Zoppo-Sassu takes on opioid problem with latest platform item

If elected, Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, the Democratic candidate for mayor, wants a community action plan to fight opioid overdoses in the city.

“According to the Office of the State Medical Examiner, there were 917 statewide fatal overdoses from 2016, which is up from 729 in 2015. The vast majority of overdoses involve some sort of opioid, and figures don’t include pure alcohol overdoses,” said Zoppo-Sassu in her press release. “Heroin continues to be a problem especially when batches have higher potency due to fentanyl.”

Bristol ranked fourth statewide in 2016, with 35 documented fatal overdoses, behind Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven, according to the candidate’s press release. “We all know families who have been touched by this public health crisis,” Zoppo-Sassu said.

Zoppo-Sassu, who served 4 terms on the City Council and is currently employed as the director of communications at the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, noted that the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program showed approximately 130,000 to 150,000 prescriptions written for controlled substances in Bristol during 2016.  The number of opioid prescriptions prescribed in that time period was between 53,000 and 64,000, said the press release.

The proposed Zoppo-Sassu action plan would include: “Prevention, Recovery, Response and Treatment” topic groups. According to her, the press release said, these groups should take the lead on talking and educating about addiction and creating awareness of the danger of opiates to all ages. The city should also define what a community that supports recovery looks like, and respond to some of the issues that drive opioid use including mental health issues, said the press release.

From a recovery standpoint, the release said, Zoppo-Sassu also pointed out that the city also needs to lobby the legislature and insurance companies to ensure that there are adequate beds available for affordable treatment as well.

“If the revised federal budget bill is approved, it will provide $45 billion, which will most likely flow to states in the form of grants over 10 years,” said Zoppo-Sassu in the press release. “Most of the money would go to addiction treatment, but some would be used to fund research into better treatments for pain and addiction.”

“What this comes down to is that in the case of Bristol, if we don’t have a plan in place, we will not get any of these dollars when they become available and people will continue to die,” said Zoppo-Sassu in the release. “There are no simple solutions, but I feel strongly that if we are going to be an All Heart community, then we should be providing the leadership needed (to fight the opioid crisis).”