Opioid panel meets with health director

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Mayor’s Opioid Task Force met on Monday, Aug. 6, and were introduced to Marco Palmeri, the new director of the Bristol Burlington Health District.

According to the city website, the task force “is a group of organizations and individuals united in their commitment to reduce the tragic consequences that stem from the use of heroin and other opiates.”

Palmeri said he “applauds this task force” as it is “really important that the citizens of the city understand that we care” and that the task force and health district are “not going to let this epidemic ruin our city, our citizens, and our lives.”

“I have a lot of resources at my disposal; we receive a lot of grants, and we have both the federal government and the state government available to assist us in all sorts of issues,” said Palmeri, who has been working with the Department of Public Health to institute a Hepatitis A vaccine program. “We know a lot of those who are involved in the opioid issues are also IV users, homeless, and they could be exposed to Hepatitis A.”

Palmeri said this program will be just one of the many programs started to “prevent all sorts of issues” and “ultimately to save lives.”

“Just under 1,100 people died last year as a direct result of opioid overdose so, we know that this is a critical issue now, it can’t wait, and I’m here to help move forward some of the efforts of this task force, the city, and the state of Connecticut,” said Palmeri. “I’m here to support you and do whatever I can to help whatever initiative the city may present.”

Another such tool at Palmeri’s disposal is EPICenter, a newly introduced “tool that health directors can use to identify and track trends and other issues that can affect our communities.”

Lisa Coates, operations manager at the Bristol Hospital Counseling Center, 420 North Main Str., introduced the complementary Opioid Education and Family Support Group, which will begin on Monday, Sept. 10.

The group “is for family members and other loved ones of individuals that are misusing any type of opiates or have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder.” The meetings are free, and open to the public aged 18 years or older. It will be led by George Gogas, a Bristol Hospital employee and trained group facilitator.

For more information regarding the  group, or counseling center, please contact the center at (860)583-5858.

The task force also discussed their informational pamphlet that will be passed out during various city-wide events.

The pamphlet, which will be available on Saturday, Aug. 18, during the West End Association’s Summer Festival at Rockwell Park, includes information regarding opioids and opioid overdoses, but also offers a list of local pharmacies that carry and dispense Narcan, a prescription medicine used for the treatment of an opioid emergency, local substance abuse treatment resources, and alternative pain management methods and recreational options.

Also listed in the pamphlet is the Bristol Anonymous Tips Line, (860)585-TIPS (8477), which the city urges you to call should you “see any suspicious activity in town or in your neighborhood.”