Task force, elementary education tools Waterbury plans to use in heroin fight

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WATERBURY--Fed up with heroin's deadly toll on the community, Waterbury is taking some extreme measures. The town has set up a task force and plans to start educating young students about the dangers of heroin and abusing prescription drugs.

Already this year, Waterbury Police say the department has responded to 102 heroin overdoses, 17 of them fatal.

Mayor Neil O’Leary says, “Our message is clear. Opioid deaths are at an alarming rate. We're in a crisis.”

In the past several weeks, police busted 46 alleged dealers, almost all in one day as part of Operation Stamp Out.

Deputy Chief Fred Spagnolo said, “We're not just here to arrest them as a police department or look down upon them as a community, but to assist them and give them the appropriate help.”

Besides police, the Mayor’s Opiod Task Force includes addicts in recovery sharing their stories, psychiatrists and other doctors.

Mayor O'Leary says even with just two task force meetings, he's seen an impact, though the reality is still.

“I can't tell you the number of people who have called me personally and expressed absolute fear that someone in their family has developed an opioid addiction,” said O’Leary.

Another goal of the task force is to have opioid awareness worked into the curriculum in the fall as young as kindergarten.

Mayor O’Leary said, “We have officers who are trained to do that and work with our educators, so it's really going to be effective. We've got 19,000 students in our public school system.”

Spagnolo said, “As long as it's appropriate an age level, we feel it's important and necessary to get the message out as early as possible.”

Mayor O'Leary is extending an invite to the task force meetings to people all over the state. The next meeting will be the first week of June at a high school in Waterbury. The details are still being worked out. Stay with FOX 61 for updates.