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2002 Study 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 Capitol.

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 necessary.

"This tells us that we need to do better in some important areas," said Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn.

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."

Copies of the full report are available on the Internet at www.cga.ct.gov/coc/.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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