Need for teen program shows extent of opioid crisis
In 2017, more than 1,000 Connecticut residents died of accidental drug overdoses. The vast majority of these deaths were linked to heroin and other opioid-based drugs. In the past six years, Connecticut has been in the unenviable position near the top of state-by-state rankings of the rates of opioid-related deaths. In 2016, Connecticut’s opioid-related death rate of 24.5 of every 1,000 persons stood well above the national average of 13.3 deaths per 1,000 persons.
Adding to the tragedy is the fact that teenagers are increasingly experimenting with and suffering from addiction to opioids. A New London teen’s April death was ruled to be caused by toxicity of fentanyl, according to the chief state medical examiner. A 2015 round of surveys by the Southeastern Regional Action Council found illicit use of prescription drugs, including opioids, had nearly tripled among the region’s high school students. In Norwich, the survey showed more students reported illicitly using prescription drugs in the past 30 days than using alcohol or marijuana.
Among these sad facts and statistics related to the continuing crisis, however, there is some hope. One bright note was the announcement last week that United Community and Family Services is among four agencies in the state that will be offering advanced and comprehensive opioid disorder treatment for adolescents up to age 21. The program, which combines intensive therapy along with medication-assisted treatment, aims to prevent youth from falling deeper into addiction’s throes.
Called the ASSERT treatment model, the federally funded program can treat 94 youth and their families, including 24 in southeastern Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in announcing the program. The program stands out not only because it aims at preventing a deeper addiction crisis, but because it combines both individual and group therapies, includes the youth’s support system of family and friends,