Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jan 2017
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2017 The Hartford Courant


Three Dead From Overdoses In Hartford

[photo] Hartford police discuss what's needed to address the opioid crisis
after three die in a short time from suspected opioid overdoses.

Within a 16-hour span that ended Thursday afternoon, police said that
three people died from suspected overdoses. Investigators believe opioids
are to blame, possibly the powerful synthetic fentanyl.

"We suspect, only based on patterns of what we've seen lately, that
fentanyl will be an issue with these," Deputy Chief Brian Foley said
Thursday afternoon. He noted that it's too soon to know for sure, but the
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will do autopsies on the victims.

The first suspected overdose was reported on Chadwick Avenue. A
30-year-old man was found about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday on the floor of a
bathroom in a home there, police said. Paramedics pronounced him dead on
the scene. The victim, police said, had a history of drug use.

About 90 minutes later, a woman on Woodland Street, 2 miles away, died of
a suspected overdose. Officers found her with a needle and heroin
packaging nearby, police said.

Thursday afternoon, a man was found dead from a suspected overdose next to
a church at 200 Main St. Again, evidence pointed to heroin.

Dr. Gary Rhule, the city's health director, was notified of the overdoses,
Foley said. Police have shared the latest Drug Enforcement Administration
intelligence they have on heroin, fentanyl, and other synthetic opioids
with Rhule, Foley added.

Detectives were called to investigate the suspected overdoses.

"Our narcotics division has dedicated most of their resources at this
point to tracking down as much of the heroin and fentanyl-related heroin
as they can," Foley said.

Earlier this week, detectives raided a Hungerford Street home and seized
more than 400 bags of fentanyl-laced heroin.

"We are at a point now where we expect to find fentanyl with the heroin
arrests we make, that's how prevalent it is," Foley said.

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that can be more than 50 times
stronger than heroin, has been a driving force behind the steady increase
in drug overdoses, state officials said.

When narcotics officers raided a Hungerford Street home Monday evening,
they turned up more than 400 bags of heroin laced with the powerful
synthetic opioid fentanyl, but that does not surprise them.

Although there have been successes finding drugs, Foley was quick to say
that this is not a problem solved with arrests.

"Addiction is not a crime," Foley said. "This is something that will have
to be addressed on a national level for it to go away."

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said: "Like so many communities, Hartford is
experiencing the devastating effects of an opioid epidemic that demands a
full-scale national response. Without a serious national effort focused on
treating addiction, our police officers, firefighters and other first
responders will continue to do everything they can to save lives -- and
they've saved hundreds by administering naloxone. But the toll of this
epidemic is mounting, and the drugs are getting more and more deadly."

Connecticut has seen a sharp increase in overdoses in the past several
years, with no signs that the trend will stop. A federal report released
recently pointed to staggering increases in the rates of synthetic opioid
deaths in Connecticut -- the second-highest percentage increase from 2014
to 2015 out of 28 states included in a study.

In an effort to combat these overdoses, Hartford firefighters and police
have been carrying naloxone, a drug that reverses an opioid overdose. More
than 200 have been saved by firefighters, according to officials, but the
overdose deaths continue.

"The overdoses now in the city of Hartford are as bad as I've ever seen,"
Foley said. "They will be triple to quadruple the number of homicides that
we have."
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