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New Haven Keeps An Eye On Opioid Epidemic Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Clients drop off used syringes to be exchanged for new ones at the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition mobile RV site earlier this year. Overdose deaths are on track to break last years record of 1,200 lives lost.
Clients drop off used syringes to be exchanged for new ones at the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition mobile RV site earlier this year. Overdose deaths are on track to break last year's record of 1,200 lives lost.

Connecticut is on track to lose a record number of lives to drug overdose this year. The most deadly year prior was 2019, with 1,200 overdose deaths. Numbers updated earlier this week show 1,032 overdose deaths so far in 2020.

New Haven has announced a partnership aimed at working toward a solution despite a year of pandemic disruptions. At a news conference Tuesday, Mayor Justin Elicker noted trends statewide are consistent with what he’s seen in his city.

“Every month except for August this year, there were more overdoses than in previous years,” Elicker said. The rise in overdose deaths last year is attributed in large part to the widespread introduction of a powerful opioid called fentanyl.

The effort in New Haven will help addiction disorder services adapt to the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic. The city will partner with Vital Strategies, a private company that works with governments to improve public health.

Christine Rodriguez, a noted harm reduction leader from Vital Strategies, said she will bring together existing resources and reorganize care so it can be safely delivered during the pandemic. New Haven’s Harm Reduction task force will continue to run a needle exchange program and use a community health van to provide care.

Ali Oshinskie is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She loves hearing what you thought of her stories or story ideas you have so please email her at aoshinskie@ctpublic.org.

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