To the editor,
Our state and our nation are in the midst of a public health crisis … an epidemic. Opioid abuse is tearing apart families and tearing at the fabric of our communities.
Heroin and opioid abuse does not discriminate. It knows no political affiliation, does not care what sex, age, religion, race, socio-economic class or any other status that historically have been discriminated against.
A year ago, I was, like many in the community, unaware of the epidemic. It was brought to my attention by the untimely death of a young college student. Over the past year many people have come to me to tell me their stories. There is always a variation, but the one theme that remains constant is that not one of them sought out to be a heroin addict. Too often, the use of prescription opioids, such as Percocet, lead to illegal street purchasing. When prescription drugs become too cost prohibitive, heroin is the cheap alternative.
Between 2009-2013, there were over 1,900 accidental and unintentional opioid involved deaths that occurred in 150 of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns.
One of several bills (HB 5782) that I submitted will aid in the battle against opioid overdose.
This legislation will allow pharmacists to dispense certain opioid antagonist drugs without a prescription, which could be done through a state-approved protocol or collaborative practice agreements; such is what currently allows pharmacist’s to administer certain vaccines. Our neighboring states such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts have successfully implemented this type of program.
Naloxone, or Narcan, is an opioid antagonist that works to reverse the effects of opioids. Nalaxone is not addictive and has little side effects, as compared to other self-administered drugs such as an epi pen. It simply saves the lives of people who have overdosed on an opioid.
A recent evaluation of a Naloxone program in Massachusetts, which trained over 2,900 potential overdose bystanders, reported that opioid overdose death rates were significantly reduced in communities in which the program was implemented compared to those in which it was not available.
I am also proud to see Gov. Malloy out front on this issue. He has a proposal (HB 6856) to provide new tools to battle to opioid crisis.
His proposal, among other things, would streamline the reporting process by alerting practitioners if patients seeking certain prescriptions have recently received these medications from multiple other prescribers or pharmacists. The proposal requires all pharmacies in Connecticut to report the dispensing of prescriptions for all controlled substances immediately, rather than weekly. Gov. Malloy is taking a strong stance with his leadership on this issue.
These are tools we need to protect our loved ones and our communities from the ravages of opioid abuse. We can save lives by meeting this crisis head on with strong policy initiatives.
The writer is a Democrat state representative who represents Seymour, Beacon Falls and Derby in the Connecticut House of Representatives and is an advanced practice registered nurse.