To the Editor,
In 2016, 35 Bristol residents died from heroin and/or other opioid-related overdoses. That’s 35 brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, sons, and fathers; 35 people who were loved by someone.
Like most of you, I have personally been affected by this epidemic. I have family and friends who have buried loved ones. As a registered nurse working in emergency medicine I have seen f the devastating effects of the opioid crisis in this city and state over the years. Opiate addiction is an issue that reaches across all ages, races, and socioeconomic classes.
Aside from the emotional cost of the heroin epidemic, there are also economic costs. Health care costs for emergency services and addiction treatment, increased funding to police for drug arrests, increased court cases, and loss of workers in the workforce which is estimated to be the greatest cost. The estimated cost of the opioid crisis to the national economy is around $78.5 billion. Even if you don’t know a single person that has been impacted by the emotional aspect of the heroin crisis, it is inevitable that you will feel the impact of the economic aspect.
Unfortunately, the opioid problem in Bristol has gone largely unaddressed as a whole. Yes, we have gotten Narcan into the hands of officers. Yes, we have made some large drug busts. Yes, we have wonderful people from the Substance Abuse Action Council and Wheeler Clinic working to get help to those who want it. But the city itself has not been at the forefront of combating an issue that deeply reaches into the homes of so many residents. I say until now because residents will have the option to vote for someone this November who not only cares about and understands the far-reaching impact of the opioid crisis, but who also has a plan to combat it.
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu has made opioid abuse one of her top campaign issues. Ellen is committed to working with existing services within the city as well as bringing in new faces and new ideas to help current residents dealing with addiction, but to decrease opiate use for future generations. Ellen has a great ability to bring people of all walks of life together, which will be a valuable asset in this endeavor.
As the current director of communications at the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, Ellen understands the pathway to addiction that involves prescription drugs leading to heroin use. As she pointed out in the recent NAACP Candidate Meet and Greet, there were approximately 150,000 prescriptions for controlled substances written within Bristol, with around 53,000-64,000 of those being for opioid narcotics. That’s just within one year. Ellen proposes that as a city we should be looking into those numbers, and I agree.
Ellen’s plan of “Prevention, Recovery, Response and Treatment” is broad, and doesn’t only speak to one single aspect of the opioid issue. It includes educating people of all ages on the dangers of addiction, lobbying for increased beds for treatment, assuring Bristol will get some of the $5.5 million allocated to the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for addiction resources, and putting Bristol at the forefront of combating the Public Health Crisis of opiate addiction.
I look forward to November when we have the opportunity to vote for someone who truly has the betterment of all of Bristol’s residents in both her heart and mind, and possesses the skills and tenacity to move our city forward.