Po­lice add tools to fight opi­oid over­dose cri­sis

Cops col­lect nearly 300 pounds of un­used nar­cotics

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Leslie Hutchi­son

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.

Leslie Hutchi­son/Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia /

Sgt. Daniel Pi­etrafesa holds a dose of Nar­can, which can pre­vent over­dose deaths.

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