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Connecticut overdose deaths keep rising, homicides decrease

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FARMINGTON — Connecticut's chief medical examiner says accidental drug overdoses in the state continue to increase, while homicides have declined sharply.

Medical Examiner James Gill announced Monday that there were 539 accidental drug abuse deaths in the first six months of the year. The projection for overdose deaths in 2017 is 1,078, an 18 percent increase over last year.

Gill says most of the deaths are linked to opioid abuse. More than 300 overdose deaths from January to June involved the powerful opioid fentanyl, which is blamed for a rising number of overdose deaths nationwide.

This year's projection for fentanyl-related deaths is 644, compared with 483 last year.

Gill also says there were 87 homicides last year, a 33 percent decrease from 2015 and the lowest total in at least 25 years.

“Opioid addiction and prescription drug misuse is a disease that is impacting nearly every community and people of every background. This is a complex crisis that does not have one root cause, nor does it have simple solution, but we need to do everything in our power to treat and prevent it. Connecticut is taking action, but our work is not finished until our communities and our families are no longer struggling with the grave costs of this illness. It appears this increase in overdoses is largely being driven by fentanyl. To address this issue, we need full force of the federal government to help prevent the influx of fentanyl from abroad – particularly from countries like China,”   said Gov. Dan Malloy in a statement.

"Opioid addiction is claiming more and more lives every day around the country, and Hartford is right at the center of the opioid epidemic here in Connecticut.   All of our firefighters and many of our police officers carry naloxone with them, and our firefighters have saved more than 400 lives in the past two years – including more than 200 this calendar year alone.  But opioid addiction destroys lives even when it doesn’t kill.  While we continue to do everything we can at the local level with the limited resources we have, this is a national epidemic that demands a truly national campaign, focused on treatment, prevention, harm-reduction, and awareness," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

“Today’s announcement is devastating. The opioid epidemic is ravaging our state, and it’s not slowing down, Unfortunately, we’ve only seen lip service from the Trump administration—calling it a crisis but then championing billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid that would cripple life-saving substance abuse programs that Connecticut families rely on. Republicans and Democrats need to start working together to address this crisis.”” said Sen. Chris Murphy.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said, "We owe it to those who have lost loved ones to the scourge of opioids to recommit to efforts to halt this crisis in its tracks, including allocating additional resources for treatment and prevention, and dispelling once and for all with attempts to gut affordable healthcare access for vulnerable populations.”

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