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Drug Overdoses Rampant in Worcester, City Issues Health Advisory

Thursday, August 07, 2014


After reporting nine deaths from August 1st to August 6th with a possibility of a tenth, the city of Worcester has a growing concern that the local heroin problem is increasing to an epidemic like status.

After issuing a public health advisory on Wednesday August 6th warning citizens that contaminated heroin may be available on the streets, city officials announced that they are devoting a wealth of resources to respond to the growing issue.

“The city of Worcester is taking this spike in opiate related deaths very seriously,” said City Manager Ed Augustus. “It certainly is a drastic and alarming spike in deaths. We are working on two fronts, one being the public safety and investigative element. We are also looking at it as a public health issue. The Public Health Department has issued a public health advisory, which we are sharing with our community partners. We want to try to get to the bottom of where this is coming from and how we can stop it.”

Worcester Police confirm that eight of the nine or ten overdose deaths are suspected to involve heroin. These are in stark contrast to 2011, where the city of Worcester only saw 22 drug-related deaths throughout the whole year. The Worcester Police have responded to roughly 300 overdose calls since the beginning of the year and have responded to 33 overdose calls since August 1st.

Stay Away from It

According to Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme, the Worcester Police Department is working to investigate the recent string of deaths, which highlights a growing problem in the city.

Gemme says that the problem appears to be local and that investigators are currently working to determine the purity of the narcotic and whether or not it is cut with another substance. Additionally, the Police Department is working to equip their police cruisers with Narcan; Gemme says that $13,000 will be spent on Narcan and all cruisers should be equipped in the next two weeks. 

City Director Brindisi, Police Chief Gemme, City Manager Augustus, and Mayor Petty at a briefing about the heroin epidemic

"There's something going on with the heroin. Stay away from the heroin; it's as simple as that," said Gemme at a media briefing. "When you buy heroin off the street, you don't know who mixed it, you don't know who cut it, and you don't know the quality of it. We're not going to solve this overnight, but we are going expend the resources to get to the bottom of this and hopefully identify the individuals and bring this to some conclusion.”

A Public Health Emergency

Worcester Police and Public Health officials are also working to warn known drug users in the hopes that the message can be spread throughout the community, alerting everyone about the current dangers of using the drug, which sells for about $8 in the city right now, according to Police Chief Gemme. 

The city has also reached out to community partners like AIDS Project Worcester, AdCare Hospital and Spectrum Health Systems, who have all agreed to help the city battle against drug addictions and overdoses.

There are currently beneficial programs in place in Worcester like AIDS Project Worcester's Overdose Prevention and Narcan Distribution Program, which helps to train opiod users and families how to use Narcan, which can help to reverse an overdose. The program – which has been running for a few years – has seen over 100 reversals according to Derek S. Brindisi, the City Director of Public Health.

"We are in the midst of a public health emergency," said Brindisi. “We’ve been monitoring the overdoses and their totality and certainly the most recent deaths, which have raised many concerns. We have asked for the help of our community partners and they have agreed to be part of the solution. We are going to use our community partners to help work with and provide outreach for this issue.”


Related Slideshow: New England States with Highest Marijuana Arrest Rates

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6. Massachusetts

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 51

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 18

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 49

2010 Raw Arrests: 1,191

Photo: Flickr/Blind Nomad

Prev Next

5. Vermont

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 48

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 119

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 51

2010 Raw Arrests: 737

Photo: Flickr/Victor

Prev Next

4. New Hampshire

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 33

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 210

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 41

2010 Raw Arrests: 2,769

Photo: Flickr/Blind Nomad

Prev Next

3. Rhode Island

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 31

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 214

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 43

2010 Raw Arrests: 2,243

Prev Next

2. Maine

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 30

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 214

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 40

2010 Raw Arrests: 2,842

Prev Next

1. Connecticut

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 23

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 247

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 25

2010 Raw Arrests: 8,815

Prev Next

Number One Overall

Washington D.C.

National Rank for Arrests per Capita: 1

2010 Arrests Per Capita: 846

National Rank for Raw Arrests: 34

2010 Raw Arrests: 5,115

Photo: Flickr/Torben Hansen


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