For Better Health _ June 2021

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For Better Health THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2021


State Study Shows Cases Of Fully Vaccinated Residents Contracting COVID ‘Very Rare’ HARTFORD — As Connecticut surpasses the 50% mark for Connecticut residents ages 16 and over who are now fully vaccinated, the Department of Public Health (DPH) has released data on vaccine breakthrough cases that clearly show the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at fighting the virus. So-called vaccine breakthrough cases occur when a person who has completed their vaccine series becomes infected with the COVID virus. The data show that cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals are rare, with less than 0.1% of Connecticut’s fully vaccinated persons reported to DPH as having contracted the virus. Of the 1,467,189 persons who have completed their vaccine series, 242 have been confirmed as contracting COVID-19. Of those, 109 (45%) had no symptoms of the disease. Three deaths have occurred among the 242 vaccine breakthrough cases. All three individuals were confirmed to have had underlying medical conditions and were in the following age groups: 55-64 (1), 65-74 (1), and 75+ (1). Nationally, the CDC has reported a total of 132 vaccine breakthrough deaths. “The main takeaway is that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and cases of infection after a person is fully vaccinated are very rare. The best protection against severe illness, hospitalization ,and death from COVID-19 is vaccination, and I strongly urge all eligible Connecticut residents who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so,” said acting DPH Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford. In addition to the overall number of breakthrough cases, DPH also announced that of the 242 breakthrough cases: *159 (65.7%) cases were among women; *58 (24%) cases occurred among persons living in congregate settings, e.g. nursing homes and assisted living facilities; and *32 (13.2%) cases have been hospitalized. “The vaccine is our most powerful tool against COVID-19, but these rare instances of infection after vaccination are a reminder that no vaccine is 100% effective. As long as we continue to see cases of COVID in Connecticut, it is important to continue the use of the other tools at our disposal: masking when indoors and in large outdoor crowds, hand washing, social distancing, and limiting gathering sizes when vaccination status is unknown,” added Gifford.

Stop & Shop Pharmacies Have Same-Day COVID-19 Vaccinations

department said. The fraternities and sororities partnering with the state are Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Omega Psi Phi, Delta Sigma Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Gamma Rho and Iota Phi Theta.

To expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations, Stop & Shop, in conjunction with the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), has announced that all Stop & Shop pharmacy locations now provide same-day immunizations for the COVID-19 vaccine. Customers can still schedule a vaccine appointment on Stop & Shop’s website, but appointments are no longer required. Stop & Shop operates more than 250 pharmacies across the Northeast, each offering either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine. Customers can now walk in and receive a COVID-19 vaccine at any pharmacy location without scheduling an appointment in advance, though availability of the vaccine to walkins will be determined by supply levels in each store. The vaccine is being administered at no cost. Customers will be required to wear masks, and pharmacists will be equipped with masks, gloves, and face shields. The pharmacy team utilizes the same thorough disinfection protocols for all patients, disinfecting and sanitizing between each patient to ensure the health and safety for all patients. Customers are asked to bring identification and insurance, if applicable, when seeking a vaccine, though insurance is not required for a vaccine and all coronavirus vaccines are free. Flu, pneumonia, shingles, and other immunizations are also currently available to customers at all Stop & Shop pharmacy locations. To find your nearest Stop & Shop pharmacy, visit stopandshop. com/pharmacy. For more information on Stop & Shop’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, visit

“We’re going to certainly prioritize our mass vaccination centers, knowing that these kids often need a parent to help drive them through the mass vaccination,” Lamont said. Meanwhile, mobile vans will be prioritizing young people in communities without access to automobiles. “We’ve been knocking on doors, as you know,” Lamont said. “I think we have a good idea where a lot of these kids are and we’re going to get the vaccine to them.” As of May 6, more than 1.4 million people in Connecticut had been fully vaccinated. Lamont expected 70% of adults to have had their first dose as of May 7, well ahead of President Joe Biden’s goal of July 4. Connecticut continues to experience new cases, with more than 700 confirmed or probable ones since May 5. The number of COVID-associated deaths grew by seven to a total of 8,131. Lamont said “99-plus percent” of those new deaths were people who were not vaccinated. Meanwhile, Gov Lamont said this was the first week in over a year there were no COVID deaths in any nursing homes, where most of the residents have been vaccinated.

State Preparing For Children’s Vaccinations

Telehealth Services To Continue

With the US Food and Drug Administration expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID19 vaccine for youngsters ages 12 to 15 in the coming days, Connecticut is ordering extra vaccines and keeping its mass vaccination centers in place, Governor Ned Lamont has said.

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Legislation that temporarily extends for two more years telehealth services in Connecticut, which were expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic so patients could safely meet with their physicians, awaits the governor’s signature. Under the bill, which passed unani-

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mously in the state senate on May 6, provisions such as required insurance coverage for virtual medical appointments would continue until June 30, 2023. “The pandemic has changed the delivery of health care in a meaningful way and Connecticut residents have come to rely on telehealth over the past year,” said Senator Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, cochair of the General Assembly’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee. The governor is expected to sign the legislation into law. In March 2020, he issued an executive order that expanded access to telehealth services for people with both private and public health insurance plans. That order was later extended. Among other things, the bill allows certain providers to conduct virtual visits using audio only (telephones) and allows licensed medical providers in other states to provide telehealth services in Connecticut.

Partnership Struck With Black Fraternities

The Connecticut Department of Public Health is partnering with the Connecticut chapters of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine and combat vaccine hesitancy in minority communities. The department will provide training for a series of free town hall events that will include discussions with well-known doctors, clinicians, and public servants who are members of each of the nine sororities and fraternities and serve as trusted messengers on the vaccines, the

The Biden administration announced the allocation of $21.6 billion in emergency rental assistance to help prevent evictions of people who lost jobs during the pandemic. The administration also announced changes May 7 in the rental assistance program aimed at addressing criticism that the emergency support has not reached many who need the help. This latest round of aid for renters was included in the $1.9 trillion relief package approved by Congress in March. It followed $25 billion in emergency rental assistance in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress in December. Administration officials said the additional support was urgently needed because nearly 7 million Americans reported being behind in their rent payments in late April. More than 40% of those renters worry that they could be evicted over the next two months. Among the changes announced by the administration Friday, government agencies implementing the rental relief program will be required to offer assistance directly to renters if landlords choose not to participate. Also, the waiting time for delivering the assistance to renters has been cut in half if landlords decide not to participate in the program. Gene Sperling, the White House coordinator of the American Rescue Plan, said that the administration’s goal was to get rental assistance to people who need it as quickly as possible. “We need to make sure that as we implement these emergency funds that we are nimble enough to address growing needs,” Sperling told reporters at a briefing. “Basic housing security is fundamental to the dignity of all Americans.” A federal judge in Washington on May 5 struck down the nationwide moratorium on evictions that had been imposed by the Trump administration last year and extended by Biden until June 30.

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A new $150 million, multi-year initiative to invest in Connecticut businesses, with a major focus on fledgling small businesses located in communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, was unveiled on May 6. The Department of Economic and Community Development hopes the private sector will match that funding and coinvest in entrepreneurs, small businesses, and start-ups, Commissioner David Lehman said. “We think there’s a real opportunity to make this initiative even larger and have the state drive it, but with a significant amount of co-investment capital from corporations and philanthropists,” Lehman said. The state’s $150 million initiative, dubbed the Connecticut Fund, includes $75 million in state bonding and $75 million from the state’s share of federal COVID-19 relief funds. At least half of that money will be directed to businesses owned by minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and veterans. The Connecticut Fund will provide “flexible” financial help to businesses, including grants, low-cost debt, equity, and funding for training and technical assistance, Lehman said.

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Foxwoods Resort Casino has announced that it will be lifting most of its COVID19 protocols this month. The casino, which has had only a portion of its slot machines running to facilitate social distancing, said it will be turning on all of those machines and slowly ending capacity restrictions on table games, restaurants, theaters, events, retail shops, and other amenities. “With the exception of face masks, all protocols will be lifted by or before May 19, aligning with Connecticut’s plans,” Jason Guyot, the casino’s president and chief executive officer, said. “We will closely monitor our approach but are ready to introduce a safe and more relaxed ‘next normal’ environment for our guests and team members ahead of summer.” Foxwoods officials said about 70% of its employees have been vaccinated.

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CBD: How Some Spell Relief For Those Painful Joints

2021 ‘Lung Force’ Walk Offers In-Person, Virtual Events HARTFORD — The American Lung Association in Connecticut has announced that Lung Force Walk Hartford will return to the Great River Park as an outdoor, in-person event, June 6, at 8:30 am. The event will support research, advocacy, and education for lung diseases, lung cancer, and COVID-19. All participants will be required to wear masks and follow current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. Lung Force Walk Hartford is in its 12th year, with in-person participants completing a one mile or 5K loop around Great River Park. Participants can also opt to “Walk Your Way,” and participate by walking in their own neighborhoods, tracking their activity online through the new Lung Force app (available for Android or iPhone). In addition to the walk, the event will include an array of interactive activities that promote lung-health awareness. All registered participants for both virtual and in-person options are encouraged to join the event’s Facebook group and download the app to share their journeys and connect with advocates and heroes. “Through events like the Lung Force Walk Hartford, we are able to continue our work to improve air quality, educate residents on lung

health and COVID-19, and support people who live with lung disease,” said Joy Morse, development manager for the Lung Association in Connecticut. “That mission has never been more important than it is today, and we are looking forward to masking up and rallying our Connecticut-based Lung Force community to advance this work that makes people’s lives better every day.” Money raised at the Lung Force walk will support the Lung Association’s efforts to end lung cancer and lung disease, as well as support the Lung Association’s COVID-19 Action Initiative. The COVID-19 Action Initiative is a $25 million investment to address COVID-19 and protect against future respiratory virus pandemics. The initiative works with public and private entities to increase research collaboration and develop new vaccines, detection tests and treatment therapies. There is no registration fee for Lung Force Walk Hartford but donations are encouraged. All in-person walkers must register in advance. The registration deadline for the in-person event is Saturday June 5. More information is available and registration can be completed at



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MIAMI — Cannabidiol? Call it simply CBD and know that this derivative from the marijuana plant will not give you a high — only welcome relief from aching joints, according to orthopedic surgeon Alejandro Badia, a Miami-based orthopedic specialist noted for his treatment of musculoskeletal problems affecting the upper limbs, including hands, elbows, and shoulders. While health professionals are seeing similar results with ailments including anxiety, depression, acne, heart disease, even a natural alternative for pain and symptom relief from certain cancers, the FDA has been slow to act on CBD pharmaceuticals. To date, Badia says, just one prescription medication containing a purified form of CBD has been officially approved by the federal agency, this one for treatment of epileptic seizures. But an increasing amount of research, much of it in animal models, is demonstrating CBD’s efficacy in mitigating chronic musculoskeletal, back, and joint pain due to arthritis, fibromyalgia, spinal and nerve disorders, and systemic inflammation, Badia said, adding that musculoskeletal issues and orthopedic problems are considered the second most common reason why patients in the United States see a physician. Badia cites a variety of recent studies, including a 2020 report published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology that concludes that the addition of medical cannabis therapy to standard analgesic treatment for fibromyalgia offers “a clinical advantage” and does enhance quality of life for patients. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease marked by musculoskeletal pain, general fatigue, and malaise. A scientific poster presentation published in 2020 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons indicates that about 20% of surveyed patients suffering from chronic musculoskeletal distress report using a cannabis compound, with the majority of those users saying the drug has helped them manage their pain. An earlier Arthritis Foundation poll determined that nearly 30% of arthritis patients were using CBDbased products, with many of them saying CBD seems to enhance their physical functioning and improve sleep. Some scientists suggest that CBD may even be effective in bone-fracture repair. Badia points to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, indicating CBD plays a role in catalyzing the work of “collagen crosslinking enzymes” needed for healing of cracked bones. “What is truly exciting is that CBD may help patients avoid addictive narcotics — opioid drugs — and long-term dependence on over-thecounter medications like ibuprofen to relieve pain,”said Badia, founder and chief medical officer of the Badia Hand to Shoulder Center and OrthoNow. Long-term ibuprofen use can increase risks for heart attack and stroke and lead to hypertension, kidney, and gastrointestinal problems. Authors of a study published online in 2017 wrote that “prescription drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States” and indicated, “Cannabis can be an effective treatment for pain, greatly reduces the chance of dependence, and eliminates the risk of fatal overdose compared to opioidbased medications.”

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Considered generally safe with limited side effects, CBD is one of more than 300 cannabinoid chemicals that can be obtained from the Cannabis sativa plant. It is completely separate from THC, a cannabinoid that affects a person’s mental state, causing the euphoric high associated with cannabis use. CBD’s reported anti-inflammatory effects are linked to the chemical’s ability to activate the body’s own cannabinoid receptors. Excitation of these receptors launches a cascade of natural processes that eventually prompt the body’s white blood cells to repair and heal injured tissue, tendons, and

joints, Badia said. He offers select patients CBD medications in his own practice. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health suggests cannabinoids offer “modest benefits” for chronic pain. Other scientists call for longer-term human studies to provide “compelling evidence” of potential advantages and risks of CBD. They also warn of the current lack of medically accepted standards for administration of CBD to specific patients under varying conditions. Badia concurs and asserts that CBD products can be given safely by

physicians who have extensive clinical experience and expertise in the use of cannabinoids. “Medical marijuana is not a new concept. Health practitioners have been administering cannabinoids for more than 3,000 years to alleviate digestive disorders, relieve pain, even treat psychological problems,” he says. Despite the history, Badia’s advice to patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain and other orthopedic issues is to “avoid use of cannabinoids on your own. “Do so only under the guidance of an experienced orthopedic specialist,” he recommended. “The market is filled with a bewildering array of products that have outpaced medical science; come in a variety of topical, oral, and sublingual forms; and lack agreement on application and dosage.” He also offers these tips to patients considering cannabinoids as a treatment option: Do the research. Find an orthopedic specialist with a positive track record in using CBD medications. Moderate expectations. Cannabinoids take time to produce positive results. Be patient and do not anticipate a “miracle cure.” Use CBD as part of an overall plan to reduce musculoskeletal or joint-specific pain. That plan should include other physician-prescribed therapies, such as injections to reduce inflammation; use of standard anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals compatible with cannabinoids; exercise protocols; a healthy diet; and programs to control stress. Badia reiterated that individuals not use cannabinoids as a substitute for seeing a physician. “Know there is no stigma to medical marijuana therapy. Some of our most significant and effective medications have been derived from plants,” Dr Badia said. “Future research should help us identify even more of the benefits of CBD and its effectiveness in returning patients to quality of life.”

Arthritis Foundation Advice For CBD Newbies A recent post from the Arthritis Foundation, in part, provides some guidance for individuals who my be starting a medically supervised program for pain relief that includes one or more CBD products. Animal studies have suggested that CBD has painrelieving and anti-inflammatory properties, but these effects have not been validated in quality studies in humans. Anecdotally, some people with arthritis who have tried CBD, but not all, report noticeable pain relief, sleep improvement, and/or anxiety reduction. Without quality clinical studies on CBD and arthritis, doctors have not been able to say who might benefit from CBD, at what dose and in which form; who likely won’t benefit; and who should avoid it. Still, there is agreement on several points: *CBD is not a substitute for disease-modifying treatment for inflammatory arthritis;

*Patients who are interested in trying CBD should first talk to the health care provider who treats their arthritis before trying CBD. Together, they can review what has worked or not worked in the past, whether there are other options to try first, how to do a trial run, what to watch for and when to return for a follow-up visit to evaluate the results. Keep a symptom and dose diary to track effects; and *Quality CBD products can be expensive, especially when used for prolonged periods. To avoid wasting money, be completely sure that the product is truly having a positive effect on

symptoms. While there are no established clinical guidelines, the medical experts consulted by the Arthritis Foundation recommend the following for adults: *When preparing to take a liquid form, be aware that the CBD extract is mixed with a carrier oil, so there are two measures to know: the amount of the liquid product to take (the dose) and the amount of CBD in each dose. *Go low and slow. Start with just a few milligrams of CBD in sublingual form twice a day. If relief is inadequate after one week, increase the dose by that same amount. If needed, go up in small increments

over several weeks. If you find relief, continue taking that dose twice daily to maintain a stable level of CBD in the blood. *If CBD alone doesn’t work and you live in a state where medical or recreational marijuana is legal, talk to your doctor about taking CBD with a very low-dose THC product. Be aware that THC, even at low levels, may get you high, creating cognitive, motor, and balance issues. Try THC-containing products at home and at night first, so you can sleep off any unwanted effects. *If after several weeks you don’t find relief with CBD alone or with a combination of CBD and very low-dose THC, CBD may not be right for you. *If you experience any unwanted side effects when using a CBD product, immediately discontinue use and inform your doctor. Learn more by visiting

Three Out Of Four Believe Pandemic Has Impacted Overall Health ORANGE — Results from a national study commissioned by Planet Fitness in April indicate that more than three in four (77%) Americans report at least one aspect of their overall health and wellbeing has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. The American Psychological Association similarly found that more than half of US adults (53%) have been less physically active than they wanted to be since the pandemic started, with a majority (61%) experiencing undesired weight changes, averaging 28 to 41 pounds gained. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, with Planet Fitness finding that 92% of adults surveyed noting they are proactively doing at least one thing to improve their mental health. Physical activity has been shown to boost mood, reduce stress, and improve self-confidence. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted so many of us both mentally and physically, the future is looking

bright, and now is the time to get as many people moving as possible to improve our overall health and wellbeing,” said Jeremy Tucker, chief marketing officer at Planet Fitness. “Fitness is essential and, as the industry leader, Planet Fitness believes that everyone should have access to nonintimidating and affordable fitness. Our research shows that Americans want and need to improve our mental health, and we want to do all we can to inspire everyone to utilize fitness to do so.” Additional insights from Planet Fitness’ national study include: *The mind-body connection. Nearly nine in ten (87%) of respondents believe that their mental and physical wellness are co-dependent. *Mental wellness on the back burner. In light of the pandemic, close to three in five (56%) say they haven’t made their mental wellness a priority in the past year. *The great disconnect. Among those whose mental wellness has been adversely affected, close to three in five (57%) feel

disconnected from the things they once enjoyed. Many also feel out of touch from what makes them who they are (36%) or are unable to maintain emotionally healthy relationships with the important people in their lives (35%). *Stress is pervasive. Fifty-six percent of Americans admit they feel stress and anxiety more than ever before. And among those whose mental wellness has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, nearly half (49%) confess that they are more stressed than they are at peace. “Exercise has never been more important in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr Richard Carmona, the 17th surgeon general of the United States. “Supporting both mental and physical health is equally important but can be difficult, specifically during stressful times like the current pandemic. As vaccines set the stage for a future full of optimism, it’s time we prepare ourselves for the journey ahead and make sure we’re taking steps towards mental wellness now.”



Meals On Wheels —

Supporting Newtown Neighbors’ Health Through Their Bellies By Eliza Hallabeck There are many roads in this roughly 60-square-mile town — and there are residents in need of helping hands when it comes to mealtime on more of them than you might think. Luckily, there are volunteers willing to traverse those hills and driveways to deliver food to their neighbors. “Meals on Wheels is a unique program, which offers balanced meals at a low cost for people who can’t prepare their own meals,” said Meals on Wheels President Marg Studley in a recent e-mail. “And it does much more.” Newtown Meals On Wheels is a nonprofit organization that relies on volunteers to deliver food to accommodate people in need of it. “The program is carried out by teams of dedicated volunteers and brings personal contact to its recipients,” Studley said. “In many cases, the volunteer is the only regular contact the recipient has with anyone but their doctor. The success of this service depends on volunteers to which we are extremely grateful.” Marilea Nelson has volunteered with Newtown Meals on Wheels for, all together, roughly 20 years. “It’s a very nice, easy volunteer job,” Nelson said in a recent phone interview. Nelson said the people she has delivered meals to are lovely and many people are just “quietly living” in town.

She noted some are elderly, while others may be recovering from surgery. “I like it because I know I am bringing food and nutrition to people who can’t get out,” said Nelson. She added later, “They are very appreciative.” Before the pandemic, Nelson said, the volunteers would stop by and chat sometimes with the people on their routes. Lately, though, the practice has changed to leaving food in bins. “It is very gratifying to have these people be grateful for a hot meal delivered to their door,” said Nelson. Barb Sherman said she began volunteering with Newtown Meals on Wheels “years ago.” She stopped for a bit, but she began volunteering again after retiring. “It’s been fun to do,” said Sherman. Seeing the recipients is “a joy,” she said. “They’re all so appreciative. “I think it is important for them, for people to get a well balanced meal. And it is tailored to their needs... their meal is just what they need,” said Sherman. She also noted that she misses the personal contact that recipients would get prepandemic, but she knows she is delivering “good” meals — as she attended a tasting once, years ago. The recipients are given a warm meal and a cold packaged meal, and they

Insulated food carriers packed with meals are ready for volunteers to retrieve at Newtown Rehabilitation & Health Care Center for the Newtown Meals on Wheels program. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck

have a choice of meals from a menu. Volunteering with Newtown Meals on Wheels does not take long, she noted. Sherman said each trip lasts “an hourand-a-half at most.” One thing volunteers gain from volunteering? They get to know their town, Sherman observed, noting the roads and areas of town she has discovered thanks to the program. Volunteers pick up the prepared meals at Newtown Rehabilitation & Health Care Center on Toddy Hill Road each weekday, but each volunteer can choose how often to volunteer; many volunteer to drive one day a month. Newtown Meals on Wheels then coordinates routes to the recipients homes, and volunteers Jim and Roseann Loring noted that they do give “pretty good directions” for volunteers to follow. Everything is coordinated by the Newtown Meals on Wheels board members. The Lorings have been Newtown Meals on Wheels volunteers since they retired, roughly ten years ago. “We aren’t used to sitting around doing nothing,” Roseanne Loring said. They once brought their grandchildren with them to complete a route. “In the old days” before the pandemic, Roseanne Loring said, many times the volunteer drivers would be the only

people the recipients would see. “It felt good to make someone happy for a day,” said Jim Loring. Both agreed that they feel the program supports the health of the community. “Some of the people that we see have family either near them or they are sharing a house, so those people we know are checked on, others...” Roseanne Loring said, explaining that simply dropping off food each day allows the volunteers to check on the recipients, too. “And it gives them a hot meal,” said Jim Loring, who noted delivering on a holiday once. Meals are delivered every weekday, and if inclement weather is expected the following day, Jim Loring explains an extra meal is prepared if needed. Overall, Jim Loring noted the Newtown Meals on Wheels program is “one way to give back” to the town. “This is one way to see that people get at least one meal a day,” he said. To volunteer as a Meals On Wheels driver, contact Colleen Honan at 203-426-0714. People can also make donations to support the nonprofit organization by mailing a check to Newtown Meals on Wheels, PO Box 122, Newtown CT 06470, c/o Peg Forbell.” Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at

Women And Alcohol: A Combination That Serves Up Unique Dangers

lion-plus emergency room visits, and more than 1.5 million arrests for alcohol related incidents. In addition to these consequences, heavy drinking can also lead to numerous health risks such as: *High blood pressure; *Heart disease; *Stroke; *Liver disease; *Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon; *Learning and memory problems; and *Social problems. So why are you hearing about this now? Historically, because they were underrepresented among heavy/problem drinkers, women often were omitted from alcohol studies, including basic science on alcohol’s effects in women, alcohol-related medical morbidities, social/behavioral consequences of drinking, and treatment intervention. One study taking a close look at women and drinking patterns noted well-established evidence that women experience higher prevalence of mood and anxiety disorders, and more frequent interpersonal trauma

associated with higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder compared with men. These negative factors have a role in the development and maintenance of heavy drinking and associated problems in women. In The Role of Stress, Trauma, and Negative Affect in the Development of Alcohol Misuse and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in Women, its authors examine the sex-specific neurobiological underpinnings of the biological, psychosocial, and psychiatric factors that may be contributing to the accelerating drinking patterns recently observed in girls and women. Of particular concern is the growing evidence of a chronic negative feedback cycle in which childhood maltreatment and trauma lead to the development of a maladaptive, blunted stress response in girls and women. This blunted neurobiological response escalates alcohol consumption, further blunting neuroendocrine responses, and contributing to the progression from alcohol misuse to AUD. Although evidence suggests that women and men have com-

Waterbury Health Opens First ‘Post-COVID’ Clinic WATERBURY — Waterbury Health is bringing comprehensive care to COVID19 patients with a new post-COVID-19 clinic. This is the first clinic providing comprehensive care for patients affected by COVID-19 in greater Waterbury. Most patients who have had COVID19 do well and recover within a few weeks, but some, including patients who did not seek care in the hospital and who have had mild versions of the disease, continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery. These patients, sometimes described as long haulers, need additional care for symptoms that linger over time including: *Fatigue; *Shortness of breath; *Cough; *Joint pain; and

*Chest pain. Other long-term signs and symptoms may include: *Muscle pain or headache; *Fast or pounding heartbeat; *Loss of smell or taste; *Memory, concentration or sleep problems; and *Rash or hair loss.

The post-COVID-19 clinic will be in Waterbury Hospital’s cardiopulmonary department. As part of screening and care, patients will have access to pulmonary function testing, cardiac, and neuro testing and other help, with their care coordinated in one place. For providers and patients this means a more comprehensive approach to care. Patients who may seek care in the clinic include anyone who received COVID-19 care in the hospital and anyone who did not require a hospitalization but who has had lingering respiratory symptoms for more than two months. Patients can self-refer by calling the clinic directly at 203-573-7074.

Mental Health Services Administration (or SAMHSA) offers a 24-hour helpline with referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) at any time to speak to a counselor and start the path to a healthier relationship with alcohol. Associate Editor John Voket can be reached at john@thebee. com.

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contributing factor to sexual violence. In 2020, it appears things got even worse for women. During the pandemic, while alcohol use increased in both men and women, women reported 41% more heavy drinking episodes. Heavy drinking is defined as four or more drinks within a few hours. Just one year earlier, almost 66% of Americans enjoyed at least one drink over the course of the year and almost 50% of Americans considered themselves to be regular drinkers. But what happens when a person’s alcohol consumption transforms into binge drinking Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher. For a typical adult male, this means consuming 5 or more drinks in a 2 hour period. For women, the number of drinks drops to 4 in a 2 hour period. Binge drinking on 5 or more days over a 30 day period is considered heavy alcohol use. More than 16 million Americans engaged in heavy alcohol use this past year, leading to almost 100,000 deaths, a mil-

parable outcomes in mixed-gender, nonspecialized alcohol treatments, women cared for in specialized, women-specific programs may experience greater improvements in key areas such as pregnancy outcomes, psychiatric health, HIV risk reduction, and psychosocial wellbeing. The HUB blog notes that binge drinking can cause poor job performance or even termination, an abdication of parental duties including emotional support, and can even lead to abuse, physical and otherwise. Alcohol use is a factor in almost 70% of all domestic altercations. Heavy alcohol use by one member of a household has been shown to impact the emotional, financial, social, and even the physical wellbeing of every member of the household, especially if the person drinking is a parent or guardian. The psychological effects of having a parent with an AUD are lifelong and can lead to trust issues, approval-seeking behaviors, and an inability to establish a sense of normalcy. Furthermore, teens from homes in which a parent is a heavy drinker are four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder themselves. If you are concerned you (or a loved one) have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, help is just one phone call away. The Substance Abuse and


By John Voket Are you a women who finds herself waking up regretting how much you drank the night before? No judgment here, and you are not alone. The New York Times recently reported that between 1999 to 2017, the number of women who reported any drinking increased 10% while rates among men stayed mostly the same. But disturbingly, the number of women who reported binge drinking, or consuming roughly four or more drinks in about two hours, increased by 23%. Consider this: when it comes to alcohol, men and women are not equal. A blog produced by The Hub: Behavioral Health Action Organization for Southwestern CT points out that biological differences allow alcohol to cause harm at lower levels than men. In fact, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says “alcoholrelated problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men.” Body structure and chemistry cause women to absorb more alcohol and metabolize it slower. This means a woman’s blood alcohol level will go higher than a man’s even if they drink the same amount and weigh the same. And the result of that conspicuous consumption has health consequences: *The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men; *Alcohol-related cognitive decline and shrinkage of the brain develop more quickly for women than for men; *Women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle at lower levels of consumption and over fewer years of drinking than men; *In women, drinking is also associated with breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption, and; *Excessive alcohol use, particularly binge drinking, is a major

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Never Had COVID? It Could Still Be Affecting Your Mental Health By John Voket There is no arguing that even a slight brush with COVID-19 could have striking implications on your physical health. And it is commonly accepted that the global pandemic has taken its toll on the financial health of countless individuals. But even if you managed to dodge the virus and remain financially solvent over the past 15 months, two representatives of the Connecticut Psychological Association (CPA) recently advised that numerous issues involving the novel coronavirus could be quietly — maybe even imperceptibly — chipping away at your mental health. CPA President Jennifer Doran, PhD, and Newtown practitioner Dana Martinez, PsyD, a regional representative of the association, recently sat down with For Better Health to talk about what they are seeing on the front lines, as COVID-19 has been impacting patients regardless of age, sex, race, creed, or their overall physical health. Doran received her doctoral degree from the New School for Social Research in New York City before moving to Connecticut for her internship at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, where she specialized in PTSD and general outpatient mental health. She completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at VA Connecticut’s National Center for PTSD and Yale School of Medicine, where she investigated both the merits and limitations of specialty PTSD treatments. Martinez is a bicultural and bilingual alumnus of the University of Hartford’s Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology who has been in private practice in Newtown since 2002. She has worked in a variety of settings, including inpatient, child guidance clinics, partial hospitals, and outpatient, and currently works with children, adolescents, and adults in therapy. Martinez also conducts psychological evaluations in Spanish and English. Doran said CPA is supporting those who have had COVID-19 and those who have

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provided caregiving to loved ones or others suffering from COVID-19. She said her organization has remained active through the pandemic providing advocacy. “Throughout the pandemic there have been so many access to care issues, a lack of services, and a lack of ways to find services for people who are struggling now more than ever,” she said. Locally and nationally, CPA and its state associations have continued to push for provisions allowing telehealth type video services, and telephone consultations for mental health patients, fighting for payment parity so more providers are willing to take insurance, and “ensuring everyone can get the help that they need right now.” Another more recent issue CPA is lobbying for legislatively are policies and action that are socially conscious and promote social justice issues and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Doran said the latter has become acutely important in recent years, and even more so as the pandemic took hold in Connecticut. “Pre-pandemic and on a good day there is a health equity problem in our society and in our health care systems,” she said. “The pandemic has greatly exacerbated these inequities that exist, and that is piled on the systemic racism we continue to see — identitybased violence and aggression that has a great, great impact on our diverse communities. The most vulnerable among us are in the worst position now.” Doran said besides psychiatrists, psychologists are the only doctorate-level providers,bringing the most specialized training to bear on behalf of those who may need support for mental health conditions and issues. One of Doran’s colleagues summed up the pandemic’s toll on his patients, saying that “everything is 30% worse now.” “If you are depressed, your depression is worse. If you’re anxious, your anxiety is worse — and if you didn’t have problems before, you probably have some now,” she said. “Things are incredibly stressful. You’d expect to feel more anxious and sad, but when it compounds it becomes difficult to deal with.” Concerning... No, Alarming First characterizing recent increases in mental health system access, suicide hotline calls, substance abuse, and interpersonal violence, as concerning, Doran then checked herself and relabeled the escalating trends alarming. “Providers are busy, their schedules are filled, and they are doing more than ever because there is so much demand for mental health support,” she said, “and claims for mental health care are doubled in most areas.” That is a trend Martinez is also seeing at her Newtown practice. “The pandemic has caused a huge spike in all kinds of mental health issues,” Martinez said. “Especially in depression and anxiety, and anything that may have already been there and was tolerable has been amplified.” Working with adults and

Newtown practitioner Dana Martinez adolescents alike, Martinez worries about how the isolation facing young people is triggering loss. “Especially in Newtown. All of these kids in high school have lived through 12/14,” she said, referring to the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy. “We know grief and loss is cumulative, so the loss of being able to socialize, the loss of their senior year activities, the loss of a routine in their education, seeing friends and teachers in person, sports and extracurricular activities has been enormous,” she said. While none of her patients had lost a loved one to COVID, the fear of loss is palpable locally. “I have a practice in Wilton, as well as here in Newtown, and that sense of loss and what it means is much more tangible for the Newtown kids,” she said. “For last year’s seniors and this year’s seniors, there is a very true sense of grief. The milestones of senior year didn’t happen.” When Martinez suspects a younger patient is experiencing this deep sense of grief, she goes to work identifying what they are experiencing. “A lot of people are experiencing a sense that something isn’t quite right, but they can’t identify what that something is. So once we label it as depression, or chronic worry, we often move on with the person already experiencing some relief because they know they’re not imagining things — what they are feeling is real, and it has a name,” she said. Most of the time it is parents who have begun to notice something is amiss. Their child is either isolating, withdrawing, experiencing mood changes, or they have discovered an eating disorder has developed. For those who arrive at Martinez’s practice, she is quick to assure then there is help available, and that therapy will begin to counter feeling low, or anxious, chronic sadness, OCD, or a lack of energy. “They don’t have to justify it or think they have to be as bad

as somebody else to jut reach out to the CPA or someone like me,” she said. “There is no need to go through life feeling that level of discomfort.” In fact, picking up on changes in eating or increased obsessive-compulsive behaviors may be the early warning signs that something much deeper may be troubling a person, Martinez said. “Dramatic changes in behavior, anything to the extreme, is something to watch for,” she said. Multiple Symptoms Increasing Doran noted that just a few weeks into the pandemic, in March 2020, 45% of adults reported that the pandemic and worry/anxiety about it

were having a negative impact on their mental health. And a CDC study just three months later showed depression prevalence was four times greater, and anxiety prevalence was three times greater. Depression, Doran said, can be described as low mood (a “dark cloud,” hard to feel joy, smile, or laugh), loss of interest of pleasure in things you used to enjoy, or not enjoying normal activities, changes in eating or sleep, impaired concentration, tearfulness, slowing down or restlessness, negative thoughts, persistent guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, or the presence of suicidal thoughts. Anxiety, on the other hand, is described as excessive and pervasive worry — the inability to focus on other things, getting in the way, feeling allconsuming anxiousness not just related to COVID-19 and contagion, feeling a loss of control, panic, or not wanting to leave the house or be around other people. Those experiencing OCD may have obsessive thoughts that are difficult to control/ ignore and are distressing, excessive compensatory behavior, like washing your hands six times after shopping, etc. People with PTSD frequently have nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, exaggerated startle responses, anger/ irritability, and/or insomnia. Individuals with substance use disorder or SUD are using alcohol or drugs in increased quantity or frequency, or experiencing problems or symptoms associated with use (relationship problems, missing work, not completing tasks), having trouble not using or reducing/stopping, drinking or using as a means of coping or avoiding, using substances in dangerous situations (e.g., at work, driving), and finding they need more of any unhealthy substance to

get the same effect. And those having suicidal thoughts, or who are thinking about death/dying should seek help immediately. “Going to therapy does not always mean ‘something is wrong’ or you have a ‘disorder’ — it means you want to work on yourself, grow, learn, make things better,” Doran said. “Most people I know would benefit from being in therapy at some point.” Other ways to help improve your mood are: *The power of talk. Share, reach out for support, process, find space to sit with your emotions, identify, and work through them; *Five-minute pause. Sit, deep-breathe — everyone has five minutes; *Share joy. Do one positive thing a day (intentional, deliberate), to bring some lightness into the world and give someone else joy; *Do one thing for yourself. Enjoy a favorite coffee, milkshake, watch funny videos, read jokes, view pictures or soundscapes with music; and *Treat yourself to less. Reduce or eliminate negative influences, e.g., social media, news, drugs/alcohol, other toxic things. “You have to counterbalance the negative with intentional positive influence — you can’t avoid or keep things bottled up, it doesn’t work,” Doan said, reminding herself of a famous experiment: When someone tells you, Don’t think about a white bear — all you can think about is the white bear! “Avoidance doesn’t work, numbing/escaping doesn’t work,” she added, “the only way over to get over something is to walk through it.” For more information, or to seek a referral through CPA, visit Associate Editor John Voket can be reached at

Stress May Be Quietly Destroying Your Wellbeing Stress. We have all experienced it. Maybe you are feeling it right this very moment. Without surprise, it seems as if our collective stress levels have hit an all-time high throughout this past year. While stress seems like an inevitable, natural response in our everyday lives at this point, it is important to know that it is actually wreaking havoc on your overall health and wellness. During Stress Awareness Month in April, Dr Vikki Petersen, a certified clinical nutritionist, chiropractor and certified functional medicine practitioner, reached out to For Better Health highlighting the detrimental effects that stress can have on one’s overall health and wellbeing. “The word stress is discussed often: ‘I had a stressful day,’ or ‘‘I’m under stress.’ Stress is unique to each individual,” said Dr Petersen. “What evokes stress in one person could have no impact on their close friend or partner.” But what is vital to know about stress is that it impacts pretty much every organ and system in your body. From longevity to weight, from emotional stability to energy levels, and from digestion to detoxification, all aspects of your physical and mental well-being are affected by your stress levels. Here are Dr Petersen’s topfive facts to know about stress and its effect on health: Fact #1: Stress causes a major imbalance in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. You may have heard about your “fight or flight” nervous system — they are the same. While being in fight or flight is great for adrenaline and alertness, if it is activated chronically thanks to stress, you miss out on the ability to

rest (sleep well), digest, and repair your body, the job of the parasympathetic nervous system. Fact #2: Stress prevents production of sex hormones. Not in the mood for love? Your hormones are likely to blame thanks to stress. Stress is a reaction to imminent danger that increases adrenaline and heart rate in an effort to help you “escape” the dangerous situation. However, when stress is internal and there is no imminent danger, the effects on your hormonal and emotional balance are profound. Your body will shunt away from making sex hormones that balance your mood and help regulate stress itself. Fact #3: Stress inhibits melatonin production. When you are under stress, you likely feel more fatigued and need a good night’s sleep. Stress hormones inhibit the body’s ability to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, and get the good night’s sleep you so desperately need. Fact #4: Under stress, your body eats up more B vitamins and nutrients. Stress begets more stress. When the body depletes the nutrients it needs, this deficit causes the body to crave a “quick fix” and you find yourself reaching for sugar, refined carbohydrates, and caffeinated products — “empty” calories that perpetuate your cravings, aggravate stress even more and cause weight gain. Fact # 5: Stress lowers your immune response. Have you ever been under a lot of stress and then gotten sick? It is not a coincidence, but rather a weakening of your immune defenses that allow an opportunistic bacteria or virus to take hold of your body. Stress makes it harder for the body to ward off infection, making you more prone to illness in general.

Community Health Worker Training Vendor Portal Opens HARTFORD — The Office of Health Strategy (OHS) and its Community Health Worker Advisory Body (CHWAB) today launched the Community Health Worker Training vendor application portal through the OHS website. OHS developed the online portal so Community Health Worker Training vendors can readily submit an online application to be reviewed and approved by CHWAB’s review committee. This will streamline what is a rolling application process. The review committee will meet quarterly to evaluate applications submitted via the new portal. Applications from community health workers must be reviewed, approved, and renewed every three years. “Community health workers provide an

invaluable, front line resource for individual health care needs and help guard against large-scale public health threats as well,” said OHS Executive Director Victoria Veltri. “These well-qualified, trusted workers bring expertise and a professional approach deep into the broad spectrum of Connecticut communities, helping reach those who are vulnerable and hard to reach, working to mitigate major disparities in access to care, and connecting residents as necessary to appropriate health care providers.” “The objective of this new portal is to bring technology to bear to make it easier for all parties to comply with necessary — and statutorily mandated — monitoring and regulatory oversight,” Veltri added.

The important role of community health workers was recently fortified by funding in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) and Governor Lamont’s initiative to provide training for 100 community health workers through the state’s workforce development program. “These past 15 months, community health workers have repeatedly filled the breach to help Connecticut respond to this pandemic, first with COVID testing, then contact tracing, and now with vaccination administration,” Lamont said. “This new portal, to supplement federal ARP funding committed to additional community health worker training, will help streamline the process to replenish the ranks of this vital, tested, and proven public health resource.” Established within OHS, the CHWAB advises the agency and the state Department of Public Health on matters relating to the educational and certification requirements for training programs for community health workers. “In the public health field, we join Governor Lamont, OHS Executive Director Veltri, advisory members, and our many other partners in recognizing the unique value and contributions of community health workers,” said acting Public Health Commissioner Deidre S. Gifford. “While playing many roles, CHWs are trusted members of the community, in tune with the needs of their neighbors for health education and guidance, and sensitive to addressing social needs like housing and food access. With improved

access to training resources, they will be even better prepared to help protect and strengthen communities throughout our state,” Gifford added. “The governor’s proposed allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act will not only train 100 CHWs, but will deploy up to 100 CHWs to work with families with young children who have been adversely impacted by COVID.” The CHWAB conducts continuous review of educational and certification programs to provide the Department of Public Health with a list of approved educational and certification programs for Community Health Workers. “The CHWAB is excited that the portal will be open to the public. Under the guidance of OHS, and in partnership with the Department of Public Health, we now have a streamlined process to approve Community Health Worker trainings. It holds CHW training vendors to a high standard,” said Michele Scott, executive director of the Health Education Center and Chair of the CHWAB. “Individuals seeking formal training and state certification can rest assured they are receiving the appropriate training when they go through an approved vendor. I am confident this will lead to more individuals receiving formal CHW training and certification to improve the health of Connecticut residents. I would be remiss not to thank the former co-chairs of CHWAB, Tekisha Dwan Everette and Delita RoseDaniels who worked diligently to shepherd the board members early on.”



Need Advice On Navigating Online Dating Safely? NPD Has Your Back By Alissa Silber During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a surge in online dating, with more people looking for a safe way to connect with others in a world of lockdowns, social distancing, and mask mandates. The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “Overall, eight of the largest dating apps in the US saw a 12.6% yearover-year increase in monthly active users in the final quarter of 2020, the biggest such jump in nearly two years, according to data tracker Apptopia.” Popular apps such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge allow users to create a profile within minutes and communicate with multiple people all from the comfort of their homes. With that, though, is the reality that hundreds of strangers can view your public profile and the personal information it displays even if you do not match or choose to talk to them. Newtown School Resource Officer William Chapman recommends that when people make their profile, they keep the information simple and relevant: first name, age, interests, and approximate location. If a dating site allows you to set your location, he suggests using the closest large town or city, so as to not give your exact location. For example, if you live in Newtown, the location could be set to Danbury. Be mindful that some apps require accessing your phone’s actual location in order to change your town and/or miles away as you travel in order to find potential matches near you. If you are traveling or in a place where you do not want people in the area to see your profile, some apps have a setting to allow your profile to be temporarily hidden.

you are on to communicate and get to know each other better,” Officer Chapman said. Many dating apps have evolved over time to have additional means of communication rather than just texting. Some allow users to make phone calls and do video chats from the safety of the app without giving out personal telephone numbers or other account information.

While setting up your profile, Officer Chapman advises, “Avoid using your last name or specific date of birth. Leave identifiers like your home, family members, vehicle, or pets out of the photos that you post to the profile. These are good best practices for social media in general, dating or not.” When it comes to trying to verify if the person you are talking to is really who they say they are, there are a few sleuthing options people can consider. “Google is your best friend,” Officer Chapman said. “If you know ‘John’ is a physical therapist for example, there will likely some public information available. Open searches on Facebook or LinkedIn will also sometimes give information.” For those who have the full name of the person they are talking to and want to know if

they have a police record, the Connecticut Judicial website has several search resources at To see if they are on the sex offender registry, visit If at any point you feel unsafe while talking to someone through the dating site, Officer Chapman advises to stop talking to them and block them. Many people feel like they may owe someone an explanation for wanting to part ways or brush off red flags as not a big deal, but it is in every user’s right to report someone making them uncomfortable. Dating site users may also come across a situation where the person they are talking to quickly requests they stop using the app or website and continue their conversation through texting or another means of communication. It

may seem harmless, but having someone make that request early on could mean they have ulterior motives. Officer Chapman explained, “Stick to the app that you’re on. A common predatory tactic is to try to pull someone into an environment where the predator feels more comfortable and where there is less accountability. ‘I’d rather talk on Omegle,’ or ‘Come chat on Discord, it’s more fun,’ may be red flags.” However, if this is proposed later into getting to know someone, it can be a natural part in developing a deeper relationship. “If you are dating someone and it is going well and they are becoming a major part of your life, then you may want to engage with them on other social media platforms, but otherwise you should work within the features of the dating app

Meeting In Person As a variety of COVID-19 restrictions begin lifting statewide and COVID-19 vaccines become more accessible, many people are feeling hopeful about the idea of meeting in person for dates. With that comes new situations to be mindful of regarding safety. When selecting a location, it is important to find a public place where you will not be secluded alone with them. Officer Chapman says restaurants and bars are typically good places for first dates, “because most bartenders and servers are very aware of dating dynamics [and] are not hesitant to help if you ask them.” To get to the date, it may seem like a chivalrous gesture to drive together, but chose to travel separately. “It is kind of them to offer to pick you up at home, but get to know them a little better first before giving them your address,” Officer Chapman said. Another precaution people can take before meeting up with someone is to have a friend or family member know about the date. “Tell a friend where you’re going and with who,” Officer Chapman said. “Have them set an alarm to check on you at a prescribed time. If your phone

After Delays, Connecticut Launches Long-Anticipated Health Information Exchange By Jenna Carlesso, CTMirror After 14 years of false starts and scrapped plans, officials said Monday they have launched Connecticut’s statewide health information exchange (HIE), a single repository of medical data that can be accessed by any provider tied to a patient’s care. Forty-four providers have already signed on to the system, known as “Connie,” including Hartford HealthCare, Yale New Haven Health, and the Pro Health Physicians network. Health care practitioners are required to participate in the HIE. By law, hospitals and laboratories have one year to sign up once the exchange is deemed operational. Other providers have two years. The state has set up a secure email system so medical personnel who don’t have access to the proper technology can communicate with the HIE until the infrastructure is in place. Funding is available for providers who need help connecting to the exchange. Officials have said it could take two to three years to get everyone fully on board. “We are now officially on the path that many other states have traveled to improve health care by sharing data so that it’s available when and where it’s needed,” said Vicki Veltri, head of the Connecticut’s Office of Health Strategy (OHS). “Information that’s accessible in real time is critical for good health care.” The launch of the exchange comes after more than a decade of failed attempts and shifting plans. The first bid started in 2007 with a plan to build a network for Medicaid patients, but most physicians had not yet switched to electronic health

records, and the state’s medical professionals weren’t ready for it. A second attempt in 2011 through the Department of Public Health and a quasi-public group called the Health Information Technology Exchange CT (HITE-CT) got off to a stronger start, but was mired in a legal battle and later folded. The third venture was overseen by the Department of Social Services and lasted ten months, beginning in 2016. That effort also centered on Medicaid-based initiatives, while larger plans for a statewide HIE were left for those who spearheaded the fourth and most recent attempt in 2017. At least $18 million was spent on the first three projects. About $48 million was set aside for the latest effort, with 10% of that covered by the state and federal funds making up the rest. By last fall, more than $20 million of the $48 million had been spent. Officials did not have an updated figure on Monday. HIE organizers are required to use the remainder of the federal money by September 2021. After COVID-19 spread through Connecticut, health officials here, including the exchange’s former director, Allan Hackney, lamented the system’s late arrival. The need for up-to-the-minute, robust patient information became more pressing during the pandemic, and the lack of a broad

Kristin Levine, a registered nurse, talks to a patient on the phone at Bristol Hospital. Proponents of the health information exchange say it could have saved more lives and helped prevent health care worker burnout during the first year of the pandemic. — Yehyun Kim CTMirror photo health information exchange put the state at a disadvantage, they said. Other states have used their systems to trace outbreaks in nursing homes, to identify COVID-19 hotspots in communities, to analyze data on race and ethnicity and to help agencies like public health departments and regional health districts access more extensive patient information in the midst of an emergency. “I just wonder how many people could have been saved had we had this up and running,” Hackney, the state’s former chief information technology officer, told the CT Mirror in October. “How many health care workers could have avoided burnout if we had this data? I get very frustrated.” The exchange will allow health practitioners to get fuller patient medical histories. If a person receives a coronavirus test at a physician’s office in New Haven and walks into an emergency room in Putnam a

week later, the hospital doctors could view the person’s results, along with any underlying conditions he or she may have. The network gathers data from physician practices, laboratories, hospitals, radiology offices, and community organizations, giving providers a comprehensive look at a patient’s background. “Wherever and whenever you need to get health care in our state, your provider will be able to access needed health information so they can provide the best treatment, better care coordination, and not duplicate tests in the process,” Veltri said. “If you typically get care in the northeast corner, but find yourself in need of emergency treatment at the shoreline, you won’t have to worry about treating physicians not having real time lists of your medication or health conditions.” Connecticut will use an “optout” system, meaning patient data will be shared across the

network unless a patient opts out. Only a handful of HIEs nationwide still have an “optin” system, in which data can’t be shared unless a patient consents. Those who wish to opt out can do so by filling out a form available at Ellen Andrews, executive director of the nonprofit CT Health Policy Project, a research and educational organization, said leaders at the exchange should do more to let the public know what is happening with their medical data and make clear that they have the choice to opt out. “I’m concerned that there’s no public education campaign,” she said. “The best opt-out process, if nobody knows about it, it’s just a tree that falls in the forest.” Officials at the exchange have said that while providers and insurers will have access to the HIE in the short term, others, such as researchers, may be considered for access in the future. Patients will eventually be able to log in and view their own data as well. Jenn Searls, executive director of Connie, said leaders at the exchange are working with the OHS to come up with a long-term funding strategy that likely will include some federal money and a subscription model for participating organizations. Connecticut is one of the last states in the nation to launch a broad health information exchange. Some states have a single network that serves all residents. Others, like Texas and California, have several regional HIEs in the state. And a handful have started the networks but run into problems, forcing them to dissolve the systems and start over.

Expert Advises How To Grow Older, Not Just Look Older

NEW YORK — Oh, the benefits the years bring: experience, wisdom, patience…but wrinkles? Age spots? “In our field,” notes Dr Suzanne Friedler of Advanced Dermatology PC, “decades of research have brought major anti-aging advances that can help people enjoy the pluses of getting older while still looking younger.” Thanks to breakthroughs in understanding our skin’s underlying processes and the cumulative roles that time and lifestyle play in aging, today’s skin care specialists have a robust portfolio of options to address both prevention and restoration. “At this point,” Dr Friedler observes, “we have a comprehensive understanding of what causes our skin to age — from wrinkles and sagging to the appearance of age spots. And we can provide a wide range of interventions. With that in mind, Friedler

offers the following suggestions to grow older without looking older: 1. Put a stop to ‘dynamic’ wrinkles: “Dynamic wrinkles,” Friedler explains, “are caused by repeated muscle movements — for example, the smiles of a life well lived. Muscle relaxers such as Botox are a great fix for dynamic wrinkles. These injections can reduce their appearance, as well as limit further formation.” 2. Harness your skin’s own power: “Another reason we see wrinkles over time,” Dr Friedler observes, “is that our skin settles into furrows as it gradually loses the collagen that provides its underlying framework. There’s been an explosion of treatments to jump start the skin’s own collagen production. Microdermabrasion, microneedling, lasers, radiofrequency, ultrasound — treatments such as the Fraxel laser, Ulthera ultrasound, and

Thermage radiofrequency — these all act as triggers for our skin to produce new collagen. And the Intensif microneedle, for example, offers a combined approach, pairing microneedling with radiofrequency stimulation.” 3. Add back what time has taken: “Fillers,” notes Dr Friedler, “are another great way to address the loss of support that leads to wrinkles. Radiesse and Sculptra injections, for example, can add volume and boost collagen. And hyaluronic acid (HA) fillers are also very effective, replacing a key ingredient that helps our skin retain moisture and stay firm. Juvederm and Restylane both have a menu of tailored HA options for fine and deep wrinkles, as well as loss of volume.” 4. Banish age spots: “Years of sun exposure,” explains Dr Friedler, “can result in what are permanent spots,

basically patches of tan that do not fade. Laser treatments can eliminate the melanocyte clusters that cause age spots. And specialized exfoliation, such as microdermabrasion and chemical peels, can remove spots and support skin regeneration.” 5. Practice prejuvenation — ‘safe sun’: “It’s never too early or too late to adopt safe sun practices,” emphasizes Dr Friedler. “Ultraviolet radiation is a key culprit in skin aging, speeding up the loss of collagen that causes wrinkles and disrupting skin tone and texture. Many people actually see their sun exposure increase as they get older, due to retirement lifestyle changes, for example. The good news is that adopting sun-safe practices — sunscreen, protective clothing, and seeking shade — can not only prevent additional damage but may allow one’s skin to repair.”

has the ability, you could allow them to see your location, too.” Notifying someone about your whereabouts is beneficial, but it also does not hurt to have that person also be your preplanned exit strategy if the date winds up making you uncomfortable. “You could also invite a friend to meet you there at the end of an hour to set a more finite end to the date,” Officer Chapman said. The strategy of setting a specific end time to a date has been adopted in a variety of forms — some people say they have an appointment to get to or that they have a rule of first dates only being a certain amount of time. This gives the person a safe out without having to confront someone that the date is not going well. “Online dating is a perfectly reasonable way for us to make connections, but as with any online activity; we should proceed with caution, and if it is not adding to our life in a positive way, it may be time to give it a break,” Officer Chapman said. Alissa Silber can be reached at

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Newtown Podiatrist Presents Nine Foot Facts To Run (Or Walk) With By Shannon Hicks We may not all be runners, but most of us have to do some walking every day. So why not take the necessary steps to ensure your feet are not suffering because of it? When it comes to common issues involving our feet, the leading reasons patients are visiting one local podiatrist include bunions; plantar fasciitis, or heel pain (aka policeman’s heel); Morton’s neuroma, or intermetatarsal neuroma; corns and calluses; and general heel pain, athlete’s foot, flat feet, sports injuries, hammer toes, and ingrown toenails. Dr Hang Huynh has seen more than her share of these issues beginning with her podiatric medical training at Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Independence, Ohio, before four additional years of residency at St Barnabas Hospital in Bronx, N.Y., where she was chief resident during her final year of training. This local diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Medicine also received specialized training in all aspects of podiatric medicine and foot surgery, with a focus on foot and ankle biometrics, orthotics therapy, diabetic foot care, and children’s foot problems. Dr Huynh is also a partner in Newtown Comprehensive Foot Care. She and Dr Andrew Campbell opened their practice in the SCB Building at 153 South Main Street, in October 2016. Dr Huynh sat down with The Newtown Bee recently to talk podiatry, foot care, and keeping up with medical education. *What is a podiatrist? A foot doctor. We are a medical specialty that treats anything related to the foot. However, there are some states where the scope of prac-

tice is wider, where you can treat the ankle or up to the lower leg. Connecticut recognizes the whole foot up to the maleola, which is beneath the ankle joint. If you want to work with the ankle, you can apply for a special permit with the State of Connecticut. *Who would benefit from seeing a podiatrist? A lot of our patients are people with diabetes, because there are a lot of complications that present in the foot with diabetes. The feet are the most affected area with diabetes, and then the kidneys. The foot is affected by the nerve problem, mainly with diabetes. If you have uncontrolled diabetes and you have neuropathy [weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage]... when you don’t feel much you start having problems with feet like ulcerations, and bones breaking down. It’s a big, big topic. We have a lot of seniors who have a lot of nail and skin problems. We also see children who are active in sports, runners, children with Down syndrome — a lot of them have flat feet, which is genetic with Down, and is overlooked — and anyone with painful calluses, warts, pain in the feet because of injuries, ingrown toenails, and anyone with flat feet or high arches, which may not create foot pain but can affect the back, knees, and hips. *How do you stay up to date with the latest diagnostic, treatment, and surgical techniques? As required by the state, I have to have a certain number of continuing medical education credits. Typically we attend two big conferences a year — we travel to wherever they are — but

Dr Hang Huynh sat down with The Newtown Bee recently to talk podiatry, foot care, and keeping up with medical education. —photo courtesy Newtown Comprehensive Foot Care lately it’s been virtual. Also podcasts and medical journals. *What makes a good podiatrist? You should look for someone

with personalized treatment options for each patient, not one size fit all. They should be willing to listen to your problem, and we usually refer board-certified physicians

because they share two certifications with podiatry. One is a surgery and one is a medicine one. Also get references and reviews from other patients in

the community. *What are some of the most common foot problems you see in your patients? We see common problems with diabetes, children with flat feet, and children with growing pain. We see a lot of runners with sport-related injury. We see people with heel pain, plantar fasciitis, warts. We treat fungal toenails, corns and calluses, and also arthritis in the feet. *What should patients expect during an initial visit/consultation? A full medical and surgical history. They have to bring in a list of current medication and doses, and we usually need the name of their primary care physicians so we can communicate if needed. The current onset of the foot problem that they are coming in for, and what have they done with the problem, both professionally and at home — did

they see other doctors? Did they do home care for this? *What is the age range of your patients? The youngest is one year old, and currently my oldest is 102. *At what age do our feet stop growing? We have growth plates in the bodies, and when you reach maturity, so puberty — depending on individually — so, how your hormone level is when you grow up. [When] your growth plate is fused — it hardens, but it starts out as soft — then you stop growing, typically around age 14, but if you are a slow grower you could be 18 years old and still growing. When the grow plates stop growing, your feet stop growing. *Does exercise have an impact on foot health? Exercise definitely helps with your feet, and your foot health. Usually we recommend walking, because when you walk you put your foot through

range of motion. It also strengthens your muscle and your circulation, and that helps keep you moving. Definitely try to walk as much as you can. Usually walking has a lot more people able to do it because the elderly, they cannot jog or hike. So we encourage as much walking as they can. When you have more muscle strength, then you can do other strenuous activity like hiking and jogging. You can start slowly with the walk first, and then go jogging, and then the hiking is usually reserved for when you have the strong capacity to do it — it’s with your full body, so the breathing, and your muscle tone. You have to build up from the ground with walking. But yes, exercise definitely helps. Associate Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at

Prevention Week Focuses On Year-Round Outreach, Education, Public Awareness HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), in partnership with state and local organizations and communities, celebrates National Prevention Week (NPW), May 9-15. Now in its tenth year, the effort is designed to build and expand outreach, education, and public awareness of and action around substance misuse and mental health. “Connecticut’s participation in National Prevention Week takes on even greater importance this year, as we strive to create and sustain meaningful dialogue — and action — around substance misuse, mental health, suicide prevention, and the promotion of overall health and wellness,” said Governor Ned Lamont. “People of all ages in every community in Connecticut are grappling

with these issues, and this observance provides not only meaningful acknowledgement, but tools and information for individuals and families to use to prevent, mitigate, respond to, or recover from these challenges.” In addition, three Connecticut Prevention Week subcommittees comprising individuals and organizations from across the state were planning to be actively engaged in several local initiatives starting in May and continuing throughout the year. The Library Subcommittee is raising awareness of the contribution of libraries to the dialogue and success of prevention efforts and reaching members of the community. The committee is encouraging local prevention councils and community coalitions dedicated to substance use prevention and mental health promo-

tion to collaborate with local libraries, which includes helping libraries expand their prevention resources and for libraries to get to know their local coalitions better and the activities they sponsor. A book list for teens and parents also has been developed, as well as substance misuse and suicide prevention resources for parents, teens, families, and the community. The Mascot Subcommittee developed a blue starfish mascot for use during Connecticut’s Prevention Week celebration and throughout the year. The starfish mascot was created to communicate the many aspects of prevention and the importance of outreach. A mascot naming contest is underway. Suggestions will be collected until the end of National Prevention Week, and top contenders will be

voted on by a statewide committee. The Media Subcommittee, in collaboration with prevention professionals and leaders across the state, produced a public service announcement (PSA) for website and social media dissemination. The PSA emphasizes the need for Connecticut to take a collective approach to prevention, now and moving forward. Communities make prevention happen every day – not just during NPW – and NPW is the perfect time to promote and celebrate prevention activities and resources in our communities. The three primary goals of National Prevention Week are to involve communities in raising awareness of substance use and mental health issues and in implementing prevention strategies, and showcasing effectiveness of evidence-based prevention

programs; fostering partnerships and collaborations with federal agencies and national organizations dedicated to improving public health; and promoting and disseminating quality substance use prevention and mental health promotion resources and publications. NPW in Connecticut is coordinated by a planning committee led by Wheeler’s Connecticut Clearinghouse and includes DMHAS, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, the Prevention Training and Technical Assistance Service Center, Regional Behavioral Health Action Organizations, and local prevention councils and other coalitions serving Connecticut communities. Find more information at or ctpreventionweek.

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