NEW LONDON – Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London reported it treated roughly 100 heroin overdoses during all of 2015 but this week, the hospital responded to 8 overdoses on Thursday alone.
One of the individuals died before receiving medical attention could be rendered. The remaining seven were all treated at and released from L+M, whose Chief of Emergency Medicine said several of the victims left the hospital, despite being urged by doctors to stay for further evaluation.
“They've used heroin before,” said Dr. Oliver Mayorga, of the seven patients treated. “They actually know what doses work for them. And, they are reporting that they didn't expect what they were using to be as strong.”
The administration of Narcan, an opiate antidote, was likely the only way the seven individuals survived, said Mayorga.
“When you reverse, it usually takes about a minute or two and they can completely be with it. Most of the times they don't know where they are,” he said.
New London Police have interviewed at least one of the individuals who overdosed. They have also tapped the Statewide Narcotics Task Force to determine what was in this batch of brown heroin and where it came from.
The founder of Groton based Community Speaks Out, Inc., an addiction advocacy group, says the only way this epidemic can be brought to its knees is by having meaningful conversations. The formation of CSO was inspired by her son’s opiate addiction, from which he is still recovering.
“He began with marijuana and got pretty depressed but he quickly moved to the opiates, the Percocet,” said Tammy de la Cruz, whose husband is Groton Town Councilor, Joe de la Cruz.
Fortunately, for their 23 year-old son, Joe Gingerella, he never encountered heroin, which, according to a former New London narcotics enforcement officer, was less than 10 percent pure in the late 1980s and early 19990s.
“It's testing now somewhere in the 22-23 or higher range and that's problematic,” said Ken Edwards, a board member for Community Speaks Out, Inc.
Groton Police are now taking a proactive approach to this heroin problem. They are aiming to bridge the gap between the police department and opioid addicts, who are seeking recovery. They tell addicts, who ask for help, that they will get them to a hospital, help place them in a rehab and there will be no arrest.
“For them to get to the point where they are seeking assistance from the police department, they've really hit rock bottom and really need the help,” Groton Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro, Jr. said. “And, we are happy to be a part of solving that problem for them.”
Part of the mission of Community Speaks Out: helping folks understand this is a family addiction.
“If we can get the family healthy and change their behaviors, it's more apt to kind of force the person addicted into maybe having to make choices,” said Tammy de la Cruz.
Community Speaks Out is assisting in staging a public forum on this crisis at Fitch High School, in Groton, on Wednesday, March 2, from 6-8 p.m.
“It (heroin addiction) affects everyone from the richest neighborhoods to the poorest neighborhoods,” said Lt. John Varone, of the Groton Police Department . “And, it does the same thing. It destroys their lives and it kills them. Period.”