Nicole Leonard | Connecticut Public Radio
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Nicole Leonard

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

While an undergraduate journalism student at Boston University, Nicole was a reporter for The Daily Free Press and a radio host at WTBU. As an intern, her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe and Boston.com. In her downtime, she watches way too many movies and television shows, which complicates her goal to become a better runner.

Access Health CT

Judges in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans this week found that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate -- the requirement that residents buy health insurance or pay a fine -- is unconstitutional.

But they held off from saying that the entire law is invalid, sending the case back to a lower court in Texas for more analysis into which parts of the federal law can continue without the individual mandate. 

SUDOK1 / ISTOCK / THINKSTOCK

Syed Alishan Nasir, a fourth-year medical student, recently completed a clinical rotation at Norwalk Community Health Center, which, like other community health centers, treats many low-income and underserved residents.

The experience further cemented Nasir’s idea to one day become a primary care physician and work in a similar setting, but said he and others face significant barriers to going into primary care, which typically doesn’t pay as much as other specialties.

COURTESY OF ACCESS HEALTH CT

Residents still looking to get health care insurance coverage for 2020 have 30 more days to select plans through Access Health CT, the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange.

Access Health CT officials announced Monday that they’ve extended the open enrollment period to Jan. 15 -- the original deadline passed on Sunday. Officials said the extension gives people more time to review plan changes or select new plans for next year. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

On a typical day at East Shore Middle School in Milford, the library is where students spend time using the computers, working on projects and checking out books.

But on a recent Monday morning, about a dozen students sat at tables, each with a virtual reality headset strapped onto their faces and a controller in one hand. Instead of seeing each other, Tino Pavlat and his friends interacted with people at a virtual high school and played Space Cats, a shooter minigame.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Deborah Bigelow walked into the Lyceum Conference Center in Hartford on a recent Thursday night prepared with a stack of folders and documents.

She hoped that by the time she left the Access Health Connecticut enrollment fair after speaking with a specialist, her health insurance plan for 2020 would be set, because not having coverage wasn’t an option.

Rebecca Reindel / AFL-CIO

Advocates for workplace protections for health care and social services employees celebrated outside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Thursday after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would require national protection standards against workplace violence.

“Sadly, in America today, nurses, doctors, social workers, EMTs and nursing assistants are more likely to be the victims of on-the-job violence than any sector of our nation’s workforce,” said Democrat Rep. Joe Courtney, sponsor of the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.

Images Money / Creative Commons

Major health care bills died in the Connecticut legislature earlier this year, including proposals for a public option insurance program, prescription drug pricing, and spending.

With health care policy shaping up to take prominence in both local and national politics next year, state lawmakers hope to get a jump-start on ways to lower health care costs and spending in Connecticut.

Courtesy: COHC

Federal funding for community health centers is nearing expiration this year. And both health professionals and politicians warn that if funding isn’t extended, it could impact Connecticut centers and patients. 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

A large silver tank sits in the front of Cherry Brook Primary School in Canton. In it are gallons of clean, filtered water that pump into the school’s fountains, sinks and water bottle filling stations.

It’s been a fixture on school grounds since Nov. 6 when town officials notified parents that Cherry Brook’s well water could be contaminated with PFAS, a family of man-made chemicals that may be toxic to humans. That contamination is thought to have occurred after firefighting foam was used at the school five years ago.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

At the Urban Hope Refuge Church in the North End of Hartford, residents and activists celebrated the city’s new housing codes, which they hope will hold landlords and owners more accountable.

“The new code will not only prevent slumlords from continuing to make money off horrendous and inhumane living conditions they create for residents,” said Joshua Serrano, “but also lift the corporate veil, of which many slumlords hide.” 

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

Patricia Banach just wanted her annual flu shot.

As the weather got colder, she and her husband, both in their 70s, knew that the chances of falling ill were higher, so they set out to a local pharmacy near their home in Somers to get vaccinated.

But it didn’t turn out to be that simple.

ronb359 / Creative Commons

A recent report that showed the presence of varying amounts of toxic heavy metals in baby foods has caused Connecticut lawmakers and public health experts to call for better safety standards from federal agencies in order to limit long-term risks to children.

Researchers at Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a national nonprofit alliance, tested 168 baby foods from 61 brands. They found that 95% of tested products contained chemicals and metals like lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium -- elements that can affect brain development.

Mark Mirko / The Hartford Courant

Connecticut Supreme Court justices ruled Wednesday that remaining frozen human embryos belonging to a divorced couple can be destroyed, as previously stipulated in a contract agreement.

The court avoided making a judgement in an argument about affording embryos human rights, but its decision did set a legal precedent for future possession disputes by clarifying how contract agreements should be followed.

BRIANAJACKSON / ISTOCK / THINKSTOCK

Senior physicians at Yale New Haven Hospital were in the middle of presentations during a recent meeting of the graduate medical education committee when a group of interns, residents and fellows interrupted.

At the front of the room, they unfurled a banner painted with the words “Doctors Are Humans Too.”

The group of training doctors then presented staff with what they called a Resident and Fellow Bill of Rights.

Wonderlane / Creative Commons

When Kyle Zimmer started working in the construction industry 40 years ago, he said health and safety standards focused on reducing injuries and fatalities from electrical hazards, falls and a lack of protective gear.  

But today, he said the focus needs to be on addiction, suicide prevention and behavioral health.

Seth Wenig / Associated Press

A child in Fairfield County has contracted measles, public health officials announced Friday.

This is the fourth reported case of measles in Connecticut this year, and the first in a school-aged child, Department of Public Health officials said. This case is not connected to three previous cases in adults reported between January and April.

Mecklenburg County / Creative Commons

Michael Manson isn’t shy about sharing his past of criminal charges, mental illness and problems with alcohol and substance abuse, because lately, he’s been focused on improving relationships with his family, staying sober and managing his mental health.

“I had therapy yesterday. I’m having therapy Friday. Some weeks I have two days — it depends on the week I’m having, because I know every day is a struggle,” he said. “Every day, I’m trying not to re-offend.”

SETH WENIG / Associated Press

New state data show that vaccination rates among some of the youngest schoolchildren in Connecticut fall below federally recommended levels.

The Department of Public Health Monday released school-by-school immunization data from the 2018/2019 year, which showed there were 134 schools where less than 95% percent of kindergartners got vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella.

Pan American Health Organization / Creative Commons

The state is expected to release new school-by-school vaccination and exemption data Monday after a Hartford Superior Court judge denied a Bristol couple’s attempt to temporarily block the release.

Attorney Cara Pavalock-D’Amato argued in court on behalf of her clients Brian and Kristen Festa that the release of a second report detailing percentages of religious and medical vaccine exemptions at each Connecticut school would continue to cause “irreparable harm” to the Festas, who have a son with a religious exemption.

scyther5/iStock / Thinkstock

Before electronic cigarettes hit the U.S. market about 10 years ago, Connecticut was making progress in decreasing nicotine use among young people.

About one in four teens were smoking cigarettes in 2000, but by 2017, that dropped to only 3.5% of school-aged students statewide, according to state reports.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio


Denise Guillemette sat at a table preparing dozens of flu vaccines that she would eventually give to residents who came to a recent community clinic in Glastonbury.

“Come on down,” she called to the next person in line waiting their turn. “How are you feeling today, good?”

Florey Institute / Creative Commons

Trying to figure out how much a medical procedure or treatment may cost can be time consuming and complicated, but Connecticut officials hope a new web tool may now make it easier for patients and their families.

The state Office of Health Strategy Tuesday launched a cost estimator tool on HealthscoreCT.com, a new website for health care quality and cost information. The estimator tool was designed to aid people in their medical decisions and give them a better idea of how health care pricing and coverage work.

Ted Eytan / Creative Commons

Ten years ago around this time, U.S. legislators were in the middle of hashing out one of the biggest ever pieces of health care reform legislation. Democrats narrowly passed it, and President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March of 2010.

Looking back on the last decade, Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, health policy expert and professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University, said the ACA has accomplished a lot, but it’s also left a fragmented health system divided by private and public sectors.

Vaping360.com / Creative Commons

A Connecticut resident has died from lung illness related to vaping, state officials announced Thursday. It’s the first fatality of its kind in the state and among a growing number of people who are dying in a nationwide outbreak of cases.

The patient was between 30 and 39 years old and died last week while being hospitalized for multiple medical conditions, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Chris Fifield-Smith / Creative Commons

A third Connecticut resident has died from EEE, and another person has been diagnosed with the illness, state officials announced Tuesday.

Dr. Matthew Cartter, state epidemiologist of the Department of Public Health, said in a statement that a person from East Haddam between 60 and 69 years old died during the third week of September from the mosquito-borne illness.

RYAN CARON KING / Connecticut Public Radio

A Superior Court judge has dismissed a parents’ lawsuit against the Connecticut Department of Public Health over the release of school-level vaccination data.

Brian and Kristen Festa, of Bristol, challenged DPH’s decision to release school-by-school vaccination data in May. The report also included the percentage of kids with religious and medical exemptions at each school.

Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio

 

Gov. Ned Lamont held a private meeting at his residence in Hartford Wednesday with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss policy and plans around transportation, cybersecurity, economic ventures, marijuana regulation and more.

High up on the list of concerns shared by the two governors is the nationwide outbreak of serious lung illnesses that may be related to vaping.

Stephen Ausmus / U.S. Department of Agriculture

A second person in Connecticut has died from Eastern equine encephalitis, a virus passed on from mosquitos, said state officials Tuesday.

According to the state Department of Public Health, the victim was an adult resident of Old Lyme who became ill during the second week of September and later tested positive for the rare mosquito-borne illness.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

 

Veteran radio reporter and editor John Dankosky is leaving Connecticut Public, the organization announced Monday. 

Dankosky, who has worked at the company for 25 years and is the executive editor of the New England News Collaborative, has taken a voluntary separation option offered to longtime employees.

Vaping360 / Creative Commons


The number of people becoming ill with lung injuries possibly linked to vaping continues to climb as states like Connecticut report more hospitalizations.

Two more cases of serious lung illness have been reported in the state, bringing the total to 13 people. That’s according to the Department of Public Health. That news follows an increase in cases nationwide.

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