Connecticut’s opioid problem is far from over, new data shows.
According to a new report issued by Connecticut’s Chief State Medical Examiner, there were “1,200 accidental drug deaths across the state in 2019, an 18 percent spike,” which many believe is a result of both a lack of education about addiction and a comprehensive, statewide strategy.
“What it is, is unacceptable,” said Dr. Peter Rostenberg, an addiction medicine doctor in Connecticut’s western region and member of the Connecticut State Medical Society’s opioid committee, which consists of physicians who have begun to develop standards for addiction treatment which they hope the state government will use to combat the crisis.
“Our job is to make sure the working physicians out there have the expertise, the training and the tools to basically deal with this like every other disease,” said committee chairman Dr. Mark Kraus of Waterbury.
“I fear what will happen if we don’t come up with a statewide program that will simply force changes that are to the benefit of the patients that we see,” Rostenberg said. “We need a leader. Truck tolls have their place. The loss of some of our most promising young residents? That has to take precedence.”
U.S. Senator. Richard Blumenthal openly opposed the Trump administration’s latest budget proposal slicing an estimated $1 trillion over the course of a decade from Medicaid payments to states and the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies.
“They feel like not even real numbers anymore, because it feels like people who are making these decisions do not know what is going on in the real world here,” Kimberly Beauregard, president and CEO of InterCommunity Health Care, said.
Education for patients and physicians is an important. Jacqueline McDermott-Selman, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and grief counselor at Connecticut Addiction Medicine, said, “I think a lot of people, not believing it’s a brain disease, they still think they have some control over the situation and they’re making the proper decisions and the reality is, addiction is a piece of the brain that’s making decisions for them. Like, ‘I can use this one time,’ and with the fentanyl, the ‘Oh I’m not gonna get that, I know what I’m getting.’ There’s cognitive distortions.”
McDermott-Selman explained that understanding addiction as a medical condition is a good place to start. “Denial is a wonderful place,” McDermott-Selman said. “I’m sure we all go there once in a while you know I’ve lived in denial for a little bit. But staying there, harboring in that area, doesn’t help anybody.”
Jean Karlo Conquistador, 31, close to two years sober and one week out of prison, said, “If I were the governor, I’d be seeing a lot of funds spent on new shelters. Homelessness leads to relapse…Addiction is like a magnet. Addicts have to find ways to repel themselves away from drugs.”
Connecticut’s Hartford district’s homeless population had 133 deaths last year. So far this year, “Hartford police have responded to 17 fatal overdoses, up from 12 this time in 2019,” according to Lt. Paul Cicero. “We’re trying to make the biggest dent possible. Coupled with education and the new harm reduction center, those are pretty crucial ingredients for success.”