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State Senator

Steve Cassano

Representing Andover, Bolton, Glastonbury & Manchester

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Opioid Epidemic Bill Passes Senate With Help of Senator Cassano

Using his knowledge and experience of how the Manchester Police Department has addressed the local impact of the national opioid epidemic—treat first, arrest later—state Senator Steve Cassano (D-Manchester) today joined the state Senate in giving final legislative approval to a comprehensive bill that addresses the opioid and heroin epidemic in Connecticut.

House Bill 7052, “An Act Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion and Abuse,” passed the Senate on a bipartisan and unanimous vote after passing the state House of Representatives on a bipartisan and unanimous vote. The bill now heads to Governor Malloy for his consideration.

The bill seeks to mitigate the epidemic of opioid deaths in Connecticut, where between 2009 and 2015, there were over 2,600 accidental and unintentional opioid deaths that occurred in 152 of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns. The victims were 70 percent male, 84 percent white, about 40 years old, and 70 percent of the drugs involved were pharmaceutical opioids.

“I’ve seen first-hand the effects that the opioid and heroin epidemic has had on individuals and families in Manchester. I’ve met with people who have been addicted and have gotten clean and re-made their lives, and I’ve met with parents who have lost children to drugs,” Sen. Cassano said. “This is a good bill that dispenses with the usual tough-on-crime approach and tries to deal with the addiction early on, sometimes before it can even start. I think a lot of the aspects of this bill reflect the thinking and public policies that were put into effect in Manchester by Police Chief Marc Montminy and by local resident Sarah Howroyd, MSW, and I want to thank them both for their courage and leadership on this issue in Manchester. I think in a lot of ways they can take credit for this forward-thinking, statewide legislation.”

Sen. Cassano noted that the Manchester Police Department has been on the forefront of law-assisted drug intervention for several years, and launched the HOPE Initiative in 2016. Under that program, users who encounter law enforcement are not arrested, but are instead given assistance in accessing medical treatment, social services and pathways to treatment. That model first began in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

The new bill passed in the legislature:

  • Reduces the maximum opioid drug prescription for minors from 7 days to 5 days and maintains current law that allows a prescribing practitioner to exceed the limit for chronic pain, palliative care or acute pain if necessary as long as it is documented in the medical record
  • Requires individual and group health insurers to cover medically necessary detox treatment, as defined by American Society of Addiction Medicine so that those looking for help cannot be turned away due to insurance issues;
  • Increases data sharing between state agencies regarding opioid abuse or opioid overdose deaths;
  • Increases the security of controlled substances prescriptions by requiring scheduled drugs to be electronically prescribed;
  • Allows patients to file a voluntary non-opioid form in their medical records indicating that they don’t want to be prescribed or administered opioid drugs;
  • Instructs the Alcohol and Drug Policy Council to convene a working group to study substance abuse treatment referral programs that have been established by municipal police departments to refer persons with an opioid use disorder or who are seeking recovery from drug addiction to substance abuse treatment facilities.

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