A bipartisan response to the opioid crisis

It is apparent the state’s elected leaders in both parties recognize the seriousness of the opioid crisis in Connecticut. In 2015, 729 people died from accidental overdoses, a figure expected to reach about 900 when the 2016 numbers are calculated.

The challenge will be adequately parsing the various proposals to determine the most effective, while guarding against unintended and potentially counterproductive consequences. Making things more difficult, the General Assembly faces a fiscal crisis. Any money directed at prevention and treatment must compete with other spending priorities.

Freshman Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, finds herself in the thick of it as Senate co-chair of the Public Health Committee, the clearing house for the many opioid-related bills. Her fellow Senate co-chair is Sen. Terry Geratana, D-New Britain, first elected in 2011 in a special election.

The ability of the Republicans to grab as many seats as Democrats in the November election explains Somers’ position as a committee co-chair in her first year. But with her experience as one of the organizers of the group “Shine a Light on Heroin,” Somers understands the issue. Now she must prove to be a quick study on the art of legislating to put that knowledge to best use.

Somers has introduced her own legislation, including a bill that would require insurers to cover at least two weeks of inpatient substance abuse treatment. The level of care that medical insurance must legally provide in battling the disease of addiction is an important discussion to have.

Another Somers’ proposal would give hospitals the authority to hold for up to 72 hours someone treated with naloxone to counteract an opioid overdose. The reasoning is a longer stay will provide more opportunity for the abuser to get treatment. It will be interesting to hear from the hospitals on the practicality of the proposal.

Another bill, introduced by Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-98th District, would create recovery schools, which provide high school diploma programs specifically designed for students recovering from substance abuse disorders.

On Thursday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy touched on several ideas, including requiring doctors to prescribe opioids electronically, intended to better track such prescriptions, and improving communication between state agencies.

Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R-North Haven, notes none of these steps will prove very effective if the state continues to cut money for treatment programs. We urge Fasano and his party to identify where they would find the money to assure there are adequate recovery beds.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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