Ali Bauman

On Wednesday, the New Haven Opioid Response Work Group meeting drew roughly 25 attendees to City Hall to discuss ongoing efforts to make the Elm City a “recovery friendly community” — including recent city initiatives to decrease opioid use and preliminary plans to implement a needle exchange in New Haven areas with high numbers of drug-related incidents.

“New Haven, being the city we are — being the righteous, courageous city we are — we actually take care of these people who need our help. I also think that we need to have a more robust infrastructure for those people,” said Ward 1 Alder Hacibey Catalbasoglu ’19. “We can’t just help them, give them methadone and then kick them out of the building. Instead, we need to figure out how to help them holistically.”

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services launched a new opioid public awareness campaign on Monday called “LiveLOUD,” which consists of billboards, radio ads, a website and a downloadable app dedicated to addressing the opioid epidemic in the City of New Haven. The launch of the campaign coincided with the launch of the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s Naloxone and Overdose Response app. Also called NORA, the mobile application that educates residents on how to find the nearest place to access naloxone — a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

According to a Monday press release, Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 said that the government can no longer allow opioid addiction to continue “consuming” state residents. He added that he hopes the NORA app and “LiveLOUD” campaign will allow the state to share information “far and wide” to prevent further addiction.

“We want to continue to raise awareness that recovery is possible, services are available and people are struggling or they know someone that’s struggling,” said commissioner for the State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Miriam Delphin-Rittmon in an interview with the News. “We want them to reach out and to try to get help. It’s a hopeful campaign around recovery, accessing services and connections.”

According to New Haven Fire Department data presented at Wednesday’s meeting, a study was conducted in New Haven to identify areas with a high density of drug-related incidents. Nine highly trafficked areas were identified, including the benches by bus stops along the New Haven Green and Edgewood Park. Work group members suggested deploying signage and sidewalk decals in these hot spots to deter populations prone to drug use from using opioids.

The work group discussed potential plans to disperse naloxone in at-risk areas throughout the city. The group also plans to administer clean needle exchange boxes in areas frequented by those suffering from opioid addiction, such as the New Haven Green, to decrease the risk of infection. The work group has not finalized a timeline for the plan’s implementation.

In the meantime, Lynn Madden, president of the APT Foundation — a group of clinics that provides care to people suffering from substance use disorder — has hosted regular meetings with the Community Services Administration, an organization dedicated to addressing the health and wellbeing of city residents. According to Dakibu Muley, New Haven community services administrator, Madden has provided naloxone and mental health training to employees of the Community Services Administration free of charge.

“One of the really big challenges is really trying to change the narrative about substance abuse and substance use and the stigma that is associated with the disorder and the treatment itself,” Madden said.

On Aug. 16, police officers, emergency medical technicians and other personnel raced onto the New Haven Green to help the scores of New Haven residents vomiting and convulsing. Before the end of the day, over 100 individuals had been poisoned with K2 in the city, most of them within the 16-acre confines of the park.

According to Muley, Mayor Toni Harp intends to organize an event alongside other cities in the Greater New Haven area commemorating the one year anniversary of the overdose on the Green and reflecting on the city’s progress in regards to reducing the number of drug-related incidents.

“It’s an opportunity to partner with our neighboring cities,” Muley said.

Harp was first elected to the city’s top office in 2013.

Alexandra Bauman | 

Correction, April 10:A previous version of this story stated that the LiveLOUD campaign is a city of New Haven campaign. In fact, it is an initiative from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.