Petit interview: Issues that matter 

Petit interview: Issues that matter 

Dr. William Petit Jr. ran for state representative in 2016 and won the 22nd District seat that serves Plainville and New Britain.

Prior to this, the 1974 Plainville High School graduate, had a career as a medical doctor. His history includes the well-known personal tragedies that unfolded in Cheshire in 2007. The Petit Family Foundation honors the memory of his first family and has given out over $2 million in grants and scholarships to individuals and organizations. 

In 2012, Petit remarried and he and his wife Christine have a son, William, born in 2013.

For this interview, Petit asked to focus on his dedication to making positive changes for the people of Connecticut.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have encountered since you were elected ?

There are several. The first is staying on top of many issues in a variety of areas. A legislator gets to hear many details on topics/bills that are presented to a committee you belong to (in my case Appropriations, Public Health and Commerce). But many times, the first you hear on a topic or bill is when it is presented on the floor of the House. For large and controversial issues, there are typically caucus briefings and discussion with constituents and colleagues, but given the vast number of bills, not all are discussed at length. Thus, you often have to do very quick reading in the House, listen carefully to live testimony and consult with colleagues in an attempt to make an educated vote on some issues.

Scheduling is another difficult issue. Often, large committee meetings overlap and you cannot be in two places at one time. We take a divide-and-conquer method, where I will listen in one committee and report to a colleague who will do the same for me. In addition, one can access CT-N videos when necessary, read public testimony, and Office of Legislative Research (OLR) and Office of Fiscal Analysis (OFA) reports.

Are there any particular issues that personally resonate with you in that you want to introduce and/or pass better laws and legislation?

With many years in the medical field caring for patients, many issues of public health are important and resonate with me as well as most of my constituents. Many deal with scope of practice issues, i.e. what training and experience is necessary for a practitioner to work in a specific area, some issues related to insurance/coverage/billing as well as patient privacy and confidentiality.

We need to attract more practitioners to Connecticut, as we have a very aging physician population, and ensure that we are using all providers to the fullest extents of their training. We will need to be attentive to confidentiality issues given our new Office of Health Safety, which I feel will need further revision and supervision as well as the costs that will be incurred in attempting to improve health care in the state.

In addition, I try to remain an advocate for all victims, especially those who have suffered from domestic violence and other forms of violence. We need to have better protections  and coverage for victims (we have a victims bill of rights with little to no “teeth”, i.e., mechanisms to seek redress) and we are woefully understaffed with victim advocates statewide. The Office of the Victim Advocate is quite tiny for a state of our size and given the issues they must deal with in a daily basis.

Massachusetts has legalized marijuana. As a former doctor do you think it's a good idea to follow suit? If so, how should the state profit?

I do not feel we are yet fully prepared to legalize marijuana for widespread recreational use. We do not have a good estimate of the net effect. That is, many speak mainly of the revenue to be gained ($130-180-million per year per best estimates by advocates when fully up and running), but not of the costs incurred (per other states where legal-increased DUI/ accident issues, increased ER visits, increased behavioral issues to be dealt with, etc.

There is clearly good data to show that regular marijuana use has permanent  effects on the developing brain … There is data showing an increased risk of disorders with psychosis in those genetically predisposed. There appears to be increased traffic accidents with the attendant increased societal cost. Many divert the discussion by bringing up alcohol, but that is not the discussion here. If alcohol were a new product, it would have have severe difficulties being legalized given its many adverse effects which we are all well aware of.

Dr. D’Souza from Yale, who has studied marijuana for over 25 years and has testified extensively in Hartford in 2017 and 2018, notes there is a real clinical diagnosis of marijuana addiction, in the 10 percent range, for which there is no known therapy.

Clearly, there are some amazing possibilities for the use of cannabinoid oil extracts especially in the areas of neurological disorders, especially seizures, that should be studied far more extensively. I believe the federal government should allow for more research into the medical uses of CBD and other components of marijuana. From a libertarian point of view, the best approach may be to allow personal cultivation of marijuana for personal use for those older than 25, but that still has many societal impacts and would not generate the tax revenues that many are pushing the legalization to obtain. I do not believe we should legalize merely so we can tax it. Additionally, legalization has done little to check the black market sale of marijuana products depending upon whose data you review.

Connecticut, as well as the country, is in the midst of an unprecedented opioid crisis. What can state government do to save lives? Should drug companies, doctors and clinics be held liable for overprescription? Will street dealers face harsher punishments under new laws? 

This issue is very complex, if not more so than the marijuana issue. I believe the medical community has made great strides in the past decade to begin to control this crisis and the state of Connecticut has done a good job as well. Simply put, I believe the critical areas are:

1.Education: Education of physicians and patients on alternative methods of pain control. Education on the dangers of opiod addiction. Education on the bare minimum amount of opioids needed to humanely treat a patient effectively.

1.Increased availability of opiod reversal agents to save lives. Naloxone is now widely available to all in the state but we need to continue working on education, availability and use.

1.A major increase in the number of counselors available for both outpatient and intensive inpatient rehabilitation. In addition, we need many more beds available as well as more flexibility in the amount of time required for proper and successful care.

 The state can help with all of these areas.

 Inappropriate prescribing of opioids should be dealt with with education and penalties for minor infractions and then criminal prosecution for clear cut abuse (over prescribing, inappropriate retailing/detailing, etc.)

Penalties appear appropriately harsh for most dealers, but we will need to continue to monitor the situation with the newer and deadlier designer opioids. For example, for the now widely-available fentanyl, one kg (2.2 pounds) can kill 500,000 people. Obviously this quantity is very easy to hide and transport and penalties will need to be very severe.




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