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Fairfield Officials Put Spotlight On Growing Opiate Crisis At Forum

State Reps. Brenda Kupchick and Dave Rutigliano
State Reps. Brenda Kupchick and Dave Rutigliano Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — There’s no one answer to the state’s heroin and opiate crisis, but awareness and prevention are key to stemming the tide, state officials told a standing-room-only crowd at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield on Monday.

Several state legislators hosted “A Community Discussion on Connecticut’s Opiate Addiction Crisis,” which offered residents a chance to voice their concerns and ideas with the legislators and local police, EMS chiefs and first selectmen on the topic of drug abuse.

Tea Doonan, founder of HeroinKillsCT, said her son died of an overdose two years ago to the day of the meeting. The situation was so dire, she tried to get a court mandate to get him into treatment, but it was denied.

“The problem with opiate addicts is they don’t want to stop,” Doonan told the crowd.

According to the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the number of heroin-related deaths has been increasing. Connecticut logged 290 such deaths in the first nine months of 2015, up from 174 in all of 2012. An increasing number of those admitted to treatment programs report heroin as the primary drug of choice, according to statistics distributed Monday.

“You can be rich, poor, fat, thin. … The reality of addition is so profound,” said state Sen. Tony Hwang, R-28th District of Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport.

Arresting dealers is key to stopping the problem, Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara said. Parents, doctors, schools and law enforcement should be focused on awareness and prevention.

“We always seem to talk about the end game,” he said. “We really have to continue to talk about that painkiller pathway.”

Many said the state needs more treatment facilities and that treatment needs to go beyond a 30-day quick fix. One couple said they have sent their 27-year-old son to a two-year work/treatment facility in Durham, N.C., funded by a public-private partnership.

Suburban families need to talk to their children about the dangers of highly potent drugs and not assume addiction is a city problem, said state Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-22nd District of Trumbull, Monroe and Bridgeport.

“People turn a blind eye to it,” she said. “Be aware that it does impact everybody.”

Officials urged parents to dispose of unused prescribed narcotics in the home and realize opiate addiction is as easy as taking a pill now.

“I have two grown children,” said Trumbull Police Chief Michael Lombardo, “and I can tell you, we were very nosy.” 

Also in attendance:

  • Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon
  • Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst
  • Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau
  • Trumbull EMS Chief Joseph Laucell

The event was hosted by: 

  • State Rep. Brenda Kupchick of Fairfield; 
  • State Rep. Laura Devlin of Fairfield and Trumbull; 
  • State Rep. Dave Rutigliano of Trumbull;
  • State Rep. Ben McGorty of Shelton, Stratford and Trumbull; and
  • State Rep. Cristin McCarthy-Vahey of Fairfield; and 
  • State Sens. Moore and Hwang.

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