U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy wants to help put a stop to the opioid crisis.
Halting the crisis will require much work, said the junior senator from Connecticut. It’s why he’s taking time to talk with people who see how opioid addiction is hurting so many.
Murphy joined with dozens of Stratford residents and town officials to talk about the crisis and how to solve it during a community roundtable on March 28. Stratford is Fairfield County’s easternmost town.
Murphy hosted forums in Stratford and Danbury, seeking input from first responders, health officials and concerned residents.
“It’s tearing families apart and we’re losing hundreds of people,” said Murphy in a phone interview on April 3. “This is one of the meetings I’ve been doing [and] it’s important to do them right now.”
As part of a budget deal passed by Congress last week, $6 billion will be allocated over the next two years to combat the epidemic. Murphy urged Congress to add the money to battle the opioid addiction, which is supposed to be used for treatment for addicts, prevention and law enforcement. The federal dollars will go to the states for distribution.
Getting “the right mix” of services is important, Murphy said.
The opioid crisis has become a major issue for Murphy and many lawmakers. Recently, President Donald Trump called for implementing the death penalty as punishment for some drug dealers in order to cut down on drug trafficking. Connecticut does not have the death penalty.
Treatment, not jail
While Murphy wants law enforcement to crack down on people who deal opioids illegally, he wants to focus on rehabilitation and getting people off the powerful drugs rather than locking up people who are addicted.
“I think that you’ve got to be tough on the dealers, but you also have to understand that putting addicts behind bars doesn’t solve the addiction,” Murphy said. “If the demand is there, the supply is going to find a way to meet it. We’ve been waging a war on drugs for 40 years and we haven’t won it because if the demand is there, a supply will be created.”
Murphy said the goal should not be to “criminalize” addiction.
“We need to get them into treatment, not jail. We’d be making a big mistake if [the goal was] to round up addicts and put them in jail.”
Murphy also wants to find a way for fewer powerful opioids to hit the streets, preferring to focus more on other pain relief methods such as chiropractic, acupuncture and physical therapy.
“We need to cut down on prescription drugs,” he said. “Some pain doesn’t need Vicodin or Percocet or OxyContin.”