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DeLauro: $5.5 Million Federal Grant A ‘First Step’ In Fighting Opioid Crisis In State

May 11, 2017

Connecticut’s battle with the opioid epidemic will be aided by a $5.5 million federal grant, but sustained effort is key, said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro during a press conference at Rushford’s Middletown facility on Tuesday.

“The federal government has a critical role to play in supporting states and local communities as they work to combat the tragic consequences of addiction,” DeLauro said. “This grant is an important first step, but this cannot be a one shot deal.”

The grant, part of the $1 billion set aside by the 21st Century Cures Act to battle the opioid epidemic, will fund a number of initiatives: local prevention councils, college outreach, alternative treatments for pain management, the inclusion of recovery coaches in hospital emergency departments and methadone clinics and expanded access to medication-assisted treatment.

In addition to existing federal funding, DeLauro announced she would reintroduce legislation that would create a $5 billion fund, comparable to the federal disaster relief appropriation, specifically for public health emergencies such as the opioid crisis, Ebola or Zika virus.

DeLauro was joined by Rushford Medical Director J. Craig Allen and Nancy Navaretta, state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services deputy commissioner, as well as representatives from Middlesex Hospital and the Middletown police and fire departments, who shared perspectives on the epidemic.

The importance of medication-assisted treatment, which benefitted from $56 million in funding in 2017, cannot be overstated, said Dr. Allen.

“90 percent of people who try to abstain from using opioids [without medication-assisted treatment] once they have an addiction will relapse,” Dr. Allen said. “With the potency of the opioids available in our communities, those people are all vulnerable to overdoses,”

Medication-assisted treatment offers buprenorphine or other medications that reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, combined with relapse-prevention therapy.

“Part of the treatment is psychosocial therapy that helps people develop the skills they need to manage the triggers and the urges and the cravings, and develop the part of their brain that can put the brakes on the drive to use opiates,” Dr. Allen said.

DeLauro praised the efforts of the providers and first responders on the “front lines” of the opioid battle, and emphasized the role that elected officials have in addressing the crisis.

“It is not sufficient just to say, ‘We have an opioid crisis,’ and leave it at that and get a quote in the newspaper,” she said. “It is about those of us who serve in elected office where we have the opportunity to provide resources, that we do so. That is our job.”