The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is hoping a new public-policy toolkit, two years in the making, will help local and state leaders combat the growing opioid and heroin epidemic plaguing the state’s towns and cities.
Specifically, the toolkit tells municipal leaders there are 10 things their communities can do to address the statewide drug epidemic:
1) Dedicate time to understand substance abuse and the drug epidemic in your community;
2) Take the lead to increase public awareness and engagement;
3) Designate a municipal point person or contact regarding substance abuse;
4) Encourage community, regional, and statewide collaboration;
5) Develop a one-page fact sheet and resource guide for residents;
6) Promote alternative programs — for both teens and adults — aimed at prevention and intervention;
7) Partner with schools on prevention programs and curriculum;
8) Provide first responders with and increase public awareness regarding naloxone;
9) Create safe disposal sites to discard prescription drugs;
10) Become an advocate toward policy change.
“Connecticut, like the rest of the country, is going through a serious opioid epidemic,” Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, who chaired the CCM Drug Abuse Prevention Work Group, said. “The rate at which Connecticut is seeing overdose deaths is staggering.”
According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, there were 208 overdose deaths in the first three months of this year.
“This is a statewide issue that must be confronted,” Marconi said. “Local officials have the capacity and obligation to lead their communities through this epidemic by providing practical policies to combat this crisis.”
Ron Thomas, CCM Deputy Director, said, “Local officials — the front line of action — are in the most important position to combat this growing epidemic.”
Meanwhile, the state has set up Regional Substance Abuse Action Councils to coordinate education and intervention efforts across town lines and the legislature passed legislation that outlines new procedures for doctors who prescribe opioids. Under previous legislation, municipalities through their first responders also have access to overdose-reversing medication.
“Through coalition building, implementation of proven best practices, and engagement of community leaders and stakeholders, municipal leaders can make real difference in addressing the crisis,” Thomas said. “In doing so, lives will be saved and healthier and safer communities will thrive.”
In the toolkit being distributed to CCM member towns, the report notes that between 2009 and 2014 there were nearly 2,000 opioid-involved deaths in 152 of Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities.
In the report, the work group states its position: “CCM recognizes the opioid overdose crisis as a major issue, in particular because of its impact on virtually every community in Connecticut. It is troubling that overdose deaths associated with opioid and heroin contribute to greater deaths than automobile crashes.’’