By Kathy Brown
Senator Chris Murphy held a roundtable discussion at the Firehouse in Haddam on Friday afternoon, Feb. 2, 2018 “to hear directly from local stakeholders on the frontlines of [the opioid] epidemic how he can be helpful at the federal level.” Local selectmen were included, as well as State Representative Bob Siegrist of Haddam, local law enforcement, Youth & Family Services of Haddam & Killingworth, people from local healthcare facilities, and those affected by addiction.
One of the recurring themes of the discussion was the shame and discrimination that those people with addiction face. Shame keeps people from seeking help, and the idea that “it’s their fault; they have a choice” mentality keeps funding very low. Senator Murphy said emphatically, “It’s discrimination!”
People in the roundtable discussion had some concrete ideas, such as creating a phone system like they have for domestic abuse and homelessness, that people can call for mental health issues. That needs funding to occur. Senator Murphy’s response was, “It’s difficult.” Someone else suggested accreditation or certification for “sober homes” which are often the places those with addiction are sent after they are released from rehabilitation. A family member said that sober homes were doing illegal things, and are not held accountable. Another suggestion was that rehabilitation should not be limited to 30 days, when data has proven it is not enough. They even went so far as to suggest it was a “moneymaker” because the rehab facilities knew those patients would return. Another complaint about the current system is that though the addiction is being treated at rehabilitation facilities, mental health issues were not. Someone else suggested that the postal service scan packages because of the huge influx of synthetic fentanyl being shipped from China through UPS and the US Postal Service. Senator Murphy said that would be very expensive and very cumbersome.
Senator Murphy said quite a few times that medical insurance was the cause of many of the problems: denying care, less time allowed in hospitals, paying for prescriptions but not for alternative care.
Many of the stakeholders expressed frustration with the system, such as that patients could sign themselves out of treatment facilities, and that HIPPA prevents outreach facilities from knowing who needs help.
Senator Murphy did inform the participants of one positive change that is already in process. There is legislation making its way through Congress now that would assess a fee on every prescription for opioids that would fund treatment and education for opioid addiction.
“I am thankful to Senator Murphy for coming to continue the conversation about this important public health crisis,” said Cristal DePietro, of Youth & Family Services of Haddam Killingworth, “And through his continued support, and the effort of the coalition, the comprehensive approach will make a difference in the lives of all of the constituents.”
“Overdose deaths in Connecticut are climbing, and I heard from multiple Haddam-area families on Friday who’ve experienced that loss firsthand. It’s heartbreaking,” said Senator Chris Murphy after the discussion. “My discussion with these families and the first responders and medical providers they work with reinforced the fact that we need more money for crisis intervention and treatment. We also need to crack down on the drug companies and overprescribing by physicians who push pain killers that are unnecessary and often lead to addiction. Listening to Connecticut residents at roundtables like this drives my work every day in the Senate, and I’ll keep fighting on their behalf.”