Heroin overdoses are down in Middletown, but a new drug is on the rise

The good news: The number of heroin overdoses in Middletown has dropped 84 percent this month, compared to the same time last year, according to Middletown Police Maj. David Birk.

The bad news: Addicts are switching from heroin to methamphetamine, he said.

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City Manager Doug Adkins called the drug statistics “a mixed bag” and said “our work is not done.”

There have been 19 total heroin overdoses in April, two fatal, Birk said Monday during the 13th Heroin Summit at Atrium Medical Center. In April 2017, there were 149 overdoses, 10 of them fatal, he said.

The drop this month continues a trend this year. In January, the percentage of heroin overdoses dropped 35 percent, followed by 39 percent in February; and 57 percent in March.

The drop is “simply amazing,” Birk said.

But Birk said Middletown police are seeing “a huge rise” in the number of cases where heroin is being mixed with methamphetamine.

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“It’s a different change for law enforcement,” Birk said. He said addicts are “really paranoid and (think) everybody is against them.”

One gram of methamphetamine costs $85, about half of what it cost 20 years ago, Birk said.

The methamphetamine that’s entering the U.S. from Mexico is “the good stuff,” Birk said.

Adkins said the city spent $2.3 million last year related to heroin overdoses. He predicted the city will “save a lot money” because heroin overdoses have fallen. He said the fire department will have 100 less emergency runs per month and will be able to respond to other emergencies — like heart attacks — without calling for mutual aid from neighboring cities.

Last year in the city, there were 966 overdoses and 77 were fatal, according to Birk.

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Middletown Municipal Court Judge James Sherron, Adkins and Birk credited numerous agencies — from law enforcement to the court system to prevention efforts — for the drop in heroin overdoses.

Sherron said there was a time when Middletown was the “poster child” for heroin overdoses. Now, he said, the city is “on the cutting edge of combating it.”

Methamphetamine, he said, creates “a whole new set of problems” compared to heroin. The court system needs to determine whether the defendant is suffering from a drug addiction or mental issues.

The city is applying for a grant to fund a treatment coordinator in the court system, Sherron said. He said his hope is that courts become “a one-stop shopping” system where defendants can receive immediate treatment.

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