Plan to Address the Opioid Crisis in Connecticut
The opioid epidemic has devastated families in Connecticut and across the country. This is a public health crisis that has been fueled, in part, by a pharmaceutical industry that has engaged in irresponsible and unlawful behavior in pursuit of billions of dollars in corporate profits.
This epidemic has been especially damaging in Connecticut, which has the 11th highest overdose mortality rate among all states. Overdose deaths in Connecticut, most of which involve opioids, hit a record level in 2017 with over 1,000 deaths. The rate of opioid-related deaths in Connecticut has increased by more than 400 percent since 2012, far outpacing the national average.
The Office of the Attorney General has the unique ability to hold those who have perpetuated this epidemic accountable, and provide proper oversight to prevent another public health crisis from occurring. As Attorney General, I will:
• Continue and Expand Investigations. I will aggressively pursue the investigation started by Attorney General Jepsen in partnership with nearly forty other states. Currently, the investigation focuses on the extent to which pharmaceutical companies broke the law in the marketing and sale of opioids. This investigation must comprehensively address the full scope of the pharmaceutical companies’ potentially unlawful conduct, including:
— The extent to which Oxycontin and similar drugs were designed in an unreasonably dangerous way when an alternative, safer design was potentially available and rejected.
— The extent to which pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers have entered corrupt relationships in which pharmaceutical companies made payments to healthcare providers to promote the prescription of opioids.
— The extent to which consumers and/or healthcare providers received insufficient or incorrect information about opioid medications.
I will join the 24 states and dozens of Connecticut municipalities that are suing Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of OxyContin, for deceptively promoting prescription opioids and causing harm to patients. Additionally, I would launch a comprehensive review of how other potentially dangerous and addictive medications are promoted and distributed in Connecticut, and determine if further legal action is required to prevent another addiction epidemic.
• Reimburse Public Health Costs. I will insist that pharmaceutical companies fully compensate our state for the public health costs we have borne as a result of their conduct, and will use the Office of the Attorney General to assist and coordinate with other states and Connecticut municipalities that have brought legal actions against the pharmaceutical industry. Any settlement or damages verdict that Connecticut receives should be dedicated to addiction services, training and counseling and wraparound support services to help those struggling with opioid addiction deal with common problems like homelessness, health care inequity, barriers to treatment on demand and insurance barriers. Funds should be dedicated to building our public heath infrastructure and medically based treatment capacity to better respond to the current crisis and prevent future addiction issues.
• Increase Sober Home Oversight. Sober homes are incredibly important facilities to help individuals seeking to recover from addiction. However, a series of overdose deaths in sober homes demand that action be taken to protect vulnerable residents seeking support.
A voluntary certification and annual inspection program was implemented by advocates in New London, requiring sober home operators to meet sanitary standards and demonstrate proper access to support services in order to receive certification. Additionally, certified homes must have Naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug, on the premises. I fully support the recently passed legislation – given the high-risk and critical function these facilities serve, certification should be mandatory. I support a mandatory certification system on a statewide level for sober homes through the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
As Attorney General, I will ensure that certified homes are complying with the required standards. Additionally, I will direct the Attorney General’s Office to pursue any potential consumer protection or negligence cases that arise from improperly operated sober homes, or ones engaging in deceptive marketing practices. Patients on the road to recovery should have access to the safe environment they expect and deserve, and anyone seeking to take advantage of them should be held accountable.
• Expand Access to Naloxone (Narcan). Naloxone is a life-saving drug that can reverse the immediate effects of an opioid-induced overdose. It has been shown that enacting laws to expand access to Naloxone has been associated with a decrease in overdose deaths. Currently, state troopers, along with local law enforcement in some municipalities, are required to carry Naloxone in order to rapidly respond to overdoses. As Attorney General, I would bring together public health, law enforcement, and education officials to conduct a comprehensive review of opportunities to expand access to Naloxone. Increasing access to Naloxone, among local law enforcement or in public schools, can save the lives of those struggling with addiction, and can better protect officers and first responders who come into contact with dangerous opioids.
• Invest in Prevention. The most effective way of combatting opioid addiction is to invest in efforts to prevent it in the first place. Our state should continue to engage in school and community-based prevention campaigns, especially targeted towards young people, to increase awareness over the dangers of opioids and direct individuals to early intervention resources. We should continue to increase access to critical recovery services for those struggling with addiction.
As Attorney General, I will bring together community leaders, educators, healthcare experts and law enforcement officials to lead public engagement on this critical issue. Both patients and medical providers should have the appropriate resources regarding addiction to make informed healthcare decisions.
• Combat Drug Trafficking. Illegally distributed heroin and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, have played a devastating role in this crisis. As an Assistant United States Attorney, I handled complex investigations of large narcotics trafficking organizations. I also supervised investigations of drug companies and healthcare providers who were unlawfully distributing dangerous and addictive drugs. As Attorney General, I will expand our office’s partnership with the healthcare fraud enforcement efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that healthcare providers are not using their authority to write prescriptions as a cover for the unlawful distribution of dangerous narcotics.
• Pursue Criminal Justice Reform. As Attorney General, I will work with the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney and the Department of Corrections to review existing sentencing requirements, drug offender policies and prison conditions to ensure that opportunities for treatment and rehabilitation are maximized for individuals suffering from substance use disorders.
___________________________________ National Center for Health Statistics. “Drug Overdose Mortality by State,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1/10/2018.  Altimari, Dave. “Fueled By Fentanyl Increase, Accidental Drug Overdose Deaths Top 1,000 In Connecticut,” Hartford Courant, 2/16/2018. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Connecticut Opioid Summary,” February 2018.