In 2019 per capita, Connecticut had 19% more deaths due to alcohol, drugs or suicide and these deaths of despair increased over four times faster than the US average, according to a new report from the Trust for America’s Health. Connecticut’s rates of drug-induced deaths were largely responsible at 58% higher than the US average. Connecticut’s rates for opioid, synthetic opioid, and cocaine overdoses were all substantially higher than the US average.
While our deaths of despair rates are already higher than other states, our trend from 2018 to 2019 was much higher than the national average in every category but one. All deaths of despair rose over three times faster than other states. While the suicide rate for the nation fell a bit in 2019, it rose 7% in Connecticut.
Early evidence in the report suggests that things have been even worse during the pandemic. Nationally, since the pandemic began, overdose deaths have increased 27%, three times as many American adults are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, and calls to the Mental Health Crisis Hotline are up 891%.
The report offers dozens of concrete policy solutions to prevent deaths of despair. Recommendations address investing in prevention, addressing worsening drug use and overdoses, and transforming the mental health and substance use prevention system. Specific recommendations include bolstering crisis intervention programs and supports, promoting social norms that protect against violence and adversity, connecting youth to caring adults and activities, lower the availability of opioids and unnecessary prescriptions, combat stigma and improve social attitudes toward mental healthcare, expand the mental health and substance use treatment workforce, and limit access to lethal means of suicide.