East Lyme has seen an unusually high number of overdoses in the last two months, East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein reported at a meeting of the town’s Police Commission on Thursday night.
Out of a total of 15 reported overdoses in East Lyme in 2020, seven occurred between July 1 and September 10, compared to three during the same period in 2019. Additionally, two of the three deaths attributed to overdoses this year occurred between July and September.
Finkelstein told CT Examiner that the majority of these overdoses were caused by heroin or fentanyl, a synthetic opioid similar to methadone, but 50 to 100 times more powerful. Fentanyl in particular, he said, has become a cause of overdose-related deaths.
Data from the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services showed an 18 percent increase statewide in opioid-related deaths as compared to 2019. Eighty-seven percent of overdose deaths reported in the first half 2020 involved fentanyl.
Finkelstein said that his officers in East Lyme, all of whom are trained in Narcan, have had to use the drug three to four times since the summer to revive someone from an overdose. More and more often, he said, others have administered Narcan before police arrive at the scene.
The majority of recent overdoses have occurred among people in their early 20s and 30s. A few, Finkelstein said, took place in the area near the hotels on Flanders Road, but he said the overdoses happen in many different locations in the town. Sometimes, the overdoses are connected to prostitution.
Finkelstein also sees a correlation between the increased drug use and an increase in burglaries and armed robberies. There were two armed robberies in East Lyme in the last full week of August, and they have seen several stores and an ATM broken into. The robberies, he said, often serve as a way for people to get money to buy the drugs.
The police have arrested six people in conjunction with the overdoses since early July, although Finkelstein pointed out that they never arrest the individuals who have overdosed, saying they want to encourage people to call 911.
While Finkelstein acknowledges that the numbers are high, he also says that overdoses have cyclical patterns, and he believes the department has probably seen similar levels of overdoses in the past.