This story appears as part of News8’s ongoing coverage of Connecticut’s heroin crisis.
(WTNH) — Gene Blouin takes his last sip of coffee before walking to the bus stop. It’s just before seven in the morning, but Blouin and his girlfriend, Alicia Stetson, are already in a rush. They have a long day ahead: 12 buses in 12 hours. A delay could have major consequences for these two heroin addicts; it could risk their sobriety.
“It would be easier probably just to do drugs,” Blouin says. “You wouldn’t have to go through all this.”
Blouin and Stetson travel from New Britain to Madison by bus to see a doctor who will prescribe them a different kind of drug: Suboxone. Released in 2002, Suboxone, a brand name for Buprenorphine, is a relatively new form of treatment for opiate addiction. It works by curbing cravings, as well as blocking any potential high from an opiate if a user relapses.
Blouin and Stetson were living under a bridge when they decided to get clean. Blouin had nearly died from an overdose shortly before.
“We were so broken and so tired. We had no more money to get high, we were broken,” Stetson says, of a few months ago. “We went to the library and we typed in Suboxone. That’s where you’ll find all your Suboxone doctors and you just have to keep doing the footwork behind that.”
The footwork Stetson refers to is the difficulty of finding a Suboxone doctor in the state. Although the drug is considered by doctors to be a promising option for those seeking to treat their addiction, it is not easy to access in the state, in the midst of a heightening heroin crisis.
News8 Investigators called every Conn. doctor listed in the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s database of Buprenorphine providers. The database serves the state as the only centralized list of licensed providers. It is also used by state services as a resource to connect addicts to treatment.
News8 found that the majority of the doctors listed in the database are not currently actively prescribing. Only 30 percent of the listed doctors are currently treating patients with opiate addiction with Suboxone. Out of those doctors, only 60 percent had capacity for new patients.
Watch News8 Investigators’ special report on this statewide issue as part of the channel’s ongoing coverage of Connecticut’s heroin crisis.