By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Winthrop’s overdose rate is up 129 percent when comparing 2015 and 2016.
Police Chief Terence Delehanty said not all the overdose incidences are related to heroin and other opiates. The overdoses may revolve around other drugs but do not include those related to alcohol use.
“The numbers are up significantly,” Delehanty said.
In 2015 there were a total of 34 overdoses responded to by the Winthrop Police Department. In 2016 there were 78 overdoses. Due to the reporting system and the length of time for toxicology reports, it is unclear if there were deaths related to overdose.
Delehanty said the information was obtained from medical aid calls. Each community in Massachusetts tracks its own data and at times it seems like no two are the same. In Revere, it is the Fire Department that tracks the information.
“The original call logs are not always accurate as to the type of call recorded during the original call,” Delehanty said. “It’s not fair to show opiates only when there are other (overdoses).”
The problem however is not one to take lightly.
Delehanty thinks one reason for the rise could be the awareness of the law, in that you cannot get in trouble with the police for helping someone who is overdosing.
“The legislature has made it easier to call for help,” he said, adding that the outreach program where police work with recovery coaches and CASA (Community Action for Safe Alternatives) has helped. “We’ve seen a lot of folks reach out for support. Families are asking about Narcan (which reverses the effects of an overdose on opioids). People are concerned and they know there is a supportive environment.”
LeighAnn Eurizione, Community Liaison and Director of Diversion for CASA, said they are actively supporting 60-80 people with the recovery coaches. There are people who need to check in once a day and others who check in once a week. An organization called Healthy Streets has been working on getting Narcan in the hands of people who need it for loved ones.
The two Winthrop recovery coaches will soon have their own supply of Narcan, which can also be purchased over the counter at pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid.
Recently Eurizione returned from a conference in Washington, D.C. where she had an opportunity to meet with local legislators such as Sen. Ed Markey. She said they expressed concerns about prescription drug use and abuse.