U.S. Attorney speaks out on Connecticut’s opioid crisis

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(WTNH) — There were sixty thousand drug overdoses in the United States last year, and when it comes to the numbers in Connecticut, they are startling and frightening.

Deidre Daly, United States Attorney for the district of Connecticut, spoke with News 8 about how her office is dealing justice out to drug dealers.

“Nine hundred seventeen deaths last year…trending towards a thousand this year,” Daly said.

Daly and her office organized a statewide task force tracking down dealers when someone dies from an overdose.

We focus a lot on the phones because often the victim has communicated with the dealer on the phones which allows us to track down that dealer. We also try to work up the chain to try and get to higher level dealers.”

So far, seventy cases have been prosecuted. On Tuesday, a Waterbury drug dealer was sentenced to twenty seven months in prison for the distribution of Fentanyl to a Naugatuck man that died from an overdose. Text messages between the dealer and the victim helped in the sentencing phase.

Linking a dealer to a death can help produce a stiffer sentence.

“There is a twenty year mandatory term that could be charged in the case when you can show that the drug distributed by the defendant caused a death. There’s certain legal hurdles there that we faced but in the appropriate case where we can prove that legally and we can call for it we will certainly use that charge. But what we have been doing in the cases that we have brought is having victims’ families come and testify at sentencing,” Daly said.

Fathers, brothers, sisters, and mothers of overdose victims provide a powerful voice.

“If you are thinking ‘Oh no, not in my town, not in my town, not my kid’ you need to wake up and think again,” Martha Galligan said.

What was supposed to be a fresh start for Galligan’s daughter, ended in the worst way possible.

“My life as I knew it and my future as I knew it are gone,” Galligan said.

Like so many other sons and daughters, Martha’s daughter Katie battled addiction. “She started with pot, graduated to cocaine finally OxyContin and then heroin.”

Katie started a family, had a child, and was back on track- until one relapse changed everything.

“My daughter overdosed on heroin and unfortunately in the process somehow she ended up on top of her son and he suffocated to death,” Galligan said.

Martha now works with The U.S. Attorney’s Heroin Education Action Team, known as HEAT, speaking to parents, students, and even those that distribute lethal drugs.

“Some of the most powerful reactions I have gotten have been from dealers who if I sit and tell them my story eye to eye, they are devastated because they never really thought how what they are doing affected somebody else,” Galligan said.

HEAT’s goal is to speak at every high school in Connecticut.

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