Between Tuesday night and Wednesday, emergency officials were called to at least 71 overdoses in New Haven, some of which happened on the city's green.
Officials from the city said that the DEA testing revealed the drug substance was K2, a potent, synthetic drug, that induces a marijuana-like effect. The testing also showed that there were no additives in the K2.
New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said it all started Tuesday night with three reported overdoses. There were 15 early Wednesday morning, and then a number throughout the day, reaching to 71 overdoses.
He went on to say that there were 52 overdoses just on the New Haven green and 71 overdoses city-wide.
Most of them happened on the New Haven green, and now the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is involved.
The Department of Public Health delivered 50 doses of naloxone to New Haven to replenish the supply that had been used by first responders in the last 24 hours.
On Wednesday afternoon, police said they made three arrests in connection to at least some of the overdoses. Their identities have not yet been released.
“As we were trying to pick up from the upper green, we ended up with two additional victims on the lower green, one of which was a victim we had from this morning, so we’re not sure if he sued another substance of if there is a lingering effect of what he used earlier on," Alston said.
The overdose symptoms included unconsciousness, trouble breathing, vomiting, and nausea, officials said.
Alston said the department heard reports of people smoking, possibly K2, also known as synthetic marijuana. However, he said he's awaiting toxicology reports. He said it could have been laced with something.
“We heard from people on the green this morning, that it could have included PCP and some of the reactions of the patients, the emergency department suggests there was an opioid involved as well," said Dr. Sandy Bogucki, EMS medical director.
According to police, one patient was non-responsive to Naloxone, which is a drug used to treat narcotic overdoses.
With the exception of that one patient, all of the illnesses are not life-threatening. The Narcan anti-overdose drug helped, but in larger doses than what's typically used.
No deaths have been reported, but officials said six people were close to dying.
Channel 3 spoke to a person who used K2 in the past and he said the drug is as cheap as $3.
"I couldn't get off the bus stop, the bench for like an hour and I just took a little hit, like a cigarette, it's that powerful," said Rich Coover.
They called the investigation ongoing.
New Haven has been plagued by overdoses this year.
On July 4, 14 people became ill from synthetic marijuana, and in January, four people were sickened by a similar drug, and two victims almost died.
On the green, Narcan wasn’t having much of an impact reversing the effects of the overdoses, but rather only at hospitals where it was administered in much larger doses.
“K2, we don’t know what’s in it, so it’s hard to treat it. They’re saying we’re hitting them with Narcan, but if there is no fentanyl, no opiates in there, it’s not going to save people,” said Carol Cruz, a certified recovery coach.
Cruz said she knows what it’s like to be an addict. She’s now a certified recovery coach with New Haven’s Cornell Scott Hill Health Center.
After learning of the overdoses, she said her boss asked her to head down to the green to see if there was any way she could help.
“Just try to build that trust, 99.99% of recovery, people getting into recovery is building trust and relationships and people need to know that there is hope out there and the stigma, being an addict is not a bad thing. We want to help people get well,” Cruz said.
Governor Dannel Malloy released a statement on Wednesday saying, "Today’s emergency is deeply troubling and illustrative of the very real and serious threat that illicit street drugs pose to health of individuals. The substance behind these overdoses is highly dangerous and must be avoided. The state Department of Public Health and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services have been assisting New Haven officials throughout the day. I have spoken with Mayor Harp and assured her that the state remains committed and ready to assist their response efforts wherever needed.”
In a statement on Wednesday, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp "Today New Haven was on the front lines of a coast-to-coast struggle to combat the public health menace of illicit distribution and use of what appear to be tainted street drugs – as many as 29 cases are confirmed in the city since last night. I’m extremely grateful for the timely and effective work of first responders who helped revive, transport, and save these victims. I’m also grateful to the state Department of Public Health for its quick response to our request for additional doses of Narcan, the antidote administered to several of those afflicted. Toxicology tests to be completed by the Connecticut State Police will help investigators know more about the exact nature of the ingested substance or substances: earlier this afternoon the New Haven Police Department arrested a person of interest in the case.”
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