Heroin Epidemic…Really?

11/09/2017

I’m not an alarmist BUT…

Do you remember the Ebola Epidemic? It was 2014, and by early fall most of the nation was experiencing some level of panic.  Here in Connecticut nine individuals were suspected of having the Ebola Virus, six of which were in one family.  The state launched a coordinated multidisciplinary strategy that included The Department of Public Health, the City of New Haven’s Emergency Operations, Yale New Haven Hospital, and the CDC.  This extraordinary coordination was detailed by the Hartford Courant when one of the suspected Ebola victims was a Yale University student. (1)

In a matter of 48 hours the following took place:

  • The individual was sequestered
  • A hazardous-material team was dispatched to Yale New Haven Hospital
  • Emergency Personnel and Police from the city of New Haven and Yale University met at 10:00 p.m. to coordinate the transportation of the patient
  • Governor Malloy had a press conference and shared that a team of state investigators “had begun to retrace the student’s steps to establish who the patient had come in contact with.”
  • Based on this investigation, a coordinated effort was made to ensure that all individuals who came into contact with the patient would be identified
  • Designated individuals from Yale New Haven Hospital kept regular contacts with the CDC to get guidance.    
  • A plan was made for the nurses treating the patient to regularly rotate and to ensure all procedural measures were appropriately carried out
  • Yale University president Peter Salvoey addressed the school community. 
  • Governor Malloy shared that Connecticut had long been in preparation for an Ebola outbreak response and directed every hospital in the state to hold a drill within one week.
  • The CDC was prepared to send a team to the hospital if the patient tested positive for Ebola. 
  • Connecticut Department of Public Health established a Unified Command Team to coordinate with the CDC should the patient test positive for Ebola. 
  • 211, Connecticut’s crisis line created special options for Ebola prevention.

In another case involving a 3rd grade student from West Haven, the student was banned from school for 21 days, (which the school later lost a lawsuit over) because she had recently returned from a country in West Africa relatively close to those affected by Ebola.  Connecticut’s State Department of Education sent out a statewide letter to schools on managing students who were at risk for exposure to Ebola.

At the federal level, legislation was passed approving $4.5 billion in funding to fight the spread of Ebola within the same year.

Now let’s consider what we’re calling the Heroin Epidemic:

Since the year 2000, overdose deaths related to opioid based prescriptions have steadily increased.  In 2000 there were roughly 4,000 overdose deaths as a result of opioid medications.  In 2014 there were roughly 19,000 overdose deaths; a 475% increase.  Heroin overdose deaths likewise increased since 2000, however, in much more dramatic fashion; in 2011 there were 4397 heroin overdose deaths while 2014 witnessed 10,574 (over a 250% increase in 3 years!).(2)  Sadly, annual deaths have only increased in 2015 and 2016 is projected to see this trend continue.

​Connecticut hasn’t been immune to this “epidemic.”(3)

  • New Haven saw 16 overdoses in one 24-hour period
  • In 2014 roughly 500 people died from an overdose (the same year 9 individuals were suspected of having Ebola)
  • In 2015 over 600 people died from an over dose, almost 2 people per day

Here’s how we’ve addressed it:

Public act 19-643 which includes the following:

  • More prohibitive measures on prescribing opioid based pain medication.
  • Reducing the red tape needed to prescribe Narcan, a medication that can revive an individual from an opioid overdose.
  • Requiring first responders to carry Narcan
  • Reducing liability for “Good Samaritans” who assist an individual in an overdose (4)

Additionally, a partnership was developed between the Governor’s Office, Yale’s School of Medicine, and Health Insurance Providers to develop a strategic plan to address the epidemic.

Meanwhile at the federal level we’ve been in a Heroin epidemic for close to 5 years, and we’re still waiting for a $1.1 billion to be dispersed from the government.  

I’m not an alarmist…but I am an advocate.  If we’re going to call this tragedy an epidemic, then we need to act as though it’s an epidemic.  Thousands of Americans have died in the past 15 years and many of those deaths have been concentrated in the last five years.  My goal in writing this blog isn’t to compare an opioid addiction to an Ebola outbreak, but rather to highlight the general apathy and lack of response to an epidemic that we’re smack dab in the middle of.  When will enough be enough?

1. Kovner, Josh and Glista, Kelly.   “Yale-New Haven Patient Tests Negative For Ebola.”  Hartford Courant.  10/16/2014. Retrieved on 8/26/16 from http://www.courant.com/health/hc-yale-new-haven-hospital-1017-20141016-story.html

2. National Institute of Health, National Institute of Drug Abuse. “Overdose Death Rates.”  12/2015.  Retrieved 8/26/16 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

3. Scinto, Rich.  “CT Heroin Epidemic: Interactive Map of Deaths by Town.  Connecticut continues to see a sharp rise in heroin and other opioid-related deaths. This review tracks 2015 cases throughout all of CT.”  The Connecticut Patch.  5/1/2016.  Retrieved on 8/26/16 from http://patch.com/connecticut/darien/ct-heroin-epidemic-interactive-map-deaths-town-0

4. Bednarz, David.  “Gov. Malloy Signs Comprehensive Bill Combating Opioid Abuse and Launches Strategic Plan to Tackle Addiction.” Press Release Governor Malloy’s Office.  5/27/16.  Retrieved 8/26/16 from http://portal.ct.gov/Departments-and-Agencies/Office-of-the-Governor/Press-Room/Press-Releases/2016/052016/Gov-Malloy-Signs-Comprehensive-Bill-Combating-Opioid-Abuse-and-Launches-Strategic-Plan-to-Tackle-Addiction/

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