Newtown Bee's For Better Health - Fall 2022

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For Better Health THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2022

Adam Roytman at the Newtown Farmer’s Market in September. Roytman represents Jackalope Organic Seeds & Sprouts. Roytman said his microgreens and sprouts offer more nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants than found in mature vegetables. —Bee Photos, Hutchison

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Ian Appleby, of Down To Earth Apiaries, stands with his Newtown Farmer’s Market display of honey sourced locally through his family’s beekeeping. Local honey provides health benefits, including fending off allergies.

Jim Shortt stocks his farm stand with corn. Shortt notes that corn and tomatoes have been go-to veggies for people but that leafy greens are becoming more popular when it comes to eating healthily.

Healthy Eating: Organic Veggies And Locally Sourced Honey Boosts Immunity And Fights Viruses By Andy Hutchison One way to improve or maintain good health is eating healthily, and locally grown vegetables and sourced-honey are things to consider. “You are what you eat,” said Jim Shortt, owner of Shortt’s Farm & Garden Center, while manning his stand — loaded with fresh, colorful farm grown offerings — at the Newtown Farmer’s Market at Fairfield Hills on a September afternoon. In addition to a variety of delicious-looking (and tasting) tomatoes — many varieties, red, yellow, pink, big and small — there were leafy greens and root vegetables that Shortt says are becoming more mainstream as people try to pay more attention to what they are putting in their bodies. “You can definitely see a trend change. It used to be tomatoes and corn, tomatoes and corn,” said Shortt, adding that there has been a stronger interest in kale, arugula, cabbage, beets, and other healthy vegetables. “It was always mainstream but you couldn’t get people to eat much of it.” Sure, food shoppers can load up the cart at any local grocery store but local organic options have more health benefits than store produce, according to a 2021 Hartford

in the winter months, Roytman said. Among his offerings is a Super Food Blend that includes kale, broccoli, arugula, and red cabbage. Roytman said that his products boost immune systems and are known for fighting off infections and diseases, even cancer. “They’re some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables you can put in your body. They cleanse your body,” he said. “They’re insanely healthy,” said Roytman, adding that microgreens and sprouts have 40 times the nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants than found in mature vegetables. “Throughout flu season, if you’re munching on sprouts, you’re good,” Roytman added. He is a chef at Nouveau Monde, 6 Washington Avenue in Sandy Hook, and uses some of his greens in his cooking at the restaurant. Visit jackalopeseeds.com for information.

HealthCare Article “Why Local Produce Is Better For You Than Store-Bought Produce” on the website hartfordhealthcare. org. In the article: “Grocery store produce often has to travel thousands of miles,” said Shannon Haynes, a registered dietician who works at Backus Hospital (in Norwich). “The longer it takes to go from the farm to your table, the more their nutrients deteriorate. All the water-soluble vitamins like C and B6 are temperamental. When you buy fruits and vegetables from a local farm, they have a lot more vitamins and nutrients.” Visit shorttsfarmandgarden.com for information. Flu Combatants Adam Roytman, owner of Newtown-based Jackalope Organic Seeds & Sprouts, was on hand at the Farmer’s Market selling his microgreens, sprouting kits, herb and vegetable seeds, and indoor growing kits. A range of seed packets and starter kits that run from about $18 to $30 were on display at the farmer’s market. The indoor kit seeds do just fine on the kitchen counter with natural light and room temperatures

Organic fruits and vegetables, including these tomatoes from Shortt’s Farm, make for a healthy food option.

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Online Links The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut website (ctnofa.org/ healthyfarms/index.html) provides information and links to information about sourcing local food in Connecticut and

keeping our farms and our families healthy. The site includes a quote from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA): “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” This website indicates that picking your own fruit at local farms is a great way to exercise while learning more about how your food is grown, and includes a link to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s list of “Pick Your Own Farms” around the state. USDA has responded to the growing interest in local and regional foods through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, according to the website, which includes a link to the initiative. “Their mission is to support the critical connection between farmers and consumers and to strengthen USDA’s support for local and regional food systems,” according to the site. Honey For Eating And Healing Ian Appleby of Down To Earth Apiaries, does local beekeeping and honey production with his family in town. The local honey is good for allergies since it is ( continued on page D - 2 )


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THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2022

Considering A Tattoo?

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By Alissa Silber Whether considering a tattoo for the first time or looking to add more to your body art, tattoo aftercare is also an important consideration. Licensed Tattoo Technician Brenton Vaughan, president/CEO of Newtown’s Red Letters Tattoo, specializes in custom tattoos of all styles. As he puts it, at his shop, “We turn your thoughts and ideas into a reality. It’s very important for us to provide the highest quality artwork while making your experience comfortable and enjoyable.” In addition to the creative process, part of Vaughan’s job is communicating with people about how to best care for their art after they leave the tattoo parlor. “It is very important for a tattoo technician to describe aftercare in depth to a client. I always tell my clients that this is the most important part for them,” he said. “We bandage the tattoo and give a step-bystep process on how to care for their tattoo. We also like to make a point to explain some of the science behind the tattoo and the healing to help the client better understand.” Vaughan recommends that people leave their

bandage on for one hour before cleaning it. “At that point, you remove your bandage and give it a good wash with antibacterial soap and water. You then pat the one dry and apply a thin coat of the ointment we recommend. This process is repeated three times a day for one week,” he explained. Another key detail that Vaughan informs clients about is to “stay out of the sun and abstain from soaking the tattoo underwater for two weeks.” These guidelines are crucial to follow because the skin is healing and runs the risk of getting infected if not cared for properly. Tattoo aftercare does not end when the skin is fully healed. According to Vaughan, “For the rest of your life, skin care is tattoo care. Your tattoo is a part of you.” With that in mind, he advises, “Avoid sun or use sunscreen, lotion, exfoliate, drink lots of water, and care for your body!” To learn more, visit redletterstattoo.com or call 203-491-2129. Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Licensed Tattoo Technician Brenton Vaughan shared that this tattoo that he did in Newtown healed very nicely due to the client’s aftercare procedures. —photos courtesy Brenton Vaughan

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Regardless of the placement of a new tattoo, such as this back tattoo done by Brenton Vaughan, clients must wash the skin with antibacterial soap and put ointment on it three times a day for a week.

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Healthy Eating: Organic Veggies And Locally Sourced Honey Boosts Immunity And Fights Viruses ( continued from page D - 1 ) sourced from bees that are local, Appleby said in between selling to customers at the farmer’s market. “Honey is an anti-fungal, anti-viral antibiotic,” Appleby said. “You can use it externally as well as internally.” That’s right, not only can honey be enjoyed on toast, for example, but the right varieties of honey can be used to help in the healing process with cuts. Appleby said his wife is an herbalist and they have come up with honey containing healing herbs. No beeswax Band-Aid substitutes, but honey is filling in for another first aid kit staple in Appleby’s home. “In our house I’ve replaced Neosporin with our own honey,” he said. Appleby noted that honey has quite a shelf life. It does not spoil, he said, so it is a good item to store and use when needed. A number of honey options from straight honey you eat to herbal honey to honeycombs on hand at the farmer’s market range in price from $10 to $15. Visit downtoearthapiaries.com for information. Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com. Organic varieties, such as these tomatoes and squash from Shortt’s Farm, have more health benefits than store produce, according to a hartfordhealthcare.org article.

Thanks to the client following proper tattoo aftercare, this leg tattoo that Brenton Vaughan created healed properly.


THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2022

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Don’t Let Stuttering Stigmatize Your Child — Local Specialists Are Ready To Help By Eliza Hallabeck Stuttering impacts more of the population than most people realize, according to Beth Coppolecchia, MSCCC-SLP, of Ivy Rehab for Kids HSS Pediatric Therapy Center of Excellence of Newtown. “Some people kind of think that it is less common than it is; it’s actually about 70 million people or one percent of the entire population,” said Coppolecchia. October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day. The day’s purpose, according to nationaldaycalendar.com, is to: “Change public attitudes and eliminate societal discrimination toward people who stutter; promote the self-esteem and opportunities of people who stutter to reach goals and aspirations; [and] build a community and provide an opportunity to exchange ideas and strengthen the relationship among researchers, people who stutter, clinicians, and parents of children who stutter.” Ivy Rehab for Kids has three speech therapists, two physical therapists, and three occupational therapists, Coppolecchia shared. Located at 33 Church Hill Road, Ivy Rehab for Kids, according to its website, ivyrehab.com, provides “pediatric physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy to meet the rehabilitation needs of our young patients, their physicians, and their parents. Our staff at our clinic in Newtown is dedicated to individual attention and customized plans to meet your child’s needs.” When it comes to stuttering, most patients are referred to the center by a pediatrician, who will generally state that stuttering is an issue. So at Ivy Rehab for Kids, assessments will be held to form a clinical decision, Coppolecchia explained. Patients with stuttering can range from preschool to adulthood. There are different types of stuttering, Coppolecchia shared, and there are different approaches, depending on age and form. “Readers should understand that stuttering is a physiological disorder and happens when demands exceed capacity,” said Kerri Bell, MSCCC-SLP, the lead speech language pathologist at Ivy Rehab For Kids. “It is not a reflection of low intelligence and it is not a reflection of emotional or psychological problems.”

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Visual aids like these are used at Ivy Rehab for Kids HSS Pediatric Therapy Center of Excellence of Newtown to help patients who stutter. Stuttering Manifestations There are child onset stuttering and neurological stuttering forms. For child onset stuttering, Coppolecchia said there is both family and environment education for whoever is around the child that can be utilized, and for adult onset stuttering there are behavior modifications, though it depends on what caused the stuttering. School-aged children can be taught strategies that can help reduce the opportunities of stuttering. “Singing can be a method that we use to help people who stutter.” Bell said if a parent is questioning their child’s communication skills, they should consult with their pediatrician and schedule an evaluation with a licensed speech language pathologist. “Early intervention is key to success in therapy,” said Bell. Coppolecchia wants people to know that stuttering has nothing to do with intellect. There are many famous people who stutter that people may not know stutter. Stuttering can be family history based, as many cases have a relative who stutters, Coppolecchia shared. One other important thing for people to know, is that bullying of children who stutter happens, Coppolecchia said. For

parents of children with classmates who stutter, Coppolecchia said it is helpful to speak with the child to explain that though a classmate communicates differently than themselves, they are not different. “They are still a friend in their class, a friend to play with,” said Coppolecchia. Addressing a myth about stuttering, Coppolecchia said people do not necessarily stutter because they are nervous; though it may be something that can happen out of nervousness it may not be the cause. “I love what I do. One day to the next is never the same,” said Coppolecchia. And Bell loves the meaningful connections with patients and seeing the changes the efforts can have with patients. “It is highly rewarding when you can work with a patient suffering from a communication disorder and make positive changes that open up that patient’s life to many good things. That is priceless,” said Bell. More information about Ivy Rehab for Kids in Newtown is available online at ivyrehab.com/location/newtownct.

Nash, LCSW, a therapist and cofounder of Newtown Family Therapy. She pointed out that one of the first signs of depression is “no interest in doing things they used to enjoy,” as well as “having dark thoughts.” Depression is a “spectrum,” according to Nash, and can be recurring and or severe. According to the ADAA’s website, depression affects one’s cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical functions. “One of the most insidious aspects of depression is that it tricks you into thinking that nothing will help, or that the relief will be temporary, and it will keep you in a cycle of maladaptive thinking, feeling, and doing (or non-doing),” states the website. “However, there are steps one can take to cope with depression.” Misunderstanding Promotes Stigma Nash said that there is a stigma surrounding depression. “People think it looks one way but it generally doesn’t,” said Nash. Treatment for depression varies by the type of depression, said Nash, and not all depression comes with suicidal thoughts,

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Local Clinical Social Worker Unpacks Myths, Realities About Depression By Jim Taylor According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) website, the term “depression” often characterizes “feelings of being sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, unmotivated, as well as a general lack of interest or pleasure in life.” “When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be called a passing case of ‘the blues,’ states the website. “But it’s likely to be a depressive disorder when they last for more than two weeks and interfere with regular daily activities.” Losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, going through a divorce, and other difficult situations can lead a person to feel sad, lonely, and scared. These feelings are normal reactions to life’s stressors. Most people feel low and sad at times. However, in the case of individuals who are diagnosed with depression as a psychiatric disorder, the manifestations of the low mood are much more severe and they tend to persist. A person might be depressed if they have any of the following symptoms: persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood; loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”; low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain; restlessness and irritability; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and pessimism; insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping; and thoughts of death or suicide, as well as suicide attempts. During October — Depression Awareness Month — The Newtown Bee reached out to Katie

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that is severe depression. Treatments range from talk therapy to being referred to a psychiatrist for medication. Sometimes a person may need to switch medications if an old medication no longer works. Causes may be chemical in the brain or may be due to environmental factors, such as the loss of a loved one. People with recurring depression usually have a chemical cause for their depression. When asked how to know if a person needs to be screened for mental health issues, Nash said that “people are really good at knowing when things are bad for a long period of time,” but that changes in daily habits and dark thoughts are good indicators. For children, schools regularly do mental health screenings, as do pediatricians. “The goal is always prevention,” said Nash. Doctors can also screen adults to help identify people who need support; however, Nash said that this can be a “gap in the system,” as sometimes said patients may not be referred for treatment, or may not choose to go for treatment. “There is still some stigma attached to depression, but it has

gotten better,” said Nash. “There is a stigma in identifying depression and acknowledging when it’s an issue. People are afraid of judgment and don’t like the label, as opposed to having the flu or COVID. That’s a barrier to getting treatment.” Nash said that it is important to know it’s OK to get help, and important to “support one another in getting help.” “If you know someone suffering from depression, you should help them get help,” said Nash. One of the many ways to cope with depression is by getting active. It is important to get 30 minutes of physical activity daily. This can be anything from yoga, walking, jogging, walking stairs, a stroll around the block, or gardening. Getting adequate sleep is important for our physical wellbeing, mental acuity, and concentration. Engage in healthy, joyful activities — this can involve something as small as brewing a nice cup of tea, listening to a favorite song, sending an email/text to a friend, and dancing in your own space. Mental health screening can be important, said Nash, and she said that mental health screening in schools is “important.” “More than ever, screening and acknowledging struggles are so important,” said Nash. “Monitor your kids; know what happens with mental health when things go untreated.” A mental health screening test can be found at adaa.org/livingwith-anxiety/ask-and-learn/ screenings/screening-depression Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee. com.

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Persistent After-Workout Back Pain Should Prompt Medical Consultation

NEW YORK — Residual back pain following a workout routine may seem normal — and it usually is. But should that pain persist, become more intense over time, interrupt sleep, or affect the legs and other areas of the body, “then it is time to see an orthopedic specialist as quickly as possible,” advises interventional pain management specialist Dr Kaliq Chang with Atlantic Spine Center. “Exercises performed incorrectly, excessively, and without proper preparation or are inappropriate to one’s age and overall conditioning can certainly traumatize spinal discs or the muscles, ligaments, and tendons supporting the spine in ways that go beyond normal sprains and strains. Such injuries oftentimes require professional medical care,” Chang said. Of even greater concern is the pain caused by underlying back and spinal issues that are unrelated to exercise. “Oftentimes, the workout is blamed for one’s discomfort, but the true source of the pain is due to an undiagnosed disorder, such as osteoarthritis of the spine; degenerative disc disease; or spinal stenosis, which narrows the spinal canal and compresses nerves. The risk of developing debilitating spinal conditions increases exponentially with age,” Chang said. Regular exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, and muscles that have been stretched, put

through repetitive motions, or loaded during a workout can develop temporary soreness — an expected consequence. Indeed, exercise is often prescribed as part of a treatment protocol for relieving a person’s back pain. Some experts say exercise is a leading cause of back pain, but Chang says that contention is not necessarily true. “Exercising done properly strengthens core muscles, which supports the spine and helps prevent injury to it. The trouble occurs when a person neglects to stretch and adequately warm up joints and muscles before and after a

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workout, uses improper form or technique for specific exercises, overdoes a routine, engages in activities that expose the back and spine to repetitive stressors, or simply fails to exercise regularly, working out only on weekends, for example,” he said. Research bears out Chang’s comments. In a 2019 study published online in Journal of Physical Education and Sport, scientists indicate “movement is a very effective medicine if performed in an optimal manner and gives results that are … established over time, [providing] a high quality … of life.”

They add that “the best form of prevention against low back pain [are] strong and elastic muscles,” especially those surrounding the spine. Meanwhile, authors of an article on the cure-back-pain. org website write, “normal exercise activities are virtually never the cause of lasting serious back pain, although they may be contributory or causative for short-lived minor injuries…” But “acute, sharp back pain that develops suddenly during or immediately after exercise and continues for more than three or four days suggests the possible presence of a work-

out-associated injury requiring medical attention,” Chang warns. He also urges exercise enthusiasts not to presume a backache that becomes chronic, persisting for weeks, is simply due to overtaxed muscles. “Back pain that affects a person’s ability to stand, walk, or lie down, disturbs sleep, or radiates to the buttocks, legs, feet, or arms, causing numbness, tingling, or weakness may be due to other, underlying, and possibly serious conditions. Such pain warrants an immediate call to an orthopedic physician for examination. Delay in seeking proper medical attention can potentially lead to permanent damage of nerves and spinal structures and impact other organs of the body, including the bladder and bowel,” Chang said. Statistics indicate approximately eight out of ten Americans experience back pain at some time in their lives, much of it occurring in the lumbar (lower) spinal region. Medical professionals cite lifestyle issues such as obesity, improper posture, unhealthy nutrition, and muscular tension due to physical and psychological stress as causative agents. Other factors include occupational activities requiring excessive repetitive motion or heavy lifting, disc degeneration and other hereditary and age-related conditions affecting the spine, and, yes, inappropriate, and overdone workout regimens. Learn more at atlanticspinecenter.com.

Tips To Prevent Or Minimize Exercise-Related Back Pain Not all back pain due to exercise, including sports, is preventable, but interventional pain management specialist Dr Kaliq Chang with Atlantic Spine Center emphasizes that occurrences of workout pain can be controlled and minimized. He offers these prevention tips: *Avoid activities such as full floor-to-knee sit-ups or toe touches from a standing position. These put undue pressure on the back and spine. *Act your age. Age may be just a number but exercises appropriate for someone in their twenties are not advised for those 60- or 70-something. *Use appropriate workout techniques. When lifting weights, for example, do not bend over and then put all the pressure on the back muscles and spine as you pull up the load. Squat down and use legs and knees to help lift. *Find an outdoor or indoor track with a softer surface designed for running. Jogging on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt may provide good photo opportunities for the news media covering local races and marathons but does little for the spine and other joints. *Seek advice from an exercise physiologist, physical therapist, or your own physician about types of exercises for strengthening core muscles — those abdominal and back muscles that protect the spine. *Exercise regularly. Following a sedentary lifestyle on weekdays and saving occasional workouts for weekends only invites muscle trouble and creates the conditions for experiencing an even worse injury. *Stretch and warm up before a workout and stretch after it. Unprepared muscles are ripe for injury.

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By Orion Rummler & Jasmine Mithani When LGBTQ+ people go to the doctor, they are more likely to be refused medical services, blamed for their health problems and discriminated against than cisgender and heterosexual people, a new 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll has found. Twenty-four percent of LGBTQ+ Americans said they had been blamed for their health problems while visiting a health care provider, compared with 9 percent of non-LGBTQ+ people. For LGBTQ+ and gender-nonconforming people, or those who said their gender was not male or female in addition to being LGBTQ+, that number jumped to 40 percent. Sixteen percent of LGBTQ+ people — and 26 percent of gender-nonconforming LGBTQ+ Americans — recounted being denied or refused medical services at a doctor’s appointment, versus 7 percent of non-LGBTQ+ people. Dealing with discrimination in health care can exacerbate the physical and mental side effects of minority stress that many LGBTQ+ people already experience, experts tell The 19th. LGBTQ+ people of color are even more vulnerable to the mounting effects of discrimination: 53 percent of LGBTQ+ people of color faced discrimination in health care, compared with 44 percent of White LGBTQ+ people. Jacob Gammon, a 21-yearold Black gay man, moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, in 2019. When he went for a check-up last year, he said, clinic staff kept trying to get him to seek care elsewhere after learning he was gay. “I felt judged based off of my medical information, but also my sexual orientation. So the conversation was different,” he said. Gammon has worked

Graphic courtesy Rena Li for The 19th in health care for years — currently as a medical receptionist and pharmacy tech at a local clinic, and previously as a caregiver at Idaho assisted-living facilities. He knows intimately how patients are supposed to be treated. After that experience, it took Gammon six to eight months before he felt ready to start looking for a new primary care physician again. “I felt so discouraged,” he said. “I didn’t have people I could talk to about this, because people don’t understand the things that we go through as LGBTQ+ community, or even just individuals. They don’t understand that some of these things can keep you from life-saving attention that you need, like medical care, dental care.” LGBTQ+ Americans are also more likely than nonLGBTQ+ Americans to have experienced more than one of the forms of discrimination

asked about in the 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll, including being denied service or blamed for their health problems: 10 percent of LGBTQ+ people said they had experienced two kinds of discrimination, compared with 4 percent of nonLGBTQ+ people. Kellan Baker, executive director and chief learning officer of D.C.-based LGBTQ+ health care provider Whitman-Walker, said it’s not surprising that so many LGBTQ+ people still experience discrimination at the doctor’s office. Although the Biden administration bars federally funded health care providers from discriminating against patients for their sexual orientation or gender identity, 13 percent of LGBTQ+ Americans still live in a state with laws that allow medical professionals to decline to serve them based on religious

beliefs, according to an analysis last updated this summer by the Movement Advancement Project, which tracks LGBTQ+ policy throughout the country. It’s becoming more possible for health care providers to opt out of serving LGBTQ+ people, Baker said, as states pursue and pass antiLGBTQ+ and anti-trans bills. “I think we’ve seen a ratcheting up of attacks on LGBTQ people over the last couple of years.” Gabby Dibble, a 29-year-old White bisexual woman living in Albany, Oregon, feels like she has to hide parts of herself from her primary care doctor — namely, her sexual orientation. “I didn’t want to be alone in a doctor’s office with someone who wouldn’t react well to that information,” she said. “It felt safer not to say anything.” Although she’s been seeing

the same doctor for about a decade, once Dibble started questioning her own sexuality and becoming more aware of the stigma that LGBTQ+ people face, she started feeling more uncomfortable around her doctor. After she read a public op-ed last spring from one of his former transgender patients accusing him of denying her gender-affirming care, more red flags sprung up in Dibble’s mind. “It’s been really hard to trust him and be totally honest with him,” she said. “I think it’s important for patients to feel safe with their doctors.” In The 19th’s poll, Dibble and Gammon both said that they had felt discriminated against because of their gender or sexual orientation while visiting a health care provider at some point in their lives. They aren’t alone. Twenty percent of LGBTQ+ Americans said they had experienced that discrimination — compared with 3 percent of non-LGBTQ+ people. “This shouldn’t be happening in 2022, and yet here we are,” said Katie Keith, a health law expert at Georgetown University and founder of Out2Enroll, which annually reviews Affordable Care Act plans for LGBTQ+ and transgender inclusion. In the organization’s analysis for the 2022 open enrollment period, more than half of plans on the market said they cover necessary treatment for gender dysphoria — a “sea change” compared with previous years, Keith said. SurveyMonkey conducted this poll online in English and Spanish from August 22 to August 29 among a national sample of 20,799 adults. This report was originally developed for The 19th — an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting on gender, politics and policy.


THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2022

D-FIVE

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Due to an allergy and second infection, this cat developed an ulcerative skin lesion which required veterinary attention. —photos courtesy Annie Downes

These dogs both have healthy coats and have no skin conditions.

Barely visible to the naked eye, multiple tiny seed ticks can be seen in this dog’s fur. Using a medicated flea and tick shampoo can kill the unwanted parasites.

Veterinarian Advises Concerned Pet Owners On How To Treat Common Skin Conditions

By Alissa Silber Does your pet excessively itch or have signs of a skin abnormality? Learn from a specialist in the veterinary field about some general skin conditions to be aware of, the signs to look out for, and remedies that can help. Dr Annie Downes is an urgent care veterinarian at VCA Shoreline Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center. She has nearly two decades of experience working as a veterinarian doing general practice and emergency medicine. “The most common cases I see are itchy dogs and sometimes itchy cats, many of which have allergies and skin infections,” she explained. “Just as people may itch their eyes or noses in response to allergens, dogs will develop inflamed and itchy skin and ears.” Downes continued, “They may lick, bite, or shake their heads. Often, when they break the skin by itching, they introduce bacteria causing generalized skin infection, called pyoderma, or a hot spot, an area of severe inflammation and oozing skin.” She also sees quite a few dogs and cats who are excessively

itching due to skin parasites such as fleas or skin mites. “Skin growths, ruptured skin cysts, cat bite abscesses, wounds, and hair loss also come up with some frequency,” Downes added. Look For Signs In most instances, pet owners can observe unusual behavior or visible changes in their pet’s skin to tip them off that there is a problem occurring. “If your pet is losing fur, has redness, bumps or scabs, or is biting and itching often, they should be examined by their veterinarian and treated to relieve their symptoms All animals itch, lick, or bite once in a while, but when the behaviors disrupt their rest or are associated with changes to appearance of the skin, they likely require treatment,” Downes said. When a pet has swelling or a growth on the skin, those can be of utmost importance to act on and bring them in to their veterinarian. “Your veterinarian may want to sample the cells in the growth to screen for skin cancers. Many skin growths are

benign, but some can be dangerous threats to long-term health,” Downes noted.

Medical Help In general, veterinarians may recommend blood and skin tests be done to diagnose the underlying cause of a skin ailment. “Pets with inflamed and itchy skin may require antibiotics to treat secondary infections, antifungal wipes, shampoos, or pills if yeast overgrowth is a concern, and anti-inflammatory medications (like prednisone or Apoquel) to control any underlying allergic response,” Downes said. According to Downes a new option for dogs is to have an injection of Cytopoint to stop the itchy feeling. It can provide relief that lasts for four to eight weeks. “It’s always important to note that if allergy to environmental particles is the cause of itching, the symptoms will rarely be cured but can only be controlled and managed,” Downes said. “This is often a long-term challenge since most allergens are here to stay in our environment. We can only reduce our pets’ exposures and work to

reduce their body’s allergic response.” In situations where pets have skin problems from hypersensitivity to food ingredients, a diet change can be made to see positive results. “Diagnosis of food allergy is complex and should be done in partnership with your veterinarian using very particular prescription foods,” Downes said. She added that in the rare cases where a pet’s skin issue persists despite a veterinarian’s best efforts, a visit to a dermatology specialist can be beneficial.

At-Home Treatments Along with seeking out medical advice and intervention from a professional, there are a variety of actions that pet owners can do at home to help prevent or soothe skin conditions for their pet. Downes explained, “All dogs and cats should be treated regularly with one of the many options for external parasite prevention. There are many available products, including long-lasting chewable tablets or monthly topical drops that are

safe and effective. Beware: Never use a product labeled only for dogs on a cat, as some cause neurotoxicity in cats.” When dogs or cats are experiencing itchy skin, it is helpful to bathe them in a moisturizing pet shampoo. Doing so can reduce allergens and loosen any crusts on the skin. Downes also advises giving pets quality, balanced food to contribute to a healthy skin and coat. “Unless your veterinarian directs you to a grain-free diet for specific reasons, it is not necessary (and may be a health risk) to avoid grains in dog food,” she notes. Supplements can be incorporated, too, to help pets achieve healthy skin and fur. “Omega fatty acid supplements added to the food can improve the coat and reduce inflammation associated with allergies,” Downes said. “There are many products on the market with varying ratios and purity, so I recommend calling your veterinarian for specific product recommendations.” Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Little Britches Virtual Auction Begins October 24 ROXBURY — Bid on dozens of items during the Little Britches Virtual Silent Auction, online October 24 to November 4. All proceeds from the event benefit Little Britches Therapeutic Riding, a local nonprofit that helps kids and adults with special needs discover their strengths through horseback riding. “The virtual auction is our only fundraiser this year and will help our program continue to serve the community,” said Little Britches President Janie Larson. Founded in 1979 by Peg Sweeney and Betty Lou McColgin, Little Britches aims to enrich the lives of people with disabilities using the movement of the horse. Riders have a variety of disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, dyspraxia, oppositional defiance, visual impairment and auditory impairment. Some riders are wheelchair bound and experience independence for the first time on the backs of our horses. Based in Roxbury, Little Britches draws students from towns throughout northwestern Connecticut, and relies on grants, donations, and fundraising to keep rider fees affordable. This year’s auction features items ranging from fine art to fun experiences. A Florida getaway — golfing in St Augustine — is among the offerings.

Local Orthopedic Specialists A list of some of the local orthopedic specialists and offices follows. OrthoConnecticut is located at 2 Riverview Drive, Danbury. For more information see its website at myorthoct.com. Newtown Center for Pediatrics is located at 10 Queen Street in Newtown. For more information see its website at newtowncenterpediatrics.

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Brody Scalzo is pictured riding Taz at Little Britches Therapeutic Riding in Roxbury, with sidewalkers Phoebe Fuller and Josh Nichols. Bid on dozens of items during the Little Britches Virtual Silent Auction, happening online October 24 to November 4. Learn more at littlebritchesct.org.

shown to be more beneficial than focusing on a single sport ... earlier on,” said Morton, adding that children who participate in multiple sports have fewer overuse injuries than children who participate in a single sport.

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Bidders can also opt for seats on a charter flight to Nantucket or another vacation destination. Or they can choose a fun day of recreation at a beautiful lake house in Charlton, Massachusetts, or an excursion on the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. The full listing, linked online at littlebritchesct.org, includes much more — works by local artists, food and wine baskets, jewelry, private yoga and fitness training sessions, gift cards and a range of other items and services from area businesses. Little Britches’ regular fall session is underway at the organization’s home facility, Tophet Farm. When that session ends on November 5, the program will continue with a six-week late fall session in the beautiful indoor arena at Shepaug Agriscience Academy in Washington, Connecticut. For more information go to the group’s website (littlebritchesct.org) or call Little Britches at 860-874-9352.

Morton said the parents should seek medical help. Overall recommendations include Vitamin D, calcium, and Vitamin C supplements for children, though parents should check with their child’s pediatrician on dose levels. The supplements combined can improve the bone ossification and growth along with muscular health. “But eating a well-balanced diet is the most effective means,” said Morton about maintaining health for bones and joints in childhood and beyond. Exercise is also really important. “Staying active for kids and being involved in multiple sports has been

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Pediatric Bone And Joint Health Is Important Lifelong By Eliza Hallabeck With World Pediatric Bone and Joint Day occurring on October 19, local orthopedic surgeon Dr Jessica Morton, MD, of OrthoConnecticut in Danbury, stressed the life-long importance of a well-balanced diet and staying active, especially for children. “I think that parents need to know that kids are growing so rapidly and their needs are different than adults,” said Morton. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than 126 million Americans are impacted by musculoskeletal conditions and many cases are brought on by obesity developed during childhood. For children, their bones are growing and those growth plates, according to Morton, can be hurt if children sprain their ankle or wrist like adults, for instance. If a child suffers from a strain or sprain that is not improving,

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com. Center for Pediatric Medicine is located at 107 Newtown Road, Suite 1D, Danbury. For more information see its website at centerforpediatricmedct.com. Orthopaedic Specialty Group, PC, of Fairfield is located at 305 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield. For more information see its website at osgpc.com. SEP Orthopedics is located at 73 Sand Pit Rd, Ste 204, Danbury. For more information see its website at orthosep.com.

Please join us in welcoming Dr James Flynn to the practice. Dr. James Flynn grew up in New Milford, CT and completed undergraduate education at the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Minor in Microbiology. He was awarded his Doctorate of Dental Medicine (DMD) from the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine in 2021 and subsequently completed advanced education, restorative and surgical training through Danbury Hospital’s General Practice Residency in 2022. Dr. Flynn has been an active member of our family here at Newtown Family Dentistry since 2011 starting interning as a sophomore in high school. He looks forward to continuing to provide a conservative yet proactive level of care that Dr. Dudley, Condon and Golisano have been delivering to the Newtown and surrounding communities for over 30 years. Dr. Flynn is committed to his mentor’s philosophy that Dentistry is a lifetime of learning and has already began pursuing continue education to advance his knowlaedge as a new practicing dentist. Dr. Flynn says, “My favorite part about practicing is meeting and learning about my patients on a personal level. My passion for dentistry began here at Newtown Family Dentistry in high school. I loved talking with patients, hearing about their families and latest adventures. Just like our patients, all smiles are different. I am dedicated to providing a personalized and positive experience, where the provider and patient can work together to achieve the patient’s treatment goal.”

Education Editor Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

Dr. Flynn is a member of the American Dental associate (ADA), Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), and Connecticut State Dental Association (CSDA). When not practicing, Dr. Flynn enjoys fishing, weightlifting, working on cars, traveling, hiking, snowboarding, and watching sports.

“Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.” ~William Shakespeare

172 Mt Pleasant Road, Newtown, CT 203-426-0045 • www.newtownctdentist.com


D-SIX

THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2022

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Low Physical Function After Age 65 Associated With Future Cardiovascular Disease

DALLAS — Among people older than age 65 who were assessed using a short physical function test, having lower physical function was independently associated with a greater risk of developing heart attack, heart failure and stroke, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association. The Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) used in this study is considered a measure of physical function, which includes walking speed, leg strength and balance. This study examined physical function, which is different from physical fitness. “While traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or diabetes are closely linked to cardiovascular disease, particularly in middle-aged people, we also know these factors may not be as predictive in older adults, so we need to identify nontraditional predictors for older adults,” said study senior author Kunihiro Matsushita, MD, PhD, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Division of Cardiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “We found that physical function in older adults predicts future cardiovascular disease beyond traditional heart disease risk factors, regardless of whether an individual has a history of cardiovascular disease.” The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, an ongoing community-based cohort enrolled 15,792 participants, ages 45-64 years from 1987-1989, to investigate the causes for atherosclerotic disease (plaque or fatty buildup in the arteries). Yearly and semiyearly (beginning in 2012) check-ins included phone calls and in-person clinic exams. The present study evaluated health data from ARIC visit 5 (2011-2013; all participants were older than age 65) as a baseline, when the SPPB physical function test was first collected. The SPPB measured

physical function to produce a score according to walking speed, speed of rising from a chair without using your hands and standing balance. Researchers analyzed health data for 5,570 adults (58% women; 78% white adults; 22% Black adults), average age of 75 from 2011 to 2019. Using SPPB scores, the physical function of the participants was categorized into three groups: low, intermediate and high, based on their test performance. Researchers examined the association of SPPB scores with future heart attack, stroke and heart failure, as well as the composite of the three, adjusting for major cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes and history of cardiovascular disease. The study found: *Among all participants, 13% had low, 30% had intermediate and 57% had high physical function scores. *During the 8 years of the study, there were 930 participants with one or more confirmed cardiovascular events: 386 diagnosed with heart attack, 251 who had a stroke and 529 heart failure cases. *Compared to adults with high physical function scores,

those with low physical function scores were 47% more likely to experience at least one cardiovascular disease event, and those with intermediate physical function scores had a 25% higher risk of having at least one cardiovascular disease event. *The association between physical function and cardiovascular disease remained after controlling for traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. *The physical function score improved the risk prediction of cardiovascular disease outcomes beyond traditional cardiovascular risk factors regardless of whether individuals had a history of cardiovascular disease or were healthy. “Our findings highlight the value of assessing the physical function level of older adults in clinical practice,” said study lead author Xiao Hu, MHS, a research data coordinator in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. ”In addition to heart health, older adults are at higher risk for falls and disability. The assessment of physical function may also inform the risk of these concerning conditions in older adults.”

Falls and fear of falling in older adults are major health issues, and they are associated with high injury rates, high medical care costs and significant impact on quality of life. A 2022 American Heart Association scientific statement, Preventing and managing falls in adults with cardiovascular disease, advises medication adjustments, reassessing treatment plans, considering nondrug treatment options and properly managing heart rhythm disorders to reduce fall risks among elderly adults. “Our study adds additional evidence to past research, which has demonstrated the importance of maintaining physical function at an older age,” Matsushita said. “The next questions are: what is the best way for older adults to maintain physical function, and whether interventions that improve physical function can reduce cardiovascular disease risk?” The study had several limitations. The study population included only white and Black adults but did not include people from other racial or ethnic groups (ARIC began enrollment in 1985, when participation among people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds was more limited). The study also didn’t account for individuals whose lack of mobility might prevent them from getting assessed at a research clinic. Additional research will be required to confirm the findings in people from more diverse racial and ethnic groups and people who have even less physical function. The National Institutes of Health funded the study. The American Heart Association recently released information noting how having lower physical function was associated with a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure among older adults. This infographic highlights several safe activities you can do to help stay active and sustain heart health. —Brightstar Care infographic

UVA Discovery Reveals How Gut Microbes Direct Body’s Biological Clock CHARLOTTESVILLE, Vir. — A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine about how the microbes in our guts regulate the body’s biological clock could help the body battle sleep disorders, combat jet lag, fight off foodborne illness and even improve chemotherapy outcomes. A research team led by UVA’s Sean Moore, MD, MS, and Jason Papin, PhD, used miniature “guts in a dish” and advanced computer modeling to reveal how microscopic organisms that naturally live in our guts direct the timing of daily activities of the cells lining our intestines. These activities, such as absorbing nutrients from food, are essential to good health; disruptions of the intestinal cells’ “circadian rhythms” have been linked to obesity, ulcers, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and other health problems. “[Researchers] found that organoids or ‘miniguts’ — derived from either the small intestine or colon of mice and patients — provide a new platform for exploring circadian timekeeping between intestinal epithelial cells and a simplified, but complete, gut microbiome,” said Moore, a pedi-

atric gastroenterologist at UVA Children’s. “Data scientists in the Papin and Moore labs — Gabe Hanson, Dr Greg Medlock and Dr Tom Moutinho — applied powerful tools from systems biology and machine learning to narrow down a daunting list of hundreds of bacterial metabolites to a short list of three of four prime suspects responsible for the dramatic resetting of intestinal clock we observed when cells were exposed to metabolites from certain bacteria,”Moore added. “By combining organoid, microbiome, metabolomic and machine-learning approaches, we established a chain of causality between specific microbes, their metabolites and their effects on the clock.” The new research, from UVA’s TransUniversity Microbiome Initiative and collaborators, sheds light on how unique byproducts produced by our gut bacteria reset the internal clock that sets the schedule for when intestinal cells carry out their vital jobs. With this information, doctors may be able to target our gut microbes to improve patients’ health, battle disease and possibly even reset our internal clocks when we travel to

reduce jet lag. Like Clockwork The UVA scientists found that gut microbes regulate our intestinal cells by manufacturing what are called short-chain fatty acids. These particular fatty acids are only made by gut bacteria and switch certain mammalian genes on and off as needed over 24-hour periods. That makes them a

critical timekeeper for important biological processes. The scientists were able to study this in the lab using “three-dimensional gut organoids” – essentially, tiny guts in a dish. The researchers began using mouse organoids but then were able to reproduce their findings using human cells. Determining where to start, though, was quite a challenge. The interactions between gut microbes and our bodies are terribly complex. The microbes, for example, make many “metabolites,” including different varieties of fatty acids. That’s where Papin’s expertise in computer modeling was critical. The models allowed the research team to quickly determine which metabolites might be the most important for biological timekeeping. That provided vital direction for the work – and offers a valuable tool for future research. “Biology is increasingly a data-rich science and computational methods are becoming necessary to understand what the data tell us about microbial and human physiological systems. Systems modeling can help us embrace the complexity of these biological systems to answer ques-

tions we have and to help us frame new questions we didn’t even know to ask,” said Papin, who is part of UVA’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, a collaboration of UVA’s School of Medicine and School of Engineering. “The future is very bright in biomedical research as we take advantage of the data science and computational methods being developed.” By better understanding the function of various metabolites, doctors will be positioned to manipulate them to benefit good health and improve quality of life. Tweaking the body’s biological clock might benefit nightshift workers, for example, or might be used to help patients fend off Salmonella infections that cause food poisoning, as Salmonella’s ability to invade the body is determined, in part, by the circadian clock. “Timing is everything,” Moore said. “Understanding how the microbes within us shape biological rhythms in the gut will ultimately help us choose the right treatment, for the right patient, at the right time.” The researchers have published their findings in the journal Gastroenterology. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Senior Living Expert Advises: Pay Now To Ensure Quality Care Later WESTPORT — Connecticut has one of the highest costs for nursing home care in the nation. So for those who want to enjoy living near family and friends as they age, Assisted Living Services, Inc encourages older adults to plan now during Long-Term Planning Month in October. “The ideal age to start planning for your golden years is in your 40s and 50s,” said Mario D’Aquila, chief operating officer at award-winning home care agency Assisted Living Services, Inc. (ALS) in Cheshire and Westport. “Covering the costs of a comfortable living environment should be a key component of any retirement savings plan.” The purpose of the monthlong observance is to raise awareness among senior citi-

zens and their caretakers to understand and prepare for the rising costs of health care for adults. Many are unaware that Medicare and most insurance plans do not cover the full cost of long-term non-medical care and assistance for senior citizens and their daily activities. According to a 2021 State of Connecticut report, the average rate of skilled/intermediate service combined is $166,400. Families can also research CT Partnership-approved long-term care insurance policies for those wanting to remain in our state. The Connecticut Partnership for LongTerm Care is a program of the State of Connecticut that works in alliance with the private insurance industry. It is a joint effort by State

government and private industry to create an option to help you plan to meet your future long-term care needs without depleting all of your assets to pay for care. Under the Connecticut Partnership, private insurance companies competitively sell special long-term care insurance policies. These policies not only offer benefits to pay for long-term care costs, they also offer Medicaid Asset Protection should you ever need to apply to Connecticut’s Medicaid Program for assistance. D’Aquila also suggests starting with an online long-term care calculator from AARP. The AARP calculator helps families compute the costs of long-term care. It estimates the cost in your area for nursing homes; provides prices for assisted living facilities; and

measures the costs of services that allow older adults to age in their own homes, via adult day care and with home health aides and homemaker services. The calculator estimates median costs in your area based on a nationwide cost-ofcare survey. The survey, produced by Genworth Financial, includes research from 435 cities in 50 states. Individuals can always turn to or consult their personal insurance agent to determine the best option and policy price, as well. “It is more economical, and most often preferred, to continue living at home,” explains D’Aquila. “Planning for inhome care can start with a free home assessment from an agency such as ours that will suggest modifications to

improve safety and independence, such as adding bathroom grab bars or widening doorways.” In addition to physical equipment, there are countless electronic devices to monitor and assist with care in conjunction with support from compassionate caregivers. Caregiver duties include Activities of Daily Living and personal care services such as bathing, dressing, transferring, eating, toileting, or shaving. Caregivers can provide care for up to four hours per day all the way up to 24-hour care. Homemaker services include laundry, meal preparation, household/light cleaning, personal care, one-on-one supervision and socialization/companionship. Families can be also compensated for providing care them-

selves through the CT Adult Family Living/Foster Caregiver program that pays caregivers a tax-free stipend of over $500 per week who serve as primary in-home caregivers to an elderly individual. ALS is a credentialed provider of the program, offering training and 24-hour support, as well as payment. “Based on our 25 years of experience, we have created many solutions to mitigate the financial strain of aging in place,” adds D’Aquila. “A little planning now can save a lot of money and stress in the future, while securing a happy retirement.”

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise” ~Benjamin Franklin


THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2022

D-SEVEN

Craniofacial Differences: Helping Kids Build Self-Confidence TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — For every child born with a craniofacial condition, such as a cleft palate or cleft lip, there are worried parents who are often concerned with how that child will feel about themselves as they get older and encounter people who may treat them differently. While unwanted staring and taunting are always a major fear for all parents and caregivers, children with craniofacial conditions are especially at risk because their facial appearance differences are so visible, and these differences can often lead to speech or learning delays. “Even if craniofacially-affected children are not directly teased, they may encounter other unwanted attention, such as inappropriate staring, teasing, or questions about their appearance or speech differences,” says Dr Agata Brys, otolaryngologist and facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at ENT and Allergy Associates. “These types of experiences, if left unaddressed, can begin to damage a child’s self-image and develop into more serious challenges, like anxiety or depression.” However, there are numerous practical measures that

parents can employ to help kids respond to any unwanted attention and bolster their child’s self-confidence in different social situations. Educate your child about his/ her craniofacial condition from an early age. Children’s fears and concerns can often be alleviated by looking at photographs of other children with similar conditions, as well as any “before-and-after” surgery photographs that can be shared. Age-Appropriate Responses Being educated about a diagnosis can go a long way toward making children feel more confident responding to any questions they’re asked and boost their self-confidence. Develop and practice an ageappropriate response to any question. The response should include the following elements: *A concise explanation about the child’s craniofacial condition (“I was born with a cleft palate/cleft lip.”) *A brief affirmation to reassure the person about the condition or difference (“It doesn’t hurt.” Or, “My doctors fixed it with surgery.”) *A question that redirects

If your child, or one you love has craniofacial differences, Dr Agata Brys, otolaryngologist and facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon says being educated about a diagnosis can go a long way toward making children feel more confident responding to any questions they’re asked and boost their self-confidence. the dialogue towards a different topic or common interest (“Would you like to see my new sneakers?” Or, “Hey, did you watch the baseball game last night?”). Encourage your child to respond to stares with a friendly wave or smile, Brys says. These are non-verbal cues to acknowledge that you

noticed their concern or curiosity and establishes a connection for a more positive interaction. She believes that parents and caregivers should always do their best to model and promote confident body language in all social settings. For instance, always make eye contact when conversing with

others, smile often, and stand up straight — and encourage your child to do the same. It is also important to provide simple instructions and guidance to your child on how to respond to any unwanted attention or teasing. *In the moment, encourage active ignoring (eg, pretending that they did not hear the taunt) or saying “stop” and walking away with confidence. Children who tease often thrive on getting an emotional response from their targets (such as making them cry). Ignoring the taunts, or not showing any emotion, may prevent that child from trying again. *Also, urge your child to use the “buddy system” (eg, keeping company with trusted friends in awkward or unusual social situations where the teasing or unwanted attention has occurred). Work With Educators Brys recommends you encourage and teach your child to tell an adult (eg, a teacher) about any teasing or unwanted attention about their craniofacial differences. Contact the adults in charge of the setting where the teasing or taunts occurred to

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Saint Francis Hospital, owned by Trinity Health of New England, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Hartford HealthCare pushed it out of the market by buying up doctors’ practices and used certain clauses in its contracts with insurers that drove up health care prices and insurance premiums by limiting options for consumers. —Arielle Levin Becker / CTMirror photo the state’s five health systems account for more than a quarter of the around 17,000 physicians licensed to practice in the state. Reports filed to the Office of Health Strategy show that Hartford HealthCare has been acquiring physician practices most actively over the last several years. Since 2015, Hartford HealthCare has acquired 14 practices and 59 doctors, according to publicly available notices of material change. Concentrated health care services can mean higher costs — When health systems acquire hospitals and small physician practices, it has economic consequences. Researchers have connected

hospital consolidation to rising health care costs. That, in turn, has driven up the cost of health insurance plans for many small businesses and nonprofits in Connecticut, who are increasingly struggling to offer health care benefits as rates rise each year — often by double digits. Research has also shown that vertical integration, where hospital systems buy up smaller practices, drives up costs for patients in two ways. First, larger hospital systems are able to negotiate higher rates with insurance companies than private practices for the same level of care. So when a practice gets acquired by a hospital system, its prices go up.

Second, small practices that have become part of a larger health system are more likely to send their patients to hospitals within the system for follow-up services. While convenient — the patient’s records stay within the system — the larger system has more power to set higher prices, which can cost the patient more. Lawsuit challenges Hartford HealthCare’s acquisitions as ‘anti-competitive’ — Saint Francis Hospital, owned by Trinity Health of New England, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Hartford HealthCare pushed it out of the market by buying up doctors’ practices and used certain clauses in its contracts with insurers that drove up health care prices and insurance premiums by limiting options for consumers. Hartford HealthCare said its behavior does not qualify as “anti-competitive,” as the lawsuit claims. In a motion to dismiss the case, Hartford HealthCare’s lawyers argued that Saint Francis should simply “compete harder to recruit and retain physicians.” During this year’s Connecticut General Assembly session, a bill aimed at rooting out some of the same anti-competitive practices alleged in the lawsuit stalled. Nicole McIsaac compiled and contributed to this reporting. The Newtown Bee is a proud partner and is sharing this story originally appearing at CTMirror.org, the website of The Connecticut Mirror, an independent, nonprofit news organization covering government, politics, and public policy in the state.

important health coverage options, not only for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – together known as HUSKY Health – but also for qualified health plans offered through the national Affordable Care Act and the new Covered Connecticut program,” Lamont said. “All families and individuals need high-quality health coverage, and I encourage uninsured residents to contact our user-friendly application gateway for fast and efficient service,” he added. “I applaud all of the employees at the Department of Social Services, Access Health CT, and our partners whose service is helping our state’s residents get enrolled and receive coverage as quickly as possible.”

“The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, brought tremendous improvements to health care coverage and access on many levels in Connecticut,” DSS Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford said. “For example, federal support allowed first-time Medicaid coverage for lower-income, working adults without dependent children. “It also brought a new shared consumer portal and eligibility system with Access Health CT and its high-quality coverage plans for higherincome residents. This streamlined approach takes the guesswork out of an otherwise complicated decision about where to go if you’re uninsured,” Gifford said. “We’re very pleased that data issued this month by the fed-

eral Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services underscore the outstanding job Connecticut is doing.” “Access Health CT is dedicated to reducing the uninsured and reducing health disparities, and that starts with creating access for Connecticut residents to get the health insurance that best meets their needs,” Access Health CT CEO James Michel said. “Our integrated approach allows Connecticut residents to shop, compare, and enroll in health insurance or other no or low-cost programs, including HUSKY Health and the Covered Connecticut program, all in one place. It’s a true one-stop-shop for customers that helps reduce the challenges of navigating a complex system.” The report focuses on HUSKY Health coverage for children, parents, pregnant women, and other adults under 65 without minor children. Currently, about 897,000 individuals in Connecticut are covered by HUSKY A, B, and D, and 102,200 individuals are covered by qualified health plans offered through Access Health CT. Applications for these coverage options can be submitted online at accesshealthct.com or by calling 1-855-805-4325. More information on these services is available at ct.gov/ husky and accesshealthct. com.

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By Katy Golvala, Erica E. Phillips & Dave Altimari HARTFORD — Connecticut’s health care industry is becoming increasingly concentrated. In return, some small private practices in the state are finding it difficult to compete with big health care systems. Instead of struggling to stay afloat, many are joining them. As of January, hospitals owned 26% of physician practices nationwide, up from 14% a decade ago. An additional 27% of practices were owned by a corporation, leaving fewer than half of physician practices under independent ownership. Connecticut is no exception. Here’s what you need to know: Hospital mergers are changing the way people in CT receive care — In Connecticut, two systems — Yale New Haven and Hartford HealthCare — are on the brink of owning more than half the 27 hospitals in the state. Today, the state has six independent hospitals. Only one of Connecticut’s four rural hospitals remains independent — and it’s not likely to stay that way. While regionalizing health care services in this way can improve the bottom line for hospital systems, it leaves some patients farther away from the medical care they need. Service cuts often follow acquisitions. The cuts have had a particularly strong impact on the state’s rural labor and delivery landscape. Large hospital systems in CT are also acquiring private practices — Together,

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By sHAnnon Hicks Elder abuse affects millions of people in this country, yet only one in 44 cases is typically reported. According to one local authority on the subject, financial exploitation is the most frequent type of abuse self-reported by senior citizens, and all too often it occurs concurrently with physical and verbal abuse and/or neglect. These were just a few of the sobering points made by Matthew Austin during a program hosted by Newtown Senior Center in August. Austin is the director of community impact for The Center for Empowerment & Education in Danbury. Formerly The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, the center changed its name about a year ago but maintained its mission. “We have always helped everyone. Nothing changed other than our name,” Austin told The Newtown Bee. “There were some misconceptions, and we just wanted to clarify that.” The nonprofit organization on West Street in Danbury maintains its vision to end violence against all individuals and families. It also fosters equality and empowerment for all through services, education, and training. When he was in Newtown, Austin offered information about the unsettling abuse, where to find help, and what to do if abuse is suspected. As much as 11% of community-residing older adults (vs institutional settings) experienced some form of abuse in the previous year, according to 2020 data from the National Elder Mistreatment Study (Journal of Interpersonal Violence). The four-author report further noted that 1.7% of the respondents — a nationally representative sample of older adults — reported polyvictimization, or multiple forms of abuse. Austin believes those numbers are low. “Many things like this are under-reported,” he said. “I believe the numbers are worse.” Austin offered a clear definition of the topic near the

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opening of his August 23 presentation. “Elder abuse is the intentional act — or failure to act — which causes or creates a risk of harm to an elderly person,” he said. “Elder abuse is domestic violence,” he added. “Domestic violence is not just between a husband and wife, or people in financial relationships. Domestic violence is all about power and control. It’s when someone wants to have power and control over someone else. It is the intentional use of a pattern of abusive behaviors in an intimate relationship where one partner tries to control and dominate the other.” Any gender, age, race, religion, and economic status can be affected by domestic violence, he further noted. Worse, “the person who is doing this knows it is not OK,” he said. The elderly population has unique risk factors, according to Austin. They are often more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse because they may have cognitive or physical disabilities; they may fear losing their remaining independence and/or support community; and they may be financially unstable, among other factors. People can survive a bad relationship, Austin said. They need to know this, and they need to know that there are tools to help them, from compensation assistance through the State Office of Victim Services to safety planning ahead of a return to their home and training for better self-care. Forms & Barriers Austin outlined six general forms of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, cultural, digital, and financial. He then explained five forms of elder abuse: physical, verbal, emotional, abandonment, and financial. Natalie Jackson, director of human services for the Town of Newtown, said she sees neglect of elderly citizens more than anything else. “Often it’s a case of no local support, or an elderly couple unable to care for an ill/disabled spouse or each other,” Jackson told The Newtown Bee. “We get looped into these either by the police department or ambulance responding to a call and seeing the condition of a home and/or individual, or by a concerned out-of-town family member. “The police and ambulance are great community partners,” Jackson added. “We work closely with the state, through Connecticut Protective Services for the Elderly.” Austin quickly related several things that can prevent a victim from leaving their situation — see related graphic. Barriers include everything from low self-esteem, fear and self-blame to threats, denial, pressure from family or friends, and even hope. “It can be like a roller coaster,” he said. “Sometimes things are good, sometimes it’s bad, and you just wait for the good to return. It will, for a while.” Once in a relationship it can be very difficult to leave. The longer a relationship continues, the bigger the challenge. “If you sat down on a first date and someone yelled at you, you wouldn’t stay,” he said, “When you’re used to that treatment, however, it’s not easy to pull away. It can take a lot to leave a relationship, especially when you’re older, and when you’ve been with them for decades.” As a relationship continues, a person being abused will begin to normalize the treat-

Matt Austin explains digital abuse during a recent presentation at Newtown Senior Center about elder abuse. The director of education for The Center for Empowerment and Education, Austin spent time explaining the serious concern, and offered options for those who may be in abusive relationships as well as for those who find out a friend or family member needs help. —Bee Photo, Hicks ment. “People will think it’s a generational thing, or in their family background, like a tradition,” Austin said. “They’ll convince themselves, ‘This is how it’s always been, how we’ve always done our lives.’ That’s called normalization,” he explained. Supporting Survivors Abuse, said Austin, is never the victim’s fault. “No one chooses for this to happen to them,” he said. There is one simple thing to

do if someone is told about or suspects abuse, he said. “Believe them,” he said. “If someone tells you they’re being abused, always take them seriously.” It usually takes multiple attempts for someone to leave an abuser. Many people will not be brave enough to confide in anyone else, or feel they will be able to survive outside the abusive relationship. If someone does ask for help, Austin says another thing that should quickly

come to mind is, “What does the victim need to recover?” Options should be offered to the person seeking help. The Center for Empowerment and Education has two 24-hour hotlines. Anyone can call 203-731-5206 or 203-7315204 seven days a week, 365 days a year. Adult Protective Services, at 888-385-4225 and 800203-1234, can also be contacted. Contact local law enforcement. Newtown Police Department can be reached

—info graphics courtesy The Center for Empowerment and Education

at 911 if it’s an emergency, or 203-426-5841 for routine assistance or to begin getting guidance when there is no immediate life danger. Austin also suggested local residents contact Newtown Youth & Family Services (NYFS) if they suspect elder abuse. “NYFS is a wonderful resource,” said Austin, who further noted that Daryl Might is currently the NYFS case manager. Might can be reached at 203-270-4335 and dmight@newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org. Jackson added another option when asked for suggestions to seek help. “There is an Elder Justice Hotline new to Connecticut,” she said. Launched by the Office of Attorney General William Tong in cooperation with the Coalition for Elder Justice in Connecticut, the hotline can be reached at 860-808-5555; staff is available weekdays between 8 am and 5 pm to connect callers to agencies available to help. Messages left at that number after hours are returned “as soon as possible,” according to the agency’s website. Additional information can be found at www.portal.ct. gov/ag/hotline/ Providing Critical Specifics Austin cautions those calling for help to be ready to be as specific as possible. “Instead of saying, ‘My neighbor is unable to take care of himself,’ report, ‘I have noticed my neighbor has been wearing the same clothes over and over and is looking very dirty,’” he said. The paradox, however, is occasionally there is no abuse happening. One woman in the audience in August pointed out that her husband had Parkinson’s, and would tell people he was being abused, when he was not being mistreated. “People need to also check, to look into what may be happening in a home or the person’s background,” she said. “We had the police show up because my husband kept yelling that he was being abused.” Austin agreed with her point. Law enforcement policies continue to be updated, he said, so that police officers respond to any charge. “They know they need to investigate both sides of accusations,” he said. “It’s a delicate balance,” Austin said. “We want people to get help, but you can’t force them to get help. We can’t tell people what to do. We can just give them the tools and teach them how to become empowered.” Services at The Center are confidential, free, and available to all gender identities. Services include counseling, advocacy, residential facility, referrals, educational programs, and training. In response to a question from the senior center audience — and one he said they receive often — Austin confirmed that while information is confidential, some data is reported to the State. “We are mandated by the State to report certain things,” he said. Elder abuse can be lifethreatening to those on the receiving end of it. Fortunately, there are many people and options available to help and protect the most vulnerable. If needed, reach The Center for Empowerment & Education’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline at 203-731-5206 Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.