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New Haven Crisis: Bad Batch Of Heroin Causes 16 ODs, 2 Deaths In 6 Hours

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp is warning residents of a potent batch of heroin that is causing overdoes and deaths across the city.
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp is warning residents of a potent batch of heroin that is causing overdoes and deaths across the city. Photo Credit: New Haven City Government

NEW HAVEN Conn. -- A bad batch of heroin laced with a potent additive led to 16 overdoses and two deaths in six hours in New Haven on Thursday, June 23, and led Mayor Toni Harp to issue a public health emergency, and the state to rush 700 doses of Narcan to the city. 

"The City of New Haven is experiencing a public health emergency and therefore are placing an immediate warning of tainted life-threatening heroin on our streets. Please be aware of this warning and its immediate life threatening effect," Harp said in a statement.

According to Laurence Grotheer spokesman for the Mayor's Office, the drug additive, maybe fentanyl, is so strong that it is taking four to five shots of Narcan to save an overdose victim's life, instead of the usual one or two shots. He also said the city is almost out of Narcan until it receive the emergency supply from the state.

"Detectives spoke with a couple of the victims and they thought they were buying cocaine, not heroin," he said. "The additive is so strong that it is sending people into cardiac or respiratory arrest." 

Autopsies will be done on the two victims who died in an effort to determine what type of additive is being used, he added.

Grotheer also said New Haven is working with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the city's police department in an effort to run down the supplier. 

State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino said the state is assisting the City of New Haven.

“At the governor’s direction, we are sending 700 doses of Narcan to New Haven for the city’s first responders, DPH’s needle exchange program and other community providers within the city to replenish supplies that have been severely diminished," Pino said. 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has been active in combating opioid abuse across the state, said on Friday that the New Haven situation was very serious.

“This is a very dangerous situation and one that we are taking seriously. Everyone must recognize that no region of the country, state, city or town is immune — this affects all of us and so many families across our state and nation," he said. “I’ve been in touch with Mayor Harp and have pledged whatever support the state can provide. That includes ensuring the continued availability of Narcan for first responders and others in the city who are in need of administering this life-saving medication. We must continue to fight this — together.”

On average, New Haven experiences one to two overdoses a day, Grotheer said. 

"We knew last night that something was very wrong when the cases kept coming in," he said.

The hard night and loss of life in New Haven, led U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal to comment on the issue. 

“This intolerable toll of overdose and death in New Haven is an undeniable call to action for the whole nation. Congress must reverse its laggard response to this national public health crisis by providing real resources," said Blumenthal (D-Conn.). 

"Not only Narcan—a short-term lifesaver—but treatment services, law enforcement support, opioid over-prescription prevention, and other steps are urgent and critical. We must act immediately to stop this deadly epidemic from ravaging our state.”

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