With Middletown’s overdoses dropping dramatically, what’s next in the heroin battle?

After 15 Heroin Summits created initiatives that contributed to reducing the number of heroin overdoses in Middletown almost by half, leaders are switching gears and concentrating on “quality of life” issues.

The group met Monday morning at Atrium Medical Center, and was message was clear: While the number of overdoses is down, addiction continues to create problems throughout the city, said Doug Adkins, city manager and the driving force behind the summits.

MORE: Opioid overdoses trending down in Middletown

Heroin overdoses dropped 49 percent in Middletown last year as the city’s total dipped to its lowest level of overdoses and deaths in three years. Middletown had 493 heroin overdoses, 53 of them fatal last year. In 2017, the city reported 966 heroin overdoses, of which 77 were fatal.

Adkins said not “one thing” reduced the number of overdoses. Factors included law enforcement making a “significant” number of arrests, the use of police canines in traffic stops and collaborations with surrounding jurisdictions, active outreach and expansion of the Heroin Response Team/Quick Response Team, harm reduction programs that have helped to reduce calls, collaborations among jurisdictions, government agencies and private businesses and grant funding from multiple sources.

He encouraged the 40 community members at Monday’s meeting to consider ways to address homelessness, mental health and addictions. He hopes to invite more leaders to the next summit, tentatively scheduled for April, and create the energy the group seems to have lost since about 120 attended the meetings two years ago.

“Let’s start over,” Adkins told the group. “What’s next and what are the gaps? What does a pro-active stage look like?”

He doesn’t want the group’s focus to be too broad or too narrow. The goal, he said, is to locate “the sweet spot” when it comes to the city’s needs.

MORE: Middletown’s opioid fight led to a drastic drop in overdoses last year

In 2017, he said, the creation of the Heroin Summit was 100 percent reactionary.

“We were so far behind the 8-ball that it was almost a plea from the city for help,” he said. “It was like, ‘We are overwhelmed, we don’t know what to do, and it was time to get everybody together and help us.’”

Now, two years later, Adkins said the city’s in “a pretty good place.”

But that doesn’t mean the work is done, he said. He said “it’s easy to fix a road,” but beyond infrastructure, the key is how to improve the lives of Middletown’s residents.

“At the end of the day there’s only so many dollars that are going to be spent on infrastructure,” he said. “What can we do that doesn’t cost money that makes it nicer to live here?”

He mentioned more Wi-Fi, food deserts, health initiatives and additional recreation options.

“If our citizens have the resources they need and they’re happy to live here, we probably have done our job,” he said. “At the end of the day, crime is low and you’re happy here, you’re healthy, and you like where you live, we probably have done our job as a city. We’re not there yet. We have a lot of work to do.”


If you, or someone you know, needs help with an opioid-related addiction, contact the Heroin Response Team/Quick Response Team through the crisis line at 1-844-427-4747 (1-844-4CRISIS)

Opioid overdose annual totals

2016: 74 fatal, 458 non-fatal. Total: 532

2017: 77 fatal, 889 non-fatal:. Total: 966

2018: 53 fatal, 440 non-fatal. Total: 493

SOURCE: Middletown Division of Fire

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