Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will address the growing problem of drug overdoses from heroin and other opioids when he unveils a package of legislative proposals this month.
The legislation will work to deter prescription drug abuse, add continuing education requirements for medical professionals and allow for more widespread availability of the overdose antidote naloxone, the governor’s office said in a release.
Statistics from the chief medical examiner’s office released in January reveal 307 fatal overdoses in 2014 involving opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and Oxycodone. Of those deaths, 273 involved heroin. Deaths in which heroin played a part have increased 57 percent since 2012.
“I’ve been clear that, as a state, we need to be smarter about how we approach punishment with our drug laws. But we also need to be more diligent about preventing addiction in the first place. That’s why we’re proposing legislation that will ensure health care professionals check accurate, real-time data to help them make smart decisions and curb potential abuse,” Malloy said.
Based on research indicating that substance abuse often begins with the use of legal painkillers, Malloy’s proposal would tighten reporting guidelines around prescriptions for controlled substances. Every pharmacy in Connecticut would be required to report all prescriptions for controlled substances immediately instead of weekly. Medical practitioners issuing a prescription for a controlled substance in excess of a 72-hour supply would be required to review the patient’s record through the state’s prescription monitoring program.
“Opioid abuse has historically been viewed as an isolated problem, but trends from across the nation demonstrate that it is affecting communities, both large and small,” Malloy said.
The severity of the drug problem is front and center in the eastern Connecticut town of Griswold, with a population of about 12,000 residents. There were two fatal heroin overdoses there in 2014, according to the medical examiner’s office. The municipality, including the borough of Jewett City, gained attention late last year when it became the first Connecticut town in which an overdose victim was revived by a state trooper authorized to carry naloxone. The drug, known by the trade name Narcan, has primarily been administered by paramedics for the past several decades. State troopers have since used the antidote three more times in Griswold.
According to the governor’s office, naloxone has been used 13 times statewide by troopers since they began carrying it in October.
Building on third-party prescription laws passed in 2014, Malloy’s proposed legislation would make naloxone more available by training pharmacists through the Department of Consumer Protection to prescribe the drug to first responders, members of the treatment community and family and friends of people with suspected opioid addictions.
Griswold First Selectman Kevin Skulczyck, who said the town has already seen one fatal overdose this year, said the governor’s proposal is a step in the right direction.
“As a municipal leader, with a community that certainly has been affected by the pain medicine and heroin epidemic, we want to see more emphasis put on suppressing this,” he said.
Skulczyck would like to see mandatory drug testing incorporated into the state’s prescription monitoring program for those being supplied with long-term controlled substances. Similar regulation exists in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Washington, he said.