“Sober” Houses Need to Be Regulated and Held Accountable

Holly Hackett, Community Advocate, Member of Coalition for People

My life has been impacted immensely by substance use disorder. Has yours? The statistics say yes, that 1 in 3 people know someone with substance use disorder, a chronic and debilitating brain condition. There are approximately 2.1 million people (and growing) in the U.S. suffering from this condition but only 1 in 9 seek treatment, usually due to the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. These untreated traumas or mental health issues that lead to the person self-medicating can also lead to other health issues, criminal activity and unfortunately, deaths of despair. Every 11 minutes someone dies from an overdose and half are in private homes. In doing my research, I’ve concluded that a lot of these deaths at private homes have occurred in so-called “sober” houses.

My love Tom passed away just 20 days shy of his 39th birthday of liver failure after being in a “sober” house for about 3-4 months. I’m trying to bring awareness to these illegitimate, unsafe, fly-by-night houses that anyone can start, where MANY people across the country struggling with substance use disorder have died.

The cost to live in these houses can range from $700 to $10,000 a month and may not include food, cable TV or linens. In Connecticut there is Public Act No 18-171, but by using simple verbiage these houses are absolved and no one seems to want to enforce said act.

I’m also discouraged that these managers and/or owners of these “sober” houses aren’t held criminally liable if someone dies of an overdose at the house or perhaps drinks and drives and gets into an accident. I’d like to gather everyone together who has been affected by this disorder to stand together, work together, and find a way to let our local, state and federal legislators know these houses are UNACCEPTABLE and MORE needs to be done. We need to protect the vulnerable communities of people with mental health and substance use disorders. The process of Tom dying was long, and at times extremely physically and emotionally painful for him, but his parents suffered through emotional turmoil that cannot even be put into words!

I am hoping PAR readers will want to join me in working on this. Please contact me via email at hollyh1133@gmail.com.

Help Push New Health Care Choices This Session!

by Protect Our Care Connecticut

From Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut:

The race is on to offer Connecticut small businesses and individuals new quality health insurance coverage they can afford. Will you help us get over the finish line?

Act Now! Call Governor Lamont at 800-406-1527 and let him know that you need him to support small businesses and individuals seeking better health insurance choices. Ask him to support House Bill 7267/SB 134. Make the call now!

BACKGROUND: Groundbreaking legislation to open up new health insurance choices, built upon the health coverage state employees and legislators receive, could pass in the next six weeks. Small businesses are the major source of job growth in our state, employing over 700,000 people. They struggle to afford health coverage for their workers, facing double-digit increases year after year. They deserve better options for their employees, not health plans that only pay for care after people spend thousands of dollars on co-pays and deductibles.

Individuals who buy insurance on their own have fewer and worse insurance choices. The high deductibles they face are a barrier to using their coverage to address worrying symptoms or to help them stay healthy. A new insurance choice built upon the state plan, sometimes called a “public option,” would mean small businesses and individuals could benefit from the negotiating power of the largest health plan in the state.

Save the Date – Wed. May 1 – Health Care Action Day Join us at the state Capitol to tell legislators – It’s Time to Act on Health Care!

10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave., Hartford. We will start with an issues briefing (location to be determined) and then meet with legislators. We are working in partnership with the Women’s Health Lobby Day. Issues briefing will also include updates on major women’s health issues.

Protect Our Care CT priority bills/issues:

*Protect Medicaid/HUSKY from cuts
*Establish public health insurance options for small businesses/nonprofits and individuals buying on the private market (HB 7267; SB 134)
*Bring down the price of prescription drugs (HB 7174).

See Resources page of www.protectourcarect.org for information on POCCT bills.

Is Your PAR Subscription About to Run Out?

by PAR Planning Committee

The Progressive Action Roundtable newsletter publishes from September through June. Subscriptions from many of our readers will expire with the June issue.

We hope you enjoy your subscription and value the PAR newsletter as a community resource. To see if your subscription is due for renewal, please look at your address label. If “201906” is printed on the label to the right of your name, your subscription ends next month. Please send in $13 for 10 issues (Sept. 2019-June 2020) so that you can continue to read about what local organizations are doing and you can submit articles about your own organization.

The Progressive Action Roundtable was started in January 1993. After several months, this community Newsletter became the main activity of PAR, giving New Haven area organizations an opportunity for networking and for advertising their activities.

We hope to hear from you.

Liberty Community Services at New Haven Libraries

Liberty Community Services offers one-on-one consulta-tions at NHFPLs for those with basic needs (jobs, food, shelter, and health and wellness issues).
Ives Main Library, 133 Elm Street
* Mondays to Fridays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
* Saturdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Fair Haven Branch Library, 182 Grand Avenue
* Thursdays, 5-7 p.m. * Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Wilson Branch Library, 303 Washington Avenue
* Tuesdays, 5-7 p.m *Saturdays, April 13, 27, 10 a.m.-1p.m.

Why Run for Mayor? by Wendy Hamilton

Wendy Hamilton, NH homeless advocate and mayoral candidate

PAR readers may remember the article Wendy wrote in the Feb. 2018 issue of PAR about homelessness and Mark Cochran. Mark died shortly after Yale New Haven Hospital discharged him in winter with no place to go. Wendy has filed the paperwork to run for mayor and has asked if we would share her concerns with our readers.

One day I just felt fed up with the chaos, the lies, the crazy spending, the near bankruptcy, the greed, the lack of compassion, the apathy…

Justin [Elicker] and Liam [Brennan] were sitting on the fence. I decided to commit to the research and the signature-collecting because I want to be heard at the Democratic primary debates coming this fall.

After making a list of city problems, I saw they fit into four categories–Housing, Budget, Safety, and Transportation.

Housing is no longer affordable for the masses without job security and bank loans for the working poor. The cost of living increases during years of flatline wages and a widening wealth gap. Developers and slumlords are getting all the breaks. Homelessness exists in every town and city and is growing despite what mass media says. Foreclosures and evictions are everyday occurrences.

The Budget is a runaway train growing by $100 million plus with our current mayor in office. We are in debt and near bankruptcy. The biggest contribution comes from our property taxes. Biggest expenditures are police, fire, and school systems, all of which need revamping with fair and intelligent contracts and pensions. We also have a huge yearly debt payoff. Yale, on 50% of the town land, only pays about 1/33 of the yearly take. The state offers a little better money but not enough.

Safety, which includes physical elements like crime, fire, pollution of air and water and climate change, is also a desirable feeling for the public to have and many don’t feel safe here for many reasons. Our police and firefighters require contracts to make them feel safe and appreciated. City residents require a civilian review board that can address their problems by affecting real change. We need to stop treating the homeless, the addicted, and sex workers (mostly homeless women) like criminals. We need year-round hazardous waste collection and cleaner parks that operate for the public benefit, not just the lucky few. We need to get housing quickly for those living on the street.  We all need affordable medical care.

Transportation is a city theme. We have trains, buses, major highways, bike and pedestrian trails, and a harbor. We are part of East Coast Metro which includes several huge cities.  The age of automobiles is over, but city hall hasn’t figured it out yet. 25% of us have asthma. Our air is just plain dirty. Bike travel is on the rise fortunately (I am 70 and own 2). Bus routes and schedules need to be examined and improved here. Many here can’t afford a bike or a car or a cab. Cab service is pricey and undependable here. A $40 million boathouse that took years to build on its own pier lies empty and unavailable to us even though our taxes paid for it — a colossal waste.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Gandhi Peace Award to Jackson Browne

by Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace Administrator

Promoting Enduring Peace is giving its Gandhi Peace Award this year to singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. He will receive the award on Friday, Sept. 14, at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University, 501 Crescent St., New Haven. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Starting the program will be two speakers: Frida Berrigan, who has worked for years warning of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and Chris George, Executive Director of IRIS — Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services. Singers Ben Grosscup and Luci Murphy will provide entertainment. Tickets can be reserved online for a donation. The Eventbrite link is https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gandhi-peace-award-2018-tickets-48315261247.

Jackson Browne is the first artist ever to receive the Gandhi Peace Award. The award recognizes Browne’s extraordinary contributions of time and talent to the inseparable causes of world peace, environmental harmony, and social justice. The award comes with a cash prize and a medallion forged from “peace bronze” composed of metals salvaged from the control systems of U.S. nuclear missiles. Consistent with tradition, Browne has been invited “to present a message of challenge and hope” to those present. A reception will follow.

The Gandhi Peace Award, named after Indian anti-imperialist and nonviolence advocate Mohandas Gandhi, derives its international renown from those who have accepted it over the years. Among the 54 awardees are Martin Luther King, Jr., Benjamin Spock, Dorothy Day, Daniel Ellsberg, César Chávez, Amy Goodman, Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Tom Goldtooth, Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader.

Browne has organized or participated in thousands of benefit performances to support the environment, social justice, and human rights as well as causes such as music and arts education in public schools and has worked with two former Gandhi Peace Award recipients, Amnesty International (1978) and the Children’s Defense Fund (1990). Browne has composed and performed songs widely regarded as among the most literate and moving songs in popular music, defining a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion, and personal politics. In 2004 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

 

PCMH Plus and Changes to Husky Medical Care: What You Should Know

by Coalition for People

At the June meeting of the Coalition for People, Ellen Andrews of the CT Health Policy Project gave a presentation of some very important changes to HUSKY Health. She also introduced the work of the CT Health Policy Project, whose purpose is to ensure there is affordable healthcare for everyone in the state.

Since 2012 HMOs have not been involved in Connecticut’s Medicaid program. Primary care providers work directly with patients. It saves money and people get more care.

PCMH Plus is a new program; Person-Centered Medical Home Plus or PCMH+ provides person-centered, comprehensive and coordinated care to HUSKY Health members. Advocates are concerned it jeopardizes the progress made since 2012. It will allow medical practices to get back 50% of the money they save the Medicaid program. It incentivizes less care which can be achieved by eliminating duplicate tests and improving care to keep people out of the hospital. Savings can also be generated by denial of needed services, not following through and not referring people to specialists. These practices will save the state money and 50% of the savings will get kicked back to the medical practices. Patients can be “cherry-picked” and patients needing high-cost care can be dumped from their providers’ practice.

Patients have the choice to opt-out of PCMH+ and nothing will change with their current care. In fact, if people do not opt-out of PCMH+, they will lose access to Intensive Care Management, a program to help people with complex conditions. Many people who are covered by HUSKY Health don’t know about this program and what their options are. For more information, check the website at PCMHPlusFacts.org.

The next meeting of the Coalition for People is Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2 p.m. in the community room (lower level) of the Fair Haven LIbrary, 182 Grand Ave. All are welcome to attend.

The Future of Health Care in Connecticut: Paths to Equity and Good Health for All, April 25

Much of what influences health happens outside the doctor’s office. How can we build strong and meaningful links between the clinical care system and the communities where people live?
Wednesday, April 25, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., join the CT Health Foundation and a panel of experts to explore ways to improve health outcomes and ensure the health care system works for everyone, at the Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd., Hartford. For information and to register, please contact the CT Health Foundation at (860) 724-1580, email: info@cthealth.org. Free but space is limited so please only register once. If you register and can’t attend, please let us know so we can give your ticket to someone else.

Guest speakers include Dr. David Williams, Norman Professor of Public Health, Harvard Chan School of Public Health; Dr. Soma Stout, Vice President, Institute for Health-care Improvement; Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, Editor-in-Chief, Kaiser Health News and author of An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Businessand How You Can Take It Back.

Mary Johnson, March 29, 1922-Aug. 13, 2017

It is with great sadness that the Progressive Action Roundtable Planning Committee informs our readers that Mary Johnson, a founding member of PAR and leader, strategist and active participant in most of PAR’s committees, has passed on.

We dedicate this issue of our newsletter to Mary. Without her guidance, ideas for informing the public and each other of rallies and events, optimism in the struggle for justice and her persistence in fighting for people’s rights throughout the years, there may not have even been a Progressive Action Roundtable. We all owe so much to her.

Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

Mary was directly active in many of the organizations that are PAR-affiliated. She was also active in most of New Haven’s progressive organizations. She most likely was a founding member of many.
She was a great political and personal influence on many. PAR encourages our readers to send in their reminiscences of her. In the words of Frank Panzarella, “Mary was the den mother for most of the New Haven activist community.”

A memorial is being planned for her with details upcoming.

In the News — Not Dead Yet and Second Thoughts Connecticut

by Elaine Kolb, Second Thoughts Connecticut

On Dec. 15, I submitted the following testimony to the New Jersey State Senate against a bill to legalize physician assisted suicide in that state:

My name is Elaine M. Kolb, member of Not Dead Yet and Second Thoughts Connecticut, and I am testifying against the assisted suicide bill, S382. Thirty-eight years ago, I was stabbed in the back, resulting in a spinal cord injury. Now, at 65, I am also officially old.

Sixteen years ago, at this time, my partner for eleven years, Patti Deak, was in the hospital. Weakened by chronic bronchitis, asthma, scoliosis, and a life-long neuro-muscular disease, she developed pneumonia and both of her lungs collapsed. Growing up with a disability, which relentlessly became more profound, Patti was told that she should expect to die young. She endured the insults and injuries of a culture which did not recognize her as a full citizen. Her whole life was a struggle for needed equipment, treatments and services. Remember, it was not until 1975, with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children’s Act, that public schools were required to even begin to attempt to include and teach children with disabilities.

Prejudice against people with disabilities of all ages continues to be extreme, sometimes deadly. Among those of us with long-term, visible disabilities, we share some terrifyingly common horror stories. Family, friends, even perfect strangers will say something like, “Oh, I could NEVER be as strong and brave as you are. If that happened to ME, I’d rather be dead.” Not a compliment. We experience insults, along with every kind of injury.

Patti Deak loved her life and our life together. So, when both lungs collapsed in December 1998, she decided that she was willing to go on a ventilator. Then we had to fight to get to pulmonary rehab at Gaylord Hospital, so she could come home. Sadly, she had further complications and went on hospice care. She died on March 10, 1999. She was forty. Patti Deak lived and died with dignity, with multiple disabilities, using a power wheelchair, hospital bed, Hoyer lift, hearing aids, and a ventilator.

When some non-disabled folks talk about “death with dignity,” they actually mean “death before disability” or “death before Depends.” With cut-backs in so many essential services, the message behind assisted suicide is that death is cost-effective. For those of us in danger of being denied what we need to live, “Compassion and Choice” feels more like “Contempt and Coercion.” We want to live with dignity and the recognition that our lives are beautiful and valuable and meaningful, just as we are.

Extend palliative care, hospice services, and end-of-life counseling. PLEASE do NOT pass assisted suicide in any form, including S382.

[NOTE: A similar bill will be presented again in the next Connecticut legislative session. Please contact your representatives to express your opposition. There will be more details in the February issue of PAR.]