A pair of scientific papers published recently revealed that editing the genome with the popular molecular tool called CRISPR may cause cancer. CRISPR involves making precise ‘cuts’ in the genetic code, which some cells may perceive as damage with the potential to result in harmful mutations. In its defense, the cell may activate anti-cancer pathways to combat the perceived attack and cause the cell to die – rendering the CRISPR edit useless. The papers published this week demonstrated that certain cells are able to survive editing by CRISPR but lack a functional anti-cancer pathway, leaving them vulnerable.
Twenty years ago, Jim lived under a highway bridge in New Haven. He was in his 50s and had once been in the Army. After an honorable discharge, he bounced from one job to another, drank too much, became estranged from his family and finally ended up homeless. A New Haven mental health outreach team found him one morning sleeping under the bridge. The team tried for months to get Jim to accept psychiatric services. Finally, one day, he relented. The outreach workers quickly helped him get disability benefits, connected him to a psychiatrist and got him a decent apartment. But two weeks later, safe in the apartment, Jim said he wanted to go live under the bridge again. He was more comfortable there, where he knew people and felt like he belonged, he said. In his apartment he was cut off from everything.
Achieving good health isn’t just about managing your blood pressure, controlling your weight or staying away from tobacco – although all of these are important. Good health is actually much more complex and includes social and emotional dimensions in addition to the physical. For example, where you live matters. The safety of your neighborhood, the quality of your schools, your access to transportation and other “social determinants” can all affect your health.
Last week we learned that state funds for critical programs that serve high-risk youth and families was “swept” as “an inadvertent casualty” of the transfer of juvenile justice services and its funds from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the Court Support Services Division (CSSD), a branch of the Department of Justice. The transfer resulted in a $7 million shortfall for DCF-funded behavioral health services. Letters have been sent to providers informing them funding for these programs will be eliminated as of June 30, 2018. And the high-risk children are those with substance use, mental health, and behavioral problems severe enough to land them in juvenile court and in jeopardy of out-of-home placement. One hundred kids and their families, in one Waterbury program alone, are to be terminated from services.
As a physician, far too often, I see the consequences of unfair prescription drug pricing on patients in our community. One of the first patients I ever cared for at the primary care center where I currently practice was a middle-aged man with poorly controlled diabetes. His diabetes is in part uncontrolled because he cannot afford to pay for the medications and supplies needed to manage his condition. The Connecticut General Assembly has the power to contain the cost of prescription drugs and it’s time for them to act.
Every non-fatal opioid overdose represents an opportunity to help curb Connecticut’s opioid crisis, but we know little about the number and location of such poisonings. By mandating confidential data collection for suspected prehospital opioid overdose, Senate Bill 511, An Act Concerning Opioids, aims to address this issue. Since 2012, Connecticut has witnessed a 400 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths, and the number of non-fatal overdoses is certainly greatly increased too. Targeting opioid interventions to groups and communities experiencing high rates of non-fatal overdose may prevent future deaths.
All business should have to honor their contracts. So why do we let health insurance companies off the hook? If you sign a one-year lease, your landlord can’t raise the rent six months in. This makes sense. Yet, we allow health insurance companies to change their prescription drug coverage midyear, when consumers are already locked into their plans. Commercial health insurers in Connecticut are free to make coverage changes in the middle of the year that reduce or eliminate prescription drug benefits, forcing people onto less expensive – and often less effective – medications.
Supporters of access to health care at Planned Parenthood were thrilled to see the House pass HB 5210 with huge bipartisan support 114-32 on April 26. Thanks go to Rep. Sean Scanlon, House chair of the Insurance Committee, who led this bill to victory in the House. In partnership with many women legislative allies of both parties, we are now one step closer to ensuring the 10 essential benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and women’s preventive health, are protected in state law regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C.
I am writing to counter recent arguments that Connecticut’s economic woes mean that we can’t afford to pass ‘compassionate’ bills like House Bill 5387, AN ACT CONCERNING PAID FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE, despite strong bipartisan support inside the legislature and outside in the real world. Frankly, I am surprised by the lack of vision shown by opponents of the bill. How can we move forward and build our economy without creative solutions? The House passed HB 5386 last week by a vote of 142-4 and I would urge the Senate to move quickly to send it to the governor’s desk.
Connecticut is an affordable health care success. Under Democratic leadership, the state established Access HealthCT, the most efficient and successful state-level health insurance exchange of any state in the country! It was so well managed, that its CEO, Kevin J. Counihan, was selected to head the federal exchange. It was the enthusiastic support of engaged citizens that allowed us to pass landmark legislation despite strong opposition from the Republican-controlled general assembly. One might ask, where does their loyalty lie when they fight against beneficial healthcare measures intended to support their own constituencies?
For more than 376,000 Connecticut residents each year, their medical needs are provided by a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a community health center which gives patients top-level primary, dental and behavioral health care at a fraction of the cost of an emergency room visit. This includes First Choice Health Centers in East Hartford, Manchester and Vernon, which serves more than 21,000 people annually, many of whom otherwise cannot afford regular access to medical care.