Trumbull lawmakers support measures to address Connecticut's opioid epidemic

Trumbull State Reps. David Rutigliano (R-123), Laura Devlin (R-134) and Ben McGorty (R-122) today came out in strong support of groundbreaking legislation that would combat opioid legislation in Connecticut.

The Public Health committee favorable approved SB-352, An Act Concerning Prescriptions for and the Dispensing of Opioid Antagonists which would limit first time adult opioid prescriptions for non-chronic pain to a seven-day supply and limit all prescriptions for minors to a seven-day supply in which case the prescribing practitioner must discuss the risks associated with opioids with the minor's parent or guardian.

Additionally, the bill would allow a prescribing practitioner who is authorized to prescribe an opioid antagonist to issue a standing order to a pharmacist for opioid antagonist (Narcan) that is  administered nasally or my auto injection, FDA approved and dispensed by the pharmacist to a person at risk of an overdose or to a friend family member or other person.

Under the bill, the pharmacist is not deemed to have violated any professional standard of care.

The two lawmakers also hailed the passage of SB-353, An Act Concerning Opioid Abuse which would add more stakeholders as members to the State Alcohol and Drug Policy Council and would allow a a physician, APRN or PA to refer a patient to a licensed alcohol or drug counselor (LADC) for an assessment of opioid abuse or invention for opioid abuse prevention or prescribe an opioid to a patient conditioned on the patient’s agreement.

“I applaud the committee’s swift action on the passage of this critical legislation,” Devlin said. “We need all available tools to fight the opiate scourge hitting the main streets and neighborhoods of our community.

"Permitting greater access to lifesaving tools, like Narcan, is imperative,” she added. “I look forward to supporting these proposals on the House floor.”

Devlin and Rutigliano submitted testimony to the Public Health Committee a few weeks ago at the legislative public hearing.

Rep. Rutigliano testified with Trumbull resident Theresa Doonan, who gave a heart-wrenching about losing her son to heroin addiction.

"In Trumbull, and throughout the state, we must have a sense of urgency if we are to prevent future tragedies,” said Rep. Rutigliano. “Although I supported stronger measures for prescription quantities, these policies are a good first step to help combat heroin addiction are a good start toward a coordinated approach to deal with the epidemic of overdoses in Connecticut.”

Last week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advised doctors to refrain from giving opioid prescriptions to patients suffering from non-chronic pain, stating that the risks for such patients include addiction and death. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.

If SB-352 becomes law, the legislation limiting all adult first –time opiate prescriptions to a 7 day supply would represent a groundbreaking development in the fight against prescription drug abuse. The current cap on first time prescriptions a Connecticut is a 30 day supply. Connecticut would be the only second state in the country to limit prescriptions to one week for non-chronic pain.

According to the data made available by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, there has been a significant increase in the rise of overdoses related to opioids and heroin in Connecticut. From 2014 to 2015, heroin deaths increased by 27% in Connecticut and of the 723 people who died of an overdose in 2015, 415 of those were heroin related and another 107 were related to fentanyl, a powerful opiate that drug dealers have been lacing heroine with to make it more potent.

Experts point to the over-prescribing of opioids in 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, enough to give every adult their own bottle of pills - as one of the leading causes of our current crisis.

“One thing that seems clear from what we have learned about opioid abuse is that abuse of opioid prescription drugs frequently leads to a heroin habit for the abuser,” Rep. McGorty said.  “The problem of opioid abuse does not have one solution, but limiting the number of unused opioid painkillers that are available for abuse such as this proposal is one of many things we can do to in that effort.”

The bill received unanimous support in the Public Health Committee Tuesday, March 22, and now goes to the State Senate and House of Representatives for a full floor debate and vote.