Regulating Restraints in Schools
Restraining a child in school is a safety measure of last resort, and it is therefore critical to have a plan in place and clear guidelines for school personnel. This year we made some clarifications regarding how restraint is to be used in school.
- Some restraint methods are too dangerous - Teachers, administrators, and other public school employees may not use life-threatening or prone physical restraints on students.
- Restraint is not for punishment - School employees may only place a student in seclusion to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the student or others.
- Parents must be notified - The school board must notify a parent immediately or at least within 24 hours of their child being secluded or restrained.
Students with Dyslexia
We worked to help schools identify and help students with this reading disability as early as possible.
- This year, the State Department of Education (SDE) will choose a point person to help parents and local boards of education identify and help students with dyslexia.
- Prospective teachers will be taught literacy instruction using current best practices.
- We granted the SDE more time to roll out their new reading assessments to ensure the success of this important program.
Addressing the Achievement Gap
In 2015, we helped Connecticut close the achievement gap and provide better educations for all our students. Closing the achievement gap will lead to better jobs and greater economic opportunities for more Connecticut families.
The State Department of Education will implement a statewide reading plan and coordinate Connecticut’s various reading initiatives, adding more early childhood literacy programs.
More teachers will be certified in shortage areas, more minority teachers will be recruited, and educators will learn new strategies to build better relationships with students of different cultures.
English Language Learners
We created a pilot program in four towns and cities to identify best practices for ELL instruction and will develop standards for students receiving longer periods of specialized instruction.
Less Testing in Schools
Since the rollout of No Child Left Behind almost 15 years ago, standardized testing has come under a lot of scrutiny. Among other things, there are simply too many tests. As we work statewide and across the country to improve the use of standardized tests, we took another big step forward in 2015 by allowing schools to waive SBAC testing for any students taking the SAT or ACT college admissions tests.
Transitional Services for Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
A lot of good work is being done around the state for young adults with autism spectrum disorder. However, many families may not be aware of the various transition services available to help young adults shift from school to successful jobs and independent living. In 2015 we created a parents’ bill of rights for families with children receiving special education services. Parents will be introduced to these services while their children are in the 6th grade so they can be mindful of these opportunities later on.
Reducing Pesticide Use Around Children
Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of pesticides. We took these steps to protect our kids:
- We banned the use of pesticides on many municipal spaces.
- School websites and social media will be used to notify parents and students when pesticides will be applied at least 24 hours beforehand.
- We are encouraging towns and schools to consider safer alternatives to pesticides, well as integrated pest management solutions.
Comprehensive Children’s Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health Plan
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the state got to work on a plan to make sure we meet the mental, emotional, and behavioral needs of our children. We created the Children’s Mental, Emotional and Behavior Health Plan Implementation Advisory Board to bring professionals together to help our state monitor how we are taking care of our young children.
Beginning September 15, 2016, the board will submit an annual report detailing:
- the status of the implementation plan
- the level of collaboration among the agencies and stakeholders involved
- any recommendations for improvements in the execution of the plan or the collaboration among such agencies and stakeholders; and
- any information the board deems necessary and relevant to prevent or reduce the long-term negative impact of mental, emotional, or behavioral health issues on children.
This monitoring will ensure that the measures we take are appropriate to the needs of our kids.
Preventing Substance Abuse and Opioid Overdose
Drug overdoses are a growing public health crisis in Connecticut and across the nation. In 2013, more than half the drug overdose deaths in the United States were related to pharmaceutical drugs. The following measures should help reduces these deaths:
- Prescribers will train in how to properly prescribe controlled substances.
- Doctors who are prescribing more than a 72-hour supply of any controlled substance must check the patient's record in the prescription drug-monitoring program, and report those prescriptions to the program immediately.
- Pharmacists may now prescribe opioid antagonists such as naloxone, which are used to treat drug overdoses, to private citizens that receive special training and certification.
( PA 15-198)
Some patients end up returning to the hospital soon after discharge because they had not been instructed properly on their follow-up care or were unable to follow instructions. Under the CARE Act (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable), a hospital must assign a caregiver, designated by the patient, in the patient’s discharge plan. They must attempt to notify the caregiver of the patient’s discharge, and to instruct the caregiver on any post-discharge tasks with which the patient will need assistance.
Authorizing Pharmacists to Dispense Drugs in 90-Day Quantities
To better help patients with chronic illnesses and others, pharmacists are now allowed to refill a prescription for up to a 90-day supply.
- The 90-day supply must not exceed the total quantity prescribed by the doctor.
- The prescription must not be for a controlled drug.
- The pharmacist must inform the doctor of the refill within 48 hours after the refill is made.
This does not apply to patients whose insurance won’t cover the cost without additional copayment.
Better Labeling on Prescription Bottles
To help ensure that patients are aware of what drugs they are taking, where these drugs come from and where to report adverse effects of the drugs, pharmacists will now include the website and telephone number for the FDA’s drug safety and reporting program (MedWatch) and the manufacturer’s name with generic drugs. If the patient is being given a generic drug, the pharmacist must include the brand name on the label.
Student Loan Bill of Rights
Applying for college loans can be complicated and confusing. We created an office of the Student Loan Ombudsman to help students navigate the loan process and educate them about the different options they have for repaying their loans. The Ombudsman will also be responsible for handling student issues and complaints about their loan servicers, and will investigate these claims to ensure that students are being fairly treated.
Beefing up Students’ Financial Literacy Education
To make sure high school and college students are prepared to manage their personal finances and understand the importance of maintaining a good credit score, we broadened the curriculum topics that must be developed by the Department of Education, Board of Regents, and the UConn Board of Trustees. The curriculum must include the topics of banking, investing, savings, and the handling of personal finances.
Student Loan Rates Drop
In an historic step increasing college affordability, the Connecticut Higher Education Student Loan Authority (CHESLA) announced that it would offer a fixed interest rate of 4.95% for new student loans, down from its current rate of 6.75%. Not only is this the lowest rate that CHESLA has ever offered, it is also significantly lower than the new Federal PLUS loan rate of 6.84%.
The Way to Go CT Mobility Management Program
This program aims to help senior citizens, veterans and people with disabilities understand their transportation options and see all of the services available. For more information, please call 860-667-6207 ext. 17 or go online.
Kinship Fund and Grandparents and Relatives Respite Fund
If you or someone you know is a relative who is an appointed guardian of a child and does not receive foster care payments or subsidized guardianship benefits from the Department of Children and Families, you may apply for grants from these funds.
The CHOICES Program (Connecticut’s program for Health insurance assistance, Outreach, Information and referral, Counseling, Eligibility Screening)
The CHOICES program is an information source for services available to individuals age 60 and older and those with disabilities. It provides help with Medicare and other related health insurance options. They also make referrals to appropriate agencies in order to help individuals get the services they need. Contact a CHOICES counselor at 1-800-994-9422 for assistance and help understanding the Medicare options available so you can make an educated choice about your coverage.