Sanford police responded to six suspected opioid overdoses in a 24-hour period between Friday and Saturday that included one fatality and three separate calls to one building, the police chief said.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Police Chief Thomas Connolly used the moment to rail against the state for moving too slowly in responding to a public health crisis that is festering unabated in cities such as his.

“We just go around and around and around with it,” Connolly said. “The simple solution is that we’ve got to have more low-cost outpatient treatment for these people everywhere, so that if people want to get help, they can get help. Not stigmatizing them.”

Although no laboratory tests have been returned to confirm his suspicion, Connolly believes the common substance among the six overdoses is a small batch of fentanyl being sold as heroin, likely through a mutual acquaintance or connection of the six people involved. None of the survivors would identify who supplied the drugs, said Connolly, who suspects that the source is not a major player in the local drug economy.

“Everybody lived within a half-mile of each other,” he said. “If it had been a mid-level dealer with 100 clients, we probably would have had 50 overdoses.”

The rash of overdoses began Friday at 11:14 p.m. with a 911 hang-up from 46 High St. A responding officer found the front door open, and heard people inside talking about Narcan, the pharmaceutical antidote to an opioid overdose widely used by emergency workers.

“(The officer) walked up to the door and heard someone say, ‘I just Narcan-ed you,'” Connolly said.

The 31-year-old woman inside requested that she be taken to Southern Maine Health Care for evaluation.

Thirty-six minutes later, at 11:40 p.m., police were called to 179 Lebanon St. — the first of three visits to that apartment building for overdoses through Sunday. In the parking lot, a 27-year-old woman lay on the asphalt. She had stopped breathing and bystanders had called for help. By the time firefighters and EMTs arrived, she had regained consciousness, and was transported to Southern Maine Health Care, where she admitted to having used heroin.

The next overdose call came at 5:37 a.m., when a woman reported that a man was apparently dead in his apartment at 17 Washington St. Once inside, police found a 44-year-old man who had been dead for an hour or more, Connolly said.

The woman who called police had said she was with the man hours before, and they had walked to a 7-Eleven together to get hot chocolate. A few hours later, she returned to find him motionless. She attempted CPR, but he was already dead.

Connolly said his office is not yet releasing the man’s name because his next-of-kin have not yet been located and informed of his death.

“We found what appears to be some type of controlled substance in the room,” Connolly said.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office is doing toxicology tests to make a positive determination of what substance or combination of substances killed him. Fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin, has been partly blamed for the recent surge in overdose deaths in Maine and other parts of the country.

Police next responded to 179 Lebanon St. at 11:11 a.m., where they found a 27-year-old woman in the midst of a possible drug overdose, with another woman performing CPR on her. Police and fire personnel assisted with the resuscitation, and by the time the woman was transported to the hospital, she was once again breathing, Connolly said.

The fifth incident came at 4:16 p.m., at 21 Twombley Rd. First responders found 34-year-old Brian Hume in the bathroom showing labored breathing.

Police found a hypodermic needle, a spoon, a cigarette filter and a small baggie of white powder in the room with him. Connolly said there was no indication if Narcan was administered. Hume was arrested and charged with felony possession of heroin.

The final call came just 15 minutes later for another suspected overdose at 179 Lebanon. St. When they arrived, police found a 27-year-old woman outside suffering from an apparent overdose. She was conscious and told authorities, now making their third call to the apartment building in less than 17 hours, that no one at the address sells drugs. She then admitted to only taking “oxies and roxies,” Connolly said, street names for oxycodone and Roxicodone, two powerful synthetic opioids.

She was taken to a hospital for evaluation and treatment, Connolly said.

Connolly said the state should be moving more swiftly to make treatment programs more widely available. Connolly has been an outspoken advocate for medication-assisted treatment, which allows addicts’ brains time to recover from the chemical changes that take place during heavy opioid use.

“I’m frustrated because we have all of these things happening all the time,” he said, “and we relatively have zero treatment options in Maine.”


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