Connecticut State Representative Brian Lanoue
State Representative Brian Lanoue’s office submitted these responses to the American Opioid Podcast on 3/7/2019 11:50:27 AM.
What district of Connecticut do you represent?
Briefly, how would you describe the opioid crisis in your state?
The opioid crisis in CT is widespread, but has disproportionately affected Eastern Connecticut. There are a number of causes, which require unique solutions that are never cut and dry. The goal is to always treat the whole person, not just the symptoms, which is why we are pushing for more legislation to help connect individuals battling addiction with treatment centers.
What are the two or three most significant bills that have been introduced in your chamber to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state?
• H.B. 6158, An Act Expanding and Extending the CRISIS Initiative Pilot Program, which would expand this critical program from Troop E to Troop D and extend the sunset date of the program to January 1st, 2022. This program allows the state police to directly refer individuals battling addiction to treatment centers, bridging the gap between law enforcement and recovery. The law enforcement community realizes that simply arresting an individual in possession of illegal drugs with the intent to use will not cure them; however, helping them find the appropriate rehabilitation centers has the potential to curb repeat offenses.
• H.B. 5642, An Act Establishing a Task Force to Examine a State Funding and Service Disparity in Northeastern Connecticut, a bipartisan bill establishing a task force to examine whether or not northeast CT is receiving an inequitable amount of state funding. If our region is missing out on opportunities to enhance services, invest in infrastructure and propel economic development, we need to get to that bottom of it. Access to quality jobs, resources from the private and nonprofit sector and reliable transportation all factor into the opioid crisis.
• H.B. 5957, An Act Concerning Funding for the Quality of Life Task Force, which seeks sufficient funds for the Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 2020. This funding would be used to staff four full-time state troopers whose duties are limited to staffing the quality of life task force.
What was your involvement, if any, in those bills (e.g., introduction, advocacy, vote pledge)?
• I introduced H.B. 6158, which has received bipartisan support, including a cosponsor, State State Representative Pat Boyd (D-50).
• I cosponsored H.B. 5642, a bill introduced by Rep. Kevin Ryan (D-139). Multiple legislators from both sides of the aisle have signed onto this legislation.
• I introduced H.B. 5957.
Have any of the bills passed? If not, why?
• H.B. 6158 made it to the Public Safety & Security Committee and received a public hearing on February 8th, 2019. I testified in person. If it receives a favorable report from the committee, it will be placed on the House calendar where it may be call for debate and a vote.
• H.B. 5642 was referred to the Planning & Development Committee and received a public hearing on March 6th, 2019. Like H.B. 6158, it also awaits a joint favorable report.
• H.B. 5957 was referred to the Appropriations Committee. No action has been taken since.
What was the most memorable experience you had while learning about the opioid crisis in your state?
We held a rally on H.B. 6158 on February 16th, 2019 in Griswold where members of the community shared their experiences with this national epidemic. Among the speakers were three courageous women who told heartbreaking stories of personal loss. Kathleen Dufficy, President of Matt’s Mission, spoke about her son, Matt, who died from an overdose years ago. With her was April Wojcik, also of Matt’s Mission, who lost her brother. Also present was Ceci Iliff, whose son died only weeks ago just shy of his 29th birthday. He leaves behind a young son. As she spoke, she held a picture of her son, Ben. These stories strike at our core, and they put a face to the incredible struggle facing Connecticut. After hearing their stories and reading their testimony, I am even more determined to push this bill all the way to the governor’s desk and work with my colleagues, constituents and residents statewide to prevent further loss of life to addiction.
If you had a magic wand that allowed you to pass any legislation you wanted in order to help alleviate the opioid crisis in your state, what would that legislation look like?
If I could wave a magic wand, I would simply cleanse the world of all drugs and addiction. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet in public service. There is only hard work, persistence, and patience. I believe the bills I mentioned above will help us get one step closer to bringing the opioid-related fatality rate to zero, but no single bill can accomplish this. We must continue to build on existing legislation to see what works, and we must support individuals and organization on the ground who work closely with these patients on a daily basis.
Are there any additional thoughts you would like to share?
Politics can be a divisive arena, but when it comes to the opioid epidemic, party affiliations must be checked at the door. Each of us knows someone, or knows of someone, who has been affected by this public health crisis. It’s devastating, not only because it is widespread, but also because it is avoidable. We need to arrive at the source of the problem, which is complex. Mental health issues, economic conditions, education, upbringing and so many other factors contribute to addiction and substance abuse. Addressing each of these causes is near impossible, but we must be more persistence than the disease itself in order to stop it.