The Day – New model of action for opioids in London: public health, public safety
The thrust of New London’s approach to the opioid crisis that it shares with every community is as straightforward as the Hippocratic Oath: reduce damage, build trust, reduce crime. Or, as the leaders of the effort put it bluntly, “We cannot help people if they are dead.”
This is the fundamental reality behind the evolution of the work of New London CARES and the Overdose Action Team. The efforts of the two overlapping groups also focus on public health to reduce the number of deaths and on public safety to reduce crime. At all times, the experienced team of peer navigators strive to build trust with 50-100 people who use illicit drugs, so that when they’re ready to work out their problems, they know where to turn. . Police and firefighters are on board.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given its own twist to overdoses and related deaths; isolation and quarantine reduced access to illicit drugs, but successful ones often contained the life-threatening additive xylazine, an animal tranquilizer that makes it easier to withdraw fentanyl – until it kills. A person with access to medication during shutdown was much more likely to use it alone and much more likely to die if overdosed. Connecticut has a higher-than-average rate of xylazine-contaminated heroin and cocaine, at about 11%; in southeastern Connecticut, it would be a few percentage points higher.
The Day reported in July that Connecticut’s drug overdose death rate rose 15% in 2020; 1,373 people died, against 1,196 in 2019. In 2019, it had already increased by 17% compared to the previous year; it was the deadliest year Connecticut has ever seen, according to state data.
In 2019, 70,630 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, the CDC reported. Last year, 2020, the death toll topped 100,000 for the first time, exacerbated by the pandemic.
In the face of such grim and disturbing numbers, New London’s strategy has become a model for other communities and has garnered state and federal support for this purpose. Since the start of a federally funded grant in 2017, the goal has been to combine public safety – the work of law enforcement – with medical insight into the effects of addiction on a brain’s brain. usual user – public health. The model makes the person with substance abuse disorder part of their own solution and aims to keep them out of the legal system by reducing their desperation to commit crimes. The use of naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose and of suboxone as a prescribed long-term antidote is essential to the strategy.
The word is spreading. In July, the governor enacted a measure first proposed by State Representative Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, to bypass the step of more community surveys and instead use the browser approach. by New London Peer as a model for programs in five communities. A federal budget item is pending for assistance to women newly released from incarceration and vulnerable to resuming drug use, and in a few weeks the New London team will begin running a mHealth unit in the part of a 5-year program with Yale to reach out to ex-inmates and others.
The leadership and organizational expertise of the city’s social services department, the Alliance for Living and the Ledge Light Health District have put together a program that has so far engaged at least 300 people and is slowly building and regularly trust. Throughout the months of pandemic shutdowns, peer browsers have kept in touch with their contacts. If the current COVID-19 outbreak makes it necessary, the program is ready to restart the isolation center that has been run for clients who have been exposed or made ill by the coronavirus. Their job is a mission to save lives from mortal danger and create a future – because you can’t help people if they’re dead.
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