Opioid forum to be held Wednesday in Stonington
Stonington — Old Mystic Fire Chief Kenneth Richards, whose recommendations for responding to the opioid crisis have been adopted by an international association of fire chiefs, is hosting a public forum on the crisis Wednesday.
Staff members representing U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both D-Conn., are expected to attend the informational session at the Old Mystic Fire Station.
Richards said he invited members of Connecticut's congressional delegation and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to the forum. A representative of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said Tuesday that Courtney is in Washington, D.C., but may send a staff member to the forum. Reps. John B. Larson, D-1st District, and Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, told Richards they would not be in attendance. A spokesman for Malloy said the governor has a scheduling conflict and will not be able to attend.
Richards said first responders in the region still are being called daily to overdose cases and that members of his department could not save a 40-year-old man who overdosed a few weeks ago. He has authored a position statement calling for a stronger and more cohesive response to the crisis that has been adopted by the Connecticut, New England and International divisions of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Richards will be on a five-member panel at a town hall-style forum for members of the fire service in Dallas next month at the conference of the International Fire Chiefs Association.
He said he wants the support and assistance of federal lawmakers.
"If they introduced legislation at the capital with 300 or 400 firefighters standing around, that would be huge," the chief said. "My recommendation is let's sit down, lock ourselves in a room and come up with some positive steps."
At Wednesday's forum, Richards said he would be going over the fire chiefs' position statement. Some of the recommendations include:
- Lobbying the United Nations and international allies for diplomatic initiatives and sanctions for drug traffickers.
- Providing better access to treatment and rehabilitation programs.
- Pushing for severe sentences for opioid dealers and suppliers.
- Supporting Coast Guard and military interdiction efforts to cut off the supply of illegal drugs.
Last year, 64,000 people died from opioid overdoses, an indication that the work that is being done is insufficient, Richards said. He had followed the case of 17-year-old Olivia Roark of Griswold, who died from an overdose of fentanyl and heroin at a Groton motel on May 27, 2016, and said sentences of eight years and less that were imposed on the people who provided her the drugs were too lenient.
"We need legislation on mandatory minimum sentencing for sellers and dealers and mandatory, state-monitored treatment," he said. "If somebody dies, it should be a manslaughter charge. We can't have people dealing the opioids and walking away."
Editor's Note: This article has been edited to correct the location of the event.
If You Go
What: Public forum on opioid crisis
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Old Mystic Fire Station, 21 North Stonington Road, Stonington
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