From CBS.COM – CREDIT: Diaz Digital Media
Gov. Deval Patrick has declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts with a sharp increase in heroin overdoses and opioid addiction. Numerous states are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative. A look at what’s happening in Massachusetts:
Heroin overdoses are on the rise in Massachusetts, fueled by its relatively cheap price and high potency. Police suspect some heroin has been laced with the prescription painkiller fentanyl, making it especially dangerous.
State police say 185 people died from suspected heroin overdoses in Massachusetts from November through Feb. 26, a figure that does not include overdose deaths in the state’s three largest cities. The number of all opioid-related deaths, which includes heroin, OxyContin and other prescription pain relievers, increased from 363 in 2000 to 642 in 2011, the most recent year for which statewide figures were available.
Patrick’s emergency order, announced March 27, will allow first responders to carry the overdose drug Narcan and make the antidote more accessible by prescription to family and friends of people battling addiction. Massachusetts health officials say the state’s Narcan nasal spray distribution program has stopped more than 2,000 overdoses since 2007. The governor said his administration will dedicate an additional $20 million for addiction and recovery services. State lawmakers passed a 911 Good Samaritan law in 2012 to provide limited immunity from arrest or prosecution for minor drug law violations for people who call for medical help for themselves or others who have overdosed.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A man described by Springfield police as a major drug supplier to the region is headed to court.
Angel Orengo is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Springfield District Court on drug and gun charges following his arrest late last week.
The Republican reports that police executing a search warrant raided the 26-year-old Orengo’s home at about 8:30 p.m. Friday and seized $15,000 worth of heroin, most packaged for sale, a stolen gun and $107,000 in cash.
Police also found packaging materials, scales and other drug paraphernalia.
Orengo was described by investigators be a high-level drug dealer responsible for supplying heroin to dealers throughout western Massachusetts.
Orengo was held over the weekend and it was not clear if he had a lawyer.
By Maria Papadopoulos, The Enterprise
BROCKTON, Mass. — A fatal heroin overdose reported in Brockton is the city’s seventh in the past 17 days.
The 30-year-old Cohasset man lay unresponsive inside the room of the Westgate Hotel and Conference Center on Monday morning.
Wicked Local reported that police said a friend of his called 911 about 9:30 a.m. to report that the man wasn’t breathing – but it was too late.
When emergency crews arrived, they found the man dead with drug paraphernalia nearby, authorities said.
If authorities confirm heroin use as a cause in Monday’s death, the man would become the seventh person to die of a suspected heroin overdose in Brockton in 17 days.
Additionally, police and fire officials are eyeing heroin overdoses in deaths in several other communities recently, including:
In Taunton on Friday, a 46-year-old man was found dead of a suspected heroin overdose at a Kilmer Avenue home, marking the seventh suspected fatal heroin overdose of 2014 in that city.
In Avon on Thursday, a 28-year-old man was found dead of a suspected heroin overdose on Nichols Avenue.
In Stoughton on Feb. 16, a 29-year-old man died of a suspected heroin overdose in an apartment on Buckley Road.
In Whitman on Jan. 31, a 39-year-old man died of a suspected heroin overdose on Beulah Street.
The calls for reported heroin overdoses have become so frequent, and the deaths so familiar, that several police departments are training their officers on how to administer the chemical spray Narcan to reverse the potentially deadly effects of a heroin overdose.
Brockton officers are receiving Narcan training this week.
“It’s a nightmare that has to end,” Brockton Police Chief Robert Hayden said Monday. “This bad batch is killing people. Prevention is the part of the answer, trying to educate people to never, never get in that boat (of drug use).”
Officers in Stoughton and Quincy are already trained in the life-saving procedure.
And Whitman, Bridgewater and West Bridgewater are looking into training their police officers on how to administer Narcan, a brand name of the drug naloxone, as well.
“It’s been epidemic,” Whitman Deputy Police Chief Timothy Hanlon said of calls reporting heroin overdoses Monday.
Since Jan. 1, Whitman has seen seven suspected heroin overdoses – more than double the amount of the three suspected heroin overdoses in Whitman during the same time period last year, Hanlon said.
In Easton, emergency crews have responded to four suspected heroin overdoses since Jan. 1, on Knollwood Street, Washington Street, Hilltop Lane and Linden Street, fire officials said.
In West Bridgewater, since Jan. 1, firefighters have responded to five calls reporting drug overdoses, officials said.
Bridgewater had two suspected heroin overdoses over the weekend, said Fire Chief George Rogers.
Emergency crews administered Narcan and were able to save both people who were overdosing, he said.
Rogers said he is working with the Bridgewater Police Chief Chris Delmonte to get Narcan into police cruisers.
“We’re averaging probably three to four (overdoses) a week,” Rogers said. “It’s a serious issue.”
Meanwhile, over in Brockton, authorities are investigating Monday’s death at the Westgate Hotel and Conference Center at 391 Westgate Drive.
“Drug paraphernalia was found in the room, but we’ll have to await the finding of the medical examiner as to the cause of death,” Assistant District Attorney Bridget Norton Middleton said Monday.
Meanwhile, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz has requested expedited state testing of 400 grams of heroin seized in a Brockton drug bust Friday to rule out any link to the powerful prescription drug fentanyl.
In Plymouth County, there have been no confirmed overdose deaths involving fentanyl, Cruz said. But authorities say they’ve been on the lookout for fentanyl, a powerful painkiller that has been implicated in dozens of fatalities in the Northeast, in some cases in combination with heroin.
In Stoughton, which had five suspected heroin overdose deaths from June to December 2013, police Sgt. Donna McNamara is among officers who received Narcan training in December.
“We trained our entire department to put this on the road in January,” McNamara said. “It’s a life-saving tool that we need to have.”
BOSTON — There is staggering new evidence of an overdose epidemic in Massachusetts.
According to state police, at least 185 people died of heroin overdoses across in the last four months. That number does not include the state’s three largest cities, which keep their own records: Boston, Springfield, Worcester.
George Fiske of Brockton knows the pain of losing a loved one to the drug. His son, Lance, 22, died in 2009 of a heroin overdose.
“People need to know it affects all walks of life, whether you’re rich or poor,” Fiske said. “It’s just not people on the streets.”
Police attribute the rise in heroin deaths to suppliers cutting the drugs with synthetic substances, a more potent strain of heroin, and the fact that it’s cheaper than some other drugs.
For Fiske, the future that heroin robbed from his son will always haunt him.
“You just wonder what he would have been,” Fiske said. “I’ll just never know.”
Driver arrested on drug charges
HOLYOKE, Mass. — Authorities seized 202 bags of heroin during a traffic stop in Holyoke, Massachusetts State Police say.
Police said the drugs were discovered in several wax-coated bags after they pulled over a green Geo Prism for motor vehicle violations on Wednesday night.
Driver Deven Moffitt, 23, of Bennington, Vt., was arrested on drug charges and cited for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Passengers Cheri Lizotte, 20, and Kristen Gables, 21, both from Vermont, were issued criminal citations for possession to distribute a Class A drug.