Opioids bill Passes Both Chambers, Awaits Governor's SignatureMay 4, 2022
Today, the Connecticut State Senate unanimously passed HB 5430, An Act Concerning Opioids. The bill passed the Connecticut House of Representatives on April 19, also with unanimous bipartisan support.
The bill now heads to Governor Lamont to be signed into law.
While we have responded to and fought back against the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few years, we’ve continued to struggle with—and, frankly, lose ground to—the opioid epidemic.
I led passage of the bill in the House and coordinated the Public Health Committee’s efforts this year.
The cost of this crisis is staggering, and we cannot continue on this path of rising deaths, bereft families, and torn apart communities. Though there is much more work to be done in the years ahead, this bipartisan bill takes the right next steps and will save lives here in our state.
HB 5430 codifies a number of critical policies to combat the opioid epidemic in the state, including the expansion of evidence-based treatments and harm reduction measures.
WATCH HB 5430 INTRODUCED ON THE HOUSE FLOOR HERE: https://youtu.be/bP0qAoOgM6Q
I was proud to work with my delegation-mate in the Senate, Christine Cohen, on this legislation. She shared some thoughts, too:
"While we have a long way to go on combatting the opioid crisis, I am incredibly proud of the progress evidenced in House Bill 5430," said Sen. Cohen (D-Guilford) By way of a collaborative process, we were able to ensure better access to care for behavioral health and substance use disorders and plan for ways to address the serious public health impacts of addiction in a meaningful way.
We need to be hyper-focused on this important issue and not continue to allow any further loss of life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a significant uptick in mental health and addiction needs, and it is incumbent upon us to take immediate action. I am grateful for my colleague, Representative Parker, and for advocates like Demand Zero and For Cameron, who have worked tirelessly to bring us together and realize change."
The number of lives lost to unintentional drug overdoses in Connecticut has continued to rise over the last few years, up to 1,528 in 2021. According to the CDC, the combined cost of Opioid Use Disorder and unintentional fatal overdose was $17B in 2017—and has only risen since then.
HB 5430 includes measures to enable mobile access to methadone (a medication used to treat individuals with substance use disorder), greatly expanding this critical treatment; to legalize fentanyl testing strips in order to prevent accidental overdose and to expand other harm reduction measures; to implement a “peer navigator” pilot program in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the state to serve people living with opioid use disorder; and to codify the term “substance use disorder” in lieu of “substance abuse” in an effort to reduce stigma.
“We are thrilled”, said Betsy Dean, Director of Durham Middlefield Youth and Family Services, “that the House passed HB 5430, AAC Opioids with the support of John-Michael. This is a huge step forward in providing the help and support so many people need. We will continue offering Narcan training in conjunction with the Durham Middlefield Local Wellness Coalition and our other partners and welcome all who want to learn more about this crisis and this life saving treatment.”
According to Scott Cochran, Director of Madison Youth and Family Services, and Catherine Barden, Assistant Director of Community Support: “MYFS is incredibly thankful for the work that the legislature has put into addressing the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, we have seen the overdose rates climb year after year. We must all work to restrict access, reduce risk, and support those suffering from substance use disorders.
We look forward to continuing to educate the community about the risks, encourage safe disposal of unused medications, encourage safe storage of medications, host Narcan trainings, and more to ensure we continue to be a part of the solution because we recognize we are all in this together. We also must recognize our collective societal mistake as we ignored the warning signs and then responded so slowly to this epidemic. We hope these are lessons learned as the state learns to manage the new industries for legalized Cannabis and gambling.”
Lisa Deane, founder of demandZERO, lost her son, Joe, to a fentanyl overdose in 2018, and is a fierce advocate for combating the ever-growing opioid epidemic. She was one of many community members involved in the creation and passage of this legislation and has a number of ideas for the next steps that need to be taken.
“We are grateful the bill passed the house unanimously," Deane said. "However, it’s a bittersweet win. Representative Parker did all he could possibly do, and we are so appreciative. But our work is far from over. The fentanyl crisis is much too dire of a situation. I believe we need a Chief Drug Policy and Control Officer here in the state and will continue to advocate for this position in the future.”
Fiona Firine is another advocate who was instrumental in this legislation.
“I’m thankful for the work of Representative Parker and his colleagues in Hartford. It’s important to me that the laws surrounding our Fentanyl crisis in CT are written and enacted in a bipartisan manner," Firine said. "I would like to see an even more comprehensive bipartisan bill next session which addresses certain needs, such as a fatal overdose task force. I am very pleased with the passing of this bill and feel Connecticut is headed in the right direction when it comes to battling the horrific problems surrounding fentanyl and opioids.”
Fiona is the founder of For Cameron, a non-profit in honor of her son, Cameron, who lost his life in 2018 to an overdose.
The Connecticut General Assembly is set to pass a number of important related bills this year to strengthen the state’s response to the opioid crisis and support people living with addiction and other mental health challenges.
These include HB 5044, which creates an Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee that will direct unprecedented levels of funding to “substance use disorder abatement infrastructure, programs, services, supports and resources for prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction”. This is the result of multistate agreements involving several pharmaceutical companies over their roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic and has been championed by Attorney General William Tong and Governor Lamont.
It is an extraordinary privilege to have led the development and passage of this bill as a freshman legislator, and to be able to make a difference in the lives of so many here in my community—and across the state. I am grateful for the families, providers, practitioners, advocates, and individuals living with opioid use disorder who have guided our work this year, and I am committed to continuing these efforts in future legislative sessions.