Donor Briefing: The Opioid Crisis

The Foundation hosted donors and a panel of local addiction specialists to discuss the roots of the opioid crisis and the local response.

Local Health Experts Point to Causes and Solutions

Panelists (L-R) Douglas Olson, MD, FACP Fair Haven Community Health Care, E. Jennifer Edelman, MD, MHS Yale School of Medicine, and Tony Corniello, LCSW BHcare

The opioid crisis, which causes more accidental deaths than automobile crashes in the U.S., has struck Connecticut and Greater New Haven especially hard. On November 8th, The Foundation hosted donors and a panel of local addiction specialists to discuss the roots of the crisis and the local response.

What We Heard

Opioids Create a Physical Dependency

  • Opioid abuse causes changes in the brain's chemical reward system.
  • Withdrawal causes severe pain and symptoms similar to the flu.
  • People suffering from a use disorder take opioids to feel normal.

The Role of Pain Treatment

  • In the 1990s, accepted medical practice directed doctors to treat pain as a vital sign, with the goal of reducing pain severity to 0 on a scale of 0-10.
  • OxyContin® came on the market in the 1990s promising to treat both acute and chronic pain with low risk of addiction.
  • By the 2000s, it became clear that patients receiving pain treatment, in fact, were becoming addicted in large numbers.

Treatment Practices Have Changed

  • Doctors are better educated about the risks of opioid addiction.
  • New regulations restrict opioid prescriptions for acute pain to supplies of 7 days or less.
  • Electronic medical records allow doctors to view patients' prescription histories.
  • Law enforcement has increased its surveillance and enforcement of illegal prescribing.

Heroin and Synthetic Opioids - A Deadly Trend

  • Heroin has become a drug of choice for many people who first develop opioid use disorders while taking prescription pain medication.
  • Overdoses in Connecticut have spiked far above the national average in the past five years.
  • The increase is attributed to fentanyl and other opioids that are 30 to 100 times stronger than heroin

Effective Solutions Are Multifaceted

  • Underlying causes include social isolation, mental illness and other conditions that need to be addressed.
  • Education is key.
  • Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) such as methadone is an effective therapy for helping people with opioid use disorder regain control of their lives.

What We Can Do

Reduce Stigma Around MAT

  • When patients are stigmatized for using MAT instead of quitting "cold turkey," they are more at risk of failing treatment and returning to street drugs.

Support Treatment, Education and Health

Behavioral health and addiction services organizations do not have enough resources to meet the demand for treatment. Organizations in this field that were recently awarded competitive grants from The Foundation include:

  • BHcare, which offers a Medication Assisted Treatment program at clinics in Ansonia and Branford.
  • Bridges- A Community Support System, which provides a comprehensive range of prevention and addiction recovery programs for adults, children and families. In 2017 Bridges began offering Medication Assisted Treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder.
  • Connecticut Healthcare Research and Education Foundation, Inc., for the implementation of an education and training program that informs hospitals, community-based practices and patients about strategies to avoid and address opioid misuse.
  • Connection, Inc., for programmatic and physical building needs where behavioral health programs serve individuals diagnosed with psychiatric and/or substance use disorders.
  • Continuum of Care, Inc., to help individuals who are struggling with addiction live productive lives.
  • Fair Haven Community Health Clinic, which offers an opioid addiction treatment program that is accessible to low-income residents.
Ashleigh Ann Rector at home on the slopes

The Foundation is also home to several funds established to address addiction prevention and recovery including the Ashleigh Ann Rector (pictured right) Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Peter J. Meehan and Prudence F. Meehan Fund. Learn more about The Foundation's available fund options to meet your charitable goals.

Additional Links & Resources

About The Foundation's Donor Briefing Series

Our ongoing Donor Briefing series invites guest experts to discuss urgent issues affecting us locally and nationally and to inform us about what can be done. Contact us to learn more.