President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday the 21st Century Cures Act. The new legislation contains $1 billion in funding to combat the opioid addiction epidemic. Connecticut activists say that it's vital this state secures its fair share of the money.
Senator Richard Blumenthal said almost 900 people are expected to have died of overdose in Connecticut by the end of 2016, a big rise from the previous year.
"Hundreds of people perishing as a result of a preventable epidemic, that is directly attributable to over-prescription of opioid painkillers," he told a news conference. "And that can be treated as well as prevented if we invest."
Lisa Cote Johns, who lost her son Christopher in 2014 to heroin addiction, said there’s a lot of work to be done in different areas, but her priority would be more treatment facilities.
"If I could get the shovel in the ground tomorrow morning, I would, to open a new rehab. That's key to treating the problem at hand right now for those that are suffering," she said.
"Importantly, though, is the educational pieces," she said. "We need to build the curriculums in the school systems so that they are taught early on to know that opioid medications are not necessary."
Johns also called for insurance companies to cover rehabilitation for longer periods. Most plans will cover 30 to 45 days.
Both Blumenthal and Johns said addiction medicine should take a lead from the increasing personalization of cancer treatment, recognizing that not everyone can be treated in the same way for a successful result.
New London Mayor Michael Passero called opioid addiction "a dark secret. By hiding it we've just encouraged the problem to continue."
He went on, "we look forward to the funding the act is providing. It is an issue that we have to tackle together, because it doesn't honor borders. but certainly in New London we really are at the epicenter of it."