Senator spends day inside state’s opioid epidemic

By:  Alex Ceneviva
WTNH News 8

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Connecticut’s junior senator spent a day in the life of the state’s opioid and heroin crisis. Senator Chris Murphy met with experts, police, and people dealing with addiction in five different cities.

Five hours, five different cities, five different groups of people.

Senator Murphy’s first stop was the Groton police department. He met with members of a law enforcement task force about the challenges of fighting the epidemic.

“We’re seeing at the local levels certainly reduced revenue as well as a financially constrained environment,” says Groton police chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr.

Officers are spread thinly to tackle the drug problem along with the thefts and human trafficking which often go with it.

“Don’t lose track of the outward ripple effects of this as well,” says Waterford police chief Brett Mahoney.

The senator’s second stop was Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London where he took a tour of the hospital’s emergency room. Doctors told him there needs to be a better prescription monitoring program so they know all of the opioids an addict has taken.

“The best case would be to have a federal system that keeps track of everyone’s prescriptions,” says Dr. Oliver Mayorga, the director of the hospital’s emergency department.

The heads of the police departments and the hospital told the senator money constraints keep them from expanding programs.

“In this regard I”m not optimistic given what’s happening in Connecticut with the hospital tax, the cuts on Medicaid,” says Bruce Cummings the president & CEO of Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.

“When we had just a couple cases of Ebola in this country we dedicated four billion dollars in emergency money to stop that epidemic,” says Senator Murphy. “We’ve had 700 deaths here in Connecticut in one year from opioids and we haven’t had a dollar in emergency funding from Washington.”

He says he will push for federal emergency money to fight the heroin problem.

After leaving the eastern part of the state the senator went to a transitional facility in New Haven called Recovery House. He talked with staff and clients about how they work together to try to fight the growing drug problem.

And it is growing fast. The number of people dying from drug overdoses has doubled since 2012. 720 Connecticut residents died from drug overdoses in Connecticut last year, and more than half died from using heroin. Heroin and other opioids are highly addictive, and they are very dangerous.

The senator’s next stop was Waterbury where he met with firefighters who use the drug Narcan to try to reverse opioid overdoses, and finally he ended up in Bristol talking to three people getting over their opioid addiction.

They’re doing that with the help of medication called Suboxone, and Murphy is trying to expand access to that kind of treatment.

“One of the problems we have is that providers right now can’t prescribe one of the opioid treatment drugs Buprenorphine to more than a hundred patients. We need that cap lifted,” says Sen. Murphy.