In Ridgefield earlier this week, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong spoke to local leaders and community substance abuse prevention advocates about the opioid addiction crisis. He acknowledged that this is a tough crisis because not everyone is going to make it. Tong added that while people may be good today, such may not be the case tomorrow.
He spoke of the importance of walking with individuals in addiction fights for the rest of their lives. Tong goes on to say that the opioid addiction crisis is the worst public health crisis in America that will take 1,400 people in Connecticut this year. The economic damage could amount to $10 billion which is increasing by the day.
Connecticut’s Opioid Addiction Crisis Efforts
Tong provided an update on the state’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic and youth vaping crisis, saying that the U.S. government provided over $50 billion for the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction.
Connecticut is also set to receive about $16 million through a settlement with e-cigarette maker JUUL. It is the state’s share of a settlement to resolve an investigation into the company’s marketing and sales practices. The funds can be used for cessation, prevention, and mitigation efforts.
The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will administer more than $26 million of the $600 million of the settlement this year. The funds will go into the CT Opioid Settlement Advisory Committee, which includes state officials, public health officials, legislative appointees and municipal officials.
Tong promised as attorney general that “We will be fighting this crisis,”. He pointed out that there’s no massive state infrastructure for treatment, prevention, and addiction science. Therefore, the best way to administer the money is for all officials to unite and identify effective programs. A list of the programs can be found on the state OSAC site for Region 5.
The JUUL Settlement
Connecticut led 34 states and territories in negotiating a $438.5 million settlement with JUUL last year. Tong said that the state has “pushed JUUL, essentially, to the brink of insolvency”. JUUL has agreed to a list of things they will not do, including marketing to kids, using influencers, social media and flavors.
Two days ago, the legislature approved Bill 6914 which covers how Connecticut can use the funds from the settlements to fight addiction to opioids as well as vaping statewide. The $16 million settlement money will be spread out and administered directly to prevention and treatment programs in all regions.
Tong plans to meet with each of the state’s five regional behavioral health action organizations over the next month to talk about how community-based organizations can access and guide funds to address the opioid epidemic and youth vaping. These regional health organizations primarily receive funding through federal dollars administered by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Their initiatives are related to mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Region 5, the Western Connecticut Coalition serves many towns including Barkhamsted, Beacon Falls, Bethel, Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Brookfield, Canaan, Cheshire, Colebrook, Cornwall, Danbury, Goshen, Hartland, Harwinton, Kent, Litchfield, Middlebury, Morris, Naugatuck, New Fairfield, New Hartford, New Milford, Newtown, Norfolk, North Canaan, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Salisbury, Sharon, Sherman, Southbury, Thomaston, Torrington, Warren, Washington, Waterbury, Watertown, Winchester, Winsted, Wolcott and Woodbury.