Raises Concern Over State's Quality Of Life
April 20, 2005
By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer
The slight decline observed
in Connecticut's quality of life in 2002 could be a sign of
more serious problems to come for the state's social health,
according to the findings of a study discussed Tuesday at the
Connecticut's quality of life index rating in 2002 was 64 out
of a possible 100, down from a high of 65 in 2001, according
a study by the Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy.
With significant gains in some areas and noticeable losses in
others, Connecticut's social health report card for 2002 was
mixed, authors of the study said. But the drop in the overall
social index score was noteworthy, they said, especially if it
is signaling the start of a downward trend. The state's index
score has either made gains or held steady each year since it
hit a record low score of 40 in 1994.
The institute has been studying Connecticut's quality of life
by looking at statistics in 11 social problem areas each year
since 1970. The Index of Social Health, as the study is called,
is used to identify quality of life trends and help legislators
and policy makers set priorities.
In 2002 - the most recent year for which the data are available
- Connecticut saw its rates for high school dropouts and children
born to teens drop to the lowest on record, according to the
study. Violent crimes such as murder, robbery and aggravated
assault also declined.
But the rate of reported child abuse was the second-worst on
record in 2002, and infant mortality worsened after showing signs
of improvement in 2001, the report said.
In 2002, a total of 45,627 children were referred to state investigators
as possible victims of abuse, an increase of more than 3,500
children from the previous year, the report said. The number
of child abuse reports has more than doubled since 1990, according
to David M. Nee, executive director of the non-profit William
Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund and one of the study's sponsors.
In other areas, the poverty rate for female-headed families
with children rose to 27 percent and the number of non-elderly
people without health insurance increased to 12.4 percent. The
portion of personal income spent on health care rose to 14.2
percent, the worst level yet since 1970, officials said.
The income gap between people living in different counties in
Connecticut continues to be a serious problem, according to the
study. There was a 52 percent difference in the highest-income
county in Connecticut and its lowest-income county, the report
said, making Connecticut the state with the largest income disparity
in New England. Vermont was next at 44 percent. Rhode Island
was last at 26 percent.
Democratic party leaders quickly seized on the study as proof
that their proposed two-year, $31.7 million state spending plan
heavily laden with social service funding is responsible and
"This tells us that we need to do better in some important
areas," said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams
Williams said the study shows a particular need for continued
and increased funding for health care. The Democratic spending
plan calls for extending the state-subsidized HUSKY health insurance
plan to parents earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty
level. Parents earning up to 100 percent of the poverty level
are currently eligible for the program. The expanded enrollment
will cost the state $120 million over two years.
"We know that if we fail to do this there might be some
savings in the short run, but in the long run people will still
access health care, but at the worst possible moment," Williams
said. "They will go to emergency rooms where the care is
most costly and more importantly, we will be deferring that care
and allowing it to become a crisis for some parent or child."