Police add tools to fight opioid overdose crisis
Cops collect nearly 300 pounds of unused narcotics
WINSTED — The Winchester Police Department has collected 260 pounds of discarded narcotics in its medical drop-off bin during the last four months.
The bin, located in the lobby of the police department, allows residents to dispose of unused prescription medicine.
Sgt. Daniel Pietrafesa said a number of elderly residents have turned in expired prescription bottles full of pills, many of which are narcotics. Clearing out a medicine cabinet containing these items is a safe and easy way to reduce the possibility of theft, he added. Prescription opioids include OxyContin, Vicodin, codeine and morphine.
Police Chief William T. Fitzgerald Jr. said the drop-off program is one prong of a broader effort to move the department forward and be more proactive against illegal drug use and its consequences.
“We have had an increase in opioid deaths, an opioid crisis,” he said, acknowledging a national crisis deemed an epidemic by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Setting up the city’s first ever “Crime Tip Hotline” is another way to help the police gather information and possibly solve drug-related cases.
“Narcotic problems start with prescription medications.” Sgt. Daniel Pietrafesa of the Winchester Police Department
The new line is separate from the department’s phone system, Fitzgerald said. “Some people are more comfortable with making an anonymous call,” he noted.
The tip line records the message internally and alerts a detective that a call has come in.
“It’s not snitching,” Fitzgerald added, but more akin to the ‘See Something, Say Something’ program used at airports and other public spaces. The 24-hour hotline number is 860-3791950.
Another proactive move
by the department is the recent appointment of an officer to the statewide Narcotics Task Force.
“We put statewide narcotics as a priority. The hotline is another way to provide and track information,” Fitzgerald said.
“Narcotic problems start with prescription medications,” Pietrafesa said, adding that the epidemic is not just one segment of the population. Police are handling many more burglaries, shoplifting and other theft-related crimes related to opioid addiction, Pietrafesa said. “It has changed our job dramatically.”
Every officer in the department now carries Narcan (Naloxone) a medicine
that reverses an opioid overdose. “I used Narcan one month ago,” Pietrafesa said.
Since January, he said, the department has responded to six drug overdose calls. Out of those six, Narcan was used in four. Winsted officers are trained as first responders and by law are allowed to administer the treatment.
Statistics from the department show the number of calls for overdoses have increased from one response in 2014 to 31 in 2017, which included four deaths. Narcan was used 18 times in 2017.
After administering Narcan, Pietrafesa said the victim is “almost instantly disoriented. They are irritated because Narcan blocks the receptors,” which react to the painkilling effects of opioids.
“They can start shouting,” Pietrafesa added.
By law, overdose victims who receive Narcan must must be taken to an emergency room.
“They think they’re fine. But they can relapse into an overdose within 30 minutes. We don’t know what else they may have taken,” Pietrafesa explained
Information about opioid addiction and resources for treatment can be found through the state’s Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, or by calling 800-563-4086.
Sgt. Daniel Pietrafesa holds a dose of Narcan, which can prevent overdose deaths.