Law enforcement agencies taking unified approach to heroin crisis

Area police chiefs, working with the New London State’s Attorney’s office, have organized a unified response to the alarming number of heroin overdoses in the region over the past six days.

Police chiefs from Groton City, Groton Town, Stonington and Waterford met with State’s Attorney Michael L. Regan and staff from the prosecutor’s office on Monday.

On Tuesday, an ad-hoc group of investigators and officers from all of the region’s police departments and the Statewide Narcotics Task Force met in Groton, according to Groton Town Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr.

Police from Groton Town, Groton City, Waterford, Stonington, Norwich, Ledyard and New London, along with representatives from East Lyme, Montville, Mashantucket Pequot, Adult Probation, Parole and the Connecticut State Police, are participating, according to Fusaro.

Representatives from the Division of Criminal Justice and New London Police Department also are involved in the unified effort.

“Each department pledged additional personnel and resources to target this problem, and to work with the Statewide Narcotics Task Force to enhance enforcement efforts, while also exploring opportunities to offer other options for treatment to those suffering from opioid addiction,” Fusaro said in a news release. “In addition, representatives from the New London County State’s Attorney’s Office and HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Initiative) are working with the departments on this effort."

“This problem is affecting all of our communities, and we are seeing people in all stages of life, across socio-economic lines suffering, and in some cases, dying from this addiction ... The police chiefs in Southeastern Connecticut recognize that we are not dealing with a problem unique to each of our towns — it is a regional problem and we are looking to work together to address this problem as a group,” Fusaro said.

Regan said the state forensic laboratory has volunteered to expedite testing of any drug samples seized by police. On Monday, New London police sent seized heroin to the state lab after arresting two people.

A New London resident died of a suspected heroin overdose on Jan. 28.

Since late Monday, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital has treated two patients for heroin overdose, hospital spokesman Mike O’Farrell said Tuesday afternoon.

That brings to 20 the total number of overdose patients brought to L+M since Jan. 27.

Many of the overdoses are believed to be caused by a batch of heroin being sold in the region that is particularly potent or is tainted with another substance, according to hospital officials.

“I think you look at this being not just an individual community issue,” said Stonington Police Chief J. Darren Stewart. “It’s a regionwide, statewide, nationwide issue that has come to southeastern Connecticut. We’ve had some unprecedented overdoses and deaths, and with that the area police departments have come together to put our heads together and try to figure this out.”

Police and prosecutors have said in recent days that those who are addicted to prescription opiates and heroin come from every segment of society and that addiction is not a victimless crime, since addicts are responsible for a large number of the region’s burglaries, larcenies and robberies.

Those who work in the addiction community have said many people are turning to heroin after becoming addicted to prescription pain pills.

Ledyard police said that over the weekend they investigated a medical call involving a 31-year-old Montville man as a possible heroin overdose, but determined it was most likely that prescription narcotics and not heroin was the cause of death.

First responders were called to 51 Harvard Terrace in Gales Ferry for a possible overdose, according to Lt. Ken Creutz of the Ledyard Police Department.

The emergency responders, believing the patient possibly showed signs of life, transported him to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, according to Creutz. He was later pronounced dead.

The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy and said the cause and manner of death are “pending further studies,” a status that often includes waiting for the results of toxicology tests.

While the Ledyard police technically were on scene to assist with a medical call, Creutz said that in light of the heroin issue, the department initiated an investigation.

“At the scene, our investigation showed it was most likely a prescription narcotic and not heroin,” Creutz said. “We searched for packaging, needles and tourniquets, and our investigation yielded nothing.”

Judy Benson contributed to this report.

k.florin@theday.com

Twitter: @KFLORIN

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