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Sen. Blumenthal Announces Funding To Combat Opioid Crisis

Sen. Richard Blumenthal
CT Public Radio
Sen. Richard Blumenthal

Connecticut expects to receive around $6 million in additional federal funding to help fight the opioid crisis. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced Thursday that the money will come from $1.5 billion recently approved by Congress to help states provide prevention and treatment efforts. 

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, was one of several officials and advocates who joined Blumenthal during the media event in Hartford. She said some of the money will be focused on the prison population.

“We know that 50% of the individuals who have overdosed had some connection to the Department of Corrections,” Delphin-Rittmon said. “So that’s an area where we have ongoing discussions and have had recent discussions about scaling up some of our in-reach programming. In-reach programming is programming where we can help work with a person before they’re discharged from prison to help connect them to services and supports.”

Blumenthal said more than 1,000 people died in Connecticut as a result of drug overdoses in both 2017 and 2018, and there’s “an estimated 1,088 for 2019, which is a massive increase from just seven years before when it was 357.”

He stressed the need for continued accountability of pharmaceutical companies and corporate executives, specifically naming OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, headquartered in Connecticut. And Blumenthal is again pushing for passage of the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, which would provide state and local governments with $100 billion in federal funding over 10 years.

“This measure is modeled, appropriately I think, on the response of this nation to the AIDS epidemic where we passed a measure in 1990 called the AIDS Resources Emergency Act, also known as the Ryan White Act,” Blumenthal said.

Maria Coutant Skinner, executive director of the McCall Center, a nonprofit behavioral health care agency, gave one example of how previous funding has been put to work. She talked about the Statewide Opioid Reporting Directive that enables efforts to mobilize an immediate response to a sudden increase, or spike in overdoses. That program was put to use last weekend in Litchfield County, where Skinner said they saw more than five such events in a 24-hour period.

“EMS reports to Poison Control. Poison Control gets that notification out to local health departments, and then each community can develop a response based on that spike,” she explained.

Skinner said they were able to get the word out in Litchfield County so that anybody in need of naloxone, the overdose-reversal drug, and other harm-reduction resources got that information in real time. She said that’s just one of many examples of how these resources work to impact communities.

Copyright 2020 Connecticut Public Radio

Lori Connecticut Public's Morning Edition host.
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