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Blumenthal Praises Fairfield U. In Fight Against Opioid Addiction

Susan Birge, director of counseling and psychological services at Fairfield University, discusses opioid addiction at a campus panel discussion. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, second from left, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, second from right, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, right, listen to healthcare professions speak on opioid addiction. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes discusses opioid addiction at a panel discussion at Fairfield University. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., praised Fairfield University for taking the lead in addiction services with “courage and honesty” at a Wednesday panel discussion on the opioid epidemic held at the university’s Dolan School of Business.

Fairfield U. offers two recovery houses for 10 students who wish pair their educational goals with drug and alcohol recovery, and the university also offers individual and group therapy, said Susan Birge, director of counseling and psychological services. All public safety officers are trained to use Narcan, an opiate antidote, should an overdose occur on campus, she said.

“Fairfield University is providing a model — hitting the issues head on,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal joined U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and health-care professionals at “Best Practices for Prescribers — What’s Working Now?”, a discussion planned just weeks after Congress failed to approve emergency funding to combat the opioid issue.

He and others on the panel praised Connecticut leaders for creating the Connecticut Prescription Monitoring and Reporting Program, which requires physicians to review a patient’s records across the state — and often into other participating states — to make sure prescription medications are being dispensed safely and effectively.

Gregory Flis, a nurse practitioner at the Yale-New Haven Pain Management Center, said there are a range of options to combat pain that don’t begin and end with opioids.

“Less is more is really the motto of the clinic,” he said.

Linda Mascolo, of New Era Rehabilitation Center of Bridgeport and New Haven, said she favors “collaborative therapies,” including education, counseling and Methadone or an equivalent, if advised, to combat addiction to heroin and other prescription opioids. More education for prescribers, particularly dentists, is needed, she said.

“We’re not just dealing with addicts, we’re dealing with people,” she said. “There is no one magic drug.”

But the statistics are staggering. There were 700 opioid-related deaths in Connecticut in 2015 alone, Blumenthal said. About 30,000 American are losing their lives to opioid overdoses every year, Himes said.

Birge said Fairfield has been working on solutions to addiction issues any students may face in the past few years. About 19 students reached out for their clinically based programs, including individual and group counseling, in 2015-16, she said.

This academic year, the university will welcome 10 men to two recovery houses near campus, where they’ll be encouraged to “have a full life” without drugs and alcohol, she said.

“We have accepted that this is our responsibility,” she said.

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