Blumenthal: Legislation headed to Trump can help battle opioid addiction
NEW HAVEN — Standing on the New Haven Green Monday, where almost two months earlier dozens of people were rushed to the hospital after overdosing on K2, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said a recent legislative package passed by the legislature can prevent it from ever happening again.
The Senate Wednesday voted 98-1 to approve a package of measures that will help fight the nation’s opioid epidemic, including four measures cosponsored by Blumenthal. The package now heads to President Donald Trump for his signature.
“I’m proud New Haven helped to provide an impetus for this measure. It gave the evidence that was important to advocate for this crackdown,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal emphasized one measure in the package that requires the U.S. Postal Service to collect and report electronic data on certain international shipments. The rash of overdoses on the Green in August reportedly were caused by traces of the drug FUBINACA, which officials said was manufactured in and shipped from Mexico and/or China.
Several U.S. Postal Service union officials arrived minutes after Blumenthal began the press event to advocate against the privatization of the service; Blumenthal shook their hands, and the representatives considered Blumenthal an ally. Those protesters didn’t know Blumenthal mentioned the USPS.
The proposal to increase electronic monitoring “would be taxing on workers,” said Stephanie Stewart, a national officer of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Mark Jette, with the American Postal Workers Union, said the easy solution is to make more hires.
“All additional work increases our workload, so we need to have more individuals to increase our workflow,” he said. “Everything has to be paid for.”
New Haven Emergency Operations Director Rick Fontana said Blumenthal had “answered our call.” He said the cost of Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, has put “a damper on our budgets.” One of the provisions in the package is an annual $500 million in funding for three years for Narcan and recovery coaches. To date, Blumenthal’s office reported Connecticut has received $11 million in funding through the program.
Assistant Police Chief Rachael Cain said police are “committed to bringing justice to those who poison members of our community” and mentioned one of the measures Blumenthal co-sponsored with Republican Iowan Sens. Chuck Grassley and Jodi Ernst, which provides grants to states to get pharmacies up to DEA compliance for drug take-backs.
“We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” Blumenthal said.
He said fixing the opioid crisis will require more treatment and social services, education in schools and more transparency from pharmaceutical companies and prescribing doctors.
“The approach needs to be expanded, which is not addressed in this bill,” he said.
Blumenthal said the legislative package went mostly unnoticed because “the news was mostly about (Supreme Court Justice) Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed.”
Blumenthal offered his thoughts on the process by which Kavanaugh was confirmed on Saturday, saying Republicans “(broke) all of the norms.” Now, he warned, the “far-right of this country” has remade the judiciary in its image.
“One party is in control of all three branches of government, which is dangerous,” he said.
When asked whether he wants Democrats to control all three branches of government, he said the American people want checks and balances.
“There is a danger in any one party controlling all three branches,” he said.
He promised that the FBI report commissioned to investigate various claims made against Kavanaugh should be released through Freedom of Information Act requests, so the public can know about limits allegedly imposed on that investigation.
Blumenthal said the next step is for citizens to vote in the upcoming election; both of Connecticut’s both U.S. senators opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation from the time he was named.