BERLIN - The Central Connecticut Health District is trying to change the conversation on opioid abuse from awareness to action.
The public health agency, which serves Berlin, Newington, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield, hosted its first opioid initiative recovery workgroup meeting on recovery Thursday evening in Wethersfield.
“It’s amazing what happens when you bring people in a room to talk about a topic,” said Brown. “The synergy you can build from those types of things is tangible.”
Almost 540 people in the state died of accidental overdoses from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2017, according to the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner. The number was projected to increase to 1,078 by the end of the year - an 18 percent jump over 2016, when 917 people died.
The meeting was intended for and attended by those in recovery, said Brown, as a way to hear direct feedback by those affected by the drug. The conversation will help shape policy to address its problems.
The meeting was part of a four-part response the district is taking toward the opioid problem through workgroups addressing prevention, response, treatment and recovery. Thursday’s meeting focused on recovery.
“One of the things we talked about was what makes a recovery-friendly community, what does that look like?” said Charles Brown, director of the CCHD. “What would have made it easier for them in their towns?”
A lack of support group meetings for those battling addiction was one topic discussed at the meeting, Brown said. Availability of information where individuals can go to get help was another.
“It’s been valuable to hear that direct feedback from people with the actual experiences,” said Brown.
The concept for the meeting started last year when the district hosted public awareness forums in each of the towns. The meetings were attended by, among others, the state commissioner of public health, the director of mental health and addiction services, town social services workers, and police officers.
Locally, the forum was held in the Berlin High School auditorium in January 2016 for over three hours, though it was scheduled for only two.
“What we saw in the district was, yeah, there was a lot of that, but the follow up wasn’t there,” said Brown.
Two stakeholder meetings were held in April and November, with people from social services, superintendents of education, law enforcement officers, emergency medical service responders, recover house operators and the like, Brown said.
The stakeholder meetings were another effort by the CCHD to bring those directly dealing with the opioid abuse problem together to share information and facilitate action steps, since the CCHD has limited resources.
“What we found a lot was we might have law enforcement that is working on something in Berlin, but they don’t know what’s going on in Wethersfield,” said Brown. “So they share information and then we bring topics up and say, have you thought about how you address trauma? You go in an arrest somebody in front of their kid, how does that affect (their kid), where’s that connection with education.”
The district is looking to next host a meeting for families looking to support those in recovery, Brown said. A joint meeting for such families and those dealing in recovery is then expected to follow.
“We’re feeling our way along in this process,” said Brown. “The issue with opioid abuse is there’s no set coordinates to it, so we’re trying to put one step together to see where is the right direction to go.”
“What we’re trying to do is let people in the process to help us guide where the next people need to go,” Brown added.
For more information, visit the Central Connecticut Health District at ccthd.org.
Staff Writer Angie DeRosa contributed to this story.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.