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Prescription drug drop boxes added to state police barracks as fight against opioid abuse continues

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Colchester — Just three days after legislators passed a comprehensive opioid bill and two days before National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday announced the state’s latest move in the fight against opioid dependency.

Eleven new prescription drug drop boxes — one for each state police troop’s lobby — have joined the state’s fleet, bringing the total number to 71.

The drop boxes, made possible through a partnership with CVS, provide a place for residents to turn over expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications, no questions asked, in an effort to help prevent pill abuse while also protecting the environment from improperly disposed of medication.

In Connecticut, overdoses resulting from heroin and other opioids more than doubled in the past four years, rising from 195 in 2012 to 444 last year.

“We do know about 45 percent of folks who end up heroin-reliant are starting with prescription drugs first as a gateway,” Malloy said.

“That’s why this weekend — and every weekend — is very important,” he continued, referring to the take-back day, during which towns across the state will set up and staff designated areas where residents can drop off unwanted medications from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “It is the one way the general citizenry can be actively involved with us in preventing people from becoming dependent on heroin.”

Last year alone, Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said, residents dropped more than 23,000 pounds of prescription medications into the roughly 60 drop boxes around the state.

According to state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, 44 percent of all who were admitted for services around the state in 2015 indicated that heroin and other opiates were their drugs of choice.

In traveling around the state over the past two months, Delphin-Rittmon said she’s heard many stories of addictions that began with prescription medications and ended in tragedy.

"The stories often have a consistent message," she said. "People talk about being unaware about how the quantities of these medications, or the particular qualities, are so addictive. Drop boxes are an important part of our state's prevention efforts. Improving access to them we know will help reduce these addictions to these highly addictive medications."

The drop boxes, Harris said, are just one piece of the puzzle in terms of combatting the abuse of heroin and other opioids.

Another aspect, Malloy pointed out, is the legislation the state has enacted in relation to the epidemic.

On Monday, members of the state House of Representatives unanimously passed a multifaceted bill they hope will help slow the abuse of heroin and other opioids.

"This will be the fifth comprehensive bill my administration has put forward on this very question in the sixth session we've been here," Malloy said, adding that he's "very happy" with the bill's language.

The bill would affect doctors in two key ways.

First, it asks that they limit initial opioid prescriptions to seven-day supplies except in extreme cases or if they're treating chronic pain or pain associated with cancer or palliative care.

If doctors choose to exceed the seven-day limit, they will have to document why.

Second, prescribers would have to check the state's database to see what other prescriptions a patient may have before writing prescriptions.

"We know there's a fair amount of prescription drug shopping going on in New England — we're a bunch of states in a small patchwork of territory," Malloy said, referring to the practice in which a person visits multiple doctors, sometimes in multiple states, to obtain additional prescription drugs.

The bill also would require first responders to carry overdose-reversing drugs such as Narcan, and would ask the Alcohol and Drug Policy Council to design a plan to reduce the number of opioid-related overdose deaths in the state.

Malloy said he and several state commissioners regularly have conversations with officials in other states to seek new ways to deal with the heroin issue.

"Quite frankly most states are looking to us," Malloy said. "That's in large part because of the legislation we've enacted and the institutional changes we've made."

l.boyle@theday.com

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