Connecticut Mirror reporters Jenna Carlesso and Dave Altimari. CT Mirror

Connecticut Mirror reporters Jenna Carlesso and Dave Altimari have received a Publick Occurrences award from the New England Newspaper & Press Association for their series on elder care.

“Connecticut’s Elder Care Reckoning,” a four-part series focused on problems in the nursing home and home care industries, was published in the spring of 2023.

The series explored issues such as staffing shortages at nursing homes, patient concerns about quality of care and the high cost of care options for older adults. It also examined the lack of oversight for the state’s more than 900 homemaker companion agencies. CT Mirror reviewed more than 75 complaints filed against the companies for grievances like theft, deceptive advertising and neglect.

The reporting also shined a light on the ways low-income residents and people of color are locked out of more desirable elder care options.

“This was an important and unsettling look at the scary state of elder care in fast-aging Connecticut,” said John Voket, past president of NENPA and current editor of the Newtown Bee, in a virtual award ceremony last week. “The outlook for nursing homes is pretty dire as the state cuts back its investments in them. But home health care is no joyride either — nearly all services are understaffed and under-monitored and confusing to consumers and their loved ones. This series involved a lot of work, used fascinating data and told startling stories. It’s no wonder the Connecticut legislature responded with reforms.”

After the series ran, the state legislature passed a series of measures aimed at improving the elder care sector, including enhanced transparency laws demonstrating how nursing homes spend taxpayer money and additional oversight measures for home care agencies.

“At the Connecticut Mirror, we’re familiar with coverage of developing crises, but elder care has the potential to become one of the most pressing public health issues the state will face,” said Stephen Busemeyer, the CT Mirror’s managing editor. “Dave and Jenna’s work to report the extent of the problems — and to tell the stories of the residents and elder-care workers who are already struggling to navigate the system — helped shine a light on a matter of critical public policy. We’re grateful for the recognition.”

NENPA, a professional trade organization for newspapers, presented 13 Publick Occurrences awards this year to newspapers in the six New England states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island. The award is named after the first newspaper published in America, which was printed in Boston in 1690.

Keila Torres Ocasio is enterprise editor at CT Mirror. Prior to joining CT Mirror, Keila was managing editor of the Connecticut Post, one of Hearst Connecticut Media’s largest dailies. Keila began her career as a reporter there after interning at the newspaper and held several roles at the company in the 15 years she worked for Hearst Connecticut, including as a columnist, business writer and editor. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in global media and communications from the University of Bridgeport.