NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Dozens of officials from Senators to doctors came together this morning for a round table discussion of New Haven’s drug problem. Everyone there knew there was a growing opioid drug crisis in Connecticut, but last week brought a new, strange, and deadly twist.
New Haven‘s first responders and the region’s political leaders are still trying to figure out what happened and how to deal with the more than 20 drug overdoses last week. Three people died, and it turned out they took the powerful drug fentanyl when they thought they were taking cocaine.
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Connecticut’s U-S Attorney Dierdre M. Daly says local and federal law enforcement worked around the clock to find where the drugs came from. “We identified the three suppliers who had distributed,” she told the crowded roundtable discussion at New Haven’s Police Headquarters.
The discussion brought together police, firefighters, doctors, social workers and politicians all talking about how to prevent crises like this. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D – 3rd District) and Senator Chris Murphy (D – Connecticut) both said the opioid epidemic is a national health crisis.
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“Two years ago, with less than 6 cases of Ebola in this country, congress allocated $4 billion of emergency funding to stop that potential epidemic,” Murphy said. “This is a real epidemic.”
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Senior Senator Richard Blumenthal (D – Connecticut) said Congress should be “embarrassed and ashamed” for not doing more to stop the drugs.
“More surveillance, interdiction of drugs and of financial resources,” Blumenthal said. “Cracking down by assigning the investigators and police and prosecutors to show the syndicates that we really mean business.”
First responders now carry the drug Narcan to reverse heroin overdoses. The trouble is, Fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than heroin.
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“It is so much more powerful and it adheres to the receptors so much stronger than heroin, that it has a much stronger effect initialy,” explained Dr. Andrew Ulrich, emergency physicians at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “It last so much longer, that it requires much, much more of the drug to reverse it.”
There are two pieces of good news. New Haven’s Mayor says they just got a new shipment of Narcan, so they have plenty of that lifesaving drug. Also, a new state law goes into effect today. It says doctors can only prescribe a week’s worth of opioid painkillers at a time. The hope is that will help keep people from getting hooked on them.