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'It’s dangerous and it’s a poison' | State leaders vow action on opioid epidemic in Connecticut after student's death

They also vowed to introduce legislation and serious talks about bringing Narcan into schools.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont stopped just short of fully endorsing bringing the lifesaving opioid overdose drug, Narcan into the schools on Tuesday as a Hartford school continues to mourn a student’s death.

“I think I'd like to talk to the public health officials…if the public health people tell me Narcan at the nurses' office and at the schools can save lives, that is something we are going to do,” he said.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers said they have some bipartisan ideas to help tackle Connecticut’s opioid crisis.

“We will be putting forth legislation to fully fund the adolescent ESPER program for any school employee or coach who is interested in taking this for their children,” said State Rep. Liz Linehan of Cheshire, the Co-Chair of the legislature’s Children’s Committee.

RELATED: Sports and Medical Sciences Academy to reopen Wednesday after extensive fentanyl decontamination

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin told FOX61 that help is on the way in the form of dollars.

“As resources come in from the national opioid settlement that can help fund some of these prevention and awareness efforts as resources come to the state and communities through the American Rescue Plan there are opportunities to do even more,” said Bronin.

These comments were made as state leaders and community stakeholders met outside the state Capitol on Tuesday to shine a spotlight on opioid abuse following the death of a 13-year-old Hartford student at the Sport and Medical Science Academy.

“This is a 13-year-old child who is dead after an exposure to a deadly poison,” Lamont said.

That deadly poison was fentanyl.

“We will never be able to stop the supply of this stuff coming in from China and India and mass-produced, at no cost, finding its way to the street, unless we stop the demand,” said Lamont.

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Rodney Alexander is a counselor at the ROOT Center for Advanced Recovery, who told FOX61 that in order to stop the demand we need to invest in more long-term addiction treatment centers.

“When we deinstitutionalized the state hospitals things have never been the same since because you could go long term. We need more long-term facilities in this state,” explained Alexander.

The fentanyl that killed the Hartford student was 50 times more potent than usual, officials said.

“The supply is rampant out there. It’s dangerous and it’s a poison,” said Lamont.

Nobody knows that better than the scientists of the state’s controlled substances lab in Meriden. It’s where law enforcement sends drug samples to be analyzed.

“About five years ago heroin and marijuana were the most prevalent things seen in our laboratory,” Michael Rickenback, the Deputy Director of the state forensic laboratory, said. “Now we are seeing that fentanyl is topping the charts.”

Fentanyl is now responsible for 85% of all opioid deaths in Connecticut. There were 1,350 deaths last year. This year, Connecticut is on pace for more than 1,500.

RELATED: Hartford considering expanded Narcan access in the wake of teen's fatal fentanyl overdose

Lamont issued a stern warning to those who are manufacturing and peddling poison.

“You are an accessory to manslaughter. You’re an accessory to murder and you should be held accountable when you do this to our kids,” he said.

And while the public officials vowed to help with funding and legislation, they also called on the community to help by talking to each other.

It doesn’t even have to be a conversation about drugs. Ask a kid how they are doing, what's important to them, how are their friends and show them that they have a trusted person in their life. The experts say it’s important to treat addiction like any other disease and to strip away the stigma.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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