Forum: Public Health Issue Of Opioid Addiction Skyrockets In Shelton

SHELTON, Conn. — Heroin and opiate addiction has skyrocketed in Connecticut and nationwide in recent years, officials said at a community forum on the problem at the R.D. Scinto Auditorium in Shelton.

Stratford State Rep. Joe Gresko attends a forum on opioid addiction in Shelton on Thursday.
Stratford State Rep. Joe Gresko attends a forum on opioid addiction in Shelton on Thursday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

“This is something that a few years ago wasn’t necessarily seen as an issue,” state Rep. Jason Perillo of Shelton said during the Thursday night meeting. Now, he said, “some would argue it is perhaps the single biggest public health and public safety issue” facing communities in Connecticut, New England and the U.S.

Griffin Hospital EMS Coordinator Joseph Burnett said his facility has seen rising visits for opioid-related treatment. “We’ve seen an increased number of patients coming to the emergency room over the last couple of years — almost increasing by 25 percent a year,” he said.

Stratford EMS Administrator Kevin Giasullo said his department administered Narcan, an antidote to opioid overdose, about 60 times in 2015 — more than once a week. Giasullo also said his town saw 17 fatalities related to opiates last year.

With the the use of Narcan growing in Stratford and other communities across the country, there is now a challenge: The antidote has become more expensive. Narcan used to cost Stratford EMS $4 to $8 a dose three years ago. It now costs $40 to $60 a dose, Giasullo said.

The forum in Shelton came after two opioid overdose-related deaths in Shelton on Feb. 16 and another in Derby on Feb. 17. A Derby man who was involved in selling the drugs in the Shelton overdoses was brought up on federal charges later that month, the Daily Voice has reported.

In 2012, there were 195 fatal heroin, morphine or codeine overdoses in Connecticut. The number of overdoses skyrocketed to 415 overdose deaths in 2015, according to the office of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn).

Experts attribute the deaths and increasing addiction rates to the availability of illegal drugs and lack of resources to combat their use. Fairfield County communities, including FairfieldGreenwich and New Canaan, have also held meetings to address the issue in recent weeks. 

In January, a man died of an apparent heroin overdose in the bathroom of the Starbucks in Trumbull. And in Weston, two men are facing federal drug charges in connection with an oxycodone overdose that left a 22-year-old man in a persistent vegetative state.

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