Republican legislators target opioid abuse

February 24, 2016

North Haven Citizen

Opioid abuse was a key issue in the New Hampshire presidential primary and it is taking center stage in Connecticut, too.

On Feb. 11, state Senate Minority leader Len Fasano and House Republican leader Themis Klarides wrote to Gov. Dannel Malloy requesting the formation of a group to develop a strategy to take action against heroin and opioid abuse and the governor responded with a letter to the legislators on Feb. 17 outlining his policy on the issue.

In January, state Rep. Roberta Willis proposed additional steps the legislature could take to combat opioid abuse and on Feb. 17 U.S.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro addressed the issue in a meeting with mayors and first selectmen in the Third Congressional District.

Fasano and Klarides suggested specific proposals the state could take to tackle the issue, from addressing the causes and effects of opioid abuse to making substance abuse treatment more affordable and accessible, and enhancing the monitoring of drug use.

The Republican politicians criticized the activities of the state’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Council, writing it “has not taken an active role in addressing the specific problems associated with opioid abuse. The legislature needs to take the bull by the horns. This is too important.”

Malloy replied that he is reconstituting the Alcohol and Drug Policy Council to lead statewide efforts on awareness, prevention and treatment of addiction.

The council is meeting to address the crisis and plans a full group meeting on March 1, which the governor encouraged Fasano and Klarides to attend.

Fasano critiqued state action so far as dealing with the aftermath of the problem, rather than the problem itself. “If you deal with the aftermath, you’ll never fix the epidemic,” he said. “You’re always playing catch up. The group needs to say why this is happening. We need to find out what’s causing the problem and increase services to make sure treatment is faster. We need to appoint people to look at this problem to come up with solutions from a to z. We have to find the cause to help people respond.”

The Republican lawmakers hope to include many stakeholders in the working group, including, but not limited to, all four legislative caucuses, the governor’s office, public health officials, substance abuse treatment providers, state mental health experts, the Insurance Association, police chiefs and municipal leaders.

“This cannot be a conversation among only lawmakers, just like it cannot be a conversation among only public health officials, or a conversation among only law enforcement,” Fasano and Klarides wrote. “It must be a conversation among all stakeholders. Together we need an open dialogue. And we can’t wait any longer.”