FARMINGTON - While accidental drug deaths appear to be leveling off in the suburbs of Central Connecticut, fatal overdoses continue to be a problem this year in New Britain and Bristol, according to figures provided by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Seventeen Bristol residents have died from drug overdoses as of the end of June, nearly three times as many as the six recorded in similar-sized Meriden.
In 2017, 23 Bristol residents fatally overdosed. In 2016, the total was 35. Based on Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill’s calculations, Bristol could easily see 35 deaths this year.
In the first six months of this year, 25 New Britain residents have died of accidental overdoses, tying the city with Bridgeport and placing it directly above above New Haven, which had 20 resident deaths. Only Waterbury, with 32 deaths, and Hartford, with 31, have had more overdose victims since Jan. 1.
New Britain has posted totals of 35 and 36 overdose deaths in the past two years. In 2016, New Britain and Bristol were in the top five statewide.
“The New Britain Police Department is fully committed to working with our medical partners including EMS and firefighters and medical providers,” said Deputy Chief Christopher Chute. “We’re doing everything we can to fight this epidemic.”
Overall statewide, 515 people have died so far of accidental drug overdoses. The driving factor in more than 50 percent of the deaths is Fentanyl, a drug 50 times more potent than heroin, said Gill.
“Fentanyl continues to be the most common drug detected and the number of deaths with Fentanyl continues to increase, from 677 in 2017 to 740 projected for 2018,” Gill said.
Gill predicted that 1,030 people will die statewide by the end of 2018. In 2017, 1,038 died, leading him to conclude that, while deaths involving Fentanyl are increasing, the overall number of fatal overdoses is leveling off.
The number of fatal drug overdoses has risen sharply since 2012, when 357 people died. The increase is stressing Gill’s office, which must provide toxicology testing for all suspected fatal drug overdoses to get an accurate idea of how opioid use is impacting the state.
On the local level, Central Connecticut suburbs that had been seeing sizable increases in the number of residents overdosing are now seeing those numbers hold steady or decrease. In 2017, Berlin had 13 residents die of a drug overdose. In the first six months of 2018, only one died.
“It could be the use of Narcan,” said Berlin Deputy Chief Christopher Ciuci. “Our officers carry it and people can get it at the pharmacy. It could also be a combination of education, the drug takebacks we do and Narcan, which is why we do all of the above.”
Plainville’s numbers have remained fairly stable: three in the first six months of 2018 and seven in all of 2017.
Southington had 14 residents die in 2017, but only two as of June 30 of this year.
Newington also projects a whole-year decrease, with five deaths in the first six months of 2018. In 2017, 19 Newington residents died of drug overdoses, compared to three in 2016.
Terryville was the only Central Connecticut suburb on track to see a sizable increase this year, with five residents dying of a drug overdose in the first six months of 2018, compared to four residents fatally overdosing in all of 2017.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.