Points of Pride

Screenings Program Makes Sure Community is A-OK

By Elissa Bass

At a health screening clinic at the St. Vincent de Paul meal center in Norwich, East Region Community Health nurse Michele Brezniak gave 16 people free diabetes and blood pressure screenings. 

Of those, seven had elevated blood pressure and four showed higher than normal levels of A1C levels, a measure for diabetes. Many did not realize they had potential health issues. 

The screenings were part of A-OK with HHC, an outreach program designed to bring important health screenings to at-risk individuals who may not have access to regular healthcare. Brezniak created the program last fall, launching it first in Norwich and then at the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic. 

“We also do a basic health risk assessment by asking a series of questions, and we provide education based on their results, including how they can access a primary care provider or follow up care, regardless of their insurance or immigration status,” she said. 

The program has materials in Haitian Creole, Mandarin, English and Spanish. Brezniak works with Hartford HealthCare’s Colleague Resource Groups (CRGs) to provide accurate information in multiple languages while addressing cultural sensitivities and protocols. 

“The CRGs have been great to work with,” she said. “It’s so nice to have this resource as we put this together, and then be able to go back and share information and data with them.” 

Outside HHC, Brezniak works with United Way of Southeastern Connecticut as well as students from Three Rivers Community College, University of Connecticut and the Health Education Center in Norwich, an organization that recruits and trains health professionals from diverse backgrounds to serve marginalized communities. 

The program had trial runs at Jennings School in New London and Wequonnoc School in Taftville, both in conjunction with United Way mobile food pantries. Moving forward, Brezniak wants to provide “pop up” screenings at mobile food pantry sites to reach even more people. 

Giving 16 people important information about their health and working with them to make sure they receive follow up care made it a “great day,” Brezniak said. “The people were grateful to have the opportunity to be screened, and it was great to connect with them.” 

Michele Brezniak, right, the community health nurse in the East Region, talks to Salem Village resident Deborah Hegre as she checks her blood pressure during a health and nutrition clinic. 

Photo by Jeff Evans

CHH Participating in CT Olmsted Landscape Project

By Tim Lebouthillier

Moments Summer 2022

In the early 20th century, landscape work designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. was commissioned at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. The hospital is participating in a state-wide project documenting Olmsted’s work. 

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital (CHH) participated in a special statewide project documenting historic landscapes designed by the firm of famed Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of his birth this year. 

The report is being prepared by the nonprofit group Preservation Connecticut, in partnership with the State of Connecticut Historic Preservation Office. Last fall, teams were sent to the locations of Olmsted’s work to view and document the grounds and learn more about the special features created at each location. The Institute of Living is another Olmsted landscape design. 

The founders of CHH hired Olmsted’s firm in 1915 to create the hospital’s entrance, walls and long driveway to give the grounds the look and feel of an estate, a popular approach in the day. The firm was again commissioned in the late 1920s to grade and build roads on the Torrington campus and create the front circle sidewalks, curbs and plantings to complement the construction of the Tower Building, completed in 1930. 

For the recent research project, CHH shared photographs and documents from its archives, including a copy of the original Olmsted telegram received by the hospital’s Building Committee, detailing the proposed work. The estimated project cost was $17,250, the equivalent of more than $275,000 today. 

Preservation Connecticut intends to make the entire study available online and is planning a series of events, including talks and tours of historic landscapes.

Visit https://preservationct.org/olmsted to learn more. 

Olmsted also did landscape design work for the grounds of the Institute of Living in 1861. This year, the IOL celebrates 200 years of operation, the same year as the 200th anniversary of Olmsted’s birth. He was known for designing Manhattan’s Central Park, the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, and several mental health hospitals throughout America including locations in Boston and Buffalo. 

The Ridge Recovery Center will be the only facility of its kind in eastern Connecticut.

Photo by Jeff Evans

The Ridge to Offer Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

by Kate Carey-Trull

Healthcare providers continue to sound the alarm about a growing crisis in behavioral health, and Connecticut lawmakers prioritized legislation to increasing access in 2022. 

Against this backdrop, Hartford HealthCare will open a new residential substance use disorder treatment and recovery program in Windham in the fall. The Ridge Recovery Center will be at 289 Windham Road, site of the former Immaculata Retreat House, a Catholic Church retreat and meeting center that closed in 2018. 

The facility will offer multiple private suites featuring a single room, private bathroom and living space to complement larger gathering areas, private meeting rooms, a comfortable dining room, a fitness gym and offices. 

The site also includes peaceful outdoor spaces and walking trails, ideal for outdoor therapy sessions, yoga, expressive arts and other adjunctive therapies and leisure activities. 

The Ridge will operate under Rushford, a leader in substance use prevention and treatment for more than 40 years. The facility will treat alcohol, opioid and all other substance use disorders. 

“The Ridge will offer a private, healing space at a level of care not currently easily available in Connecticut,” said Justin Sleeper, RN, vice president of clinical operations.

“The Ridge will allow people to get a higher level of care in a private, professional atmosphere they can be comfortable in. People have few choices when it comes to residential treatment for substance use disorder. We are eager to open our doors and offer people a choice close to home.” 

Dr. J. Craig Allen, vice president of addiction services at the Behavioral Health Network (BHN) and medical director of Rushford, said there is a definite need for residential treatment in eastern Connecticut. 

“Across the state, we have seen a 14.6-percent increase in opioid overdose deaths,” Dr. Allen said. “The stress and isolation of the pandemic has had a significant impact on alcohol use, with many people crossing the line from risky use to a full-blown disorder, while others who had achieved sobriety may have returned to use.” 

Services at The Ridge will be for adults, 18 and older, and include withdrawal management (detoxification) and residential treatment. Psychiatric expertise will be available for patients with co-occurring psychiatric disorders. 

After stabilizing in residential care, clients can transition to Rushford or other BHN outpatient programs and continue treatment. Both Natchaug and Backus have programs nearby, and other BHN services are spread throughout the state.