Overdose Awareness Day recognized in Connecticut amid epidemic

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A stern warning came from Governor Malloy on Overdose Awareness Day.

“If you are abusing heroin, that’s bad. But I want to share with you if you’re abusing heroin or opioids, there’s something far worse,” said Gov. Malloy. “Someone is trying to poison you, not with death, but with heroin.”

In 2012, there were 12 deaths in Connecticut where fentanyl was in the system. By the end of this year, the state estimates fentanyl will be responsible for more than 600 fatal overdoses.

“This is very different than anything we’ve seen in our country before. This is malice. It is a willingness to make a few quick bucks before you die,” the Governor said.

Related Content: Malloy signs opioid bill as state takes part in “International Overdose Awareness Day”

Thursday is International Overdose Awareness Day. Gov. Malloy marked the day by signing new legislation that imposes stricter regulations on prescription painkillers and requires certain insurance plans to cover in-patient detox programs.

Other International Awareness Day events also aimed to save lives.

In New Haven Thursday morning, a push was made to get an overdose reversing drug out on the streets.

“There’s a very short window where you can save someone’s life,” explained Clinical Director Phil Costello. “It takes four to five minutes before somebody becomes brain dead when they have overdosed.

Related Content: Losing the battle: father shares story of young daughter who died from heroin and fentanyl

The event, sponsored by the Hill Health Center included demonstrations on how to use Narcan and prescriptions for the treatment for whoever wanted one.

“It’s so important that we get it in the hands of the people who are out here,” said Assistant Program Director of the Grant Street Partnership Melissa Zuppardi. “They’re out here living in the community. Their friends are overdosing. They are overdosing.”

Related Content: Narcan training, prescriptions given out on New Haven Green

Judy of Branford talked to News 8 about her son.

“People think of a junkie on the street in New Haven or something, not a nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital,” she said.

Judy’s son worked for 10 years as a nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital before he succumbed to opioids.

“He had a knee injury and we didn’t know he was using Oxycodone and of course, it starts like that. In the end, it totally took over,” she said.

They are bravely stepping forward to tell their stories, to rally for rehabilitation for help. They are rallying to change the undeserved stigma attached to opioids.

“He did try to get help, but everybody hides it. [The] public thinks it’s a moral deficiency. It is not a moral deficiency, it is a disease,” she said.

They will continue to rally, encouraging others to step out, seek help, tell their stories, to fight as an entire community.

“Or more rallies, more events, less funerals and until we can wait this out altogether,” she said.

In Hartford, Bridget Jurczyk speaks about losing her daughter two years ago to heroin.

“My granddaughter, on the week of her sixth birthday, lost both [of] her parents,” Jurczyk said.

Stories like hers are showing the need for more awareness.

“Whether it’s happening in your home or not [we have] to stand together,” she stated. “We did it during the AIDS epidemic. We stoop up and everybody, you know, Hollywood was in, everyone was in. Why is this shameful because that is how it is perceived by us who are living it?”

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