Opioid addiction is now a reality in our community. It affects all families of all income levels and people of all ages. This disease is now an epidemic. It demands our attention at the state Capitol. Here is my three-pronged approach.
1) Prevention: This year SB 352*, is progressing through the legislative process, it would limit opioid prescriptions to seven days, except in certain circumstances. By limiting the amount of opioids available to a person between doctor’s visits, the potential for abuse and addiction goes down. The bill also allows pharmacists to dispense lifesaving narcan without a prescription, which can prevent death in the case of an opioid overdose. Both parts of this bill go hand in hand in helping prevent addiction in the first place, and helping those already addicted survive.
2) Education: On Thursday March 3, nearly 200 people turned out to a forum on the opioid epidemic. This event was one way to advance the conversation about the pain addiction is causing in our communities. During the forum, many people shared stories of loved ones who had fallen victim to addiction. Others warned of how easily opioids and heroin are to access here in south central Connecticut. A panel of experts shared information about warning signs and how to get help. But there was a glaring realization; accessing care for a person with an addiction is not as easy as it should be.
3) Treatment: The state has come forward to battle this epidemic by offering a 24 hour a day, hotline 1-800-563-4086. This hotline can be called to help those in need access the help they deserve, but there remains a barrier to receive treatment for addiction.
I have introduced HB 5620**, to study the barriers to private insurance coverage for substance abuse treatments. The state hotline is a useful tool, but without understanding the insurance barriers that prevent addicts from receiving care, it loses utility. Frankly, the idea for this bill came from the March 3 forum on the opioid addiction crisis.
Prevention, education, and treatment represent three small steps in combating the epidemic we face as a community. It will take all of us to solve the problems that lead to addiction, and to help those who are battling addiction. Together, we can do great things and succeed at ending this epidemic.