HARTFORD CT.- FEB. 28- Many suits gathered into the relatively small space of room 2A in the Legislative Office Building- pens and notebooks in hand- ready to discuss the various legislation on the table for that day. Though some opted to spend their remaining minutes before the meeting to scribble last minute notes and references, Micheal Williams, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, looked rather composed compared to his counterparts.
Once Senator Suzio completed his outline of the committee hearing’s structure for the day, Stephen Sedensky, well-known for his role in the prosecution during the Sandy Hook Elementary School investigation, opened the speaking with a testimony addressing children’s advocacy centers and bills proposing them. The repeated phrase was a “joint-favorable substitute report,” referring to the proposition of a revised report for the centers which lay at the heart of Sedensky’s testimony. His vision for improvement on behalf of these centers included the appointment of a multidisciplinary expert team to oversee the centers’ operations and ensure that everything runs smoothly within them. Immediately following Sedensky’s testimony was that of Michael Williams.
As Williams was called to speak in front of the likes of Senator Suzio and Representative Kokoruda, the Deputy Commissioner presented a variety of concerns regarding the disciplinary actions of teachers towards their students (H.B. 7112) and the establishment of The State Oversight Council on Children in place of the State Advisory Council on Children and Families (S.B. 894). After then offering his opinion on Senate bills addressing revisions to certain statutes regarding children and families (S.B. 893) and the standards and reporting requirements of the Department of Children and Families (S.B. 895), Williams offered his most notable point on behalf of S.B. 7113, which focused on the growing opiate epidemic within the state of Connecticut.
Andrew Ba Tran writes in his article Why Connecticut’s Overdose Crisis Isn’t Slowing Down that the state of Connecticut has suffered from 723 deaths in the last calendar year, which is greater than double the death tally of almost three years ago. With an increasing number of people becoming affected by opiates each year, Williams decided to take the issue head-on and propose an act that would increase the responsibilities of the Department of Children and Families when dealing with a newborn that is at risk of opiate exposure. This act would also push those who are directly involved with the delivery and well-being of newborns in hospitals, to produce reports detailing if an important distinction and one which was relevant to his entire time at the microphone, where he identified mandated notification as the proper imposition upon hospitals by the DCF, rather than mandated reporting.
“Children six months old or younger are the most likely to die from [opiate] abuse”, said Williams at his testimony. He cited opiate use in the home as potentially detrimental to the health of a newborn baby and thus an appropriate area of focus for his presentation to Senator Suzio and Representative Kokoruda, among others. It was clear from what Williams was arguing that opiate abuse had taken its toll on those in the Connecticut area, as well as newborn babies, and that this problem is one that is only on the rise and will remain there unless the DCF and politicians alike can combine their efforts to make some real change happen.