When it comes to coverage of mental health care for children in Connecticut, there’s an unusual inversion of the state’s economic disparity. Parents and health care providers say it’s easier for low-income children on the state’s Husky Medicaid plan to get certain care options covered than kids whose parents have private insurance. (We’ve talked about this on State of Disparity before).
Now Connecticut is proposing a new plan to cover mental health care for kids. It involves pooling both public money and money from private insurers. And the plan is getting mixed reviews. Craig LeMoult’s story on the the plan is online here.
Recently a national anti-hunger advocacy group ranked Connecticut as the 6th best state for access to affordable and nutritious food—what’s also called community food security. But a study released Wednesday by UConn’s Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy shows that things are pretty tough in some areas.
You can hear Will Stone’s report on food insecurity here:
1 in 6 children in New London County is food insecure. That means they and their families don’t have reliable access to affordable food for a number of reasons—transportation, education, geography and income, all play a role.
It’s not all about economic disparity for this issue. The per capita income in the city of New London is $21,000, while neighboring Stonington is almost twice that. But the report shows Stonington still has a higher than average risk of food insecurity.
“Every town in the county has an at-risk population,” says Mary Gates, who’s been conducting focus groups on food insecurity for the New London Food Policy Council. “I want to make sure that people don’t look at Stonington or Mystic and say there can’t be hungry people there.”
WSHU’s coverage of disparity issues in Connecticut was necessarily interrupted by coverage the tragic school shooting in Newtown. We plan to share more disparity-related stories soon. In the meantime, there was one story following the Newtown tragedy that raised an issue of disparity. Reporter Melinda Tuhus covered a news conference about mental health services for children, in which Yale professor Steven Marans, Director of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, said there was a disparity in the access to mental health coverage for kids.
“The poor have a certain baseline level of services and the wealthy can pay privately, and the middle class has very limited access,” he said.
Here’s Melinda Tuhus’ story:
It’s an interesting parallel to our recent story about half-day vs. full-day kindergarten. Sometimes the people at the top of the economic spectrum in Connecticut can afford services, those at the bottom get financial assistance, and it’s tough to be stuck in the middle.
A new report from the Connecticut Department of Public Health says between 2005 and 2009, the number of asthma-related emergency room visits for Hispanic children increased nearly 51%. The report on asthma also says black children had the highest annual rates of hospitalizations because of asthma. Eileen Boulay of the Department of Public Health says they’re trying to determine why so many of these kids wind up going to the hospital.
The report says conditions like pollution, inadequate housing, poor health care access and communication, and a lack insurance coverage can contribute to asthma problems. It says in 2011 the state Department of Public Health received funding from the CDC and later from the Affordable Care Act to address chronic disease prevention and health disparities. And it says the department plans to collect more detailed data on chronic diseases like asthma, and they plan to work more closely with health care providers and policy makers on the issue.
In an op-ed in Monday’s Hartford Courant, Patricia Baker of the Connecticut Health Foundation in Hartford argues that the Affordable Care Act provides the opportunity to “level the health care playing field in Connecticut.” Among the statistics she uses in the article:
” • Hispanic and African American residents are roughly 5.4 times more likely to lack health insurance compared to white residents.
• Hispanic individuals are 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes than white residents in Connecticut and are 3.8 times more likely to be hospitalized for related complications that require an amputation of an arm, leg or foot.
• Hispanic and African American residents are roughly 5.4 times more likely to lack health insurance compared to white residents.”
Baker says there are specific provisions in the law that will address some of those disparities. She mentions a requirement that will mandate the collection and use of racial, ethnic and language data.
“Collecting this data will help us understand population-based health needs for which we can develop targeted solutions to eliminate health disparities. To take this a step further, the act also calls for a commitment to measure, intervene wisely, make improvements and re-measure over time, thus allowing us to hone our practices for better results.”
And she says with improved information technology and programs to expand access to primary care, the state can move toward greater health equity. You can read her full op-ed here.
The economic disparity in Connecticut shows up in how healthy we are. Things like nutrition, exercise and doctor visits are all directly effected by how much income we have. In the last of our recent Fairfield County Focus interviews on disparity, we talked with Elizabeth Krause of the Connecticut Health Foundation, which makes financial grants to address the issue of health disparities:
A report by the Foundation on eliminating health disparities can be found here.