An Epidemic Takes Hold, and Rushford Answers the Call

The crisis surrounding overdose-related deaths from opioid and heroin addiction reached new heights in 2015-16, as Connecticut and the rest of the nation saw skyrocketing numbers of people falling victim to addiction.

The epidemic touched on all corners of society – young and old, urban and suburban, rich and poor.

Leaders within Rushford and the Behavioral Health Network led the way in 2016 in calling attention to the epidemic in opioid and heroin abuse. Top, BHN leaders consult with U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy during a tour of Rushford; below left, James F. O’Dea, PhD, MBA, vice president of operations for the BHN, takes part in a community forum on opiate abuse in Montville; bottom right, Rushford Medical Director J. Craig Allen, MD, speaks at a community forum in East Hampton.

Many of those who died were the victim of a swift and shocking pattern in which they were prescribed opioid pain medications for a health condition and then became addicted. When they were no longer able to obtain prescription medications, many turned to heroin, which can be readily purchased at much lower cost.

Over the past year, heroin purchased “on the street” was commonly “cut,” or mixed, with fentanyl, a powerfully addictive pharmaceutical normally used to treat cancer patients. The combination of heroin and fentanyl left a tragic wake across Connecticut, where emergency rooms saw waves of addicted people coming in after overdosing and dying.

Rushford and other entities across the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network (BHN) responded to the crisis with great urgency, expanding resources and access to care through the MATCH™ (Medication Assisted Treatment Close to Home) program and adding new outpatient facilities in Cheshire and other communities.

  • “When I finally decided to reach out for help,there were so many hands reaching back out to me.”

    - Ben Roche

Rushford experts and leaders took every opportunity to educate our communities about the crisis, appearing frequently in the news media and at community forums across the state while working closely with state and national legislators to draft and support legislation meant to address the problem.

With support from Rushford and its Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network partners, the state approved new laws that would make it harder for those addicted to prescription pain medication to “doctor shop” as a way to obtain opioids, while another new law expanded access to Naloxone, or Narcan, the drug that can help reverse the symptoms of an overdose.

Despite the comprehensive response to the crisis, Connecticut was projected to see the epidemic escalate in 2016 and beyond, with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner projecting that a record-setting 832 people would die of an accidental overdose by the end of 2016 – up from 729 in 2015 and more than double the number who died in 2012.

But there is reason to hope, and Rushford is among the leaders in the effort to guide and care for people on the path to recovery. Through the latest in evidence-based clinical care and a philosophy built around compassion and respect, Rushford has helped thousands of patients overcome their diseases and return to happy and fulfilling lives. One such patient, Ben Roche, a college student who was profiled in the Behavioral Health Network’s television special on the addiction issue, “Hope After Heroin,” credited Rushford with giving him a new lease on life.

“When I finally decided to reach out for help,” he said. “There were so many hands reaching back out to me.”

In this annual report, you will learn about many ways that Rushford has played a leading role in taking on the crisis.

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