with assistance from the Hartford Police Department’s Emergency Response Team and the Northeast Conditions unit, served a search and seizure warrant at 67 Edgewood St.

The search warrant was the result of a narcotics investigation at that location, police said.  As a result of the search warrant a half of pound of marijuana, packaging materials, scales and a loaded Smith and Wesson .22 caliber revolver were seized.

Four men were arrested:

  • Jerrell Strickland, 22, of 88 Warrenton AveHartford was charged with criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.
  • Marvin Parker, 30, of 166 Collins St., Hartford was charged with criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.
  • Carlvin Duncan, 29, of 67 Edgewood St;, Hartford was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell controlled substance, possession with intent to sell within 15,00 yards of a school and risk of injury to a minor.
  • A fourth party identified as Eric Duncan, 21, of 67 Edgewood St., Hartford was arrested on a violation of probation warrant.

On the next day, Friday, Oct. 22,  police conducted a liquor permit compliance inspection at the following four Hartford bars:

  • The Mama Juana at 624-626 Franklin Ave. was found to have liquor violations. 
  • The Sanctuary at 81-83 Asylum St. was found to have liquor violations.
  • The Franklin Bar and Grille, at 453 Franklin Ave. does not have a valid liquor permit and is prohibited from serving alcohol. There were no violations at this establishment.
  • The New Nutmeg Lodge at 171 Bellevue St. had no violations.

The businesses found in violation were referred to the Liquor Control Division for follow-up, police said.

Setectives from the Hartford Police Department’s Major Crimes Division identified the Hazel Street homicide victim on Saturday, Oct. 23.

The victim, police said, was Bruno Lugo, 32,  of Hartford.

On Saturday  at 2:21 a.m., Hartford Police officers responded to the vicinity of 21 Hazel Street on reports of shots fired.  Subsequent calls for service led officers to 59 Orange Street where Lugo was found suffering from gunshot wounds.

Lugo was transported to St. Francis Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 2:46 a.m.


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Report: African Americans Over-represented in Residential Mental Health Facilities


By Adam Stulhman and Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writers

HARTFORD—African Americans are over-represented among in-patient or residential psychiatric care facilities, according to a recent report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Connecticut mirrors this national trend.

According to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, there are 647 (or 6 percent) Hispanic, 2,924, (or 8 percent) white, and 1,080, (or 12 percent) African American patients in inpatient or residential care.

Moreover, the percentage of blacks in these facilities is almost twice that of whites in all hospitals, except private psychiatric hospitals. Experts say this trend is because of a variety of culturally influenced reasons: poverty, stigma, biases, and a lack of mental health providers, who are culturally adept with people of color. According to NAMI, which gave the nation a “D” on delivery of mental health services, these reasons are major contributing factors that hinder minorities from seeking out treatment before “symptoms become so severe that they warrant inpatient care.”

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Additionally, African Americans have experienced “racist slights in their contacts with the mental health system,” according to the same 2009 NAMI report. “Some of these concerns are justified on the basis of research revealing clinician bias in over-diagnosis of schizophrenia and under-diagnosis of depression among African Americans.”

The disproportionate number of blacks in inpatient or residential treatment is alarming because African Americans have the same rate of mental illness as whites, experts say.

Yet, African Americans are underrepresented in outpatient treatment populations but over-represented in public inpatient psychiatric care. The causal factor in the under-representation of blacks in outpatient treatment is the out-of-pocket expense, or lack of employer-based managed care, the report says. Consequently, only working and middle-class blacks, who have insurance, can afford outpatient care. However, the racial gap between African American and white’s use of community-based programs is nonexistent because treatment is financed by public sources, especially Medicaid.

mental-health-in-hartford-ctAccording to Zelphia Hunter, a recovery coach specialist at Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership and a coordinator of Shining Hope for Communities, the findings in the report resonates with her on a personal and professional level.

Hunter, a Hartford resident who lives with depression, said the “biases” that mental health providers have towards victims of mental illness are preventing many blacks from getting the services they may need.

“People need to realize that they have biases,” said Hunter, “and despite the fact that they may have good intentions, mental health providers need more training on how to deal with their biases, and how these biases hinder other people from getting help. People just need to understand that this is discrimination.”

Part of breaking down these barriers, Hunter said, is to promote more cultural awareness, and through the training and hiring of more Africans and Latinos in the mental health field.

“There is not enough training in cultural sensitivity and diversity in Connecticut,” Hunter said, “We need more people of color in the mental health field.”

Related Stories: 

African Americans Negotiate Mental Illness, Black Pain

Q and A :Terrie Willams, Mental Health Advocate, Author

Kate Mattias, Executive Director of the CT NAMI chapter, concurred with Hunter, saying that there needs to be better access and treatment for African Americans and Latinos.

Said Mattias:“African Americans and Latinos access mental health services at a far lesser degree then the general population. We need to increase the number of culturally competent providers.”

Like many community activists and scholars, State Representative Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) links the increase in mental health patients in the community to mass incarceration and said the state has been awakened about these longstanding issues. The legislature, he said, is now seeking policy changes to address these complex issues.

“We need to make changes to the laws that have led to higher rates of incarceration for African Americans, and one way this might happen is through people being able to earn credits for release while serving time by going to treatment while in jail. This could take time off a sentence.”

Ritter also said that more changes in the quality of healthcare are on the horizon.

“In the coming weeks, we might see a change in the uneven access to care available, and we might also have more beds for children,” he said.

Communications Director for the Department of Children and Families Gary Kleeblatt said that there is also a need to improve the quality of services available to black and Latino children.

“We are interested in continual improvement of services for children of color. They have needs and we need to improve upon meeting those needs,” Kleeblatt said. “We also need to expand and improve community-based health services, a more concentrated effort to move resources from residential treatment centers and group homes to children that are at home.”

 

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Q and A: Terrie M. Williams


Editor’s Note: Terrie M. Williams will keynote a special forum today at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture. The forum begins at 5: 30 p.m. This interview is by Ann-Marie Adams.

1. Why should people pay attention to “black pain”–their pain?

Because we’re dying. Some people, like Susan Taylor, never publicly disclosed their depression. It’s a part of the healing when we get up and share our story, especially if I share my story and encourage other people sharing. There’s a great comfort and relief in doing so because we find out we’re not alone. In the upcoming March issue of Essence, they are going to be doing a story profiling three women who suffer from depression. One of them is a young lady I mentor–Jourdan Atkinson. She was always angry. Then she spoke about the numerous rape. She stood up and said something out loud. That’s the power of sharing our story. One young man stabbed someone seven times. He didn’t kill him. But it was what he said afterward that pierced my spirit. The person he stabbed wasn’t even the person he was mad at. That’s why we need to smile at people. We need to make people feel like they matter–not that they are less than. That’s why I think everyone should care about this issue. Life happens to us. The question isn’t what’s wrong with her or him. It’s what happened to her or him.

African Americans Negotiate Mental Illness, Black Pain

2. You talked about the notion of anger and how the black community deal with that anger. Some people would say black people have a reason to be angry.

I’m glad you mention that. But there’s a danger in that anger when we start to hurt other people. I mentioned the young man who was angry and stabbed someone seven times even though he wasn’t mad that that person.

3. What have you learned since your book was published four years ago?

If I had more time I would have added two things. I would have written about seniors, gays, lesbians and the transgendered population. So many people suffer from depression because they feel they can’t be who they are. I would address the challenges, the pain and the depression that comes from being different.

4. Is there hope?

We can’t fall off the floor. There’s no way to go but up. The book came out in 2008. But it’s almost as if it just came out. People are still writing me, telling me their stories. I received a letter from a person’s son in prison. Someone sent him the book believing “he’ll read this book now, and he’ll understand why he’s there.” He read the book, identified with so many of the issues and he now understands why he’s there. Another woman got sick and tired of the dysfunction in her family. She bought the books, sent them to her family and got them to go to therapy. She realized the dysfunction and pain. And got fed up and told them they needed to come together. The book is making a difference in people’s lives. It lets people know it’s not healthy to keep these things to yourself. I still go to thearapy twice a month. I still take medication. There’s no shame here.

5. Any other thoughts you’d like to share as you get ready to visit Hartford, CT?

I feel honored and blessed to come there. Because it’s what our people need. Without your mental and emotional health for well being, you will become undone. We see all these personalities unraveling in front of us. The only means that if you have money, you just have more money to self-medicate.

Terrie M. Williams, author of “Black Pian: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting” will keynote a special forum today at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture, 500 Main Street, Hartford, CT, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, please call 860-404-2104.

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Terrie Williams to Keynote Mental Health Forum


HARTFORD — Gun violence. Poverty. Unemployment. All play a role in the mental and emotional health of African Americans, who are over-represented in high-need populations that are more at risk for mental illnesses, according to a 2009 study by Yale University.

The Hartford Guardian’s special series about mental health in the African-American community will culminate with a free public forum: Black Pain: Negotiating Health Disparities in the African American Community on Thursday, Jan. 24 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hartford Public Library’s Center for Contemporary Culture located at 500 Main Street.

Terrie M. Williams, noted author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting and founder of The Terrie Williams Agency in New York, will be the keynote speaker at a public forum about depression in the Black community.

Williams’ remark will be followed by a panel discussion. Panelists include: Connecticut Senator Toni Harp (D-New Haven); Kevin Muhammed, President of Connecticut Emancipation Challenge; Trevor Foster, Owner of Tru Books; Naeem Muhammed, Social Worker with the Department of Children and Families among others. Also, Ann-Marie Adams, Founder of The Hartford Guardian, will moderate.

The Terrie Williams Agency is one of the country’s most successful public relations firms-handling through the years the biggest names in entertainment, sports, business, and politics. Clients included Miles Davis, Eddie Murphy, Prince, Mo’Nique, Sean Combs, Russell Simmons, Johnnie L. Cochran, Essence Communications Partners, Time Warner, HBO and dozens of other notable personalities and corporations.

Williams is a clinical social worker by training who became successful public relations pro by her own design. Over the years she has emerged as a passionate advocate for youth and those who battle depression.

All are welcome to participate in the discussion. Williams’ books will be on sale. And refreshments will be served from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Partners for this event include the Connecticut Health Foundation, The Department of Mental Health’s Office of Multicultural Partnership, the African-American Affairs Commission, the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, The Hartford Guardian, The ROOT.COM, Hot 93.7, WNPR, and other community-based organizations.

For more information, call Fran Wilson at 860-404-2104.

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God, The Church and Race in America



 By Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D. | @annmarieadams

Life is full of turning points, moments when certain aspects of the human dimension hinges on a single crucial choice. April 4, 2014 was a turning point for me as a Christian.

That’s because the Hartford Police Department interrupted my relationship with God, while I was attending a Catholic church and exploring other faith-based organizations in the Greater Hartford area. Those officers and others disrupted my learning about the ritual of making the sign of the cross, praying, saying penance, reading the Bible and singing to God. This disruption was disturbing and can be seen as an act of religious persecution. Out of that kind of interruption by the police and others, several providential acts occurred. And this, too, can also be considered a continuation of my spiritual journey that began in the year 2000 as a reporter in Connecticut.

Since 2000, I have visited several denominations in the Greater Hartford area to find a church home that inspires me. I visited ones that seemingly met the criteria: Pentecostal, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic churches after I left my first home church: The African Methodist Episcopal Church, where I learned about liberation theology. It emphasizes social concern for the poor and political liberation for the oppressed. This notion is akin to Portuguese educator Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed. When teaching, I strive to adopt this approach to reach my students.

Dr. Ann-Marie Adams at 45 years old experienced God’s powerful and everlasting love.

Of course, that pedagogy and liberation theology in America hinges on the Civil Rights Movement that sees the Bible, particularly the exodus from Egyptian slavery, as a parable depicting the struggle for black freedom. To me, black liberation is also a spiritual journey and is fit for almost every African American who desire true freedom.

So as a history professor and a journalist, I was interested in tracing and parsing the power of agape love, the kind of love for God, country, and family that propelled me to a comfortable place in life. So I was not restless—just looking for a church to not only worship God but to learn more about God’s second coming and his principles.

Since visiting different churches, I found many pastors didn’t preach about the Holy Spirit. After much thought, I had questions: how will we know when God comes? The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 2 that God will come “like a thief in the night.” But those who are evil and want to persecute Christians can come just like a thief in the night, right?

This was the case in 2014. Several thieves attacked me in my home and office. I reported the incident to the Avon and Hartford police departments. And there was no resolution. Instead, there was a series of denials and covert retributions, including media suppression. And those sequence of events led me on a spiritual journey toward being fully aware of the dangers of sharing publicly the joys of being a Christian.

The painful fact is that we live in a time when religious persecution, the systematic mistreatment of an individual or a group is rampant. These persecutions will not be televised. So how do we arm ourselves against such treachery that invades our lives while at home and at work?

On my journey toward edification, I arrived in Hartford.  That’s because I wasn’t able to find a church elsewhere that dealt directly with the daily battle for souls. I didn’t find a church that comforted me in a time of spiritual warfare instigated by outside forces, wrestling with high principalities during presidential election seasons. I believe some pastors lack sufficient knowledge about the Holy Spirit and therefore fail to impart fully the essence of the Trinity: God, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As a historian, I was forced to trace this disconnect between these pastors and the biblical events happening in these times: spiritual warfare, diseases, heathens persecuting Christians at night by disrupting prayer time, interfering with reading the Bible, interrupting church attendance, theft and destruction of property, beatings, torture, incitement of hate and other forms of harassment, and appropriating the likeness of Christians and human trafficing to whore out women who seek fame and fortune.

God is love. And Dr. Adams encountered God’s magnificent light in March 2015.
Photo courtesy of teetree.com

I don’t know much about theology, meaning the study of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But I know this much is true: I experienced the joy of being in the moment with God on earth—a magnificent light force that ferociously tethered the heart, soul and body. Pastor John McHugh authenticated that experience for me, and the uncertainty of the existence of God disappeared, especially after McHugh confirmed the encounter. And of course, I thank God for showing me his Mighty presence. My faith was strong. But I needed proof that there is a God. And one night in October 2015, God came to awaken me to his wonderment and saved me from an attempted murder. Yes, indeed. In March 2015, God interrupted a plot to kill me for my beliefs in faith, principles and justice for all.

I went to Good Friday service at Saint Ann’s Church and kissed the cross. During that veneration of the cross, I discovered that God’s love is indeed fierce. The cross shook in its wooden cradle. It was extraordinary. A powerful moment like a tidal wave, rushing into me, I knew God’s love was real. There in my townhouse, I was caught up in his magnificent light and overwhelming love. And for the first time, I felt deeply what it meant to be dating Jesus. He confirmed his existence for me. Me. And by his spirit, I was set to rise from the ashes of defeat.

I’m at a new church now. Let’s see what God has in store for me.

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Dr. Ann-Marie Adams is an award-winning journalist and historian. She has worked for the Hartford Courant, the Washington Post, People magazine, Fox News and NBC 4 New York. She has taught journalism at Quinnipiac University and Howard University and English Composition at Capital Community College and Tunxis. After she received a Ph.D. from Howard University, she has been teaching U.S. History in the Connecticut State College and University system. @guardianeditor

Photo Courtesy of Fairmount Christians.org.

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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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Redesigning Maternal Care: OB-GYNs Are Urged to See New Mothers Sooner and More Often


By Nina Martin, ProPublica

This story was co-published with NPR.

Doctors would see new mothers sooner and more frequently, and insurers would cover the increased visits, under sweeping new recommendations from the organization that sets standards of care for obstetrician-gynecologists in the U.S.

The 11-page “committee opinion” on “Optimizing Postpartum Care,” released today by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, represents a fundamental reimagining of how providers, insurers and patients can work together to improve care for women after giving birth. “To optimize the health of women and infants, postpartum care should become an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter, with services and support tailored to each woman’s individual needs,” the committee opinion states.

While an ACOG task force began rethinking its approach several years ago, the guidelines arrive at a moment of mounting concern about rising rates of pregnancy-related deaths and near-deaths in the U.S. As ProPublica and NPRhave reported, more than 700 women die every year in this country from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth andmore than 50,000 suffer life-threatening complications, among the worst records for maternal health in the industrialized world. The death rate for black mothers is three to four times that of white women.

The days and weeks after childbirth can be a time of particular vulnerability for new moms, with physical and emotional risks that include pain and infection, hypertension and stroke, heart problems, blood clots, anxiety and depression. More than half of maternal deaths occur after the baby is born, according to a new CDC Foundation report.

Yet for many women in the U.S., the ACOG committee opinion notes, the postpartum period is “devoid of formal or infor­mal maternal support.” This reflects a troubling tendency in the medical system — and throughout American society — to focus on the health and safety of the fetus or baby more than that of the mother. “The baby is the candy, the mom is the wrapper,” said Alison Stuebe, who teaches in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and heads the task force that drafted the guidelines. “And once the candy is out of the wrapper, the wrapper is cast aside.”

The way that providers currently care for pregnant women and infants versus new mothers exemplifies this difference. During the prenatal period, a woman may see her OB-GYN a dozen or more times, including at least two checkups during her ninth month. Her baby’s first pediatric visit usually occurs a few days after birth. But the mother may not have a follow-up appointment with her own doctor until four to six weeks after delivery — and in many cases, insurance only covers one visit. “As soon as that baby comes out, [the mom] is kind of an afterthought,” said Tamika Auguste, associate medical director of the MedStar Health Simulation Training & Education Lab in Washington, D.C., and a co-author of the ACOG opinion.

For working mothers, having to wait four to six weeks makes it harder to arrange a check-up.

Some 23 percent of mothers employed outside the home are back on the job within 10 days of giving birth, a 2014 report for the U.S. Department of Labor found; another 22 percent return to work within 40 days. Lack of childcare and transportation can also present significant hurdles to accessing care. According to ACOG, as many as 40 percent of women skip their postpartum visit; for low-income women of color, the rates are even higher.

“You may have a woman that has asthma, is having problems lactating, and is obese, and when they come to see you at six weeks, we have missed the boat here,” Auguste said.

Nor is a single visit enough time to address a new mother’s questions and concerns, especially if she had a complicated pregnancy or is suffering from chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or a mood disorder. “We’re trying to address all of the issues that women are dealing with after having a baby in one 20-minute encounter,” Stuebe said. “And that’s really hard to do.”

Under the new ACOG guidelines, women would see their providers much earlier — from within three days postpartum if they have suffered from severe hypertension to no later than three weeks if their pregnancies and deliveries were normal— and would return as often as needed. Depending on a woman’s symptoms and history, the final postpartum visit could take place as late as 12 weeks after delivery and ideally would include “a full assessment of physical, social, and psychological well-being,” from pain to weight loss to sexuality to management of chronic diseases, ACOG says.

In another significant change, ACOG is urging providers to emphasize in conversations with patients the long-term health risks associated with pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. “These risk factors are emerging as an important predictor of future [cardiovascular disease],” the recommendations state. “ … [B]ut because these conditions often resolve postpartum, the increased cardiovascular disease risk is not consistently communicated to women.”

Earlier, more frequent and more individualized care could be a step toward addressing the stark racial disparities in maternal and infant health, said ACOG’s outgoing president,Haywood Brown, who has made reforming postpartum care one of the main initiatives of his term. Black mothers are at higher risk for many childbirth complications, includingpreeclampsia, heart failure and blood clots, and they’re more likely to suffer long-lasting health consequences. They also have higher rates of postpartum depression but are less likely to receive treatment. Regardless of race, for women whose pregnancies are covered by Medicaid, the postpartum period may be their best opportunity to get help with chronic conditions before they lose insurance coverage.

The new guidelines urge doctors to take a proactive approach, helping patients develop a postpartum care plan while still pregnant, including a team of family and friends to provide social and other support. According to ACOG, one in four new mothers surveyed recently said they didn’t even have a phone number of a health care provider to contact with concerns about themselves or their babies.

ACOG isn’t the only organization calling for a reinvention of postpartum care; patient-safety groups, researchers, nursesand midwives have also tackled the issue, recasting the three months after birth as akin to a “fourth trimester.”

“The postpartum period has become a priority,” said Debra Bingham, a professor of nursing at the University of Maryland and executive director of the Institute for Perinatal Quality Improvement who has participated in many of these initiatives.

Some providers, including Brown, who is affiliated with Duke University, are already incorporating some of ACOG’s ideas. Still, putting the reforms into common practice may take years. One of the biggest impediments is insurance reimbursement. Currently, payment for prenatal care, delivery and a single post-birth visit is bundled together into one global fee, creating a disincentive for doctors to see patients more than once, Auguste said.

The disincentives are greater for women on Medicaid, which pays for about half of U.S. births. What’s more, in many states Medicaid coverage ends at two months postpartum. The ACOG opinion didn’t estimate the cost of implementing its recommendations.

Brown agreed that revamping how postpartum care is reimbursed is critical, and insurance representatives — along with members of other medical specialties — were on the ACOG task force that drafted the new guidelines. “I want to make sure that I get some employee health plans and some health systems to adopt this nationally,” Brown said.

Indeed, although the guidelines are aimed at OB-GYNs, they would require changes throughout the maternal care system. That’s what ACOG is hoping for. “It’s really a societal call to action,” Stuebe said.

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Why Many Say Thank You to a Cosby Prosecution


By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Disgraced actor-comedian Bill Cosby had two words to say to Pennsylvania District Judge Elizabeth McHugh when she ruled that he must stand trial for sexual assault. The words were “thank you.” The two words were more than simply a case of Cosby being polite. For dozens of women the words were a vindication. These are the women who came forth to say that Cosby drugged, fondled, molested, abused, intimidated, and of course, raped them over the course of many years. They suffered mightily for coming forth. They were lambasted from pillar to post as liars, cheats, sluts, publicity seekers, and every critic’s favorite, gold diggers.

earl-hutchinsonThousands of others never bought Cosby’s long, loud and bitter denials that he was the innocent victim of a giant the-hartford-guardian-Opinioncon game, or the serial denier’s favorite, the victim of a sinister plot by take your pick: the “white man,” “white media,” “white establishment” or simply some unnamed, nebulous white conspirators to bring down a fabulously popular, rich, supremely successful black man. They also said “thank you.”

There were also more than a few legal experts who did not buy the virtual article of faith that there were no legal grounds to prosecute him because the statute of limitations had long since run out on most of the claims. There were just too many alleged victims. That meant that there had to be a case somewhere that fit the bill for a legal prosecution.

Meanwhile, Cosby fed into the conspiracy paranoia and the public trashing of the women by filing motion after motion to duck a prosecution, and defamation of character counter suit after countersuit against his various women accusers. His holding action sufficiently muddied the stream to cast doubt while delaying what was almost certain to be the inevitable. That was his painfully long delayed plop into a court docket.

In the much cited unsealed affidavit Cosby swore to in 2005, he confessed to giving drugs to one woman and getting drugs for other women he wanted to have sex with. This was tantamount to a smoking gun confirmation of what many of his alleged victims claimed, and that was that he plied them with drink and drugs before he sexually waylaid them.

Even without the affidavit, it was not true that a sexual abuser could get away with their crime simply by waiting out the calendar. More than two dozen states have no statute of limitation depending on circumstances in the nature and type of sexual assault. If the evidence was compelling, a Cosby could indeed be prosecuted even decades after the assault in those states.

This gross misconception about prosecuting sexual crimes implanted the dangerous public notion that rape or sexual abuse could be minimalized, marginalized or even mocked because the clock had wound down on when the crime could or even should be prosecuted. A Cosby prosecution rightly tosses the ugly glare back on the wrong public perceptions about rape and sexual abuse and how easily the crime can still be blown off. And it is.

The Iowa Law Review, in March, 2014, found that rape is routinely underreported in dozens of cities. The rape claims were dismissed out of hand with little or no investigation. The result was there were no report, no statistical count, and no record of an attack.

The study zeroed in on the prime reason for this, namely disbelief. It’s that disbelief that assures men such as Cosby are reflexively believed when they scream foul at their accuser. They lambaste their character and motives. If things get too hot, they toss out a few dollars in hush money settlements and the screams are even louder that it was all a shakedown operation in the first place and the victim is further demonized.

This wasn’t the only reason it took so long to prosecute Cosby. He wasn’t just another rich, mediagenic celebrity whose wealth, fame and celebrity status routinely shielded him from criminal charges. Cosby and men like him have deep enough pockets to hire a small army of the best PR flacks around to spin, point fingers, and hector the media that their guy’s pristine reputation is being dragged through the mud precisely because of their fame, wealth, talent and, of course, goodwill.

Cosby was a special case even by the standards of the rich and famed celebrity world. For a decade he reigned as America’s father figure, not black father figure, but father figure. He embodied the myths, fantasies, and encrusted beliefs about the role that a caring, loving, engaged dad is supposed to have with his family. This rendered him almost untouchable when it came to casting any dirt on his character. That’s all past now, Cosby is now just Cosby, the accused rapist, and that’s reason enough to say “thank you.”

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is How “President” Trump will Govern (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media.

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African American Affairs Commission to Host Exhibit


HARTFORD — The African-American Affairs Commission will host a series of events to celebrate black history month.

The events include “ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert” a Black History Art Exhibit, Film Screening and History Exhibit, which will be screened on Feb. 24, in the Old Judiciary Room of the State Capitol at 1:30 p.m. at the CT State Capitol.

After the screening, there will be a film screening & discussion.

Rembert is a self-taught artist, who works out of a humble home in the Newhallville Section of New Haven, CT.  Rembert hand-tools and paints on leather canvases. He uses large sheets of tanned leather into which he carves pictures and then paints them with indelible leather dyes, expressing his colorful, often painful, memories of the Jim Crow south during his youth.

Rembert grew up in Cuthbert, Georgia, where he spent much of his childhood laboring in the cotton fields. He was arrested during a 1960s civil rights march. As a prisoner, he learned to make tooled leather wallets and design on leather.

Now Rembert is telling the next chapter of that story—how a man who learned to tool leather in prison has emerged as an artist on a national platform. The story is captured in a documentary “ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert.”

Artist Winfred Rembert and the film’s Director, Vivian Ducat will be on hand for Q&A after the film.  Click here to view the film trailer.

Rembert’s art work will be displayed in the Legislative Office Building Concourse, 300 Capitol Ave., in Hartford.

The public is invited and encouraged to stop by to view the art exhibit, week days during business hours Feb. 15 – 29.

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A Hate Crime Is a Hate Crime


There isn’t much left in the way of pejoratives that haven’t been said about Vester Flanagan. He was disturbed, deranged, a psychopath, maniacal, the epitome of evil, and a flat-out nut job. The gunning down of TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, and then having the gall to videotape it, and expect it to make the round of cable and network news chatter, was beyond the diabolic.

The twist in Flanagan’s heinous act is that he’s African American and the victims are white. So the inevitable finger pointing began that if it had been the other way around, African Americans would have screamed bloody murder and the furor would have raged.

This is a disingenuous argument. More than a few African Americans did call Flanagan what he was, namely a homicidal nut case, and did offer prayers and condolences to the victims’ families. It was a case of their showing that all really lives do matter.

Almost no one publicly or privately bought into Flanagan’s rambling so-called “manifesto” in which he tried to put a racial rationale on why he did what he did.

Yet, the troubling and inescapable fact is that he did just that.

This is more than enough reason not to shrug it off as the rant of a kook. If Flanagan had lived, he likely would have been slapped with a hate crime prosecution by the feds in addition to state capital murder charges.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionThe hate crime charge would have been justified. And I’m confident that many civil rights leaders would have called for hate crime charges against him. To not call a hate crime a hate crime when the perpetrator is black and the victims are white would leave them wide open to the slur that blacks are hypocrites and have a double standard when the victims are whites.

The victims of Flanagan’s rampage were innocents who, according to his manifesto, one could deduce were shot because they were white.

Blacks must mourn these murders as passionately as they do those of black victims of white attacks. And just as passionately call for the harshest punishment of the killer. The great strength of the civil rights movement was that it seized and maintained the moral high ground by never stooping to ape the violence of white racists.

The Flanagan shooting spree is deeply troubling for another reason. While it is a grotesque and extreme example of racial violence, it is hardly an aberration. Whites at times have been the targets of racially motivated attacks by blacks. While it’s true that some attacks are for their money and valuables, others are revenge assaults by blacks for real or imagined racial insults.

It is equally true that the vast majority of violent crimes against whites are committed by other whites, while the vast majority of violent crimes against blacks are committed by other blacks. It’s also true that the vast majority of racially motivated hate crimes are still committed against blacks.

Yet, even after discounting crimes that are erroneously tagged as racially motivated, many blacks do attack whites because they are white. According to FBI Hate Crime Statistics, among the single-bias hate crime incidents in 2012, there were 3,467 victims of racially motivated hate crimes. It found that nearly one in four were victims of an anti-white bias. In other words, blacks attacking whites because they were white.

A motley collection of white supremacists and rightist extremist groups has eagerly made black-on-white violence a wedge issue in their crusade to paint blacks as the prime racial hatemongers in America. Their websites and blogs shrilly rant about a so-called “wave” of black violence against whites and claim that it gets swept under the rug and the perpetrators handled with kid gloves.

A decade ago, the New Century Foundation, an ultraconservative think tank, launched a national campaign to alert whites to the danger of hate crimes committed by blacks. It uses the issue of black hate crimes to rationalize and bankroll its research into alleged genetic defects among blacks. These groups and individuals relentlessly magnify black hate crimes to oppose affirmative action programs, stronger hate crime laws and various social programs; to justify the proliferation of white-supremacist-tinged paramilitary groups, police violence and racial profiling; and to lobby for more prisons and police and tougher laws. Black-on-white violence also reinforces whites’ fears of blacks as the ultimate menace to society.

The Flanagan onslaught claimed innocent lives and caused monumental pain and suffering to the victims’ families and friends. It dangerously heightens racial distrust and further poisons racial attitudes. This is all the more reason for blacks to quickly and vigorously condemn these attacks. If not, it’s taken by some as a tacit signal that blacks put less value on white lives than on black lives. That notion is a terrible price to pay for not calling a hate crime a hate crime, no matter who commits it.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network.

 

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