FARMINGTON - Bristol saw a decrease in the number of residents who died of accidental drug overdoses in 2017, according to figures provided by the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner.
In 2016, 35 Bristol residents and 36 New Britain residents died of fatal overdoses, placing the two cities in the top five in the state in the number of residents who died of an overdose. In 2017, 23 Bristol residents died of an overdose and 36 New Britain residents died of an overdose. By comparison, Hartford had 58 overdose deaths in 2017, Meriden had 36 and New Haven had 41.
Southington and Plantsville had a slight increase, from 9 in 2016 to 14 in 2017. Plainville’s numbers remained fairly flat with seven residents dying of an overdose in 2016 and six dying in 2017. Plymouth had five residents die of an overdose in 2016 and four in 2017.
However in Berlin and Newington, the number of overdoses increased in 2017.
Berlin, which had four residents die of an overdose in 2016, had 13 die in 2017. Newington had three residents die of an overdose in 2016 and 19 die in 2017.
Overall statewide, while the number of people who died from accidental overdoses increased to 1,038 in 2017 from 917 in 2016, the number who died was less than projected by the state’s Chief Medical Examiner James Gill.
The number of overdose deaths has impacted Gill’s office and the number of autopsies that his staff is required to perform annually. Statewide fentanyl, an opioid more powerful than heroin, is driving up the number of deaths, according to figures supplied by Gill. In 2017, heroin was involved in 498 deaths, while fentanyl was involved in 677, Gill said.
Fentanyl appears to the driving factor in the increase in fatal overdoses in 2017, Newington Police Chief Stephen Clark said. “In reviewing ME reports, most of the deaths were a combination of fentanyl and heroin or fentanyl and cocaine,” Clark said. The department also had a number of saves with Narcan, a drug that reverses an opioid overdose, Clark said. “Otherwise the number would have been higher,” he added.
Berlin police acknowledged Friday that the number of fatal overdoses has increased and an officer will now be assigned to drug investigations full time.
Drugs used to be bought and sold in the parking lots of bars, Police Chief John Klett said. But heroin and fentanyl, a chemical mixed with heroin to increase its effects while making it cheaper to use, are blind to socio-economic status.
“It’s not like it’s just one group of people that are using this,” Klett said. “It’s middle-class people, it’s people in their 50s, it’s people in their 20s. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s pretty much across the board.”
Staff writer Charles Paullin contributed to this story.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.