Mayor's Opioid Task Force tapes show for Nutmeg TV

Published on Friday, 14 February 2020 13:16


BRISTOL - Addiction is an illness, said Frank Caputo, chair of the Mayor’s Opioid Task Force. “Unfortunately some people don’t believe that. That’s why you get this stigma that all drug users are all terrible people.”

They get stereotyped as kids or as being from a particular ethnic group, he said. “It’s not true. It goes across the board from young children to adults. I’ve had clients in their 60s.”

Caputo and other members of the task force participated in a round table discussion at City Hall of the opioid addiction crisis that was filmed recently by Nutmeg TV to be broadcast later.

Also participating were Courtney Dollar, from the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition; Police Chief Brian Gould; Dr. Andrew Lim, medical director at Bristol Hospital Emergency Services; Courtney Pope, from Wheeler Clinic; Brian Laforge, from Bristol EMS; Lisa Coates, from Bristol Health Counseling Center; and Marc Palmeri, director of the Bristol-Burlington Health District.

It’s not just the heroin, Caputo said during the discussion. “It’s also the opioids – medications. Some people feel like ‘well, I’m not a drug addict because I’m taking these opioid as medications.’ It doesn’t work that way. If you become addicted to it you’re still addicted to it.”

Coates said she and Lim help train Bristol police officers for the COBRA (City of Bristol Recovery Alliance) program that began last fall as a collaboration between the police department and the Bristol Hospital ER.

“In talking to them I think the biggest feedback we got was that this disease has not discriminated - it’s affecting everyone. People say ‘not me, not my family, not in my neighborhood,’ and really it’s impacting every single person - from first responders to the police to hospital staff,” she said.

“It’s really sad to watch,” she added. “So it’s really great to be part of a team of professionals like this, who in so many different areas are willing to work together and fight this because it’s overwhelming.”

Palmeri noted that Bristol has been designated a “Recovery Friendly Community” by the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Policy Council. The designation is for communities interested in supporting residents who are in recovery from substance abuse disorders.

“We truly are,” he said. “We all do reach out to business communities, those not directly engaged in the opioid crisis, so they recognize that folks that are truly suffering from opioid abuse disorder look just like you and I. They should not be stigmatized any more than anyone else would expect a person who was dealing with such traumatic and troubling circumstances.”

Palmeri praised everyone on the task force for their dedication, and especially Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu “who has really been relentless to make sure that we are on task and who created a recovery friendly community network - which is really unique and I’m proud to say I’m part of it.”

Caputo said future segments to be filmed by Nutmeg TV may deal with more specialized aspects of opioid addiction.

“This is a general overall discussion of what’s going on with the task force and the areas we want to address,” he said. “We meet every month and whatever comes up that month we can also discuss.”

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Friday, 14 February 2020 13:16. Updated: Friday, 14 February 2020 13:18.