NEW BRITAIN - U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal came to the Farrell Treatment Center Monday calling on the Congress to take action on the opioid crisis.
Blumenthal called on Congress to appropriate $6 billion in funding approved in the federal budget agreement earlier this month for treatment and recovery options for opioid addicts.
Congress hasn’t allocated the funds yet, he said.
“The federal government must be engaged, not just in rhetoric, but real support for places like this one, that enable recovery, provide treatment and counseling and clinical services,” said Blumenthal.
“The United States Congress has been derelict in its duty and failed to provide federal resources. The federal government must do more.”
The inaction on the funding can be blamed on the Appropriations Committee. Blumenthal said no public health initiatives have received money, but some funds have gone to the military.
“It’s an issue that affects all of us,” Blumenthal told employeesr and clients of the center, which is run by Executive Director Dave Borzellino.
“Literally no community, no family, no workplace is untouched by opioid use and addiction.”
According to numbers released by the state’s chief medical examiner on Feb. 16, 1,040 people died of accidental drug overdoses in Connecticut in 2017.
That was the first year the total topped 1,000, according to Blumenthal, and was 11th highest in the nation. That ranking will dictate, in part, how much of the money will come to Connecticut.
To address the problem, Blumenthal encouraged people to write Republican members of Congress, particularly U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Blumenthal, a Democrat, said he’s hoping the money will be released in March.
“The more these folks hear from you, particularly people who are in the trenches, on the front line, the more effect it has,” said Blumenthal. “There’s nothing as powerful as faces and voices.”
Jerry Ortiz, 37, a resident at Farrell who is recovering from heroin addiction that started when he was 13, thanked Blumenthal for wanting to bring the issue to light.
“There’s people out there that really need help and might not make it,” Ortiz said, if centers like Farell aren’t available.
“There’s no one solution,” said Blumenthal.
Brian Abely, a member of the board of directors at Farrell, went through a program there in 1985. He wanted Blumenthal to know that, even if the availability of opioids is lessoned, there will still be people struggling with addiction who need to be helped.
“It is a disease, and it needs to be treated as such,” Abely said. Blumenthal agreed.
Blumenthal urged increasing law enforcement effort by stopping the flow of fentanyl - a drug more powerful than heroin that is mixed with it - and making Narcan overdose reversal kits more available.
On Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the start of a “Change the Script” public awareness campaign aimed at shedding light on the prescription drug and opioid misuse and overdose crisis.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.