House Unanimously Approves Bill To Help Combat Opioid Epidemic
The House of Representatives unanimously passed far-reaching legislation Monday aimed at combating what many legislators referred to as the “opioid epidemic” impacting the state of Connecticut.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
The bill places a 7-day cap on opioid prescriptions in an effort to reign in what many called the “over-prescribing” of painkillers. There is an exception clause included in the bill for those receiving long-term prescriptions from their doctors allowing them to exceed the 7-day cap.
The legislation also requires first responders to be trained in the use of Narcan and to carry and dispense it. The drug is injected into patients to counter the effects of opioid and heroin overdoses.
Rep. Matthew Ritter, co-chair of the Public Health Committee, said the legislation is “the most comprehensive piece of legislation dealing with opioids in the country.”
The legislation was a combination of more than 50 bills introduced to combat some part of the opioid epidemic.
“This bill is our best attempt to wrap up all the work done on this crisis and put together one comprehensive piece of law,” Ritter said.
Ritter went on to say that the legislation would give Connecticut, along with Massachusetts, the “toughest opioid legislation” in the country.
He said he considered the “most meaningful” aspect of the legislation the 7-day cap on opioid prescriptions, which, he said, would “stem the tide” of too many medicines sitting in cabinets unattended in homes.
Ritter added he would be surprised if “half the states in the country” didn’t adopt similar legislation over the next couple years.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy spoke in support of the bill following the vote Monday.
“This vote is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that those who need help get it, and I am optimistic that the Senate will swiftly approve the bill so I can sign it into law,” Malloy said.
Many legislators have held community forums on heroin and opioid addiction in their districts over the last several weeks — and many commented on how the forums have been attended by hundreds of concerned parents, school officials, police, and firefighters.
Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, repeated a story he’s told at many of the community forums — the story of Guilford parent Sue Kruczek, whose son, Nick, died of a drug overdose.
Nick Kruczek “was an extremely talented hockey player,” Scanlon said. Before he played his first high school game he was tossed a pill by a teammate.
“But he quickly became an addict,” Scanlon said, and by age 19 he was in rehab.
After leaving a rehab facility in Florida, Nick Kruczek returned to Connecticut and began attending classes at Southern Connecticut State University, got a job, and an apartment.
In June 2013, he died at age 20 of an overdose. Since his death, his mother, Sue, often times with Scanlon at her side, has appeared at dozens of forums attended by overflow crowds where she has implored politicians to “do something” about the opioid crisis.
Rep. Prasad Srinivasan, R-Glastonbury, referred to the bill as “landmark legislation” that he strongly supported.
Srinivasan, a member of the Public Health Committee where the legislation originated, said the state of Connecticut is “facing an opioid epidemic in urban areas, in rural areas — it has not spared any demographic, no economic group. This legislation will make our towns far safer than they are today.”
Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury, said the “death rate from opioid and heroin abuse is staggering.” She said in one of her district cities — Torrington — 20 people have died from overdoses in recent years.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been edited to include a sentence regarding an exception clause included in the bill for those receiving long-term prescriptions from their doctors allowing them to exceed the 7-day cap.