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State Senator

Christine Cohen

Representing Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison & North Branford

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Cohen, Senate Democrats Announce “A Healthy Connecticut” Agenda

Bill proposals aim to strengthen our health care system, environment and energy system

Today, State Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) joined Senate Democrats to announce “A Healthy Connecticut,” the third of four legislative agendas for the 2019 legislative session. The series of bills outline the policy proposals from Senate Democrats to strengthen our health care system, environment and energy system.

Sen. Cohen has co-introduced a number of bills to prevent youth vaping, improve our healthcare system, provide a public healthcare option and she has presented legislation to fight opioid addiction.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I stand with my colleagues to introduce proposals promoting a ‘Healthy Connecticut,’ ”said Sen. Cohen. “As a parent, much of this legislation is deeply personal to me. I want to address the alarming numbers surrounding opioid addiction, protect our youth from the harmful targeting and effects of vaping and ensure families are provided for by addressing the rising costs of healthcare. These legislative proposals aim to do just that and I am proud to support an agenda that will tackle these important issues.”

The legislative proposals in the “A Healthy Connecticut” agenda include:

HEALTH CARE

Senate Bill 397: An Act Prohibiting the Sale of Flavored Electronic Nicotine Dispensing Systems at Retail Establishments

  • Vape products are the most commonly used among American youth. 3.6 million youth vaped in 2018 including 1/5 high school students and 1/20 middle school students. According to the CDC there has been a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette usage by high schoolers.
  • Vaping products play an important role in helping adult cigarette users turn to less harmful products, but they also pose a major threat to our youth, especially considering the tobacco industry has used them to target children, partially using flavored products to draw them in.
  • Stanford University studied vape company JUUL’s marketing from 2015-2018, determined it was “patently youth oriented,” pulling flavored products removes a weapon from their arsenal.
  • This bill would ban the sale of all flavored vaping products other than tobacco, mint and menthol flavors.

Senate Bill 375: An Act Concerning Nursing Home Facility Minimum Staffing Levels

  • There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates a link between adequate nurse staffing and better patient outcomes. Furthermore, studies also conclude that insufficient staffing causes nurse burnout, job dissatisfaction and turnover which diminish patient satisfaction and hospitals’ bottom lines.
  • Last year, Kaiser Health News analyzed daily payroll records from more than 14,000 nursing homes around the United States and found that most had fewer nurses and caretaking staff than they had reported to the government for years. Medicare previously had been rating each facility’s staffing levels based on the homes’ own unverified reports, making it possible to game the system.
  • Only accurate, transparent reporting of actual direct care nurse staff levels can assure residents that their vulnerable family members are receiving the appropriate amount of care. Patients should not have to experience a negative outcome for their family to realize they are being inadequately cared for.
  • This bill would require that nursing homes disclose the actual number of direct care staff providing care to residents, and make this information accessible to patient families, in an accurate and understandable manner.

Senate Bill 769: An Act Concerning The Prevention of Opioid Use Disorder

  • There has been a steady increase in total overdose deaths among residents from 357 deaths in 2012 to 1,038 deaths in 2017. In 2016, Connecticut ranked 11th among all states in highest rate of overdoses, with 27.4 deaths per every 100,000 people.
  • This bill would require the Alcohol and Drug Policy Council to provide the Public Health committee with specific recommendations that will assist in expanding access to substance use disorder treatment services and detoxification.

Senate Bill 750: An Act Concerning Mental Health prevention and treatment of undergraduate and graduate students

  • Studies have shown that the problem of low treatment seeking behaviors in college students may be addressed by the use of technology. Traditional as well as non-traditional students report that they do not seek help because of limited time or because they worry about what others may think.
  • Technology-based programs for screening as well as for treatment would have the advantage of providing anonymity and could be available at any time and may be cost-effective. Studies have shown that such an approach increased the rate of help-seeking behavior among at-risk students.
  • This bill would require institutions of higher education to establish programs for the prevention and treatment of mental illness for undergraduate and graduate students.

Senate Bill 770: An Act Concerning Mental Health Prevention and Treatment for All Children

  • As we learn more and more about mental health treatment we recognize the need for early detection and treatment options in our children.
  • This bill would increase training and education of mental health awareness and understanding including best practices on how to get help at the elementary school level.
  • In addition, the bill would enable students in middle schools and high schools to have an option of obtaining a mental health first aide certificate.

Senate Bill 4: An Act Concerning The Affordability and Accessibility of Prescription Drugs

  • It is critical for the state to look at prescription drug prices, review them and determine how we can offer an affordable and accessible option to people. Often prescription drug costs can be lowered by increasing the availability of cheaper generic drugs to more people.
  • This bill would have the Insurance Commissioner consider affordability in reviewing health insurance premium rate filings.

ENVIRONMENT

Senate Bill 588: An Act Prohibiting Off-Shore Drilling in Connecticut’s coastal areas

  • In recent months the Trump Administration has moved to open nearly a billion acres off of the Atlantic, Pacific and Artic coasts to offshore oil and gas drilling.
  • On Tuesday February 5th both chambers of the New York legislature approved a ban on offshore drilling in areas controlled by the state.
  • This bill would ban offshore drilling for oil and/or natural gas in Connecticut’s coastal zone and territorial waters to minimize adverse environmental effects and economic effects related to tourism.

ENERGY

Senate Bill 469: An Act Concerning Utility Response Times For Restoration of Electric Service and Utility Minimum Staffing Levels

  • In the last several years, the response times by utility companies to perform repair work after storms, and the resulting delays in restoring power to Connecticut residents and business owners, have spiked.
  • At the same time, companies like Eversource have reduced repair staff and equipment, often replacing their employees with private contractors who may not arrive in Connecticut until well after the damage is done. Without adequate staffing, Eversource wastes customer time and keeps their homes in the dark and their businesses unable to operate.
  • This bill would establish minimum staffing levels for utility line crews and related utility employee positions in order to improve utility response times for restoration of electric service after power outages.

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