At 78, my uncle had survived Hurricane Maria’s winds and the floods its rains unleashed. But the deadliest time in most hurricanes is after the storm passes. And for my uncle, the devastation of the island where he’d lived his whole life was too much to bear. A week and a half after Maria made landfall, he hanged himself at his ruined home.
On awful, gut-churning days such as Monday, I find it important to remind myself that mass shootings happen almost nowhere else but the United States. As we become normalized to the regular pace of massive, execution-style killings — Sandy Hook, Charleston, Orlando and now Las Vegas — it’s critical to understand that the Groundhog Day phenomenon of horrific mass shootings is exclusive to the United States. I find consolation in this fact, because if the problem is particularly American, then the solution can be, too.
I recently spent a week at the outer Cape and saw large schools of seals close to the beach. When I mention this, the invariable response is “sharks.” Where there are seals, there will be sharks. It’s the nature of predators and prey. Which brings me to our worsening opioid-overdose epidemic, why it’s getting worse, and why it will deteriorate further if we don’t change our approach. The sharks are here. They want your children.
Last January, the YWCA Greenwich hosted Why Words Still Matter, a program that explored the rise in hate speech and hate crimes, as well as how a community can monitor and respond to this behavior. A standing-room only crowd of concerned citizens, including high school students attended and engaged in this critically important discussion. Given the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, we want to share with you again the lessons learned at the YWCA Greenwich January forum.
There were over 2,000 drug overdoses in Connecticut in a four-year span: 2012-2015. In just 2016 alone, opioids claimed the lives of 917 people from Connecticut. These alarming numbers constitute a full-blown epidemic. In Connecticut, opioid drugs and addiction are now more deadly than gunshots and car accidents combined.
This month, Connecticut legislators will decide which side of history they will join. A pending bill currently in front of the Connecticut General Assembly would ban the use of solitary confinement against juveniles and people with severe mental illness or disabilities. Under H.B. 7302, Connecticut’s Department of Corrections also would have to report on its use of solitary confinement throughout the system. Given the well-known harms that come from locking a person up for 23 hours a day, these are good and important changes.
The Jimmy Kimmel test is very simple: No family should be denied medical care, and any legislation that falls short of it fails this test. But this test can be applied to a third casino in Connecticut. It’s simple, really. All lawmakers have to do is ask their constituents: Do you want a casino in your town? Here’s how the conversation might go. …
Proposing that the state will potentially raise $200 million in new tax dollars from sales of retail marijuana is misguided and irresponsible, yet this is exactly what is being suggested in the Democrat’s version of the budget that was just released. … Even though I am still a high school student, I have checked some of the published scientific research on marijuana and I know that marijuana is a harmful substance. The scientific research is very clear that exposure to cannabinoids during adolescent brain development can negatively impact areas of the brain related to learning, memory, motivation and emotion even after use has ended.
This is no time to mince words about Connecticut’s fiscal crisis. It is deep, serious, and affects everyone and everything: taxpayers, businesses, jobs, social services, infrastructure, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, towns and cities, hospitals, federal funding opportunities, and Connecticut’s reputation. Let’s be clear – it’s not new. The state’s finances have been precarious for several years. But now even those who have long denied the gravity of the situation are acknowledging it.
Opioid overdose deaths continue to rise. A 2015 DEA report showed a greater than thousand-fold increase in fentanyls —potent synthetic opioids— showing up in intercepted drugs. This, more than anything, fuels our worsening crisis. The economics and pharmacology of fentanyl are game changers. Word on the street is buyer beware. What’s sold as heroin is probably fentanyl. What looks like a Xanax, Oxycodone, or Ativan could also be fentanyl.
One of the many “alternative facts” posed by the Trump administration targets the biggest contemporary public health issue in the United States: the opioid epidemic.
On Feb. 23, press secretary Sean Spicer linked the opioid epidemic to recreational marijuana use. This is part of an attempt by the Trump administration to enforce federal regulations on marijuana, even in states where it has been decriminalized. Focusing his attention on a link between marijuana and opioids that lacks scientific support is counterproductive. This is unfair to the millions of victims who have suffered through the epidemic alongside their families and friends.