One Year Later: K2 Overdoses on the New Haven Green

Aug. 15, 2018 is a day New Haven’s emergency response crews will never forget.

“One year ago we had about 116 people overdose in a matter of 36 hours,” New Haven Fire Chief John Alston said.

The synthetic drug K2 resulted in a massive number of overdoses. The New Haven Green was a scary scene, not soon forgotten.

“I remember just constantly seeing ambulances. People surrounding people trying to get them off of the ground, trying to do emergency CPR and make sure people were OK,” Zai Stevenson of New Haven said.

In the 12 months since last year’s overdoses, New Haven has added a task force and introduced “hot spot” technology, allowing first responders to track high levels of overdose activity.

“We’re actually sharing data with other agencies and our dispatch, both police and fire, to track the number of overdoses by location,” Alston said.

Information is sent directly to first responders’ portable devices, allowing them to be proactive and prepared.

“We have all of our devices set for anywhere between five to 10 overdoses in the same location so we’re getting earlier intel that’s making a big difference,” Alston added.

Officials said this technology allows them to track the path with which drugs enter the state.

“We can actually see how those overdoses come up I-95 and as they move up from the south we know it’s going to hit us at some point,” New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said. “We are then able to be prepared to a greater degree than we were for this K2 problem that we had last year.”

Community leaders said the advancements have produced positive results. Still some, including democratic mayoral candidate Justin Elicker, say more can be done.

“Those things are all nice but if you walk across this green every day, you realize that this problem is still severe and significant and still exists,” Elicker said.

Elicker said he like to see a different approach, one which views New Haven drug use as a health issue not a criminal one.

“Historically, we’ve criminalized drug use and that’s the wrong way to approach people that are facing serious challenges with substance use disorder,” Elicker said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Harp said the community is striving for more and is trying to educate anyone who may need help.

Despite the enormous number of victims, not one life was lost due to an overdose on the green that day.

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