February 21, 2019

Senator Haskell Announces Legislation to Fight Back Against the Opioid Epidemic

Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) announced legislation he has submitted to the General Assembly that, if approved, would provide Connecticut with important tools to fight the opioid epidemic. By increasing the funds supplied by the state to opioid addiction treatment facilities and requiring opioid medication to be contained in certain packaging, the bills represent an opportunity to restrict access to opioids to only those who need them and provide treatment to those who are suffering from addiction.

Senate Bill No. 726, “An Act Increasing Funding for Opioid Addiction Treatment Facilities,” would appropriate funds to the Department of Correction and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for opioid addiction treatment, with the intended purpose of combatting the opioid epidemic and rehabilitating those who are currently incarcerated.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several states including Wisconsin, Indiana and Virginia have implemented similar legislation in recent years. According to a 2018 study, expanded access to treatment facilities led to significant increases in prescriptions for drug addiction treatments. In other words, when states provide for more beds, people use them to get back on their feet.

“When I interned for the Office of the Public Defender, I remember answering calls from incarcerated people who were struggling with addiction. They had been approved to leave prison and enter rehab, and they were calling to see if a bed was available. Far too often, the answer was no.” said Sen. Haskell. “Why are we still using punitive measures when it comes to people who are suffering from addiction? Let’s instead help those who are in need get back on their feet.”

Senate Bill No. 446, “An Act Requiring Pharmacies to Dispense Opioid Medication in Blister Packs,” would require pharmacies to dispense opioid medication in blister packs, thereby reducing healthcare costs and improving adherence to medication.

Blister packaging represents an opportunity to prevent dangerous drugs from falling into the wrong hands. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the packaging can lead to shorter periods of prescribed treatment, which could reduce the total number of drugs in circulation. Those shorter periods of treatment also reduce the possibility of leftover pills being used or abused after a prescription runs out. Opioid overdoses can also occur from simply taking multiple doses of medication; blister packs represent a way for individuals to track their usage and consumption.

“Blister packs could play a big role in relieving the pressure of the opioid crisis, reducing the number of drugs released to the public,” said Sen. Haskell. “These units are better prepared to meet the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation of three-, five- and seven-day prescriptions for short term use. If they use serialized numbers, it could also be easier to track illegal use of the drugs. They represent a new way to stop opioid abuse before it starts.”

About Will Haskell: State Senator Will Haskell was first elected in 2018 to represent the twenty-sixth Senate District which consists of Westport, Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding and parts of Bethel, New Canaan and Weston. Prior to being elected to the State Senate, he worked for the Democratic National Committee, and helped launch the Free Speech Project, an academic endeavor based at Georgetown University, his alma mater. He has previously worked for the Connecticut Office of the Public Defender, the Capitol Hill offices of Congressman Jim Himes and Senator Chris Murphy, and Hillary for America.