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Spike in heroin overdoses continues to rise

NEW ENGLAND – The Hampden District Attorney’s Office is reporting a spike in opiate overdoses across the county.
Two people died of suspected heroin overdoses in Westfield over the weekend, and just three days after Southwick police equipped cruisers with Naloxone last week, a life was saved using the opiod overdose drug when the drug was administered to an unresponsive woman.
Last week, Longmeadow Police added Naloxone kits to its equipment.
In a statement released on Monday morning, Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni advised that, based on a spike over the last 72 hours of suspected opiate-related medical emergencies and fatalities across Hampden County, the public be made aware that there is an increased risk of overdose and death from a potentially more lethal strain of heroin that is being distributed in the area.
Gulluni stressed awareness of the “Good Samaritan Law,” which ensures that those who call 911 to report an overdose for themselves or others will not be charged with the possession or use of opiates.
The DA’s Office reports that those who are potentially at risk of overdose include those:
– who have addiction issues and have just been released from jail and/or have refrained from illicit drug use for a long period;
– who have experienced an overdose already;
– who are intentionally wanting to overdose;
– who are living in an environment where recovery is not supported;
– who are experiencing homelessness or are marginally housed.
Naloxone or “Narcan,” the drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is available over the counter in most pharmacies.
Baystate Medical Center Chair of Emergency Medicine Dr. Niels Rathlev said he supports accessibility to Narcan. In fact, Baystate’s pharmacy has a standing prescription for Narcan available.
“The first thing people can do to help a friend or family member they suspect has a heroin problem is get a Naloxone kit,” said Rathlev.
BMC has seen a major spike in overdoses in its emergency room.
“There is a significant uptick,” Rathlev said. “Since last year, the number of cases is three times higher.”
Rathlev has seen a big increase in heroin and opiate overdoses as well as deaths, and mainly in young people.
“If you look at the demographics of people who overdose, they tend to be younger,” he said. “Sixty-percent are males age 15-35.”
That’s not to say the epidemic addiction doesn’t affect all people.
“We see many women and people in their fifties, too,” Rathlev said.
On Thursday, 27-year-old Adam Cotugno died from a heroin overdose and on Saturday 16-year-old Lillian Anderson also died from an apparent heroin overdose, both in Westfield. The two deaths are unrelated.
At the direction of Gulluni, the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit attached to his office is conducting an investigation into the distribution of the illicit narcotics involved in these incidents.
On Feb. 1 and 5, Southwick Police administered Narcan to residents who overdosed.
“Today, we saw proof that our proactive decision to carry Naloxone was a step in the right direction as a resident of our community was saved due to this opiod antagonist being A
Narcan kit costs just under $60 and additional vials are less than $40. Ricardi said schools are being offered the possible life-saving drug for free and Gov. Charlie Baker is working toward programs to equip first responders with Narcan free or for less money. Ricardi said whatever the price, it’s worth paying.
“What cost do you put on a life?” he said.
New London, Connecticut, officials said at least three more people have been treated for suspected heroin overdoses in their city days after a vigil was held calling attention to a spate of overdoses there in recent weeks.
Officials say a Pittsfield man who was found dead in his apartment with his 11-year-old daughter in August died of a drug overdose— but the cause of the girl’s death remains unknown.
Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless’s office said Monday that medical examiner reports indicate 47-year-old Anthony Nazareth overdosed on heroin. The cause of death for Hannah Nazareth is listed as undetermined.
Capeless’s office says Hannah Nazareth probably died “as much as a month before her father.”
The office says Anthony Nazareth had provided false and misleading information about her whereabouts to different agencies and people in July.
Anyone with information about any of these cases is asked to call the Massachusetts State Police at (413) 736-8390, or use the anonymous service, Text-a-Tip: text message “crimes” (274637) and begin with the word “solve”.
Staff Writer Christine Charnosky contributed to this story.