Ned Lamont, Democratic nominee for governor, and mental health advocate and former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy hosted a roundtable and discussed solutions to the opioid epidemic and toured the state’s largest detox facility, InterCommunity in Hartford.
A member of the Kennedy family, Patrick is the youngest son of the long-time Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and is a nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. At the time of his father’s 2009 death, Patrick was the last remaining member of the Kennedy family to serve in an elective office in Washington.
Kennedy has acknowledged being treated for cocaine use during his teenage years and admitted that he abused alcohol and other drugs while he was a student at Providence College.
He sought treatment for an OxyContin addiction in 2006.
As of 2018, Kennedy says that he has been sober for more than six years.
“The opioid epidemic is tragic and impacts every corner of our state, affecting families everywhere. To address this public health crisis, we need a coordinated response – from all three levels of government – that educates residents about the danger of these substances, funds and supports treatment options and supports the purchase of Narcan at wholesale prices for communities facing a spike in overdoses,” said Lamont.
“Our police, fire and emergency first responders are on the frontlines combatting this epidemic. We need to make sure they are equipped with the training, supplies and resources needed to continue this fight.”
Last month, Lamont proposed the creation of a cabinet-level position to coordinate the cross-agency state strategy to the opioid crisis in Connecticut and oversee the state’s response when overdoses increase. Currently, the state’s response to opioid overdoses run across several agencies, including the state Departments of Consumer Protection, Mental Health and Addiction Services and Public Health.
Lamont has criticized his opponent’s plan to eliminate funding for smart treatment programs that help treat those struggling with addiction.
If Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski moves forward with his tax scheme, funding for opioid treatment options would be decimated. Stefanowski’s plan would eliminate Medicaid, as we know it, which means eliminating treatment options available to those with substance abuse problems.
During his nearly two decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kennedy fought to end discrimination against those with mental health and substance use disorders.
In 2013, he founded The Kennedy Forum, a non-profit organization whose mission is to lead a national dialogue on transforming mental health and addiction care delivery by uniting mental health advocates, business leaders, and government agencies around a common set of principles, including full implementation of the Federal Parity Law.
“This crisis has hollowed out our country,” said Kennedy. “Conversations with people who are on the front lines doing work in our communities – they are critical for policymakers to hear. We need all hands-on deck to solve this crisis, and that means listening to what works in our communities and moving forward with proven, comprehensive solutions.”
In the spring of 2017, Kennedy was appointed to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The commission studied ways to combat and treat the scourge of drug abuse and addiction in the U.S.
He pushed the commission to issue strong parity recommendations, which included asking Congress to give the U.S. Department of Labor authority to levy civil monetary penalties against health insurers and asking all regulators to develop and implement enhanced enforcement strategies.
This year, Connecticut fentanyl deaths are currently on pace to increase by 9 percent.
More people in Connecticut die from drug overdoses than car accidents, homicides and suicides combined. Last year, the state saw 1,038 drug overdose deaths, and drug overdose deaths have increased over the last five years.