FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             Connecticut Department of Public Health

June 17, 2013                                                            Contact:  William Gerrish

                                                                                  (860) 509-7270


Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels


HartfordThe Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that Connecticut has been selected by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) to participate in a national effort to address policy options and other strategies to decrease prescription drug misuse, abuse, and diversion.


Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs. In Connecticut, drug poisoning is the leading cause of accidental death among adults. Connecticut is one of only 16 states in which death from overdose is more common than death from vehicular accident.


“We are pleased to partner with ASTHO to help advance efforts to address this public health epidemic,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen. “Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed in recent years. Over the last decade, Connecticut has also seen a startling rise in the number of newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome as a result of exposure to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb.”


ASTHO, the national nonprofit organization representing public health agencies in the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia, supports state health officials and their leadership teams in a variety of ways. This initiative serves as a valuable opportunity for states to collaborate with other states facing similar challenges to develop intermediate and long-term change strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce the human and economic costs associated with prescription drug abuse.


In addition to DPH, representing Connecticut on this initiative is the Department of Consumer Protection, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Office of the Attorney General and a community physician with expertise in this area.


Connecticut’s team will work with four other state teams, together with expert faculty and other state partners, to facilitate communication and support states in identifying concrete action steps and evaluation approaches related to the prescription drug overdose epidemic. Connecticut’s team will meet with ASTHO officials and the other state teams at a meeting in late June in Washington D.C. All travel and hotel accommodations will be paid for by ASTHO.