Trumbull legislators move to halt the rise in opiate abuse

State Rep David Rutigliano is leading the fight against Connecticut's opiate problem.
State Rep David Rutigliano is leading the fight against Connecticut's opiate problem.

State Reps. David Rutigliano (R-123) and Laura Devlin (R-134) submitted testimony on legislation to combat the growing opiate addiction in Connecticut.

The legislation, SB-353, An Act Concerning Opioid Abuse as well as SB-352, An Act Concerning Prescriptions for and the Dispensing of Opioid Antagonists worked to address Connecticut’s opiate problem.

Rep. Rutigliano appeared before the Public Health committee with Trumbull resident Theresa Doonan who lost her son to opiate addiction.

Both Reps. Rutigliano and Devlin asked the committee for a series of changes to current law which will give federal, state, and local governments, the medical community, addiction and prevention professionals, communities and families tools to permitting them to work together to change this deadly course.

Lawmakers along with Doonan hosted an opiate addiction community forum at Sacred Heart University in January with law enforcement, medical and addiction professionals, prevention councils and support groups in an attempt to find some common sense state proposals.

Research studies have shown a direct link to the introduction of the pharmaceutical drugs, OxyContin, and related drugs to the explosion of opiate/heroin addictions across this country.

“We've learned opiate use produces a powerful addiction that turns good people into shells of their former selves,"Rutigliano said. "Opiate addiction is destroying families and lives across our country. It is a serious epidemic that will require everyone working together to stop this scourge.”

“In January, I had the opportunity to meet with parents whose children were addicted to opiates, some were in recovery and in some cases; they had lost their children to overdose. Their stories were heartbreaking and brought to life how opioid abuse is a complex issue with multiple intervention points and actions needed to effectively address it," said Rep. Devlin. “As a legislature, there is nothing more important that we can do in serving the residents of this state.”

“Connecticut is in the ‘Dark Ages’ in its handling of drug addiction and its response to the opioid-heroin crisis,” said Doonan, who is the Connecticut Heroin task force co-founder. "I respectfully implore the legislature to move swiftly and aggressively and pass the current legislation so that fewer families will suffer the same fate as I had

Devlin and Rutigliano also offered the following proposals that they believe could be helpful:

  • Ensure appropriate and proper prescribing of opiate drugs

  • Require a rider or special certificate to prescribe opiate drugs

  • Require addiction training for medical professionals who prescribe opiates

  • Set up secure drop off boxes for unused drugs in all local pharmacies

  • Reduce the initial prescription amount of opiate drugs, limiting first time refills to a 72 hour supply

  • Make it easier for pharmacist to meet the requirements to dispense Narcan over the counter

  • Call on Governor Malloy to declare an opiate epidemic "emergency", thus freeing up federal funds to help combat heroin

Legislators have also submitted a request to the Judiciary Committee to establish a crime of murder by sale of an opiate controlled substance to hold drug dealers liable for the sale of drugs that result in the death of the person who purchased the lethal drugs. As well as a request to the Insurance Committee to require addiction treatment coverage and to increase the amount of beds available in the state for detox and treatment.

According to testimony from the Connecticut Association of Addiction Professionals which represents over 850 credentialed addiction specialists, research has clearly shown that for many active opioid addicts the first step to heroin addiction began with a visit to their doctor/MD for pain management. As an intervention for the pain, many well-intentioned MDs routinely prescribe a prescription for an opiate with the unintended consequences of initiating a deadly relationship between the prescription pill and the vulnerable patient.