MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — Opioid overdoses are dropping in Connecticut, but health officials in Middletown are worried this trend won’t last. Community leaders formed a task force about a year ago to battle the epidemic from all sides.
The Greater Middletown Opioids Task Force is a multi-faceted approach that brings together law enforcement, educators, faith-based organizations, health advocates, and other groups so people who need help battling addiction have someone to turn to.
Middletown is small, but officials say the overdose rate is high. There have been seven fatal overdoses this year already.
Middletown health director Kevin Elak said, since 2019, an average of 200 overdoses have occurred yearly.
“People don’t want to live this life,” he said. “They want to get better. They deserve to be treated with respect, and they deserve the services that they need.”
The task force was formed last February and has more than 100 community partners. The task force has identified what Middletown is missing when preventing opioid overdoses.
“If they go to the hospital after having an overdose, they often don’t have that warm handoff or the resources of ‘hey where can I go to get help,” Elak said. “They might not be ready at that moment for help, but when they are ready, we need somebody there.”
With many community groups working together, the goal is to create a robust network of resources so it’s easier to get help.
Reverend Robyn Anderson with the Ministerial Health Fellowship said faith is a big part of recovery for people of color, a group greatly affected by opioid addiction.
“We’re the ones people come to also when they have family members or people in the community that are trying to get access into treatment, need help with their substance use,” she said.
The task force meets virtually on a monthly schedule. Their next steps include making Narcan more accessible to the community, as it can now be sold over the counter.
They also want to hire more recovery coaches who are in recovery themselves and can help those struggling each step of the way.