NEW LONDON - Drug problems are nothing new for the City of New London, but 22 heroin overdoses handled by the local hospital in a six-day period is cause for alarm. One of those overdoses proved fatal.
"Even the President of the United States has made the commitment to increase federal funding to help us," said newly-elected Mayor Michael Passero (D-New London), referring to President Barack Obama's budget proposal for the coming year that includes $1.1 billion in new funding to address prescription opioid and heroin abuse.
Passero said there is a silver lining locally.
"The whole region is uniting," he said.
Thursday night, about 100 residents gathered in a vigil that was meant to honor victims of overdoses, and to gather hope to end the epidemic.
Earlier this week, local police chiefs announced that their departments would be part of a newly formed regional task force, which includes state and local law-enforcement.
"I would say that with some degree of confidence that they will catch the perpetrators," said Passero regarding what police believe to be a bad batch that is being dealt from the streets of the Whaling City.
One key cog that has been missing in the battle against addiction in New London, according to the mayor, is there's been nobody to monitor the health of the city. That was handled on Tuesday, with the appointment of a new Director of Human Services.
"We are blessed to have a great individual that's agreed to take on that position and that's the states former child advocate, Jeanne Milstein," said Passero.
New London's new mayor is certainly not new to the city. He's been a firefighter here for 31 years. He takes this fight personally because there have been plenty of times he's arrived just a little bit too late.
"I don't think there's too many people in the community that are not touched by this," said Passero, whose message to families and individuals who are fighting this battle is that there's nothing to be ashamed of.
Friday there will be a heroin and opioid forum at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital beginning at 12:30, featuring police, those from the healthcare industry and political figures, including Congressman Joe Courtney and Senator Richard Blumenthal.
Click here for a list of Connecticut pharmacists who have let us know that they are able to prescribe Naloxone/Narcan.