Opioid crisis summit highlights grim outlook to the epidemic

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BRIDGEPORT-- Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal turned to the people of Connecticut Monday for their input on combating the opioid crisis in the state.

They hosted an Opioid Crisis Summit on the campus of the Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.

The summit acted as a meeting of the minds in which community leaders and those impacted by opioid addiction for their ideas on four key questions; What are the barriers of the opioid crisis, what are the best ways to combat it, what areas need the most funding, which prevention methods work best?

"To try to refine our approach to try to ensure that we're sharing best practices across the state. It’s really important to link what we’re doing here in CT to the national debate,” Murphy explained about the intention of the summit

"We may be on pace to break a record we never wanted to break, potentially over a thousand deaths this year from overdoses,” Senator Murphy said.

Dr. James Gill, Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner, is a key player in how the state measures the progress of the crisis.  He explained, "Unfortunately there is no more of an objective outcome measurement than death."

Gill also said those numbers are acting as a gauge of the gravity of the problem.

"That is, are the deaths increasing or decreasing, who is dying, where in the state are they dying, are the types of drugs changing,” Gill said.  Gill spoke at the summit and broke down the opioid crisis by the numbers.

"So last year, 2016, in Connecticut more people died of accidental drug intoxication than the total number of people who died from homicides, suicide, and motor vehicle collisions combined,” Gill said.

Gill also gave a grim outlook to the year ahead, pointing out that so far this year, the medical examiner’s office has received over 560 potential overdose deaths.  That puts the state on track to break its own record and could mean there are over 1,000 accidental drug overdose deaths in the state by the end of 2017.  Gill stated those numbers, however, are still not finalized.

Also speaking at the event was Dr. Bertha Madras, one of five members of President Trump’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.  She emphasized globally, the U.S. is the leader of daily prescription opioid doses and is also the leader in the number of opioid related deaths.