Norm Needleman


Norm Needleman



June 7, 2021

Senate Gives Final Passage to Bill Developing New Program to Fight Opioid Addiction, Abuse

Today, the State Senate gave final approval to legislation that seeks to develop a new program to be used in continued efforts to fight opioid addiction and abuse in Connecticut. With the approval of House Bill 5597, “An Act Concerning Opioids,” this new program would engage in different communities in the state to address the needs of those with opioid use disorder, with focus on non-coercive and non-stigmatizing methods to engage them. State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) today joined the Senate’s vote of approval.

“Far too many of us have seen the worst effects of opioid addiction among our communities. The serious illness of addiction has taken thousands from our communities before their time and irreparably harmed many more families and friends,” said Sen. Needleman. “This bill today will take a step toward preventing addiction, and helping struggling individuals, by not only taking steps to define non-opioid forms of assistance but also by meeting those in need with care and support in a way that they will respond to. It’s a major step forward and one I’m proud to vote for.”

Under HB 5597, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will establish a pilot program in up to five urban, suburban and rural communities to serve individuals with opioid use disorder. Under the bill, those communities will be required to form teams of at least two peer navigators tasked with traveling through the community to address health care and social needs of individuals with opioid use disorder and complete regularly updated training on non-coercive and non-stigmatizing means of engaging with them. DMHAS will report by January 2023 the success of the program.

Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Public Health commissioner to establish guidelines for the use of evidence-based, nonpharmaceutical therapies to treat chronic pain, including chiropractic treatment and physical therapy, and conduct educational and outreach activities to raise awareness.

A “peer navigator” is a person working with individuals with substance use disorder providing nonmedical mental health care and substance use services and has a collaborative relationship with health care professionals authorized to prescribe medications to treat opioid use disorder.

This bill comes as Connecticut residents are more likely to die from drug overdoses than car accidents. Since 2015, more than 6,600 residents of the state have died of drug overdoses, with a median age of 42 among the dead. Just under 2,000 of those deaths were among residents younger than 35, with 431 deaths among individuals younger than 25; the overwhelming majority involved heroin and fentanyl, addictive and extremely dangerous opioids.

Before today’s approval by the Senate, the bill passed the Public Health Committee and the House unanimously.