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Opioid-laced drugs likely cause of 'sudden increase' of overdoses in New Haven: Officials

The cases in question involve the use of crack cocaine but with a suspected mixture of opioids such as fentanyl.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — After a "sudden" spike in fatal overdoses in New Haven, city officials are encouraging residents to be aware of the increase and to know how to prevent further overdoses.

Since Jan. 25, there have been 12 fatal overdoses reported in New Haven, which is higher than the average of two per week, according to the federal Overdose Data Surveillance System. Specifically, there were several overdose incidents reported in the Newhallville and Hill neighborhoods.

The cases in question involve the use of crack cocaine but with a suspected mixture of opioids such as fentanyl.

"We are waiting for laboratory confirmation but certainly are concerned that they are laced. What we are finding and have found is that more than 90% of the drugs in the community are laced with fentanyl and have fentanyl product," said New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond. 

This is a concerning fact that points to just how prevalent the deadly substance is in our communities.

"This is actually a scary uptick. The reason being in the past it’s always been fentanyl with pressed pills, a pill made to mimic something else. Now, we’re seeing it, which is where the uptick is coming from, is cocaine, crack cocaine. It’s a whole different ballgame now," said Joseph Firine, of the non-profit For Cameron.

The city is working with community partners and its health department to reach out to residents and improve access to hard reduction supplies.

That involves handing out Narcan, educating people about what an overdose looks like, directing people to resources and treatment, and encouraging people who do use drugs to have them tested.

"It is critical that we raise awareness about this spike in fatal overdoses so residents who use drugs are extra careful,” Bond said.

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Cameron is an organization made up of people who have lost loved ones to an overdose or have a loved one in recovery.

Promoting safe usage is one of their biggest efforts.

"If you’re gonna use, which people are gonna do, use with somebody. Have somebody with you. Have naloxone with you, Narcan. Don’t be afraid to use it," Firine said.

They are also dedicated to breaking the stigma around addiction.

"It’s not just an issue for people that do have mental health and pre-existing drug addiction issues, it’s across the spectrum," said Scott Choquette.

Those who would like to seek drug use treatment can call 1-800-563-4086 or by visiting connectgnh.org. 

Those who use drugs can get their substances tested - with no questions asked - at the Yale-Community Health Care Van at 270 Congress Avenue, Monday-Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


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