Officials Meet With Federal Drug Czar Nominee After Recent Overdoses in New Haven

Governor Dannel Malloy, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp and other local officials met with Jim Carroll, the nominee for federal drug czar and current Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy on Monday, a meeting held in response to the more than 100 overdoses in New Haven that happened last week.

They discussed addiction and substance use disorders, along with other federal, state and local officials.

Carroll praised the local response to the crisis.

“This does not happen just at the spur of the moment. This was an executed plan as a result of perfect preparation,” he said.

Carroll explained that the federal government is focusing on a three-pronged approach to the addiction epidemic. The three concepts are prevention and education, making treatment available to those who need it, and law enforcement efforts to curb drugs from making it into communities in the first place.

Carroll also said the federal government was focused on collaboration with state and local governments as they combat the ongoing issues.

“In an incident like this when there is an emergency you don’t call DC. You don’t call an 800 number to an office for the federal government. You call 911. That’s the first responders that are here in the room and that’s who we need to support from the federal government is letting the communities decide how best to spend the money because at the end of the day this is a personal crisis for individuals,” Carroll said.

Harp said she was proud of her city's work and said the response was the result of preparation and collaboration by multiple agencies, and said she hopes more federal dollars will flow to the Elm City for treatment.

"Every person who dropped on our Green we responded to within a minute to two minutes, every person that would allow themselves to be transported was transported to Yale-New Haven hospital, every person got the service that they needed we did not lose one life, and for that I am eternally grateful," Harp said.

Malloy also praised New Haven’s response, and pointed out that while the recent emergency was not caused by opioids, the results are the same being seen as with opioid addiction. He said more housing, treatment and the elimination of over-prescribing opioids are among the issues leaders discussed.

The drug K2, a name for synthetic marijuana, suspected to have caused the New Haven overdoses was contaminated with another synthetic drug called fubinaca, police said Friday.

One form of fubinaca is an "ultrapotent" synthetic cannabinoid known to be 50 to 85 times more powerful than K2 and "poses a public health concern," according to a 2017 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

City officials said they have reports of a person handing out the drug for free, possibly to get people addicted.

Police have arrested 53-year-old John Parker and 37-year-old Felix Melendez in connection with the case.

Campbell said that Parker had 32 bags of K2 on him at the time of his arrest and has been identified as one of the dealers who distributed the K2 that caused the rash of overdoses on the Green. He has been charged with possession with intent to sell and other related charges.

Melendez was arrested on a violation of probation warrant and possession of a controlled substance. Police said Melendez had K2 on him at the time of his arrest, but at this time, he has not been connected to the distribution of the K2.

Both men have been previously arrested for selling drugs on the Green, police said.

A third suspect is in federal custody, but New Haven police would not comment on the status of the federal investigation.

People who take the K2 have been having seizures, going into cardiac arrest, vomiting or passing out.

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