Drug overdoses up in Nashua

Statistics show increase of 49 OD’s compared to same time last year

Staff photo by Adam Urquhart The kits Syringe Services Alliance of the Nashua Area officials distribute include clean needles, cookers, pieces of cotton, condoms, alcohol swabs and rubber pieces users utilize to find a vein.

NASHUA – Amid the opioid crisis, the city saw 130 drug overdoses from Jan. 1-May 31, a significant increase from the 81 that took place during the same period last year.

However, statistics also show fewer people died from overdoes this year compared to first five months of 2017, Nashua Police Captain James Testaverde said. He said preliminary data indicate 14 people died in the city from drug overdoses from Jan. 1-May 31, a death total which is down from 17 during the same time frame last year.

“So, straight up, for May, there’s 20 in 2017, and we have 20 in 2018,” Testaverde said. “We remained consistent, and in 2017 six were fatal and in 2018 we had two, but three are pending toxicology.”

“So, we are down three deaths, but we have three toxicologies pending. We could be down three, down two, one or zero.”

Officials will know for sure once they get reports, Testaverde said.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Nashua Division of Public Health’s Community Services continue working to help reduce the spread of disease through the Syringe Services Alliance of the Nashua Area. They provide harm reduction services, including distributing clean needles to users.

“We want them using one needle per use,” Heather Haines, community health worker with Americorps at DPHCS, said.

In recent weeks, officials decided to distribute 30 clean needles at a time, instead of 10, to make sure people are being as safe as possible when using. They increased the amount distributed because people were requesting more clean needles. The kits also come with cookers, pieces of cotton, condoms, alcohol swabs and pieces of rubber users tie off with to better find a vein.

Haines said between the program’s Feb. 1 launch and May 31, workers made a total of 226 encounters with users, including 79 in May. These encounters have resulted in the distribution of 7,110 clean needles, as well as the collection of 1,849 used needles.

Haines said on Tuesday, Community Health Outreach Worker Luis Porres collected over 100 needles from one person.

“We’re getting more returns now than in the beginning” Porres said.

Echoing his thought, Haines said, “It seems they understand the importance of properly disposing them.”

Porres said it’s about making sure people are using as safely as possible — that’s why they’re going out into the community and meeting users where they are. To request syringe services, call 978-743-9636. For SSANA program information, call 603-816-0595.

There are also other initiatives in place in the ongoing battle against opioid and drug addiction, such as Granite Shield and Safe Stations. Mayor Jim Donchess said both are making an impact in the city. He said there have been about 1,800 Safe Station visits from people seeking help.

“Many of them have gotten into treatment,” Donchess said. “There was an analysis done by the (city) Health Department that says a person who enters a Safe Station is about 60 percent less likely to suffer an overdose incident, and is far less likely to be the victim of a fatal overdose.”

He said the initiative is getting people into treatment, which is having a “definite positive effect.”

“With that said, the opioid crisis is very persistent across the country. The disease of addiction, of substance abuse disorder, when dealing with a powerful opioid drug like fentanyl, heroin or OxyContin, is a very difficult disease to escape, and often there are relapses,” Donchess said. “I think overall, Safe Stations are certainly making the situation better than it would be.”

As far as the Granite Shield operations go, Donchess said the police department continues working to make it more difficult for dealers to traffic illegal drugs in Nashua. He believes some people are making their buys out of town.

“I think we’re seeing some of the drug trade move elsewhere because of that,” Donchess said. “People can still buy drugs, certainly in the Nashua region or down in Massachusetts, and it’s still in Nashua, but here, it’s very difficult.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.