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Tackling the fentanyl crisis

Brightly colored rainbow fentanyl pills seized by the DEA are spread out on a table.
Drug Enforcement Administration
In August 2022, the Drug Enforcement Administration and law enforcement partners seized brightly colored rainbow fentanyl pills in 18 states.

A deadly combination of Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, and fentanyl, resulted in 221 overdose deaths up to August this year, up from 141 deaths for the full year 2020, according to the Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner’s Office.

This hour on Where We Live, we look at the fentanyl crisis. Data from the state Department of Public health show that 86% of the 1,524 overdose deaths in 2021 were caused by fentanyl.

We hear from a mother turned activist about her son Alec, who died of a fentanyl overdose four years ago, and the ongoing struggle to overcome stigma and barriers to care, including insurance coverage.

We also talk about how synthetic opioids are being packaged in ways that appear attractive to children and youth, including colorful candy.

What are hospital ERs doing to get people the care they need at a time of bed shortages?

Later, we hear about a soon-to-be-launched school program aimed at preventing substance misuse by teens and children.


  • Dita Bhargava: Ambassador at Shatterproof. Mother of Alec, who died of a fentanyl overdose in 2018.
  • Dr. Kathryn Hawk: Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Yale School of Public Health and the Program in Addiction Medicine.
  • Bianca Irizarry: Consultant, State Education Resource Center, and Coordinator of the school- based Center for Preventive Education and Advocacy.

Where We Live is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

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Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.
Lucy leads Connecticut Public's strategies to deeply connect and build collaborations with community-focused organizations across the state.