Amidst a global pandemic Connecticut is also confronting another threat - rising numbers of opioid overdoses.
Surrounded by state health officials Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal revealed startling statistics. According to Blumenthal, there’s been a 22% increase in opioid overdose deaths in 2020. At this rate, Blumenthal said Connecticut will surpass last year’s record of 1,200 overdose deaths.
“We’re setting records. Not in a good way,” said Blumenthal.
Health officials attributed some of these tragic numbers to the pandemic.
Paige Niver is the mother of a recovering opioid user and agrees current conditions make it more difficult for addicts.
“Addiction is a disease of isolation and it’s a disease of loneliness and the emptiness,” said Niver, who lives in Manchester.
Niver said her daughter Brittany began using opioids at age 14. Brittany is now 25 and has been sober five years.
“Definitely the worst and most painful experience of my life,” Niver recalled.
That struggle has Niver backing Blumenthal’s effort to find more funding. Blumenthal said the Hero’s Act, currently being considered in the Senate, could bring $3 billion to the fight against addiction.
“There are a lot of people who are just very sick and that funding is needed,” said Niver.
Like the Nivers, the Lally family has also seen this battle up close. In 2016 Tim Lally died of an overdosed at age 29.
“Once it dragged him down his life was just living desperate, moment to moment,” said his father, John Lally of Ellington.
John agreed the pandemic could be a factor in the state's recent opioid spike.
"When people lose that connection with others, with human beings, they start feeling isolated and alone," explained John, who is a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Tim Lally’s brother Brendan Lally says the day his brother died was the darkest of his life. Yet it wasn’t enough for him to break his own opioid addiction. Instead, Brendan said he continued using drugs to cope.
“I would like to say that would have scared me clean but unfortunately that’s not always how it works,” he explained.
Brendan did eventually seek treatment and has been sober 21 months. Not everyone though is as fortunate. Brendan said the funding Blumenthal is seeking is needed to help others.
“There’s a lot of people that get left out,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who feel forgotten.”