opioid crisis

Overdose Deaths on the Rise in CT Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Empty bottles for prescription drugs

State officials held a news conference this morning to address the dangers of opioid addiction and a recent increase of overdoses in Connecticut.

Earlier this week, Sen. Richard Blumenthal revealed the startling statistic that there’s been a 22 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths in 2020. At this rate, Blumenthal said, Connecticut will surpass last year’s record of nearly 1,200 drug overdose deaths.

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said 531 people died of drug overdoses in Connecticut from January to May of this year, a 22 percent increase during the same five-month period a year ago when 435 lives were lost.

Health officials attributed some of the tragic numbers to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know the isolation that people have felt during this pandemic has contributed,” Bysiewicz said.

She said people are also under stress because of financial issues.

“We know people are hurting, people are under stress and that has contributed to the spike we have seen in overdose deaths,” she said.

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said said the isolation due to COVID-19 and anxiety is leading to more issues and help  is available.

Many of the deaths have been in the larger cities, but they are also happening in smaller cities and towns, Delphin-Rittmon said.

She attributed part of the problem to fentanyl.

Help is available and people needing help can call 1-800-563-4086 or 211, the hotline and get counseling over the phone.

Mark Jenkins, the director of Greater Hartford Harm Reduction, said we are bombarded by an epidemic that is second only to COVID-19.

He said his organization has been able to stay open and tailored their outreach. They are a treatment on demand model, he said.

He said the numbers are going up, but not to lose sight that what these organizations do is saving lives.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling for increased funding to combat a increase in opioid overdoses this year.

The state Department of Public Health tracks data on drug overdose deaths in the state.

Blumenthal said the Hero’s Act, which is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate, could bring $3 billion to the fight against addiction.

Gov. Ned Lamont will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. with Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services; Mark Jenkins, the director of Greater Hartford Harm Reduction; Phil Valentine, the CEO of Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery; and Rebecca Allen, director of recovery support services for CCAR.

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