Senators Offer Plan To Combat Heroin Epidemic
Fentanyl laced heroin has reached the state of Connecticut and the city of Hartford, where just last week police seized 2,000 bags of it at a home on Enfield Street.
How much of a problem is it?
Fatal heroin overdoses have increased across the country, and Connecticut — where, on average, about one person dies every day in Connecticut from an opioid overdose—is not immune.
In Connecticut, there were 247 heroin overdose deaths in 2013. That’s up from 174 in 2012, according to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
The addition of fentanyl, a pharmaceutical grade drug that’s more potent than morphine, has made heroin use even more dangerous.
Where is it coming from?
At a press conference Monday at a Hartford drug treatment facility, Blumenthal said it’s most likely coming from Colombia and Mexico and making its way to Connecticut through distribution operations in New York and New Jersey.
“We’re not dealing with your father’s organized crime anymore,” Blumenthal said. “We’re dealing with multinational corporate rings and in effect corporate structures that operate across national borders and across state boundaries.”
The mixing of the heroin and fentanyl with other powders is likely done locally and it’s cheap since Connecticut is at the “front end of the supply chain,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said.
Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley said heroin is about $6 to $7 per bag. He said the current overdose problem is fentanyl based even though it’s not solely fentanyl. He said overdoses from heroin still happen, but recently they are seeing bags of pure fentanyl on the street.
“This isn’t a TV show. This isn’t Walter White mixing these products,” Murphy said referring to Bryan Cranston’s character in TV’s Breaking Bad. “It’s kids who don’t know what they’re doing and anytime you buy this on the street you’re potentially buying a deadly product.”
Blumenthal and Murphy said they’re promoting a handful of ways to improve the ability of law enforcement to crack down on the drug “king pins” who are making billions of dollars and the users who need access to treatment, which has been flat funded for several years despite an increase in heroin addicts.
The Obama administration recently requested level funding at $1.8 billion, despite the increase in heroin overdoses. Murphy and Blumenthal are calling for an increase in that funding.
They are also calling for stable federal funding for the statewide narcotics task force and the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program that can be directed toward cracking down on trafficking rings and suppliers in Connecticut’s largest cities that are the main source of heroin for the state.
The Obama administration recently requested $10 million for enhancing, implementing, and evaluating strategies to help prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse. Murphy and Blumenthal are calling for this funding to also target heroin abuse, given the close connection between heroin use and prescription drug abuse.
The two Senators also are supporting state legislation that would enable friends, family, and first responders to carry and administer a drug — commonly known as Naloxone — without the fear of being sued for damages if the victim cannot be saved.
Murphy and Blumenthal also want to address the problem through community collaboration. They said hospitals, addiction service centers, elected officials, law enforcement, and others must come together to address drug abuse and do what’s required to help individuals who are impacted by addiction.