The synthetic cannabinoid AMB-FUBINACA is the primary chemical responsible for the 100-plus overdoses that have taken place mostly on the New Haven Green over the past two days among people smoking a bad batch of the synthetic marijuana known as K2.
Police Chief Anthony Campbell revealed that information during a Friday morning press conference outside of City Hall with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Mayor Toni Harp, and a cohort of city police and fire personnel.
(Chief Campbell and Mayor Harp held another press conference later Friday afternoon in which they revealed information about the two suspects arrested by the city in relation to this week’s K2 overdoses. See more below.)
“It is our hope and our prayer that we have come to the end of this crisis, or things are at least leveling off,” Campbell said, noting that he had not heard of any additional K2-related overdoses happening on Friday.
He said that police presence on the Green will remain high over the next few days, with 12 to 15 officers patrolling the upper and lower Green looking to deter any new dealers from filling the void left by the three who have been arrested. He said this weekend’s police presence will be less than the 25 to 30 officers on site over the past two days, but will still be significantly more than the three to four officers usually assigned to the city’s central square.
Johnson said this is not the first time the department has dealt with overdoses related to K2 mixed with ABM-FUBINACA, a version of which was originally developed by the drug company Pfizer in 2009. Johnson said the department dealt with several overdoses related to this same combination of chemicals a few months ago.
“We are treating this as a medical situation,” Campbell said. He said that the police have not been arresting the victims of these overdoses because the police often find the drugs near them, not on them, when they have passed out or are vomiting or convulsing in response to the ABM-FUBINACA. Furthermore, he said, the police are treating the people succumbing to these overdoses as victims of a public health and medical emergency, as opposed to the perpetrators of a criminal outbreak.
Mayor Harp said she has received a commitment from the commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHS) to send two recovery specialists to spend 12 to 15 hours a day on the Green, helping people suffering from substance abuse disorders.
“Often many of the people who overdosed were also on methadone,” Harp said. She said local methadone providers have to make sure that their treatment protocol only provides methadone to people “if they’re clean.” She also called on methadone providers to not just provide methadone, but behavioral treatment services as well.
“It’s important that we just don’t give people medicine and expect them to take care of it on their own,” she said.
Chief Campbell reiterated that synthetic cannabinoids, not synthetic opiates like fentanyl, seem to be responsible for this week’s waves of overdoses. He said emergency responders initially applied Narcan, a treatment for opioid overdose treatment, but that many of the victims did not respond to that treatment.
“The new scourge are the synthetics,” Blumenthal said. “Synthetic marijuana like K2, and synthetic heroin like fentanyl. These new synthetics are killers.”
He said amateur chemists mix these synthetic drugs with other contaminants, often leading to fatal overdoses.
He called on the Trump administration to put aside tariff feuds and trade wars and focus instead on cracking down on synthetics coming across U.S. borders primarily from countries like China and Mexico.
“We need a major national commitment like a Marshall Plan,” he said. He argued that the federal government has underfunded cities like New Haven, “because this emergency is every bit a threat to national security as any kind of threat from abroad.”
“He bears some of the blame,” Harp said about Fasano, saying that he is one of the legislators who pushed a state budget that stripped the city of $9.4 million in state aid last fiscal year.
“He’s got to understand that when we have almost all of the treatment facilities in our region,” she said, “when we have all of the homeless shelters, when we have all of those services which we gladly provide, that we need support from the state.”
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch Friday morning’s full press conference.
Two Arrested; No New ODs
On Friday afternoon, Chief Campbell and Mayor Harp held another press conference on the second floor of City Hall during which they shared information about two of the men the city has arrested in relation to this week’s K2 overdoses.
They did not share information on the third suspect, who was arrested on a federal warrant.
Campbell said that the police arrested a 37-year-old New Haven man on a violation of probation warrant and on on-site charges of possession of a controlled substance.
“He was not arrested in relation to the K2 sales on the Green at this time,” he said, “but we are working to see what connections he may have to the Green for this particular incident.”
Campbell said the man had K2 on his person. He was also charged with possession of a controlled substance based on what else was found on him when he was arrested.
He said this man was arrested in February for selling K2 on the Green and received a five-year suspended sentence with two years of probation.
Campbell said the city police have also arrested a 53-year-old New Haven man. That man was arrested on a K2 sale warrant from the same February drug operation that resulted in the arrest of the first suspect. This man was found with 32 bags of K2 on him when he was arrested by the police, Campbell said.
The police chief said this 53-year-old man has been identified as one of the dealers of the K2 that caused the waves of overdoses on the Green.
Campbell also said that, as of 1:30 p.m., no new K2-related emergency medical transports had been made from the Green throughout all of Friday.
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch Friday afternoon’s full press conference.
posted by: AverageTaxpayer on August 17, 2018 12:48pm
I’m going to suggest that in response to this crisis, the City it might be best to simply close the Green for the next week or so.
Nothing against the NHPD, but the uniformed officers aren’t doing anything. Yesterday the “patrons” are still drinking, doing drugs, littering, dealing, passing out, urinating, etc. — despite the enormous police presence.
If anything, we need plainclothes officers, and real arrests to encourage the drug addicts to go home. (Yes, most of them have homes.)
If the Proprietors put forth and published simple rules, that would be a big help:
1. No smoking 2. No alcohol 3. No sleeping 4. No littering 5. No urinating 6. No disorderly contact
And by all means, give the Town Green Special Services District managerial control!
posted by: alex on August 17, 2018 1:15pm
These synthetics, often designed and developed by profitable U.S. multinational corporations, are a byproduct of the twisted, tragic, terrible War on Drugs. Not only because the criminalization of marijuana, a less harmful drug, pushes people to synthetic alternatives. Also because mass criminalization pushes drug users to synthetics like K2 that may not show up in urinalysis.
End The Drug War Now.
posted by: the1king on August 17, 2018 1:37pm
enough with the politics and the blame game. Don’t act like this just happen in the last of months or years. The green has been a disaster for years. I though methadone at the clinics is supposed to get you off drugs. But they take that and then go get more high. The mayor and senator needs to get a clue. Do your jobs. They are out there today getting drunk and high. It’s a shame
posted by: JohnTulin on August 17, 2018 1:45pm
So, a high police presence will deter potential dealers/buyers from doing their thing? What an idea! Let’s do that, but only ‘for a few days’ because…..why?
posted by: Atwater on August 17, 2018 2:15pm
Five of your “rules” are actual laws or ordinances. The NHPD just needs to police the Green and enforce them, regularly. The no smoking rule is not enforceable, since it is not a law, and the Green is not a private space, but a public one. The city could try to pass a law/ordinance that prohibits smoking in all public spaces and within x number of feet of the entrances of public buildings.
Arresting drug addicts will not help solve the issue. They will spend some time in jail, get fines they cannot/won’t pay and be out on the street again trying to feed their addiction. I know it’s difficult but drug addicts need compassionate and effective help in order to help them rehabilitate. Giving them tickets and jail time is not going to help anyone.
So, it’s about goals. If the only goal is to drive the homeless and drug addicts from the Green then doing so would just require a constant show of force by the NHPD and regular enforcement of quality of life crimes/violations. But, if the goal is to provide meaningful help to the homeless and addicts in order to help them become healthy and productive members of society then enforcement will not help us reach that goal.
posted by: yim-a on August 17, 2018 2:38pm
Suboxone. Primary Care providers at all clinics (Hill Health, Fair Haven, Yale PCC) should be, if they already aren’t, required to be licensed to prescribe suboxone. And have access to behavioral support for counseling/group therapy for suboxone patients.
posted by: Noteworthy on August 17, 2018 2:48pm
What the hell is Blumenthal doing at this press conference? He injects himself into every crisis and turns it into some political BS attack - calling for this or that. I call on Blumenthal and every member of the media to A) shut up unless you have something valuable to contribute and B) ignore everything Blumenthal has to say. It is worthless political pablum designed to get attention. It neither illuminates the problem or solution, contributes nothing to the conversation or is utterly useless.
And since the NHI protects Harp so much - do her a favor. Just don’t include her blame others for her problems quotes. They really make her sound stupid and uninformed.
posted by: Powers on August 17, 2018 2:49pm
Ms. Mayor, blaming mental health providers for your complete failure to make the center of our city a safe and livable space for all is a cowardly act. Shame on you.
The stigma associated with seeking help is bad enough already without our city leaders blaming one of the only providers in the region specializing in treatment for substance use disorders without any evidence they had anything to do with the current problems.
If this is not a wake-up call to clean up the Green, I don’t know what is. If drug use and other illegal activity is difficult to root out, figure out why it is and then address those obstacles. If it’s because there’s always a large number of people purportedly waiting for a bus but instead may be selling drugs, figure out a way to police the bus stops. Or, better yet, move the bus stops to a better location in the city. The Green should be a peaceful refuge for all in New Haven, and shouldn’t be treated like a bus depot. Maybe moving the bus stops is a third rail in city politics, but someone should have the guts to be able to address it and do what needs to be done to reduce risk in our city center. We’ve seen before that stops have been associated with illegal behavior—this has driven an economic downturn in a whole sector of downtown: http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/ninth_square_merchants_nei/
Regardless, don’t say this is a “national problem.” Don’t blame mental health providers. Don’t pretend this hasn’t been a mess for many years. Don’t shy away from the difficult and unpopular but necessary solutions.
Do. Your. Job.
posted by: anonymous on August 17, 2018 3:18pm
The New Haven Green should be thought of as a statewide treasure, not a crime scene. It’s easily the most economically crucial and most important public space in the state.
It’s a shame that every rich suburban town in Connecticut has such beautifully maintained (though, often completely empty) parks, while the bustling New Haven Green is looking a bit ragged and often littered with cigarettes and broken glass.
As a first step, the state could issue emergency bond funding to invest in the infrastructure there so that it’s more attractive. Right now the walkways, benches, and fences are often crumbling or flooded. Local institutions and Town Green District should spend money to clean up the trash there a few times a day, since the Parks Department’s budget has been effectively zeroed out and they have a lot of neighborhood parks to maintain.
The other issues there will take time to address, but we could at least make the Green into a more pleasant place to spend time, which will draw more positive activities there.
Something along these lines should be done starting tomorrow, given the urgency of the situation right now.
posted by: TheMadcap on August 17, 2018 3:47pm
You guys do know that part of the hands off approach on the green that is taken as long as no one is causing a disturbance is in part because it is a very large space wherw people mainly keep to themselves or their circle of friends. If you push people off the green, they don’t disappear, they will be in other places instead, so keep that in mind when you scream about people doing their job.
posted by: AverageTaxpayer on August 17, 2018 4:22pm
I agree. The sorry state of the Green should not be blamed on addiction issues.
Addiction is a national problem, plaguing the whole country. And yet other municipalities are somehow able to maintain their civic spaces to a level of pride and decency.
At some point we need to quit feeling sorry for the drug addicts, and hold them to basic standards of behavior. The current anything-goes mentality isn’t benefiting them, and having a Green that most people avoid except for concerts is a real loss to the City.
posted by: wendy1 on August 17, 2018 4:26pm
Right on, yim-a and Noteworthy. Good comments!!
posted by: Claudia Bosch on August 17, 2018 4:46pm
I consider Harp as responsible for the current problems on the Green. She is the mayor, she uses her executive power when ever it pleases her. She is in charge. Repeating false statements do not help shifting the blame. - The city’s state assistance increased $32 million from 2011 to 2018. - The mentioned drop from 2017 to 2018 started with the new state budget. This summer. - How can it be that just within a few weeks the Green deteriorates and becomes a drug den when according to the mayor she has been working on the issue since 4 years? = The current state of lawlessness has not happened overnight. Back in the spring along the bus stops plenty of people displayed signs of addiction, of deviancy. What was the mayor doing?
Oh, she was trying to sell New Haven and attract investors by pumping money into Tweed and doing a “sales-tour” in China. Well, New Haven’s image is ruined due to this overdose Wednesday. Across the globe (yeah - we made the worldwide news!) our city is now infamous for drugs, overdoses right next to Yale. This stain will not be washed easily off. Which business person would relocate to such a shady city?
posted by: Patricia Kane on August 17, 2018 5:16pm
@Noteworthy: Blumenthal: “We need a major national commitment like a Marshall Plan,” he said. He argued that the federal government has underfunded cities like New Haven, “because this emergency is every bit a threat to national security as any kind of threat from abroad.” I think he is on target as to the level of response needed to this epidemic. If terrorists had poisoned 100+ people, what kind of response and what kind of money to deal with the problem would you expect? Addiction is a disease. Instead of flesh-eating it’s body and soul consuming. Blumenthal is on target
posted by: NH06515 on August 17, 2018 11:54pm
I can’t think of a time in the last 25 years when the Green hasn’t been a hangout for troubled people. When the weather is nice, that southeast corner of the Green is inundated with every manner of troubled person. Addicts, mentally ill, homeless, even violent. A little policing would go a long way.
The repeated mention that this is somehow connected to the methadone providers is unfair and shifts the blame to one of the few organizations that can actually reduce opiate related deaths. There remains this stigma that methadone is a seedy substitute that doesn’t cure the addict but simply substitutes a new high for an old illicit one. That’s just not medically accurate yet it persists. There is a huge population of methadone patients who visit the clinic twice a month for as short a period of time as possible so they can get to work and live productive lives. As always, there are a few bad apples that don’t use methadone as intended and give the rest of the recovering population a bad name.
The APT foundation and other methadone providers all require more than simply showing up and getting medicated. There is a mandatory group meeting required monthly, at least. New patients and patients who are non compliant with treatment protocols may have more restrictive requirements. That doesn’t sound like much but it’s something. And metharone has been repeatedly proven to be the gold standard in managing opiate addiction. Opiate addiction is a chronic relapsing condition and I don’t know of any treatment with the long term harm reduction of methadone maintenance. And it’s unlikely that many methadone patients cross abuse synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic marijuana attracts people caught in extreme poverty and untreated addiction and mental health issues. These 100 poisoning’s are a sad aberration that takes attention away from the real public health crisis happening; the opiate crisis. Note the recent funerals of two local men under 40. Opiates, not synth MJ. RIP JP JR
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 18, 2018 12:40am
Wow.They did him like Trump does to the press.
Here’s the moment when I was interrupted & prevented from asking a question in an attempt to gather critical info for the public. You decide if this was appropriate, but I must say I have never been treated like this at a news conference.
Blumenthal calling for stronger borders? Are we in the Twilight Zone?
posted by: Bikeman on August 18, 2018 9:32am
If you read Harp and Campbell’s response in NHI and NH Register, nothing can be done to fix the problems on the Green. Very sad commentary for the future of the Green and the city. Please don’t solve all of the world’s problems, just make the Green feel safe, clean, and accessible to all. You might not agree with Len Fasano, but at least he is calling out something we all know. I’m sure this fade away soon.
posted by: wendy1 on August 18, 2018 11:46am
Blumenthal and Congress are not gonna help this problem. Unless he shares some of his millions, he is useless.
posted by: JCFremont on August 18, 2018 12:04pm
Ah so it is Pfizer who is responsible. I guess the guy who invented SMS texting is responsible for the current spike in fender benders on I-95. Another Marshall Plan, good idea, lets first firebomb downtown New Haven and then rebuild [sarcasm]. We can rebuild Winchester/Olin and New Haven Carriage and Clock Manufacturing. The only Marshall Plan Washington Program are the creation of buarocratic jobs which produces nothing but add to debt. It was the rebuilding of BMW, Adidas, and Benz. It’s more than just building “residences.”
posted by: Patricia Kane on August 18, 2018 12:54pm
@ThreeFifths: Public officials need to have the skills to communicate well, rather than treat questions as annoying. The dismissal of Mario Boone was far from “grace under pressure”.
posted by: watchfuleye on August 20, 2018 12:52am
No more aid!!! Seriously! Not a dime should go to helping these folks ise whats already in place. The mayor needs to immediately put in place a quality of life ordiance for the new haven green! Many major cities had to do the same thing, like New York time square to clean up thr major attraction area that some flock too that is causing issues like this. Take new haven green back. It smells when yoy walk throught the green, I’m afraid to even walk down there and now all these over doses and some overdose and still come back. Quality of life ordiance please!
posted by: challenge on August 22, 2018 2:57pm
Salute to Noteworthy. Yes, why is Blumenthal or the federal drug czar here? I’m sick of opportunists using a crisis to be seen when they have nothing to offer.