From the inner cities to wealthy suburbs, Connecticut experts said the opioid crisis is an epidemic.
On Wednesday, health directors from around the state met in Waterbury where they highlighted how to respond to an ever-growing problem.
The special meeting was put on by the Connecticut Association of Directors of Health. They said the only way they can get a handle on this opioid crisis is by raising awareness, educating, and working together.
"If this were West Nile, if this were Zika, certainly we'd be having an emergency declaration issued by the governor right away,” Darien Health Director Dave Knauf said.
A simple demonstration showed how anyone can save lives.
"They'll check to see if they're awake. If they don't they can put the Narcan kit together, and they're going to administer one half in one nostril, and the rest of it in the other. And that's it,” demonstrators said.
Health directors heard a drug intelligence officer discuss the latest trends. The discussion highlighted how the synthetic drug fentanyl, which is cheaper and more lethal, comes from China to Mexico before being shipped to the United States.
Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary mentioned the brass city had three overdoses just Wednesday morning. All three were saved by Narcan.
"The Narcan deployments have saved 100s of 100s of lives here in Waterbury,” O'Leary said. “We've already had 40 overdose deaths this year, which is unfortunate."
Last year, Waterbury had 33 fatal overdoses. The Waterbury Fire Department responded to more than 200 calls where they administered Narcan. Now the city is helping train family members, so they can be prepared.
"We know we're not going to be able to arrest ourselves out of it,” Waterbury Police Deputy Chief Fred Spagnolo said. “We know we can't treat ourselves out of it, we just have to continue to work together."
"Now we have a whole new level of problems. People are thinking they're buying Xanax and they're not. People think they're buying Oxycodone and they're not,” Knauf said. “It’s a law enforcement problem, it’s a public health problem and it’s something we as a society need to recognize."
Organizers said they plan to hold more of these special meetings and continue to collaborate.
As for what's next, O'Leary said they need to develop a curriculum to teach young students the dangers of opioids.
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