Drug overdose deaths on the rise, what’s being done about it?

HARTFORD -- New statistics from the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released Monday revealed alarming projections for the number of drug overdose deaths for 2017.

The report said there have already been 539 accidental drug overdose deaths in Connecticut between January and June this year, the majority of which involve some kind of opioid. That means they are projecting 1,078 overdose deaths by the end of the year.

The projected 2017’s total show an 18 percent rise in the number of overdose deaths from 2016, which totaled 917. It also is nearly double the amount of overdose deaths from just three years ago, in 2014.

The Medical Examiner’s report also revealed that Fentanyl has now surpassed heroin as the substance at fault. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHSA) Commissioner, Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, they see Fentanyl as a major part of the worsening of the opioid crisis in the state.

“We are absolutely challenged in terms of the fentanyl continuing to come into this state and so that’s a challenge really nationwide,” Delphin-Rittmon said. She added the department continues to ask for more federal funding and that they are attacking the issue from a “multi-agency, multi-level approach.”

“We have an initiative where people in recovery are connecting with emergency departments to help connect people to treatment who have overdosed or who are there because of other substance related issues,” Delphin-Rittmon said about where some federal dollars have gone so far.

The department said they have also dispersed portions of the funding to individual communities to put towards prevention efforts, while other dollars are focused on treatment programs.

“Training prescribers, a couple weeks ago we trained 65 additional physicians and nurses to be able to prescribe medication assisted treatment and we know that is an evidence based practice for helping people achieve long term recovery from opioid addiction,” Delphin-Rittmon added.

DMHAS is just one of the many agencies in the state tackling the opioid epidemic.

“By law, all overdose deaths or suspected overdose deaths must be reported and investigated by our office. Only the OCME can certify these deaths,” the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. James Gill, told FOX61. He went on to say they had previously had problems with storage for all the autopsies they had lined up, but this summer they completed construction on a new storage facility to keep up with the demand.